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23 Apr

Kids and Horses: A Great Combination

kids and horses

If there’s one combination I am absolutely sure works, it’s kids and horses.

I remember being a young child and wanting to learn all I could about horses, but there was no one to teach me. Then my parents hired some teenaged sisters to babysit who had horses, and by the time I was ten or twelve I was visiting their ranch and learning all I could wish to know about those fantastic creatures. These were the Taylor sisters, and by the time I was old enough to get my first horse, they were busy raising beautiful Arabian horses at their GaFla Arabians horse ranch. I determined that when I was older, I would teach any child who wanted to learn as much about horses as I knew, and through the years, that knowledge grew.

Kids—girls especially—love horses.

A beautiful horse, his mane tossing in the wind, is the stuff of dreams. They imagine themselves riding bareback across an open field, the connection with the horse nothing short of miraculous. Of course, the reality is a lot different.

kids and horses

Horses are therapeutic.

I once had the privilege of helping to design a program for youth at risk using horses as the vehicle to help them. We picked the kids up from school and brought them to the ranch where we began to teach them about horses. None of them were at all familiar with horses—without exception— and all were a bit intimidated by the horses’ size. As well they might be, since the horses outweighed the kids by more that twelve to one!

These kids were on the brink of becoming part of the juvenile system, and this program was their last chance. The juvenile justice division of the local courts referred them and many of them came with hard exteriors but terribly wounded interiors. No one believed in them. Everyone expected them to fail, so fail they did. We determined that this program would be one where they succeeded.

“I can handle this!”

The very first thing we taught them to do, after how to properly approach a horse, was to clean their back feet. It was the most intimidating task, because the kids had to trust the horse to patiently lift his feet and not kick while the child was underneath those powerful legs. Some kids took a lot of coaxing at first, but every single one managed to clean the hooves on the very first day. There was a lot of excitement when they realized that they had control over something in their lives, and something so big and powerful. This was the first time in some of those kids’ lives that they actually felt in control.

We went on from there to teach them how to groom and handle the horses, and eventually how to ride them. The funny thing was, many of the kids enjoyed grooming the horses even more than riding. There is something soothing about brushing a horse’s coat and combing out the mane and tail. And these kids really needed the break from their internal chaos!

kids and horses

Healthy competition.

When my middle daughter was about nine, we bought her a Western Pleasure show horse, which she rode and showed for several years. Eventually, though, she outgrew the horse’s abilities and needed a new horse. Because the mare was aged, we didn’t want to sell her to just anybody, so for several months, she stood in our pasture. Finally, our daughter told us she wanted to donate her to a riding for the handicapped group near us. That turned out to be the best possible match for the horse. They treated her gently and carefully and she helped people who were challenged physically, mentally, emotionally, and developmentally. In fact, two autistic teenaged boys who had never spoken began talking first to the horse. We were so glad we made the decision to donate her!

kids and horses

As my children grew up, we involved them in 4H and United States Pony Club events, showing and competing in fun and rewarding times. I was a leader in both groups, so I stayed very engaged. They learned so much, not just about horses, but about sportsmanship, working as a team, and competing with oneself to improve personal bests. They formed lasting relationships, some of which they are still involved with today, many years later.

Owning a horse is a great deal of responsibility as well as fun.

Horses have to be fed and cared for every day, not just when it’s sunny and warm. Feeding happens in the rain and in the cold, too. Shoeing is necessary, grooming, and veterinary care, and it is best to have the child assist in those activities as much as he is capable of. The most rewarding part of horse ownership is not necessarily riding the horse.

kids and horses

As my children gained skills, they were able to help me out in my riding business. We had nine horses and about thirty students, some of them handicapped. Walking alongside a handicapped rider was so rewarding when a child locked in an unresponsive body smiled. They also became so proficient that soon they were teaching their own students and training their own horses.

We never had problems with our kids getting involved with drugs, alcohol, or breaking the law. They were polite, responsible, and able to communicate appropriately with any age person. This, I believe, while not entirely because of horses, was aided by their involvement with them.

Owning horses means sacrificing.

We gave up a lot to have our kids involved. There was no leaving town for the weekend or sleeping in on weekends. We didn’t have some of the things that other families did, because horses are expensive and take a lot of time. But if I had it all to do over again, I’d do it the same way.

What to do if your child is horse-crazy.

kids and horses

First, recognize that although for many kids it’s a passing phase, for others it will become a life-long passion. Even if it is a passing phase, the time she spends with horses will teach her valuable lessons.

Start with lessons. Google “riding lessons” in your area and chances are you will find a number of options. Opt for a stable / trainer combination that emphasizes safety. Purchasing a riding helmet and a pair of boots will be money well-spent, as both will fit properly and give your child maximum protection.

Hang around and watch the lesson. You’ll be able to tell right away if it’s a good fit, because the trainer will interact frequently and in a friendly manner. I recommend semi-private lessons if they are available at 45 minutes to an hour in length. One-on-one may be too intense for your child, and group lessons means she won’t receive as much personal attention as she may need.

When to consider buying her a horse.

If your child lives, breathes, and talks horses, is doing well with riding lessons, and is making friends with other kids at the stables, you may want to consider buying her a horse of her own. Get your trainer’s recommendations and trust the trainer’s judgement when it comes to suitability. That gorgeous palomino with the flowing mane and tail may not be the ideal mount for your child.

Be sure to research the cost of owning a horse where you live. You don’t want to make her dream come true only to have to break her heart when you discover you really can’t afford to own. Remember, the cost of the animal is only the beginning. You have boarding, vet, shoeing, tack (saddle, bridle and so on) and chances are highly likely competitive events, too.

Get involved in 4H or Pony Club. They are the absolute best way to learn not only about horses and ponies, but also how to be safe around them.

Happy trails!

22 Apr

Free Printable Planners Are Here: Get Yours!

Why do you need free printable planners?

Because everyone plans.

Even those who don’t plan to plan, do. Because if you don’t make a plan to succeed, then you are actually planning to fail. Or at least that’s what some people say. I recently posted about Outlining Your Life Day by Day even before you plan. As for me?

I LOVE planning.

Especially when the planners are fun and FREE! But what you consider fun may not be what someone else considers fun, right? We all have our own ideas of what we like in the way of design. Some like subtle colors or minimal images, while others like bold colors and lots of action in their designs.

That’s why I made four different sets.

free printable planners

I think the variety of styles in these planners provides something for just about anyone. They are .pdf format and are 8.5 x 11, so you can print them out and punch holes for a notebook. Or slip them in a plastic sleeve and use an erasable marker over and over. Of course, you are welcome to make as many copies as you like.

I’m all for sharing.

So if you have friends who like the free printable planners you download here, please send them the link to this blog so they can get their own copy. There’s really nothing to stop you from just printing copies for them, too, but I’m asking you not to do that. You found these fun free printable planners, so let them have the fun of looking around my blog and finding new goodies, too. (Besides, I want to meet them!)

Each Free Printable Planner Set has 8 planners.

I’m currently working on a notebook that will have 28 planners, and as soon as it’s done, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, enjoy these free printable planners. Let me know if you have particular ideas about what should be included in the notebook. Here’s what I’ve planned for it:

  1. 4-quadrant planner
  2. blog content planner
  3. budget planner
  4. daily planner
  5. meals / grocery list planner
  6. monthly calendar
  7. weekly calendar
  8. vacation planner
  9. to do list
  10. weight tracker
  11. books planner
  12. password keeper
  13. habit tracker
  14. goals tracker
  15. Bible / Scripture log
  16. activities schedule
  17. language learner log
  18. macros tracker
  19. vacation packing planner
  20. yearly cleaning schedule
  21. daily routine
  22. homework planner
  23. contacts list
  24. birthdays
  25. exercise goals tracker
  26. when did I last…? tracker
  27. correspondance tracker
  28. what to do in 5 minutes

The first 8 are in each free printable planner set.

Here are the four options.

Just click on the one you like and it will take you to MediaFire, where you can download the planner sets.

What kind of planners do you use?

 

 

20 Apr

Outlining Your Life Day by Day

Organizing your life

Does life happen to you, or do you happen to life?

Does it seem as though organizing your life doesn’t get the results you’re looking for? Perhaps you (like I am) are addicted to bullet journaling, or maybe you have a planner that you’ve custom made for organizing your life.

But do your days follow your plan?

Maybe we’ve been looking at it from the wrong angle. Maybe our lives would be better organized if we had a framework from which to launch out into life.

Do you remember your days in school when you had an essay or term paper to write? You started with an outline, the framework upon which you would build your argument or theme.

Is an outline what you need for organizing your life?

I was recently reading a book called The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges. He spoke at my church a few weeks ago and even before he was finished speaking I had gone to Amazon and ordered the book his message was taken from. This morning I came across this little gem in the book: “Whatever we put in first place becomes the organizing principle for the other parts of our lives. Think of it like an outline for those papers you had to write in school. When you focus on your guiding principle, it automatically takes care of many other decisions.”

So what is your guiding principle?

At the beginning of each year, I ask God for a word that can guide me throughout the year. This year the word was serve. So I want to make my guiding principle say something like “In whatever I do, I want to serve God through being His hands and feet in my everyday life.”

Now when I outline my life today, I need to think in terms of what I am doing to serve Him. My old organizational way would be to list all the tasks I had to accomplish today and put them in my bullet journal with little boxes next to them to check off when they are done. There’s a lot of good feelings attached to checking off those boxes! I always feel like I’ve accomplished a lot.

But have those things accomplished the purpose of my day’s “essay”?

This morning, I decided to look at my day’s activities and demands from my “outline perspective.” Who am I serving today? Who is most important and what—in general—do I need to do to serve them? Here’s what my outline looks like:

organizing your life

It’s just an outline

Like an essay, this doesn’t define my whole day. It simply gives it structure. It lays out what is most important and what is less so. If I were writing a book, it would be the chapter headings, not the content of the chapters. In order to bring the book to print, I’d have to fill in all the details and tell the story the chapter headings allude to.

Because my guiding principle is to serve, I have placed checking in on friends before my blog business. You, my readers (and my friends), are important to me, and that’s why the blog business is on the outline. But the business part takes second seat to the people God has placed in my life.

My closest friends and I have a “chat line” on Facebook Messenger. We keep in touch with each other daily, sharing thoughts, prayer requests, and plans. Even if I don’t pick up the phone and call each one, they know I am thinking of them and praying for their day. It takes only a few minutes every day, but it’s vitally important to check in with each other. We care about each other and the things that touch our lives, so we share.

Here’s what my daily for today looks like in my bullet journal. (See how to use a bullet journal here.)

organizing your life

The tasks on my daily page are not written in any particular order, just as I thought of them. Using my guiding principle, serve, will help me prioritize them. My outline helps me do that.

So, what do you think?

Will you use an outline to organize your life by your guiding principle?

12 Apr

Scripture Canvas Tutorial

scripture canvas tutorial

If you’re like me, you have probably seen (and maybe drooled over) scriptures in beautiful fonts that maybe you’ve saved to your Pinterest account, but wish you could hang on your wall. Well, now you can. And I’m going to show you how in this tutorial.

What you’ll need:

A stretched canvas

A cutting machine (mine is a Silhouette® Curio)

Vinyl

A weeding tool

Paint in one or two colors

A stenciling brush

A favorite font (or two) — or —

A .pdf, .jpg, or .sfg file of the scripture you want to use

This tutorial assumes you already know how to use your cutting machine and can import images or install fonts if you need to. (These links lead to Silhouette tutorials.)

Step one

If you are using a font on your cutting machine, type in your chosen scripture. Don’t worry about the placement, because you can adjust it on your canvas once you’ve cut it out. I didn’t want to type the scripture in Silhouette, so I did it in Photoshop®. Below you can see how I’ve manipulated the type so that “One” is bigger than the rest and “the” is smaller.  You can also do the manipulation on your cutting machine; I just like to use Photoshop because I can adjust letter spacing more precisely. Once you’ve decided how you want the words to work, it’s on to Step Two. Again, don’t worry about placement of the words.

Step Two

If you have used a program besides your cutting machine software, you’ll need to save the file according to the file type your machine will read. I used Photoshop, so I saved mine as a .jpg. Import the file into your program and trace the image (or whatever your machine requires).

Step Three

Cut the file in vinyl.

Step Four

Now comes the tedious part. Carefully remove the words (or letters) with a weeding tool that allows you to get under the vinyl easily. I use a dental pick that I found at a hardware store sale.  Be especially careful around thin strokes as they can easily break. Also, don’t let the vinyl stick to your fingers, either. Try to keep as light a touch as possible as you transfer the vinyl to the canvas.

dental pickStep Five

This is the point at which you arrange the words in the way you find pleasing. If you lay the vinyl down gently, you can easily reposition it until you are happy with the layout. Compare my original .jpg with my final layout on the canvas. (I prepainted the canvas purple, believe it or not. It sure doesn’t look purple in this photo!)

Step Six

Burnish the letters down well so that paint will not get underneath in the next step. A credit card is perfect for this task.

Step Seven

You may decide to use a single color of paint or more than one. I have decided on two colors that complement each other. Pour a small amount of paint in a shallow dish. Dip your stencil brush in the paint and pounce it on a paper towel to remove some of the paint. You want the brush to be damp but not wet. Pounce the paint over the letters, letting the brush get kind of dry before you load it again.

If you are using more than one color and you don’t want them to mix, let the first color completely dry before adding another one. You can pounce the paint just around the edges of the letters to create an outline or you can fill in the entire canvas. Each method returns an attractive result. In this example, I completely painted the canvas with the purple paint and let it dry before laying my words down. Then I pounced the light green paint over it, all around the letters so they would stand out in purple.

Step Eight

Once the paint has completely dried, carefully remove the vinyl letters from the canvas. If you are very careful, you can transfer them to the backing paper they came from or use a page protector sleeve to save them for another use. I generally end up destroying mine (oh, well!). Note that the font I used was really too thin. A thicker font would have given a better result, as in the He is Risen canvas.

Now you have your favorite scripture in white (or another color if you painted the canvas first) on the background you created with your brush.

To show you how it looks with only one color and white for the background, here is the canvas that I gifted my daughter-in-law with for hosting our Messianic Passover in her home.

You can frame the canvas if you like, but I enjoy mine standing on edge on a shelf or table or hanging unframed on the wall. They look great in a grouping with candles or other items on a fireplace mantle, too!

11 Apr

Scheduling to Lessen Stress in a Too-Busy World

We live in a stress-filled, too busy world, and scheduling is just one more thing to do.

If you’re anything like I am, you already have too many things to do and not enough time in which to do them. From getting everyone out the door in the morning to finding time to spend with God, you’re busier now than you’ve ever been. You’ve probably seen all the time management and scheduling tips and tricks you can find on Pinterest and even tried them for awhile, but somehow, you always end up behind again. That sound familiar?

Me, too! Well, take heart. I’m going to show you how to decide what to put on that to-do list, and then show you a way to get things done without losing your sanity. It’s a three-step process, and one which will make your day much less stressful.

The first thing you need is a list of all your to-dos.

A complete list. Write down absolutely everything you have to do or want to do, in one long list. Don’t prioritize or try to decide what to put on and what to leave off. Just list everything you can think of.

Now take a piece of paper and divide it into fourths (fold it in half one way and then in half the other way). Now we’re going to label the quadrants as follows: Q1: Important/Urgent; Q2 Important/Not Urgent; Q3 Not Important/Urgent; and Q4 Not Important/Not Urgent. You’re going to put each item on your list in one of those squares, but there’s a secret to doing it the right way. Let’s look at definitions. Important means there is a negative consequence for not doing it. Urgent means there’s a negative consequence for not doing it NOW. At first, you’ll find a lot of stuff listed in Q1, but over time, you’ll be working mostly from Q2 and sometimes from Q3, but rarely from Q4.

Deciding on where things go.

If you can’t decide where something goes in your scheduling, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will happen if I don’t do it at all?
  • What will happen if I don’t do it now?

Answering those two questions will help you see clearly where each item should go. Q1 is for things that absolutely must be done right away. You’re going to work at staying out of that quadrant! Q2 is for important matters that aren’t (yet) urgent. The trick will be to schedule time for those things so they don’t ever make it into Q1. This is the quadrant where you want most of your items to reside. Q3 is for things like buying something you’d like to have that’s on sale NOW, but won’t have a negative consequence if you don’t buy it. Q4 is for things you’d like to get around to, but it’s okay if they don’t actually get done. Nothing earth-shattering will happen if you just let them go.

The time-block method of scheduling.

After you have assigned all your to-do items to one of the quadrants, you’re going to use the time block method to tackle the list and see it shrink. Here’s how the time block system works.

Block out fifteen minutes on your calendar or in your planner to tackle one of the scheduling items in Q1. Work at it steadily for fifteen minutes and then quit. If you find it takes more time than that, you can always block in another fifteen minutes to get it done, but chances are fifteen minutes will take care of the worst of the problem. Create fifteen minute blocks of time and work through your list, giving most of your attention to Q1 tasks. BUT DON’T IGNORE Q2. For every two Q1 tasks you complete, do a Q2 task, too. If you ignore Q2, first thing you know you’ll have all those tasks in Q1, too!

Naturally, appointments eventually end up in Q1 and must be attended to when they are due. But put bills to pay in Q2 unless they are overdue, and then pay them before they absolutely have to move into Q1. The trick is to gradually get rid of Q1 tasks and then keep them at a minimum. Q2 tasks should take the majority of your time and attention.

I’ve prepared two printables, one Quadrant Page and one Daily Page. Use these to help you implement this system, and before you know it, you’ll have everything under control. Just click on the image to download.

What do you do to organize your time and tasks? Tell me in the comments.

 

08 Apr

Taming Dragons: The Crisis of Compromise

My Bible study, Taming Dragons: The Crisis of Compromise, is set to be released on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram in June. It is the result of many conversations with my friends and family members about what is happening in the world. It shows that God’s timeline is playing out before our very eyes.

Compromise has crept into every facet of our lives. We are seeing the consequences of it in our government, our schools, our workplaces, our churches and our homes. For the one who follows the One, it is heartrending. To many, many more, it is “social change.”

While I do believe that change is necessary, it should always be in the direction of the Word of God. If you love God, then be encouraged, and light a candle. For as someone once said, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” I hope this little Bible study helps you see things in that respect.

From the Preface

As time winds down for planet earth, it seems to get blacker and bleaker every day. Of course, it’s what we should expect. Revelation 12:12 tells us: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows he has a short time.” We can also expect to see people—Christians!—compromising the Word of God in order to “fit in” with the prevailing culture. We also know that many will depart from the faith, as 1 Thessalonians 2:3 says, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.”  Don’t let that be true of you! Instead of despairing, look up with hope! He promised us: ”But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

26 Jan

The Problem of “Natural Evil”

natural evilIn a previous post, I talked about how God could be good and still allow evil. In that post, I explained that evil is not something in and of itself, but the corruption of something good. So now we come to natural evil, such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes. How do those things fit in with God’s goodness?

The earth is under the curse

Romans 8:19-22 informs us, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

This Scripture shows us that even nature has been subjected to the curse that originated at Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God’s will. At the beginning, all things—including weather—worked in harmony. There were no natural disasters before the fall. It’s important to remember that we live in a fallen world.

God is sovereign

Another important point is that God is sovereign. Because He can stand at the beginning and see the end (and we can’t), we often think that He must be capricious, allowing or perhaps even causing natural disasters to befall mankind. After all, He did send the flood, and in Mark 4:9 we see Jesus control the weather with a single word. But that doesn’t make God bad. Just because we cannot understand the reason for things does not mean that God cannot. In His wisdom, He allows things to be as they are for now, to be reconciled to Him in the end days.

Bad is sometimes the result of good

For instance, we have earthquakes because we have tectonic plates below the surface. Without the plates, we would not have continents. Without them, the earth could not support life.  Decrying earthquakes because they sometimes cause death is about as sensible as decrying the sun. After all, you can die from sunstroke, too. Once again, just because we do not understand why God allows some natural disasters is not a reason to quit trusting Him. Are you trustworthy to your children even when you allow them to feel the consequences of their behavior or restrict something they want to do? Of course you are. And God can be trusted even if we don’t understand all His reasons.

The worst is yet to come

The whole earth is groaning. It eagerly awaits the coming of God Himself to right all wrongs and reestablish balance in nature. We wait as the children of God for Him to rescue us from the mess that is largely our own doing. If we don’t cause all “natural disasters,” we certainly have a hand in some, such as when entire populations starve due to the evil of their governments who do not allow food to get to them. The earth is plenty capable of feeding the world. It is man who prevents it from happening.

Matthew 24:5-8 tells us what we are currently witnessing. “Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  Note that Matthew says these are the beginnings of birth pains.

We can still rejoice

When you belong to the Lord, you can rest in knowing that He has good things—perfect things—in store for you. Listen to Isaiah 25:8-9: “He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day, ‘Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.’”

 

22 Jan

If God is REALLY Good, Why Does He Allow Evil?

Defining “good” and “evil”

Many people have given up on God because of the evil in the world. If God were really a loving, good God, He’d stop all the evil. He wouldn’t allow evil to exist at all. In fact, if God created everything, isn’t He actually the creator of evil? To tackle this ticklish issue, we need some good, working definitions. But we can’t just hop to the nearest dictionary to find them.

Did God create everything?

The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:31 that not only did He create everything, but that it was all good. “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, KJV)  (If you are not comfortable that God created everything, I’ll cover that in another post.) So we can go from here with putting the credit on God for absolutely every single thing that was created.

Then doesn’t that mean that He created evil?

The problem here is why we need definitions. What is good? What is evil? Good is the quality of a thing that conforms to the character of God. Evil is the corruption of good. Evil is not a thing in and of itself. It does not exist as an independent entity. Have you ever walked into a room and seen an evil in it? Think of evil as a weeping wound on a person’s body. The body—the thing that God created that conforms to the quality of good in God—is there. But you cannot have the weeping wound without the body. It is the body that exists. The wound cannot exist without the body. It is the corruption of the good that constitutes evil.

So why does God allow evil?

The answer to this question is two-fold. I’ll start with the most commonly spoken answer: because of free will. God made us in His image, which makes us free agents of will. We can will to do good or we can will to do bad. We are given great freedom from God to choose His ways or to choose our own, even when those choices lead us into evil. Every person ever born is given the gift of free will. God desires us to choose good because He can stand at the beginning and see the end. He knows what the outcomes and consequences of our choices will be, but He will not stop us from making wrong choices if that is what we have determined in our hearts to do.

You may not be aware of how often God actually intervenes in your life to prevent something that would take your life or even worse, steal your faith. But He doesn’t violate your free will.

Yes, it’s true that He could have simply made us love him. But then is that really, truly love? Do you want your kids to love you because you make them? Is it even possible to make someone love you? You can see the difficulty here.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

(Matthew 13:24-30) 24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

If you are a believer in Christ, you are the wheat in this story. Those who do not follow the Lord are the tares. The field is the world and the sower is God. Although there are tares (weeds) in the field, the Sower decides not to remove them before the harvest, lest the wheat gets damaged in the process. So as contradictory as it seems, it is for our own sake that He does not simply remove evil right now. When the harvest time comes at the end of the age, everything will be harvested, but the tares will be burned and the wheat will be saved.

Isaiah 46:10 (KJV) tells us plainly: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

God is good all the time

There is never a day that God is not good. He cannot not be good because that is His character and nature. And when we choose evil (the corruption of what He created to be good), it grieves His heart.

Next time we’ll talk about natural evil. Stay tuned.

02 Jan

How to Make Sure Your New Year’s Resolutions Are Successful

New Year's Resolutions

Changes.

Lots and lots of people start the new year out by making resolutions, most of which fall by the wayside after a few short weeks or sometimes months. I’ve been there, and so have you. And yet each year we say that this year will be different. So what’s going to make this year really and truly different?

Prayer.

The first thing about prayer is that it is effective. It is powerful, pulling down strongholds, which are the things that hold you back from really changing. Recognizing this is paramount to seeing real change in your life. And in mine. Your resolutions absolutely must be bathed in prayer. That leads us to a very important question.

What is prayer?

Do you bow your head, close your eyes, and suddenly your mind is a blank? You’re not alone. Prayer is not a formula for changing God. It is, however, the most effective way of changing you. The great apologist C.S. Lewis once said, “I don’t pray because it changes God. I pray because it changes me.”  Prayer is not a laundry-list of things you want to change. It is a conversation wherein you ask God what He wants to change. And note that I said a conversation.

The Oxford Dictionary has this to say about what it means to converse. “Late Middle English (in the sense ‘live among, be familiar with’): from Old French converser, from Latin conversari ‘keep company (with’), from con- ‘with’ + versare, frequentative of vertere ‘to turn’.” So to converse with God is to live with Him, be familiar with Him, and to turn to Him. Make your most important resolutions prayer.

How to pray.

Yeshua (Jesus) Himself gave us a model for prayer. Let’s look at it and see what HaMashiach (the Messiah) has to say about prayer.

Matthew 6:9-13 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

Therefore, when you offer tefillos (prayers), daven (pray) like this, in this manner: Avinu shbaShomayim (Our Father in heaven), yitkadash shmecha (hallowed be Thy Name).

10 Tavo malchutechah (Thy Kingdom come) Ye’aseh rtzonechah (Thy will be done) kmoh vaShomayim ken baaretz (on earth as it is in heaven).

11 Es lechem chukeinu ten lanu hayom (Give us today our daily bread),

12 u-slach lanu es chovoteinu kaasher salachnu (and forgive us our debts as we forgive) gam anachnu lachayaveinu (also our debtors).

13 V’al tvi’einu lidey nisayon (And lead us not into temptation) ki im chaltzeinu min harah (but deliver us from evil). [Ki l’chah hamamlachah (for thine is the Kingdom) vhagvurah (and the power) vhatiferet (and the glory) l’olmei olamim (forever). Omein].

So what does it mean?

Yeshua’s prescription for the proper way to pray does not mean repeating meaningless words. He starts out by recognizing the relationship between us and God: Our Father (Avinu). He is the One who created us, as our earthly father procreated us. His relationship is one of blood-ties, through the sacrifice of His Son. He is deserving of worship (hallowed be Thy Name) and obedience for that fact alone. Always speak His very Name with reverence and awe. Jewish believers refuse to even utter His Name, saying HaShem (the Name) instead and writing G-d so they do not use it commonly or irreverently.

Next, Yeshua instructs us to pray for God’s kingdom and will on the earth. His agenda. His purposes. Not ours. His.

He tells us to ask the Father for those things we need. Of course, God already knows what we need, but He wants us to ask Him for it. When we do, we are acknowledging that He is our provider. (In fact, nothing you ever do provides for you. If God does not provide for you, you will not be able to make wealth. The Amplified Bible says it this way: But you shall remember [with profound respect] the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore (solemnly promised) to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18)

He reminds us that we were sinners and have been forgiven, so we should forgive others as well. Mark 11:25 tells us: And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Our forgiveness is tied to our forgiving others. So when we are cognizant that we have been forgiven so much, we should—we must!—forgive others as well.

Pray for protection from the evil one. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t be concerned that the translation implies that God leads people into temptations if they don’t ask Him not to, for the Word is very clear on that point. James 1:13 explicitly says: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” Nevertheless, Yeshua says to ask God to keep us from temptation, which is the work of the evil one.

Finally, close out your prayer with the acknowledgment that God is almighty, everything belongs to Him, and He will have all the glory. Never try to keep glory for yourself, but humbly remember that God is all-glorious. Commit yourself to humility, and in due time, God will raise you up. When your heart is right with God, even when He does raise you up, your desire will be to glorify Him and deflect the glory that man tries to attribute to you.

Have you asked God for the desires of your heart in your resolutions?

Many scholars believe (as do I) that Psalm 37:4, which says: “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” can actually mean that He will put His desires into your heart. Have you asked God to tell you how to partner with Him in prayer? What does He want you to pray about? He will always answer the prayer that says, “Thy will be done.”

 

 

03 May

Finding the Safe Space Within

Finding the Safe Space Within

Our world is in turmoil, and the United States is no exception. One response to this turbulence is to retreat to a safe space, which is defined as “a place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.” In other words, a place to withdraw from the world.

Our universities, which should be preparing students to thrive on this bumpy journey we call life, are fragmenting. They are becoming ideological ghettos that have been carved out of what one writer said should be a vibrant academic community. I couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, these safe spaces are dividing our college and university students by race, religion, creed, political affiliation, or coveted cause. America was designed to unify people with these diverse characteristics, to build strength from our differences.

Yet, there is a safe space where you are not affected by hatred, bigotry, or irrational thought. That place is within you. You carry it with you to every meeting, job, and human interaction you face throughout the day. Here’s how to find it and live within its protected boundaries.

Realize that you are loved.

Yes, loved. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells His disciples, A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another” (John 13:34). Those quoting this scripture usually emphasize the commandment to love one another. But before you can do that, you must receive the love that Christ gives to those who follow Him. When you are filled with the love of God—and you know it—then and only then are you able to love others.

Working from a position of being loved removes your anxiety about being discriminated against, treated unfairly, or hated. It becomes your strength.

Abide in love.

Jesus further tells us to abide in His love. Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. So abide in my love” (John 15:9). It isn’t enough to feel His love; you must remain in it, regardless of what is happening around you. Only when you truly know you are loved can you obey this precept. If you don’t really believe you are loved, you won’t have anything to give anyone else, and you will find yourself constantly at odds with the violent world in which we live.

Receive His peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus knew that His own would experience trials and tribulations, but He encouraged them to remain true to His call on them to love one another. His commandment that they not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by fear was the key to finding peace in the midst of the storm.

The Bible provides a year-long devotional on fear, saying 365 times, “Do not be afraid.” It also reminds us that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). Those who have discovered the power of love are not afraid.

Released from insecurity.

Author and minister Joyce Meyer says on her website, “We have an epidemic of insecure people in our society today. Many people have an identity crisis because they don’t really know who they are and they base their worth and value on all the wrong things – what they do, what they look like, who they know, what they know or what they own.”

Security and safety are in the Christian’s DNA.  Isaiah 54:17 assures us,  “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord….” With this promise from God, should we still seek safe spaces that insulate us from the “weapons formed against us”? There is no reason to be insecure in God’s economy.

The secret to being secure in Christ is knowing that you are in Christ. He has promised never to leave or forsake you. Therefore, in the midst of the turmoil that defines your day, your life will be a reflection of your position in Christ.

Where is your refuge?

In the Old Testament, Isaiah foretells that a King will come who will be a refuge for His people. And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:3). This “man” will be the safe place for those who put their trust in Him.

Jesus has already come. He has fulfilled most of the prophecies about Him, and those who have believed in Him shall find their hiding place in Him.

If the world around you has frightened you and you feel like you need someplace safe to avoid the persecution you feel, remember that Jesus has overcome the world. He takes up residence in you, and you can retreat into Him at any time. But if you seclude yourself in physical safe places, how then will you shine His light?

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15-16).