Looks are Deceiving

But behold the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on his height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: but man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

 

I was in a church parking lot getting out of my car, when I saw this man.  He had tattoos everywhere-covering his arms, legs, neck and face.  Yes, his face.  He had some body piercings and some of those were also on his face.  He had dyed hair and a strange haircut.  I was a bit scared.

 

“Please do not come inside,”  I thought about the man to myself.  But no such luck, he came inside for the class.  I tried to sit as far away as possible from him, because honestly, I would be distracted and felt uneasy.  Just what the enemy wanted me to be.  He seemed to know some of the people in the class already.  I overheard him say, he went to a church near by.  So, I thought, okay, he found the Lord and I am very judgmental. <Cringe.>

 

This class was a 2 month course.  I found out his name was Larry.  He came every week.  This was an interactive class, so he would interject once in a while and have these very insightful thoughts.  One of these weeks, he shared about his upbringing.  He was in and out of foster homes his whole childhood.  He was abused, physically, mentally and sexually.  He was given dog food to eat by one foster home.  He abused alcohol and drugs, to escape the pain of it all.  It was heart wrenching to hear.  

 

He gave his life to Christ and now counsels people dealing with addictions.  He says, even if he is at a fast food place, he witnesses to people because many lost souls want to talk to him.  One night he stopped to use the restroom in a shady part of Los Angeles and when he walked out of the bathroom, a young woman held him up at knife point.  Twenty minutes later, he convinced her not to rob him and was telling her about Jesus.  He gave her an address of a church and told her to go.   A few weeks later, she told him, she gave her life to Jesus.

 

After he shared this story, I had this word from the Lord for him.  I told him, “no pain is ever wasted”.  I told him, I am so thankful that he survived his hard life but glad he is living for Jesus now.  He had tears in his eyes and told me, he wondered why did he go through all that and suffer so much.  I prayed that all of his pain would be redeemed and that emptiness would be restored in some way.  

 

The enemy knows what we like and don’t like.  He knows how judgemental we are by nature.  We get a bad first impression of people and decide to not give them another chance.  We write people off.  How many times have I had a bad day?  Would I want to be thought of in that way as my usual character or personality?  Never.  So, let us never forget that for others.

 

Lesson Learned:  People deserve more of chance than their first impression.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, Lord forgive me for being judgemental of people by their looks.  Let me see them as you see them.  Help me to treat people with love and dignity.  I am thankful that you see in us what we don’t see yet.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

What did you call me?

“Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  Colossians 3:21

 

The first few weeks of children being back at school is a huge adjustment.  The carefree days of the summer give children time to have fun and not be accountable for time.  Then school begins with their schedules and homework.  And this brings temper tantrums and whining, both by child and the parents.

 

My daughter seemed to be having a very difficult time adjusting to this school year.  Homework was full of shouting and tears.  Waking up in the morning was treacherous.  Boundaries were set.  Then I came to find, it didn’t work for her personality and abilities.

 

I was getting desperate.  I reflected on my childhood and didn’t remember having this much trouble adjusting to school.  Of course this was 30-plus years ago, when things were calmer and simpler.  Also, I had a very strict mother.  I remember feeling fear whenever I was around her.  If I didn’t do what she told me, there would be grave punishment.  I just didn’t want her to be mad at me.  

 

I knew that when I became a mother, I didn’t want my child to fear me.  I knew I would not be a push-over but I didn’t want the child to walk on egg shells around me.   Since she was having such a hard time adjusting to school, made me to worry that something was wrong with  my daughter.  Did she have academic troubles?  Was she getting bullied?  Was there something wrong with her health?  Seriously, where is that manual that was supposed to come when your child was born?!

 

I began to ask parents and teachers about their experiences with their children.   One person recommended me to check out a psychologist to do an assessment on her learning abilities.  I called and left a message for more information.

 

I told my co-worker about my situation.  She looked at me and said, “what child wants to sit there and do their homework like a robot?  Are you crazy or something?  Stop putting your fears on your daughter.  She is fine!”  She is right, I have a bad habit of doing that.  I have never had one teacher in her four years of schooling, tell me that she was a problem or there are red flags for behavioral issues.  The enemy loves to put ideas in our head that something is wrong with our child(ren).

 

The psychologist’s assistance called me back and asked me some questions.  I told her that I think I was making a big deal where there wasn’t one to be made.  She said that the first couple months of school are a huge change and that to give it time.  She said, “you are one of my many hyper-parenting phone calls, especially in the beginning of the school year.  But I am glad you are giving it more time.  The doctor is here if you need her.”  Hold up…”hyper-parenting”?  What the heck is that?  So I Googled it… I saw this article called, “What is hyper-parenting and how it affects your kids”  by Jessica Padykula that gave me a whopper of a definition.

 

“Hyper parenting has been defined in a number of ways, most often as an “over-involved” parent, or a parent who is trying too hard and in a way that can actually impede a child’s success or progress.”

 

I know I need to relax and take a chill pill. I hated the thought of even being in that hyper-parenting category.  I am learning to set reasonable boundaries and expectations on my child.  Expecting her to do things when she isn’t ready is stunting her growth.  She still needs me and her father to train her up in the ways of the Lord.  Before I  ask the world what to do with my child, I will first pray and seek the Lord.  When I (finally) listen, I usually get the answer from the Lord that I need.

 

Lesson Learned:  Stop putting my fears and unrealistic expectations on my child.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for trying to fix every single problem with my child.  Remind me that my child is ultimately yours.  Guide me in the way that you want me to raise her.  Align it to your will for her.  Give me knowledge in the areas that they struggle with.  Show me when to take action or just be moral support.  Thank you for the blessing that is my daughter.  In Jesus Name, AMEN!”

The Lonely Road of Negativity

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”  Proverbs 13:3

 

I clench my teeth at night.  I have caused a lot of damage over the years to my teeth because of the nightly clenching.  Now, I wear a night guard while I sleep to avoid future trips to the dentist.   There are theories as to why people do this to themselves while they sleep, but nothing is absolute.

 

It is very frustrating for me to know I am damaging my teeth and straining muscles in my jaw and neck.  I prayed to the Lord many times asking why do I do this to myself.  I decided to commit to a 3 month fast from social media and decided in that saved time to seek the Lord.  I asked the Lord everyday the answer as to why I keep clenching my teeth.  I did not hear or receive a word.  It wasn’t until the last day of the fast did I see the above Bible verse in a daily email devotional.   It was on a Sunday when I received this email.  I went to church and the sermon was on being negative.  There was my answer.

 

I struggle with being negative.  Despite the necessity of giving truthful answers, I was going overboard and spilling my guts on the terror of whatever subject I was speaking on.  My name should be “Debbie Downer”.  I started to notice that people I associated with at church, school or social gatherings would cut their conversation short with me or avoid me.   I would ask these people if I did something to offend them and they usually would say that I did nothing.  But I knew something wasn’t right.  One person finally said that I was very negative and it made them uncomfortable.  They explained that when all you hear is negative talk and nothing positive from someone, you begin to associate that with them and want to avoid them.  Ouch, but message received.

 

I told my husband about how I had been feeling.  He said that he noticed that I couldn’t talk about anything without there being some negative tone to it.  He said, “You know the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ well maybe you should think about that once in a while.”  Ouch, ouch…

 

I knew that I had a lot of emotional wounds in my life.  Maybe I even worshipped at the altar of fear and being negative.  I began to find safe places to vent and cast my frustrations.  Journaling helped a lot.  I prayed that the Lord show me in my conversations when I begin to take a negative turn.  And when it happened, to stop me in my tracks.  I asked that my negativity turn into encouragement.

 

The good news is that I am catching myself when I am being negative and listening more than talking.  We recently got new windows and shutters for our home.  And like with any home improvement project, we ran into some difficulties.  I mentioned to a person how we got the new windows and shutters.  She was so excited for us.  I began to tell them how bad things got during the process.  I saw her face turn from a smile to a frown.  I stopped myself in mid sentence and said, “well it all worked out and I am very happy with them.”  She smiled and said she was glad it did.  Whew…I didn’t go down that lonely road.

 

Lesson Learned:  You can unlearn unGodly behavior and be on the road of where God wants you.

 

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for being negative about my life.  I thank you for everything that you have given me.  Help me in those times when I want to complain, to give you a shout of praise and thanksgiving.  Have your way with me.  Show me how you have carried me through all of those difficult times and that this is all temporary.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

Jesus is our Advocate

“Simon, Simon, behold.  Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”   Luke 22:31-32

 

The Sunday sermon, I heard reminded of me of two very important things:  Jesus prays for us and the purpose of prayer is not just to fulfill our needs, but to align ourselves to what God’s will is for us.  Yet, prayer is usually the last thing I do.  Society considers this weak or bothersome, if we ask for help.  While there is some greatness to independence and self-sufficiency, I just can’t do it alone.

 

God blessed me with a child who does not throw up.  One time she coughed really hard when she had bronchitis and got sick, but thankfully my husband took care of it.  She is almost 9 years old and I have never had to deal with it.  That is something that would throw me into a tizzy.  I felt like I held my breath through every flu and cold season, praying we wouldn’t get the stomach flu.  Each year, we would make it through unscathed.   Until, a couple of weeks ago…

 

I picked up my daughter from school and she looked like she was not feeling well.  We had plans to start her new sport that afternoon too.  At the last stop light on the way home, she mentioned her stomach started to hurt and she may need to go to the bathroom.  We made it home and she ran inside the house and went to an upstairs bathroom.  About 1 minute later, she began screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! I am throwing up!”  

 

I could feel my stomach starting to turn because of what I knew I would have to deal with.  I grabbed some gloves and said a prayer as I ran upstairs.  “Lord, you know how I get in dealing with this stuff.  Help me not to fall apart on her. Please help me be strong and to be calm.”  I saw her and she was crying because this was all new to her.  She was so scared because of what was happening to her and how there was a mess.  I was expecting a scene like from the Eddie Murphy movie, “Daddy Day Care” when Eddie Murphy looked in the bathroom, but thankfully it wasn’t bad.  I felt this strength and calm come over me that I have never had in my life.

 

She told me how scared she was and began asking all of these questions about what happened.  I told her, she will get through this and I will clean everything up.  She needs to rest and stay in bed and that she would feel better in a couple of days.  I went on a cleaning rampage for the next 2 hours trying to sanitize the whole house. She was back to herself by the second day.  I knew Jesus was there for me the entire time.  There are days, I can barely get through the line at Costco without sweating through my clothes from the nerves.  This was huge for me to not have become undone from seeing my child get sick.  

 

Jesus is our advocate.  He knows what are struggles are, He knows what we need.  How powerful is it to know, He is praying on our behalf?!  As for praying for His will instead of mine?  I am working on trusting in that too.  For now, I am just resting in knowing He is praying for me.

 

Lesson Learned: He prays for me.
“Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for son, Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the comfort of knowing we have the greatest advocate.  Thank you Lord for praying to our Heavenly Father on our behalf.  Align my prayers to the will of God.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”

The (Dis)Connected World

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  Mark 10:9

 

I like technology.  Fast internet. Emailing.  On-line banking.  Streaming wirelessly through the Blu-ray player to watch Netflix.  Awesome.  But with the good comes the bad.  Our eyes are glued to our smart phones.  When I look around, I don’t see people’s faces.  I see the tops of their heads.  

 

What is so important on our phones, that we cannot give our attention to what is in front of us?

 

My family and I were at a restaurant.  I noticed a family across from us.  The mother was on her iPad, the husband was on his phone, their son was on his gaming device and their daughter was reading a book.  I glanced at them every few minutes to see if they ended up talking.  Sadly, they carried on through the entire meal as I first saw them, completely disconnected from each other and their surroundings.  My husband said to me, I know I don’t talk much, but let’s make sure, we don’t become that family.

 

Again, what is so important on our phones, that we cannot give our attention to what is in front of us?

 

The dangers of distracted driving and sadly, distracted walking are so obvious.  Yet, we still do it.  Are we willing to risk our lives and those around us for a status update?  Are we that scared to be in the moment anymore?  I saw this video called, “I forgot my phone” by Charlene deGuzman a few years ago.  It is a poignant realization of how ridiculous things have become.

 

There are countless times, my daughter asks me to watch her do a cartwheel and I am looking at Pinterest.  I hear, “Mommy, watch me!”  about 10 times before I look up annoyed.  Why am I so annoyed?  I would rather see her cartwheel, than what is on Pinterest.  Family and friend relationships are so important, especially to God.  There are many instructions in The Bible on building these relationships.  I can’t speak for God, but I wonder if this great disconnect is sad to Him?  Family and friend relationships are so important, especially to God.  There are many instructions in The Bible on building these relationships.  So, I am going to continue building my reality than social media’s reality.

 

Lesson Learned:  What is so important on my phone, that I cannot give my attention to what is in front of me?  Probably nothing.

Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for being distracted by mundane things.  Help me focus on what is important.  Strengthen families around this world and strengthen their bonds.  Bring to light all that needs to be forgiven and issues in our relationships.  Let there be a shift towards spending quality time and experiencing life together, than spending them alone with our phones or devices.  In Jesus’ Name.  AMEN!”