Barb's Space

Observations about life, family, church...anything else that is on my mind from the perspective that God rules, no matter what

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Location: Indianapolis, IN, United States

I am a 66 year young woman who has changed much in the last few years. I'm single again. I changed jobs twice (learned new skills), had a serious stroke in 2008, "retired" and after getting better started taking up new interests, and am continuing to get more fit. Some things have matured. I've enjoyed watching my three guys grow into men I respect and am proud of. One waited 11 years to have his first birth child. Today I'm a grandma of six (four boys and 2 girls between two families) with a third girl on the way. I have learned to love Jesus even more, and I have regained my sense of adventure. Someone said, "The best is yet to be."--I believe it, if I keep an open mind and heart and keep growing and walking with God.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Spring Snow Part 2

Yup, I woke up twice during the night. Decided to make things easy--left my living room blinds open so I didn't have to go over to the window and peek out to see what was going on. I finally got up at 4 (yes, that's a.m.--don't worry, I didn't realize there was life before 7am a few years ago, either) and watched our local weather and morning show (which decided to come on a half hour early--at 4 because of the storm) while I was doing my exercise routine. There was N O T H I N G going on outside--but that's happened other times, and since this wasn't the first snow of the year, it was ok. But to our south and north it started snowing like crazy around 4:30. By 5:15 it was just beginning here. (Glad I was expending energy during this time or I'd have been really antsy.)

While I was watching, and since I was up, I decided I'd better head to work early. I usually start walking in about 8:45am, but thought the way things were going that I'd be better off to leave at 6:15. It was a beautiful-cold-snowy-blowy-night walk, with the promise of morning and spring very close, so I look at it (and the whole day, really) as my goodby to winter proper. When I got to work, I grabbed the shovel and broom, as I still wasn't sure if the snowplow was coming (it didn't), and I wanted our clients to be able to get in without falling. (We have elderly clients, some of whom consider this kind of weather a challenge, and others who wouldn't come out on a day like today if you paid them.) The shoveling reminded me again of Buffalo (NY); I remember coming home from school and my sister and I being put to work shoveling a foot (no exaggeration) of snow out of the driveway--it never got finished, but sure kept us out of mischief--sort of like moving a pile of dirt from one place to another.

One thing definitely not like Buffalo--seeing the whole Morning Show devoted to nothing but the weather locally. If Buffalo did that, there would never be anything else talked about all winter. I remember once calling my aunt and uncle when they had just had 30 inches of snow, and asked how they liked being snowed in. They said I'd have to excuse them, as they were throwing a dinner party! You have to understand, I left Buffalo when I was 12, and don't remember all the ins and outs of living with tons of snow as a matter of course.

Well, the snow stopped near 10 am, so I finished all the shoveling I needed to, and it is already (lunch hour) beginning to melt. Better go back to work, and I will enjoy the last of my "winter goodby"--and hopefully sleep more soundly tonight!

P.S. The weather man was nearly right this time--we got almost 5 inches.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Happy Spring Part 1--Waiting for Snow

Well, it's about time for the weather report as I write this. I've heard ever since 5:30am that we are going to have a snow warning starting 11pm tonight. This is the kind of forecast that makes me antsy with anticipation. I like snow--that's good, considering my brother-in-law-boss is on vacation this week, which means I will be walking to work (about 3/4 mile). The kid in me loves to see lots of snow fall (maybe a hold-over from growing up in Buffalo, NY, land of lake effect snow--about 90 inches a year; here our usual is about 27 inches...). It's one time I really like the view out of my basement apartment windows. The fir trees look like they are frosted if it's the clingy-kind of snow. I like the idea of waking up in the morning to a white wonderland... . The weather man just said we should have about 4 inches by 7am, and end up with 6-10 inches.

I usually find myself getting up on a night like tonight in the middle of the night to peek out the window to see if the storm's started yet. The only problem is that makes me extra-tired the next day. Oh well, maybe it will be a snow-day. I learned from a friend at one of our other offices in the city that I don't need to come in if a snow-emergency is declared. Yes, I like my job, but wouldn't it be nice to "get out of school" for a day (and still get paid)?

Another reason I'm looking forward to this snow is that it won't last forever--it is supposed to be in the 40s by Wednesday, and almost 50 by Saturday. It is the beginning of spring after all. While I like more snow than Indiana usually gets (although the blizzard of 1977 was really good...our oldest son, Jonathan was only three months old, we were visiting friends because we really didn't believe the weather report, and our friends didn't either--and ended up snow-bound with them for three days...the local grocery ran out of everything but beans...), I like Indiana spring--it comes about a month earlier than Buffalo, NY spring.--There I always felt it would never come, and here it's taken me 35 years not to be surprised at how fast it shows up (okay, I can be a slow learner).

I have to go now...and anticipate. More later in part 2.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Hearing God's Voice--What's Stopping Me?

Everybody who is a Christian wants to hear God "speak," to be able to receive His guidance and direction. The only problem is that we don't always know how to hear Him. - Right? Well, not always. I'm going to come at this from an unusual, for me, angle. Usually I focus on what God sounds like, the different ways people can hear Him, etc. But today, I woke up thinking about the roadblocks to hearing God speak to my heart.

I need to ask myself if I really want to hear Him and obey. The book of James talks about hearing God through His Word, then going away and forgetting what He said, and what His Word says I'm really like without obedience. There is no point to it. Why should God direct my life if I refuse His direction?

This brings me to a deeper question: why would I refuse His direction, or if I wanted to be more polite, just go away and not do it? The answer I come up with is that I really want what I want more than I want what He wants. An example: have you ever thought to yourself, "Yes, I want to go to heaven, but first I want to live a full life here?" I've thought that. It is natural, healthy, and normal.
God didn't create us as robots without preferences. Preferences make us individuals. Regarding the above thought, not to want to live a full life under many circumstances could be viewing heaven as a "Christian escape hatch," which is not good. The only time this (or any other thought of "but first I want") is wrong and a roadblock to hearing God is when I allow that to override something He's specifically asking of me.

Jesus had wants--some included not wishing to see Lazarus His friend die (even though He knew the end of the story) and not wanting to die on the cross. What was His response? To the first, He stayed away because He heard God speak--then after three days He went because God spoke again, and God raised Lazarus from the dead. That had to be difficult not to go to his friend Lazarus right away when he got sick. About not wanting to go to the cross and die, He asked God to do it any other way if possible, but, and here's the key, ended up sincerely giving His will to God and saying, "Not my will, but Yours be done." Equally important, He meant it. - He backed it up with obedient action.

The question today for me it seems, is not how to hear God's voice, but instead, am I willing to? How deep is my commitment to His will, plans, and purposes over my own? When confronted with a hard choice that goes against my desires and/or opinions, will I agree with Him or myself? How much do I really want to see "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?" What am I willing to give up to see that happen? Jesus in one of His stories tells us about a man who started to build something, but came up short and didn't have the means to finish it. He tells us to count the cost, that is, not to walk into anything
lightly that involves commitment, or it will be impossible to finish successfully.

The good news as I consider all this is that the Bible not only doesn't expect me to but says I can't do all God asks on my own through the strength of self-will. That won't work, because my will falls short. Instead, Jesus' followers say things like Phil 2:13
NLT: "For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him." There is also a prayer in the Bible concerning this very thing: Heb 13:20 NLT - "And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to Him." - With God in my corner, I know I can come to the kind of commitment He desires, and as I do so, I don't believe I'll ever have to wonder again if I hear or how to hear His voice.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

A New Start

Just looking at the sunshine out my window and listening to the kids waiting for the school bus reminds me of how I love mornings. The day is alive and well, and thankfully so am I. The mistakes of yesterday that I still have to deal with today and the knotty work problems (the insurance company that denied the claim, the unending paperwork...) don't seem quite as daunting after God's gift of a good night sleep. Once I am up, exercised and "tea-d," I'm ready to spend time with God and see what He has in store.

I guess what gives this "recovering pessimist" the most hope is God's character. Just look at the context surrounding the declaration in Lamentations (the little book right after Jeremiah) 3:22-23
NKJV, "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. 23They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness." --What provokes so much faith during such difficulties?

If His people can say things like that even in the most awful circumstances, this is a God I want to know more. Want to hear another inspired-during-a-mess declaration of this mighty God's followers? Again, look at the context for Habakkuk (after Micah and Nahum in the Old Testament) 3:17-19. My paraphrase: "Though absolutely awful things happen, I will be happy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength. He helps me endure and achieve more than I ever thought I could."

This is the kind of God I need to face every today no matter what it holds. --More good news: I have this kind of God. In Heb 13:8 the writer of Hebrews states that Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh is the same character-wise throughout all time. This means that He doesn't change His mind on a whim. What He valued yesterday, or when He inspired the Bible, is what He values today. The world will change, circumstances change, people change, but my God doesn't. He loves me as much as He loved Moses, Enoch, Elijah, Abraham, Sarah, Rahab, Paul, Noah, ... and He deals with me in similar fashion.

All of the above in one way or another had a new start. The Bible biographies tell me that people cannot encounter the living God and not have new opportunities. There are others who encountered Him who chose to remain who they were before, only more so--Ahab, Jezebel, Herod, Judas, ... . But today I'm focusing on the new start.

Lord, thank You so very much that Your mercies are new every morning--Monday through Sunday. Thank You that nothing is hidden from You (Ps 139), and that I have the privilege of getting to know You better every day. Not only is nothing hidden from You, but You don't hide Yourself from those who want You and seek You. Yet I can't even take credit for that--for I love You because You first loved and reached out to me. What a wonder-full God You are. I love you back with the love You gave me. Barb

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Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Gift of Words

I love blogs more and more. I have discovered I can discuss whatever I want in whatever order I want, but you all (whoever you are) can read things in a logical progression just by going back through my earlier titles and working your way up without sifting through all the seeming irrelevancies! It's the answer to everything--including men-women communication!! Well, maybe that's going a bit too far... :) ... .

My subject today, as the title suggests, is the gift of words. I woke up early thinking about how some of us have been blessed with this gift. The Bible (which is the word to the wise, and one that can make us wise) speaks in many places about the power of words, and it says that we will give account for our words because of the power they hold.

Words influence people for good or bad. Words clarify and give thoughts, concepts, pictures and frames of reference to others. Words can incite people to action--look at Hitler's words and the effect they had on a whole race of people. Look also at the effect of the words of Martin Luther and John and Charles Wesley. They reminded us of the words of the Word, Jesus more often than not. They brought back into our lives the concepts of grace and holiness which had been forgotten or gotten out of balance.

There are many ways we as Christians can use our words, but there is one overriding consideration. Are our words edifying--that is, do they build up and strengthen ourselves (yes, our words can harm ourselves as well as others) and others? Do they draw people closer to God, or do they drive people away from Him? Do they criticize or shame others, or offer the way to forgiveness and hope in Jesus? Do our words excuse or confront sin in both ourselves and others? Do they produce fear of man or love for God and others?

All of us who have been blessed with this gift have to learn how to use it. It is not an easy gift to master, because the Bible also says in Matt 12:34-35
NLT--"For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good words from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil words from an evil heart." This means that to use this gift rightly, I must be changed by my experiences with Jesus, the Living (ultimate) Word, who alone can give me the right heart.

Having said all the above, those of us who have the gift of words need to learn how our particular "brand" of this gift operates. It can be different in different people. It's a funny thing--as I've gotten older and have learned how to use my gift of words more, I have found the gift of words can do some things I never would have thought. My particular version of this gift allows me to give words to what others are feeling and experiencing so they can take those things to God for healing. My gift of words has been able to confirm that others are (or aren't) seeing things accurately. Words have even been able to be used by people who say they have no words. They borrow mine when mine accurately mirror the echoes in their heart, and eventually they begin to have their own words.

At times, my gift of words expresses itself in poetry. Sometimes I'm impressed to write letters. Over the years I have been impressed to learn to use the Internet and start a web page and pray the people God wants to see it connect with it--my words can give others words even when I wrote them long ago if they are echoes of human hearts and God's heart. Sometimes my gift of words expresses itself in counseling, and when the time is right in teaching. I don't believe I have discovered all the uses for my gift yet, but I believe I'm growing at a good pace, and that's all God asks of me--to be faithful today with what He's given me.

It is not boasting or pride to find out what our gifts can do. It could be considered "burying our talents" not to learn how ours work. In fact, with a right heart it is very important to learn our gifts and use them to bring others closer to God. - You "word" people out there, what does God want you to do with your gift?

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Friday, March 10, 2006

I Also Love Mornings

I love the fresh feeling of a new day. Once I get out of bed, stretch, do my exercise hour or so, I get to look at the day. It is a new beginning. To me, every day is a new beginning in God. It is when my body is most alert, when many things seem possible. I love the time before the day gets filled with phone calls and demands on my time. In winter, I enjoy sitting with a (hopefully--when I'm feeling I want to be healthy) bowl of oatmeal and thinking/talking to God (and listening) about my day to come. When it's warmer out, sometimes I like a 7 am walk around my apartment complex and neighboring church. I get to look at nature, and pray for those who live on my "beat." Sometimes, like today, I get to write.

Lord, please help me continue to develop the habit of gratefulness--and noticing the simple things You've put here for me to enjoy. Bring reminders when I'm too lazy to get up early enough to enjoy--or too tired because of my unwise (often too much TV) choices the night before. Grant me the grace to be wise about what activities I take on and don't take on. Remind me that "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven," (Ecclesiastes), and let me remember that not only don't I have to, but it isn't always appropriate to do all the things I want. There are seasons, and I need to continue to learn to appreciate the season I'm in. When life is over here, I want to be able to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and I know if I don't remember what's important in each season, I can't hear that.

Thank You for today--for the birds outside my window, for the promise of hope after a dark, stormy night. I pray for those who were hurt by the spring storms that swept across the land yesterday. Please help them and lead them to what they need. Give them grace and encouragement--and may they find You in a more real, vibrant, living way as they deal with things. Isn't that the point of everything anyway? Love you, Lord. Barb

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Compassion, or Feelings Part 2

I have to follow up on something which looks right now like it will be the subject of several posts. Being a student of human nature, I have a natural bent toward psychology and sociology. Also, as a Christian for more than thirty years, I have found I have another interest that not all Christians have (it just seems to be part of my "gift-mix"). I am interested in theology and how all three "ologys" fit together in a very practical way. In fact, I would say one of my life-goals is to become as much as possible an "integrated" Christian. For more on what being an "integrated Christian" means to me, please take this link to a poem on my web page. (I did a study--I explain there--and out came a poem! :) )

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot on feelings (see my very first blog post with that title) and how they tie into compassion and how compassion ties into mercy. According to the online version of the American Heritage Dictionary, compassion is defined as deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. It says a synonym for compassion is pity.

The Bible says something about compassion in the life of Jesus:
Heb 4:15-16 NIV--15 For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Right here I see a very real link between dealing rightly with my own feelings, having compassion and then showing mercy. According to the verses, a natural outgrowth of compassion is an ability to share grace and mercy with others. But if I have stuffed my feelings and it has made me either physically sick or bitter, I cannot have compassion.
If I do not care for myself enough to respect and deeply acknowledge my own feelings and then deal with them rightly, how can I or why would I have compassion for others? I don't have the energy or inclination.

Instead, I will think others are either getting what's coming to them because of their actions and/or choices or getting what's coming to them as a result of living in this fallen world, sometimes expressed as "That's life." While either idea may be somewhat true at times, those attitudes almost automatically deny compassion and its expression which is mercy, because to have compassion, I have to first be deeply aware as the dictionary says, of the suffering of another, and secondly I have to care about that suffering deeply enough to move me to action.

That attitude (of people getting what's coming to them for any reason) also is wrong from another angle. It is judging others. Jesus tells us two things about judging (these are His direct words):

Matt 7:1-3 NIV--1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

John 7:24 NIV--"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

Is Jesus saying two contradictory things here? I don't think so. I believe He's saying to judge rightly, I must fully acknowledge my own condition of sin--which includes two things--one, that I was born a fallen creature and two, that I can easily fall into sin. (Other scriptures shedding light on this include: 1 John 1:8,10 NLT--8 If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. Rom 3:23 NLT--For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.)

Only when I see myself rightly and agree with God's view, can I get to a place of humility, which says my sin is every bit as sinful in God's eyes as yours, and also that at any time I could fall into sin (sin being when I am falling short of God's glorious standard), whether in thought, word, or deed. One of the things that gives unrighteous judgment its power is the ability I have as a fallen human to think you are worse than I am--and that what's easy for me should be easy for you. That puts me above you (though falsely), and causes compassion and its resulting acts of mercy to elude me.

One of the ways to get to humility and compassion is to meditate on the Law of God and its relation to me, asking God to make it real to my heart. James 2:10,12-13 NIV says regarding that subject, 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

I want mercy to triumph over judgment in my life, and in everyone's life. That is God's heart. I admit I don't feel it when I'm hurting or angry, but I still want the work to be done inside of me that will get me back to that position. I will further add, if mercy doesn't triumph over judgment in thought, word, and deed, how is Christianity any different than any other religion?

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Love Weekends

This being Saturday morning, it seems a good time to count one of my blessings--weekends where I have no set schedule for at least part of the time. Yes, there are things I could be doing to fill it up, like the ever-present organizing I seem to always be faced with. (By the way, anyone who believes things evolve only has to look at home organization and maintenance to know that isn't true! Anything left to itself devolves--at least in my experience. Maybe that is a thought for another day. Now back to the subject at hand.) Yes, I do have people to talk to, and other things to follow up on, but not now. Not in my free time.

So what do I do with my free time? The answer is, anything I want that builds my relationship with God, nourishes my soul and/or develops me. Spending time with God, whether it is just being quiet in His presence enjoying His company, or praying, or worshipping, or reading what He has had written, or prayer-journaling is a good thing for starters. Then I like to explore good poetry that nourishes me, or Thomas Kincaide books, or even big travel coffeetable books (I like one I was given about Chicago from the Air). Sometimes I write poetry--or articles or Bible studies.

Sometimes I like to study some subject I've been meaning to get to--anything from how to get a different color background on my blog (Micah said to start with a Google search) or
learning how to use Microsoft Excel to reading business biographies and exploring Christian (and otherwise) novels with unusual themes. All these things help me broaden my experience or see life from different viewpoints and prayerfully (I always like to consider my new learnings from God's perspective) stretch myself.

Other times I like to take a walk (with or without my CD walkman from Micah) or watch movies (I got quite a few from the Half Price Bookstore in their clearance section for $1-$2 apiece) that expand my world or are just plain fun. Sometimes I like to spend my free time browsing through home decorating books (an interest I've developed in the last four years) and follow that up by going with Micah to decorator showhouses and Red Lobster restaurant and Goodwill (where I look for my kind of articles for decorating with). We've done that two or three times in the last couple years, and it has been so much fun.

Whatever I do, I try to guard my free time. I have found that wise use of it enables me to be a better worker during the week. If I enrich myself and encourage myself in God, I find I have a lot more to give to others when I serve through my work or other involvements. (Through experience I have also found that mindless watching of TV depletes me rather than energizes and renews me, and I find my next week can be harder if I make poor choices during my free time.)

Lord, thank You for free time. Thank You that I can sometimes wake up late on Saturday morning, leisurely stretch and know that I have nothing particular on the agenda. Thank You that I have a relationship with You that grows as I make it a priority. Thank You that You want me to know You and enjoy Your world.

Thank You that I have the books (and library) available with which to explore new ideas, and a computer from which I can learn all sorts of good things. Thank You for feet, eyes, ears, and a heart to explore Your world. Thank You for my brain under-Your-influence to process things with. Thank You for hands and the ability to create and express what I'm learning. Thank You for friends and family whom You've placed in my life who care to hear how I'm growing and pray for and encourage me when I'm not.

Thank You for all the things You have put in this world that make life fun. Please continue to teach me not to abuse even good things, to stay (or get) in balance, and how to live my life knowing it comes from You, and I choose to live it in You, and it goes back to You. I love You. Barb

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