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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thoughts from the Past – Who Do You Sound Like?

April 13, 2008 (edited June 2012)
Who Do You Sound Like?

My parents ate breakfast yesterday at a local cafe, or perhaps more accurately, a "greasy spoon." One of the patrons was a local sports coach who was holding court with anyone who would talk with him. Plenty of people knew him and he was having a grand time shining on the willing audience.

My parents were listening to other people's conversations (a great way to pick up the local "news") and couldn't help hearing the coach's chatter as he held forth, no doubt on his favorite subject. My dad particularly noticed that the man's favorite source to quote was himself.

We've all heard people like this I suppose. Their conversation is peppered with remarks like, "I always say,..."; "As I told so-and-so,..."; "I always tell them..."; and so forth. To hear them tell it, you would think that they are the most useful and reliable sources of information.

Our family once saw a series of historical documentaries done by the droll Englishman, Alistair Cook. In one of those films he made this clever witticism (clever for an Englishman, that is), "Someone once said, and it might have been me..." and thus imparted some appropriate quote upon the subject. This is unfortunately how some people seem to think, only they really mean it.  It isn’t a joke to them.

I was just thinking the other day that anyone who knew my Gramma Hoover very well would recognize that I had spent quite a bit of time with her by hearing me talk. I use her expressions and words, and no doubt use her manner of speech enough to betray the fact that we were close relatives as well as close friends.

In the gospel of Matthew we read that when Peter was warming himself beside the fire in the high priest's palace, the others there were accusing him of being with Christ. He denied it, but they could not believe him. Matthew 26:73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Peter's speech had betrayed him. Whether it was his Galilean accent or some other clue of his speech I don't know for sure, but he gave himself away with his mouth.

Later, after the apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost at the day of Pentecost, Peter and John were arrested and stood before the spiritual leaders of Israel (including some of the same men who had officiated at the trial of Christ). When Peter answered the men boldly in the power of the Holy Ghost, we are told in Acts 4:13, Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Their speech showed that they had been with Jesus. They were not naturally men of this sort of boldness, speech and wisdom. If they had not listened, had not believed and had not desired to follow Christ, their speech would not have reflected His influence on them.

Our speech shows who we have been spending time with, who our companions have been. The coach mentioned above shows by his speech who he thinks is important and who is an excellent source of knowledge or wisdom - himself. My own expressions and some of my mannerisms reflect a person with whom I spent much time and who was a great influence on me - my grandmother. Many people are quick to quote their pastor or some other expert or "guru" whom they consider to be a "great source" of wisdom.  When some question or issue comes up, they will inform you, "Well, Pastor ________, says thus and so."  If you ask them why they do such and such, they won't give you scripture, they will quote Michael Pearl or Jack Hyles or Gothard or some such person.

What a wonderful thing, though, it would be to have it said of us that others knew we had been with Jesus because of our speech and our manner! I think there are few witnesses of His power in our lives that should be so sweet and so desired as this one. People strive for notice in soul-winning, in works of many kinds, in being noted for their "great deeds for Christ", in having a "deep spiritual life" and many such things. But, if we have spent so much time with Christ, hearing His words and listening to Him, that people can readily recognize it because our speech and our behavior is different, any other truly spiritual accomplishments should naturally, or rather supernaturally, follow.

A number of years ago my dad and a friend of ours had the distinct privilege of meeting a man who "had been with Jesus." He had obviously saturated his soul with the word of God, for his speech betrayed him. My dad and his friend were traveling from Canada back into the U.S. They had a large load of scripture plaques and there was some question as to whether they would be charged duty at the border. Since they were not prepared to pay a large amount of money for this, there was some concern about it. Before they left this brother from whom they had received the plaques, he  wanted to pray with them. As he prayed my dad and our friend came into genuine awe. The man's manner of praying was to quote passages of scripture easily and fluently, working them into his prayer without any strain to do so and talking as if it were the most natural way in the world to talk to God. And perhaps it is. It was not a stilted or forced thing, but simple expressions and requests regarding the trip and the need at hand. It was not pompous or puffed up, but sincere and as a man would talk to his friend. The man's normal speech had been well salted, but his manner of prayer made them realize that they had been visiting with a man who had spent much time with the Lord reading and absorbing His word. (Incidentally, though significantly, this man had also had a truly heart breaking experience which had changed the whole course of his life.)

[By the way, they got through the border without paying any customs because the inspector declared the plaques "religious icons" - though all that was on them were scripture verses. :-) ]

There are many Christians who live in fear or suspense about the coming of persecution to the USA.  There are many professing believers whose mouths are full of political ideologies, conspiracies, health dangers, the praise of man, the world, etc.  Would to God that if we are ever called upon to answer before a court of man for our behavior and speech that our testimony before men would be that they would take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus!

Deuteronomy 30:11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? 14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Quick Meals - Black Beans and Hominy

 

What do you do when you need a fast meal but you don’t eat “prefabricated food” much (if at all)?  Most of us in Western culture have been trained by experience and advertising to think that in order to get a really fast home cooked meal we have to buy something that we simply pop in the oven, wait and eat.  If your family, like ours, are trying to get away from this type of meal, you may wonder how you can make a good, quick meal without eating out or using a lot of frozen dinners and meals in a can.  I’d like to share some simple recipes and methods with you that I’ve found useful.  These mostly have evolved out the fact that I have had health issues in the recent past that tended to make me abnormally weak and tired and also dietary needs that made it impossible for me to rely on those frozen meals that make home cooking abnormally easy.

I do use canned foods, but not much of the sort that comes with seasonings and goos and gunks in it – supposedly to make it taste “just like homemade” (which it never does).  We also use plain frozen vegetables.  (Our “indiscretions” in the line of pre-made meals mostly runs towards one particular kind of frozen pizza to which I still add things to make it more nourishing).

Most or many of these recipes may be so simple that I don’t have any measurements for them.  You will have to take the challenge of learning to cook by the seat of your pants.  And, after all, this is the first step to learning to make quick and easy home cooked meals.  You need to learn to take a few ingredients and just fly with it. :-)  Once you’ve done a bit it will start to come naturally and you will start to invent your own, if you don’t already.

Today’s recipe is super simple, but my husband and I both find it very tasty and filling.
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Black Beans and Hominy

One can black beans and
One can hominy in the same size.  (I like golden hominy the best.)
Garlic powder
Onion powder  -- both to taste
Bacon or ham bits (optional – but it does improve the taste)

Heat all together in a medium to large sauce pan (depending on the size cans you use).  Serve with sour cream or grated cheese on top if desired.

For a spicier taste add red pepper flakes when cooking.

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That’s it!  How easy is that?  I suggest serving it with a simple side salad, but even that is not particularly necessary.  :-)

(And, yes, that is a paper bowl. :-)  I’d gotten away from paper quite a bit at one point.  Then last year we had a sever drought here in Texas.  I realized that I might as well go back to using some paper plates/bowls and all paper napkins at that time because it actually saved on water use.  The paper “dishes” also save me extra work when it’s necessary that I save my energy or strength for something more important.  You may not agree, but this is what is best for us now.) :-)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thoughts from the Past – The Ark of the Covenant

 

Old illustration

August 22, 2006
The Ark of the Covenant  (edited)

Jeremiah 3:16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.

This verse is in the context of the coming Kingdom of Christ when His throne will be at Jerusalem. Please notice that the ark of the covenant will not be needed, it will not be thought of nor remembered, and it will not be visited. None of the old things relating to it will be done any more.

This is important for us to acknowledge and believe because it seems like there is always some "scholar" or "archeologist" or "theologian" or Old Testament Law keeper who wants to "find the ark of the covenant" or claims that he already has. The Jews still would like to find the original one to be sure, for they are in unbelief (Rom. 11:32) and do not understand that it isn't needed now. They can come to God through faith in their Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is the High Priest of the believer at the throne in heaven (Heb. 4:14-16).

The Jews will not need the ark of the covenant in the Kingdom because Christ Himself will be there for them to worship in person. We do not need it now for we can go directly to the throne in heaven through the Lord Jesus. So, all the efforts, mysteries, drama, suspense, videos, and sermons surrounding the ark are pointless. Those who claim to have found the ark, or that it needs to be found or that they know where it is are wasting time on a pointless endeavor! Yes, pointless! A waste of time - and money.

But, I do know where the ark is. :-) Revelation 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. I think it's pretty safe there, personally. And, since it isn't needed on earth in the Kingdom and we don't need it on earth now, I suggest we leave it there - as if we had any choice in the matter. (Also see Heb. 8:5, 9:11-12 & 23-24 for further study.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Shop Your Own Stuff – Storage and Organizing Potential


If you read the previous post in this series, you will remember that I’ve been challenging us to “shop our own stuff” more instead of buying something every time we have a need, or imagine that we do.  These suggestions are things that I’d already done, but they show the possibilities.

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Repurposing things has been a habit in my family for years.  My dad was especially proficient at it.  I still remember his overhead storage area for screws, nails, washers and various small bits.  He took a lot of baby food jars (which were available in our home at that time) and screwed the lids to a board, leaving enough room to grab the jars.  Then he attached the board to the ceiling of our pantry/storage area, filled the jars with the small items and screwed them to the lids.  If you needed something in that line, all you had to do was look up and you could quickly see which jar you needed, unscrew it and retrieve you items.  It was a clever storage solution, and out of reach of little hands. :-)

Mugs make great pen and pencil holders. We have more mugs than we need, so I have several serving this purpose now. They not only keep things in one spot, they have a built-in, easy relocation system. If you are concerned about sharp or heavy objects (such as scissors) hitting the bottom and breaking the mug, simply trace the bottom of the mug onto one or two pieces of craft foam or cardboard. Cut inside the lines, then trim the circles down to fit the bottom of the mug to reduce the risk of breakage.

By the way, this is something that was a result of the “Get Rid of Fifty Things” challenge.  Not only did I get a mug out of our crowded cupboard, but I also got rid of a tin can that I had long been intending to cover with fabric or contact paper.  The mug looks nice, and using it saved me from covering the can – so I abandoned an unnecessary project too. :-)

An extra large Altoids® tin makes a great holder for paper and pencils in the game drawer.  You could repurpose some other type candy box.

(A good idea if you live where there are spiders or scorpions – keep garden gloves in a sealed plastic bag or jar. That way when you go to put them on you can be sure they are critter-free.)

Plastic containers (a lot of these came from peanuts and pretzels purchased in bulk), can be repurposed for organizing and storage instead of buying a lot of “perfect” boxes ($$$) like the professional decorators/organizers do. In certain situations I do buy containers because this method wouldn’t work, but in the above situations it was fine.

An old suitcase or trunk, with or without a coat of paint, can serve as decorative storage, or even a coffee table. We use an old trunk of my grandparents’ as our coffee table/foot-rest/sometimes-seat and it also stores most of our games and puzzles.  My brother and sister-in-law did the same thing with a newer trunk of theirs (pictured above).  The great thing about this is you don’t have to worry about bangs and bumps from the kiddoes’ toys or adults’ shoes because it’s already “rustic”. ;-)

I bought this popcorn tin on clearance, but you may have one left from a holiday gift.  I use mine to store the garbage bags right next to the kitchen bin so it’s quick and easy to reline it, but looks nice at the same time.  It would work well for other storage purposes also – maybe cookie cutters or canning supplies.

You can also reuse tins like this to make gift “baskets” or to pass on food gifts to others.  Just be sure to put the food in food safe bags or containers.

Hopefully this gives you some more ideas of ways to shop your own things.  I hope you enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to be inventive with me. :-)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Give Ye Them to Eat – A Poem by Annie Johnson Flint and Some Thoughts for Father’s Day



My dad using his ability to garden for the benefit of our family.

If someone were to ask you what was the single most important thing that your dad taught you it might be hard to answer.  For some it would be because of sad reasons.  For myself and my siblings, we might find it difficult to narrow it down to one thing primarily because we have a teaching dad.  Of course, the Gospel would be an obvious “single most important thing”.  But, an even broader statement might be to say that he taught us to believe God and take Him at His word.  If you don’t do that the Gospel itself is meaningless. 

However, in thinking about this poem today, another item that comes very high on my list is the fact that our dad always taught us that our Christianity is not a selfish thing.  He taught us that we were not blessed with salvation, understanding of God’s word, talents, abilities and even possessions for our own selfish pleasure – to heap upon ourselves.  He taught us that the Lord intended us to pass these things on, to teach others, to share, to give.   He also taught us that our hardships and trials are not ours alone, that we should pass on the knowledge and help and comfort that God gives us in these things and use them to minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:4).  He has worked to be an example of this as well, which is perhaps what made it take root in us most effectively.

I thank God for a father who taught us these important things.

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“Give Ye Them to Eat”

Christ might have turned the stone to bread,
Who once had made the water wine,
Or called the manna down from heaven
To show His power divine,

But, “Give ye them to eat,” He said,
And took His servants’ little store;
Though scarce enough for one it seemed,
He blessed and made it more.

And so He let them share with Him
His joy, His work of feeding men,
And all they gave Him He returned
A thousand-fold again.

Here in the wilderness today
The starving nations wait for bread;
And still He saith, “Give ye to them
And let the world be fed.”

What matter though our loaves be few?
Alike the little and the much
When He shall add to what we have
His multiplying touch.

Bring Him thy bread, though scant it seem,
To satisfy thy daily need;
When He shall take, and bless, and break,
The hungering world may feed.

[Altered]

Matthew 14:16-21 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

John 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shop Your Own Stuff – Another Perspective On Repurposing, Recycling and Saving Money


[Please see more links for this series below the article.]

This series is a off-shoot of the Laying Aside Weights series that I’m running this year.  The last post in that series was a little heavy, so I wanted to do something lighter this week. :-)

In an effort to rethink and reorganize some things, I “stumbled” across this idea and it inspired me.  I hope you like it as well.

My husband and I have a garage full of stuff.  Some of it belongs to us. Some of it belongs to my brother and sister-in-law who live next door.  Much of it belongs to my parents who downsized a few years ago and also live next door to us.  Some of it belonged to my grandparents who are now with the Lord.  And, amazingly enough, even my brother in Australia has stuff stored in our garage.  Yeah, I know.  What?  [That last one is a long story, which partly involved his marrying an Aussie and leaving the U.S. on relatively short notice, presumably to be followed later by his stuff.  But, life plays funny tricks on us all sometimes and the stuff is still here, though he’s long since settled over there. :-) And, yes, I do have a plan in mind for working on this, at least to some degree.]

Anyway, you get the picture.  We have a lot of stuff out there.  Some of it is obviously not up for grabs, but between our stuff and my parents’ “leftovers” and my grandparents’ “left-behinds” there is quite a lot of potential.  My local sister-in-law has observed that digging through stuff out there is like opening gifts, and I think she has mentioned that it’s like going shopping.  It’s true too.

Awhile back I saw a blog post somewhere in cyber space, in which the author suggested the concept of “shopping our own stuff”.  She wanted a better furniture arrangement for their bedroom, and in looking around her own home realized she had a perfect solution in a dresser that her son was leaving behind when he left for college.  With a little TLC it suited her purpose exactly and cost her little to nothing, whereas a new or even used dresser would have meant spending money.

As you may know, I like to repurpose and recycle things (in the old sense of recycle, not the modern “save the earth” fad).  I also like “cheap” solutions – sometimes to my husband’s pleasure and sometimes to his chagrin.  Ahem.  Consequently, this lady’s experience and the memory of my sister-in-law’s comments have inspired me to not only continue something I was already doing, but to challenge myself to see what we already have that I could “make do” in place of buying something – to “shop our own stuff”. :-)  I admit, I have room to improve; however, I have found it not only to be a money saver, but also entertaining and challenging to my thinking. 

And, somehow I also feel that it’s in keeping with 1 Corinthians 7:31,  And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.  Sometimes I think we Christians abuse our abilities in this world by running after things in the same fashion that this world tends to do, rather than working within the means God has given us in the things we already have at hand.

I’ve been working on a corner of our living room in particular and have made a little progress that I’m happy about.  I intend to share that with you at some point (when it’s more finished), but for today I want to pass on some other ideas which may help you get interested in this too. 

First off, this is something that I hope to do in our dining room.  We have an eclectic mix of blue and white dinnerware, and since I have some quite pretty blue and white collector plates, I was thinking that, whenever I can lay my hands on them again (yeah, they’re lost in the garage, I mean “store”), I’d like to use them like this - Plates as wall art.  I also have two or three plates that would look quite pretty in the bedroom.  Yes, why not think a little outside the box while we’re at it? :-)  I found plate hangers at Amazon.com and they weren’t too expensive, but if I can find what I want at a better price locally I’ll probably go that route.

Do you have a fireplace that you don’t use?  This is a simple way to make it look more attractive, and if you’re a candle person, you probably have what you need already.  Kids a safety issue?  Scrounge up an old fire screen to put in front of it if you don’t already have one.  Give it a coat of paint if it looks bad.  It doesn’t need to be heat proof for this, so painting it is OK.  (Btw – Double your light effect by putting an unused mirror behind the candles.)

My dad made my mom a large sewing table once by attaching a large closet door to the back of a long dresser.  It was great for cutting out patterns and spreading sewing projects out!  Here is a desk made from a closet door.

I like this idea as well: Turning CD cases into picture frames for wall art.  I will have to see if I can free up some our nicer jewel cases as this would also make nice flat wall art for those areas that are just a bit crowded – like our tiny second bathroom.  You could also use this to display your kids’ art, and it would be easy to swap it out from time to time. Use magnet strips on the back to make it into fridge art. :-) This also would be an interesting way to display pressed flowers and leaves glued to plain parchment or paper.  And, you could switch out your art based on the seasons.  (If you’re into seasonal décor, that is.  I have a dresser  – posing as a buffet  – where I put seasonal displays.)

Here is a dresser impersonating a buffet in our dining room.
This was a “leftover” from my parents. :-)

I’m sure you have possibilities among your own stuff that you could repurpose or reuse in some way.  If nothing else, when the urge to change your décor comes up, think about rearranging what you already have rather than going out and buying new things.  It’s amazing how something that is “tired” in one spot will look better when swapped out with something in another part of the house.

More in this series:

Shop Your Own Stuff – Storage and Organizing Potential

Shop Your Own Stuff – Bringing the Outside In

Shop Your Own Stuff – Shop Your Own Photos

Shop Your Own Stuff – The Corner of the Living Room

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Short Thoughts - Walking After Jesus, Glorying In the Lord


Speaking of Christ, we read in 1John 2:6, He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

We are to follow Christ's walk. 1 Peter 2:21  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

There are many today that want Christians to follow them.  Some of them will go so far as to actually tell people “You follow me and I’ll follow Jesus.”  Unfortunately, many are not walking as Christ walked. We should not give them the recognition and satisfaction of our attention. They do not glory in the Lord, they glory in their Baptist heritage, their "alma mater" (nourishing mother), their position, their busses, their Sunday School, their “high” standards, their alleged understanding of prophecy, the Old Testament law, their alleged signs and wonders, and many other things.

1Corinthians 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

When someone wants us to glory in them or something other than the Lord, an obvious and appropriate answer would be, "You didn't die for me." (or "Independent Baptists...church busses...Sunday School...Jack Hyles...the Torah…that college/ministry...etc. didn't die for me.") This is not to say that we don’t appreciate real blessings, but that appreciation should lead us to glory in the only one who could and does give us blessings.  Glory in the Lord!  He is the only one that is worthy!  And, follow His steps.  He will never lead you into vain glorying!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa

This salsa was actually an invention of my dad’s.  I simply copied his idea.  (He didn’t have a recipe, as usual. :-)  )  The ingredients don’t have to be added in these exact proportions.  You can change them to suit your needs or taste.  One reason I like this salsa especially is because tomatoes bother me some, but apparently tomatillos don’t.  It also has a great flavor that is a little different than the usual fresh tomato salsa.  I find it a bit more refreshing.

Tomatillo Salsa

3-4 large tomatillos  (Probably more if you use homegrown.)
1 green onion, (green leaf parts only, unless you like lots of onion)
1 large jalapeno
3-4 garlic cloves
A little fresh (or frozen) cilantro
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste

Prep. vegetable appropriately and run in a food processor or blender in batches.  Mix all together well and allow to sit in the fridge about 15 minutes before serving.  (Refrigerate leftovers.)

I love fresh salsa on a fried egg with sour cream on top and this kind is especially delicious.  You can also use it with corn or tortilla chips, tacos or burritos.  Mix it with sour cream for a yummy dip.  I spooned a little over chicken I was cooking in a frying pan with vegetables one night.  It  was good that way too.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thoughts from the Past -- Sins of the Youth


Oct. 27, 2006
Sins of the Youth
Edited 2012

Jeremiah 31:18 I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God. 19 Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.

I came across this passage not long ago and was struck by a couple of different things in it. Namely, the the progression of it and how that brings us to bemoan the sins of our youth.

We are born wanting our own way. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way... Isaiah 53:6 Our parents start training us, hopefully from an early age, that we cannot have our own way in all things. We are unaccustomed to this yoke and chastisement. We have to be turned into an orderly and appropriate way. Eventually, many of us come to see how things we thought we wanted in our youth or thought we just "had to have" were not good for us or would have had very unpleasant results. Too often we learn by personal experience.

In a way, the same thing happens spiritually when we are saved. The Lord chastises us to bring us into ways that are right and pleasing to Him (Heb. 12). At first we are very happy to be saved, but as the Lord grows us we begin to experience things that we are unaccustomed to it at first.  Christ Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30), but we still sometimes resist it. We are turned into His paths and ways and are instructed by the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13) (which is through the word of God, by the way, John 17:17). Through this we repent and turn from our foolish habits and sins.

But, we come to a point where we are ashamed of the sins of our youth. For the Christian there are often things that we are greatly ashamed of, or even confounded by from the sins of our youth. Some things may never be erased from our minds in this life.  Some things cannot be retrieved and we must take responsibility for them or deal with the scars for the rest of our lives.

David prayed, Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD. Psalm 25:6-7

David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), and yet he had sins of his youth which reproached him. His desire was that God would not remember those sins and that He would instead remember him in His mercy for His goodness' sake. Sweet and precious thought for us, for none of us are better than David. Yet, we too can pray this of God, and we can do so through Jesus Christ!

1John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Ephsians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

2Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

(Also see the article: Forgiven.)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Laying Aside Weights -- Perfectionism


This is part of a series.



Hebrews 12:1  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Are you a perfectionist?  I was.  I know, some people might think that isn’t something that one can get over, but if you work at it, and with the Lord’s help, you can definitely improve. 

Having been a perfectionist, I have to say that I view perfectionism as tending more toward sin.  I know now how much I drove myself and my family crazy with my perfectionism.  Getting over it was not a quick nor easy process, and I still can’t say that I’m fully over it as I’m still in the body of this death (Rom. 7:24), and sometimes my flesh rises up and overwhelms me in this area.  In particular, I still have a strong tendency to think and talk about all the thing I “should have” done.  When something doesn’t work out quite “right” I’m very quick to see what I “should have” done sooner – sometimes it’s a result of neglect or laziness (sin), other times it’s simply that I didn’t think of it, was busy with other things or wasn’t strong enough to get it all done.

One thing that is especially defeating about perfectionism is the false expectations.  As perfectionists, we tend to be micromanagers and also we develop our own set of expectations as to how things “should” be.  Some certain things we may tolerate, but a certain set of expectations simply “have” to be met for us to be “happy”.  Having expectations is not a bad thing.  But, because we are perfectionists we expect things to be perfect on our terms.  This never, never matches up with real life!  Hence the frustration and disappointment, which too often do lead to sin as we nag, chastise and upbraid ourselves and those around us for not performing up to our level of expectation!

Now, I say that I’ve improved.  In many ways I have.  If the Lord had not taken me in hand some years ago and brought the problem to my attention, and had I not made a conscious effort to reduce my tendencies in that area – well, being a housewife would have been extremely stressful to me, especially with the set of limitations that God has seen fit to give me.

Having “slob tendencies” despite my perfectionism in some areas, I have talked a lot about decluttering and improving our living area, and I’ve challenged my readers to do the same.  But, here is a great thought and an important one that I ran across in my reading and studying on this subject:  Pay attention now:  Everyone has a different level of clutter tolerance and that’s O.K.  Yes!  Really it is!

I’m not talking about hoarding or living in filth.  I’m talking about what one lady called “the scum of life.”  I know there are readers who would be surprised if they walked into our house right now and saw the level of clutter around and my not-so-clean floors.  I’m not totally content with it myself.  But, you know what?  It’s a lot better than it could be, and it’s a lot better than it once was.  In many ways – I can live with this.  If I couldn’t I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this right now. ;-)

If you happen to be a perfectionist, or a minimalist, this concept may be too foreign to you to even accept.  May I suggest that you examine your heart before the Lord?  I don’t know many of my readers.  I only know myself and some other perfectionists from my personal experience.  But, I recommend asking yourself if your perfectionism is a weight – to you, to your family, to your brothers and sisters in Christ and to your friends.  Next, ask yourself if your need to have things perfect (or “right”) gets in the way of you serving the Lord.  Be entirely honest with yourself.  If the answer is “Yes”, or you suspect it is “Yes”  (perfectionism is really hard to break through sometimes), it’s time to ask the Lord to help you begin the process of laying this weight aside.

Psalms 121:2  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

Now, there are some unfortunate women and girls who are not perfectionists themselves, but they have a mother, mother-in-law, aunts, sisters, or maybe even their sisters in Christ who ARE perfectionists.  Sometimes these perfectionist women, though usually well meaning I think, can make life positively miserable for the non-conformer.  Ladies, did you know that in your own home you are not obligated to meet the expectations of that perfectionist woman in your life?  You are not.  If you are not a perfectionist yourself, why become one because of guilt?  (There is that false guilt again, by the way.  I’m noticing it crops up a lot in laying aside weights!) Daughters still living at home may have to comply within certain boundaries, but they do not have to carry with them through life that guilt of living up to mom’s (or whoever’s) perfectionism.

On the flip side of that, some women need to examine their “slob tendencies” to see if it is a rebellious reaction against their mom’s perfectionism.  Hey, why go through life refusing to make order of your house just because you can’t meet someone else’s expectations?  That seems like such a selfish way of thinking. And, I don’t think you’ll be mentioning it as an excuse when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Again, if you think having a perfect house, perfect clothes, perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect kids, perfect whatever, is “essential” to your contentment (and maybe you even think this is how you please God), this whole concept may seem extremely strange to you.  You know what?  All your kids do not need to learn to play the piano.  They don’t all need to be doctors or lawyers, preacher or evangelists or Sunday School teachers (oh yes, this happens in the Lord’s church, especially with those who think they are getting some kind of extra merit when their kids are all “in full time Christian service”). 

The coercing that some parents do to get their kids to perform things that are “required” by mom and dad and NOT by the Lord, is truly amazing.  And, I don’t mean the usual behavioral issues.  I mean perfection.  I mean refusing to let the kids pick their own décor because it doesn’t “go with the rest of the house”.  I mean pressuring the kids into the “career” that mom and dad feel would bring them the most pleasure and praise of man.  I mean forcing the kids to read their Bibles, go on visitation, sing in the choir, go to camp, etc. etc.  Kids need to learn to do spiritual things because they were led of the Spirit of God, not forced or pressured by a mom or dad who wants a perfect family image!  (Hello?  Did you get that?)

Now, I know that the scripture says, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.  Matthew 5:48 Being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4) is not the same as having an immaculate house, clothes, hair, makeup, kids, car, dog, yard, etc. The one is a spiritual perfection, or maturity, and other is about outward appearances. And, the outward things almost always come at the expense of at least some spiritual things. 

When we emphasize outward perfection we are usually not working on the perfecting (maturing) of the inner man in Christ.  When we emphasize outward perfection it is usually because we are looking for the approval or praise of men, not God. 1 Samuel 16:7  But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

When you’re expecting company do you find yourself cleaning areas of the house that no one will ever see (and if they do see it, they shouldn’t have been there anyway)?  Do you stress yourself out trying to finish some project at last minute when it’s obvious to everyone else that you don’t have time to get it done? (Examples: a dress for a special event, a special dessert for some celebration, a homemade gift, etc.)  Do you do the more complicated thing because of the recognition you expect rather than the simpler solution that would be “good enough”?  Do you feel compelled to impress certain people by having everything “perfect” when they are around?  It’s something to think about.  In the end, is it worth it?  And, how does it glorify God?  Really and truly – are you satisfying Him, or are you satisfying your own compulsions and looking to impress man?

1 Corinthians 10:31  Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. I suppose some people use this verse, and others, to justify their perfectionism.  While we should do all to God’s glory, there are so many things that we can find to do that are really for our own glory and we just imagine that we’re doing it as to the Lord.  At the same time that we should do all to the glory of God, we’re also told that …he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.  Psalms 103:14

Perfectionism really does fit with the poem I posted earlier in this series: The Heaviest Cross. It is so easy to think we are bearing a legitimate cross, when in reality it is one of our own creation - not the cross of the Lord’s making, not one that He requires.  Perfectionism is a crushing weight.  It is a serious hindrance to running the race with patience.

A Different Perspective

Luke 10:41-42  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.  [Also see:  Martha and Mary.]

My own mother was a pastor’s wife.  Her house couldn’t get too far out of control.  Yet, she had so many “hats” she wore that she was simply compelled to be content with less than perfection in her house.  When she started homeschooling us she had an 8th grader, a 5th grader, a toddler and a baby (think: Major life challenge!).  We grew a huge garden every summer, picked local fruits, then froze and canned much of our own food.  We had Sunday meetings, plus a weekly ladies’ Bible study (for some years), plus prayer meeting.  There were many times that our family was responsible to clean the church building or meeting place.  There were people in and out of our home regularly. 

Mom practiced what she called “a lick and promise” cleaning. :-)  Certain things were cleaned regularly, others not so much.  If it was visible, it got a lick.  If it wasn’t, it got a promise.  It worked.  No company ever moved the dressers away from the walls to see how much dust was there (until we moved).  Usually no one went poking into areas where they didn’t belong.  And, if some brazen person did, Mom was probably more annoyed with their behavior than embarrassed by what they might have seen.

The thing, though, that stands out to me in all of this was Mom’s emphasis on people.  She didn’t have time to keep a perfect house because people were more important to her.  Her husband, kids, family, fellow saints and the lost were a more important demand on her time than a tidy cupboard under the bathroom sink or cleaning behind the dressers.  And, I must say, this was the mind of Christ and a tremendous example to me. 

Philippians 2:3-7  Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

One of my brothers was working once on a project with one of our grandfathers. Now, Papa could be an overbearing perfectionist. As I remember the story, they were running pipe from a propane tank to the house. They had dug a ditch for part of it and part of it was going up at an angle under the deck area (the deck would have skirting). Papa wanted that pipe absolutely perfect. He and my brother, Dan, had been working on it already for awhile, and they had tried to get it as perfect as possible, but it still wasn’t pleasing Papa. Dan finally said, “It’s good enough.” Papa replied, “’Good enough’ is the enemy of perfection.” To which Dan aptly answered, “Yeah, but who’s going to know?” That brought Papa up short.  He had no good answer for that and so he finally let it go. They finished up the job leaving that pipe “good enough”.  :-)

So, in conclusion, we who have a tendency toward perfectionism need to ask ourselves some pertinent questions. 

Who’s ever going to know? 
Does it really matter?
Are my husband and family content with less than I demand from myself? 
Is so-and-so’s opinion really that important? 
What difference will it make in a year, in five years, in ten or fifty years? 
Who will actually care?
Is this really helping me or anyone else, or is it just a bother at the expense of the things that really matter?
Does the carpet really need to be cleaned right now, or would it be better to spend the morning enjoying the fine weather outside with the kids (or even by myself)?

There are more but this is a good start. :-)

Whether or not you are a perfectionist yourself, when we are striving hard to perform at a better level and attend to things in our homes more efficiently, it is sometimes easy not to notice the areas in which we have raised our expectations to a level that is false and unrealistic.  I started learning at a pretty early age that unrealistic expectations lead to very real disappointment and to discontentment.  We need to find the comfort level that really works for us and for our own families and then be content with it.

Philippians 4:11-13  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.