Archive for June, 2014

I’m so old I remember when we didn’t have air-conditioning or television. We lived in Jacksonville, Florida, and nine months out of twelve, it was hot—inside and outside the house.

Houses were constructed of wood, with large windows and screens, sash type windows you could slide up and down for maximum air flow. The floors were hardwood and off-grade, so air could circulated under, over, around, and through.

Daddy bought a window-box fan that fit just inside a window to draw air into the house. Of course, that meant we slept with all the windows open. None of us thought it strange to live in a world without artificial cooling. A world where our home was always unlocked. A world where God, home, and family were the basis for a great and godly America.

However, on hot summer afternoons, cooking supper over an open flame gas stove turned the kitchen into a sauna. Supper was the main meal of the day at our house, except on Sunday. Mealtime was always an event and Mama was a wonderful cook and our family loved to eat.

Finger-lickin’southern fried chicken—crispy, but melt in your mouth delicious, fried in her iron skillet. Picked-that-morning green beans, seasoned with a hock of ham, simmered on the back-burner. While potatoes waited to be mashed and slathered with butter. Real butter. Homemade biscuits—is there any other Hot in the Kitchen 6kind—baked to perfection in a hot oven. And her fresh baked pound cake cooled on a cake rack, waiting to be dressed with sugar-sweet strawberries and whipped cream.

The aromas titillated-the-taste-buds, but the kitchen was hot enough to melt wax. And me.

Mama told me over and again, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Of course, she would be red-faced and sweating as her words blossomed to a full-fledged-guilt-cloud that dumped on my head. But like a good little southern girl, I cowgirled-up and stayed in the inferno to see the meal devoured, the dishes washed, and put away. My hands were the dishwashers, not some humming machine.

Years passed and this old saying twisted to a new meaning, inferring if we couldn’t take the pressure of difficult situations, decisions, and actions, we’d better get out of whatever situation needed solving.

I now have central air-conditioning, electric ranges, and refrigerators. But we still face fiery fumes of friction that require boldness, courage, and strength outside ourselves to act Hot in the Kitchen 5upon. Family problems, illnesses, job loss, financial difficulties, failing relationships, all cause great stress. And many folks decide rather than stay and solve their problems, it’s just too hot. They can’t stand the heat. So they leave.

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-7 NAS).
Hot in the Kitchen 4
This generation is no different than generations in the past. There are always going to be difficulties, distresses and dreadful decisions that must be resolved. But this generation no longer feels a sense of responsibility to untangle the messes we’ve created. We kick-the-issue down the path to a future where someone else will have to deal with the heat of our foolishness.

Problems require solutions, not can-kicks.

We’ve lost the ability to reach acceptable solutions in the hot,Hot in the kitchen 2 sticky kitchens of life. We’ve accepted personal and federal exorbitant debt as normal. Living beyond our means, we’ve become cowards who refuse to parent our off-springs. Parents who’d rather be their child’s friend than their hero. Our elected officials are more focused on the next election and paybacks, rather than the security and future of America.

Our government has so transgressed the Law of the Land, we are clinging to the cliffs of no return. And Congress, up to this Hot in the Kitchen 3point, has become impotent, incompetent, and ignorant.

When cooks leave life’s sizzling kitchens, families cease to follow and obey God, parents divorce, children become pawns or predators, businesses go bankrupt, the heart and soul of our foundation cracks, corruption and crime creep in among us like poison, government crumbles, and anarchy and tyranny become the law of the land.

We need godly folks, strong courageous folks. Folks willing to Hot in the Kitchen.jpg 1cowboy-up in the home, in schools, in businesses, the church, the State House, and in Washington, while there’s a glimmer of heat in America’s kitchens. While there’s still food to cook. And, while we still have memory and know-how, to repent of our rebellion toward God, and devote ourselves to repairing our crumbling walls of freedom.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13 NAS).

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Words were on my tongue, out my mouth, and scorching the air between us like flames from a blow-torch. Why did I react like that? My heart twisted between anger and shame. Richard sat red faced, but silent. His hands played the clasp-release game with the steering wheel.

He wheeled the car to a stop at the curb. I threw the door open,DSCF2348 and in a silent huff, picked up my Bible, pasted a sanctimonious smile on my face, and marched into sanctuary.

Ack! My mother’s words echoed in my ears—your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying.

I wish I could tell you that’s the only time my ungodly actions out-screamed respect for my husband and trust in God. But it’s not.

The next terrifying thought as I entered that holy place, Did anyone see us flinging torches at one another? And the stirring in my conscience said, “Yes. God did.”

And like the Spirit always does when He has my attention, the next thing through my mind was the fact the disagreement ignited the night before and escalated this morning—when I had disobey God and gone to bed angry. Because I know I’m twice as livid when I wake up.

Good thing I wasn’t playing baseball. Strike one—going to bed angry the night before. Strike two— fighting with my husband on the way to worship God. One more strike and I’d be out. But God doesn’t act like we do. He uses the scriptures we hide in our hearts to bring us to repentance.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NAS). Ouch! I had imagestirred a hornet’s nest for sure. There wasn’t a gentle bone in my body when I lashed out at my husband. We might as well have turned around and gone home.

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NAS).

Opportunity? When I rolled over and refused to speak to him Saturday night. I chose to give the devil access to my heart’s super highway with a full tank of gas and a pedal shoved to the floorboard.

And if you’d asked me at another time and place, I would have counseled, “Never go to bed angry.”

But I did.

I knew what God’s Word said. Yet, my arrogance and pride allowed sin to fester and take me where I knew I shouldn’t go, and produced a situation that chipped at our marriage. Worse still, those selfish choices could have destroyed our testimony of loving Jesus and each other to anyone watching.

The sad part of this confession is we all repeat similar scenes over and over again. My husband and I have been married thirty-eight years and I’m sure if we could see emotional battle scars we’ve inflicted on each other and on our children, we’d be on our faces, horrified.file4611347287108

But God sees those wounds we’ve imposed and refused to repented of. He sees the wounds inflicted on us, as well as the slice-and-dice wounds we’ve not yet perpetrated.

And He still loves us. And waits for us to come to the end of our foolishness and run to Him for forgiveness and cleansing. However, He warns, in the same manner we forgive others, He will forgive us.

“For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15 NAS).

The first time I read and understood this passage, truth and fear stabbed my heart. “Father.” I cried. “I can never remember all the times I’ve been angry and hurt others. Or the times I’ve been angry and unforgiving with Richard. What can I do?”

Immediately a high school dean I had unloaded on over a situation with my son a year or so before came to mind. My mind argued, but I was right and he was wrong. That still small voice whispered, “Your words were angry and ugly and you haven’t forgiven him.”

I vowed to forgive him and promised if God would bring him across my path I would apologize and ask his forgiveness. That same evening as I pulled into the church parking lot the high school dean and his wife parked beside me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t even know they attended our church. A parade of excuses lined up and marched soldier straight through my brain.

DSC09455-BAnd the still small voice asked, “Well?”

With trembling hands and a terrified heart I stuttered an apology, confessed my anger, and asked the dean to forgive me. The weight lifted, was cast behind my Lord’s back, into the depth of the sea, never to be remembered by Him again.

But I remember, and every so often I ask God to remind me of anything I need to ask His and another person’s forgiveness for. And He is always prompt and faithful to shine His truth into the dark places of my heart.

How about you? Do people know you’re a believer by the way you DSC_5394handle business? How about the way you dress and your lifestyle? Your actions and reactions? Are the places you frequent consistent with your faith? Do books you read, TV and movies you watch honor God or the devil?

Do you struggle aligning your actions with your words and your faith in God? You’re not alone. We’re all in this battle together. Like me, do you have side-roads of unforgiveness and anger or resentment and bitterness, barricading your heart? Roads that will drag you down Satan’s detour to destruction?

“…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (James 3:10-11 NAS).

Our lives are to be a beacon of light that points others to Jesus. But we are instructed to forgive—seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22 NAS).

Forgiveness is a choice. The minute we choose to forgive someone, if we’re a child of the King, it’s done. But forgiveness is also a life-sentence. We must unconditionally forgive them all, over and over again, ‘til Jesus comes.

Life in the here and now is a war zone, a battle to overcome the lusts of our flesh, the pride of our eyes, and the deceitfulness of our hearts. Our goal is for our actions, our words, and our testimony to match and give glory to our Lord God Almighty.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7 NAS).

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I was raised in a very disciplined household. “Children were to be seen and not heard,” my mother always said. And that statement was hammered into my head. Not just from my parents, but from other adults of that generation. My opinions didn’t count nor could they be expressed.

A sense of worthlessness grew inside me along with its good buddies, resentment and anger.

My attitude became one of sitting down and being quiet on the outside, but standing up and screaming inside. One of Mama’s favorite quips was, “If I tell you black is white, you’d better get a paint brush and paint it.” Her word was law—end of discussion.

The response my husband had to the seen and not heard instruction was timidity and stuttering.

When I became a parent, I determined never to utter those words to my children. They could express their feelings, even disagree, as long as they spoke in a calm, respectful manner, with the knowledge Dad was the officer-in-charge and I was the first mate, but we needed and counted on the input of our children.

Many of you were probably raised under the seen and not heard mantra. What effect did those words have on you? Did you raise your children by that premise?

A friend and I were talking the other day, and she had an even stronger reaction to that old saying being repeated to her again and again. She struggled with a sense of worthlessness and depression from early childhood, which led to teen and early adult addictions. Today we both lead support groups and see how actions, attitudes, and emotions from unresolved conflict in the past explode and affect the present griefs and addictions.

The home and family is the place where children should fledge—sprout wings. Without encouragement to participate in family discussions and decisions, to respect and be respected, to understand and be a part of loving relationships, the maturing process is stunted, possibly forever.

So just as we threw away last week’s quote, time heals all wounds, we should throw away this week’s children should be seen and not heard.

In giving our children a voice, we must be careful not to lean too far the other way. All we have to do is turn on the evening news and watch elementary hoodlums sassing and raging at teachers. No respect. And their actions are contagious to less aggressive children. What do you suppose these kids do at home? Or how about when they are older, bigger, stronger?

Another friend taught in the public school system in Dallas where special needs children are main-streamed into all classes. A young elementary student was given to rages—throwing things, turning over desks, screaming, kicking, biting. The district instructed the teachers to remove the class from the room and let the child’s tantrum run its course. And we wonder why we have school shootings, fights, attacks? Where is the logic of this policy?

So, what are we to do? Where are we to go? We do the one thing we always do when a problem is illusive. We go to the Word of God.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12 NAS).

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart” (Colossians 3:21 NAS).

“Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20 NAS).

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”
(Ephesians 6:1-4 NAS).

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5 NAS).

“But Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all” (Luke 18:16-17 NAS).

These scriptures, and many others, show us it’s all about relationships. Parent and child, just like God the Father with each one of us. Does He strike you with a bolt of lightning when you ask why? Or when you question Him in grief, heartache, or despair? No, He encourages you to come to Him and pour out your heart. Even when you’re angry and don’t understand.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NAS).

Let’s noodle this out together. Do you think Jesus would issue a limitless invitation to come to Him, then when we get there tell us, “Don’t try to get My attention? Sit up straight. Be still. Just sit there, shut-up, and look pretty ‘til I have time to listen.”

“That’s absurd,” you say. “He’s God. I’m not.”

Right, He is sovereign over the whole Universe. But He has given us authority over our little plot of the world. And we’ve allowed the pendulum to swing too far to the left of right.

So what can we do now?

Parents must go back to school. In this age of technology where children operate computers, IPhones, Kindles, etc. before they learn to tie their shoestrings, it is imperative for parents to understand it’s not a question of if trouble will happen, but when will it happen. Every parent must learn about electronic protections and safeguards, time restraints and locations for using these cyberspace playgrounds.

Regimented family life is imperative. In our home suppertime was 6 PM. Until I married and left home, we all gathered for the evening meal. Together.

Difficult discussions must take place with each child—straight to the point and often. Always making sure the child knows they can never do anything that will make you stop loving them. The family will work to solve every problem, together.

Young people and children in America are starving. Starving from a deprivation of understanding and believing the relevancy of the Word of God. Let’s talk about this urgent issue while freedom to speak is still the law of the land.

The most important thing parents must do is read the Word of God and pray with their children. Teaching them from an early age, God loves them, and each one of you are accountable to God for the stewardship of your life.

Jesus tells us in Matthew and in Luke, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself falls” (Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17 NAS).

Children are our future and our heritage. We must live out the principles of God’s Word—that it’s all about relationships not religion. Relationships with God. Relationships with one another. Or America will cease to be.

What do you think? Were words spoken during your childhood that blessed or harmed you? How did your upbringing affect the way you raised your children?

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For years I’ve heard folks, presumably wiser than myself, utter this statement, no doubt repeated to them by their parents. ThenDSCF5456 our daughter died—thirteen years ago. No warning. No time to say goodbye. Just gone. And time did nothing that remotely resembled healing.

So I sought GriefShare.

We’ve looked at proverbial sayings by our parents and grandparents for several weeks now, and up to this point the sayings have been filled with wisdom and truth. This week and DSCF5457next week we’ll look at two often repeated statements that need to be removed from our vocabulary.

Whether a loved one dies suddenly or after a long illness, our hearts are ripped open and shredded. We need emergency care. If an x-ray could print a picture of our emotional and spiritual heart injuries we’d be rushed by ambulance to the operating room.

But the God of all creation can treat and mend such horrific injuries. And He’s promised to do just that, if we seek Him and determine to trust our lives to His care. But it takes work, hard work, to make it to the other side of grief. And part of that learning is the ability to shut off endless tapes that attempt to play non-stop in our minds.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NAS).

Physical wounds take time and a treatment regimentation to heal. Emotional and spiritual wounds require God’s comfort and hand of healing together with our cooperation to work through the gut-wrenching pain under the guidance of the Word and the Holy Spirit of God. The key words are “our cooperation to work through…”
Yes, you play a very important role in your own healing. You have a choice. A loss of anything rarely brings out the best in us, but when death strikes we are rendered helpless and often hopeless. Our analysis of life changes. We come face to face with the reality of our mortality.

An additional ingredient causing the pot of grief to boil is pain held onto from the past. The enemy of our soul is always swift to stir this pot, bringing all our ugly, unresolved injuries from former years into the present. You see, he never forgets. He goes for the jugular, and your heart is prime real estate. He is determined to inflict as much damage as is necessary to snare you in his net of deception.

The first fiery dart zinging toward the bulls-eye of your heart murmurs, “I can’t handle this today. I’ll think about it tomorrow.” Yes, Scarlet, and all the tomorrows after that if you refuse to deal with the pain of your grief now.

“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief” (Psalm 31:9 NAS).

Picture a huge back-pack filled with heavy stones, each one labeled. The first stone we pull out is marked sorrow—it weighs a ton. One similar in size is anger. Then abandonment and despair are twin hunks off the stone of hopelessness. Buried under that terrible trio is dread, but there are more stones, and they seem to multiply.

A stone lays face down in the bag and we almost drop it as we read the label—guilt. Even thinking the word causes emotions to swirl and grow. Fear, confusion, and denial tumble onto the stack, threatening to topple the heap. But the enemy isn’t finished. He tosses the stones of envy, rejection, distrust, loneliness, and anxiety at you.

And a voice whispers, “No wonder I feel so awful. Poor me, I deserve to be angry. I’ll never laugh again. There will be no joy. Why, oh why, did God allow this to happen?” And you pick up each stone and place it lovingly back in the pack, zip the flap shut, and pick up the burden. “Oh these stones are so heavy, but it’s my cross to bear.” And you carry the weight of anguish with you each day, all day, everywhere, until you face another crisis and the grief you’ve stuffed will be resurrected and it won’t be convenient or pretty.

“My sorrow is beyond healing. My heart is faint within me. …Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?…For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 8:18, 22; 30:17 NAS).

Time doesn’t change the stones. Time changes you.DSCF5458

The stones become heavier and anger turns to bitterness. You’ve bought the deception. Fear, guilt, anxiety, and loneliness become boulders. And you’re stuck in grief, and don’t know there’s a solution. But you chose to pack ‘em up and take ‘em with you.

The good news is when you’ve had enough of carrying a load you were never meant to bear, you can bring that pack of pain to Jesus. Confess you were prideful and wrong. Pour out your heart to the Lord who loves you with an everlasting love, and leave your disaster there. Allow Him to heal what time could never accomplish.

“The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 NAS).

There’s help available to all willing to take that first step toward help, hope and restoration of joy. Choose GriefShare today.

Go to http://www.griefshare.org to find a group near you.

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Have you ever had your big toe poke a hole clear through your sock? A sore toe and maybe a blister is the reward for rubbing shoe leather all day, and it hurts.
Auntie Marian sat on the front porch, in the cool of early evening, darning socks and rocking. And we were grateful for her diligence.

But whether you’re darning a sock, fixin’ and stitchin’ a hem, a family, or a life, it’s easier to restore when less stitches are required to patch the gap. These days we don’t stop to repair DSCF5450anything that breaks, just toss ‘em in the trash and shop for new stuff.

We’ve become the throw-away-generation.

Tired of a dress? Pitch it. Don’t like the sofa? Purchase a new one. Want a larger home? Get rid of the old one. And judging from the size of the malls, stores, and warehouses, we are indeed a nation of shoppers on steroids.

Newer, faster, sleaker everything—from cars to toothbrushes. Trouble is, our penchant for trashing objects has slithered into trashing people and relationships: Troubled kids, troublesome relatives, whoever and whatever flickers your feelings. Commitments? Disposable. Don’t even like the word. Gotta be free. Free to do my thing. My way. And in my time.

Like the three-year-old in the blog last week demanding a candy bar. Did I forget to mention the shopping cart was strewn with an empty cracker box, a half-eaten cookie, and a sucker wrapper? Bribes—given in place of loving enough to take the time and energy to properly discipline the child.

I’m so thankful God doesn’t toss me on the garbage heap when I wear out or offend Him. No, He takes the time to refresh me, to teach me to walk in accord with His Word. And I’m thankful His mercies are new every morning for those who love Him. God’s Word tells me He loves me so much He gave His only Son to die in my place. To die instead of me.

At the point we come to the end of our pride and arrogance and recognize we are hopeless without Him, He offers His amazing gift of grace and mercy to each person who repents, confesses, and truly believes in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection to give them new life—now and forever.

What bribes have you allowed to creep in and litter the landscape of your home? What deceptive lies have caused you to refuse God’s repairing discipline?

And the rest of the world looks at God’s people. A world saturated in evil, poverty, and death. A world desperate for love, hope, and a Savior. Yet they look at Christians and wonder, “Those church folks act just like me. Why should I want to be like them?”

DSCF5451Could it be, church folks, we are full of rips and holes that need God’s darning needle? It sure is less painful to allow God to snip renegade threads from our hearts and take a few stitches in our character each day, rather than wait ‘til the distance between our hearts and His is an empty, dark cavern.

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives…All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:5-6 and 11 NAS).

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