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.’

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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.

Consider Your Ways – A post for the new year

One of the elders at our church presented the following questions to us this morning to help us reflect on our direction and how we can seek the Kingdom first.   He also read from Haggai 1, where God warns the people of Jerusalem that they cannot expect His blessing, because they are building their own comfortable homes when His temple lies in ruins.  The application for us is not necessarily to build beautiful churches for God, but to see that we are His temple.  Are we putting Him and His agenda ahead of our own comforts?  My answers follow the questions below:

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

3. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

4. What is the most helpful way you could strengthen your church?

5. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

6. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

7. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

8. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your church family this year?

9. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave your children or grandchildren?

10. To what need or ministry will you try to give generously this year?

My answers:

Heavenly Father, guide me as I consider these questions.  I don’t want to just make resolutions and try to change myself in my own strength.  May I walk by the Spirit and delight to do Your will.

1. How can I enjoy God more?

Sometimes it’s easy to praise Him and rejoice in Him; other days I am overwhelmed or grumpy and the praises don’t flow.  Father teach me to praise You and rejoice in You always, because You are worthy.

2. How can I improve my family life?

Be present when I’m present!  Enjoy my children and my husband and give them my affection and time.

3. What is the biggest time-waster?

For me it is the internet and computer (though of course I’m not wasting time right now…).  This is also related to no. 2 above.  I can ask God, “Is this what You would have me do right now?  How do You want me to use this time?”  I was recently at the swimming pool with my 5-year-old daughter, talking to God about something else, and then the thought came to me, “Play with her; enjoy her.”  So even though it’s really hard for me to play, because I seem to have lost the knack, I put the effort into interacting with my daughter in a playful way, helping her to float, playing catch, swooshing her through the air like a dolphin, and doing things I used to enjoy when I was a child at the pool.  It was great to see how her eyes lit up, and we enjoyed being together.

4. How can I help strengthen the church?

At the moment God is calling me to pray regularly for the church we attend and each person in our congregation.  I am sure He will reveal more as His plan unfolds.  I have lots of ideas but am not sure they are His plans.

5.  Whose salvation will I pray for this year?

I’m praying for lots of people, but one family in particular stands out at this time.  I have been praying for them at least once a week.  I could increase that to daily prayer.

6. How can I improve my prayer life?

It’s improved vastly over the last few weeks as I have been making it a priority over Bible reading.  I pray in the morning and read the Bible later in the day, usually in the afternoon or before bed.  I can also pray when I’m driving and when out walking by myself.  Making prayer a priority first thing in the morning seems to have made a huge difference.  When my husband wakes up early in the morning (6 am) to go to work, I can wake up at the same time and pray then.

7. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

I’m very disturbed and burdened by the problems of child abuse and exploitative materials that are being distributed on the internet.  I don’t know how I can help with these needs except to pray, and to support ministries like Hagar and Open Home Foundation.  I’m praying that God will expose those who are abusing children and producing porn; for the removal of corrupt officials and that police will not take bribes to turn a blind eye;  that children who are being abused will find help and safe and loving homes, and healing through Jesus Christ; for those that are addicted that they will find help to overcome it.

8. How can I bless my church family?

I can bless them by being faithful in praying for them, and encouraging them in other ways.  This year I will be helping in the children’s ministry and with music.  I will try to build relationships outside our Sunday meetings by having church members round for meals at our home, and by visiting those who are housebound.

9. What can I do to enrich the spiritual legacy I will leave my children?

Continue with our Bible memory programme, and spend time with the children one-on-one, praying and reading God’s word together.  Continue to point them to Him as the source of all goodness and life.

10. To what need or ministry will I try to give generously this year?

We’re giving to quite a few different ministries.  The one that stands out for me most is Asia Harvest’s China Bibles Fund.  This is a very cost-effective way of helping the kingdom of God to grow.  I would also like to support Hagar.