Thursday, July 23, 2015

lessons from the children...

This week I registered my tiny baby boy for his senior year of school. I have to admit, I am pretty much a mess. I still can't figure out how I got here...just yesterday I was dealing with a kindergartener who didn't want to leave mama's  classroom so he had a major meltdown before school. He wanted to stay with me. Senior year registration was quite a different scenario. 

We drove to school in different cars. He met me in line and obviously wanted to "get this over with" so he could get his schedule, and pick his parking spot. I was merely a necessity with a wallet and the signatures he needed to complete the process.

We did get him registered some of his friends came up to me to say hello. I thought back to the year I had taught a number of his friends while he was just down the hall in my co-teacher's class. That was the year he warmed up to the idea of having a mother who was a teacher because his friends actually LIKED me. I remember the spontaneous hugs I would get from him when he was in middle school and my heart warms...and breaks at the same time.

Now, he is a senior. He is pretty sure he is ready to be on his own. Oh, he still loves me, but I'm certain he'd prefer if I stayed in my corner and didn't come near his world....unless of course he needs something. I know he does still want me there sometimes because the other day I was making some plans that he thought might mean I would miss a part of one of his football games and he was visibly concerned. What? You mean you won't be watching me? I have to be watching and cheering, just not interfering! LOL!

But from what I understand, this is a part of having a teenage boy. He is growing and getting ready to leave the nest and this is a part of the separation process. But it doesn't mean I like it.

Then I started to listen to that small voice that says, "Pay attention."

I started to wonder how many times I have been just like my son.

Have I gotten to the place when I only talk to my Father when I "need" something? Do I speak to Him out of necessity and forget to give those spontaneous hugs that warm my Father's heart? Have I reached the point where I think I'm "grown."

I am thinking I need to go back to being a child myself. 

When I got home, I saw a precious video of a child and his father. The little boy was in his little car seat just talking away to his dad and playing his tambourine. Some of you may have seen this on facebook. He was basically preaching and talking to his dad with every breath.  

The more I watched this video, the more I decided this must be what Jesus meant when He said we needed to come as a little child. The conversation, the laughter, the way the child quotes back words to his father that I have to believe his father first said to him. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said to come as a child.

This week I registered my child for school for the last time. The next time we do anything like this, he will be entering college and a whole new experience for both of us. Through it all, I will relish those rare moments when my son spontaneously turns and gives me a hug or actually INTRODUCES me to one of his friends as though I am someone he is proud to love, rather than someone he HAS to. 

And I will do my best to learn to do the same with my Heavenly Father. 

I want to become as a little child....because I'm starting to understand how much it warms my Father's heart.

Matthew 18:2-4 Modern English Version

Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

too much salt...

Today's blog is the result of another one of those random thoughts from a morning run. In writing it, I had to do a bit of research on salt and I found the following article that I will refer to throughout. “Salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them.” – Unknown

Today as I ran, I tried something a bit different and instead of music I listened to an audio version of the Bible, which brought a question to mind. Why are so many audio versions read by someone with an English accent? But that thought never really developed other than the question of why. It was a verse that many Christians are familiar with that really started the wheels turning - "“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." Matthew 5:13

With every plop plop of my foot, I thought about that verse. We are to be the salt of the earth. Salt is so important in so many ways, but almost immediately I got a different picture. I had read an article earlier about how Christians need to be sure to share God's love instead of simply judging those around us, and suddenly I had a somewhat funny mental image in my head. Picture a "salt prank" where someone has loosened the lid on a salt shaker a bit too much and everything in the bottle comes pouring out leaving a very disappointed and hungry person! It was then the wheels really started turning.

Too often I am afraid I have been guilty of pouring out everything I know, or think I know, and overwhelming those around me. I can be pretty salty - but that's not always what is best. A little salt used wisely can go a long way. That's also when I started thinking of the different types of salt. I prefer using sea salt because it seems to have a milder taste. My son prefers regular "table" salt. Then of course there is rock salt - got a tiny grain of that in my home-made ice cream once....let's just say it did not make for the yummy dessert I was hoping for.

Since I know very little about salt, the rest of this blog will refer to the article I mentioned at the beginning and my "random thoughts" that go with it. I am not including all the salts compared within the article, just the more common ones.

Salt is arguably the most important ingredient in cooking.
Without it, most meals would taste bland and unexciting. (See - as Christians we make the world more exciting, not boring like many would have us believe!)

What is Salt and How Does it Affect Health?

Sea Salt in a Bowl Salt is a crystalline mineral made of two elements, sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl).
Sodium and chlorine are absolutely essential for life in animals, including humans. (The World needs Christians, even if they think they don't!)

They serve important functions like helping the brain and nerves send electrical impulses. (Make your own connections here.)

Salt is used for various purposes, the most common of which is adding flavor to foods. Salt is also used as a food preservative, because bacteria have trouble growing in a salt-rich environment.

Refined Salt (Regular Table Salt)

Salt Shaker and Pile The most commonly used salt is plain old table salt.
This salt is usually highly refined. It is heavily ground and most of the impurities and trace minerals are removed. (This is the kind I saw in my mental picture. Highly refined but with a lot of the nutrients removed! You get the picture.)

The problem with heavily ground salt is that it can clump together. For this reason, various substances called anti-caking agents are added so that it flows freely. (Hmmmm - sounds a lot like those who want to congregate within the church walls instead of going into the world that needs salt!)

Sea Salt

Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater.
Woman in Salty Sea, Large
Like table salt, it is mostly just sodium chloride.
However, depending on where it is harvested and how it was processed, it usually does contain some amount of trace minerals like potassium, iron and zinc.
However, keep in mind that due to the pollution of oceans, sea salt can also contain trace amounts of heavy metals like lead. (As Christians, we must make sure we are not contaminating the salt with pollution of attitude!)
Sea salt is often less ground than regular refined salt, so if you sprinkle it on top of your food after it has been cooked, it may have a different mouthfeel and cause a more potent “flavor burst” than refined salt.

Kosher Salt

Kosher Salt Kosher salt was originally used for religious purposes.
Jewish law required blood to be extracted from meat before it was eaten. Kosher salt has a flaky, coarse structure that is particularly efficient at extracting the blood. (Kind of wonder if this might be the type salt referred to in Matthew.)

The main difference between regular salt and kosher salt is the structure of the flakes. Chefs find that kosher salt, due to its large flake size, is easier to pick up with your fingers and spread over food. (It should be EASY for God to pick us up at any time and spread us around to share His Word.)

Kosher salt will have a different texture and flavor burst, but if you allow the salt to dissolve in the food, then there really isn’t any difference compared to regular table salt.
However, kosher salt is less likely to contain additives like anti-caking agents and iodine.

Differences In Taste

Foodies and chefs primarily choose their salt based on taste, texture, color and convenience.
Different Types of Salt
Bottom Line: The main difference between the salts is the taste, flavour, color, texture and convenience.

Which Salt is The Healthiest?

I looked long and hard and couldn’t find a single study actually comparing the health effects of different types of salt.
However… if such a study were done, I highly doubt they would find a major difference. Most of the salts are similar, consisting of sodium chloride and tiny amounts of minerals.
The main benefit of choosing more “natural” types of salt is that you avoid additives and anti-caking agents that are often added to regular table salt.
At the end of the day, salt is salt… its main purpose is to add flavor, not nutrition. (Again - you can make your own connections here.) 

So, what is the main idea of this "random thought" Simply that we need to get out of the salt shaker and into the world....but we also need to be careful that we don't "dump" all that we've got when at times all that is needed is a pinch. 

Just another random thought from a morning run....and I'm still wondering why they keep using people with English accents to read to me. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The prefix makes all the difference...

The following is from about 4 years ago, but I find that sometimes I need to re-read what I wrote so that I don't forget the lessons I learned during that time.
Perhaps it's because the beginning of school is just around the corner...(I'm sorry for that reminder to all my teacher friends)...or perhaps the Lord is trying to show me something. Either way, I woke up this morning with a word rolling around in my head - complete with thoughts on its meaning and how different it can be simply by the addition of a prefix.
The word is "courage."
The dictionary definition of courage is this: courage – noun

1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
1. fearlessness, dauntlessness, intrepidity, pluck, spirit. 
1. cowardice.

I have heard it said that courage is not the absence of fear, but it is facing that fear and going forward anyway. To me, courage has always meant strength.

But this blog is really more about what happens to the word "courage" when you add a prefix...see, I told you it was related to school.

If you add the prefix "dis" to the word "courage", you get a totally different picture. "Dis" means

1. "lack of, not" (lack of courage) ; 2. "do the opposite of" (opposite of being courageous); 3. "apart, away" (apart from courage).

If you add the prefix "en", you get this: “to cause to be in” ( to be "IN" courage );  "cause to be, make" ( to make courageous ); "put in or on" ( to put on courage ).

There's a lot of words out there that fall into both categories - unfortunately it seems that more fall into the "dis" category than the "en" one.

The Bible talks a lot about courage and encouragement. You can follow this link to see just a few of the verses - (Courage). One of my favorites is Psalm 43:5 - "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." While it doesn't use the words "courage" or "encouragement", it definitely is talking about them. You could almost substitute discouraged for disturbed!

In 1 Samuel 30, you find David encouraging himself: "...But David encouraged himself in the Lord" (1 Samuel 30:6 KJV). If you read the entire passage, you find that this was no small task. They had just returned from battle to discover that their city had been burned and their wives and children taken. I'm not sure I would have had the strength to do as David did then.

I have recently been thinking that we all have a mission in life - to encourage those around us. Sometimes we manage to do that...other times we do not. Encouragement isn't just a bunch of "happy sounding" words. To encourage is to speak TRUTH into is to somehow strengthen those around you....and that is sometimes a little painful.

This summer I've been hitting the gym on a regular basis and I'm learning a thing or two about strength training. There are times when my trainers (Thanks Tamesha, Nan, and as of today - Bentley!) tell me to do something that is downright hard! All the while, they are pushing me (encouraging me) to go a bit farther than I think I can. They smile understandingly when I complain and then tell me to do another set. They don't let me give up. They are helping me get stronger...building me up. I'm thinking I'd like to be like them - only as a spiritual trainer. I want to encourage those around me, and myself, to push beyond our comfort zone. I want to see us all become strong in the Lord and in courage.

My question in all this is a simple one - which prefix am I? Have I become an ENcourager or a DIScourager. Since God encourages us and the devil discourages us, I need to know who am I working for? Do the words of my mouth strengthen those around me or feed their fear? Which prefix will I choose to be? Which will YOU choose to be?

Ephesians 6:10, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

1. Which prefix am I? EN or DIS?
2. Do I seek to strengthen those around me daily? Do I purposely use not just empty words, but TRUTH that builds up?
3. What about the words I say to myself; are they words of faith or failure?
4. Find at least one verse that builds you up and meditate on that today.

More quotes on courage:

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

Albert Einstein

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
Mark Twain

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
Winston Churchill

You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.
Abraham Lincoln
How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.
Benjamin Franklin

One man with courage is a majority.
Thomas Jefferson

We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
Ronald Reagan

Friday, July 3, 2015

Surrender and the empty robin's egg...

Yesterday when I was walking in my yard picking up stray twigs that the storm had knocked down, I spied something small and blue in the grass. You can imagine my amazement to discover it was a perfect robin's egg. At first I was saddened at the thought of this egg falling from the nest and trying to figure out how to get it back in without leaving my "scent" on it, then I realized it was empty. 

Perfect and empty.

That robin's egg was still on my mind today as I started out on my run, but something else was on my mind as well...the word surrender. 

With all that is going on in our nation right now, the word surrender might be taken the wrong way. Those who know me know that while I HATE confrontation, I'm not one to back down from a fight if I feel it's necessary. That's why the word surrender seemed like an odd word to meditate on while I ran, but meditate on it I did - that and the empty egg.

I pretty much understood the surrender part before my run even started. It's about surrendering to Christ, not the world or the battle at hand. With each plop of my foot on the pavement, I thought about that egg, that empty egg. I began to pray that I would be filled - heavy even with the Holy Spirit so that the "storms of life" wouldn't be able to toss me about like the wind had tossed that little egg out of the nest. I wanted to not just "look" perfect - I wanted to be filled.

That's when I started thinking about how we pray for those who don't agree with us that they will come to know Christ, that they would desire Christ more than anything else. More than their own desires. Then the thought hit me. Do I desire Christ more than anything else? I am praying that others will desire Christ more than pleasures of the world, but am I doing that myself? Do I desire Christ more than finances, freedom, even family, or am I willing to simply look perfect on the outside but remain empty within?

Freedom is on everyone's mind right now. The freedom we enjoy as a country, the freedom to be whoever we feel we are supposed to be...but what if I surrender my freedom? What if I give up MY rights to Christ and say "I surrender." I have no "rights." I do not belong to me.
Daniel did what was right in God's sight and for it he got the lion's den. The three Hebrew children did not bow to other gods (keep in mind, the ruler didn't say they couldn't bow to God, only that they had to ALSO bow to his statue) and for their stand they got the fiery furnace. And God delivered them all.

I'm not sure what surrendering to Christ will hold for me in the future, but I'm certain it is worth it. I don't want to be an "empty egg." 

Speaking of the egg, there is more to the story. As I walked along, I accidentally dropped the egg onto my driveway. It broke immediately! It was empty, and now broken. That reminded me of the verse that says  " Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matthew 21:44) Stone, Rock, The Word of God. As I read the news, I want to ask myself I willing to fall on the rock myself before I answer the questions I see?

One more thing has been running through my mind the past couple of days with all the "love wins" phrases being tossed out. It's a quote from Forrest Gump. "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is."

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Who knew that for me, the surrender flag would be robin's egg blue.