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Sally D. Sharpe is the editor.
Writers include: Hilda Davis-Carroll, LeNoir Culbertson, Clare Golson Doyle, Mary Ritzman Ebinger, Leanne Ciampa Hadley, Rebecca Laird, Laura Leigh Parker, Sheron Patterson, Lillian Smith, Stephanie Thompson, Kathleen Turner, Ginny Underwood
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Bumps in the Road
SHERON C. PATTERSON
JANUARY 1 EXPECT BUMPS IN THE ROAD
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8 NRSV)
Being a mom is a blessing that we cherish every day, yet in the midst of it all there are trials and tribulations—some minor and some major. I call them bumps in the road. We encounter them with our children, our spouse, our friends, or even ourselves. Sometimes upon impact the bumps seem insurmountable. There is pain and confusion. I believe that such hard times come to make us strong and to help us rely on the power of God.
The best way to approach bumps in the road is to expect them and, more important, expect to get over them. Remembering how God helped me over previous bumps serves as my fuel for the next one. The encouraging words of Paul also embolden me to press on.
This month I will share some of the bumps in my road. They are real and candid. I pray that they touch your situation and equip you to effectively handle the problems along your pathway, too.
Dear God, I can truly say thank you for my trials; they have brought me closer to you. It is amazing what we have accomplished together. Amen.
JANUARY 2 A VALUABLE INHERITANCE
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you.
(2 Timothy 1:5 RSV)
Writing your last will and testament can seem morbid, but it brings the important issues to the surface. As my husband and I discussed our wills, our thoughts turned to our sons and what we wanted to leave for them. We listed tangible items such as possessions and monetary amounts. These are needed for daily survival.
Then we reflected on spiritually important items such as faith in God and belief in God's Word. These are intangible spiritual inheritances. The New Testament writer Paul glowingly described the spiritual inheritance of his young apprentice, Timothy. Thanks to Timothy's mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, he became a great leader in the church.
As moms, we owe our children a spiritual inheritance. It does not necessarily have to come after we are gone. Every day we have the opportunity to pass on the Christian faith by our actions.
Dear God, allow my life to be a living lesson on faith to daily help my children grow closer to you. Show up in me and shine brightly for them. Amen.
JANUARY 3 WHAT'S FOR DINNER?
"Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them."
(Matthew 6:26 NRSV)
The demands of putting dinner on the table every evening are monumental to me. There do not seem to be enough hours in a day to complete the items on my list. Between working, driving the kids to and from school, squeezing in exercise class, and running errands, food preparation is my least favorite chore. Yet like clockwork my family asks the ubiquitous question: "Hey, Mom, what's for dinner?" In response, I want to scream, because I don't have a clue. Other times I want to run away from all of the responsibility because I feel overwhelmed.
In the midst of this frenzy, God comforts me by turning my thoughts to the birds. They are busy with bird survival, and God helps them get it all done. They do not panic or worry. If we can just think and act like the birds, we can be victorious in so many areas of our lives.
Dear God, often I feel at my wits end, alone and overwhelmed. In these times, I need you to break into the chaos and calm me with your love and support. Amen.
JANUARY 4 PUPPY LOVE
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.
(1 Corinthians 13:4 RSV)
Puppy love is an exhilarating experience. You remember—it's the initial encounter with romance that comes with butterflies in the stomach and dreamy eyes. It is that fleeting, juvenile love that overtakes many young people.
Chris is in the midst of this, and I must confess, it is fun to watch. He went on his first date today. It was not really a date—he and his friend were dropped off at a nearby movie theater by their parents and brought back to separate homes afterward—but he was excited anyway. Even though this is nothing serious, I do want Chris to know of God's blueprint for love, which is a lasting type of love. Otherwise, he may be drawn into the false imitations of love presented in our society.
We moms have a responsibility to show our children what real love is all about by the way they see us interact with others.
Dear God, make me a loving mother whose actions teach my children what your love is all about. When I am not feeling very loving or loveable, rescue me from myself and fill me with your love. Amen.
JANUARY 5 BEING A GOOD FRIEND
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17 NASB)
An interesting after-school event occurred today. Robby's best friend, Brad, was looking dejected and lonely as he played video games alone in the den. Robby was nowhere to be found. He became bored with his buddy and abandoned him to take a nap. Robby did not understand the need to show himself friendly to his buddy even if he was tired or busy.
There is value in being a good friend to others. There is a link between how we treat others and how they treat us. The writer of Proverbs emphasized the importance of consistently and constantly treating those we are close to with love and care. These words cause me to take a look at the ways I treat my friends and strive always to be loving.
Dear God, I want to be a loving friend at all times, but I realize that I need your help to move my needs and wants out of the way. Focus me on being a blessing to others. Amen.
JANUARY 6 GRANDPARENTS LOVE THEM, TOO
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged. (Proverbs 17:6 NRSV)
This may not make sense, but sometimes I feel like my parents love my sons more than they love me. This is probably an irrational fear, but my folks seem to have more time, money, and laughter for the boys than they ever did for me. As I watch them relate to one another, I feel a pang of jealousy. The jealousy is a problem of the flesh. I need to understand that there is a spiritual bond between grandparents and grandchildren.
Proverbs teaches us that grandparents are truly delighted by their grandchildren. God provides this extra zest and zeal to help them celebrate. My resentment only attempts to block their blessings. It makes me wonder if I am missing other blessings because of selfcenteredness. Ultimately, we must accept the fact that life is not always about us.
Dear God, replace my jealousy with joy and help me see your love in the generations of family members. You have created a world that intertwines the lives of us all for your good. Amen.
JANUARY 7 ENEMIES
"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
(Matthew 5:44 NASB)
Something about this kid at Robby's school sets his teeth on edge. This morning as I dropped him off at school, this kid got out of a car ahead of us, and the mere sight of him sent my son into a rage. He began to mutter angry words and clench his fist. "What could this boy have done to provoke such rage?" I asked. "Nothing, Mom," was his brief answer as he exited the car.
A means of soothing this rage comes from the words of Christ. He had his share of enemies, too. Jesus' response was to pray for them and to love them. Robby's rage and reluctance reminded me of my need to handle my enemies with Christ, too. The negative emotions never solve the problem. We all have enemies, and Jesus is always the best response to them.
Dear God, you are the solution to our enemy problem. Please provide the power to turn to you and not on them in crisis times. Amen.
JANUARY 8 WHAT DID YOU SAY?
He who keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23 RSV)
Middle-school basketball is competitive and aggressive. On the court, a player from the opposing team was guarding Chris and called him a hurtful name. My son had two choices: be the thing he was called and retaliate, or embrace who God made him and keep quiet. Chris kept quiet and kept on playing. If he had retaliated, he would have risked being ejected from the game. This is true in life also. Our opponents realize that sometimes the only way to slow us down is to get us put out of the game. And we can hasten this by losing control over our mouths.
Words have weight because they are sometimes used as weapons. That's why the writer of Proverbs tells us that our tongues need to be monitored. We would experience less turmoil in our world if we truly kept or controlled our mouths.
Dear God, help me control what I say. My tongue needs divine guidance. In your name and in your power I can watch my words. Amen.
JANUARY 9 TALKING BACK
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 NRSV)
After I reminded him twice about his chores, Chris responded with a sassy comment and an aggressive tone of voice. "My favorite television show is on right now," he snarled. That was talking back, which is a no-no in our home. Talking back occurs when a child does not accept what an adult tells him or her to do. Talking back is disrespectful of authority and attempts to put the child and the adult on the same level. After correcting him, I admitted to myself that I am guilty of talking back, too. I often talk back to God when God gives direction to my life that interferes with my plans. There was that hot day when I didn't want to visit the sick with Communion. God was clear, but I responded poorly. Like Chris, something else appealed to me. My talking back was disrespectful of God, and in my own childlike way, I attempted to put myself on the same level with God.
Dear God, when you speak in my life, give me an obedient spirit that responds with readiness and joy. Amen.
JANUARY 10 A FAILING GRADE
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
Failing at anything is disheartening because it makes us doubt ourselves. Math has always been a failing subject for me, and so it is for Chris, too. Though he tried mightily, he still failed math this semester—even with a tutor. What a blow it was to his self-esteem to try so hard and still not pass the class. As I watched him mope around the house for days, I thought about an antidote for his predicament. When we fail in life, we can still find success in Jesus Christ. Paul's words to us in Philippians speak to anyone who has tasted defeat and seen no way up. It is not about us, but it is all about Jesus. When we doubt our own ability, confidence in Christ enables us to get back up and try again. Jesus is our greatest pick-me-up.
Dear God, when failure invades my world, remind me of your ability to transcend it. If I keep my eyes on you, I will overcome. Amen.
JANUARY 11 PROPERLY DRESSED
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?'"
(Matthew 22:11 NRSV)
Who would have believed that the household would be up in arms over a tuxedo? A tuxedo was the required attire for a fancy party to which Chris was invited. The problem was that Chris insisted on wearing sneakers and jeans instead. "Oh, Mom, nobody really has to dress up for this," he explained. Yet a conversation with the host mom indicated that she envisioned a room full of dressed-up kids at her daughter's birthday event. We gave Chris an ultimatum: either wear the tuxedo or forfeit the party. To him, the matter of what he wore was minor; but the scriptures offer us a compelling reason to dress appropriately. The tuxedo battle reminds us of something we learned back in kindergarten: follow the instructions given, even if they seem minor to us. As moms, we must ensure that we do not override or undervalue another's rules just because they are not our rules.
Dear God, help me see beyond my own priorities and respect those of another. Give me the ability to submit myself to others' rules with a cooperative spirit. Amen.
JANUARY 12 RELUCTANT USHERS
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand [outside]. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
(Psalm 84:10 KJV)
The sight of Robby and Chris ushering side by side at church today filled me with joy. It was their first Sunday serving as youth ushers. Their starched, white shirts, navy ties and slacks, and white gloves gave them a crisp, professional appearance. Even though they smiled and eagerly led worshipers to their seats, my sons had dreaded this assignment all week long. They thought it would be an awful experience. Ignorance made them drag their feet. When they took their posts across the sanctuary, however, something took them over. They smiled, threw their shoulders back, and seemed proud to be there. I believe they experienced the joy of God's presence. This is what the psalmist wrote about. God's presence transforms us and gives us an inner peace. As moms, we must be ever mindful of the joy of God's presence and let it saturate us. It is powerful enough to transform us and alleviate our negative situations.
Dear God, thank you for drenching us with your power just when we need it. We confess that we don't always know when we need it, but you are always right on time. Amen.
JANUARY 13 A MESSAGE IN THE MUSIC
And whenever the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him.
(1 Samuel 16:23 NRSV)
Music selections can cause conflict. Young people usually prefer something contemporary that speaks to their experiences. Parents often hold on to the music of their generation, making nostalgic selections. My sons and I do not always agree on what they should listen to. The high-tech gadgetry that they own makes it possible to transfer music from the Internet to their listening devices easily and often. They sometimes escape my censoring ears. What I want them to understand most of all is that the music we listen to programs our minds. Negative words create negative thoughts, just as positive words create positive thoughts. This is illustrated in today's passage as David's positive harp playing chased away Saul's evil thoughts. It is vital that we keep positive, uplifting music in our midst to ensure that our thoughts are God's thoughts. God can speak to us through music; we must be open and willing to hear.
Dear God, help me hear you in all situations, especially music. You have the ability to calm my storms and end my trials. Amen.
JANUARY 14 GIVE WHAT YOU CAN
He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on."
(Luke 21:3-4 NRSV)
When the collection plate came by our pew, Robby crumpled up his three one-dollar bills and quickly threw them in the plate. "I don't want people to see what I am giving in case they do not think it is enough," he explained. His fear reminded me of the story of the poor widow. She had very little to give, but she gave it with no shame. The rich in her midst put on a show as they gave, but she quietly placed her humble gift in the offering. To the amazement of many, Jesus was most pleased with her small offering because it was a sacrifice.
Sometimes we may feel that we do not give enough, especially if we measure ourselves by others' standards. The good news is that God does not use such a measurement. Our sacrifice is what matters most. Our goal is to sacrifice more and worry less about what others think.
Dear God, please remove the shame I may feel about my giving. Help me focus more on pleasing you, rather than on winning the praise of others. Amen.
Excerpted from 365 Meditations for Mothers by Mothers by Sally D. Sharpe. Copyright © 2007 Dimensions for Living. Excerpted by permission of Dimensions for Living.
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