Unexpected Idols

I have been reading a book called The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace and it is AMAZING. If you’re not married, please don’t check out just yet. There are some ideas in this book that are completely life-changing that I wish I could have read years ago, even before I was married.

Many of us have heard numerous sermons or read articles about how we can make an idol out of virtually anything; about how if you really want to know what you worship, look at where all your time, money and energy goes. Look at what you think and talk about the most. That idea in itself is enough to occupy your mind for quite a while. You may have also heard that even good things can become idols, like excelling in a job or helping others or serving in church.

Martha Peace just takes it a little further, into a very uncomfortable but good territory. Here is her “List of Common Idols (‘False Gods’) Wives May Have Their Heart Set On”.
1. Good health
2. Physical Appearance
3. Having a Christian marriage.
4. Being treated fairly.
5. Having a hurt free/pain free life.
6. Worldly pleasures (drugs, alcohol, sex).
7. A child or children.
8. Another person (man or woman).
9. A material thing.
10. An ideal (“pro-life movement,” “peace movement”).
11. Money.
12. Success.
13. Others’ approval.
14. Being in control.
15. Having your “needs” met.

Talk about hard to swallow. A lot of things on that list do not necessarily have to be bad things. But when you desire those things above God, they become idols. One way Martha said to check yourself for if those things have crept up higher than God is to notice your emotions and reactions when those things don’t happen or aren’t going well. If you become very angry, or bitter, or say hateful things, or feel you have a right to act in an ungodly way when certain things happen, you have probably made an idol out of something. We need to get to a place where even when our best friend or husband has an off day and becomes a little bit of a jerk, (or even an OFF YEAR!), we need to remember we are responsible to God for our actions or reactions and that we can still show love. The ones that stuck out the most to me were having a christian marriage, being treated fairly, an ideal, others’ approval, and having your “needs” met. Which ones jumped out to you? Is your whole day ruined if you don’t get to gym? Do you get down on yourself for the donut you ate so much so that it affects your family? Are there people in your life that you put on a pedestal to where you change yourself around them or are completely crushed when they make a decision you don’t like? Do you question where God is when something difficult or painful comes up, forgetting that we will face suffering and persecution, or that hard does not equal wrong? Do you get anxious and irritable when you are not in control, and especially when the person who is in control handles a situation in a way you would not handle it? Anyway, you get the picture.

I will leave it with another list and a quote from Martha.

Her “List of False Saviors/Refugees”
1. Unbiblical view of God (“genie in a bottle obligated to grant your wishes”)
2. Sex (immorality, pornography, masturbation)
3. Sleep.
4. Work.
5. Television.
6. Reading.
7. Food.
8. Withdrawing, running away.
9. Clinging to people for comfort.
10. Shopping sprees.
11. Sports.
12. Exercise.
13. Recreation.
14. Hobbies.
15. Ministry as an escape.
16. Being busy at church or volunteer activities.
17. Drugs.
18. Alcohol.

There are a lot of people who look great on the outside: they are physically attractive, have a good job, find time to serve the community and get involved in ministry at church, shopping trips and rounds of golf, keep up on the latest TV shows… but they are completely starved in their relationship with God, and perhaps their family is starved for attention. A real relationship with God is volatile, ever-changing, challenging. Knowing of God is not enough. Believing in God is not enough. Singing about Him is not enough. Being at church every time the doors are open is not enough. Being able to recite the Bible is not enough.

Martha Peace says, “He wants your thoughts, motives, and choices to be focused on glorifying Him. He should be your greatest longing and desire and refuge.” thoughts, motives and choices. What does your thought life consist of? What are your motives for decisions? What will be easiest? How can I cause the least conflict? How can I make myself look generous but still be doing what I want to do? greatest longing and desire. What do you sit around dreaming about and longing for? A husband? A child? A certain home or vehicle? Certain actions from your spouse? Refuge. Think about how good it feels to sit in the corner of a coffee shop with a good friend on a cold day. A simple example, but do we really feel like that when we meet with God? Do we get excited for our time with God the same way we anticipate date night or girls night? These are tough questions to answer but I don’t think they are just hypothetical.

We live in a don’t wait, fast results culture. We live in a work yourself into the ground and run over everyone else to get to your goals kind of culture. I fully believe with everything in me that a real relationship with God is what we need. God made us with a specific goal in mind and He cares for the details of our life. He knows us better than we know ourselves including our scars and weaknesses. But if we always have other things that come first, or if we can’t turn off the noise of life long enough to really get to know Him, how will we ever know the joy and peace and benefits of knowing God and following Him?

I linked up to Living Well Wednesdays through Courtney’s blog, Women Living Well!

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Little Reminders of Something Earth Shattering

I follow Courtney’s blog over at Women Living Well, and she has suggested a few times using symbols as reminders to pray during the day. Most recently she suggested our wedding rings as reminders to pray for our husbands. In the past she has also written how she uses her daily “straightening up” to pray for her family members. As she picks up toys, she prays for her children. As she cleans off the table, she stops at each family member’s chair and says a quick prayer for them. These can just be one sentence prayers, but this would really add up throughout the day.

Another suggestion I have heard is either praying every hour on the hour or setting a timer for a different amount of time and praying every time it goes off. I love these ideas because they make prayer a continual part of my day. Prayer should not be something reserved for before meals and before bed, or only when we want God to fix something for us.

I want to take it one step further and try to bring my thought life under control. I think I will be writing a separate blog about thoughts later. But for now, if I wonder to myself, “I wonder what my sister is doing right now?” I will say a quick prayer for her. If I wonder what is in store for Aaron and I at the end of the year, I will stop and pray for God’s guidance and protection. If I start stewing over something Aaron has done, I will stop and pray for him and also pray for my attitude.

Prayer is important because it forces us to refocus our priorities – if we do it correctly! We should be praying for God’s will to be done, not what we think should be done. God can be glorified even through pain and suffering, so we should be careful not to pray away every sickness and difficult situation. God is completely capable of healing us and removing obstacles, but we should be careful to pray for God’s will, not what will be easier or less painful. God uses difficulties to help us grow and to strengthen our faith. He tests us to teach us to rely on Him and not give up when things get hard. This should serve to help us turn away from our selfish desires. It should serve to make us really think about what God’s will might be. It should remind us that no matter what happens, good or bad, God will bring out of it something good. Prayer should help us give up control and give God control. Prayer can derail a train of obsessive worrisome thoughts and help us admit that we have control over nothing and need God in everything. The more we pray, the easier it gets to pray continually and the more we will crave that connection with our Father.

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

LISTENING is a huge part of praying that I know I struggle with. Listening takes more patience and discipline. I think women especially struggle to clear their minds to give God room to work. I love to keep my brain busy because I can even feel productive sitting still! I have tried to think nothing before, and it took more discipline than any workout I have ever done. God desires to speak to us, but we rarely give Him room to speak! Praying is not shooting off our list of requests to God and then carrying on with our day. It doesn’t have to be a 3 hour ordeal locked in a closet somewhere (although sometimes this is appealing to me) but it should be time we are truly focused on finding God and listening to Him even if we don’t like what He has to say.

I made the title of this Little Reminders of Something Earth Shattering because it really blows my mind sometimes that we have direct communication with the Creator of… the UNIVERSE. It blows my mind even more how little we utilize this communication. It saddens me that sometimes we hear what God is saying but we ignore it because what He asks of us will be “too hard”. So many people convince themselves that if it is hard or if it involves suffering then it couldn’t be from God. God is the perfect parent and He does discipline and test His children and foster environments for them to grow and mature. I say, what a privilege! His Ways are perfect. He will never be too harsh, absent, contradicting, condescending, or impossible to please.

One of my favorite chapters in the bible is Psalm 139. Here are some excerpts:

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways…

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence…

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.”

We have a God who knows us completely; better than we know ourselves. Do we ask Him what He thinks of what we are doing? Do we ask Him to show us our “wicked ways” since He ultimately knows what is best for us?

I am in awe and completely grateful to KNOW my God. I do not just believe in Him, I know Him personally and talk to Him regularly – but never enough. And He knows me all too well. I shudder at the fact that God knows the dark corners of my heart that no one else sees and the things I even hide from myself, but He still loves me unconditionally. None of us deserves that, but the least we can do in return is continually seek His will.

So here are some of my reminders:
Wedding Ring – Aaron’s work, time with God, thought life, interactions during the day, safety
My purse, our checkbook, Aaron’s wallet – that we would be good stewards
dishes, vacuum cleaner, laundry basket – that I would remember that I should do everything like I am doing it for God, and that I would take joy in creating a comfortable home for my husband and I.
Mom’s picture and Dad’s postcard on fridge – Mom and Dad’s safety and relationship with God
TV and computer – that I would spend my time wisely
Our dogs – for our kids one day and for Aaron and I to be intentional about preparing ourselves to raise Godly men and women.

Hunger Pains

So I had this moment yesterday. I don’t know how to describe it except that something inside of me was so tired of being pushed back down, being questioned, being ignored, being told to wait, that I just imploded. Actually I don’t really even know if it was an implosion or an explosion. Luckily, Aaron was there to listen (after being very confused at my weird mood all day that finally ended with this revelation). He is a saint.

A common occurrence in my short lifetime has been the formation of these crazy little pipe dreams of mine. They have come in different forms along the way. In kindergarten, I cried during a video about the rain forest being chopped down. I went through a phase where I would refuse to eat my chicken because I was sad for the chicken. When I was a little older, I used to pray while I was in the shower that I would be rich when I grew up so that I could pay off all my parents’ debt and buy them a house. I was never quite satisfied with just living and spent a little too much time dreaming. Don’t get me wrong, I kept on top of my school work, stayed out of trouble, did what I was told. But my brain was always very busy and I always felt a little useless and silly; like I was wasting a lot of energy just spinning my wheels.

As I got older, God kept pushing me a little more and started planting more intricate seeds. Obviously this was somewhat related to me nearing the end of high school, starting college, and being forced to consider “real life”. But even then it was ridiculously hard to escape everyone else’s idea of what you need to be successful in real life. I still had my dreams and God was very busy, but I still felt like I had to achieve them in the conventional way: do well in high school so that you have your pick of colleges, find a major that leads to a career that you will not only enjoy but will also provide financial stability and job security. Sure… There is a very nice formula that everyone seems to be following, but what happens when you get farther and farther into it and realize it doesn’t appeal to you?!

So, the “moment.” Unfortunately I have the type of personality where I am never satisfied with what is going on now; I always look to what could be improved and can find the faults in the system pretty quickly. I want everything to get better, to change. I rarely feel like anything is good enough. So yesterday, and with most patriotic holidays, not only do I reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans, or the freedoms we have in our country, etc, I also tend to get a little fire under my butt about what is WRONG with our country and how we need not forget that if we have these freedoms we should use them for good. So all of this stewed all day yesterday, and I was discussing it with Aaron all day long, somewhat cryptically though, until finally I just broke down crying. I said that I get tired of God giving me all these desires to change things and help people when I feel like there is no one around me who feels the same way or notices the same things I do or cares about the outcasts in society more than they want to put them down. I told him I could care less what people think about me or if I have unconventional views but that I just don’t feel like there is anyone who has the same passions as me.

So, Aaron asked me what kinds of ideas I had and I told him some of my more grown up dreams: a transition house for people who need to get off the streets or away from drugs where they can come and stay for a period of time, take free classes in things like typing, math, communication skills, personal finances, etc to get them prepared for caring for themselves and being able to get a job. They would also attend some sort of counseling or meetings or classes just to get some support for whatever they have going on and fully work through it, and also get an honest upfront dose of the Gospel. Or a community center (named Agape House in my head) strictly for women and children where they can go if they are leaving abusive relationships or again struggling to escape drug abuse or alcoholism etc that is a nice respectable place to stay. A place where they can’t be found or lured back by abusive partners and a place they don’t have to be ashamed of because it is called a homeless shelter, or a rehab facility, or an institution. And again, they would be equipped to overcome their struggles, make it on their own, and they would be introduced to the Gospel. I know these places already exist in some form or fashion, but I don’t believe they provide everything they need to provide.

Aaron told me he would support me however he could and that I could write down any ideas I have and we would figure out how to get them started. He might have said 2-3 sentences in the midst of all my incoherent babbling, but he said what I needed. I just need someone to support me and reassure me that it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing or saying or thinking.

I really still have trouble describing these feelings, especially as strong as they were yesterday but whenever they have come up in the past as well. It is like hungering for something that already exists inside of you. On what hand that sounds crazy to me. On the other hand it doesn’t sound crazy at all because the Holy Spirit is inside of me and He is probably getting a little impatient with me and my fears and my waffling and my excuses. We have been talking a lot about the Holy Spirit at church on Wednesdays. When Jesus was telling his disciples he had to leave them, he said he HAD to in order to 1) go prepare a place for them and 2) to equip them to do even greater things than what he had been doing. He was going to equip them by giving them the Holy Spirit. Not only was he sending the Holy Spirit, but he assured them that they did not need to be qualified for what God calls them to do. God WILL call them. He will keep calling. But if you wait until you feel ready, you will never get to doing the work God wants you to do while you’re on earth. God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called. He asks nobodies to follow Him and then miraculously he turns them into his hands, his feet, his mouthpieces. And once you jump on board with God, you can bet that he will not be willing you to do things the way the world does things. You may look crazy. You may look like you are giving up on everything that makes sense. You may have people close to you questioning you or becoming disappointed. But the reality is that the way God wants you to do things is so much more creative, exciting, risky, productive, fruitful, fulfilling… WHY would you want to settle for doing things how everyone else does them just so that you don’t stick out and have a few eyebrows raised at you?

The bible also compares being filled with the Holy Spirit with being filled with alcohol. Why? When you are filled with alcohol, you undoubtedly walk differently, talk differently, think differently. Go ahead and think about it, and maybe laugh a little. But what is he saying then? If I am filled with the Spirit I SHOULD NOT look the same as I did before and I SHOULD NOT look the same as the world. The way that I talk, walk, act, think should distinguish me. People should be able to tell something is funny about me. If they can’t, then why am I walking around calling myself a Christian, actually bearing Christ’s name, and making a fool out of Him? Why was it worth Jesus dying on the cross for people to just wear his name on their sleeve while they turn their backs on Him?

I went into town today to buy dog food. (side story: Aaron and I had a very good time in Vegas and might not have realized how close the dogs were to running out of food when we budgeted our weekend, so they’ve been a little hungry!) I always see this little bookstore on the way to Pets Plus, so I decided to stop there today just to check it out. Well, they have the weirdest hours ever and are only open Fri Sat Sun 10-5! But when I pulled up I noticed this lady standing on the side street by the bookstore. She was still there after I had parked, went to look at the hours and peak in the window, and get back in my car to leave. She wasn’t walking, she didn’t have a car or bike, she wasn’t on the phone. Hm. So I figured, what the heck, I’ll ask her if she needs a ride somewhere. I was worried I might freak her out and have her think I was crazy or something but oh well! So she said that she was waiting for the bus because she works on base at the P/X! (Umm what a relief that she actually needed to go somewhere that I knew where it was!) I think she figured once I heard she was waiting for the bus I would just keep going, I don’t really know. But I told her I still didn’t mind if she would rather have a ride. She was like Really? Am I safe with you? I told her that Yes, all I had in the car was a couple lamp shades. haha. She said something about Well thank you, you are a real blessing to me. I’m going for an interview for another position and now I know I’ll be on time. So she got in the car and said thank you again and introduced herself as Rebecca. I wish I could remember all the transitions, but we asked where each other was from, I found out her neighbor is from FL, she is originally from NY and has been in 29 Palms about 7 years, which also coincides with the time that she got saved. I guess she used to be into drugs and alcohol and some other stuff pretty heavily back in NY. When she moved out here it was too different for her and somehow God got a hold of her and she just knew she had to make a choice. So now she is clean and loving life and just enjoys her coffee and cigarettes! Her daughter lives in 29 palms and so do her 4 grandkids. She was so happy and grateful and kept saying what a blessing I was to her which was so weird to me. Not bad weird, but she really made my day too. I was honored that she trusted me, had a great conversation with a stranger who knew what God could do and I really didn’t know what to say when she kept saying that I had started her day off great and was such a blessing except, Well, good I am glad. I told her some about me moving out from FL with Aaron and she asked some about the dogs since I told her I was on my way to get dog food. It was the most genuine and comfortable conversation I have had with someone in quite a while. I think we will both probably be thinking about each other the rest of the day. I know her name is Rebecca Carter and she works at the P/X so I’m going to try to go visit her.

Anyway, it was just such a simple thing this morning that really made my day and made me grateful that God lets me in on little things like that. It was very humbling and pure and got me motivated! I will be praying for Rebecca whenever I think about her and I want to keep looking for what else God puts in front of me. This isn’t really about me and what I want to do, it is about getting up more courage little by little to let God do what HE wants to do. I could say all kinds of things about this morning… I mean, I could see from the road that the bookstore was closed but I decided to stop anyway. Once I saw Rebecca, I was thinking we wouldn’t have much in common because she was a petite black lady in her 40s or 50s. Once I finally decided to stop, she turned out to be a little ball of sunshine who was thankful to be alive and happy to give God credit for that. I knew where she was going. She works somewhere where I could actually see her again. I have a flexible schedule where I actually had the option of rearranging what I was doing to give her a ride. God used her to give me a kind of motivation and energy that I haven’t had in a while.

Even after all that, I know I have a degree to finish. I know some of these projects I come up with may involve a lot of work, energy, discouragement, money, strain, etc. I know first and foremost my commitment lies with my husband and our home and our kids whenever they come along. I know all of it. Yes, it’s there. I haven’t gone off the deep end, but I have truly and finally begun to let go of being scared, being normal, sticking to the well-beaten path, and letting the world put limits to what God will do with me.

I am just ready to see what comes next!

Microwave Chili

We found a recipe for Chili that you can make entirely in the microwave (after all the chopping and mixing stuff)! We cook at least a couple times a week, and while I still consider this cooking, it is less work for the same reason that a crock pot is less work: once you get all the prep work done you don’t have to stand at the stove the whole time monitoring it.

It turned out really well! I doubled the recipe since Aaron eats a lot and so that we would have leftovers. If you decide to do that, don’t forget that you need to start in a bigger dish! Doh.

One more note about doubling is that I’m not exactly sure what that will do to your times. It worked out for us because most microwaves are 1100 watts and ours is 1300, so I did the exact times the cookbook said and it was enough. A lot of times we have to do a little less time than packages say because of our microwave, so that might have made it even out with the doubled food. You’re on your own for that!

Also, we had ours with Tortilla chips which were good for scooping, and later when I had it for leftovers I added cheese to mine – whatever grated cheese you have around the house! Mmm. We do add cheese to a lot of stuff hmm…

Here it is:

1 tablespoon olive oil or margarine
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 tablespoon (or to taste) chili powder (we usually do extra with the spices and sauces!)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup canned chickpeas, with liquid (these are also called garbanzo beans)
1/2 cup canned green beans, with liquid
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (we only had paste so I mixed the paste, water, and ketchup until I got 1 1/2 cups and it was fine)

1. Place olive oil and chopped onion in a shallow 2-quart microwave-safe casserole dish. (For us this was an 8×8, but don’t forget to go bigger if you double. If you go bigger, make sure it fits in the microwave!!) Microwave on high heat for 1 minute. Add the chopped green pepper and microwave on high heat for 1 more minute or until the onion is tender.
2. Stir in ground beef. Microwave on high heat for 5 minutes. Stir, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the meat is thoroughly browned. Remove from the microwave and drain the fat from the ground beef.
3. Stir in the chili powder and brown sugar. Microwave on high heat for 1 minute.
4. Stir in chickpeas, green beans, and tomato sauce. Microwave on high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the chili has thickened. Make sure the ground beef is cooked through. Enjoy hot.

It was fun to do something different and a little easier, plus we were nervous to see if it turned out well! It did. Aaron approved too.

A Wife’s Biblical Submission

I found a great website recently that dissects Proverbs 31:10-31 and really tries to figure out biblical submission. There is a link on my blog, but here is the website: http://biblicalsubmission.blogspot.com/
It takes it one verse at a time. I am supposed to journal about it as I go in my personal physical journal as well as post blogs for the other women on the website to read when I feel led to. I am sending my blog to some family and friends, but I need to put some information in here that they may already know about me so that other women on this website will know who I am as well since I will be participating in the study.

I am Carly and I got married September 13, 2009. We don’t have any children yet. I have lived my entire 22 years in Florida but moved out to the desert in California after we got married. My husband is stationed here with the United States Marine Corps. I found the website by doing a google search for “biblical submission study”.

I knew before getting married how important submission was, but it is kind of intimidating since there is such a negative worldview. I was committed to being a submissive wife, but I have been slacking on figuring out exactly what that means and seeking out guidance. I have started to see the results of that in my marriage and at times tell myself that my husband is doing something wrong. I have a feeling I am not alone in that! But the reality is, I can only control myself and I don’t always do a good job of studying what God’s Word tells me about my role as a wife. I want desperately to fulfill that role, but how do I expect to do that without really studying it and finding like-minded women?! Duh. So, off I go. I am committed to it. There is NOTHING negative about submission. The world makes it negative. It is God’s idea. However, I am absolutely positive that it will be difficult at times. There is a difference between negative or detrimental, and difficult. I am convinced it will benefit my husband and me and I won’t let my fears or laziness or stubbornness get in the way. :o)