Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Thursday, January 11, 2018
God hit me immediately with the thought that that was what is important in people, too! Yes, the outside might look nice. I might wonder about what a person likes to eat, how they like to dress, what kind of shampoo or toothpaste they use, or any sort of thing like that...
Saturday, December 30, 2017
I find value in goal-setting. I think it is important to have goals, so you have an idea of where you are going. But life has changed and has gotten busier. I found a few years ago that I was not doing well on meeting the goals I set any more. I would stumble across my list after months of not even remembering I had one, which means I was not working effectively toward my goals.
Oh sure, I have a lot of dreams or wishes about what I'd like to write down as my resolutions for 2018. I'd love to sew (hand and machine sewing), play the piano and oboe more, do more personal reading, do arts and crafts, play board and card games more often with the kids, learn how to knit and crochet better, exercise more regularly, declutter the house, get chores done more consistently...
But over the years, I've learned that I have not realistically worked on any of those well. The last couple years, I even changed the sewing one to "complete at least one sewing project this year." (I still have not accomplished even that one.) Yesterday, I started to contemplate about why this is the way things are going.
I started to think about my priorities and my life goals, not just my yearly ones. What is it that I want to accomplish in the long run? Here are the ones I've come up with so far:
- I want to raise my children to know, love, and follow hard after Jesus.
- I want to raise my children to be respectful, kind, generous individuals who care for the needs of others.
- I want to educate my children well - academically and in other life skills (cooking, etc.)
- I want to grow ever closer to God and live my life more fully for Him.
- I want to grow closer to my husband, being a good helper for him and showing him more love and affection.
- I want to show love to others and serve them in their times of need.
- I want to see people grow in their relationships with Christ - for those who don't know Him to turn to Him and be saved, for those who do know Him to love and obey Him more - for everyone to know, love, and follow hard after Jesus.
- I will continue morning devotionals with the children - at least five days a week, most weeks.
- I will continue to encourage personal devotions for all family members and support them in their efforts.
- I will be intentional about praying aloud with the kids throughout the day, and letting them see/hear me pray on my own as well.
- I will continue to seek and provide opportunities for the children to serve beside my husband and me. I know they love the Caleb Luncheon, Fill-a-Backpack, Operation Christmas Child, handing out Mother's Day roses at church, etc. so we will plan to be involved in those kinds of activities in 2018.
- I will continue to help the children learn respect and kindness through their interactions with each other, other family members, and those outside our family.
- I will continue to educate them however the Lord leads us, being focused and diligent, showing interest in the learning and not just a check-list mentality.
- I want to further develop spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, fasting, etc.) to deeper my relationship with my heavenly Father, my Savior Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
- I want to be able to push aside my busyness so that I may spend better time with my husband in the evenings and on weekends, giving him more of my attention and affection. I want him to know without a doubt how much I truly do adore him!
- I want to continue taking meals to people, caring for babies, visiting church members who are home-bound, and serving in other ways to show the love of Christ to people.
- I want to pray more consistently for specific people to turn to the Lord.
- I want to help others deepen their relationship with God, increasing their spiritual disciplines and obedience to Him - living their lives more fully for Him as well.
- I want to encourage my children to be creative and try new things - sew, build, sell/trade, etc.
- I want to go to bed by 11:00 p.m. at least five nights a week.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Here is a couple more short poems.
(Christa Shuman, Dec. 2017)
May we remember
Friday, December 15, 2017
The night before last, I had a dream that there was a large organization of young men who were rallied together and had kidnapped several young women with plans to gouge out their eyes. (Maybe the history lessons that afternoon about jihad and the Armenian genocide during World War One didn't help...) There was an escape attempt by some of the women that was unsuccessful, and then I don't remember dreaming anything else about it.
But it was not a dream I could let end at that point. The story seemed to need to play out, so throughout the day, more would be added until it has finally almost reached it's culmination, and is definitely at a much better point. To skim through it for you, one young woman was strong in the Lord and found peace in the midst of the situation. She continued to pray and sing praises to the Lord. This made an impression on at least one of the captors and on the other women.
At a turning point in the story, when she was in trouble, women all over the compound were on their knees in prayer. She was also in prayer. The one captor on which she'd made a big impression asked her to speak her thoughts out loud. Her thoughts were prayers for all the captors, many of whom were in the room with her, and she prayed for them each by name. A change came over all of them. They ended up releasing her from the room, and later, releasing all the women from the compound, as well as any men who no longer wanted to stay, since their plans had now ceased and they no longer knew what was going to happen. The one woman, however, chose to stay.
She ended up leading two men, the one captor (James) and the leader of the organization of young men (Collin), to Christ and a relationship with God through Him. For a short time before the men turned themselves over to the police, she helped them grow through songs, prayers, and Bible studies. A pastor even came to visit and pray with them, amazed by the changed lives.
The men peacefully went to prison, willing to own up for their sins. Sister, as they now called her, promised to visit them. The transformation in the men led to them sharing Christ with others in the prison system. Visits from Sister and her pastor led to even more changes.
When the men were released from prison, James and Collin went to work at a company owned by Mr. Brian, (James' former employer). He was willing to hire James back, as well as hiring Collin, because he had heard of their changed lives and said, "Behind every great man is a great woman," recognizing the impact that Sister had made. As it goes on, because of the men's new lives for Christ, they had a huge, positive impact on the company's morale, production, etc.
It was at this point in the story, that God led me to a message: It Just Takes One.
It just took one woman who was faithful to the Lord, who would not let her peace be stolen from her, to make an impact and create change. Her impact changed the bad situation, an organization's plans of harm, a prison system, a major company, and many lives. Extended family members, and others who heard about it in the news, also came to seek Christ.
So what? It's just a made up story and doesn't mean anything, right? That kind of thing could never happen, right? Wrong!
I have read and heard a number of missionary stories with my children and I will tell you, every single one of them is about an individual who decided to step out on faith. There are some of them who were alone in their ministries. George Muller, Mary Slessor, David Livingstone, Gladys Aylward - these are just a few. Many of the individuals we consider Bible heroes (Joseph, Moses, Noah, and Paul, just to name a few) were really just ordinary individuals who loved God and followed Him. There are many more modern-day missionaries doing the same.
Not only that, there are people right around us in our local communities, every day, stepping out in faith and making a difference for Christ in the relationships around them. That's all it takes - stepping out in faith. Listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit and go where He leads. Help that person you see in need. Give a smile and a kind word to the grouchy-looking cashier or waiter/waitress. Offer to pray for - and with - people.
For the past couple weeks, I've been wanting to share some of my Christmas poetry with you, but God never hit the "Go" button on that. Last night, He hit the "Go" button on this story. Is He hitting a "Go" button in your life today? What is He prompting you to do? Be the change. Make an impact. God can use even you.
It just takes one.
Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Last night, our daughter said how excited she was for all the yummy food we would have for Thanksgiving, but that she knew it was about more than the food, because some people won't have all the food.
She and I talked about the first Thanksgiving. Yes, the Pilgrims were thankful that the native Americans helped them. Yes, they were thankful that their crops did well. Ultimately, they were thankful for God's provision. God provided friendly neighbors to help them and teach them. God provided the good weather conditions for their crops. God provided for their survival in the new land.
This conversation strengthened my resolve to remember those less fortunate than us.
Be thankful for your family. Remember widows, orphans, and those estranged or otherwise separated from family. Be thankful for your parents. Remember those who have lost their parents. Be thankful for your children. Remember those unable to have children, who have lost children, who have children with challenging behavioral, emotional, developmental, academic, or other issues that make life/parenting hard.
Be thankful for your health. Remember those with pain or illness (chronic or otherwise), long-term or life-threatening health conditions, or other physical or emotional health issues.
Be thankful for your food. Remember those who are hungry or even starving. Remember those who battle with eating disorders.
Be thankful for your home. Remember those who are homeless, or live in inadequate shelters. Remember those without proper heating/cooling, pest control, furnishings, or safety. Remember refugees. Remember those affected by hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, mold, theft, etc.
Be thankful for your safety. Remember those who live in constant fear, abusive situations, war zones.
Be thankful for your freedoms. We are relatively free in speech, religion, right to bear arms, pursue careers of our choice, etc. Remember those without these freedoms. Many countries are not as open. Remember the Christians around the world persecuted and killed just for accepting Jesus. Remember women and others in other cultures who lack many rights. Remember those persecuted just for believing differently or for being compassionate to people who believe differently.
Be thankful for rest, relaxation, comfort, and entertainment. Remember those who do not have access to such luxuries.
Yes, be thankful. But more than thankful, be mindful. Be concerned. Be prayerful. Be active in improving the lives of others as you are led by the Lord.
Do not be like the Pharisee in the temple who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get," (Luke 18:11-12 NIV, https://bible.com/bible/111/luk.18.11-12.NIV). That's the wrong kind of thanks.
Here is a link to a video that goes with this topic: https://youtu.be/-9pNeT55U_c.
Be thankful for God's blessings in your life, but don't let them end with you. May your cup overflow.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God," (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
This thought came to my mind the night before last. I had read a post from someone on Facebook who said she didn't believe in God (or thought if he did exist, he was pretty horrible [but she used stronger terminology]) because her grandmother died from cancer ten and a half years ago and she lost a newborn child in the last year. She definitely has reasons for her heart to hurt, but I'm sad that she has turned away from God instead of toward Him. I have lost family and gone through hard times, but my relationship with God has made those times easier to get through.
I looked at the person's personal page as I sought ways to pray for her. I wondered if she was someone whose heart was prepared for discussion about God or if she was too closed off at this time. I got the impression that she would want a God who would give her what she wants, and turn away from him if she didn't get her way. She is not alone. There are many who see God (and other humans) this way. If someone is not useful in helping them reach their personal goals, then they have no desire to interact with them. Sometimes, after some introspection, someone with the best intentions may find this true of themselves. I know I have. Consider your prayers and how they sound. Are they filled with requests like "Please help me to ____" or "Please _____ for me"?
That made me think of our Sunday school discussion this past Sunday. (Questions taken from The Gospel Project Chronological: Jesus Saves, Volume 9, Fall 2017 Personal Study Guide.)
- How does our perspective of earthly promises impact how we view God's promises? We can view God's promises as we view people-made promises. If we have people in our lives who break promises, then we might also expect God to not keep his promises. The opposite can be true, too. Then again, we might see how great our God is that we can trust Him to fulfill His promises even when we cannot trust others to fulfill their promises.
- What can get in the way of your belief in God to be faithful to His promises? When we don't get what we want or think we need, that sense of entitlement can lead to distrust of the one(s) who did not meet our expectations. Also, God's timing may not be what we hope, and God may not answer in the way that we think He would or should.
Sometimes we have a tendency of seeing our relationship with God as one-sided. What can He do for us? What blessings will He give to us? How will He get us out of the trouble into which we got ourselves? How will He protect us from the (deserved) consequences for our choices? If something goes wrong, why did He allow that to happen to us? How could He do that to us?
So, that brings me back to the beginning: ask not what God can do for you today, but what you can do for God today. It should not be about us. It should be about God. How can we know what God wants? By spending time with Him! For any relationship to grow, it takes a commitment of time to get to know the other person. We need to build our relationship with God through quiet times in prayer and Bible reading/study so we will know what God wants.
One thing we know God wants is our thanks and gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Psalm 100 is also a good passage to read about giving thanks. These are just two of several places in the Bible that refer to giving thanks. This past Sunday our pastor, Jared Allen, mentioned keeping a record of what you are grateful for each day. I used to keep a gratitude journal, initiated, I think, by a 1000 Gifts (by Ann Voskamp) book study of which I was a part. It definitely led to a more grateful outlook as I began looking for things for which to thank God each day. I also was a part of a study (Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer, I think) that mentioned fingerprints of God. That is what I look for nowadays - ways that I notice God touching or acting in my life or the lives of others. Those are definitely things for which I can be thankful!
Here are a couple interesting reads you might like:
- Since the wording of my question is similar to what was said in this inaugural speech, I felt compelled to read it. "Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You" John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961. http://www.ushistory.org/documents/ask-not.htm
- My daughter found a book at Barnes and Noble yesterday called The Book of Amazing Stories: 90 Devotions on Seeing God's Hand in Unlikely Places. I have a feeling that would be a really powerful book to read.
- Check out Bobi Ann Allen's website (bobiann.com) and look her up on Facebook or Instagram. She has a couple posts about being thankful on her website and has been doing daily posts lately on Facebook and Instragram about thankfulness and gratitude. They are great reminders and prompts to be thankful.