Seeking His Face

I’m not a big socialite. But when I do venture out into the masses, I usually don’t go just for something to do. I go with a purpose. I am seeking someone or something.

If I go to a party or a gathering, there is one person I will seek out. I scan the crowd looking for the face I am seeking. I listen for their laugh and the timbre of their voice. I may be searching for my husband, my sons or a friend.

When we seek, we look until we find, don’t we? We are purposefully looking for someone or something in particular.  Children seek out Easter eggs on Easter morning.  They eagerly look until they find the brightly coloured sweet treats.

Today’s verse of the day from biblegateway.com was from Hebrews 11:6, The Voice. Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking. (emphasis mine).

It was the last part of the verse that caught my attention. He rewards those who come seeking.

It struck me that all I have to do is come seeking Him. I don’t have to be anything else. We think we have to have cleaned up our mess first before we seek Him out.  We believe we need to at least try to have it together before we go to God. We tell ourselves we need to have solved our problems before we seek His face.

We have to be perfect.

But it doesn’t say anywhere in that verse or in the bible, that we have to have it altogether to come to God. To look for Him. To seek Him out.  The ill and infirm sought Jesus out.  Those who had blown it and those who were socially unacceptable came looking for Him. Those who had doubts came to Him.  He welcomed them all.  He didn’t turn them away.  He could handle it all.

We just have to come. Seek and you shall find him. (Mat 7:7)

If we had solved our problems or cleaned ourselves up, we wouldn’t need Jesus right? We’d be patting ourselves on the back.  We would be thinking we did it ourselves.  Our pride would tell us that we can handle it. No need to bother the Almighty. We got this.

It’s a big lie that we believe. Satan likes to keep us feeling like we are not good enough so we don’t seek God.  If we do manage to make some small progress bettering ourselves, then we believe we don’t need Him. It’s a vicious cycle.

However the verse from Hebrews is simple, Believe He exists and seek Him out. And he’ll reward you.

There may be other rewards but the main reward is Him. I AM, present in our lives.  His presence trumps everything else; the unsolvable problem, the explosive mess, the unredeemable relationship, the life that looks unsalvageable. His presence turns it all upside down and makes it workable. So the impossible is possible with God.  (Luke 1:37 The Voice)

All we have to do is seek His Face and He does the rest.

Why Good Manners Matter

This morning as I went to enter a coffee establishment, a young teen was just a couple of steps ahead of me. He surprised me by holding the door open for me and letting me pass through first. He wasn’t much more than fifteen. I thanked him and walked in. He left a positive impression on me. He had good manners. Some may not agree but in my books, he did. That simple act of kindness made me feel seen and that I mattered. It made me want to pass it on, that kindness, to someone else.

Good manners aren’t in vogue these days but they really never go out of style. Most people don’t complain about someone being polite or grateful. Why? Because good manners speak to so much more than being polite. Good manners generally signify that the person using them, respects others, thinks about someone other than themselves and has some character. “Please” and “thank you” show respect and acknowledges that the other person has value.

We are teaching our boys to have good manners. We aren’t perfect in this. It’s easy to let it slide because it’s such a forgotten art these days. However we keep trying and hopefully we will eventually have to remind less and enjoy the fruits of our labour more.

The other day, Mark reminded one of the boy to let me enter the house first rather than rush in ahead of me. And while some people will scream this is wrong, it’s interesting to me that when girls become of marrying age, these are the men who are considered the “good ones.” The ones who have been taught to respect a woman instead of looking at her like a piece of meat or a possession. The ones who have been taught to think of others first, who will put their wives and their kids ahead of themselves. Good family men. The ones who will care for people in their spheres of influence and take responsibility for their actions. The men, who have good manners and character, are the ones sought after. Isn’t it ironic?

As a mother of boys, I realize that teaching good manners is the first step in teaching them how to lead effectively, both in their families and in their lives. A true leader exhibits care, respect, and kindness to others. The first basic lessons in good manners. A leader who is all “Me, Me and Mine” isn’t a good leader.

A true leader is a servant to others. We don’t like to hear that. But it’s true. Take a look into history and have a good long look at those who were excellent, effective leaders. Take a look into your own lives, who do you respect the most? The ones who have your best interests at heart. Your children’s. The people who put a lot of thought into a decision that may or may not be one we want to follow, but is made with care, consideration and input from you and other parties involved. When one of our kids complain, “It’s not fair!” we tell them that fairness is not about equality. It’s about what’s best for them and what they need. It might not be the same for your brother. Leadership is a lot like that.

A strong leader will make the hard decisions and then help you through them. A strong leader empowers others to discover their strengths and skills instead of being threatened by another’s abilities.

A strong leader will not always agree with you but they will give you their respect and kindness.

Strong leadership is built on character, integrity and love. I want my boys to grow up to be that kind of person. That kind of leader.

Friends, I believe that one of the first steps to moulding them into that kind of man (or woman, if you have daughters) starts with teaching them good manners.

Turn Home

Home. What is your reaction to that word? I imagine there are as many different responses as people reading this blog.

What got me thinking about home was the study of the prodigal and a very poignant scene in a book I read a few months back.

The prodigal ran away from his home.  He demanded his inheritance and left home to go live the way he wanted.  Eventually the money ran out and he was feeding pigs.  Realizing he would be treated better at his father’s house as a servant, he returns home.  Hid dad welcomes him with open arms and won’t hear about him working as a servant.  He is restored to his place as his dad’s son.  The story is recorded in the gospel of Luke 15 if you are unfamiliar with it.

In the novel I read, the main character was forced from her home.  Many years later, she is weeping and someone asks her why is she crying? Here is the quote from the novel Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas:


‘“Because I am lost,” she whispered into the earth. “And I do not know the way.”
It was what she had never been able to tell Nehemia – that for ten years, she had been unsure how to find the way home, because there was no home left.” (Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas, p.281)

That scene has stayed with me for months because I understand exactly what this character is expressing. When we can’t find home, we are lost. Have you ever felt that way?

After many moves and as I age, I’m learning home is not really a place. I’ve lived in many houses, not all have been a home.

We put a lot of emphasis on the physical home here in North America. We are told in countless ways that the places we live need to be up to date and nicely decorated. There’s a certain standard to live up to. I agree that living in a place you find nice, goes a long way to making it a home. But it’s not the main thing. I think we have it all wrong.

I believe home is whatever we give our hearts to. That saying, Home is Where Your Heart Is, is true. That’s why it doesn’t necessarily have to be a place. It can be a person, a job, a dream. We lose sight of the fact that these homes are all temporary.

We can get lost in them. We lose our way from our true home. God created us with a longing in our very beings to be in a relationship with Him. He is our true home. I heard a speaker in the summer talk about how we should not inspire children to want to go to Heaven. Because heaven is not the prize, he said. God is.

Making our physical homes, our spouses, our jobs or our ministries our homes sets us up to get lost. We put our hope in things and people only to get disappointed. We become disillusioned and we wander away from the source of our true home and hope.

Sometimes like that character in the book, we can’t find our way back. We are lost. All we really want is to go home but we can’t find it anymore. How do we get back?

We make it harder than it is, I think. In the story of the prodigal, the son turned towards home and found his dad waiting for him at the end of the drive. God is the same. If we turn to Him, He is there. Waiting to welcome us home.

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The Hard Choices that Build a Home

This fall has been a series of hard decisions. Choices for good things and others, not so great. Some have been parenting decisions, others personal. They follow on the heels of one another, like a conveyor belt of choice.

I hate making decisions. I have a tendency to put them off. My brain feels muddled and I can’t think straight. I doubt myself. Anyone else do that?

Some decisions and situations can’t be put off. They involve other people and answers have to be given. What to do?

There wasn’t a clear cut path for any of our decisions. Unfortunately, for a couple, it involved saying no to something that was greatly desired. It physically hurt to utter the word no and then follow through.

It’s so tempting to do the easy thing. At the moment, saying yes is the easy way out for me even though the consequences of the yes are anything but easy. But in this moment, yes is enticing. No is a prickly thorn.

I feel like a juggler, trying to keep all the balls flying around me, up in the air. If one more thing is thrown at me, I’ll drop them all. I don’t want to follow the narrow path of doing what is right for us as a family. It takes too much effort and I just don’t have it in me to fight yet another fight. I think. I wrote in an email to a friend, something to the effect; Parenting is sometimes really brutal. So is following God.

The angst and the sleeplessness won’t go away and that tells me that I don’t have a choice. We have to step up and do the hard thing. The very lessons I’m trying to teach our boys are being brought home to my own heart. We are not supposed to be like everyone else. It might get uncomfortable. Doing the hard thing is exactly that; hard. It’s part of the landscape of being parents, and Christ followers.

I’m learning that it’s not my job to please others, even at times my own loved ones. Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:23, Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. The Message.

It’s my job to teach and model for my family what a healthy life looks like. What a Follower of Jesus looks like. That is my purpose as a mom and as a Christian to fight for those I love. I am grateful I don’t have to wage war alone. I am blessed to have warriors by my side and a God who has said He will never leave me.

I stumbled on this verse yesterday. It’s not one I’m familiar with but I really liked it.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; though knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

That’s the kind of house and home, I want to build. Not everyone is going to like it or agree with me. That’s okay, I’m still going to build it. This house will have a foundation of hard decisions, explanations, love and grit. I’m trusting it’s going to stand the test of time.

TURN to Thankfulness

It takes courage to be thankful. I think I read that somewhere recently.

It’s the week leading up to Thanksgiving here in Canada. I’m noticing we get caught up in the preparations for the holiday. Getting the right turkey. Grass-fed or the one on sale? Pumpkin pie or apple? Or better yet both! House cleaned. Family visiting. Or maybe a cozy dinner for just a few friends. All important things. In the scramble to get ready for Thanksgiving, we tend to forget the thanks part. At least I do. It’s just one more day to conquer, in the long list of fall’s To Do.

If I’m totally honest it’s not just Thanksgiving. It’s easy to forget to be grateful every day, all year. I used to be better at it. I spent two years capturing photos of what I was grateful for. That discipline fell by the wayside as life happened. Discontent settled in it’s place. It was easier to complain than say thank you.

For some of us, right now finds us in a hard place. Sickness, prodigal sons and daughters, busyness, divorce, finances, loss are leaving us feeling worried, heartbroken and anything but grateful.

The challenge is there for us. To be brave in the midst of the trouble, the mess, the grief. To say thank you or I’m grateful for…rather than curse the ground, that hard spot, we stand on.

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I understand your fear.
If we say thanks for that hard spot, does it mean it will go on forever? Does it negate the bad? The evil? Does it mean the bad guy gets away with it? Does it wipe out our true feelings?

I understand your grief.
Saying thanks feels like we’re denying what’s really going on. It feels like we’re pouring icing over a mouldy cake. It’s like denying the hurt.

Giving thanks when it’s the last thing we want to do and the last thing people expect, feels like a big vicious lie. It feels like betrayal to ourselves. It’s feels like it’s the most exhausting thing ever.

It’s not.

I’m not telling you to not acknowledge what’s going on and gloss it over like it’s not happening. No that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is in acknowledging the truth of the situation and working it through, don’t let the negatives bury you. Don’t let the enemy drown you in despair. Be brave.

It takes courage to turn to thankfulness when all we want to do is run away and hide, because it makes us vulnerable. It opens up a place in our hearts and souls, that we’ve hidden because it hurts so much. It’s painful to bring it into the light. But in the light, the wounds can be seen. In the light, the healing begins.

Going against what we feel, can be good for us. The heart is deceptive, Scripture tells us. Saying thank you reveals the lies. It ushers in a new perspective. I have found practicing the art of saying thank you can bring great peace. It brings the positive to the forefront.
It’s not the big things either. Don’t you find that when you open your eyes, God brings out little gifts that let us know we are seen by Him, and He loves us?

For others, today may find us blessed. Let’s not forget to say thank you for those great joys. We can get caught up in the celebration and forget.  Jesus healed ten lepers.  Nine got caught up in their celebration, they left without a backward glance. Only one remembered to go back and thank Him.

In TURNING to thankfulness, we brave a whole new world. Like kindness, thankfulness can lead us back to love. Thankfulness shows us the best in a person, or a situation. Instead of critiquing everyone and everything, we see the good. It softens our hearts and opens our attitudes, our minds and our hearts to love.

It might be just a baby step this Thanksgiving holiday, but let’s not forget to say thanks:

to someone for the joy they bring us.
for the sunshine and the fall beauty.
for our health. We take it for granted.
for the tough spot we are in. Maybe we need another perspective.
for those who stick by us, through thick and thin.
for food and shelter that most of us rarely have to worry about.
…..

The list goes one. What or who are you thankful for today?

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; his love endures forever.  1 Chronicles 16:34

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  Cor 1:4

What I Learned From Playing Chess

It’s a PD day for my kids today which is why I’m posting late.  Waking today I was mildly irritated and slightly panicked.  What was I going to do with them all day?  They are up by 6:30 am.  By 9 am they’ve already put in a whole morning!  They just barely got back to school, what with snow days and holidays!  My oldest was bored halfway through the holidays and was practically jumping out of his skin to go back to school.  It didn’t bode well for me and I knew it.  I was going to have to be proactive and honestly I just wanted to follow my own agenda.

I mean I had a blog to write.  I had to do some baking for my gluten and dairy-free son or I will have nothing for lunches for the week.  I’m behind in my bible study homework!   I wanted to do my own Monday routine.

But I knew that left to their own devices the day would blow up in all our faces.  I’ve been there too many times already to know this truth.  The bickering would start between the two of them which would lead to me yelling at them.  Or the TV and computer would dominate the day.  I chose NO to bickering, yelling, TV and computer babysitting.  I would have to step it up today.  I CAN.

One of the things I did today was let my youngest son teach me to play chess.  I asked him if he wanted to play a game.  He said chess.  I usually say at that point, “I don’t know how to play chess.”  Instead I said, “Okay but you’ll have to teach me.”  He had no problem with that.

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This is what I learned as I learned to play chess today:

1.  You have to try something to know if you like it.  I hate board games.  But I’m finding out that I don’t mind strategy games.  I thought I would hate chess but I liked it.

2.  You have to try something to know if you can do it.  We are always telling our boys this.  I should try taking my own advice!  I thought I wouldn’t be able to remember all the rules of chess but I did!  And I liked the stretch on my brain as I played.

3.  My son is a good teacher.  He was able to tell me effectively how to play.  He was patient with me.  He didn’t take advantage of me but offered suggestions or hints.  There was no wild parties after he beat me four games straight.  Instead he complimented me several times how quickly I was learning and getting better.  I think he enjoyed teaching him mom something new.

4.  Giving that time was good for all of us.  I felt good about having spent time with him.  I felt good about myself as a mom, as a person.  Too many times, I’ve only felt regret and remorse.  I made the better choice today.  Him, over all the other stuff that is less important.  It actually brought all three of us together for a time.  The other boy took a video of our last bit of game, giving a commentary of the exciting chess match.  It made us laugh.

I feel like I accomplished something today.  My house is not really all that clean.  There still is some laundry left from the weekend.  I did bake peanut butter cookies for my oldest but no gluten free ones yet.  But in a way I feel like I won today.  It wasn’t a perfect day by any stretch of the imagination but it was a better day.  I ditched the irritation and panic.   In the past, well let’s just say it was a rarity.  I wished it would happen.  Today I didn’t just think it but I acted on it.  I faced reality that if I wanted the day to be a success, I had to participate in it.  Actually that was probably the biggest lesson I learned playing chess.  To be successful, you have to show up for the game and play.  You can’t just wish it to happen.