Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Walking by the Spirit

The following quote is the topic of discussion this week In Other Words. Please visit this week's host, Tami @ the Next Step for other writers' takes on this quote.

“Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church.”
~ Francis Chan, Crazy Love

I haven't read Crazy Love yet, but I do have a wonderful book about the Holy Spirit, The Silent Shepherd by John MacArthur. So when I saw this week's quote related to the Holy Spirit, I looked back through The Silent Shepherd for an overview of how the Spirit works in our lives, especially in relation to the church.

The Spirit is our helper (John 14:6-7), our guarantor of eternal life (Eph. 1:13-14), our teacher (John 14:26). The Spirit regenerates us (gives us new life), (John 3:5,6,8), santicifies us (enables us to become more Christ-like), (Romans 15:16, 1 Cor. 6:11), produces spiritual fruit in our lives (Gal 5:22) - including the ability to love unconditionally and the amazing "peace that surpasses all understanding" that carries us through our struggles and hardships.

The Spirit also gives us gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11), and verse 7 tells us specifically why we are given gifts: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." In several different letters, Paul uses the analogy of the human body to describe how relationships within the church, Christ's body, are designed to work.

Romans 12:4-5 "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us."

The church is all about using our spiritual gifts and insights to help others. Unfortunately, I often show up at church with the attitude that the church is there to minister to me. MacArthur writes:

It is often hard in our isolated, individualized culture for us to appreciate the need we have for one another. It is easy for us... to get entrenched in such individual patterns that we do not get close enough to others to discover their needs. The real problem with such a lifestyle is that it often spills over into the church and affects the way we minister - or don't minster - to others.... God never intended for our spiritual walk to be an end in itself. Instead, He wants us to walk in a way that will have a positive influence on other believers and help purify and build up the church.

We must walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16) in order to use our spiritual gifts to minister to others.

Instead of blaming the church for not fulfilling its intended role, we should strive instead to fulfill our intended role - living a Spirit-filled life.

What does walking in the Spirit mean? MacArthur writes:

The Greek word for "walk" in Galatians 5:16 could be translated literally "keep on continually walking." The basic idea is that the Christian life unfolds one day at a time. Walking is therefore a very picturesque metaphor that tells us we are to live one step at a time, as a matter of habit and routine. The Holy Spirit is already in us and working on our behalf. Our task is simply to respond and submit moment by moment, step by step, day by day according to His empowering and guiding [which we become aware of through hearing, reading and meditating on
the Scripture, through prayer, and through the ministries of other believers].

One last note about the gifts that the Spirit gives us. You cannot stop in 1 Corinthians 12 after reading about the gifts, not when chapter 12 ends with verse 31: "But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way." This most excellent way is love - 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter, set right in the middle of the section on spiritual gifts, gives us all the guidance we'll ever need as we allow the Spirit to use us in reaching out to others. We should all be familiar with verse 13: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." And here is a wonderful verse relating the Holy Spirit and love, that I discovered (or re-discovered) in the process of this study:

Romans 5:5 "...God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

I am praying for myself, for the other writers this week, and for our churches, that we would be renewed in our walk with the Spirit and inspired to a greater love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who gets my best, my family or others?

A sentence from Psalm 101 has been both
challenging and convicting for me:
"I will walk in my house with blameless heart."
When God speaks to
me about being more loving,
this verse reminds me to make application in my
family first—and then to others.
It forces me to ask, Am I more spiritual,
More loving, or more fun somewhere else?

Who gets my best—my family or others?

from A Mother's Heart, by Jean Fleming

I have been failing miserably with my family. I try to keep it together at work, but when I get home I fall apart. Kids get snapped at for making noise. My husband doesn't get a "welcome home" or even a "hi, honey!" when he arrives.

I catch myself thinking peevishly, if I didn't have to work so much, I'd have more energy for my family. If the economy hadn't taken a nose-dive. If we hadn't made those poor financial decisions. If we'd stopped having kids at two instead four. So easy to make excuses, justifications, to say "if onlys."

I really think the Lord sent me a dream last night to wake me up to my wrong attitude. (Well, I'm pretty sure He used http://writingcanvas.wordpress.com to give me the quote, above, too).

I was dreaming I was back at the beach, and the girls were playing in the surf. The twins - three years old - just loved dashing in and out of the water. I was laying on the sand, soaking up the sun. I didn't notice that the waves were gradually getting bigger in size. Suddenly a huge breaker crashed over the twins and they disappeared in the frothing water. They aren't old enough to right themselves, even in waist-deep water, if they get knocked over and disoriented. I searched for them frantically, swimming out and diving under, but the water was too murky to see anything. I knew even if I found one of the twins in time, chances are the other one would drowned before I could find her.

Then I woke up.

I have to stop making excuses and put my family first, no matter what trials the world is throwing at me right now. Let me rephrase that. I need to put God first, so then I have the strength to put my family next in priority, ahead of my worries, my exhaustion, my short temper.

My family deserves my best, and God can help me give them my best. I can't do it on my own.

Please link back to http://writingcanvas.wordpress.com for other excellent insights into the quote from Jean Fleming's wonderful book (I really need to read this book again! It's one of those you can keep getting good stuff out of it, no matter how many times you read it)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

1000 gifts: my wonderful crazy kids edition

I'm keeping a list of all the gifts God has given me that I'm thankful for, to live out the command "give thanks in all things" (1 Thess. 5:18) in my daily walk.

This part of the list is focused on my kids. I have four girls, ages 8, 5, and 3 year old twins. They drive me crazy, but they are wonderful. I wouldn't have it any other way!

(note: I always use their nicknames on the blog)

46. Cowboy dress-up day at school.
Blaze and Dreamer's school had "Spirit" week and the kids got to dress for a theme each day. The first day was "cowboy day." Here's Dreamer in her outfit. Blaze had a field trip, so she had to wear the standard uniform.

47. Crazy hair day.
Dreamer was very patient as I put at least 30 hairbands in. When I finished her hairdo, I was running out of time so I had to do something fast for Blaze

48. Homemade recycle notes on all our cans
Also at school, the girls have been learning about recycling. Blaze takes this very seriously. She taped her own little homemade "recycle" symbols on all of the cans in our pantry, to remind us not to throw them away

49. Clash day (stripes and polka dots)
Oh, the frightful outfits kids can come up with.

50. Starlet's first prayer.
One night Blaze and Dreamer and I were taking turns praying at bed time. Starlet left her room (I had already put the twins to bed) and joined us - she wanted to pray, too. She said everyone's name in our family - and then "Amen!"

51. Picking your seat.
Grandpa picking on Dreamer- he asks her "are you going to the movies?" "No" she replies in confusion. Grandpa asks, "Well, why do you keep picking your seat?"

52. Three-year old concept of age
Once I asked Starlet how old she was. "I four!" she says. I laugh and say "no, you're three." "No!" she cries emphatically. "I four! I six!"

53. Sock hop day.
I had to borrow a dress for Dreamer - we only have at least two dozen dress-up dresses, but only one fifties-style one. All the rest are Princess style (or very scary 70's prom style)

54. If my older sisters get to dress up, I want to too
Seeing her older sisters getting dressed up, Starlet also wanted to play "dress up" each morning, too. Serious ever showed a bit of interest in dressing up she just wanted her picture taken. Therefore, the picture of her in pajamas.

55. Vampirates
Dreamer went through a stage where "vampirates" were frequent characters in her make-believe games. A cross between a vampire and a pirate?

56. Learning how to swing yourself
Dreamer was so excited to show me she didn't need to get a push anymore in the swing

57. Kids singing while doing chores
Blaze sang "Oh My Darling Clementine" while emptying the dishwasher. We all need a good tune to work to.

58. Homemade planters are not the best Mother's Day gift, but I still love them.
The twins painted some ceramic mugs for me for Mother's Day and planted little petunias in them. Only problem is, they don't realize the plants are for Mom; they think the plants are theirs. And of course they are very proud so they want to carry them around (even though Mom says no). Then they set them down in some random spot, start playing, and soon knock over the plants. Soil everywhere. Three times now I've had to clean up the mess. So even though it was supposed to be a sweet little Mother's Day gift, it's ending up causing me all sorts of extra work!

Here is a picture of the four girls with all the Mother's Day presents they made me (Dreamer also decorated a pot, Blaze made a Chinese lantern)

59. CS Lewis on books and tea.
I love to collect quotes, and I just discovered a new C.S. Lewis quote that I absolutely adore, because I love books, and I love tea:
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. - C.S. Lewis

60. Vinatge portraits of the twins.
Fifteen different poses!  my gift to my own wonderful mom on Mother's Day

Monday, May 3, 2010

Marriage, foxes and vineyards

I'll admit it right here up front: I don't want to write this post. In the past 3 years of blogging, I've only posted on marriage twice. I've written almost a whole novel on marriage, but that was fiction, -- in other words, it wasn't MY marriage, so it was fun to write about.

Now if you get me one-on-one in a coffee house with a big yummy cup of Hot Snow and a cheesecake, I'll spill the beans and talk marriage all night long. But there is something frightfully permanent about writing words down about your marriage on a public forum where any one can stop by and read. (I suppose I could change my privacy settings. But then I get to thinking, I really do appreciate when other ladies are honest about their marriages. I'll try to return the favor).

I've been married a few months shy of 12 years. I married my complete opposite, in everyway. The only two things we have in common is a love of Jesus and a love of horses. He's an extrovert, I'm an introvert. He's a risk taker, I'm cautious. I could list differences for hours but I don't want to bore you. Bottom line: it isn't easy. But I know God matched us up, that our differences strengthen each other. If I'd married a man with a similar personality as mine, we'd both be institutionalized now for severe clinical depression.

The recession has been hard on our marriage. My husband has his own business, and the work has dwindled to the point that I make more than he does at my part-time job. That's hard on him. That's hard on me. I don't like being the provider - the money I earned was supposed to be "extra" - for savings and vacations or what not. He feels, at times, like a failure. I have to keep giving him pep-talks. It's not a situation that inspires romance. Most of the time I'm too tired with working and running after the kids (though he helps with the kids ALOT) to have any energy left over for him.

The reason why I'm writing this is because it was a way to remind myself that my marriage is IMPORTANT and if I don't keep putting energy into it and giving him attention (and we all know how men most like attention), then I know the little things that stress our marriage are only going to get more troublesome, just like Solomon says that little foxes can end up ruining a whole vineyard (Song of Solmon 2:15)

I'm thankful I ran across Marriage Monday and the verse, 1 Corinthians 7:4 "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." A good reminder for me. I also wanted to point out - who is it that appears first in this verse? The wife or the husband? I'm thinking there's probably a good reason why the wife is addressed FIRST. With our tendency to moodiness, we probably need that extra reminder. I know I do.