Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lessons Learned from the Easter Bunny

            Several years ago, God used a real Easter Bunny to teach me a few things.  

            It was the day before Easter and the warm weather allowed us the enjoyment of eating outside(nothing like this year!)  We were doing just that when my oldest spotted the next door neighbor cat carrying something in his mouth.  At first we thought that there were new kittens in the neighborhood, but soon we discovered that it was a wild baby bunny. 
            After chasing the cat away the kids begged my husband to come with them and check on the bunny.  It was badly wounded but still alive and so my husband (the softie) gently bathed the bunny and applied antibiotic medication to its severe wounds.  Later he bottle fed the bunny with a syringe and by evening the bunny was up and moving around a bit.  Throughout the whole ordeal my four children watched with eager expectation and offered several prayers to God for the bunny they now called, “Fighter.”  As we went to bed my husband and I talked about what a great picture of the true meaning of Easter Fighter represented and what a miracle it would be if he survived. 
            Easter morning dawned bright and we rushed through the house getting ready for the Sunrise service at our church.  Suddenly my oldest remember Fighter and rushed to check on him.  With great sadness it was reported to the rest of the family that Fighter had not made it.
            Being persuaded by our children we held a memorial service for Fighter, complete with a song and prayers from all.  Then my husband spoke to the kids and his message was so profound.  He reminded the kids of how much they cared for this bunny the instant they saw him; of how the bunny was lost and alone with no hope for survival until we took mercy on him and chased away his enemy.  He reminisced with them about how concerned they all were for Fighter and how diligent they were in caring for him.  Then he asked them to think of the friends that they each had.  He told them to think specifically about the friends that did not know Jesus. Then he compared those friends to the bunny and asked our kids if they were as concerned for their friends as they had been for the bunny. 
            It sure got me to thinking about how callously I approach the relationships in my life, often with little regard to whether or not the people who cross my path even know Jesus.  In fact if I were to be totally honest, and peel off the pastor's wife mask, I may even have to admit that it is often easier for me to care about, and to pour my heart and soul into a helpless little bunny than it is to deal with some of the people God has put into my life.  I am not saying that the bunny was not significant to God, Luke 12:24 tells us, "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!"  Luke was telling us that birds (and bunnies) are part of God's creation and He cares for them, but that human beings, you and I, we are much more valuable!
So as you celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus this Easter, I encourage you to view the people God has put in your path as valuable.  Many of them are lost and alone, with no hope for survival.  Lets have mercy on them, love them like Jesus and help them chase the enemy away.  Will you join me? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Whoa momma, where did these thighs come from?

Several years ago, I had the privilege to teach PE to Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders.  One day while leading my 2nd graders in their morning jumping jacks, a sweet little boy, who happened to be standing right in front of me, said with great innocence, "Mrs. Graham, you sure have a lot of things on you that wiggle."
Oh my!  You have to love the honesty of youth!  And I promise that from that day forward I did my leading from the sidelines rather than right out front!

I can remember back in high school thinking that I was fat, because I did not look like the girls in the magazines, nor did I look like some of the girls in my school.  My thighs have always been...well way bigger than I would like them to be, but goodness gracious what I would give to go back to my 130 pound high school body!  And now as I am creeping toward 50, it seems to be harder and harder to shed the pounds.  And I am going to bet that when I reach 50, I will look back and wish I was the weight I had been in my 20's and 30's.

Isn't that just like us?  When we have something we are unhappy with it, but when we no longer have it, we are wishing for it.  Always wanting what we cannot have!  The trouble is that often we sit around wishing, rather than taking action.  I want to lose 20 pounds but ask me when I exercised last?  Unless you count chasing toddlers, I would have to tell you it has been 3 weeks.  And let's not even talk about what I ate yesterday!  Right?  So often we spend time hoping for change, and yet we are unwilling to do what is needed to bring about that change.  

I spent some time today on the phone with a friend who is going through a season of change.  She had called because she was lonely and was thinking about not going to church anymore because it is too hard for her to go each week and sit by herself.  Now from the outside looking in, you may be able to see how counterproductive it would be to stop attending church, but she wasn't able to see it.  So I asked some tough questions, "Have you talked to the pastor about how you are feeling?'  "Have you tried to get involved in any groups at the church?"  "Do you go up and talk to people there or do you just go and leave without trying to connect with anyone?"  The questions were tough because it required her to take action rather than just wishing and hoping that someone else would do it.  The hard truth is this, if you want to see change in your life, you have to be willing to MAKE changes in your life.  I once heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I think that is so true.

So what area of your life would you like to see change in? What are you going to do today to change it?  Here are some action tips that I have found to be helpful:

  1. Stop comparing!  You are you, you are not anyone else, so do not expect yourself to be.  When you stand before God, He is only going to ask you about you...not Suzy Skinny down the street, not Holly Homemaker from your church, not Popular are you!  
  2. Start with just one area at a time, if there are 4 or 5 areas of your life you would like to see changes, prioritize and start making changes in 1 area, otherwise you will be overwhelmed and end up giving up.
  3. Set reasonable goals.  I do think we often set ourselves up for failure by setting the goal so high we could never reach it and then giving up because we are discouraged.  So for example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, setting a smaller goal, maybe 2 pounds a week would be reasonable, remember you did not put on the extra weight over a 2 week period so you are not going to lose it in 2 weeks either.  This is why New Year's Resolutions often fail.
  4. Find someone to keep you accountable, Ecclesiates 4:12 talks about how a chord of three is not easily broken.  There is strength in numbers!  
  5. Make sure the change is really necessary, are your expectations reasonable?  Pray and seek God's face for the areas that He wants to be changed in your life.  For example, we are suppose to take care of our "temple" but God is not honored if we are beautiful on the outside and our insides are as ugly as can be.  
  6.  Give your self some grace, change is hard.  Stay in prayer and get your strength from God, surround yourself with encouragers who will cheer you along your journey, and love yourself enough to accept the times you stumble!  
So whether it is your physical body, or your spiritual self that needs some changes...stop wishing and get moving!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Paid In Full

I've got to tell you, sometimes our bills can be really challenging, especially lately because I have exhausted my unemployment benefits.  Now sometimes this causes more than a little stress in our house!  (We are probably the only ones who get stressed about this, right?)  I have often said, "My father owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and I just need a few of them!"  Maybe that is what I will tell the next creditor who calls?  Wouldn't that be fun?!

You know what would be even more awesome than that?  If the next time I ran out to that beat up old mailbox of ours, it was full of bills.....wait, that isn't the fun part, hold on....and then when I got inside and I tore open every envelope and looked at the bill, and on that line that reads, "Amount Due" someone had stamped in big read block letters, PAID IN FULL!  Now that would be totally worth a  happy dance or two!

I just read a story in Parent magazine where a little girl was playing with her mom's smart phone and unbeknownst to her mom, the daughter reserved a family vacation, to the tune of $5000.  Wouldn't it be awesome if the company not only refunded the money to the mom, but also let the family come ahead on the vacation.  If only, if only!  Has anything like that ever happen to you? When you got a bill in the mail that there was no way you could pay?  Or even worse, a bill you weren't even expecting?

It happen to me once.  Well sort of, here is how it played out.  I was going about my everyday business just living life, and all along I was racking up charges that I couldn't pay.  At first I really had no idea, you know like when you go to the hotel and there are these nice bottles of water sitting there and you think, "Oh how nice, they left us bottled water," except when you go to check out, they charge you $4 each for those nice bottles.

Well, it was kind of like that.   I was just doing my thing, basically I was a good person, you know, "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't chew, and don't run with boys who do." Well then out of the blue, I am confronted with this huge bill, a bill so gigantic that I could never, ever pay it.  I was certainly in a pickle!

Maybe you have guessed by now that I am not talking about a typical bill, but instead I am talking about sin.  Well once I realized the enormity of this bill, I tried to pay it back little by little, a kind deed here, a helpful hand there, faithful church attendance, but no matter how hard I tried, it was never enough. I would like to argue that it doesn't seem quite fair that I was sinning before I even knew it was wrong, and had I known, I may have made a few different choices along the way, but the reality is, even after I knew the truth, I kept right on racking up those charges.

Lucky for me, and you if you are interested, this story has a happy ending!  One day, I stumbled on Romans 6 verse 23, it starts out like this, "For the wages of sin is death..."  Well that got my attention right quick!  Talk about creditors coming...can you imagine what the repo team would look like here?  I guess that is why death is referred to as the "Grim Reaper!"  Anyway, thankfully, the verse does not end there!  It finishes by making this promise, "BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord!"  Now that is the best news ever!  Not only is my debt cancelled out, but it is PAID IN FULL, and I still get the vacation deal, aka, eternal life!  Gotta go, heading outside to do the happy dance in my front yard, want to join me?!

P.S.~If you haven't already consolidated your debts and you want to know how, please email me or comment below! I can't wait to tell you all about it!