Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A weekend back home

I was just looking forward to seeing my newest niece this weekend, but it turned into a whole lot of love and laughs even beyond that.

I met Harper Delaney right when I got home, and the little peanut was just too sweet. She didn't worry about being passed to a stranger, and she started to wiggle her lips, trying to make sounds like everyone around her was doing.

Ella bean ran over, apple in hand, to give me a hug and grabbed my mom's legs as she tried to get away from my 90-pound bulldog. She warmed up to Novie quickly though and the next day declared "Novie is my favorite."

We had a little sleepover, and Ella stayed up way later than she should have asking each of us to come up for hugs before she went to sleep. Who can resist though?

The next day included family pictures where we re-created a photo all my cousins' took 20 years to give to my grandparents for their 60th anniversary. Then my mom and I headed to visit my grandma, who has been struggling with stage four colon cancer. The perk of that visit though was that it ended in prayer, and we saw my uncle and cousins that I haven't seen in quite a while. My uncle has become a Christian, and one of my cousins talked about walking to church the night before. That much talk of Christianity and God is an unexpected pleasure with my extended family.

My dad and I ended up sharing lunch at our favorite rib place, which I think will be some of my treasured memories of times spent with my dad as an adult, and then my mom and I did a little shopping. The day concluded with time at my sister-in-law's house and dinner with Nate's and my two nieces on that side of the family.

The next day I got to see my in-laws and then headed to my grandparents' house for their anniversary party. Sixty years together is something to be proud of. It doesn't matter if those years haven't been perfect, because the more difficult, the more surprising that a couple can make it that long together. Think how many people just give up.

The party was full of my extended family, including my aunts and uncles, cousins and their children. The generations just keep going and growing. It's a different group of people than were there last time we were all together, which was for Nate's and my wedding three years ago, and there are several new members. Life keeps going.

The trip ended up being full of fun and time with loved ones, and I got the unexpected pleasure when I returned home of a quick visit with some of my best friends and their kids and foster children.

Life changes, but those who you love will always be there, and that's so nice to know.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fearing TV

There was a patch of time where I was really nervous at home at night. I kept hearing things and I would wake up several times in the night, and I just couldn't settle down once the sun set.

I'm very susceptible to irrational fears, and I realized that I was more scared after I would watch some of my regular shows --- "Bones," "Castle," "Criminal Minds," "Pretty Little Liars." I had some regular shows that focused on fear and death. I guess that was going through my mind.

I decided to stop watching most of those shows and to focus on more positive ones that weren't focused on things that scared me. I turned to a lot more food-focused, decorating and comedic shows this summer, and it was a few weeks before I realized that I hadn't been scared in a while. I was doing OK by myself at night, and I was even going to the basement to do laundry.

I tested out the theory and watched "Pretty Little Liars," thinking that I hadn't been scared and it wasn't a big deal. That night, I felt on edge again.

Let me say, I get it, I'm way too old to have irrational fears like this and to be nervous in the dark. This is a little kid problem. But it is a problem for me, and it was one that needed addressed, and I'm very pleased that fears haven't been an issue for a while.

It also made me realize the impact that what we put into our minds has. We often think that as adults it doesn't matter what we watch or listen to. We think we are mature enough to overcome even bad influences. It's not true though. God didn't tell only kids to watch their hearts, he told all his followers.

If a little TV show can truly put me on edge and make me fearful, what else am I letting influence me in negative ways?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Work Q&A

Today is the last day in our Work Matters series at church. Throughout, people have asked questions about work and the pastor is answering those questions this morning.

1. What do you do when a father puts his work above his children?

Although being a stay-at-home mom is popular in our church, I'm sure the same question applies to women who also prioritize work over family. It's easy to neglect your family, because you get paid for work and don't at home --- at least monetarily. Like King David, his family started to fall apart when he was at war constantly instead of raising his children right. Eli had a similar story, putting all his time into churchwork instead of helping his sons do what's right.

Fathers are to be the spiritual leaders of their houses. They are to spend time reading Scripture, talking over meals,  teaching on car drives.

2. What should our response be to someone that refuses to work or sees no reason to hold a job?

There are some people who can't work, for intellectual or physical reasons. There are others who won't work. The pastor looked at it an interesting way --- don't be jealous of these people. We all know there are people who work the government and get money when they could be working. We tend to be jealous that they have big screen TVs and have fun all the time but don't work for it.

Don't be jealous, because that's not how we were created. We were created to work and we get much out of it. There is a joy in accomplishment that we were created to experience. We should pity them that they aren't receiving that joy, those times of growth, the lessons we learn, the enjoyment of putting skills to use.

There is enjoyment in paying your own way instead of taking handouts. Nate is fantastic about this. He doesn't take handouts. He doesn't even like our parents paying for meals when we visit. He likes to know we can pay our own way.

3. Please deal with the false idea this teaching on work has no application to retired folks.

The teaching on work went beyond just those with jobs. The series is about all kinds of work, from work at home done by moms to chores done by kids to service done by retired people. No matter our age or occupation, we are to serve God and glorify him in all we do. An elder here says "We don't retire from something, we retire to something." We're not supposed to give up our jobs when we retire and just be self-indulgent. That is how our culture views retirement, but that is not how the Bible sees retirement.

4. What does the Bible teach about salary? How much profit should a Christian make?

Profit is a reward for risk and contribution. Depending on what we contribute, we will make different amounts of money. However, we must do so honestly.

5. How can I share the gospel at work?

-Nobody can stop you from talking about your weekend. "We had family over and went boating and then at church we talked about..."

-Nobody can stop you from asking somebody if they go to church.

-Nobody can stop you from inviting people to an event. "Our church is having a cookout with games for kids..."

-Nobody can stop you from doing good toward others.

-Nobody can stop you from offering to pray.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A beautiful little dinner party

You know what they say, that doing things for other people makes you feel good in return? Well, it's totally true.

I have wanted to do something for my friend who recently had a baby, and finally we planned on them coming over for dinner.

I didn't plan a crazy elaborate dinner, instead I figured a simple menu of homemade taco and pepperoni pizza as well as homemade monkey bread, which I have never tried before.

It started out quite enjoyable, because Nate had the night off so I roped him into helping me prep dinner, which we rarely do together. I made the caramel sauce for the monkey bread while he measured out the Bisquick mix. After I mixed everything up, I rolled balls for him and he covered them with a cinnamon-sugar mixture and plopped them delicately into the caramel sauce. He immediately made a joke about my dough balls not staying together and how he had to re-roll each of them.

"Now I know why I don't usually ask you to help me," I said.

"I'm just a perfectionist," he answered.

We just smiled and laughed and continued on, and it was delightful.

When the monkey bread was finished, we started on the pizzas, and I asked him to flatten the dough onto one of the rectangular pans. He didn't know what to do.


"You've never made homemade pizza before?" I asked.

"I've topped them, but I've never made the dough before."

"Well, it's time you learn then."

I laughed as he pulled out the dough ball and got it stuck all over his hands. I had to peel it off and spray it with olive oil so that it wasn't quite so sticky, and I just smiled as I shook my head. After the dough baked a few minutes, he just let me finish the pizza toppings up.

Our friends made it over with their wonderful new baby, and we ate quickly while he finished up his nap. The party moved to the living room when little Silas decided it was time for him to eat, and we just talked and laughed at the baby, and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I was the first person to ever coax smiles from the five-week-old.

I mean, I know that I made dinner, but really, when they left, I felt so refreshed and happy. It was wonderful to spend time with them and wonderful to hopefully provide them a relaxing evening out of the house.

It's so much better to give than receive.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Biblical productivity

This is an interesting topic for church --- productivity. Because did you know a lack of productivity is not just a work problem but a spiritual problem?

I stumbled into this yesterday. I had things to do but I just didn't really want to do them. OK, well I was fine with doing everything but cleaning. I really don't like cleaning so I tend to put it off. I kept am eye on the clock while watching TV and put off my chores as long as I possibly could while knowing I could still get them done.

But that isn't what God wants me to do. It's easy to be productive at work because I have a boss and I'm getting paid. But at home it's easy to just last on the couch.

However, even at home we have a boss -- God -- and he is paying us with time on Earth. We're supposed to use that limited time wisely. Ephesians 5:15-17 says,  "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

Wherever we are, we are supposed to make a difference, not fritter away our time. John Wesley said, "God wants us to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can as long as we can." Although we're not saved by God works, we're still supposed to be known by our good works. Think about those amazing Christians who die, what are they remembered for? "She was always going people." "He never stopped." "She never thought about herself but was always giving to someone else."

But productivity in itself is not the answer. It's why we're productive --- for God. "For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" Luke 9:25.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


A person very close to me shared this devotion, and I asked if I could post it here. Reading it brought tears to my eyes.

"I was eight years old when I went with a friend to Good News Club. It was in a woman‘s home that I did not know. She told us some stories and gave us a snack. Then she shared the gospel with me.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

I believed that what she was saying was the truth and I knew right then and there that I needed this “Jesus” and that I wanted to be with Him in Heaven someday.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:22-23

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; it if were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may be where I am.” John 14:2-3

I knelt on her cold concrete basement floor and told Jesus that I was a sinner and that I wanted Him to be my Savior. I can still remember the cold on my little 8-year-old knees.

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raise Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9-10

“If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

I walked home about two miles that day by myself, carrying a Bible that she gave me, to a home where the Lord’s name was only used in vain. To parents who never took me to church and would have laughed or possibly would have been mad if I had told them what had happened to me. After that day, I never went back to Good News Club and I still never went to church. I didn’t do anything any differently than I ever did, but I knew something had happened to me that day. Christ was faithful to do what He had promised.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the work of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is  a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1;13-14

Fifteen years went by and I had my first baby and I began to think about this Jesus who had died for me. I wanted this baby to learn about Him. I wanted my life to be different. We began to look for a church. We found Bettendorf Christian Church and I began to learn more about Jesus. There was more than eternal life He wanted me to have. There was a gift that was available to me as well.

“wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4b-5

I was obedient to Him in baptism. Jesus did the work on the cross for me. He is the one who has the authority and power to give me eternal life without requiring me to do one thing to deserve it. I believed!

“having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2 12

Almost fifty years later, I am still on my long walk Home and He is still walking with me.

“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Heavenly Father, I humbly and gratefully thank you for what you have done for me. I look forward to seeing Mrs. Fleener in the crowd of witnesses when I finally make it home to you. Thank you that my job was to believe and that Jesus did all the rest of the work for me. It is in His name that I pray, Amen.