A Plan to Be Better

I tucked my oldest girl into bed last night and she told me, “Today at school, Mrs. Davidson explained all about how people make plans to be better.  So I made a plan for the new year.”

I expected her to announce a strategy to get a dog or be a princess or learn pointe in ballet or be a famous artist–the true aspirations of her little heart.

Instead, she said, “I’m planning to get up in the morning early and get ready for school easier every day.  Did you make a plan to be better this year, mom?”

“I haven’t chosen a resolution,” I said.  “Do you have any suggestions?”

Without any hesitation or even time to take a breath, she said, “I think you should play more video games!”

Perhaps that translates to “Be a more fun mom and play with my kids more often.”  That’s certainly a resolution worth making!

David lived long before the time of New Year’s resolutions, fad diets, gym memberships, and self-help books.  Still, he wrote a psalm of “I wills” that translates into some worthy goals for all of us in 2012.

I will praise God more.

David began with this promise to God, “I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise” (Psalm 101:1).  It’s a reminder to be grateful and to give testimony to others of God at work in your life.  Give thanks everyday.

I will strive for the blameless life.

David continued, “I will be careful to lead a blameless life .  . . I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart” (Psalm 101:2).

We can’t be perfect.  Every mom will lose it occasionally.  Every wife will mess up.  Every friend will forget. We all sin.

Yet, still we can “be careful,” as David says.  We can allow God to work on our hearts and clean out the dark and dusty places.  We can ask for His help controlling our tongue and our tempers.  We can pray that He will guide us as moms, wives, sisters and friends and help us become more godly every day.

I will guard my heart and mind.

We used to sing as kids, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see  . . .  be careful little ears what you hear . . . be careful little feet where you go”

David said it this way, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.  The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.” (Psalm 101:3-4).

Sometimes we excuse a little sin or shrug off feelings of discomfort about that show, or song, or movie, or book or relationship.

When God looked out on the sin-laden world during the time of Noah, He “regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled” (Genesis 6:6, NIV).

The Message says it this way: “God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.”

This year, consider making that your standard for what you see, what you hear, where you go and what you do.  Will this break the heart of God?

I will watch my words.

In his epistle, James wrote: “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another” (James 4:11).

‘Slander’ sounds so harsh.  Perhaps we feel it’s okay to speak our minds or criticize when it’s the truth.

Not according to James.  Beth Moore notes in James: Mercy Triumphs: “the Greek word translated ‘slander’ in NIV also means ‘criticize’ (HCSB) and ‘speak against’ (NASB).

So, if it was said critically about another person, it was sin.  We need to be women with gracious tongues, not judgmental or critical ones.

David goes a step farther:  ” Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate” (Psalm 101:5).   Not only was he not going to speak slander, he wouldn’t even listen to it from others.

I will invest in Godly friendships

David finished off the Psalm with these words:

“My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD” (Psalm 101:6-8).

This year, find ways to build into relationships with others who love God.  Join a small group.  Find a Christian mentor.  Choose someone to befriend who you can mentor in turn.  God never intended for us to walk this Christian life alone.

There you have it.  David’s “I will” list.

What has God placed on your heart for the new year?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

How to Handle a Mean Girl

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her fourth chapter: “No Fangs Allowed.”

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Mean girls strike fear into the hearts of moms everywhere.  They certainly make this momma drop to her knees.

I’ve begun praying once a week with some other moms for our kids and their school.  As we’ve prayed together, I’ve discovered that we moms share the same concerns for our kids.  We pray for their academics, sure, but mostly we pray for their hearts.

We pray they will be a light in dark places and that they will choose good friends.  We ask that our kids will not be too sensitive and will know how to respond in tough situations.

So when my daughter announced this weekend that there was a girl at her school table that she chose not to play with, I pounced with my mom questions.

“Well,” my daughter said, “when other people don’t do things the way she wants, she always says, ‘You can’t be my friend anymore.’  So, I told her that’s okay if she doesn’t want to be friends with me.”

Wow!  Here I was afraid of permanent devastation wrought at the hands of other children and my daughter handled this with calm grace and confidence. She knew that friendship is too valuable to use as manipulative weaponry in the social arsenal.

It was the kind of answer I’ve been praying my daughter is able to give.  Praise God that He answers our prayers for our children.

But, it’s not just our kids who need to make decisions about whom to befriend or how to answer detractors, nay-sayers, judgers, and mockers.

In her book, Stumbling Into Grace, Lisa Harper writes:

“I want to recognize the dangerous, potentially biting characters in my story; the people who create constant emotional debris with their destructive personalities or who refuse to shed the skin of deception, the ones who threaten the God-with-me peace in my life.  I’m learning to keep my distance and to  pray for snakes, but not make a habit of getting down in the dirt to play with them” (p. 47).

In our lives, we’ll face some biting personalities and snakes in the grass ourselves–even when we are simply pursuing righteousness, just like Hannah did in 1 Samuel.

Hannah was a Godly woman.  Religious law dictated that men must travel to the tabernacle three times a year to worship and sacrifice, but we see in 1 Samuel 1:7 that “year by year, she went up to the house of the Lord.”  She committed to going above and beyond the minimum requirements in order to worship God with her whole heart.

But, this Godly woman had a struggle, a personal pain that cut deep.  She was childless while her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, was a bunny rabbit of a breeder.  Scripture doesn’t even count all her kids; it just says, “Peninnah . . and  . . . all her sons and daughters” (1 Samuel 1:4).  Sounds like quite a brood.

The worst part of it is, that Peninnah gloated.  She boasted and preened.  She set herself up as Hannah’s rival and “provoked her severely, to make her miserable”  (1 Samuel 1:6).

Peninnah was a mean girl.

But it wasn’t just Peninnah who was the problem.  There was also Hannah’s husband, Elkanah.  He truly loved Hannah and he was sad about her distress.

Still, there’s something kind of clueless about Elkanah’s compassion.  He said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  Why do you not eat?  And why is your heart grieved?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8).

Seriously?  He didn’t tell Peninnah to knock off the nastiness.  Instead, he told Hannah, the innocent one, to just get over it. Just be happy with the fact that she shared a home and husband with a woman who had annual baby showers when she herself could not get pregnant.  Just shrug off Peninnah’s provoking ways and be happy with her husband’s love.

Elkanah was an unhelpful friend.  He didn’t stand up for Hannah, didn’t have her back, and wasn’t concerned with the true depth of her pain.

Then there was Eli, the priest who watched Hannah’s impassioned prayer at the altar.  He pounced on her in a second, saying, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” (1 Samuel 1:14).

Eli was the judgmental onlooker.  The one with all the opinions who doesn’t even take time to fully understand the situation, just makes accusations and spews forth a diatribe of assumptions and personal attacks.

Beset on every side by those close to her and those in spiritual authority over her, Hannah nevertheless responded with grace.

She spoke “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). She didn’t rebel against Eli, speak badly about him behind his back, or cause a ruckus in the spiritual community, despite the fact that he hurt her.  Instead, she answered and said, “No, my lord.  I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.  I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15).

She trusted God to take care of her.  Hannah “was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1 Samuel 1:10).  She took all of her pain to the altar and poured her soul out before God.

And after she held the baby boy God gave her, after she nursed him and weaned him and presented him to the tabernacle, she declared, “Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the Lord is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 1:3).

By Him actions are weighed.  God saw Peninnah in her meanness, Elkanah in his cluelessness, Eli in his pompousness and Hannah in her brokenness.  Hannah placed the entire situation in God’s hands and trusted in His ability to judge and to bless.

We likewise can trust God to help us when we face mean girls, unhelpful friends, and those who judge us.  He will help us know how to love our enemies, pray for those who hurt us, and turn the other cheek, and yet all the while protect us from the venomous bite that comes from stepping too close to the snakes in the grass.

Want to learn more about praying for your kids and their school?  Check out Moms In Touch International.  There are groups of moms, grandmas, and school staff internationally who meet once a week for one hour to pray for our children. You can find a group in your area by searching their website.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Women Warriors, Part I

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”
Galatians 1:10

“Tinkerbell or Princesses,” I asked my daughters as we stared at the 20 different tubes of children’s toothpaste on the shelves.

“Tinkerbell,” shouts my middle girl.

“Princesses,” shouts my oldest dressed all in pink with bows in her hair.

My baby makes a grab for the Little Einsteins tube on the shelf.

I toss the plain old children’s Crest toothpaste into the cart, noting that it is $1, Tinkerbell is more than $2 and princesses tops out at a whopping almost-$4.  It’s a conspiracy really.  Princess stuff always costs more.  What in the world are we teaching these little girls of ours about materialism and money and . . . .but I digress.

Slowly I’m learning a lesson over and over every day as three little faces flash disappointed glances back at me when I buy toothpaste and when I choose a show on television.

You can’t please everyone all the time.

I want to make everybody happy so desperately.  If I could tiptoe through life with everyone always agreeing with me, that’s what I’d do.

But it’s impossible.  If you go to Wal-Mart with more than 1.5 children, you’ll likely hear the opinions of strangers on your family planning skills.

If you stay at home with your kids, you’ll probably read how you wasted all of the money spent on your education. If you dress up and head out the door every day for work, you’ll probably feel condemned by the moms wearing jeans and flip-flops and toting their kids to the library for story time on a weekday morning.

If you pull out the school books at your kitchen table for your kids each day, moms will hint at the damage you’re doing by not socializing your children enough. If you watch your child step onto a school bus each morning with her back pack and packed lunch, you’ll be reminded that you aren’t protecting your children from worldly indoctrination.

Women Warriors.  That’s what many of us become.  Mama Bears defending our choices against the criticism of others.  We get backed into corners and our claws extend.  So, we spend much of our time engaged in battles, aligning with others on our “side” and slinging weighted insults at the “enemy.”

Let’s face it.  Too much of the time, we women are cruel to other women.

And it’s worse on the Internet.  We sit anonymously behind our computers and hurl our opinions at others.  Throwing around scientific evidence, philosophical arguments, medical findings, and —-yes, even Scripture—we offer proof of why we are right and others are wrong.

So, what’s a girl to do?  How do you make the right choices for you and your family and not feel the need to defend yourself every time you sense the critical stares of random shoppers or read an article railing against the choices you have made?

For starters, we walk in the assurance of our calling.

Do What You Are Called to Do

When the teenage shepherd boy, David, stood in front of King Saul, he boldly announced that he would fight the bellowing giant even though the battle-trained fighting men were cowering in their tents. At first, Saul declared it was impossible.  A wimpy little kid was no match for the expert warrior with size on his side.

But, David prevailed and Saul agreed to let him fight Goliath, with one condition.  David had to wear Saul’s armor.

Saul thought he was helping David out.

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. (1 Samuel 17:38-39).

How often do we try to sling our own personal tunics over the shoulders of other women, assuming that all they need is our advice, our method, our choices, our plans?  We tell them (or imply) that if they want to be good wives, good moms, good Christian women, then they must do it our way and with the tools we ourselves have found useful.

But, the call God has given you is a poor fit for another woman.

In the same way, Saul’s armor confined David’s movements and made him easy prey for Goliath’s attack.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off.   Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:39-40).

David had the assurance of his calling.  He knew what God told him to do and how he was supposed to do it.  So, he declined to wear the armor of another and stood against Goliath bare-shouldered instead, hurling a stone in a slingshot over his head, and killing the giant as a result.  He vanquished the enemy that day because he listened to God and not anyone else, even a well-meaning, older, wiser and more experienced king.

When you feel yourself in an Incredible Hulk-like transformation, from reasonable woman to claws-extended She-Mama in defense of your life and family and personal choices, breathe deeply and ask:

  • Am I doing what I know God has called me to do?
  • Is it possible that she, although doing something differently than me, could also be doing what God has called her to do?
  • Can I let her obey God without feeling personally criticized by her every decision and action?
  • Do I really need to defend myself against implied (or stated) criticism?  Or can I instead let it go, choosing to walk confidently in my own calling and not worry about anyone else’s opinion?
  • If I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and she’s doing what she’s supposed to do, then is this war between us necessary?

What has God called you to do?  Whatever it is, do it.  People will disagree with you.  People will criticize you.  People won’t understand.

Sometimes you may need to defend yourself, but there are so many times when we can choose to ignore the snide remarks and disapproving glares, because we know that we are doing what God wants us to do.  And that really should be all that matters.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.