Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On a Healthy Media Diet

Today, I was thinking about the diet that we Americans feast upon.  I'm sure many people read the word diet and immediately think of food and the current obesity epidemic in this country, but actually I'm not talking about food.  I'm talking about media, books, and entertainment.  And diet is a loaded word that has lots of connotations, so let me clarify how I mean it when I use the word "diet":

"diet:  (noun)3. Something used, enjoyed, or provided regularly: subsisted on a diet of detective novels during his vacation." (from  website )

In other words, when I use the word diet I am talking about the definition that entails how we regularly consume something, in this case books, media, and entertainment.  And I say this with disdain toward myself, as often I am the chief of sinners.  And even though I am not talking about food, I am going to use the food analogy to make my point.  

I have recently discovered, thanks to my eldest daughter's fantastic baking skills, that I LOVE chocolate chip cookie dough fudge.  I am seriously not joking. The stuff is like candy crack, it is so delicious.  My flesh would love nothing more than to sit down with the whole container she made and just inhale it all.  Now, my mind and spirit recognize this is not wisdom, so I do my best to refrain from said behavior.  But still, just having that stuff sitting in our fridge is totally the best form of torture.  Don't judge me.  I'm broken, and I recognize it.  I'm a work in progress.  Anyway, my point is not to degrade chocolate chip cookie dough fudge.  In small amounts, here and there, it's fine.  It's a pleasure that I highly endorse.  But in large amounts, it is something that could have the power to destroy my health.  And that is where I think I am sometimes, and truthfully where we are as a culture.  We are gorging ourselves on "cookie dough fudge" media, or sometimes worse,  and wondering why our country is on the decline.  

Just take a look at top books, even in Christian circles.  I recently looked at the books for sale in the Christian media catalog I got in the mail.  Books with titles like "Your Best Life Now."  I am not saying that any particular author is bad, or that that book is bad.  I'm not even at this point addressing the CONTENT of the books; it was just so many of the TITLES that drew my attention. I'm not trying to debate the merits of one preacher over another.  I am saying that most of the titles sounded more focused on pleasing ourselves,  and less focused on pleasing God.  I don't fault the authors or publishers for this, either; honestly, they are just putting out there what they think will sell.  And self-love is what sells.  No matter what the book is really about, if you put a spin on it to make people think it is all about them, then they will be more likely to buy it.    

Secular circles are certainly not better.  I turn on the tv, and sometimes I am appalled by what passes for entertainment.  Not because it's vulgar or crass; sometimes that is the case, I admit.  But not always.  I just sometimes wonder at how dumbed down much of it is.  Does that mean I never watch it, or read it?  No, I admitted at the beginning of this spiel that I am one of the guilty.  But that doesn't make it right.  For example, I admit it: I love the twilight saga.   (Pretty sure a bunch of people just took me off any spiritual pedestal with that admission, but I am being honest and real here.)  I enjoy it, and I have no conviction that I am sinning by doing so.  However, I do think that making this book the high point of my reading experience is not healthy.  It's junk food reading.  When I fill my mind with books like this one, but don't allow time to read books that require my brain to actually work and think harder, I am doing no one but myself a true disservice.

One of my favorite homeschooling role models of the past, Charlotte Mason, had a word for dumbed down books; she called them "twaddle."  That is what comes to mind when I consider the media culture of today.  I recognize that our culture is not the first in world history to become enraptured with baser entertainments; the Ancient Roman appetite for the gladiatorial games immediately comes to mind.  And in the case of that example, I can see also that some of our entertainments may be WORSE than just cookie dough fudge, for I see nothing in gladiatorial games that had ANY redemptive value whatsoever, and much that was just plain evil.  My main point, however,  is that cultures tend to swing on pendulums.  And the direction we are headed in is not one that I endorse, atleast when my reason is operational.  The truth of the matter is that a steady diet of "garbage in" will only produce "garbage out."   Sometimes, it can be another issue entirely, though, to adhere by my higher thinking, when the tempation to indulge in crass entertainment is akin to staring at a traffic accident as one drives by.  While part of me is appalled, the other part is so shocked and consumed by curiosity the temptation to peer at the carnage is almost impossible to resist.  

It's not even that there is a little of it; if there were, it would not consume us or overwhelm us.  But the diet of cookie dough media is EVERYWHERE.  Why read a great book when you can tune into American idol?  Why sit down and read your Bible when you can read a devotional book that makes you feel good, while keeping your brain off any greater theology?  Why think through an issue when you can watch a soundbite and be handed your opinion by some talking newshead, who twists the truth to suit whatever agenda pleases the broadcast network?  Again, it's not that any of these things are all BAD; they are just not things that require any DISCIPLINE in our thinking.   They don't require us to sit down and mull over great ideas or great thoughts.  We are spoon fed and bottle fed and told not to mess our pants about whatever the current presidential administration or Congress is doing; we are told we are ENTITLED to things, and to trust the higher authority to take care of us.  And we whine a little, complain about the unfairness of it all, and then go back to our bottles and diapers.  

I have to admit,  for all the injustice and problems of our past as a nation, there is one thing that I am jealous of people who lived in this country over a century ago: their lack of media.  I do not think people today are any more evil than people in the past; I do think that the temptation is just so much greater, because it is EVERYWHERE you look.  

Some people will read this as a cry for more federal government regulation of the media, but I think that is the worst possible answer.  I may struggle in my diet of media, but even I have read Farenheit 451  and 1984.  Government is made up of the same group of people who can't control themselves; why would we think they would do a better job regulating us than we do ourselves?  What I am calling for here is more SELF regulation.  

What we need as a culture is for individuals to take a long, hard look at the diet upon which they feed their minds---not the bits and pieces but the whole.  And just like with food, any changes that are meaningful have to be LIFESTYLE changes, not changes based on fads or feelings.  We have to examine our lives as individuals, and make the choice to think through our media choices, and make decisions based on what will help us grow individually, and as a nation. And honestly, the only way I see to overcome the flesh is through crucifixion of it.  And we need the power of God at work in our lives to be able to do even that.   While a little "junk food" media here and there is not going to kill anybody, a lifestyle of baseless media entertainment is something with the power to destroy our whole way of life, I believe. The other insanely revolutionary idea is that we sometimes even choose to STOP all the background noise, and to TURN IT OFF.   That's right.  You heard me correctly.  How crazy would it be if sometimes we allowed ourselves to BE STILL and QUIET?  I know that it's going to be pretty hard for God to ever speak to me if I am always tuned in to someone ELSE talking.  

 And as always, change starts with individuals.  Or as the famous philosopher of our age, Michael Jackson, said, "The man in the mirror." lol So I guess the changes should start with me.  

Here's to a little more C.S. Lewis and a little less whatever preacher is the flavor of the month, unless that preaching requires me to open my Bible and truly meditate on God's word in a deeper, meaningful way.   A little more Pride and Prejudice and a little less Gray's Anatomy.  A little more Bach and a little less American Idol.  A little bit more Puritanical thinking about where true joy is found, and a little bit less me-centered living.  Maybe even sometimes when we give ourselves a chance to view NOTHING at all, so that our minds could actually meditate on some of those great ideas we took the time to read and savor.   I'm not advocating for the destruction of cookie dough fudge; just that we partake of it in smaller doses, and that our subsistence is more on HIM, and the great ideas and books that can change us and make us better, enriched people. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

John 16

Today for my devotion time, my Bible reading was in John 16.  These were the passages today that stood out to me:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.  But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them." -John 16:1-3

 "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.  A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.  Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you."  -John 16: 20-22

I love both of these passages.  The first one challenged me to consider how people can do horrible things to each other, and be convinced in their own minds that they are acting in a way that will please God.  Thinking on this, one of the first groups that came to mind was the group of militant Islamic extremists, who view it as holy and just to kill infidels.  I know they are not the only ones in history who have done this, but they are definitely an example of people in our time.  I also see how in the history of the church, there have been many cases where one group has killed another for heresy.  All of this is so sad to me, but it encourages me to read here that Jesus warns his people this is to be expected.  It also serves as a warning for humility on my part, and to be very careful not to speak for God unless I am 100% certain he has told me to, AND that it lines up with who He is and what He says in scripture.  I must look at the context of scriptures as well, and always ask the Holy Spirit to help lead and guide me in truth.  

The second passage tells me that even though there is much suffering in this life, that it is not suffering without purpose or end.  A woman giving birth endures a whole lot of pain, but the end of that pain is a beautiful baby.  At that moment, the pain fades from memory and what becomes central is the joy she feels as she holds her child in her arms for the first time.  At that moment, she is actually GLAD for the pain, since it brought her to that moment of joy.  Jesus is saying here that we must trust him to redeem the pain, and that there will come a day when our joy is complete.  As he was talking to the disciples, I think much of that has been fulfilled through his death and resurrection.  While the audience he spoke to in that moment didn't understand his words, those of us who follow Him now most assuredly do.  So while they could only see their suffering as an end, we can view all suffering as a beginning.  All of creation looks forward to the day when Jesus returns, and will make all things new.  And what a wonderful day that will be! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

I walk by faith, and not by sight....

"I was in need and I needed a friend
I was alone and I needed a hand
I was going down but someone rescued me....
I walk by faith and not by sight
If things go wrong, it'll be alright
Cause someone greater is watching over me
My God cares too much to say
His mercies are new everyday
I get down to pray and then help is on its way....."
-Hillsong, Friends in High Places

The medical bills are coming in.  Joe is still home due to the shutdown of the government.   And I am a Dave Ramsey fan, who likes to make all the numbers add up.  But that worship song has been going through my mind today.  Today, in our family Bible time, the kids and I read in Numbers 20:1-12:
Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.  Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.  And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here?  And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”  So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”   So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him.
 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”   Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
Time after time, given the opportunity to trust God, the Jewish people we read about in the Old Testament instead chose to worry, murmur and complain against Him.  They would even choose to paint their slavery in Egypt as a desirable, wonderful place in comparison to the place they were in.  Time after Time, God met their needs.  Not only that, but he was actually taking them to a BETTER place.  It's just the journey there was challenging, and full of opportunities to trust Him and to grow in their relationship with Him.  Often, opportunities to trust God are disguised as trials and tribulations.  And all of humanity has the same tendency to respond in fear instead of faith.  

The other thing I see here is that obedience MATTERS.  God told Moses exactly how he wanted him to bring the water forth, and Moses deviated from that.  Even Moses messed up sometimes.  It's a real temptation when we think we see an easy solution to a problem, to just do whatever is expedient and seems right to US.  But when God gives us instructions about something, he wants his people to listen carefully and take his instructions seriously. 

In my quiet time today, I read John 10 and 11.  Within those chapters is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  And Lazarus wasn't just a little dead; he had been in the tomb for FOUR days.  He SMELLED of death.  It's hard to contest a resurrection like that one.  Here are the verses that jumped out at me today, though, in John 11:5-6:

  "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he [Lazarus] was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was."

Did you catch that?  It was precisely BECAUSE Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, that  He DELAYED coming to his aid for two extra days!  In other words, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing.  He knew that Lazarus was going to die, but that was okay because he knew the end from the beginning, and he knew what a testimony it was going to be when he raised him from the dead.  And he knew what a faith building thing it would be for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus if they experienced not just his healing power, but his RESURRECTING power.  

Now I don't think it's a coincidence that these were the scriptures God brought to me today.  I see a whole picture here.  It's the picture of an unchanging, sovereign God, who knows the end from the beginning.  And even the pain he allows in my life has purpose.  Nothing is wasted, and I can trust if he allows it in my life, he has a plan for it and he's going to use it for MY GOOD and HIS GLORY.  

Now, I have the freedom in that to choose my response in the moments that I can't understand the plan.  Will I be like the children of Israel, who murmured, complained, and judged God unfairly?  Or will I rejoice in my tribulation, not that I enjoy pain, but because I know God is faithful and he is going to bring me THROUGH them, not abandon me IN THEM?  The second kind of person is the one I want to be, though I often fall squarely into the first camp of fearful Pharisees.  Yuck.  

The other encouraging thing to me was Jesus' response to Mary and Martha's mourning; he wept.  That tells me that it is healthy and normal to cry when we hurt, and even though Jesus knew what was going to happen, he still identified with Mary and Martha's pain.  It's not a response of unbelief to cry or to mourn.  God doesn't expect his people to act like robots when they are going through painful trials.  I am thankful for that as well.  

So it's not that revolutionary, but this was the word the Lord gave me today:  to bear up under the weight of suffering, trusting that He has a good purpose and plan, and that my deliverer is going to meet my needs in his time, and he will do it in the way of HIS choosing, and not my own.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

To the Hat Lady at the Athens Fiddlers Convention

 For the second time, our family attended the Athens Alabama Fiddlers Convention.  Our church usually has a booth, where we offer counseling resource books and just share the gospel or talk with people that stop.  So while Joe, Kate, and several of our other kids helped at the booth, Joseph and I pushed Naomi in the stroller and walked through the craft booths.  He was looking for something he would enjoy to own for the $8 he had saved for such an occasion.  The fact that Joe is a part of the current government shutdown, coupled with the medical bills we have had this year, meant that there was not really a lot extra to be spent today that we could add to the kids' funds.  However, we still looked forward to a fun day, and Joseph was eager to find the perfect thing to buy.  I know sometimes people take notice of  the NG tube taped onto his cheek, even if I don't notice it much myself.  One vendor, a kind man, asked us about it.  We had a conversation about it, I explained about Joseph's Crohn's disease and what that was, Joseph chimed in as well, and we continued along.

That was when he saw your booth.  Several shelves of hats beckoned, and Joseph couldn't resist their lure.  Indiana Jones or  Crocodile dundee, shelves upon shelves of brown and black trilby and fedoras, outback hats, all sizes.  You didn't know that my son LOVES fedoras so much, he asked for one for Christmas last year.  But at just the sight of those hats, he was hopeful to add to his collection of one.   I'm sure you had to be aware that my son had some sort of health issues because of the NG tube, but you only smiled at him when he asked how much the hats were going to cost.  I admit that I was already pretty certain they would not be in his price range.  And even though I was tempted to get him one any way, I have no idea how long this government shutdown thing will last, so buying a hat for my son was not in the cards today.   You told us they were nearly 50 dollars, and my son told you how nice they were, but he only had 8 dollars.   I clasped my arm around him to leave, but you stopped him.  Then you smiled at him.  You grabbed a hat from the top shelf and put it on his head, and talked to him about how to care for a hat like this, that it could drip dry if wet.  That it could be crushed and retain its shape.  That this hat would last for 10 years if he took care of it.  And then you nearly made me cry, when you told my son you wanted him to have it.

My son was so excited.  He offered you all the money he had, and you didn't want it.  He asked for your website, and you gave him your address.  I believe he fully intends to write you, and become your penpal.   I know there was NO reason or obligation that would ever require you to give my son a hat.  You had no idea of the struggles Joseph has dealt with this past year--the tests, the medicines, the procedures, and just the day to day pain.  But your small act of kindness has brought me to tears.  You put such a large smile on my son's face today, and for that I will always be thankful to you, a total stranger.  I wish you could have seen him afterward, and all the way home.  He was so proud of that hat; and he talked for a while of what he would want to say to you when he writes you. 

You told my son you were sometimes called the Hat lady.  But I am pretty sure that today, you were the face and hands of Jesus himself.   It's funny that I went to the Fiddler's convention today, just for a fun day, but praying that our church would be a blessing to others.  And then out of nowhere, God  displayed his love to me, and to Joseph, in your act of kindness.  And for that I am saying thank you. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Thankful List

Well, with the government shutdown starting, and the medical bills that have yet to come in for all of Joseph's expensive meds and treatments, and the fact that I am not seeing us gaining ground with regards to saving money lately,  it is a great temptation to me today to panic and worry.  I see very clearly what a fleshly, sinful response that is.  God has always been faithful to me; I must trust him now, when the path ahead is unclear.  I always have this illusion that at some point, we are going to have enough money or such a peaceful life that I will not be tempted to worry.  Ha!  What a crazy idea.  Worrying is a bad habit that never helps.  It's like rocking in a rocking chair, I have heard --- you make lots of motion, but you don't get anywhere.

To combat worry and fear,  I have decided to post a list of things I am thankful for, so that in the next few days I can reread it myself and hopefully stave off any worry or fears for the future.  So without further adieu, here is my Thankful List:

1.  I have a God who loves me so much that he spared nothing valuable to have a relationship with me. 

2.  I have the Holy Spirit living INSIDE me to guide me and teach me, and to continually draw my wandering heart back to him. 

3.  I have the Bible accessible to me in a country where I have the freedom to openly own it and read it.  I know how to read, and I have the access to multiple copies of it both online, in print, and even on my nook color and smartphone.  There is never a time when it is not available to me.

4.  I have a church family that spans more than just the family we know here in Huntsville, but as far away as China we have friends that are praying for our family and love us, as we love them.  These giving people open their homes and lives to our family, have fed us, cared for our children, and held us accountable to press forward to the high callings in Christ.  I could make a whole list of people that I know have been a part of God's blessings toward us and it would make a web page all its own, but suffice it to say New Life Baptist, Sovereign Grace Fredericksburg, New Life Ministries, Trinity Assembly, Grace Church, the former BSU at Tech, Campus Crusade ---all of these have blessed and worked in our marriage and lives. 

5.  I have a wonderful, godly husband who cares for me, and always strives to lead our family ever closer to God and to provide for us financially.  He takes me out on dates, he cooks dinners, he mows the grass, he is faithful to me, and he prays for me and the kids. 

6.  I have six beautiful, awesome children here on earth, and one in heaven. 

7.  Joseph's illness is not terminal.  His life span will be like anyone else's.  The trials that he faces, difficult though they have been, have only served to grow him in courage and compassion.  I have faith that his walk with the Lord is going to be a story of incredible passion and miraculous abundance.

8.  My oldest daughter has a heart for missions, and the people of Haiti.  She is a joy to our family, and my right hand woman.  She is helpful, joyful, and exhuberant at times.  I see her growing so much in her walk with the Lord, and I know God is doing great and mighty things in her life, and through her. 

9.  Rebekah accepted Christ this past summer, and she too is a joy and blessing.  In fact, let me just stop here and say what a joy all of my children are.  I could never imagine my life without them, and the love and the light they bring to my heart.

10.  I have a great relationship with my in laws, and enjoy so much spending time with Joe's family as equally as my own.  I know not everyone has this kind of relationship with their in laws, so I am very thankful for this blessing.

11.  I have the privilege of staying home and homeschooling our children.  Yes, many days it is difficult and I doubt my ability and God's provision, but God has always managed to meet our kids' needs through either myself, Joe, or providing a tutor in areas where I feel less qualified.  I recognize not everyone gets to experience this blessing, and I am thankful that I am one who does get to.  I am thankful, too, that I live in a country where I still have the freedom to homeschool without much fear of government persecution. 

12.  The vacation I just went on is more proof of God's love for me as well.  I had wanted desperately to go to the beach this year, but did not think we could afford it due to medical bills and the previous furlough.  My mother had no idea I had been praying to God about it, but of her own volition she arranged to rent the house to take us all there, and then my mother-in-law pitched in as well.  We brought all our food, so our only meals out were fast food on the way, and the cost of kenneling our dog.  The house was beautiful, as was the beach, and it was a wonderful time away, but actually did not cost us very much at all because of mom's and Meme's generosity. 

13.  Even with the shutdown, Joe still has a job where he gets paid fairly well.  And I am confident, if he were to lose that job, God would open other doors of provision for us.  We do not look to Obama or Congress to provide for us, but our sovereign, almighty God.

14.  I woke up this morning, breathing in clean air, in a fairly healthy body, and I walked around thus far today all under my own power.  I do not need a wheelchair to walk, and I even have both hands and feet that work properly. 

15.  We have a beautiful home, with a wonderful backyard, and wonderful neighbors.  Also, we got it for a great price, so even though it is a bigger house than we owned in King George, our house payment is no more money than we paid there for a house that was half the size and half the amount of land. 

16.  We have all kinds of food in our kitchen.  Never have my children wondered if there would be food available to eat at their next meal.  Never have they wondered if they would have clothes to wear or any other necessity of life available to them when they needed it. 

17.  Two words:  Air conditioning.

18.  I own three bookshelves of books, besides what is in our garage we rotate through, as well as access to wonderful public libraries.  There is no reason why I should ever suffer with want of entertainment or learning, so long as these wonderful institutions are accessible to me.

I could go on and on and on about all the wonderful ways I am blessed.  I would love it if others wish to add to the list.  What are you thankful for today?  What are you taking for granted?  I am hoping this list will serve to stimulate others to make their own lists of thankfulness, and to not forget the things and people God has blessed them with. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Manifesto, Part I: The reasons

"A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual's life stance. Manifestos relating to religious beliefs are generally referred to as creeds." -from Wikipedia (

One of my favorite of places to be is the beach, which is where I just returned from on a family vacation.  I especially love it when I am able to go, and the beach is not crowded.  And that is precisely how it was as we traveled this past weekend to St. George Island.  Of course, I love any chance our family has to take a vacation, but not all vacations are restful.  For example,take a vacation to DisneyWorld.  That is a FUN vacation, but with six kids and extended family, it's not usually a vacation we come back from well rested.

However, at this vacation, we s l o w e d down.  We stayed in a house, and ate all of our meals there.  The beach was a short walk away.  By necessity, right now, this was the only kind of vacation Joseph could have handled.  It meant that when he felt poorly, he could rest on the couch, and then in the afternoon, if he felt better, he could venture out.  We had our own private pool off the house, so it felt like we were in our own private bubble.  I'm not sure I have ever had a vacation this laid back, or slow paced.  Honestly, it was perfect. 

There was hardly another soul on the beach, and truly it was a place of peace and relaxation.  I love to just pack a chair, sit with sand squishing between my toes and the breeze in my face, and watch God show out.  And He always does. This time around, Joe and the kids had rays swimming around them in the water.  Then, there were dolpins.  A fish jumped out of the water doing acrobatics.  God was totally showing out.

 For me, it's places like that that really remind me of how big and awesome my God truly is.  If I truly serve a God who created the great white shark (though, thankfully, I didn't see any of those on vacation, lol), who tends to the seabirds and sets the times of the tide; if this same God truly loves me and cares for me enough that He withheld not even his beloved son from the pain of crucifixion; then whom or what should I fear?

The answer seems simple, sitting on the beach.

Maybe it's also just all the events of the past year, but I felt more aware of the moments passing this time around.  I can't say that being aware means I never waste moments, or that I now have some magical self discipline that causes me to always make the wisest decisions of how I spend my moments, but maybe I am growing in this, atleast.  Because I see how easy it is to let all the moments just slip away.  Life truly is a vapor, just like the grass.  It blooms and withers in the span of a few heartbeats.  And it's so easy to get caught up in reacting to life, instead of acting UPON it decisively.

All of the moments of life that we have seem so innocuous, so insignificant.  What does it matter if I go on facebook an hour or even thirty minutes a day, or watch tv a couple hours at night?  What's the big deal if I sleep in most days, instead of pushing myself to get a little exercise regularly, or read my Bible?  What's the big deal if I grab a bag of chips for a snack instead of something more healthy?  What is the big deal if I choose to keep my kids busy all the time with activities, and we never have time for family worship or just to eat dinner together?  What does it matter if I'm too busy to give my husband the best of myself, and instead all he gets is the leftovers of my time or attention?

Don't get me wrong.  I am not saying we should all make a bunch of crazy rules about this stuff.  Legalism stinks.  And there are times a little indulgence in something like junk food or sleeping in is perfectly fine, and maybe even necessary for sanity. I also recognize that life is about seasons, and there are times that it is easier to slow down, and other times we may be very busy, and we are doing EXACTLY what we have been called to do in that season of life.   But the whole of life is composed of moments, and I can't get them back once they are spent.   I was thinking this weekend about how moments add up to make habits sometimes, and habits add up to form character, and then before you know it, you have a destiny.  It all flows together; it's just easy sometimes not to intentional about it, and wonder how we end up where we are.

So today in the car driving home, I had hours to think about this.  It all rolled around inside my head, and the word that came to me was MANIFESTO.  Honestly, I had to look up the word, to see what it meant, because I have some negative connotations with the word, thanks to Karl Marx.  But actually, it was exactly the word I wanted  for what I need:  a Manifesto of my life.

I have all sorts of bad habits, and not because I do them a little.  I do them A LOT; otherwise, they wouldn't be habits, now would they? lol I like to stay up late, sleep late, I don't discipline myself to be in my Bible in any set way (I am IN my Bible, but it's just not a planned, consistent routine for me.  I'm more like a BINGE eater of God's word.  A few days off, then a couple hours of noshing.  lol )  Working out is hit or miss, and something I LOATHE.  And alot of the motivation for changing these habits is nonexistent because I don't have a great WHY for why I should change.  It's just not there.  It's like I'm 38 years old, and I'm still trying to figure out what God has created for me to do and be that fits the unique gifts and talents that I have.  I would have thought I would know a little more by this point in life, but oh well. 

If I ever want to be used by God in any significant way, I will have to be disciplined enough to develop some good habits.  And all of the discipline, I think, begins with the idea of the why....the manifesto, so to speak.  I don't think it means that success would be guaranteed, but it would give me sustainability in the face of difficulties.  It means having a WRITTEN vision or goal; a destination in mind that guides me through the uncharted waters of change, and all the moments I am living.  It would give me a way to filter out, to sift and make decisions.  The Bible speaks of this, I think, in some measure in Habakkuk 2: 2-3:

Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it. 
 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry."

Now, I know this passage is referring to the vision God gave a prophet, not just someone's goals or personal visions.  But the point I see here is, there is a benefit to writing things down, that getting our thoughts out on paper, or tablets even, lol clarifies things.  It makes them "plain." It simplifies things.  And in this day and age of all the noise and background busyness, who couldn't use a little simplicity and clarification to what is important and how all those moments are best to be spent?  

Ultimately, it all comes down to stewardship, doesn't it?   

 My plan is over the next few weeks to develop a manifesto for my life.  To think through the WHYs, so maybe the HOWS will become a little more doable.   To pull out my heart, prayerfully examine it, ask God to show me what I need to see to please Him more.  

Because I'm sick of busyness without purpose.  I'm sick of doing "everything" only to find I am doing nothing well.   I'm scared to death now, not of making a mistake or failing at something I try, but of never trying anything worthwhile at all.  Of filling my mind and time with useless things, only to find out when it's too late how useless and worthless those things really were.  That, my friends, is something to fear.  Of taking this one chance I have to live  a life with purpose and blowing it because I'm consumed by my own selfish vanity.  Yuck.  No thanks.  

There has been way too much dross in my life, and not nearly enough gold.  I recognize I can't change myself, but I can be mallable in his hands.  I can allow HIM to change me.  So that's my plan.  If I can do nothing else, the least I can do is get myself yielded into a position where there is atleast a HOPE that HE will do some transformation.  And I need it.  I need it bad, folks.  I covet prayers, right now.  Change is always painful, but so is not changing.