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The J’s List of Things to Cry For

When the J’s were young and I was a young mother (or as my brother so helpfully put it “You’re not a young mother.  You’re the mother of young children!”  Thanks bro.  You can always count on brothers to be there for you.  But I digress….) I told the J’s there were only certain things they should cry about.

  1. When you are physically hurt and the blood is dripping, you can cry.
  2. When you are sorry about your sins, you can cry.
  3. When you care about other people’s problems, you can cry.

That was it–a very short list of things to cry for.  Don’t bother to cry in the store just cause you want something, ’cause you ain’t getting it!  Don’t even bother to beg for something, ’cause if you do, you ain’t getting it.  Jimmy, “How will you know that we want something if we can’t tell you?”  Mom, “Oh I already know you want something.  You always want something.  Don’t worry.  If I decide to get you a treat, I’ll let you know!”

Don’t bother to cry just cause you fell down unless the blood is dripping.  Just get back up and keep a going!  (Okay, before you award me with the worst mother of the year award there was some sarcasm involved in the blood dripping part.)  In life you are gonna fall down, just get back up and keep a going!

Don’t bother to cry just cause you lose playing some game.  The J’s rarely if ever got through a complete game of monopoly without some irritation (naming no names Joshua Aguilar) or “accidental” flipping of the board (naming no names Joshua Aguilar), but as far as I know no J ever cried about losing.  You’re gonna lose some in life.  For adults there is no Little League worried about your tender feelings.  There ain’t no participation trophy.  Get over it and do better next time.

Don’t bother to cry just cause you want something we can’t afford.  Pray for God to supply, work for it or learn to be content without it!  Temporary things aren’t gonna make you permanently happy anyway.

Don’t bother to cry just cause some kid picked on you.  When the J’s would complain to me about how some other kid mistreated them, I would ask, “And how did you react?”  I can’t control every single cruel word and mistreatment my children receive from other kids, but I can encourage the J’s to respond correctly.

One time in the fourth grade one of the J’s came home and told me that some kid in his class had called him “Mexican trash”.  Of course, I was not happy that my child had been hurt by those words.  However, I took the opportunity to assure my child that he was not trash–certainly not in God’s eyes who had made him “fearfully and wonderfully”.  Certainly not in my eyes who loved him as my most prized treasure.   I told him it was far more important what God thinks of you and what your parents think of you than some kid in your class.

The child who called him Mexican trash did wrong, but this was my opportunity to show my child how not to let cruel words bother him and how to respond correctly when mistreated.  If the situation had continued and escalated, I would have gone to the parents or teacher, but if I could teach my child to move past it on his own and stand strong, that lesson would serve him the rest of his life.

Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  (Philippians 4:11)  If Paul had to learn contentment, and he did, I can learn contentment and teach my children to be content too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mexico Memories Bread or Stones?

I looked up toward heaven and whispered miserably, “Lord, you gave me a stone!  I asked for bread.  Why did you give me this stone?”  It was August of 1993 and we had just arrived in Hermosillo, Mexico, the Sonoran desert where the summer temperatures sometimes reached 120 degrees!   I was seven months pregnant with our first child, Judy.  My feet swelled up.  I could no longer wear my shoes.  My whole body swelled up.  I was hot, miserable, sweaty and uncomfortable night and day.

My husband was going to teach at his alma mater, the Ebenezer Bible Institute, and dreamed of planting churches and reaching many with the gospel.  I shared his dreams and vision, but couldn’t seem to focus on dreams and visions when I was soooo stinking hot!  To make life even more challenging the apartment we were supposed to live in at the Institute needed roof repair so we were not able to move in and were staying with a missionary family who had very graciously opened up their home to us.

As my due date got closer and closer and our moving in date seemed to get further and further away, I fretted.  “Our baby is going to be born, and we aren’t going to have anywhere to put him/her!”  Looking back I’m rather embarrassed by how upset I was at the time.  After going through much harder experiences and trials like heart attacks and cancer, not being able to move into an apartment seems like no big deal now!  However, at that time I was pregnant, hot and hormonal!  haha

I felt frustrated like God had let me down somehow because didn’t He realize how important it was for me to have my own place to nest in and get ready for our first baby?  So I accused my loving Heavenly Father of giving me a stone when I asked for bread!  I thank God for His patience with my impatience!

Finally one happy day we were able to move into our tiny apartment.  Not only did God allow us to move in before Judy made her appearance, but He also provided gifts of two baby beds, high chair, chair seat and baby clothes!  Exceeding, abundantly above all I asked or fretted about!

Many times in life it may seem as if God seems indifferent to our needs and longings.  We may feel that He is not caring for us like we need or deserve!  We may even accuse Him of not being there for us, not supplying our needs, not taking care of His children like He’s supposed to.  Even when God does not seem to make sense or seems to be soooo slow in answering, we can trust in the goodness of our loving Heavenly Father.

He is not indifferent.  He is not neglectful.  Faithful is He who has promised, “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, HOW MUCH MORE shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”  Matthew 7:9-11

Lies! Lies! Lies! Like a good neighbor, you’re in good hands with insurance on your side. Lies! Lies! Lies!

There are very few things and zero people that I hate in this world!  Life is too short to waste my energy and emotions hating things or people, but there is one thing that I do hate passionately–insurance!  Insurance promises much and often delivers nada!

Recently we have been badly burned by insurance on several occasions.  Since we had to change insurance plans, my husband needed to find a new heart specialist.  Very carefully I checked the website to find an approved doctor within the network.  We made an appointment, took the stress test, got great results (thank the Lord!) and everything was rosy until we received the bill in the mail. To our dismay the bill was  over $2000!

I called our insurance to find out what was going on and told them we had chosen a doctor listed on their approved network list.  Come to find out only the doctor was approved–not the clinic he worked at, not the stress test, not much of anything else!  I tried to argue that it was very deceptive to list the doctor with his clinic address if only he was approved, but insurance was quite unmoved by my passionate logic!

When I went to the clinic to make payment arrangements, I told the office workers my tale of woe.  They told me of one time a man was denied insurance coverage for coming to the emergency room with a suspected heart attack because he only had a mild heart attack instead of a massive one!  That is insane!!!!

Recently we had to make a change in our car insurance.  The agent said we had a previous claim that we did not disclose.  I was puzzled.  Come to find out when we had called and inquired if vandalism would be covered, even though the insurance agency never came and inspected the car, nor paid out one penny, our insurance went up just for asking!  That too is insane!

Insurance persuades you with a smile and a hearty handshake that they will be there for you when needed.  But when you actually try to make good on all their promises, you hear a totally different response, “Oh we don’t cover that!  Oh that is your fault because…Well in the fine print at the bottom of page 274….”   Deceptive and disillusioning!

My Bible promises me eternal insurance. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life…” I John 5:13.

Praise God, I don’t have to worry about being in the right network.  I don’t have to worry about claiming God’s promises too many times and having my policy cancelled.  There is no fine print that I might overlook to my own destruction.  God’s insurance is the only insurance that will never fail me!

Thank you, Lord, for always keeping your promises!

Pass the Rebuke, Please!

Do you love rebuke?  Who am I kidding?  Who loves rebuke?  Obviously, there are not many wise people on this planet because most of us do not appreciate much less love rebuke!

We don’t love rebuke because we are too busy shifting blame to others.  This started long ago in the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t Adam’s fault–it was “the woman whom thou gavest to be with me”!  It was clearly God’s fault for giving Adam the wrong woman!  It wasn’t Eve’s fault–it was “the serpent beguiled me”!  Clearly God’s fault for creating the serpent!  Most of us don’t have the nerve to accuse God directly so we blame people and circumstances that He puts in our lives instead of admitting our own failures and accepting needed rebuke and even loving it.

We don’t love rebuke because we are too busy justifying our actions.  It’s because of my background.  My parents never showed love to me.  My siblings called me names.  All my teachers hated me in school.  Nobody asked me to prom.  That’s just the way I am.  Nobody understands me.  I ain’t got no education.  I don’t have a retirement plan….the list is endless.  As long as we are busy justifying our actions, we aren’t learning anything!

We don’t love rebuke because we aren’t even listening.  We are busy thinking, “Who in the world is he to be saying that to me?  Look at all his problems!  He is far from perfect!  I could tell him lots of things that he doesn’t do right either!”

We don’t love rebuke because we are content with our lives as they are.  We don’t really want to change.  Change is painful and requires lots of effort so we convince ourselves that while we know we aren’t perfect, we really aren’t so bad after all.  We can easily reach a plateau in life where we basically have the attitude “No further improvements needed, thank you very much!”

However, if we truly want to be wise and grow more like Christ daily, we will not only listen to rebuke, we will also accept and learn from it and even love the people who care enough about us to try to influence us to better ourselves.  Personally, I cannot do this unless I ask the Lord for help.

Lord, help me to accept rebuke and admit I am not perfect.  Help me to listen without being defensive when others criticize or point out my weaknesses.  Give me a humble spirit and thankfulness for those who rebuke me.  Help me to grow more like You every day.

“…Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”  Proverbs 9:8b

 

“I Ain’t No Dog!” and other childhood Biblical confusion!

I read the entire Bible through when I was eight years old.  Before you are overcome with awe at my amazing spirituality, honesty compels me to add that my motives were murky!  My father worked for Dr. John R. Rice at the Sword of the Lord so I was raised on SOTL conferences.

During one such conference when I was a young child, Dr. Rice asked all those who had read the entire Bible to raise their hands.  Not many hands were raised.  Dr. Rice preceded to scold the congregation and thundered, “There are no uninteresting parts in the Bible.  There are only uninterested people!”

My little mind immediately devised a plan.  I would read the entire Bible before the next conference.  When Dr. Rice asked again who had read the Bible through, I would raise my hand proudly.  He would notice me, a little kid, and brag on me!  Sadly that was my murky motivation for reading the whole Bible!  I did read the Bible through and waited and waited for Dr. Rice to ask the question again so I could shoot my hand up proudly, but he never asked! ha

Since I was reading the Bible at a rather young age, I was sometimes confused by what I was reading.  For instance, I had been taught that italics in writing were used for emphasis.  I would read the KJV and wonder, “Why are they emphasizing of, them, but, etc.”  It was so puzzling!  haha

I’ll never forget sitting in fourth grade Bible class at Pioneer Christian Academy and hearing the teacher asked, “How many of you are gentiles?”  Only two or three raised their hands, and he was so amused.  “I’m no gentile,” I thought indignantly.  I had read my Scripture and knew that gentiles were called dogs in the Bible.  I was no dog!  How disillusioning to find out that I was too a dog!  hahaha

One verse confused me and bothered me every time I read it:  “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  Matthew 10:39.  That verse just did not make any sense to me for years.  It seemed like such a contradiction.  I just did not get it.

I found that the more I tried (very imperfectly) to serve the Lord, the more that verse began to make sense to me.  I found the greatest adventure in life to be serving the Lord with gladness!  Giving up my desires and personal dreams to serve the Lord brought great joy and abundant life!

The Bible is so wonderful because no matter how many times you have read it, as your life changes and you grow closer to the Lord, He opens up new meaning and gives peace and comfort through His Word.

God, This is Rebecca!

Sometimes when I am very tired, I start to pray and say, “God, this is Rebecca,” as if I were answering the telephone!  Then I chuckle because I realize I don’t have to identify myself to God.  God never says, “May I ask who’s calling?”  Before I even open my mouth to go before the throne of grace, God already knows exactly who I am and exactly what I need.

Before I was even born, the Lord already knew my name and absolutely everything there is to know about me!  Though there are billions of people upon the earth, God never gets me mixed up with somebody else.  I do not have to show an acceptable identification to gain access to God’s ear.  I do not have to stand in line and wait to see if I am approved to enter into His inner sanctum.  God does not use caller id to screen His incoming calls!  He already knows who we are and has already accepted our “collect” calls!

We have seven children whose names all begin with the letter J–Judy, Jason, Johnny, Joshua, Julie, Joey and Jimmy!  As you can imagine, I often get their names mixed up and go through several on the list before my brain catches up with my tongue and the right name finally comes out!  The J’s are used to their mixed-up mother and usually wait patiently or supply the right name if I am a long time spitting it out!

Sometimes I say to one of my children, “Johnny, oops I mean Joshua, I love you so much!”  I wonder if he really feels loved when his mother doesn’t even call him by the right name!  Hopefully he does because I truly do love each child individually and really do know their names if I concentrate hard enough!  ha!

Isn’t it good to know that God never gets my name mixed up with another of his children?  He never says, “Karen, oops, I mean Cindy.  Oh change that–I’m really talking to you Rebecca Byers–I mean Rebecca Aguilar.”  No, God always knows my name.  He loves me personally.  I can wrap myself up in the warm blanket of God’s all-knowing, never-ending love and feel secure and at rest.

God knows your name as well.  Isn’t it so comforting to realize that He does?  He knows the deepest longings of your heart.  He knows the confusion and pain you may be struggling with.  You are already accepted.  You are already approved.  Go ahead and talk with the Lord.  He loves you more than you could ever imagine.  He knows your name and He cares.

“…The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.”  Isaiah 49:1b.

Please Fence Me In!

One summer when I was around 13 years old, I had a great adventure visiting my grandparents’ farm in West Virginia.  I absolutely loved going there and to this day consider that beautiful farm my favorite place on earth.  On the steep hill behind my grandparents’ house was a big rock that I claimed as my very own.  (I joke with my children that I want to be buried under that rock one day!)  Every time I visited my grandparents I would go to my rock and sit there gazing at all the beauty around me day dreaming about the glorious future I was sure awaited me!

One sunny day I climbed to my rock and sat down paying no attention to the cows grazing behind me.  The truth is that I was a little afraid of cows having grown up in the city and knowing nothing about them.  I figured if I ignored them, they would ignore me.  As I sat on my rock about as happy as a body could be, I heard a snorting noise behind me.  It sounded as if one of the cows had walked up to the rock right behind me.  Still I paid no attention because I was sitting on my rock.  I was there first and had no intention of moving!

However, the snorting continued.  I glanced over my shoulder and saw a bull!  Being ignorant as afore mentioned of all things pertaining to cattle, I still did not move.  I was there first, remember, and still had no intention of moving!  When the bull got even closer and was practically breathing down my neck and began pawing the ground furiously, I decided maybe it was time to mosey on along!  I was mad and said to myself, “I am not gonna run.  No bull is gonna chase me out of here.”

I started walking slowly down the hill.  To my dismay the bull followed right on my heels.  Finally I threw all dignity to the wind and ran for my life!  The bull ran right behind me!  At the bottom of the hill was an open gate.  Frantically I figured out that if I stopped just inside the gate, the bull’s momentum would keep him running past me.  Sure enough while the bull was putting on the brakes and turning around, I ran to the adjoining orchard fence and leaped over it.  The bull raced back toward me, but there was nothing he could do because a fence separated us!

That old weather-beaten fence looked beautiful to me that day because it protected me from danger.  The fences that God’s rules put around our lives are also designed to protect us from danger. God’s laws (not man’s regulations) are like a fence of safety that surrounds us as long as we obey them.  Sometimes adults are just as prone as children to sigh and complain over the rules that God has ordained for us.  However, keeping God’s commandments gives us life.

I would never have been in danger that day if I had stayed out of the bull’s territory.  When we kick over the fences of God’s commandments for our lives, we move into the devil’s territory.  When we do that, the devil comes after us like an angry bull!

Sometimes we don’t actually kick over the fence.  We are like a cow in a pasture full of green, green grass who stretches its neck under the fence to eat the dry, brown grass on the other side.  We flirt with the idea of breaking God’s commandments but even that can bring danger into our lives.

Thank God for His fences.  Staying inside the center of His will is the place of true safety.

“Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.”  Proverbs 7:2.