Whatever is Lovely….

In a recent post (Pain) I wrote about the difficulties I had been having getting over hurts from my childhood.  Even though my parents have been loving and good parents on the whole, there were painful memories and resentment that I was holding on to from the past.  Every time I visited my parents the old pain would be renewed, and I would come home unsettled and fighting depression again.  This happened many times, so that I began to avoid visiting their home.

The last time this happened was at Easter.  I was bitterly disappointed, because I wanted to be able to move on and not have this horrible pain, dealing with the same thing over and over again.  I felt like a child who couldn’t grow up.  It helped to remind myslf of God’s love and his acceptance, but I still couldn’t let go of the resentment towards my parents.  I asked God, “How can I get past this?”

The answer came when I met with a close friend and her husband for prayer.  My friend asked God for healing for the hurt places in my life, going all the way back to the little girl I was, who believed herself to be unloved.   And then she gave me a verse.  It is very well-known, but I had never applied it in this way before:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

She prayed that when I would think of my parents, I would think of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc: that my thoughts and memories of my parents would focus on the lovely, praiseworthy things about them (and there are so many – thank you Lord!).  I realised that my mind had been set on a certain track, so that when I thought about them I would focus on things that I resented, and each time my thoughts went that way, the groove would become deeper and it became more and more difficult for me to think about them any other way.  God was asking me to consciously change my thought patterns.  I had been asking God for the way forward, and He had shown me the path.

After my friend prayed I realised that I needed to repent of my wrong attitude towards my parents, particularly the way I had judged them and criticised them for years.  So I did that.  When I went home I felt like a huge load had come off me.  I was exhausted, but free.

Since then the pain is gone.  It sounds simplistic, but it really is completely different.  I was a wreck emotionally before I went to that prayer meeting, and since then, I have been at peace.  The real test will be when I see my parents again.  Will the old hurts still sting, or are they healed forever?  At least I now have a way forward.  If I am hurt again, I can choose to think on ‘whatever is lovely.’

Image

Advertisements

Radical Obedience

I would like to recommend the audio book of What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst.  It is available free this month from christianaudio.com.  Lysa talks about her journey of learning ‘radical obedience’ to God.  This is familiar to me, as God has also been graciously leading me on this uncomfortable but joyful path.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Psalm 23 v 3

What does obedience look like?  Many of us want to ‘do great things for God’, hoping that He will call us to do something extraordinary and wonderful.  But what if the path of obedience is more mundane, such as washing dishes for Jesus, or learning not to lose my temper, or being honest when no one else is?  What if it means choosing not to respond in anger with my children when they disobey again, or are careless?  What if it means choosing not to complain or grumble about people who don’t pull their weight at work or at church, but being thankful for them and blessing them instead?  What if it means getting up early to pray rather sleeping for another hour?

I’m starting to see that the life of radical obedience that God is calling us to is made of many choices, day by day, but that these often trivial matters point back to one choice we must make – will we live to please Him or to please ourselves?  The little things matter.

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.

Luke 16 verse 10

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!”

Matthew 25 verse 21

Lessons from Daniel

As a family we have been re-reading the book of Daniel.  The story opens when Daniel and three of his friends are among the captives taken from Jerusalem to Babylon.  The best-looking, fittest and most intelligent young men are chosen to receive the finest education the Babylonian court can provide, and Daniel and his friends are among this select group.  They are to be fed on the choicest foods and wines from the king’s own table.  However, this is a problem for Daniel and his three friends.  They are forbidden by the Law given to Moses to consume certain animals, and may not eat meat that has not had the blood drained from it.  Daniel asks that they be fed vegetables instead.  The officer over them is reluctant, because he thinks that they will not fare as well as the other young men who eat the king’s food, but Daniel asks for a ten day trial.  After ten days the four young men who are obedient to God’s law look healthier than all the others.  They are allowed to continue eating their plain diet rather than the king’s food.  God blesses them with understanding and wisdom above all their fellows, so that they rise to prominent positions in the king’s court.

How many young men from Judah were in that court?  There must have been many more than four.  However, only Daniel and his friends were willing to be different from the rest.  What words may have been thrown at them?

“Why are you making a fuss?  We’re in Babylon now.  When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do.”

“You’re making the rest of us look bad.  I suppose you think you’re super holy or something.”

“Why are you bothering to obey God when he couldn’t save us from Nebuchadnezzar’s armies?”

It was only a ‘little thing’, but it mattered in God’s eyes.

Taking a break from blogland

For the next month I am taking a break from blogging and from visiting other people’s blogs.  It seems to be what God is asking me to do.  In fact He’s been asking for a while, but I’ve been struggling to stop.  However listening to Lysa’s book has encouraged me to take this step.

Some things I’m hoping to do in my blog-free month:  gardening, spending more time with my family, craft projects, praying, writing songs and poetry, cooking and reaching out to others.   Who knows what else God has planned?

Jo.

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst

– See more at: http://christianaudio.com/free/#sthash.dVOS37dS.dpuf

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa Terkeurst

– See more at: http://christianaudio.com/free/#sthash.dVOS37dS.dpuf

Dear Moppet

In January we had visitors from Germany come to stay with us.  They were friendly and fun, playing swing ball and jumping on the trampoline with our children.  However their stay also highlighted for me some problems in our family that needed to be dealt with.  It was painful at the time, but I’m grateful for the work God did….

Dear Moppet,

You have long blond hair, a sweet round face, and sturdy limbs.  You love to sing and dance.  I watch you on the trampoline and I laugh at the big words you use and your decided opinions.  You act tough, but can suddenly crumple at a harsh word or angry tone.  Sometimes you use words as weapons, lashing out at your three older siblings, and I wonder how you learnt that and why you want to hurt them.  You are growing fast and will soon be too big for my lap, and I suddenly want to put brakes on Time and keep you little for longer, and make up for the moments I did not cherish earlier.

I’m sorry to say that I resented you when you were little: the years of waking up every night for no reason I could make out, the annoyance of trying to keep everyone else quiet during your naps, the ‘inconvenience’ having a baby or toddler caused.  I even spoke the words, “I wish…..”  I don’t want to finish the sentence now because it is too painful to remember.  I didn’t realise the treasure God had given us in you.

I saw the damage my attitude had caused, when we had visitors in January and my little 5-year-old girl clung to a stranger, wanting to hold her hand and sit on her lap, things you never did with me.  God forgive me for my blindness.  That night I lay awake and wept because of the wrong I had done you and the words I had spoken many times, though never to your face, “I don’t want another baby if it is like M.”  I take them back.  I love you, Moppet.  It doesn’t matter how much disruption you cause.  Nothing changes the fact that you’re my treasure.

Your Daddy and I prayed together and repented of our words and attitudes.  God gave us His peace and I know that He will heal our relationship and make it beautiful.  I’ve been holding you more, and expressing my love for you, praying with you and playing with you.  I know things are changing and I’m grateful.

Love you forever,

Mum.

Washing dishes for Jesus

There are seven of us in our family, and we eat most meals at home.  We also do not have a dishwasher machine.  We have a small kitchen that becomes cluttered and unusable very quickly if dishes are not dealt with. 

For a long time dirty dishes were a point of contention between myself and my husband.  I felt like I washed the dishes more often than he did (I even started keeping count), and that he should wash more, and he became annoyed with me when he was washing and I was sitting around using the computer or reading a book, and not helping him get through them faster by drying.  I would become irritated with him when I needed to cook and the kitchen was still full of dishes from the last meal.  Such a small thing, but resentment simmered and even broke out into arguments and anger.

I realised my attitude was wrong, and that I needed to change it, but how?  I found the following verse, and put it over my sink:

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. 

Colossians 3 verses 23-24

Every time I wash the dishes (especially when I really don’t feel like tackling them again), I remember that I am doing them for my Saviour, as an act of love for Him.  The difference has been extraordinary: so marked that I can only attribute it to God’s work and the power of the Word of God in my life.  The resentment is gone, and if it tries to return I can dispel it easily.  We have had no more fights over this issue.  Both of us have changed.

When self-pity tries to throw a party, I can boot it out by thanking God.  It doesn’t seem to matter what I start to thank Him for.  Once I start on that track it’s easy to continue.  Perhaps this is the ‘secret’ of contentment that Paul writes about in Philippians 4 verses 12 and 13:

I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

There are many things we can (and do) complain about.  But if we are in Christ the reasons for thankfulness are so much more numerous and more significant, and when we focus on these, the heart overflows with joy and He gives us strength.  Our thankfulness is a beautiful offering to our Father, more precious than any sacrifice.

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs.
Let the oppressed see it and be glad;
    you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
For the Lord hears the needy,
    and does not despise his own that are in bonds.

Psalm 69 verses 30 to 33

In some ways it seems trivial to write about my struggles with dishes, when I know that there are many people in the world who are suffering terribly, people who would love to have three meals a day and the ‘problem’ of dirty dishes.  However, it seems as if it is not our circumstances that are the most important factor in our contentment, and that each small battle we face may be a training ground for something greater:

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much.  Luke 16 verse 10

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!” Matthew 25 verse 21