Monday, December 20, 2010

Unexpected Idols

I have been reading a book called The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace and it is AMAZING. If you're not married, please don't check out just yet. There are some ideas in this book that are completely life-changing that I wish I could have read years ago, even before I was married.

Many of us have heard numerous sermons or read articles about how we can make an idol out of virtually anything; about how if you really want to know what you worship, look at where all your time, money and energy goes. Look at what you think and talk about the most. That idea in itself is enough to occupy your mind for quite a while. You may have also heard that even good things can become idols, like excelling in a job or helping others or serving in church.

Martha Peace just takes it a little further, into a very uncomfortable but good territory. Here is her "List of Common Idols ('False Gods') Wives May Have Their Heart Set On".
1. Good health
2. Physical Appearance
3. Having a Christian marriage.
4. Being treated fairly.
5. Having a hurt free/pain free life.
6. Worldly pleasures (drugs, alcohol, sex).
7. A child or children.
8. Another person (man or woman).
9. A material thing.
10. An ideal ("pro-life movement," "peace movement").
11. Money.
12. Success.
13. Others' approval.
14. Being in control.
15. Having your "needs" met.

Talk about hard to swallow. A lot of things on that list do not necessarily have to be bad things. But when you desire those things above God, they become idols. One way Martha said to check yourself for if those things have crept up higher than God is to notice your emotions and reactions when those things don't happen or aren't going well. If you become very angry, or bitter, or say hateful things, or feel you have a right to act in an ungodly way when certain things happen, you have probably made an idol out of something. We need to get to a place where even when our best friend or husband has an off day and becomes a little bit of a jerk, (or even an OFF YEAR!), we need to remember we are responsible to God for our actions or reactions and that we can still show love. The ones that stuck out the most to me were having a christian marriage, being treated fairly, an ideal, others' approval, and having your "needs" met. Which ones jumped out to you? Is your whole day ruined if you don't get to gym? Do you get down on yourself for the donut you ate so much so that it affects your family? Are there people in your life that you put on a pedestal to where you change yourself around them or are completely crushed when they make a decision you don't like? Do you question where God is when something difficult or painful comes up, forgetting that we will face suffering and persecution, or that hard does not equal wrong? Do you get anxious and irritable when you are not in control, and especially when the person who is in control handles a situation in a way you would not handle it? Anyway, you get the picture.

I will leave it with another list and a quote from Martha.

Her "List of False Saviors/Refugees"
1. Unbiblical view of God ("genie in a bottle obligated to grant your wishes")
2. Sex (immorality, pornography, masturbation)
3. Sleep.
4. Work.
5. Television.
6. Reading.
7. Food.
8. Withdrawing, running away.
9. Clinging to people for comfort.
10. Shopping sprees.
11. Sports.
12. Exercise.
13. Recreation.
14. Hobbies.
15. Ministry as an escape.
16. Being busy at church or volunteer activities.
17. Drugs.
18. Alcohol.

There are a lot of people who look great on the outside: they are physically attractive, have a good job, find time to serve the community and get involved in ministry at church, shopping trips and rounds of golf, keep up on the latest TV shows... but they are completely starved in their relationship with God, and perhaps their family is starved for attention. A real relationship with God is volatile, ever-changing, challenging. Knowing of God is not enough. Believing in God is not enough. Singing about Him is not enough. Being at church every time the doors are open is not enough. Being able to recite the Bible is not enough.

Martha Peace says, "He wants your thoughts, motives, and choices to be focused on glorifying Him. He should be your greatest longing and desire and refuge." thoughts, motives and choices. What does your thought life consist of? What are your motives for decisions? What will be easiest? How can I cause the least conflict? How can I make myself look generous but still be doing what I want to do? greatest longing and desire. What do you sit around dreaming about and longing for? A husband? A child? A certain home or vehicle? Certain actions from your spouse? Refuge. Think about how good it feels to sit in the corner of a coffee shop with a good friend on a cold day. A simple example, but do we really feel like that when we meet with God? Do we get excited for our time with God the same way we anticipate date night or girls night? These are tough questions to answer but I don't think they are just hypothetical.

We live in a don't wait, fast results culture. We live in a work yourself into the ground and run over everyone else to get to your goals kind of culture. I fully believe with everything in me that a real relationship with God is what we need. God made us with a specific goal in mind and He cares for the details of our life. He knows us better than we know ourselves including our scars and weaknesses. But if we always have other things that come first, or if we can't turn off the noise of life long enough to really get to know Him, how will we ever know the joy and peace and benefits of knowing God and following Him?

I linked up to Living Well Wednesdays through Courtney's blog, Women Living Well!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Little Reminders of Something Earth Shattering

I follow Courtney's blog over at Women Living Well, and she has suggested a few times using symbols as reminders to pray during the day. Most recently she suggested our wedding rings as reminders to pray for our husbands. In the past she has also written how she uses her daily "straightening up" to pray for her family members. As she picks up toys, she prays for her children. As she cleans off the table, she stops at each family member's chair and says a quick prayer for them. These can just be one sentence prayers, but this would really add up throughout the day.

Another suggestion I have heard is either praying every hour on the hour or setting a timer for a different amount of time and praying every time it goes off. I love these ideas because they make prayer a continual part of my day. Prayer should not be something reserved for before meals and before bed, or only when we want God to fix something for us.

I want to take it one step further and try to bring my thought life under control. I think I will be writing a separate blog about thoughts later. But for now, if I wonder to myself, "I wonder what my sister is doing right now?" I will say a quick prayer for her. If I wonder what is in store for Aaron and I at the end of the year, I will stop and pray for God's guidance and protection. If I start stewing over something Aaron has done, I will stop and pray for him and also pray for my attitude.

Prayer is important because it forces us to refocus our priorities - if we do it correctly! We should be praying for God's will to be done, not what we think should be done. God can be glorified even through pain and suffering, so we should be careful not to pray away every sickness and difficult situation. God is completely capable of healing us and removing obstacles, but we should be careful to pray for God's will, not what will be easier or less painful. God uses difficulties to help us grow and to strengthen our faith. He tests us to teach us to rely on Him and not give up when things get hard. This should serve to help us turn away from our selfish desires. It should serve to make us really think about what God's will might be. It should remind us that no matter what happens, good or bad, God will bring out of it something good. Prayer should help us give up control and give God control. Prayer can derail a train of obsessive worrisome thoughts and help us admit that we have control over nothing and need God in everything. The more we pray, the easier it gets to pray continually and the more we will crave that connection with our Father.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15).

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

"…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18).

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express" (Romans 8:26).

LISTENING is a huge part of praying that I know I struggle with. Listening takes more patience and discipline. I think women especially struggle to clear their minds to give God room to work. I love to keep my brain busy because I can even feel productive sitting still! I have tried to think nothing before, and it took more discipline than any workout I have ever done. God desires to speak to us, but we rarely give Him room to speak! Praying is not shooting off our list of requests to God and then carrying on with our day. It doesn't have to be a 3 hour ordeal locked in a closet somewhere (although sometimes this is appealing to me) but it should be time we are truly focused on finding God and listening to Him even if we don't like what He has to say.

I made the title of this Little Reminders of Something Earth Shattering because it really blows my mind sometimes that we have direct communication with the Creator of... the UNIVERSE. It blows my mind even more how little we utilize this communication. It saddens me that sometimes we hear what God is saying but we ignore it because what He asks of us will be "too hard". So many people convince themselves that if it is hard or if it involves suffering then it couldn't be from God. God is the perfect parent and He does discipline and test His children and foster environments for them to grow and mature. I say, what a privilege! His Ways are perfect. He will never be too harsh, absent, contradicting, condescending, or impossible to please.

One of my favorite chapters in the bible is Psalm 139. Here are some excerpts:

"O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways...

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence...

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting."

We have a God who knows us completely; better than we know ourselves. Do we ask Him what He thinks of what we are doing? Do we ask Him to show us our "wicked ways" since He ultimately knows what is best for us?

I am in awe and completely grateful to KNOW my God. I do not just believe in Him, I know Him personally and talk to Him regularly - but never enough. And He knows me all too well. I shudder at the fact that God knows the dark corners of my heart that no one else sees and the things I even hide from myself, but He still loves me unconditionally. None of us deserves that, but the least we can do in return is continually seek His will.

So here are some of my reminders:
Wedding Ring - Aaron's work, time with God, thought life, interactions during the day, safety
My purse, our checkbook, Aaron's wallet - that we would be good stewards
dishes, vacuum cleaner, laundry basket - that I would remember that I should do everything like I am doing it for God, and that I would take joy in creating a comfortable home for my husband and I.
Mom's picture and Dad's postcard on fridge - Mom and Dad's safety and relationship with God
TV and computer - that I would spend my time wisely
Our dogs - for our kids one day and for Aaron and I to be intentional about preparing ourselves to raise Godly men and women.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Microwave Chili

We found a recipe for Chili that you can make entirely in the microwave (after all the chopping and mixing stuff)! We cook at least a couple times a week, and while I still consider this cooking, it is less work for the same reason that a crock pot is less work: once you get all the prep work done you don't have to stand at the stove the whole time monitoring it.

It turned out really well! I doubled the recipe since Aaron eats a lot and so that we would have leftovers. If you decide to do that, don't forget that you need to start in a bigger dish! Doh.

One more note about doubling is that I'm not exactly sure what that will do to your times. It worked out for us because most microwaves are 1100 watts and ours is 1300, so I did the exact times the cookbook said and it was enough. A lot of times we have to do a little less time than packages say because of our microwave, so that might have made it even out with the doubled food. You're on your own for that!

Also, we had ours with Tortilla chips which were good for scooping, and later when I had it for leftovers I added cheese to mine - whatever grated cheese you have around the house! Mmm. We do add cheese to a lot of stuff hmm...

Here it is:

1 tablespoon olive oil or margarine
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 tablespoon (or to taste) chili powder (we usually do extra with the spices and sauces!)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup canned chickpeas, with liquid (these are also called garbanzo beans)
1/2 cup canned green beans, with liquid
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (we only had paste so I mixed the paste, water, and ketchup until I got 1 1/2 cups and it was fine)

1. Place olive oil and chopped onion in a shallow 2-quart microwave-safe casserole dish. (For us this was an 8x8, but don't forget to go bigger if you double. If you go bigger, make sure it fits in the microwave!!) Microwave on high heat for 1 minute. Add the chopped green pepper and microwave on high heat for 1 more minute or until the onion is tender.
2. Stir in ground beef. Microwave on high heat for 5 minutes. Stir, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the meat is thoroughly browned. Remove from the microwave and drain the fat from the ground beef.
3. Stir in the chili powder and brown sugar. Microwave on high heat for 1 minute.
4. Stir in chickpeas, green beans, and tomato sauce. Microwave on high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chili has thickened. Make sure the ground beef is cooked through. Enjoy hot.

It was fun to do something different and a little easier, plus we were nervous to see if it turned out well! It did. Aaron approved too.