Monday, May 28, 2012

The Old Gray Uniform

Folded and tucked away in a wooden drawer
Lays an old tattered suit of gray
Blood and mud has long stained its color
From a battlefield where the soldier lay

Once he fought for his native land
To protect her purity from uncouth invaders
He battled courageously against blue bellies—
Men who were freedom-haters

Now his uniform lays forlorn
There's not much occasion to take it out
The sight of it usually brings tears
Memories of a bloody bout

The soldier's back was once young and strong
But now he's bent with age
He will never forget the Southern struggle
Of warring against a tyrant's rage

He was once the emblem of the South
Young, strong, and fervently proud
But now he's a forgotten old man
Whose voice is not so loud

Yet he is still just as proud
He still walks with a firm step
His old musket, though a mockery to some
Will always shadow his doorstep

His gray uniform once had a purpose
To fight Liberty's battle
But now—forgotten like its wearer
Is thrown into the mud by prattle

The old gray uniform is an emblem
Of a glory forever long gone
Of a day when the man was young
And his gun was drawn

The old gray uniform is still in battle
Of fighting evil invaders
Men who don't understand liberty
Wicked men who are God-haters

Friday, May 25, 2012

God is Good...All the Time?

Scene 1: A happy-go-lucky Irishman sitting in his fields of ripe, golden wheat with a huge smile on his face.  The sun is shining brightly, the sky is blue with white, puffy clouds lazing around, and birds are chirping gaily.  It is the perfect day.  "God, You are just absolutely amazing!  This day is perfect, my fields are ready to be harvested, and I feel so happy to be alive!  Life is grand, and God, You are so good to me!  Yep, God is good."  He nods his head in affirmation of what he just said as he looks about his beautiful wheat once again.  "Yes, God is good, all the time!"

Scene 2:  The puffy white clouds have tuned black and menacing, while the sun no longer shines.  The wind begins to pick up dangerously as storm clouds threaten to unleash their fury.  The happy-go-lucky Irishman now has a furrow between his brow as he gazes up into the sky and then back at his wheat.  Harvesting was to begin tomorrow. Thunder roars, startling the Irishman.  He runs for cover as the clouds suddenly open up and let loose torrents of pouring, gushing rain.  He ducks into his barn, soaked to the skin.  Worry lines increase on his forehead.  What had happened to his perfect day?  Stark fear springs into his eyes as he hears an unwelcome sound.  He prays his ears deceive him.  But no, his eyes confirm it.  It was hail.  "No, oh no, my wheat.  God, why are You doing this?!  What happened to doing what is best for me?  Don't You understand, that wheat is my livelihood!  What will I feed my family with if I haven't any money?  God, You're supposed to be good all the time!  No, please no.  God, if You truly do what is best for me, stop this hail before it completely destroys my crop!  God?  God!"

Just what is a fair-weather friend?  Someone who is not steadfast; able to be relied upon only when things are going well, much like the Irishman in the story.  When everything was going according to his plan, he trusted and relied upon God.  Yes, God was good then.  But as soon as things didn't go according to the man's plan, he lashed out at God.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." -Romans 8:28

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

A 15th Birthday!

Happy 15th Birthday to Kirstie Anne!

 The four oldests together

Gorgeous 15! ♥

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Life of a Slanderer

"It is one thing to lie to others.  It is still another matter to lie about others.  This involves slander.  To tell lies about other people is to cause them grave injury.  The Devil himself is the master of slander.  He encourages his disciples to engage in gossip, backbiting, and slander.  To steal a person's good name may be more harmful to the person than to steal their property.

"God is so concerned about slander and lying about others that He included a prohibition against it in His Ten Commandments: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor' (Exodus 20:16).

"The prohibition includes more than falsely accusing someone in a law court.  The responsibility in Israel to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a law court was taken very seriously.  If perjury was committed in the courts, the penalties ranged all the way to the death penalty.

"Justice cannot be maintained in the land unless the courts can be certain of the honesty of witnesses.  But on a more daily basis, injurious lies can take the form of slander.  Let us consider briefly the meaning and force of the verb 'to slander.'  To slander someone is to tell lies about him, lies the injure him.  Slander involves making an unjust accusation.  We have all felt the sting of being slandered.  It is one thing to suffer injury for sins of which we are guilty.  It is another thing to be punished for something we did not do.  No one enjoys the pain of false accusation.

"I labor the point of slander's being an injurious lie because it is one of the chief works of the Devil against God's people.  To slander a person is to injure that person's reputation.  Our reputations, our 'good names,' are important to our lives.  Life is difficult enough without trying to operate with an evil reputation."1

"Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." -Psalm 34:13

"He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool." -Proverbs 10:18

Slander is an ugly word.  Slander.  What do we think of when we hear the word?  Insult.  Smear.  Character assassination.  A once good name thrown in the mud.  Hatred.  Lies.  Cruelty.  Pride and jealousy.  Resentment.  Disgrace.  Tarnish.  Slander.

Slander is much like the cruelty seen in the classrooms of public-schooled kids.  Snooty high school girls picking on the one lonely outcast because of jealousy.  Rumors of character-slight.  Lies spread so that someone else looks bad and is discredited from teenage society [i.e. pride: a promotion of self].  From kindergarten to high school, kids sure know how to slander.  Another word is backbite.  Slander is much like grabbing a knife and stabbing someone in the back.  Most times slander will hurt much more than a protruding knife will.  Words have force.  Words have power.  And if used for evil, words cause wounds much deeper than a blade can go.

But it isn't just public-schooled kids who know how to be cruel.  Think about it.  Pride is a sin in everyone's life, and because pride only wants the promotion of self—for self to look better than everyone else—it is only a logical follow-up that the cruel words of slander and degradation will pursue.  Not just the world and its people, but Christians as well, our own friends and families even!  The life of a sibling is constantly filled with jealous lies about a sister and hateful, stinging words of degradation to a brother.  The same is said of life amongst friends. In an instant someone whom you thought loved and trusted you turns into a conniving, slanderous, roaring lion, seeking to devour.

"Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him." -Colossians 3:9-10

Lying creates a vast majority of tension and even hatred between people.  The guilty party who does the slandering, miserable are they!   "That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified" (1 Thessalonians 4:6).  As for the innocent to whom the slander is against, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).

For those of us who have had to deal with friends or family creating rumors behind our backs, loving that person is a hard thing to do. Sometimes it seems impossible even.  Why would they do such a thing when they were once a good friend?  Why would they pretend to love us, and in the next instant stab us in the back?  These are difficult questions to answer.  Perhaps some kind of jealousy and resentment on their part.  Maybe they were never really the person we thought them to be in the first place.

It still hurts.

"Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." -Ephesians 4:31-32

Forgive them?

Why should they be forgiven when they have spread lies about me, hurt me, caused strife between us, ruined friendships, created division, and slandered my once good name?  They don't deserve my forgiveness!

"Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." -1 Peter 3:8-12

As we have seen many times, the tongue can be the unruliest member of our body (James 3:6-18).  First of all the sin of envy, jealousy, or hatred causes unrest in the heart, which then proceeds in slander, lies, and evil words from our fire-of-a-tongue.  There is no other cause for this, except pride and self-love.  Self-love is angered when we think another person looks better than us in front of other people.  Pride is miffed when someone else is better than we are.  Therefore, the tongue begins to wag, degradation causes catastrophe, and before we know it, the situation is out of hand and people are hurt because of our slander.  Our pride and self-love can't stand for someone else to be in the limelight.  "I can do better than that!"  Self says.  "I am better than that!"

Unfortunately our personal pride is strong.  Pride is happily uplifted when someone else is degraded.  We think that it makes us look good when we make others look bad.  However, we don't realize that no one likes a slanderer.  No one lasts long in a friendship with slander.  A true friend is one "that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor" (-Psalm 15:3).  A true friend dies to self, and that means he will not care whether another person looks better than him in front of others or not.  It is only those with evil intentions of heart who will spread the rumors, start the gossip, and create the lies.  A mean word is like a cruel slap in the face.  It stings, it burns, it causes embarrassment, but the one who looks the fool is the one who did the slapping.

The Lord abhors the lies of a slanderer.  "Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer" (Psalm 101:5).  Instead, He demands a loving heart.  "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing meekness unto all men" (-Titus 3:2).

The effects of slander are very dangerous.  Therefore it is our duty to beware of the trap we all so easily fall into.  Whether it is a look, a glance, a whisper, a cutting remark, it is to be removed far from us.  Slander creates more problems than we know what to do with.  Slander is the treacherous enemy of friends and family alike.  It separates the very best of friends and the closest brothers and sisters, if it is loosed.  Slander destroys, whereas love creates.  While slander is forgivable, first of all it must be repented of.  Our tongues must be guarded by the Word of God, and the sins of envy, jealousy, pride, and self-love—which causes slander—must be isolated from our heart.  No good thing comes from the maliciousness of slander.  It is a life of wounds and friction.  And it is not a life worth living.

"A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends." -Proverbs 16:28

"The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." -Proverbs 18:8

"Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer the strife ceaseth." -Proverbs 26:20

"The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly." -Proverbs 26:22 (Repeated from Proverbs 18:8)

Footnote 1 R.C. Sproul, Pleasing God: Overcome the obstacles that keep you from honoring God, pg. 196-197, 199; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois, 1988.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What It Means To Be a Mother

Any woman can have a baby
But it takes much more to be a mother
A special kind of rare quality
—Something better than any other

Any woman can have a child
Even the unworthy know the way
But the rarest kind can be a mother
—Something you can't find just any day

To be a mother is a high calling
It takes a lot of sacrifice
The joy, the sorrow, the pain and tears
Is a dear, but well-worth price

A mother is a fruitful vine
Who sees children as God's reward
Her duty is to train them well
And raise them in the fear of the Lord

A mother is compassion and love
The one who kisses our bruises goodbye
In her embrace is found pleasing  peace
And on her shoulder we can cry

A mother is wreathed in gentleness
Her hands welcome a soft touch
Her voice is kind and sweet to the ear
To nothing compares her hugs—not much!

Made in beautiful form and heart
Her eyes hold heavenly wonder
She finds blessed joy in her children
She loves us even when we blunder

Even in the midst of wrong-doing
Her patience is an endless fountain
Though there are times when discipline is needed
She gladly faces each fiery mountain

A mother is one to whom children run
They can never get enough of her love
A look, a glance, the slightest touch
Has more meaning than the stars above

A mother has such influence
Her children crave her approval
She has the gift to give them care
Or drive them away with her removal

A mother will raise her children
To show them the way of life
What it means to be a godly woman
Both as a mother and a wife

She is diligent in all she does
She never wastes a precious minute
Self-sacrifice is great, but reward is greater!
Her every desire is to win it

The fruit of her hands is blessed
She is the keeper of the home
Her children will always remember their training
No matter where their feet do roam

It takes a lot to be a mother
Not just any woman can do the job
Though there is a lot of hardship
The bliss nothing can ever rob

It takes grace to be a mother
God must give the strength for each day
But oh, how sweet a baby's coo
And a child with much to say!

Though the back becomes bent with age
Though the years take their toil
A mother soon sees her babies grow up
Still she is a queen so royal

She will always be the same
Her glory will never fade
Her husband will never leave her
But keep true to the love God made

A mother is a special woman
A jewel among many thorns
Her heart is worth more than gold
Love and kindness her home adorns

Rise up and praise her, you her children
She has given you much to be thankful for
She is the treasure of the family
You could never ask for more

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zero Tolerance

"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry." -1 Samuel 15:25a

Rebellion is nothing new to mankind.  God has had to deal with man's rebellion ever since Adam and Eve's sin in the garden of Eden, the Israelites in the wilderness, up to 21st century Christians of today.  It is a never-ending story, for there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).  For this cause, every parent has had to deal with the same willful clash of subordinate despising authority: the stubborn, defiant child resisting the parents' authority (i.e. submission crisis).

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Hosted on Covenant Devotion.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farewell, Sweet School Days of Mine

I never thought I would actually be saying that.

I remember when I used to think about graduating and being done with my school days forever.  I longed for this day incredibly so, because I couldn't wait to "grow up" and finally be done with school.   I didn’t care what happened next, just as long as I finished in a hurry.

However, now that the day has come, I can’t help but look over the past twelve years and wish I had taken more advantage of being a schoolgirl.  I had wanted to grow up too fast.  And now that I have hit the "adult years," I can't help feeling a little mournful that those days are gone.  For good.

It's almost a scary thought of never getting back a special period of life.  Eighteen years of my life have now been lived.  I have gone through much laughter and tears, sorrow and bliss, heartache and happiness, pain and pleasure, grief and joy, discontentment and ease, anger and peace, strife and harmony, and I can say without remorse, it has all been worth it.  I have had my own fair share of being an unthankful and rebellious daughter; I have experienced more than enough of doubting faith; I have lacked in many areas that I should have been triumphing in; I have wallowed in the mire of self-pity—yet God has never failed me nor left me to the evil devices of my sinful heart.  He has been good to me for eighteen years by giving me wise parents that I don’t deserve, and seven wonderful siblings who have had to put up with me being the oldest (oh yeah, you younger siblings know what that means!).  Though we may not be the wealthiest family in material possessions, I believe I am the luckiest and richest girl to be alive.  I have love.  I have refuge.  I have protection.  I have friendship.  I have family.  I have salvation.  I have eighteen years to my credit.  I have an abundant life to look forward to.  I have joy.  I have unending love and forgiveness from my heavenly Father.  I have the life of a wife and mother to look forward to.  I have so many blessing to be thankful for!  Life isn’t bleak; life is bliss!

Look out world, here I come!  

I must admit, I am definitely not the most qualified to be growing up.  I still have so much to learn!  Just because I am graduating from my schoolgirl days does not mean I am fully prepared for anything that may come my way.  I will never stop learning on this journey of life, but that is the rewarding aspect of life!

The years have passed frightfully fast.  I used to think as a little girl that I would never grow up.  Life just wasn’t fast enough in my estimation.  My parents were always saying that life is actually too fast and I would realize it the older I grew, but I never could believe them.  Until now.  Now I understand just how fast life can be.

Thankfully I still have so much life to live ahead of me.  My dreams are still the same, and I plan to live them out.  My desire is still to become a wife and mother, all in God’s good timing (as hard as that is to say right now).  As for now, I can dwell in the knowledge that God is doing what is best for me—much better than I can even imagine.  In my impatience I cannot see what lies ahead.  In my finite “wisdom” I think that now would be best, but apparently God thinks differently.  For now, I rest content that one phase of life is over; many more are yet to come!

Just think.  Life is exciting.  Exhilarating.  Fulfilling.  Breathtaking even.  And it is all mine.  A gift from God.  One set of happy golden years are over, but there are others yet to come.  Even now I am experiencing a wonderful life!  So, farewell, sweet school days of mine.  I shan’t be remorseful, or regret the past, but instead press on toward new horizons.  There are too many grandiose dreams to live out in life, and I don’t want to miss out on even the smallest one.  Life is too precious.  Life is too fleeting.  One day I will look back on these days and wonder where the time went.  Just as I do now.  Goodbye, Happy Golden Years of schoolgirl days; hello Happy Golden Years of a brand new adventure!

Those Happy Golden Years

I never thought the goodbye would be tearful
When I waved my school days away
As I said goodbye to my childhood
And reached for a brand new day

I never thought I would miss those days
Of being young and learning a lot
Of books and pencils and aching fingers
And appliance of what I was taught

I'll miss being that little girl
Sometimes eager and sometimes glum
The dreary days I hated school
Once again those days will never come

I used to look forward to this day
Of being grown-up and free
But my childish naivety was sublime
To urge me on to what I wanted to be

I have found as the years have passed
That my time of learning does not end
My departed school days mark a beginning
Of a new horizon just over the bend

My outlook is bright as I press on
Excitement wonders what God has in store
I can only guess and be faithful to Him
As I spread my wings and step out the door

Farewell, good ole school days
Yesteryear seems so far away
Those happy golden years of being a child
Will never leave my memory from this day

Of how I was taught by the wisest parents
And learned side-by-side with siblings so dear
But now I have grown and those days are gone
My heart aches as I shed a mournful tear

Farewell forever, my sweet schoolgirl days
I press on to the mark of God’s calling for me
I’ll still be learning what life has to hold
A new dawn approaching I can see

I’ll miss you to a small extent
But I’m eager to experience something new
God has a plan for my life I know
—The big and little things I do

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Dreams Come True

"Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, 
and obtaineth favor of the LORD." ~Proverbs 18:22

"To be a mother and homemaker and an environmental expert in designing a place for the particular blend of people which will be your family—to grow and develop—is an amazing possibility. To be at the same time a wife and a companion, an interesting, growing, changing, developing person in the eyes of the man you married—not for just two years nor twelve nor twenty nor thirty, but forty and fifty years—is an added portion of this career." ~Edith Schaeffer
Right now I'd say that my foremost wish (besides wanting to glorify God in all that I do) is to get married.  Yeah, that little-girl-dream all girls have.  Not because I want to escape the evil clutches of a tyrannical life at home, not because I want my woman's independence, not because I dislike being a daughter at home, but because I want to have a husband to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to do his laundry, clean his house, make his meals, cook him scrumptious desserts, run to him and jump into his arms every day when he gets home from work, read a good book with him in bed, sneak chocolate and ice cream under the covers and giggle like secretive ten-year-olds, go walking in the park while holding hands and maybe even stop at the swing set, fall asleep on his shoulder under the stars on our front porch and have him carry me to bed, have him look deeply in my eyes and tell me how much he adores me as he whispers of my beauty (big imagination here), go on adventurous, romantic escapades, have our own candlelight dinners at home, give birth to his children, and on and on my simple list goes.
Okay.  I admit I have too many stars in my eyes.
Guess I forget to mention the countless times he will track muddy boots into the just-sparkling-clean house, the disagreements and arguments (hopefully those will be few and far in-between!), the time he will go to pick me up and drops me of all things (slow down on the chocolate, Rachel!), his grumpy mood after a long and tedious day at work, the nights he doesn't want to snuggle but goes right to sleep (bummer), the food I scorch, the times he is late coming home, my irritable moods, my impatience with the children when they are being too noisy in their play, the squalling baby who keeps me up every hour of the night, the day the washing and drying machine breaks down, the time I eat onions and he doesn't want to kiss me ("what's up with that, Honey?!"), the tears of frustration, the times when nothing in the house seems to stay clean,  and on and on this list can go.
It's a crazy world.  One moment we are living on the high of new love, and the next we are back to reality.  No worries.  That doesn't damper my desire to get married.  The good definitely far outweighs the bad.  Sometimes the cost is great, but the reward is just so much greater!
But because my aspiration to get married is greatly elevated, discontentment tends to seep into my life in paramount abundance.  Especially the older I grow.  God, my longing is too much to bear!  Marry me off soon...please?
Oh yes, I absolutely want to get married (and God, as a side note, soon...ahem...whenever You think best would be preferable!), but many times I approach my desire for marriage with the wrong attitude.  I'm telling God I know better concerning when I should get married, instead of submitting to His will.  Marriage is viewed with my two hungry eyes, regarding it as some earthly heavenly state more privileged than the one I'm in.  Not so.
Of course, as many married women can attest I'm sure, there is nothing compared to living with the love of your life, taking care of him, and all the benefits of marriage, but we unmarried gals still have a lot to learn that they already know.  Those married women already know that marriage isn't a bed of roses every day, every minute of the day (as wonderful as a bed of roses sounds).  There are problems to deal with, just as there are problems to deal with before we get married.

Oh well.  Life is life.  Life always have problems.  I for one am willing to take the problems with my dreams.  Dreams do come true, if you can recall Cinderella's story from back when you were five.  Maybe not in the fanciful fairytale Hollywood version of love, but dreams can become reality.  I know my dream to get married will come true one day, but in God's timing.  I simply have to trust Him with that epoch in my life.  I can feel the bliss just thinking about it...
If you think about it, dreams really do come true—the right kind of dreams that is.  Our dreams, hopes, desires, and expectations for the future must become God's desires (Psalm 37:4-5).  Only then will they come to pass.  We must give up ourselves completely to the will of God.  But guess what?  We will have a much more wonderful life because of it!  He will give us the desires of our hearts, because we will desire what God has in store for us—what He deems best.
When dreams come true.  It sounds like a fairytale.  Life is a fairytale of sorts sometimes, mixed with a heavy dose of realism and life (i.e. sin, fallen man, and the chore of daily living).  After all, life can't be all bliss and pleasure; life always has thorns with its roses.  Nevertheless, God is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28), and we should always remember that God's good is much better than our best.
 So I'll keep dreaming.  While living in the here and now.   One day my dreams will come true and I'll get to wear a fancy white dress and a veil with flowers in my hair and walk down the aisle on Daddy's arm to the man of my dreams who will be waiting at the alter. 
And I can hardly wait.