Archive | November 2010

TIME WELL SPENT

It’s been a busy week. I’ve had the privilege of spending extra time with my mother this week as she’s been laid up with three compression fractures in her back. It’s so hard to see her hurting, and not able to eat because of the pain medications. I tried to make things that I knew were normally her favorites, to try to tempt her appetite, but until she could back off the pain meds a bit, it didn’t really work. The time spent with her was nice, though, as we talked and watched a few chick flicks together. I took my crocheting along and made some progress on the baby sweater, bonnet and blanket set I am making for Laurie’s baby. Bob was able to arrange his work schedule so that I could be with my mom. He travels a lot for his job, and of course I am always home with Robbie, so I appreciated his willingness to help out with that.

Then, of course, there was Thanksgiving, which also happened to be my birthday. I traditionally make the turkey, stuffing and gravy for our big family meal, so there are not a lot of early preparations I can do ahead of time. It’s all basically done on Thanksgiving morning, keeping an eye on the clock so that the turkey goes in the oven on time. As usual, everything tasted wonderful, but someone made the comment, “All that time making all of this and then it’s over in a matter of minutes!” We did take the time to thank the Lord for his abundant blessings in our lives and to share with one another some of the things for which we are most thankful.

Those were times well spent this week. Then there were the wasted times. Time I spent staring at a computer screen, struggling with writer’s block, I guess. Too much time spent in research for the book I am writing, and not enough time actually spent writing. Time worrying about the deadline that is looming and wondering if I will get it done in time. Time doodling as I waited for inspiration to come…

And what a waste of time my one attempt at snagging a Black Friday bargain was! Bob surprised me big-time with my birthday gift this week—the money to buy a new laptop for myself! And just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend sales, I thought! I poured over the ads until I found the perfect one for me—at a savings of $250 if I could get in on the doorbuster special! I went on Wednesday night to check it out and make sure they had it in stock. Yes, they had nine of them. Great! Even if there were twenty or thirty people ahead of me, they wouldn’t all be there for the exact same thing I was there for, would they? The chances of me getting the laptop I wanted seemed pretty good.

Not quite. I got up and out the door in the wee hours of the morning and pulled into the parking lot twenty-five minutes before the doors were to open. Call me naïve. I had only done the Black Friday, doorbuster thing once before with my sister many years ago, and then it had been a little crazy, maybe, but fun and not stressful at all. This time, when I got to the store ready to buy something I really, really wanted I was dismayed to see there were already 100-150 people ahead of me in a line that stretched from the doors clear around the side of the building. I went to the back of the line and started to shiver almost immediately. It was only about twenty degrees and I wasn’t dressed warm enough. Eventually a couple store employees came down the line handing out vouchers for the items people wanted, so they could go back to their cars and wait. The laptop I wanted was long-gone. I was disappointed of course, but grateful to get back to my car and go home and crawl back into bed.

As I lay there, trying to get back to sleep but still shivering, I thought about what a waste of time it had been, and that I would never, ever do that again, no matter how great the bargains sounded! I’m sure I would have felt differently if I had been able to get the computer, and then even the one or two hours I stood in line waiting to pay for the thing might not have seemed like a waste, but at that moment it all just seemed like a big waste of time. Oh, there will be other sales, probably almost as good, and if I am patient I will eventually get the laptop that is best for me.

Time is so precious to me, and I am sure, to you. Once those minutes tick by, they cannot be reclaimed. We are allotted in our lives so many years and months, weeks and days, minutes and seconds. Having a birthday this week made me think about time and wonder how many more years the Lord will allow me here on this earth. I am eager for Heaven, and yet, I want the time I have left here to matter. I go to bed sometimes thinking regretfully, “Well that was a wasted day!” On the other hand, on the days when I have really accomplished something I feel good when I go to bed, and grateful that I used my time wisely.

Robbie has had his days and nights mixed up again this week. He sleeps all day and evening and then, just about the time I am going to bed, he wakes up and wants to play all night. I feel badly that he is staring at the ceiling all night because Mom just can’t entertain him any longer. It’s hard to get him back on the right track because if he really wants to sleep there is nothing we can do to keep him awake, and if we do manage to wake him up before he is ready, he immediately goes right into seizures. I would love to convince him of a better way to use his time more wisely!

The Bible is clear that we are to use our time wisely. Romans 13:11 says, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (A good verse for Robbie, wouldn’t you say?) We do not know how many days are left to us individually, but the Lord says that our salvation—the time when He will take us out of this world, whether it be through death or the Rapture, to eternity with Him—is near! Until that time there is work for us to do for Him! Wake up and get to work!

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“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) Using our time wisely means using it within the will of God. We sometimes are unsure of the next step in God’s will for our lives, but there can be no doubt in many instances of what is not God’s will. “Circumspectly” means not acting foolishly or sinfully as we did before we were saved, but being obedient. Our hearts know, our consciences know what is right or wrong; what brings glory to God and what does not; what is a waste of time and what is worthwhile. And “redeeming the time” ought to give us the sense of urgency, that because the days are evil we ought not to waste time.
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What is truly God’s will, and the whole purpose of the Gospel, is that men and women, boys and girls receive the salvation Christ has offered through His shed blood. It is our commission as believers to be witnesses to others of the Gospel. It is our sole purpose to bring glory to God through lives that are a testimony of that salvation. It is our responsibility to use our time toward that end. Our days are numbered here on earth and we are to “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving…Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:2, 5)
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God has promised blessings when we obey Him. Time is short. Time is precious. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3) The time is at hand. We waste so much time chasing the material things of this world, the foolish things, the selfish things. Anything that draws us away from what is of eternal value. Time spent helping others is never a waste. Time spent being a testimony or sharing the Gospel is never a waste. Time spent in prayer is never a waste. Time spent obediently and wisely following God’s will is never a waste.
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Redeem the time—time well spent.
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LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

It has been a long, arduous journey for Julie and David for the last three years in the world of international adoption. They had no idea in September of 2007 when they embarked upon this journey that the country they felt led to adopt from, El Salvador, was the slowest in the world to cut through the red tape and procrastination, and would allow its children to languish in orphanages for years rather than releasing them into good, loving families who were eagerly willing, ready and able to provide good homes for them. After three years they were still waiting on approval from the two agencies in El Salvador that handled international adoptions.
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So many times they questioned if they should try a different country or quit altogether, but over and over as they fervently prayed, the answer always came back to them, “Be still, and know that I am God. Wait on the Lord.” They determined that until God closed the door on El Salvador completely, or showed them clearly some other direction, they would hang in there. Lately they had wondered if the door might actually be closing. Their adoption agency, fed up with dealing with El Salvador and seeing almost no movement over the last three years, was talking about pulling out if something didn’t start happening very soon. David and Julie started talking about their options if that happened and looking at different avenues. They must renew their application with Immigration again very soon and they were beginning to wonder if they even should.
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This week the call finally came. They had been approved by both agencies! Oh, the joy! They were ecstatic! I was thrilled—more grandchildren! Whoo-Hoo! The good news didn’t stop there. Not only were they approved, but because they were willing to take a sibling group of up to three, they were promising to put their application aside for special processing in order to speed it up. (That remains to be seen. We’ve heard those kinds of promises before.)
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Soon,, we hope, they will be matched up with the children God has for them. Who knows how long that will take, but perhaps now that they are fully approved, and with sibling groups so hard to place, it won’t take months for it to happen. Even then, there is normally still a ten month (at least) waiting period after they are matched before the adoption is finalized and they can bring the children home. But at least there is light at the end of the tunnel now.
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Please pray for Julie and David as they continue the rest of their quest to bring children out of orphanages and into a loving home. Please pray for wisdom to know God’s will, patience and strength for the journey, and peace with decisions made. Pray for Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah, who are so willing to share their mommy and daddy and home. Pray for the children who are waiting for a family who will love and care for them and have no idea that Julie and David are waiting eargerly for them, too. And pray for the children in orphanages all around the world or out on the streets all alone. We cannot help all of them but we can help some, and if we cannot help some of them, perhaps we can help one.
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The Bible says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27) We generally hear very little in our churches about caring for orphans. My own church supports Compassion International and the Baptist Children’s Home, but in my whole life I doubt I’ve heard more than one or two messages on the subject. Even if we are not called to actually adopt children or be foster parents, it is the duty of us all–churches and individuals–to in some way demonstrate our love and kindness to orphans, whether it is by supporting a child through Compassion International, or doing a Christmas shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse, or just taking an interest in the kids on our block who have no father in their home. We show our love for Jesus when we show our love for the “least of these.”

POTPOURRI IV

Plans, Preparations and Prayer — It’s that time of year again. We start planning Thanksgiving dinner—who’s bringing what to my sister’s house. I always cook the turkey, and along with that, make the stuffing and gravy. It’s tradition, and in our family we are really BIG on tradition! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year, right after Christmas. Not because of the meal, and certainly not for the parades or football games. I don’t really relish spending the whole morning in the kitchen. The gathering of the family is always wonderful, of course, but even more than that, I really take to heart the part about giving thanks.
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I try always, every day, to have an attitude of gratitude for all that God has done and is doing in our lives, and to be thankful for not only what He does, but for Who He is. I don’t really need a special day of the year to remind me to count my blessings and be grateful. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and more introspective and reflective, or because I’m walking closer to the Lord, or that the last ten years have been so hard and yet so good and we have seen the hand of God sustaining us through it all—whatever the reason, I thank Him every day.
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I think something that opened my eyes to how rich we are was visiting Ecuador for the first time eleven years ago. I had the privilege of returning last year and celebrating Thanksgiving there. Once again I was struck with how much we have physically and how blessed we are compared to most of the rest of this world. Being truly grateful was especially brought home to me when I spoke to a group of ladies about the spiritual riches we have as daughters of the King, regardless of our economic situation, citizenship, class, or race. Thanksgiving last year was probably the most meaningful of my life.
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This year I have been putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. I have to turn them in at church tonight. I loved shopping for them and then trying to squeeze everything into the boxes. With every little gift I bought, I wondered about the child who would receive it. Where did he or she live? Would the shirts I bought fit them? Would the older girl like a little stuffed poodle or would she think it was too babyish? Which ball would the boy like better? Too bad a soccer ball won’t fit in the shoebox! Do they really want a toothbrush and toothpaste, wash cloth and soap for Christmas? Not my idea of a great gift, but apparently those things are precious to them. Into the shoebox they go, and with them the thought once more that things we take so for granted are of great value to those who cannot get them. It is hard to imagine that while our children and grandchildren have so much, these kids barely have the basics in life; that the yo-yo or harmonica or markers or jump rope in that shoebox will bring the same happiness to a poor child that a Wii or a IPod would bring to one of our kids.
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I have bathed each of those shoeboxes in prayer, that the child who receives it will know Jesus as his or her Savior and feel the love and watchcare of Christ throughout his/her life and follow Him faithfully. With each box, too, I have breathed a prayer of thanksgiving for the privilege of sharing with that child and for all that God has done in my own life.
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II Corinthians 9:7-13 reminds us to share with the poor for we are abundantly rich and have much for which to thank God. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men.” Our giving brings thanksgiving to God both from the one who receives, and also from us, and glorifies God.

Pain – My mother is back in the hospital this week with terrible pain in her back. No one is sure what is causing it, for it is not in the usual places where you would think of back pain and seems to move around. Mom is a pretty stoic person. You seldom hear her mention when she is hurting or if she is sick, so when she does finally say something, you know it is pretty serious. When I called her Thursday morning and heard the almost panicky, excruciating pain in her voice, I knew it must be bad. She went to the emergency room that day, but they couldn’t find anything and sent her home with some pain pills. Later, after phone calls to several doctors, they decided to admit her, but for almost two days she waited for a hospital bed to open up.
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It is difficult to watch your mother, or any loved one, suffering. I had never heard such pain in my mother’s voice before. My sisters Cheree and Corinne had to watch her suffer, for they are the ones who could be with her and take her to the hospital. (Bob was in Michigan and I had to be home with Robbie.) The pain pills helped some, but it wasn’t until they got her in the hospital with painkillers delivered by IV that she got some real relief. We are praying that the doctors will get to the bottom of this and be able to fix whatever is wrong.
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As long as we are in our earthly bodies there will be pain and suffering, disease and injuries, and the inevitable aging. How wonderful for the believer to know, though, that these sufferings are but for a little while and we will have new, perfect bodies someday! No more pain, no suffering, no diets or contact lenses or hearing aids! Romans 8 says in verses 18-26, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
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I hate seeing my mother in pain, but I am so thankful that we can trust the Great Physician and know that He has His purposes in suffering, and her life in His hands. One thing is certain—we surely won’t take our new bodies for granted after all we have suffered through with these old carnal ones!
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Pink, Pink, Pink! – I started crocheting a tiny baby sweater this week. I will also make a matching bonnet and blanket to go with the sweater. I love the yarn. It is so soft and a beautiful shade of lustrous pink. Just looking at that color makes me happy! I crocheted a “coming-home-from-the-hospital” sweater set for each of my grandbabies and it makes me happy to be doing this one now.
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Everything I have sent for the new baby so far has been pink, pink, pink! If little Amanda turns out to be little Michael instead, he is going to look mighty funny coming home from the hospital in all that pink! We certainly enjoyed having a boy, Matthew, the last time after his four big sisters, but it will be fun to have a precious little girl again, too.
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I don’t think you’ll find “Thank Heaven for little girls!” anywhere in the Bible. It’s not exactly Scripture, but I’ll still quote it and believe it! What is Scripture, though, is, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD…” (Psalm 127:3) and “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]” (Proverbs 17:6.) The first time in my life that I truly felt I was leaving a heritage behind me was the day my first grandchild was born. It made me want to be a better person, a more faithful follower of Christ so that my grandchildren would have a godly example to follow. And every grandparent can tell you that there is no better reward or crown in this life than to have grandchildren!
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Thank you, Lord, for pink—and blue!

PRIORITIES, PROJECTS, PEOPLE AND PERSPECTIVE

My life this year has consisted of moving from one big project to another. It has been crazy as sometimes I tried to juggle two or three projects at once, and always, as soon as I finished one, I would move on to the next.
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I’ve written six books this year so far. I helped out with the family reunion and my mother’s and aunt’s 80th birthday party. I started a new hobby of making jewelry and have made quite a number of pieces as gifts and for myself. I took on a two-month study of the book of Revelations and read the Bible in 90 days. I did many projects for our pastor and the church, including doing the pastor’s weekly Powerpoint outline of his message, as well as four other major Powerpoint presentations. I put together two booklets for special occasions for our church’s 50th anniversary (a prayer guide and a pictorial history of our church), ordered and organized 5000 prizes for the church’s Springapalooza, headed up the missions booth for our ministries fair and wrote/and or designed several other smaller projects for the church. I wrote a weekly devotion for my blog. I sent three suitcases off to the Naranjos with various travelers, and if you don’t think sending a suitcase to Ecuador is a project, think again!
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In the last week or two alone, I have shopped for and packed one of those suitcases with Christmas gifts, things for the new baby and a variety of other things the Naranjos needed. I have also made some of those gifts and finished writing one of the books. Our pastor is the one taking the suitcase to them as he stops in Ecuador to visit them on his way to Bolivia. He is speaking ten times at a pastor’s conference in Bolivia and asked me to research and write bullet points for six topics in his syllabus, design the cover and also to do Powerpoints for his messages down there. I also put together two Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes this week. At this moment, I am printing, laminating and binding 34 of my books—a huge task in and of itself. I am speaking to a creative writing class on Monday and discovered of the 42 books I have written, I only had 8 left on my bookshelf.
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I have several more projects standing in line that must be finished before the end of the year. Two more books to finish. A baby sweater, bonnet and blanket to crochet. The narrative for our church’s Easter cantata to be written. And of course, all the preparations for Christmas.
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Trust me—I am not telling you all these things to toot my own horn. There are pros and cons to all this. Yes, it is nice to look back and see all the things that have been accomplished this year. I may have done a lot of sitting on my backside, but I certainly have not been lazy! I love it that, although I cannot get to church much because of caring for Robbie, I can still have a ministry in my church and in missions. I cherish the ministry I have to our precious Robbie, but I also love it that, after eight years of quietly sitting at home with him, in the last two years my outreach has once more extended beyond the walls of my home. I find happiness and satisfaction in having an outlet for my creativity.
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The cons? Time spent on all these projects robs me of time for relationships with the people who are important in my life. Bob and I still spend a lot of time just talking or being together when he is home, but I am sure he could use more of my undivided attention. He’s been very patient, and helpful, but I know it would please him if I would make a little more time to get some other things done, too, like housework and laundry! It is hard to prioritize things like vacuuming or scrubbing toilets when so many of my “projects” seem to be so much more worthy in terms of ministry or eternal value. Pleasing my husband, however, ought to have highest priority since that is the role to which God has called me. Scrubbing the floor is pretty low on my totem pole, but if it makes my husband happy…
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Time sitting under the computer takes away time I could be playing with Robbie when he is awake, or time spent with my mother when I am able to get out of the house. People ought to take the priority over projects. Someday, will I look back with regret for all the time I spent on my computer or working on other projects rather than being in the moment with my loved ones? The time we spend with the people we love is ministry, too, and has great eternal value. Love is an action word. Time spent encouraging, helping, acting out love and kindness is never wasted.
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I know I’m not alone in this. You’ve been there, too, haven’t you? Whether it is projects like mine that keep us too busy, or a job that has precedence, or some activity that’s become an obsession, we need to be mindful of our true priorities. Most of us know the pressure and guilt of feeling as if there is just not enough time to do everything we need to do and that we are neglecting relationships because of it. Something has to give. But what?
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I guess it’s a matter of balance. I know I tend to get obsessive about the projects I do. I am an overachiever, I suppose, living by the motto “If anything’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” and by the verse, “…whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31) Bob says I have tunnel vision when it comes to my work. Somehow I have to learn to balance the projects I am involved in with the rest of my responsibilities and with my relationships.
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It’s also a matter of perspective. If I could look at vacuuming and dusting as ministry to my husband, perhaps I’d be more eager to do them! If I bear in mind that every minute I spend with my mom or playing with Robbie is ministering to them, then my other areas of ministry will pale by comparison.
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I think of the story of Mary and Martha. Luke 10:38-42 tells us a little something about them. “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 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.”
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I’ve always had a bit of a problem with this story. We women all know that someone had to feed all those men! Martha invited them into her home and she felt responsible to serve them. We understand that, don’t we? I’m sure she wanted to do her best for Jesus. She probably thought of it as her ministry to Him. I can see myself in that, can’t you? I know Jesus was grateful for her efforts, but He had a gentle reminder for her. Two reminders, actually:
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The first was that our ministry must be done with the right heart attitude. If we are grumbling and complaining, stressing and fretting over it, we may as well not do it all. Serving Jesus should be done out of hearts of love, joy, gratefulness and generosity. The second thing he wanted Martha to see is that the spiritual and emotional relationship is more important to Him than the physical busyness, even if she was “ministering” to Him.
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I need to find that balance and perspective in my life, and get back to putting people before projects. It means I am going to have to cut back on some things; maybe even give up some things altogether. I may even have to learn to say “no” now and then! That’s so difficult for me because I love everything I’m doing. I need to balance my time better. Most of all, though, I need to prioritize what is truly important in my life and put them—the people I love—back at the top of the list. My mother is a good example to me of this. People are her projects! Her time and efforts and money are spent on doing for others.
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I John 3:18 says, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” Bob knows I love him. Robbie knows I love him. My mother knows I love her. I tell them all the time. But love is an action word. It’s time I set aside some of these other things and show them a little bit better.