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Friday, September 21, 2007

Winning the Race

I just love my church, Red Rocks Church in Golden, Colorado. The pastors and people who attend are just so “real”. It’s a church filled with young couples and lots of college students (we are PACKED Fall through Spring, and most other times as well). Honestly, I’m probably in the upper ¼ age-wise, and I’m not yet 40! But, I guess I’m still young at heart, because I feel so at home there. I love it too that both my teenage boys enjoy going and sitting with me in church.

This past Sunday, we had our second message in a series titled “Evolve”. It’s about evolving our walk with Christ, and I was really moved. I have been growing closer to the Lord through prayer, but in the craziness of life, I have not been as diligent about reading His Word on a daily basis. Yet, when I do, I am significantly challenged and changed. I have now moved back all of my appointments at work so that I have at least ½ hour in the mornings before meetings start. I work at least 60 hours a week, so I think I can afford some time for me at the start of my day. I receive a daily devotional by email from Proverbs 31 Ministries that will be perfect to get me going. And while I always listen to Christian radio in the car, I’m sure there are good devotionals on tape or CD out there that I can plug into as well. I am so excited!!

Now my next challenge is to spend some time writing freelance. I have a course on Copywriting for the Christian Market (through the American Writers Institute), but I haven’t had time to work on it. Between work, homeschool lesson planning and grading, blogging (which also feeds my soul), watching my boys play sports, fixing up our rental property and showing it to prospective lessees, and all the other stuff of life, I have not found a way to fit this in. I also want to write some articles to see if I can get them published, but that hasn’t happened either. Whew…I am tired just thinking about it all. And I have to be really careful not to lock myself in my office on my computer, away from my husband and kids. It is so easy to get lost in cyberspace or even in my own thoughts and musings, and to miss out on “real life”. How do all you other bloggers do it?

Listening to the radio, I heard a quote that originated with Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life, which was “do not confuse activity with productivity”. There is so much that fills our day, and much of it feels important and necessary…but it is really? Is how we are choosing to spend our time truly productive in the sense that it moves us into closer relationship with the Father? Do our activities honor God? Also, in the day-to-day of life and work, do our activities move us toward our goals? At the end of the day do we have a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and have we contributed toward those feelings in others’ lives? Finally, what are the goals we are working toward? Do we have a “purpose-driven life” or are we allowing life to just happen?

At the end of every day, I am often amazed at how busy I was. I run out of daylight long before I run out of work to do. I usually run out of steam, too, before I am finished with all of the tasks at hand. There’s a funny saying that is so true…”the problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat”. I don’t want to win the rat race; I want to win the prize that God has prepared for me. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Part of our strict training (which, to me, means “daily”) is the discipline of reading God’s Word to hear His instruction, praying to the Lord and listening for His guidance, and serving the Lord in the areas He has called us. And, oh the beauty of the crown we will then get to wear…the crown of love and compassion (Psalm 103:4), the crown of blessings (Proverbs 10:6), the crown of everlasting joy (Isaiah 35:10), and the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8).

Isn’t it wonderful to be a child of the King? May I run the race toward Him…the finish line.

Monday, September 17, 2007

He's My Son

My heart resonates with this song even though I know it is meant for a child who is physically ill. I believe that it is just as poignant for a child who struggles with emotional or spiritual illness, and it is my heart’s cry…

He’s My Son by Mark Schultz

I'm down on my knees again tonight
I'm hoping this prayer will turn out right
See there is a boy that needs Your help
I've done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired
I'm sure You can understand
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand
And she tries not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
See, he's not just anyone
He's my son

Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep
I dream of the boy he'd like to be
I try to be strong and see him through
But God who he needs right now is You
Let him grow old
Live life without this fear
What would I be
Living without him here
He's so tired and he's scared
Let him know that You're there


Can You hear me?
Can You see him?
Please don't leave him
He's my son

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Career Christian

My baby turns 16 years old tomorrow (Monday). Oh my goodness!! First of all, I cannot believe I’m old enough to have a 16-year-old son. Second, where in the world did all those years go? Today my heart breaks not for my son and where his life choices have taken him, but instead my heart is breaking over my choices. I have missed so much. As the “breadwinner” of the family, I have felt much pressure to “succeed” and I have worked many long hours to achieve that. There have been so many times I wished I could chart a different course, but I didn’t feel the latitude to do it. This is the life my husband and I chose…but is it really wrong to want to “renege” on it? I adore my husband, and he is such a good man. I truly desire to honor him, but this is something we don’t see eye-to-eye on. And, can I blame him? I am asking him to change direction in the middle of life by enabling me to take another career path. This would undoubtedly change our financial situation and thus our lifestyle, where we live, and the options available to us.

I cling to Ephesians 5:33, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” I know God will honor my submission and bless our marriage. My husband has given up much of his life to care for our boys and our home, but what is funny [interesting] is that I know he would rather be out conquering the world while I would rather stay home. (I believe Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is right on that point.) The reality is that he does not believe he can match my "accomplishments", nor my salary, so he stays at home while I work. How did we get so reversed? I know I am driven, have an incredible work ethic, am able to work well with many different types of people and, candidly, probably have a high need for accolades. Success at work feeds those attributes. And so, I progressed quickly…to the point that instead of holding a job, my job has complete hold of me. I make an incredible amount of money and have stock options and other perks, but all I want is to spend time with my family and write freelance. Instead, my husband “gets to” spend time with our boys, homeschools our oldest, is an assistant baseball coach for our youngest, and his creative outlet is playing the guitar (really well, I might add). He dropped out of college (studying graphic design) to homeschool our highschooler. What he views as a loving sacrifice, I view as luxury. There are times I must fight off jealousy, knowing that emotion is so incredibly destructive and “that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).

But that is not all…as I am also struggling with the environment in which I work. I am painfully aware I have not stated what type of work I do. It didn’t used to bother me as much, but as I draw closer to the Lord and seek His will for my life, I feel uneasy. I know my work does not define me, and I am confident in my salvation, but I believe the Lord is pulling at my heart…and my hands and feet…to consider how I can better serve Him. You see, I work in the casino business. There, I said it. It’s out in the open, and I cringe at the criticism to come. I remember the time when I came across someone from my son’s Christian school (the basketball coach) sitting at a bar in our casino in Kansas City. He asked me how I felt working at a casino as a Christian. It was all I could do to not ask him how he felt sitting in a casino bar as a Christian. Instead, I answered that the Lord knows my heart and that I am making an honest living. I work hard, I act with integrity, and in fact, I work with other Christian believers. My boss, the Senior Vice President at our corporate office, came to believe Christ as her Savior about two years ago. Two other General Managers for different casino properties are born-again Christians…with one desiring to enter into fulltime ministry. We just hired a Vice President of Human Resources who is a Christian. Our Corporate Director of Finance is a Christian, as is the Vice President of Administration, Communication and Entertainment. I have a Bible on my desk, and I’ve invited people to church. I don’t mean for this to sound as justification, and I guess I say it to ease the reader’s mind that Christians really are everywhere and in every walk of life. The first time I realized that not everyone knew or believed that was when I was attending a Bible study at my church. A couple of months into the study, one of the woman admitted to me how horrified she was upon learning where I worked. She wondered what in the world I was doing at a Bible study. So, when she finally spoke to me, she apologized…though I had no idea why until she told me. She said she had judged me and had initially determined I must not really be a Christian, and that she had previously judged anyone the same who worked in such an environment. She said she now realized how wrong she had been, and this was a significant lesson for her, one in which she better understood the Lord’s instruction on judgment and mercy (Luke 6:36-38).

My husband does not share my uneasiness. Nor does he see “a way out” without detrimental impact on our family. So, on the eve of our son’s 16th birthday as I pray for his future and for new beginnings in his life, I also pray for new beginnings in my career, and for a new future as well. I pray the Lord will open doors, my husband’s heart, and my eyes to see the path he has for me. I desire to be a “Career Christian” and while I will need to continue to do that in my current environment, I also know the Lord has plans for me…"plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Relevancy of our Godly Heritage on 9/11

I have one child (7th grade) in traditional school (private Christian school, actually) and one child (10th grade) in homeschool. There are definite advantages to both, but today I was especially glad to be preparing the lesson plan for my 10th grader, as there was so much I wanted him to hear and learn on this date of 9/11. We started our morning at 7a Mountain Time watching MSNBC, with news footage of that devastating same date, 9/11, six years ago. It is amazing how the feelings and tears came rushing back to me so quickly. I had to tear myself away and leave for work while my husband and son continued their “history” lesson, but I had already prepared a Bible lesson as well, centered around the book, “Sept. 11, 2001 – A Time for Heroes; A Tribute to American Faith, Guts and Patriotism”. The book starts simply yet powerfully with the words of Jesus, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The second page continues with the words of President George W. Bush, “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they have failed. Our country is strong. Terrorist acts can shake the foundation of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”

And, what exactly is the foundation of America? It can be found in our Declaration of Independence, which speaks of God’s laws and of our Creator. It can be found on our coins’ motto, “In God We Trust”. It can be found in the last stanza of our national anthem, which reads, in part, “…Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust’…”

So, it is as it should be…history and the Bible intertwined and united. The First Amendment says nothing about the "separation of church and state." It simply states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." And, in my household, we study both together, just as God spoke of His reign and of the history of the earth together in Psalm 46:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

How appropriate and relevant is God’s Word!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Prayer in Context

As I was lamenting current situations in my professional and personal life, a mentor and friend said, “Are you praying about it?” My immediate response was “Yes,” but then I had to think. Am I really praying about it? Or am I complaining to God about it? Am I praying for answers, or am I praying to vent? Am I praying with the intent my heart will be changed, or am I praying that others and circumstances will be changed?

In another blog today (I am so sorry I don’t remember whose) I read that in America Christians pray for the problems to be removed off their back, but in other countries Christians pray for their backs to be made stronger. I have not been praying for a stronger back; I have been praying for a lighter load. And, that wouldn’t be a bad thing I suppose if I was truly following Matthew 11:29-30, which says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." But, if I look deep into my soul, I have to admit that I’m not taking upon Christ’s yoke, I am trying to throw off any and all yokes. But, what is a yoke? The definitions I found are that a yoke is (1) wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals are joined at the heads or necks for working together, and (2) a clamp or similar piece that embraces two parts to hold or unite them in position.

My goodness! I need a yoke! What a blessing to be joined together with Christ for the purpose of working together! And, I want to be embraced by Christ and united with Him! I have been looking at my burdens all wrong, and praying about them with the wrong intent.

It’s just like reading the Bible in context and really seeking to understand what God is saying (rather than what we’d like Him to say or what we think He should say). Hebrews 12:1-3 reads, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” This passage says to throw off everything that hinders us …not to just throw off everything. And, it admonishes us to run the race marked out for us…not the race we want to run or think we should run or the path that looks the best. The passage tells us to consider the opposition Christ encountered and that we should not grow weary or lose heart. I have been praying for removal of the opposition…removal of the yoke…without realizing what the yoke is really for. It is not to restrain me, it is to guide me alongside Christ, to join me with Him.

I have much to be praying children, my marriage, my occupation, my finances, my future…but I’ve been lax in praying about my heart in these situations; I’ve neglected to ask God to strengthen my back to be able to carry the yoke; I haven’t considered the opposition Christ endured and counted myself blessed to be in His company. And, thanks to God, that my opposition isn’t the same as His, but that He cares just as much about my life and my hurts…and your’s…that He willingly puts on that yoke to carry it with us.