Friday, 18 June 2010
We Are Not Alone
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Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 20.

 

In May, it had been 13 years since I lost mine.

 

It’s easy for me to remember how many years it has been since Dad passed away. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time, and she will be turning 13 in two months. She never got to know him or my mother, who passed away 18 years ago. Dad did get to see her ultrasound picture when he was in the hospital. Though he really couldn’t talk much, I could see his eyes taking it in and the smile on his face.

 

Holidays and special dates are the hardest to get through when you’ve lost someone. The first birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgiving dinners and days like Father’s Day are tough. But as the years pass, it gets easier. It’s not that you love or miss them any less. It’s just that the pain has subsided and left you with wonderful, fond and loving memories. I have a friend who will be going through her first Father’s Day without her dad. Also, my aunts and uncles will have their first Father’s Day without my grandfather. I know firsthand what their day is going to be like. So I am praying for them– praying that God will give them comfort and help them through the emotional roller coaster ride.

 

At the time my father was ill and passed away, I was not a Christian . . . though I do remember talking to God and asking him to either heal my dad or take him quickly so he didn’t suffer. It wasn’t the first time I had prayed, but something about this experience was memorable. It seems like after that was when I started talking to Him more and trying to figure out who He really was.

 

On a certain level, I felt alone after my dad died. It was almost a feeling of abandonment. Both of my parents were gone. Who do you run to when you get in trouble or have a question about life? Mom and Dad, of course. I no longer had that security blanket. It was like a rite of passage. Not only did I no longer have parents to call on, I was about to become a parent myself. Now my husband and I were going to be the Mom and Dad that someone counted on for everything.

 

Psalm 68:4-5

Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

 

With Dad’s passing, I thought that I was now fatherless. Instead, I found out that I have a Heavenly Father who was and is there all the time.

 

Joshua 1:5b

I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

 

The NIV version of this verse says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” While I usually prefer to study with NIV, I like the King’s James Version of this verse better. Forsake means to leave or give up, so to say “I will never leave you or forsake you” seems redundant.  Fail means to fall short of success or to become insufficient.  It can mean unable to meet a debt or obligation or to stop functioning or operating.

 

Our God will not fail us. His grace is sufficient. Thanks to what Jesus did on the Cross, our sin debt is paid in full. God can never fail. And He will always be there for us. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

 

I am blessed to have wonderful family and friends. But there are times when I can’t talk to them or I can’t go to them with a problem. Those are the times I am especially glad to have God the Father. He holds me and comforts me. He listens to my problems and needs. He dries my tears and directs my path. He encourages me by reminding me who I am, where I came from and where I am going. That’s what fathers do. When we have God in our lives, we are not alone.

 

Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

 

If you are missing your father or someone who was like a father who has passed on, I know how you feel. More importantly, God knows how you feel and what you are going through. He is there for you. Let Him be your comfort. It’s okay to cry and miss your dad. Take this time to remember and honor him, because that will help bring you comfort as well.

 

If you are fortunate enough that your dad is still living, I hope that you will honor him with your time and gratitude. Remember what he has taught you and done for you. Tell him how much he means to you. If you are estranged, it is never too late to reach out in love. Do it before it is too late.

 

I wish everyone a wonderful Father’s Day. Honor your earthly fathers, whether living or passed on, and celebrate your Heavenly Father, who lives forever.

 

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Posted on 06/18/2010 4:59 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 11 June 2010
Soul Food
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It’s that time of year that all women dread. Bathing suit season.

 

All winter long we’ve eaten comfort foods, like hot chocolate topped with whipped cream, mashed potatoes and gravy, and fried chicken. When the snow starts to melt and the days get warmer, we start to think of summer and trips to the beach or pool. I tell myself every spring that if I go on a diet right away and start doing sit ups, by summer I will look better in my bathing suit.

 

Then June arrives and I haven’t done the first sit up or significantly changed my eating habits. I’m pretty much in the same place that I was this time last year. It won’t keep me from going to the pool, because I am a mom and moms go where their kids go. But every time I see a thin, well toned woman (especially one my age) in a bathing suit, I will 1) hate her (just kidding) and 2) realize what could have been if I had just been willing to do the work.

 

We are a society obsessed with our weight and physical appearance. As the saying goes, you can never be too thin or too tan (or too rich). Ironically, at the same time society has put such emphasis on weight and appearance, we have seen obesity become more the rule than the exception. That’s when watching what you eat becomes a matter of life and death.

 

Each year, millions of Americans go on some sort of diet, either to lose weight or for health reasons. The report I read said one out of every three women and one out of every five men are on a diet. Billions of dollars are spent each year on weight loss plans. Even if you are not enrolled in a specific plan, just dieting at home is expensive. (Why does healthy food seem to cost more?)

 

Regardless, we are very body conscious and weight conscious. I do think it is important to maintain a healthy weight. We should take care of the bodies that God has given us while we are here. But how much time and energy do we put into our spiritual nourishment? Are you in the same place spiritually that you were a year ago or have you grown? What are you feeding your soul? Is it junk food that is going to weigh down your heart and mind? Or is it the things of God that will strengthen your faith and lift you up?

 

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

 

Back in the late 1980s when I first started working, the corporate catch phrases were “Input equals output” or “garbage in, garbage out”.  In other words, you’ll only get out of something what you have put into it. What you watch on television, what you read, what you listen to on the radio, what you Google on the internet, and what you talk about with friends and family – all that stuff that you fill your mind and soul with is what is going to come out of you. Input equals output. For example, if you watch movies or shows that use bad language, chances are you are going to use bad language. Not all movies or shows are bad. There are some good choices out there that can be beneficial to your spiritual growth. Your spiritual diet is as important, if not more so, than your physical diet.

 

First of all, the mainstay of your soul food diet is the Holy Bible. I don’t care if you are a strict King James Version person or if you like more reader-friendly versions like NIV, The Message, and the Amplified Bible – whichever it is, read it. Read as much as you like – there are zero calories and it is all good for you (2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”).

 

I know that some parts of the Bible are hard to read. So, before you start reading, pray that God will help you to understand what you are reading and that He will reveal Himself to you through the Word. I recommend getting a study Bible. Mine is The Life Application Study Bible. It has lots of explanatory notes, charts, maps, summaries, etc. You don’t have to start at Genesis and read straight through to Revelation. Take small bites here and there. Stimulate your appetite and hunger for God. I started with the Gospels after I got saved. Each day at lunch I would read for about thirty minutes, but there were days that I didn’t want to stop and I kept reading and studying. In a little over a year, I had read every book of the Bible. Of course, I have had to go back and reread many times, and each time I discover something new. When you ingest that word, it becomes a part of you. Which would you rather have to alter your shape: cupcakes and doughnuts or the Word of God?

 

While the Bible is the main source of your spiritual nourishment, you can supplement your diet with other things as long as you are careful and discerning. When you are watching what you eat, you read labels for calorie content and ingredients to make sure the food items fit your diet plan. The same goes for your choices in spiritual supplements. Whether you watch TV or listen to the radio, there are healthy choices. But you have to know what the Bible says so that you know what you are reading, watching or listening to lines up with the Word of God.

 

  • If you watch television, you can watch shows that bill themselves as Christian programming. There are several stations that are dedicated to this, such as Trinity Broadcasting Network, The Inspiration Network, and Daystar Television Network. But you still have to be careful what you watch. I personally don’t watch much of these programs, but I know other people who really enjoy them. I do like to watch Dr. Charles Stanley. In small doses, I enjoy Joel Osteen. And I really, really love to watch Joyce Meyer. I enjoy her books as well. But there are also good shows on “regular” television. You just have to be choosy. I can tell you that I have quit watching shows that I used to love because the story lines or the language went in the wrong direction and I didn’t want that garbage coming into my mind.

 

  • If you like to read, you have an overwhelming number of choices. I never realized how many Christian authors there were until I joined a Christian book club. I love to read mysteries and thought there wouldn’t be anything for me in the club. I was wrong. I have read a few and they aren’t bad. Just about every type of book is represented: mystery, romance, history, western, nonfiction. But you don’t have to read novels. A book of devotionals is a great thing to have around. Think of it as the perfect snack. You can get a collection of articles or a book that has a devotion for each day of the year.

 

  • If you like to listen to the radio, then change your dial to a Christian radio station. The Christian music scene has just exploded in the last ten years. You can hear soft pop, rock, country, rap – whatever kind of music you like is represented in Christian music. You can buy CDs or download music to your IPod. Many of the songs are based on scriptures or express the songwriters’ experiences in their walk with God. Music is a great way to share the Word with people.

 

  • If you a computer person and you love to be online, then you really have it made. You can watch Christian programming, read Christian materials and even listen to Christian radio on the Internet. You could even read a blog, like this one. Or maybe even write your own.

 

A few paragraphs back I quoted Philippians 4:8. Here is the same verse as it reads in a version of the Bible called The Message:

 

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

 

The saying goes that you are what you eat. Who do you want to be? When you can answer that question, you’ll know what choices to make.

 

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Posted on 06/11/2010 5:37 AM by Susan Nelson
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Friday, 4 June 2010
The Silent Treatment
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By Wednesday, I knew I was probably in trouble. Usually by mid-week, I have a working title for the next blog article and a rough outline in my head. By Friday morning, it’s pretty much just a matter of downloading it from my brain to the computer. (Wish they had a USB cable for that!) But this week, I had nothing.

“Okay, God. I’m listening. Tell me what you want me to write about.” I waited. I listened. Silence. The first 10 articles came so fast and so easy. It seemed almost as soon as I finished one, I had the next one starting to take shape in my mind. So what happened?

My first thought was writer’s block – I had hit a wall. Writer’s block, a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work (dicitionary.com), is very common. I’ve had it before and have my own tricks for working through it. For example, I write about having writer’s block, like I am doing now. Or I’ll just write about anything to get myself writing. But with this blog, I don’t want to write about just anything . . . I want to write about the things of God. No, this wasn’t a case of writer’s block.

Then I blamed it on the old devil. I thought, this is just the enemy trying to keep me from sharing the Word with people. Okay . . . maybe. I have been overwhelmed by the response to the blog. People that I didn’t think would read it are reading it each week and telling me they enjoy it and look forward to it. That can go to a person’s head, you know. I’ve tried to keep my ego in check and give God the glory. I am sure that the devil doesn’t like that the gospel is being spread this way, but I don’t think that’s why I couldn’t think of anything to write about.

In round three of the blame game, I attributed my drawing a blank to the events of the last few weeks. My mind and body are tired. I’ve gone from a big family wedding to a family funeral in a matter of weeks. Throw in a whirlwind trip to the in-laws over the holiday weekend. There’s been a lot of traveling and a lot of emotional fatigue heaped on the regular demands of family and work. I am sure most people understand how tiring that would be. But when I am writing, it usually doesn’t matter how tired I am. If I have that burning word in me ready to come out, I am wide awake and determined until every last letter has been typed out of me.

 

Looking back over these last few weeks, though, was the key to realizing what the problem is. It wasn’t the events themselves, but what I did during that time. I missed three of the five Sundays at church this month, which meant I didn’t have to teach Sunday school. Because I didn’t have to teach Sunday school, I slacked off studying. Then I realized that I also had not been reading my Bible. And come to think of it, I was praying “quickie” prayers instead of spending the time I needed to with God.

 

2 Timothy 2:15 (King James Version)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

The Message puts that verse this way: Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple.

 

I do take writing this blog very seriously. I do want to do my best for God. From the start, I said that I would only write about what God wanted me to write about . . . that I would take my leading from Him. I don’t want this to be about my agenda. If I were writing about my own opinions, observations and feelings I could prattle on forever. What I want to write about is God in our everyday lives and what it means to have a relationship with Him.

 

The last few weeks I have neglected that relationship, and any relationship takes work, time and commitment.  A gardener can’t neglect watering his plants or weeding and expect to have beautiful flowers. A runner can’t win a marathon if he has never run more than a mile at a time. He has to keep running and pushing himself to the next level. A student can't expect to pass the final exam if he skipped class and didn’t read the text book. If you are married, imagine that you have ignored your spouse all week. Then the weekend comes along and you are ready for his or her companionship. You probably won’t like the response you get. You will be lucky if all you get in return is the silent treatment.

 

So does the silent treatment I experienced this week mean that God is mad at me or has turned His back on me? No. I think of it more like a time out – a time to earnestly seek Him and search myself for answers. He helped me to realize that I have to do the work. I can’t walk into my Sunday school class without having studied and prepared for the lesson. You wouldn’t want the preacher to come to the pulpit without a message from God. Studying and spending time with Him is crucial to my ability to write for this blog.

 

It is so easy for us to let life’s problems and busyness get us off track in our walk with God. But we can turn around (repent) any time and return to Him. If this article did nothing else, I hope it has made you think about your own relationship with God. When you ask yourself what you are getting out of it, I hope you will first consider what you are putting into it.

 

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Posted on 06/04/2010 10:01 AM by Susan Nelson
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