Friday, July 31, 2015

What I Learned in July (2015 edition)

Big D and I are almost done with our road trip and will meet up with our other two family members next week.  It has been a great trip but it will be delightful for our whole family to be reunited once again. Our trip has been full of adventures, rest, and a few lessons here and there.  It is that time of the month where I look back over my month and muse about the lessons I have learned.  Once again, I am linking up with Emily and other bloggers at Chatting at the Sky.

1. Home is more a state of mind than a place.

Tennessee is home if you go by my driver's license.  It is also where we have our doctor and dentist who always are excited to see us.  Iowa is home if you go by where I was born.  A different part of me comes alive as I help mow the lawn on mom's John Deere or sit in a pew in the church where I was married.  Iowa is also where my mom lives who always makes me feel at home.  But Texas is  also home.  We have a room we can stay in at a friend's house when we visit.  I get to take long walks with my best buds.  My children were born here.  Then let's not forget Central Asia.  It is a place where I currently live and hopefully thrive.  Most days I love the colorful outfits, and all days I love the food.  I have friends, both local and foreign, that are like family.  It is the place where God has us.  All these places are home yet not home.

That said, next week I will be home when my family is all together.  We will be in one place for two weeks, and we will enjoy and cherish every minute of it.  It is in seasons like this where I know that my true home is heaven.  There we will fully be who God made us to be.  There we will be with our heavenly father and never have to move again.

2. Road trips are great for good conversations and getting caught up on the new music.

Big D and I have enjoyed talking about all sorts of things as we have traveled from Tennessee to Indiana to Iowa and now to Texas.  What is your favorite music?  What do you think about this or that issue?  The questions could go on. The conversations go best when I ask a few questions and just listen.  Big D has also been exposing me to lots of new music.  We have also enjoyed christian radio as long they don't play the same songs over and over.  

3. Iowa is a great place to learn to drive

Big D passed his written driver's exam and now has his learning permit.  He chauffeured mom and me almost everywhere while we were in Iowa.  He learned to drive on gravel, in the smaller and bigger towns, and even how to pass someone on a two lane highway.  He drove every opportunity that he had.   On our last leg to Texas, he was ready to try the interstate for two different 45 minute periods.  Just that little bit made the drive much easier for me. 

4. Seth Wadley Dealership in Paul's Valley, OK was amazing.

South of Oklahoma City, we heard a sound on our car that was not good.  The plastic thing that protects our engine and other parts was coming loose and starting to drag, not a fun thing to happen in the middle of our drive from Iowa to Texas.  I stopped at the Seth Wadley dealership thinking they would have someone who could help with what could be a quick fix.  They had us in and out in 30 minutes with no charge.  Don't you love how God takes care of us through others?

4. Trader Joe's has cold brew coffee already prepared.

One of my favorite treats this summer has been drinking Trader Joe's cold brew.  It is good for about 8 to 12 iced coffees and keeps in the frig for up to a month.  As I have traveled, it has been nice to have my cold coffee each morning with a little bit of milk and chocolate syrup.  I might say I am slightly addicted and will miss it when I go back to Central Asia.

5. I have missed my inductive study bible.

When I was in Iowa, I was purging some of our containers that are stored there.  In one bin, I found my inductive study bible.  It is made to be marked in and has big margins.  I enjoyed looking at my notes and using it in my daily time with God each day.  I am in Texas, and it is still with me.  Not sure if it will make the trip overseas, but for now I am enjoying using my colored pencils and looking for patterns as I study.  

What have you learned this month?  I would love to hear all about it in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why We Don't Obey God's Word (James Two Verses at a Time x2)

(Picture by my dear husband)

One of the biggest challenges as a parent is training your child to listen and then obey what you have asked him to do.  Sometimes the child doesn't obey because he doesn't listen.  Another child doesn't obey because she forgot what you said as soon as she turned around.  While still another child just doesn't obey because he didn't want to.  In James 1: 22-25, it talks about this very thing-listening to God's word and then doing or not doing what it says.
"But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says.  Otherwise you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
Even as an adult, I wish I did a better job of obeying what I have heard from God's word.  I have been thinking about why I have so much trouble doing that.  Here are 5 reasons that I have come up with.

1. I believe a lie about my circumstances.

When I taught school, I would often blame my students for me losing my temper.  Really?  I am in control of my temper.  Yes, my students were misbehaving, but I still could chose to respond with love and grace.  There are many circumstances that make it harder to obey God's word in our humanness  I am tired. It doesn't look like I have a choice.  I am sick.  When I give in to the lies, I am forgetting that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  I can obey even when my circumstances make it hard in Christ's strength but not my own.

Take for example the story of Daniel and his friends in Daniel chapter one.  To eat of the king's food would have been to go against God and all they had been taught.  They could have used the excuse that they didn't have anything else to eat.  They didn't have a choice because they were captives.  Instead, they looked for a way to obey.  They talked with the guy in charge and came up with a solution.  Daniel and his friends would eat vegetable and drink water for 10 days.   At the end of the 10 days, the guy in charge could decide if they were better off on their diet.  If not,they would eat the King's diet.  

I remember one time a teacher telling me that it is always right to do right but it is never right to do wrong.  I need to look for a way to obey despite my circumstances.  

2. I don't believe I can change.

I have dealt with fears and insecurity most of my life.   Worries and anxiety were my friends even though I wish they weren't.  I believed it was just who I was.  I was born this way and nothing could change it.  But God isn't finished with me yet. (Phil 1:6)  I am a new creation.  Old things are passed away.  All things have become new.  (I Cor. 5:17)

I wouldn't say that I am totally fearless and secure but God has changed me and continues to do so.  Fear and insecurity does not control me.  I am free to be me.  I am learning to trust where I use to fear.  God can change us to be who he wants us to be.

3. I forget how costly grace is.

Jesus died so I can be forgiven of my past, present, and future sin.  Sometimes I can get complacent and take that forgiveness and the grace that goes with it for granted.  I will deal with obedience tomorrow.  God will forgive me for today.  Grace is costly.  I don't want to live paranoid that I will sin but I do need to remember how costly grace was for my Savior and Lord.

4. God's word is not hidden in my heart.

Psalm 119:11 says "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." When God's word penetrates my mind, it doesn't stop there but it works its way into my heart and soul.  One thing that I love about memorizing scripture is that as I review and meditate on God's word, it changes me.  When I am facing an issue or dealing with sin in my life, scripture memory helps me.  It helps me change my thought process.  It gives me an alternative way to act.  It makes it easier for me to not forget God's word as I walk away from the mirror.  

5. I think my way is best.

Isn't that really why I don't obey?  My pride or my arrogance says that I know what is best for me.  How do I so quickly forget all the things God has done for me?   That is why I like to journal.  My journal reminds me of how God has saved me, loved me, and led me.  It tells of the heartache when I disobey.  It recounts God's faithfulness when I obey and follow despite my circumstances and my weaknesses.  My journal reminds me that it is worth it.  

I must not forget that God's ways are not my ways and that He has a plan for me.  Looking back over the years, I see God working in ways I could not see at the time.  The words of the hymn hold true.  Trust and obey for there is no other way.  To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.   As my BSF teacher would say, "Obedience brings blessing."  

Dear God, May I hide your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Show me those areas in my life where I am not obedient to your word.  Expose the lies I have believed that I need to correct.  Guide me on your true path.  Thank you for your grace.  Thank you for the blessings you give us.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What I Have Been Reading This Month (July 2015 edition)

This month my reading slowed down due to traveling and spending time with friends and family.  For me, this has been good.  I also finally finished the Past Forward Serial novel by Chautona Havig.  It is called a serial novel because when it was first released it was released as individual episodes.  This novel was great for stress relief with the fun bonus of characters from Havig's other books showing up in this long novel.  I am glad I read it after all the episodes had been written because I don't know if I would have been patient enough to wait for the next installment.   Once again I am linking up with Modern Ms. Darcy and others bloggers on what books we have read in the last month.  So if you are looking for some book recommendations, go HERE or see below to find out what else has been on my bookshelf.

Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar

In this novel, the reader is transported back to the time of the Persian empire when Nehemiah was cupbearer for the king.  The story is centered around Nehemiah's cousin, Sarah who became the first female scribe to the queen.  The author helps you see life through Sarah's eyes as she navigates the palace culture, is married off to a Persian, and makes her mother's faith her own.   I loved how the story line was intriguing but had many biblical truths that were relevant to my life.  Here is a quote of Nehemiah talking to Sarah.
"My point is that we must be ready to follow the Lord where ever He leads us. Esther came into a royal position not knowing that one day her gifts and influence would be needed for God's great plan of salvation for His people.  We must walk through the small doors that the Lord opens for us, in case they lead to a greater path.(p.17)"

Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar

This novel follows the one above and continues the story of Sarah and her cousin Nehemiah.  Most of the story takes place in Jerusalem where the rebuilding of the wall is taking place. Here is a favorite quote from Nehemiah in the novel.
"Because I believe I was called to this. What do you think destiny is? A smooth path that never jostles you? No. When you walk in your destiny, you will crash and fall more times than you can count.  But the secret is to hold on to God's vision for your life-and for the lives of those he puts under your charge.  No matter how many times you fall, crash, and fail, you get up.  You get up and face your obstacles."

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

I listened to this book these past few weeks as I cleaned house and exercised.  Someday I would like to have a hard copy of the book to mark up and underline.  I like how Keller drew from his own experience as well as the church fathers in his discussion on prayer.  It was more like a foundation book on the how to's and why's of prayer as well as a reference book on ways to improve your prayer time.   I appreciated how he was covered the topic and shared his experiences on prayer with his readers.  For me, it was a good reminder that I need to be more focused on praise and or at least heading in that direction with my prayers.  

I haven't read a lot this month but what I read was timely and just what I needed.  What books would you recommend or not recommend from your reading this month?