Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wrapping it Up

I continue to finish up Hebrews this week with my goal of starting a new book in January.  I have learned a great deal from the slow study of this book.  My goal for this week is to re-read all of my Hebrews posts and get a good overview of what God has shown me. 

My other goals are to figure out what book to move on to next and what my 'resolutions' will be for the new year as well.  God has put many different things on my heart and I am praying about which ones to pick, as there are so many I know I need to pick a few and really concentrate on those.  If I try to go at them all, I am sure to fail.

Currently the list to choose from includes: More time in prayer, memorizing scripture, continuing on with a focus on thankfulness, learning more about discipline, organizing almost every aspect of my life a little more efficiently, devotions with my kids, better consistency in quiet times, doing a study that focuses on encouraging my husband more, studying more about praising God, and I am sure there are others that He has put on my heart that I am forgetting to list.

These are all things that have come to mind in the last few weeks as I am thought and prayed about how to better myself as a Christian in the upcoming year.  Last year I tried to focus on a word, but I don't think I gave myself enough direction with it, as I piddled out on thinking about it after a few months.

So, I have some praying to do to figure it all out.  Any suggestions?  What are your plans for growing in your walk with Him for the upcoming year?

Just so I have a note of it, I did learn something new in my Hebrews reading again yesterday.  Sometimes I think I have never really read this book, even though I know I have.  There just must be some things I skimmed over too fast to really let it sink in, or God just chose not to open my eyes to it the past times I have read it.

In verses 11-14 of Chapter 13 it talks about how Jesus was crucified outside the city gates of Jerusalem.  Now, this I knew, but had never made the connection of the fact that sacrificial animals from the old covenant were burned outside the camp of Israel as well.  Another link.  The removal of the dead bodies of the sacrificed animals represented a removal of their sin, thus Jesus being taken from the city of Jerusalem signifies the removal of our sins as well.  We are to go to Him outside the camp "bearing the disgrace He bore." (v 13). 

Oh, how I love meeting Jesus wherever He is and wherever I am, knowing that He will make me clean again and accept me for who I am as long as I am seeking Him.

Lord, lead me.  I have so many hopes and desires, but I know that I cannot handle them all at once.  Growth  takes time and consistency.  I know myself well enough to know that if I try to tackle too many things at once, I will grow weary and lazy with all of them.  Show me how you want me to grow with you and with my family in the upcoming year.  Where should my focus of growing in you lie?  Thank you for leading me through Hebrews and the things you have taught me.  Thank you for bearing my disgrace and carrying away my sins.  There are not enough words given to us to express the thanks you deserve for this. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 'List'

Oh that lovely word that loves to haunt me.  Contentment.  I am the queen of 'never quite enough'. 

God handed me the perfect verses to read today as we are just three days away from Christmas.  The wonderful day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and to ask for everything we think we need.  Right.  Now. 

I love how my friend and fellow blogger put it in her post last Friday and earlier this week about Christmas making us want things we didn't think we needed last week and needing it to be 'reclaimed'. 

It is so true that Christmas has gone commercial and it is a true struggle to keep Christ at the center.  It is hard to stay content during the season of giving, because it is so hard to not look at all the new shiny things and lists and not put a few things on yours as well...even if it is just a mental one.

There is always something on my wish list.  For the last two years it has been my dream digital SLR camera.  I finally got it 2 weeks ago and I couldn't be more thrilled.  We had a few other more important things to save our pennies for first and then I got to save up for my dream camera.  Since we are big believers in paying cash for everything, I had to be patient.  But, wouldn't you believe that as soon as the thing I had been waiting for was crossed off my list, it only took me a week to add something else to it?

I love the verses I read at the beginning if Hebrews 13 today.  "Entertain strangers for you could be entertaining angels."  Perfect for the season of parties and get-togethers.  "Remember the prisoners."  I think this could be literal and figurative.  We are all kept prison by something.  A past that haunts us.  A sin we can't seem to let go.  A need we think we have.  A love one we lost but haven't let go.  "Honor your marriage."  What a great reminder during this time of year where kids and family-get-togethers can seem to take over and your spouse can easily get put on the back burner.  "Keep yourself from the love of money."  Oh, so many places to go with this one.  And "Be content with what you have."

Yep.  That one is screaming at me.  Be content with what you have.  How can I not be?  I have a beautiful family with 3 healthy (and I must say adorable) children and a devoted, hard-working  husband.  A beautiful home, fully furnished and decorated.  A car in each garage stall.  A pantry and fridge and freezer jam packed full of food.  Money in my bank account.  Drawers and closets full of clothes and shoes....the list could go on and on.  But, yet, I still have a 'list'. 

Why do I struggle so with 'I wants'?  I think God might be hinting at my word for the upcoming year.....

God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Duet. 31:6)  This is truly all I need to be content.

Do you have a long 'list' that seems to grow this time of year?  I challenge you to put it on paper and write this verse over the top of it.  How does that make your 'list' look now.

Contentment.  Only God can get us there.

During this Christmas season of giving and getting, Lord, help me remember you above all.  Help me remember that tiny little baby in a wooden box meant to feed barn animals.  Show me His selfless journey here on earth from one wooden structure to another.  Point me to the cross where he bore my sins and selfishness instead of my list of desires.  Put the desire in my heart to only seek you and your heart.  Help me find my contentment in you alone and the grace you have given, the best gift of all.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Sting of Discipline

I am not thinking it is very fun, this discipline stuff.  It is hard work. 

When it comes to disciplining a very curious, ornery, sassy 2-year-old it is especially hard.  I think most days God is disciplining me through the necessity to discipline her.  Especially the days that she does the same thing over and over and over.  She gets disciplined (spankings in our house) every single time the offense occurs, then an age appropriate discussion on why it was wrong and finally has to make it right.  It takes a while to get this all done and by the 3rd time she does the same thing in one day I have usually hit my boiling point.

Disciplining children takes some major parental discipline as well.  I have found God is probably feeling the same way about me that I do about my daughter every time I loose my cool with her and fail to discipline in the right way.  "Geez, Shauna, when are you going to figure this out.  Screaming at them doesn't work.  My way works.  Get back to it." 

I need to revert to Hebrews 12 every time I get tired of the whole rigmarole.  God disciplines me because I am His true child so that I may share in His holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. v. 11

Well, by the time I have this one disciplined I would think I would be fully disciplined as well and ready for some peace. 

Once again, Shauna, run with perseverance the race marked out for you.  My race is motherhood.  Discipline is part of the course.  Fix my eyes on Him and I will make it through to righteousness and peace.

Holy Father, it seems so far away.  The day where I won't have to scold and spank a child for disobedience.  Help me endure and remind me that once the days are gone, I will long for them to be back.  Thank you for your gentle discipline on me in this area.  Each time I get close to my boiling point bring my heart back to you.  Help me be the mother you want me to be and to discipline my children in righteousness.  Thank you for your love and grace when I screw up.  Bring me closer to you through the discipline you provide.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gets Me Every Time

OK.  So I threw my little pity party yesterday and God smacked me in the face with it today.
Hebrews 12:1-3 humbled me today.  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

1.  Sin.  Throw off sin that is entangling me and hindering me.  I was being totally prideful.  I wanted my family to come see me.  To see what I had been doing and working so hard on.  Focusing on the fact they had not come to see me act, to see me sing completely hindered me from focusing on what I needed to when the production was over.  Him.  What had I done to further His kingdom?  Not to further what others thought of me or did for me.  Had I done all that work for His glory or my own?  Ouch.  That stings a bit. 

2.  Fix my eyes on Him.  Run the race, Shauna.  I should know this one well as I often recite this to myself while in the throws of a long run and want to give up.  How can I give up so easily on a measly little workout in comparison to what Christ did for me.  It helps me get through. 

In light of my recent selfishness I had my eyes fixed on myself and not on Him.  He endured much more than his family missing a performance he worked hard on.  He suffered on the cross. For you.  For me.  Simply, that is all there is to it. 

Do not grow weary and lose heart.  Do not cry your eyes out on a drive home because a few of your family members didn't make it to watch you in a Christmas musical that you were being prideful about.  Fix your eyes on Him.

God, you do it every time.  You smack me upside the back of my head to help me see what is keeping me from you.  Even though it hurts (a lot) sometimes, thank you.  Help me focus on what is really important.  Keep the smacks coming so that I can continue to grow and learn.  Thank you for your discipline in this way, even if it isn't always fun to learn.  I know if I don't grow weary and lose heart it will all be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Practice What You Preach

The Christmas Musical is done.  It is a sigh of relief and a sadness all at the same time.  I did an entire post on it on my other blog here

I drove home from the last performance in tears.  Not because I was sad it was over or even that happy, but because I was feeling very sorry for myself.

You see, none of my family, besides my dad, came to see me.  They all had excuses and most of them pretty good ones...but it still left me feeling very unimportant.  I just kept thinking that even though they had an excuse, if they would have just tried a bit harder or planned ahead a bit more, they could have made it.  Heck, most of them didn't even apologize for not making it or even mention it, like they hadn't planned on coming in the first place.

It is really hard to put that much work into something and then have barely anyone that is close to you come see it.  Especially since I had a pretty big part this year and wanted them to see what it was all about. 

Through my tears, it hit me, "By the grace of God, I am what I am".  This is one of the main lines in the play.  I don't need my family to make me feel important or loved or valued.  I am all of these things through the love of God.  It hit me that the play I just performed spoke to me in a way I never even thought about.  I needed to practice what I had been preaching through the message of the musical.

Now, I am not saying my family didn't come because they don't love me.  But I do often fall on the bottom of the priority list in comparison to my sisters and brother (except to my dad).  It has always been this way and you would think I would get used to it.  But, truthfully, it never stops hurting.  All I can do is pray for God to remind me that He is the only one that matters.

My reading in Hebrews today helped me as well.  "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.  God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." (11:39-40)

My reward for my hard work won't come through my family coming to watch me use the talents God gave me or telling me what a good job I did or that they really enjoyed the show.  It will come through Him.  When I get to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Thankfully, the family that I can always count on was there.  My precious husband and children and my father did come and enjoyed the show.  My in-laws and one sister-in-law and my mom's sister and her husband came as well which was great.  Why can't that be enough for me?  Why do I always want more. 

Father, help me remember in those times where I get to feeling sorry for myself that You are all that matters.  That even though some of my family may let me down, you are always there.  I praise and thank you for a wonderful, giving earthly father and supportive husband and children.  Stop me when I get in my 'pity parties' and remind me of what really matters.  Thank you for your grace and for letting me know that your grace is sufficient for me. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

By Faith

More on faith from chapter 11 in Hebrews.

I love how it goes on through the chapter with such a great theme.  By faith Noah built the ark.  By faith Abraham went where he was told and in his very old age received a child.  By faith Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice.   By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.  By faith Jacob blessed Joseph's sons.  By faith Joseph spoke up.  By faith Moses' parents went against the Pharaoh's law.  By faith Moses returned to his people.  By faith the Isrealites passed through the Red Sea.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell.  By faith Rahab was saved. 

All these things happened because of faith in God.  And this is such a short list of all the acts of faith in the Bible. 

What can God accomplish because of faith?  Anything. 

It makes me stop and think whether or not I am keeping enough faith to be useful.  What could God accomplish because of my faith?  Most days a fair amount.  Others it would be amazing if my faith could get a pot of water on the hot stove to boil.  But, why am I not confident that my faith could accomplish such feats as listed above?

What a challenge this has given me.  Faith enough to save all species of animals from certain death.  Faith enough to save an entire Hebrew nation.  Faith enough to offer up my only son as a sacrifice.  Do I have this kind of faith?  I hope to get there. 

I think faith is always a work in progress for me, final only on the day I see Jesus face-to-face.  But how sad it would be to get there and have to say, "Well, I was planning on working on that, God.". I think I'll start working a little harder right now.

Oh, to have the faith of these people, Father.   I know it is not something that comes freely, but attained through a life of following and trusting, experiencing and praying.  I know you can accomplish great things through me if only I allow you to.  Remind me, Father, when my faith faulters that you can do great things through anything, any person and any situation.  I thank you for your amazing power to do this.  Help my faith grow.  Help me trust in you always to know you are God and you are always in control.