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I “1 Corinthians 13: 4-7” you!

I love this passage in scripture.  It really is one of my favorites.  I have put a great deal of thought and time meditating on it.  When you just glance over it quickly on your way to day 365 of your bible reading guide it is very easy to miss the depth and importance of this text. 

In Luke 10:27, when asked what the greatest command of all was, Jesus said, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  For a long time I wondered what that was supposed to look like.  I am still not entirely sure what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind – but I think I am getting closer to understanding what it means to love my neighbor.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we are given a very clear, uncomplicated description of what love is –

   Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

When I look at that list I see a mirror held up to my face.  I am not saying that I see all those things in me – quite the opposite – I mean when I read those verses I see clearly into my heart and all the areas I fall short on love.  I am not even fully able to love myself!! I am rude to myself, I irritate myself, I keep record of every wrong I do, I give up on myself, I lose faith in myself, I doubt myself and sometimes the only reason I endure myself is simply because I can’t seem to get away from myself!! 😉

This is supposed to be the greatest command of the Lord and I haven’t done a very good job of keeping it even just with myself. >.< I can’t be too hard on myself though.  I really have made an effort as of late to hold this standard of love up against my friendships and family relationships and tried to make them match.  I can honestly say I “1 Corinthians 13:4-7” about 4 of my non-relative friends nearly 100% and a good majority of the rest in the 75-90% range.  (If you are reading this then you are at least in the 90% range I am sure~ 😉 )There are a few that rank a little lower but I am starting to see now that the problem isn’t with them needing to change – the problem is me not holding up my end of the deal.  It is my job to “1 Corinthians 13:4-7” all of my family, friends, neighbors and *gulp* even my ex-husband and that chick from 3 grade who called me fat and poor -.- sigh. Because the truth is that even if someone (even someone you thought loved you) is treating you in a way contrary to that kind of love – it is still commanded of us that we love them the right way in return. 

The beauty of it is that if we love them the way we are supposed to and they are the right type of friend – the kind that really does want to change or really does want to be a part of our lives – they will start to reflect that love back to us and the friendship will be healed.  It might take time but it will happen!

 On the other hand it works out just as wonderfully if they really are an awful person because if we love them the right way and they are not the right type of friend – they are bitter and hateful and have no desire to change – they will see the love you are showing them as a contrast to themselves and it will be like a mirror showing them the ugliness they hold inside and it will cause them to flee from  you – which in that case is exactly what you want anyway! 😉

This love business is tough! There are days when I don’t meet all the qualifications of love with my own daughter!! Now I know that I haven’t actually stopped loving her – I just don’t always do a very good job of it. 

There are some days where I have lost my patience with Lambchop (one of my dearest friends who happens to be one of the 4 people I find it easiest to love) and days where I have been jealous of her and days where she has hurt me and it took me a few hours to forgive and let go…but despite all that I  am always able to bounce back to that place of love.

I think that is what true friendship is.  When two or more people are able to give and receive grace when they screw it up but are constantly working towards being able to say “We ‘1 Cor 13:4-7’ each other 100%.” 🙂:)

So, I send out a couple of questions today for anyone who reads this post to ponder –

How many people do you 1 Corinthians 13:4-7?

How many people do you think 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 you?

After spending time soaking in this passage I have come to appreciate the heaviness of the word “love”.  It used to be so trivial and I could toss it around everywhere just like I saw everyone else doing.  Now though I choose carefully who I declare my love for.   I don’t tell ANYONE I love them unless I can look at that list and honestly say that I meet at least the majority of those requirements and then I try to work on that ones I don’t.

I challenge you to start doing the same.  Don’t run around telling all your friends and family you don’t actually love them! But do start making changes in your own heart so that you really do. ❤

Martha Vs. Mary

Oooookaaaay! *deep breath* Some how I managed to fail my own 10 day challenge!! =P At first I felt pretty upset with myself – I went through a couple of days of feeling defeated and guilty.  I didn’t even want to finish the study because I was so frustrated with myself! How silly is that?!  Well, even though it isn’t on my original timeline I am committed to finishing what I had started.  Not sure if I will get to it tonight but I sure am going to try to finish it soon.

I have had a very busy couple of weeks.  So busy in fact that last night was the first night I was able to get to bed before 2am in a while and the only reason was because I said “NO!” to myself.  “No! I am not going to scrub the bathtub tonight. No! I am not going to work on my christmas quilt tonight! No! I am not going to work on the commissioned painting that is due to be finished in less than a week.  No to all the million other projects, “obligations”, chores and commitments that are running through my mind!!”    I took a deep breath and forced myself to shower and go to bed.  Laying there trying to fall asleep I had to fight to not feel guilty.  >.< Sometimes I wonder why we as women feel we have to carry the whole world on our shoulders allllll the time!

I spend A LOT of time at work and usually only have about 4 hours a day that I can accomplish anything if I allow myself 8 hours of sleep.  That is 4 hours to have a Bible study, cook dinner, clean, give my kiddo a bath, take a shower, do laundry, visit friends, go to the store, work on E.v.e.’s quilt (hopefully a Christmas present), work on my paintings, work on my various other sewing projects (also hopefully done in time for Christmas), write on my blog, play with my kiddo or anything else that may need to get done.  I don’t have to do all that everyday but it sure feels like it!! It feels like if I just close my eyes for a 5 minute break I open them to discover a whole week has slipped by and nothing got done.  >.

All of that just to make myself feel a little better about not having completed my 10 day challenge on time 😉 Sometimes we as moms and women need to take a step back and realize just how much we actually get done in a day and how amazing we are for being able to juggle everything we have going on in not only our lives but those of our children and (if your blessed with one) our husbands.

I am learning to rejoice in my triumphs no matter how small and let myself slide when I am not able to do it all.  There comes a point where you just have to let some things go undone in order to work in the more important activities like Bible study, prayer, worship and resting!!  Yes, resting is very important – not a sin or sign of laziness!  In fact it is such an important thing that there is a whole commandment dedicated to telling us to rest!!  That is why God gave us the Sabbath – so that we could rest just like He did.  If the God of the universe is allowed to stop for a breather then so are we.

I am reminded of the story of Martha and Mary found in John Chapter 11.  Martha sounds like a wonderful lady.  She was very dedicated to her job as a woman/wife/hostess but from what we know of her she had a knack for carrying more on her shoulders than she could carry on her own.  I can see her scurrying around the house cleaning this, scrubbing that, cooking dinner, chasing the kids out of the pantry, glaring at the ever-growing pile of laundry and all the while being frustrated that she doesn’t have time to spend with the Lord and angry she doesn’t have any help.  This pretty much describes me to a T!  I am not perfect at everything I work on but I sure do try to work on a lot and find myself spending less and less time with the Lord as I try to accomplish more and more tasks in my limited amount of free time.  Then when I am nearly over come with exhaustion and frustration I cry out to God, blaming Him for my inability to get everything done! “God why can’t I have a husband?! If I just had a husband I wouldn’t have to do all this on my own.  If I had a husband or a super cool roommate that was fine with doing half the chores I could spend more time with you, with my daughter, in ministry and everything else! Why can’t you send me some help?!” Sigh.  In reality I know that having a husband would equal a LOT more work in a lot of areas.  Sure I might get him to take out the trash from time to time but laundry would double, cooking would double, amount of time I need to devote to spending with my family would double.  Husbands are great but that is NOT the solution to this particular issue.

Mary had the right idea!  She said – forget these chores I am sitting right here with Jesus for as long as He is staying at our house!  She understood something very important – the giant pile of laundry will always be there no matter how much time she put into washing it but Jesus was only with them for a limited amount of time.   I think the reason it is so hard for me and other ladies like me to grasp this is because we always have access to Jesus.  We think to ourselves – well I will just get this and that done and can’t forget to do that!  I can pray tonight before bed…..Yeah Right!  You and I both know that the moment our head hits that pillow one of two things happens: 1) We blink and it is suddenly morning and there is the distant sound of fighting children and a whole new days worth of things to accomplish or 2) We start going through the list of alllllll the things we didn’t finish today and what we have to get done tomorrow and situations we wished we had handled differently and the list goes on and on until finally sometime between 1 and 3am we realize we are no longer thinking about doing these thing we are dreaming that we already are!

If these two precious ladies are the extremes, where do I fall? Where do you fall? Honestly though, I don’t think Mary was at an extreme.  I think Mary was given a precious gift.  She got to set aside her worries for a day and soak in the Lords presence.  He wasn’t with her for very long so it isn’t like Mary just gave up on ever doing anything again – she just devoted the time she could to Him.  I think this is where I need to be.  Just because I have access to Jesus all the time doesn’t mean I have to drop everything forever and never do anything but sit at Gods feet. (Most days that sounds like a really awesome idea though;))

 Jesus knew that once He left her home Mary would go back to her usual chores and occasionally go and search Him out to spend more time with Him.  There are several places in the Gospels that mentions Mary was with Him.  I want to model my life after that.  I want to find a balance where if the opportunity arises for me to set aside all my cares for a day and just soak in the Lords presence I will take it and not feel an ounce of guilt and then once that time passes be able to resume my duties making sure to set aside as much spare time as I can to go seek out the Lord and listen to His voice.

So this is me telling myself to cut me some slack, go spend some time kickin’ it with Jesus and worry about the dishes later.  If I keep going at my current pace I am going to burn out quick.  It is time for some of that precious one on one Jesus time – no guilt allowed!!

~Nichole

Join Me on My Ten Day Challenge!

I believe very strongly that being a good parent to E.v.e. (and any future children) is my first and possibly most important mission that I will ever have from the Lord.  It is an amazing responsibility to raise up our children in the way they should go and instill in their little hearts and minds the important truths, skills and lessons that will shape them into the Godly men and women the Lord has called them to be.

I challenge all of my friends and family – whether you have children now or plan to have them in the future – to join me over the next ten days as I walk through a study on what it means to consider Parenting a Ministry.   You can either download the FREE work book here: http://www.parentingministry.org/component/content/article/14-main-menu/150-parenting-is-a-ministry-video or just follow along as I post my notes each day.  I think you would get the most out of it if you did the work yourself however. 😉  Each day consists of about a 30 minute video also found at the link above as well as some scripture reading, questions and note taking.

I am excited to start my journey towards being a better minister to my child and can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the study as well!! It would make my day to know who all was joining in this challenge.  Please leave a comment either here or on facebook letting me know you are with me on this 10 day journey!  Also, please feel free to post comments under my following posts on the subject telling me things that you agree/disagree with or things that you found particularly helpful! 🙂

~Nichole

Tried and True

I read the words in my Bible and I know they are true.  I have seen them come alive in my life and change it in such a dramatic way that it can not be denied. 

 
Lightning is a highly visible form of energy t...
Mwahahaha! via Wikipedia

Like, for example, when I was going through my divorce.  I was feeling so hurt and betrayed .  All I wanted at first was for God to just zap him! 

 I knew God could do it. I had read about when Elijah was on the hill and God had poured out fire on his enemies – I wanted some of that!  My ex had left me for another woman, ripped out my heart and set fire to all my hopes and dreams about our future, not to mention abandoned our unborn child, the least God to do was let a stray lightning bolt melt his car, right?  Then in the midst of all this hurting and wanting revenge I stumbled upon Matthew 5:38-48 which reads:

38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.

40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.

41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.

42Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

   43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

At first I thought, “That is too heavy of a thing you are asking for Lord.  How can I love someone who doesn’t love me? How can I give to someone who took everything I had to offer and declared it not enough?  How can I bless someone who has wounded me and continues to hurt me so deeply?” And the answer I heard in reply changed my whole heart.

“What was asked of Jesus was a heavy thing.  He loves you when you don’t love Him.  He continues to give to you when you are ungrateful and disregard His gifts.  He blesses you who wounded Him and continue to hurt Him by not believing.”

It is like something broke inside me – but in a good way! – and all that anger and resentment melted away.  I still had to work on being a little bitter for a while but I was no longer praying for lightening.  I was praying for him to receive peace, healing, love and blessings.  My time with God went from being venting sessions full of anger and fear to times of rest and healing for my own soul. 

Thanks to the living word of God I was able to do in 9 months what it usually takes people years to accomplish – fully forgive, love, bless and release my ex husband from all the wrong he had done to me.  It had nothing to do with me – Gods word in my heart is what made the change.  I was not strong enough to forgive.  I was not strong enough to love someone who hated me.  I was not strong enough to do any of it but Jesus in me was.  

~Nichole

Thirty Atrributes of My Love ~

  1. He is my Restorer (Psalm 23:3)
  2. He is my Helper (John 14:16)
  3. He is my Strength (Isaiah 12:2)
  4. He is my Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20)
  5. He is my Hope (Psalm 71:5)
  6. He is my Patience (Romans 15:5)
  7. He is my Truth (John 14:6)
  8. He is my Resting Place (Jeremiah 50:6)
  9. He is my Overcomer (John 16:33)
  10. He is my Light (John 8:12)
  11. He is the Power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)
  12. He is my Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  13. He is my Fortress (Psalm 18:2)
  14. He is my Refuge From the Strom (Isaiah 25:4)
  15. He is my Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)
  16. He is the Author of My Faith (Hebrews 12:2)
  17. He is my Deliverer (Psalm 70:5)
  18. He is my Counselor (Psalms 16:7)
  19. He is my Peace (Ephesians 2:14)
  20. He is my Rewarder (Hebrews 11:6)
  21. He is my Healer (Malachi 4:2)
  22. He is my Shield (Psalm 33:20)
  23. He is my Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)
  24. He is my Purifier (Malachi 3:3)
  25. He is my Hiding Place (Psalm 32:7)
  26. He is my Shade From the Heat (Isaiah 25:4)
  27. He is my Refiner (Malachi 3:2-3)
  28. He is my Resurrection (John 11:25)
  29. He is the Lifter of My Head (Psalm 3:3)
  30. He is my Stronghold in the Day of Trouble (Nahum 1:7)

 

 

Psalm 23

 I love this Psalm because it really does an amazing job of telling us what we can expect from a relationship with the Lord.  Just to give some more depth to this psalm I looked up a little about the history behind it. 

Lamb, Sheep

Looking cute wont make them not eat you =X - via Wikipedia

Back in the days when this psalm was written shepherds were everywhere.  Keeping sheep and cattle was a way of life and most people either were a shepherd, knew a shepherd, or had a shepherd that worked for them. 

The jobs of the shepherd were very simple.  First, he had to lead the sheep to a safe place to rest, eat and drink.  Then he had to watch over them and protect them from harm.  Sheep are rather stupid creatures and will wonder off and get lost and die very easily. With no natural defenses of their own they can not protect themselves against the many creatures that would love to eat them for dinner.  The one thing they did have going for them was that no matter how many shepherds were around calling for their sheep to come to them the sheep could recognize the sound of their shepherd and would only go to him.  Sheep did not follow after any shepherd other than their own. 

All the shepherd would bring with him was a shepherds staff and maybe a sling shot and some stones (and obviously some food and drink and maybe a musical instrument to pass the time).  The staff was used in a gentle loving way to help direct the sheep with the hooked end around their neck to turn and guide them as well as gentle taps on the rump to get them moving.  However, it was also used as a deadly weapon to deter potential threats. They had to kill or chase off lions, wild dogs and other dangerous animals on a regular basis! 

Up close and personal

This isn't even an adult lion! - via Flickr

 The fact that often times the family shepherd was a boy sometimes as young as 8 years old makes that even more amazing!! I don’t know a single 8-year-old today that could face a wild lion or even wild dog and not wet himself let alone chase it off or kill it.  Matter of fact I don’t know if I know a grown man who could, honestly, face a hungry, wild animal with nothing but a stick and sling shot to protect him and come out of it unscathed in the end.

So with all that in mind lets take a look at Psalm 23:

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (I am His sheep, I know His voice, I will follow Him, He will take care of me.)

   2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  (He brings me to places of rest and feeds me, He refreshes me with His Living Water (The Bible))

   3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  (When I am acting like a stupid sheep and wondering off He will turn me around and bring me back to Him, He wants me to walk after Him and be a good example to the rest of His flock)

   4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (No matter what terrible thing I am facing I know I can trust God to protect me and guide me out of trouble.  If a little 8-year-old boy can kill a lion to protect his sheep how much more can God protect me!)

   5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  (I can be so sure of Gods protection that even if I am in the midst of my enemies or in the middle of a difficult time in my life I can rest with him.  God marks me as His own and not only will he give me what I need, protect me, and guide me but He will also give me above and beyond what I need)

   6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.  (This goodness and mercy only comes from following after the Lord. Once we are His we will be His forever.)

 God has so much to offer us.  He wants to protect us, comfort us, provide for us and so much more.  He wants to guide us down the right path and help us live righteously.  When we allow Him to do this work in our lives it does two amazing things.

 

Path

 

First, as we listen to God’s direction he leads us away from harmful situations. We will avoid untold amounts of pain and heart ache.  And if we should ever fall into a hard situation (which we all do) He is there to guide us out of it and help us grow and learn from it.  His word says that he works all things out for the good of those who love him.  

Secondly, as He guides us He is training us to be more like Him.  When we listen and follow His will we are able to be a good witness for Him.  We bear his image and if we have accepted Him as our savior we also bare His name (we are adopted into the family) so the way we act and carry ourselves reflects on Him. 

This is why it is so important to live our lives in a way that would honor Him.  We are His representatives here on earth and with everything that He does and did for us He deserves the very best from us.  Not because He will send us away if we let Him down or fail in some way but because we love Him and want to show others the power of His blessings in our lives. 

When we walk away and try to do it on our own and in our own strength is when we get into trouble.  We are sheep – we can’t protect ourselves from the troubles of this world and when out on our own we will quickly be overcome by them.  We don’t have to live a life full of strife, pain, sorrow, and worry.  If we are following our Shepherd and sticking close to Him, He will take all those things away.  We may still face hard times but we will face them knowing that God is on our side and He is the one carrying the big stick – we get to just sit back and take comfort in Him fighting our battles for us.

Revelations 1:20-2:1-5

I often will start reading at the beginning of a chapter and read until the first point is made, whether that means one or two verses or a full chapter, and then mull over in my mind what that point was talking about and life applications and such. 

Today, I got a wonderful example of how stopping and starting where the Chapter Markers are is not always the best of plans!   Revelations 2:1-5 has always left me feeling a little uneasy.  I would read it and due to lack of understanding think, “ok, this sounds a lot like if I mess up I could

 

 loose my salvation! YIKES!”  I have always associated ‘lampstand’ with my ‘light’ as in the light of God inside me.  Seems obvious when you look at it sort of squinting while standing on your head, right?

I have even heard other people make this same assumption and had a very dear friend walk away from the Lord because she cited this as proving that even when ‘saved’ by grace there is a chance you are still not good enough so whats the point?  I must admit this scripture has never helped me feel any better about my decision to walk in faith on grace – until tonight!

The Son of Man and the seven lampstands

 My Sweet Dad came up to me, Large Print Bible in hand, and said ” I found some gold! Wanna hear about it?”  OFCOURSE! I quickly finished up getting little E.v.e. her glass of warm milk and honey (mmmmm) and tuned in full attention on what my Sweet Dad had discovered.

 

If you go back a little into the last verse of Chapter 1 Jesus, Himself, explains the mystery of the golden lampstands and the seven stars.  I have read over it a million times (ok maybe only a couple dozen but none the less…) I have never caught it!  The Seven Stars are the seven angels (messengers) of the seven churches which are represented by the seven lampstands.  Right there in black in white plain as day!

Now, when you hold on to that little clue and then go on down into chapter two where the Lord starts talking to the first messenger you can clearly see that he is not talking to a heavenly being – he is describing a Pastor and by the sounds of it a good one that looks after the safety of his flock.

Church in Maransart (Lasne), Belgium

Image via Wikipedia

Ok, so the star is a pastor and the lampstand is his church….that means that when you get down to verses 4 and 5 (the scary ones!!) he is charging this pastor with forgetting his First Love – God.  This pastor has gotten so wrapped up in his “job” as a pastor that he has forgotten what it is all about and the Lord is telling him that if he doesn’t come back to him he is going to remove….DUN DUN DUUUNN – his CHURCH!!! Lampstand = church = Lampstand not salvation – woo hoo!