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Archive for February, 2012

“They also serve those who only stand and wait.”

                                                            Eleanor Rickover

                                                                         (wife of Admiral Rickover,

                                                                        Father of the Nuclear Submarine)

Continuing in our focus to consider those opportunities to serve others with the love of Jesus Christ, today and tomorrow’s devotion consist of an interview with a widow of a U.S. Navy Commander who was a navy pilot during Vietnam; he served our country for more than 25 years.

You have shared there were times when your husband would be gone for long tours of duty for as much as 10 months.  What was your life like as a wife and a mother of two children during those many years?

Oh, yes, Chuck would be gone on multiple cruises.  He flew jets off aircraft carriers so there was sea duty—meaning he was at sea.  He would typically be home only a couple months before another tour of duty.  But, even when he was home, he was always preparing to leave so mentally they were always leaving.

Were you able to communicate with him while he was gone?

While he was gone…this was before current technology of SKYPE, email and cell phones…our only means of communication were sporadic at best.  Phone calls were rare because they could only happen when in port.  All cruises were to the Far East so he could only call when in the Philippines and that would only be during the middle of the night because of time change.  Trying to call would cost hundreds of dollars for just few minutes because they would be collect calls, foreign operators.  It was painful.  So, we had to rely on the rare letters.  We would miss holidays.  I typically had to send Christmas presents by mid-October.

How did you balance that with your children?  How did you keep the girls in a healthy relationship with their dad and him in touch with all of their activities and lives? 

It wasn’t easy.  I kept him as their hero.  Looking back, I don’t know if that was a good thing because they never saw him with faults or considered he could make mistakes, but they did always adore him.  I took lots of pictures whenever he was home and we would look at those constantly.  I also would record him reading their books on tape so they could listen to those when he was gone, they still enjoy listening to his voice on those tapes even all of these years after he is deceased.

What kept you going?  Wasn’t it lonely?  How did you protect your marriage?

Faith is what kept me from going crazy…knitting and faith…for being a young woman, my faith was never stronger.  It is what kept me from breaking.  I was on my knees a great deal of the time.  I lived in fear of the “black car” coming to my door every time it came down my street (this was how the Navy sent the news of a death, injury or capture).

EDITORS NOTE: 

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.”  I John 5:4

Tomorrow we will continue the interview with how God taught her to draw close to Him through service to others in the midst of this time of sacrifice. 

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others.”

                                                                        –Mahatma Gandhi

When I was in college, I learned about Maslow’s theory of self-actualization and took a lot of psychology classes.  I was searching for “me.”  It was an era of confusion for men and women as we were crippled with changing mores, values and what we thought were sacred institutions—it was the 1960s and 1970s.  One fundamental principle drove my search.

Jesus Christ told his disciples, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you.  This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”  (Matt 7:12).  Known around the world as The Golden Rule, this truth formed the basis for my search when coupled with Mark 12:30-31, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”  I didn’t know how to love myself. Thus, I didn’t believe I had anything to offer to anyone else.  But, I took a step of faith and started reaching out to find where I might give to others through service.

Interesting changes started happening.  First, my circumstances didn’t seem so negative.  I didn’t feel so worthless and empty.  I was living in typical college dwellings but suddenly the place looked like a mansion when I became a summer mentor for a teenage ward of the court who lived in a home with a dirt floor, no running water and minimal amenities.

Serving others, sacrificing time and energy or giving gifts to others truly is about so much more than blessing those you help.  God is honored when we serve.  God is glorified when we serve in His name and for the furtherance of the Good News.  Equally, however, we become blessed.  It provides an opportunity for the service we offer to touch that part of us that only likes to think about me and causes an outward look to see how I fit in the world around me.

Perhaps you too have found a time when you gave unselfishly of your time or energy but reflected after that the blessings you received were so far greater than what you had to offer.  Or, perhaps like me this winter has been so unusual and unsettling with the up and down of the weather, that you need to do something…some action that makes a difference.  Find a need and meet it.  C.S. Lewis often stated that evangelism begins with serving your neighbor.  In the process, I am confident that you too will find a rich blessing for your heart.

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If you attended church as a child, you might have sung a song that had motions for your hand and feet with the lyrics:

“I’m in the Lord’s army.  I’m in the Lord’s army.  I may never march in the infantry, ride in the Calvary, or shoot the artillery, but I’m in the Lord’s army….”

Children love this song because they get to “fly”, “shoot” and “stomp.”  As adults, we smile and join sensing the freedom and joy of the children.  Yet, these words are more than a child’s ditty.  We are God’s first line of offense to share with a hurting world that God loves them and offers them peace, security, stability and an abundance of grace and mercy as no other can or ever will.

So, what does it look like being in the Lord’s army?  Men and women who go into the military sacrifice and serve their families, their communities, and even our nation.  In fact, in preparing to write this series, I put the words “service and sacrifice” in a Google online search engine.  To my surprise, there is a website called serviceandsacrifice.net fully dedicated to sharing military experiences of our service people.  But we don’t have to enter the military to serve and sacrifice.  God calls us to love others through service every day in our homes, our work places, our schools, our communities, and with others we meet throughout the day.  James 2:14-17 reminds us, “it isn’t enough just to have faith.  Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is not faith at all—it is dead and useless.”

Reflect today on those relationships or places where your time, words of encouragement, or sacrificial service may allow others to see Jesus Christ and be drawn to His heart.  Small random acts can be just as much a sacrificial gift of service as some major planned and well-funded project.

Oh, Lord God, please reveal to our hearts and minds those places where we can serve you.  Point out ways that we can add value to others, whether they are family members, co-workers, colleagues or strangers we meet during our day.  Father, I don’t know how to be a “good” soldier in Your army, but I am willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus when you can take me to those places or into the relationships where You can love others through me.  Thank you that I only have to be willing to serve, not extra talented or perfect.  I know you will equip me as long as I am open to Your leading.  Amen.

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Since the beginning of 2012, these devotional encouragements and challenging stories by real women with real life issues have focused on being spiritually transformed to be more Christ-like in who we are as women and as we reach out to love others in Jesus Christ’s name for His glory.

Beginning this week, the devotions for March will come from women who will share how God brought them closer to Himself as they reached out to serve others in love.  We are in the season of Lent.  The traditional understanding of this Lenten period is that it is time for Christians to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the Cross of Calvary and to practice self-denial for 40 days leading up to the culmination of the with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.  While periods of sacrifice, reflection and penance are worthwhile, we are all called to a fasting of selfishness—to live selflessly in our service and sacrifice to others for His glory.

Isaiah 58:6-12, reminds us that the fasting God calls us to is to “free those who are wrongly imprisoned…” and a number of other types of service.  God’s word assures us that when we do (v. 10-12), our lives will be like a “well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring” and that our light will shine out from the darkness as bright as day.  We are called to be transformed as women to more fully serve and glorify our Lord and this week, we will examine the Biblical framework on sacrifice and service and consider wisely how we offer ourselves to service sacrificially while protecting our hearts, our health and our relationships.

 

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Monday through Thursday’s devotionals laid out some ideas on why healthy boundaries are a good thing.

To summarize, we need to consistently focus on changing our own hearts to please God first and foremost. Then, as we step forward once again on our pathway to health we want to embrace a humble attitude of grace and forgiveness towards the person or circumstance that has hurt us.

But along that pathway, our natural inclination sometimes urges us to just plain avoid people or circumstances that are hard. Peace feels too hard or impossible so we avoid challenges without really going through the process of leaning on God for His specific direction in our specific circumstance.

Consider these two questions as you think about boundaries in your own life:  How far are you willing to go to have peace?  Would you be willing to sacrifice your own comfort for the cause of Christ?

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”   Ephesians 5:1,2

The Lord is willing and ready to guide us into our right course of action on our pathway to emotional health. His guidance is there for us if we will prayerfully seek Him.

Think about the difficult and broken relationships in your life.  Consider the areas of responsibilities where you struggle.  If boundaries and distance will bring about God’s will, may we prayerfully follow God’s direction today. But if gentle pursuit of peace or personal sacrifice and discomfort is God’s plan, God help us to be obedient!

 

 

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What role does forgiveness play in having healthy boundaries?

Healthy boundaries allow us to freely forgive.

Forgiveness is truly one of the most beautiful aspects of embracing healthy boundaries.  With appropriate and clear boundaries, I have the strength to move forward personally through forgiving, by releasing others from their bad choices that have bled out in to my life.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

~I will forgive through Christ’s power and strength. I know I can’t do this on my own, but I know that Christ wants me to be free, no longer burdened and so I lean on Him for the ability to forgive.  Forgiveness releases that other person from having to make payment or restitution to me, and disconnects me more than anything else possibly can from another person’s chain of poisonous choices.

I have been locked up in someone else’s chain of poisonous choices before, and not by anything I would have chosen or through fault of my own.  Hateful words and unkind actions snake out quickly and can incapacitate me if I allow them to do so.  But through the process of forgiving, I no longer have to be bound up tight and rendered useless.  When I begin to feel a chain of someone else’s choices wrapping around my heart and my mind, I can choose to identify the issue, I can choose to forgive in Christ’s power, and I can step forward in freedom.

~Giving forgiveness does not mean I purposefully expose myself or others under my care to physical, emotional or spiritual harm. In these circumstances, I will pray for that person from a safe distance and limit contact to healthy amounts of time.

I have someone in my life who illustrates this concept.  Months ago, as I walked away from yet another conversation with “Jo” feeling side-swiped and emotionally bruised, I was frustrated that no matter how kind I tried to be the relationship was sour and bitter.  Later, after some time thinking through the situation, I felt God’s direction to forgive her (again) but to limit my contact with her; in other words, I have to maintain healthy boundaries for my own heart (Proverbs 4:23). Though I still occasionally have contact with her, by forgiving and limiting our time together I enjoy a greater level of personal peace and health.

If you have time today, I encourage you to look up I Samuel 26:2-24.  It is a Biblical illustration of how David kept very clear boundaries from King Saul who habitually tried to harm David.  Take note in verses 21 and 22 of how King Saul says “all the right stuff” and invites David back in to relationship with him, yet David wisely keeps a healthy boundary in place even as he lives out an attitude of forgiveness towards King Saul.

 

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Are healthy boundaries really worth it when they are so hard to maintain?

Absolutely!  Healthy boundaries actually promote fresh growth and excitement in our lives.  

Healthy boundaries free us to truly love and serve others without it being a burden. Not too many people would actually admit that loving and serving others is a burden, but how many of us feel bone weary at the thought of one more thing on our do-for-others list.  How many of us have enough margin, enough freedom in our lives so that when a great opportunity presents, we are able to participate without it being a burden?  Typically, we are either unable to participate, or we cram the project in to an already chaotic schedule, or we choose to back out of previous commitments to try and make it happen.  Not an ideal scenario.

Here are some diagnostic questions to ask ourselves:

~Does my schedule have regular times for my own personal spiritual growth?  Is my alone-time with God penciled in or is it firm?

~Am I looking for opportunities to spiritually serve others in my schedule over the next month or is my schedule all about what I want and need?

~Is there anything in my schedule that is either extra, or has perhaps lived out its usefulness and is just taking up my valuable time?

~Is there a commitment that I can hand off to another person right now so that I will have the flexibility to step in to the next opportunity God has planned for me?  (Note:  This can also allow opportunities for that old responsibility you carried to be refreshed and revived under different leadership.)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1  God desires us to have healthy boundaries so we can be free to love!

The discussion continues tomorrow on how we can move towards the goal of healthy boundaries…hope you join us!

 

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