My Onion Layers

ย  ย  ย “See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

Oh, how very thankful I am that I can claim this verse! God is doing a new thing in me! I know it but I must believe it and strive for it daily! It’s exciting, scary, frustrating and fabulous all at once!

I was slicing red onion for a salad the other week and for some reason noticed the bright layers so tightly pressed together and it made me think of my spiritual life. Just as many of my doctors have told me in regards too my health, we must peel back the layers of sickness, one at a time, and so it is with my journey with Jesus.

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When I look back over the last few years I realize that even though we’ve had incredibly hard times, God has slowly been peeling back my layers. Layers of pride, selfishness, bitterness, and control. Even as I write this I’m sure that I’ll look back and know that I still needed so much work done! God is not finished but the beauty is to see that I’m allowing Him to change me, but I must be willing. It makes me laugh a bit, I mean, at least I see something from this long, hard journey we call life! ย ๐Ÿ™‚

I am quite sure that I’ve resisted the journey for quite some time. Maybe not intentionally but I’ve resisted it. I begged God to answer prayers on my time because now is when I thought it best but He has other plans. Better plans than mine. Better than I can every imagine.

I’m realizing that what I think are interruptions in my life are God’s interventions. Interventions of teaching me, saving me from what, I’m not always sure of but I know He is using this time to intervene in my life, in our lives.

But the question is, will I embrace it? Will I be willing to see the health issues, the very “snug” finances, the lack of knowing where we’ll live in the near future as God’s plan for me? How much do I treasure God’s plan for me above my own? Or do I at all? I fear I’ve had moments where I’ve thought my plan was much better but slowly as the onion layers are being peeled back I’m starting to see that His plan is better.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43: 1-2

I don’t know about you, but my onion layers feel like rivers and fires most days! When God starts peeling back another layer of selfishness it feels overwhelming at times. I feel like it’s never going to end! I have to spend time with Jesus when this happens or I will be overwhelmed and will start to resent the peeling layer. I’m so grateful to God for His patience and love to me. He loved me when I was still a sinner, died for me and still loves me when I have so many layers to peel back.

“Jesus, help me today to face the layer that You wish to remove. Help me not to run away but to embrace change, redemption, healing and most of all, Your love. Amen.”

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Gifts or Chickens?

What does Christmas bring to your home? Crazy schedules, cleaning, cooking, baking, “holiday stress”, spending money most of us don’t have…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas and what it meant about 2000 years ago and what it may or may not mean now, in 2011. I’m saddened to realize that even though I may think of myself as a frugal person, I do believe the true meaning of Christmas may have slipped from my grasp a little.

Christmas is really about someone’s birthday…Jesus’ birthday. What do you do for ย birthdays? At our house we cook up a special meal with the menu being the birthday person’s choice and buy a small present for the special birthday person. It’s nice and we have fun doing things for each other and truly love giving gifts. So I’ve been thinking that, while it’s great that we extend giving at Christmastime to each other and to others, I’m not sure if I’m really giving Jesus anything “extra” for His birthday.

I had the pleasure of meeting a dear missionary friend for coffee the other day. She’s been ministering to the people in the Philippines for almost 7 years now with only a few months of visiting back in the states. Since she’s been living outside of the states for some time I asked her what the most disturbing thing is that she notices about the American culture when she comes back. She hesitated and said, “How people waste their money”. Wow. I wasn’t even sure what to say. The unwanted human selfishness in me wanted to defend myself at first saying, “but we’ve been so tight financially for so long and we’re careful with our money and we don’t live extravagantly!” While this may be true to some degree I was quickly reminded of just how much I still have as she showed me pictures. The dear children she works with were beaming with smiles on a picture as they had just been given a few school supplies for the first time in their lives-they were probably 1st or 2nd graders. Another picture showed them playing with a ball made out of plastic grocery bags and bats made of bamboo sticks…again, the kids were grinning from ear to ear. Now they may have been happy to have their picture taken but I do believe they were having a blast playing with their homemade ball and bat!

A couple of things alarmed me through this conversation. One, that she referred to the money as “their money” which has me thinking that this is exactly how we look at money…like it’s ours. Hold on, you may feel shock…it’s not yours! It’s God’s money!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Yes, we work for paychecks and it may be blood, sweat and tears at times but in the end even a stressful job that gives a paycheck still results in a blessing from God. How then have we come to think of it as “our” money? I know it’s easy for it to happen…God gives it to us to manage and use and it’s a necessity to function here, unfortunately. I know I’ve lost perspective when things get really tight or even when there’s a little extra. I have to admit that my first reaction is not always to talk to God about where the money should go.

In light of the Christmas season and extremely sparse finances in our home we decided to skip the shopping this year and I’m quite alright with it. The less I have at times makes me realize just how much I do have and how little we can survive on but even with the small perspective I have in this area, it’s nothing to what these dear little children in the Philipines have.

So, while we’re not giving gifts in our home we decided maybe it’s time to look at giving gifts elsewhere. Giving extra to God’s Kingdom this Christmas instead of each other. I immediately think of chickens because I love chickens and they have so much to give! ๐Ÿ™‚ You need a rooster and a couple of hens and you’ve got eggs, baby chicks, a bigger flock, meat, eggs for your neighbors and chicks to start another flock! So our gift of a couple of chickens to someone else may be food for them and many others as the chicks are passed on! How wonderful is that?!

I think I may enjoy Christmas more this year than any, knowing that while we enjoy Christmas dinner and may not have a tree or gifts, we can also give someone else food for months with only a little of the money that is not ours in the first place to give.

Just think about it. Consider it. Talk with your family about it. Pray about it.

What if all of us would just give up our stockings? Only a small portion to give to someone in much greater need. Do you not think we could change the world a little and take back a little part of America for Jesus?

Besides, whose birthday is it anyways? Have you ever asked Jesus what He wants for His birthday?

I pray you have a blessed Christmas with family, friends, good health and a new perspective on HIS birthday that inspires you to give to HIM this year!

If you need a few suggestions of places to buy chickens, cows, ducks or clean water, look below. You may be surprised to see your children excited to buy chickens for other children who have nothing! ๐Ÿ™‚

Compassion Catalog

http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm

Samaritans Purse Catalog

https://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Giving/gift_catalog

World Vision Catalog

http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10389

Harvest of Hope Catalog

http://www.harvestofhope.org/browse.php

Gospel for Asia Catalog

http://www.gfa.org/gift/

Mennonite Central Committee Catalog

https://donate.mcc.org/giving-catalog

Fish=Grace

Fish=Grace, yes I know, sounds strange but let me explain.

We’ve ย recently been attending a small group of wonderful people from a few different churches that meets once a week for Bible discussion and fellowship and there’s of course always a little snack! ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ve been studying parables in the Bible. Parables can be so full of good things when you really sit and study, read and compare books in the Bible and versions of the Bible. They can also be quite confusing at times.

I feel a bit sorry for the disciples and those Jesus was speaking too because at the time they didn’t have the Holy Spirit and it seems Jesus often refers to things that were yet to come and the parables would’ve often proved to be very confusing to them. However, I’m sure they still gained a great deal from Jesus’ teachings. Wow…what a privilege to be in His presence learning from Him!

So, our latest parable discussion was on Matthew 13:47-50:

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. They sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”ย 

Now, there’s quite a lot to pull from these few verses but I’m mostly going to focus on what really spoke to me.

“The specific Greek word (and I quote this line from our teacher) is used only once in the entire New Testament. This net is a drag net and literally pulls everything in with it.” So the fishermen cast the drag net out and when it’s full (my imagination would suggest they had very clear water) they pull it in and everything comes with it…fish of all shapes, sizes and kinds, maybe turtles, seaweed, sticks or maybe a sandal that a child lost while swimming. Whatever happened to get in the path of the net was coming in.

So Jesus is likening the kingdom of heaven to this net…it is for everyone, it’s meant to bring everyone to Him, to be saved and have eternal life and live forever with Him in heaven. God’s heart is to see all the human race show up in heaven! But, we have been given free will to choose this path. Moving on…

So we have all kinds of fish…big and little, bottom feeders and umm…top feeders? ๐Ÿ™‚ You know, the difference between crappies and salmon! The fishermen spent plenty of time I’m sure, to pick out the best fish. They had to make sure their time at sea was worth while, that what they brought in to take to market was going to sell and be enough to feed their families. This was their livelihood.

We have pastors, leaders, missionaries overseas, stay at home moms, working dads, grandparents, kids in school, rebels, gang members and innocent babies. We’re all at different places in life, in our walk with God or maybe we haven’t even chosen to believe in God yet.

You’ve probably heard the line “there’s plenty more fish in the sea”…makes me smile when I read these verses and wonder where it came from? ๐Ÿ™‚

So we’re the fish here. And, as you continue to read, Jesus speaks of the end times, when all of us are brought to Him on judgement day. He suggests the angels are the fishermen and “pick” us over, keeping the good and riding of the bad. I’m not sure that I completely understand this part simply because it’s clear in other scripture that God calls the final judgement but maybe He asks the angels to “help out?”

Here’s where conviction came over me. We discussed how we can be so judgmental of others thinking that they’re not making changes in their lives, that they’re making nothing but bad choices. It’s easy to feel as though my “reaching out” to others is to no avail at times when I don’t immediately see tangible results. But, only God knows a person’s heart and only God will judge. It is not my place to judge a person. My job is to spread the message, the gift that I’ve chosen to accept and let the rest to God. It was suggested and agreed that we may be a bit surprised by whom we may see walking through heavens door simply because we can’t see a person’s heart. God may be doing amazing things in a persons heart…baby steps…little by little. Some times it takes years to pray for a person, spend time with them, just loving them but feeling like we see no results.

Yet God is so big and so great He can use every little moment. How wonderful is that?!

As I continued to think about this and realized I need to ask God to work on my heart, that I’ve judged others or assumed things and it’s not my place…God is His loving kindness showed me more.

When we started discussing the fish I realized I had viewed myself as a big or at least medium size fish and certainly the delicious edible kind and healthy for you! But God started showing me pride. Yuk! Now, I’m not trying to be negative in how I view myself but I just felt God tell me that it’s not even my job to decide what kind of fish I am! I know I’m not the lost sandal anymore or maybe the unwanted shellfish or bottom feeder because I’ve chosen to accept Jesus as my Saviour. I’ve made the free will choice. But beyond that, for now, I feel as though God tells me that He’ll decided what kind of fish I am.

Wow, so God please help me rid of any judgmental attitude towards others and rid of any pride or pedestal I may have placed for myself. Help me to be humble and to spread Your good news as You have called me to do and I have agreed to do.

I felt God saying, “See, look at My grace! It’s sufficient for all my people!” I felt that the picture of sorting fish and God choosing to keep ones that I may throw back was a perfect picture of His love and grace.

I am once again overwhelmed by God’s unending grace. Its is sufficient for you and me.

I may not ever look at my dinner of cod or salmon the same, in fact, I pray that it will forever remind me of God’s grace.

Thank you Jesus for Your grace!

Love, Sheila

My Dirty Dishes

Oh how I love clean dishes…

Funny how God asks such small things of us and they seem so big to us to give up sometimes.

See, I have this thing with dirty dishes. I like to have the counter, the sink and the stove top sparkling clean, the dishwasher loaded and the pot and pans drying. This has been part of my evening routine for 4 years. Not every night but 362 days out of 365.

But this is what I thought is best for me. I’m keeping up with my responsibilities as a wife, cooking and cleaning and caring and serving my family through household chores. Most of the time I enjoy these things so it hasn’t really been a burden or something I dread. Have I ever really prayed about this? No.

I’m not sure what prompted the dirty dish issue but God has been working to remove the “stuck on crud “in my life lately and there’s a lot of it. So, somewhere in my day a little while back God told me to leave the dishes…and leave them every night rinsed, in the sink for at least 12 days. I may wash them in the morning, but I MUST wait until the morning.

What???!!! No! Surely that wasn’t God! Well, it wasn’t me! And why would the enemy care to tell me something of the sort?

Finally, after a few days I told God, “ok, I’ll do it because You asked”.

It’s been almost 10 days and guess what? Do you know how absolutely freeing it has been? Just for fun on the weekend, I left them set an extra day! ๐Ÿ™‚

The first night we rinsed the dishes and put leftovers away and I sat down with my husband to spend the evening reading and communicating! And you know, it’s not that you can’t talk and clean the kitchen but we’re much more focused on our conversations when we’re sitting together. It was a pleasure.

On the busy nights where dinner is rushed because we have an appointment or schedule to follow, I don’t stress over the dirty dishes. Why? Because, guess what? The dishes will still be there in the morning! And you may say, “exactly! That’s why I do them every night!” but I say, exactly, that’s why it’s ok to leave the dirty dishes sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve discovered that it’s ok to rest, to relax, to leave the dirty dishes. And besides, I’m very thankful I have dirty dishes because it means we are blessed enough to have food on our table. Thank You God.

I sincerely hope that if you’ve almost never tried it…that tonight…you have a “dirty dish” evening and that you even try it for more than one night. Seriously, it won’t hurt anyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

God bless your dirty dishes.

Love, Sheila