Monday, April 12, 2010

First Things First

It's been an interesting few days since I felt like I reached a breakthrough with the Lord. He finally spoke clearly to my heart about the need to put my focus on effort on pursuing Him first in all things, and call me thick-headed, because I realize this seems like an obvious principle, but I finally reached the point of surrender.

A few days before I hit this point, I had an exchange with a friend on Facebook. Like my blog I am pretty transparent on FB and I confessed to feeling very much like I was lost and in a desert, to which my friend responded with an encouragement of sorts. What she said was, "Hang on Diana, you've been here before and the Lord always comes through and brings you to a better place with Him." Well, the current "state of the union" would indicate she was correct, but what has been bothering me a little is the fact that I keep wandering into these desert places. I'm wondering if that says something concerning about me and my spiritual condition. The scripture that keeps coming to my mind is this: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13. In a way this has given me a little bit of hope. Paul is speaking to the obedient here, he even describes them as faithful, and yet, they have to keep working out their salvation. I hope that's the battle, me working through my salvation.

I have tried to obey what I have heard the Lord speak. I laid aside some things, and more importantly, I put Him back on the throne of others. As I have done this, one thing at a time, it's like I have been pulling spiritual cotton out of my ears. The more I have obeyed, the more I have tried to tune my ear to hear His voice, the more He seems to speak.

With my physical efforts to lose weight and get healthier, the changes I have made have been to not allow my workouts interfere with spending time with Him in the morning to read and pray. It had gotten to the point that I was laying aside that time in order for the better or longer work out. Simple, but I have chosen to reverse that, and over the last few days I even missed a few workouts because of it. As for my "dieting" rather than laying myself heavy with lots of restrictions and rules in my eating, I am just trying to be dependent on Him in that area. I am only eating out of true physical hunger, not being gluttonous but being content with just enough, and instead of using food like a drug to meet spiritual and emotional needs, I'm turning to Him to fill those voids. Just in the few days I have tried to make myself more dependent on Him I have dropped 5 lbs of weight. After being stuck for such a long time I have made a huge drop in those few days just by putting Him first and trusting Him.

As the cotton has been pulled from my ears, some scales seem to be dropping from my eyes as well. Things that have been awry and I have tried to ignore have been more plain before me. We have had a lot of unrest in our home, not between Neal and I, but among our children. Things have been very contentious, lots of fighting and yelling, even physical altercations at times. Even my usually sweet natured Ethan has been flippant and disrespectful. It's been really grating on Neal and I to the point that we have been trying to avoid too much "whole family" time together, rather dividing them to conquer.

The Lord these past couple of days reminded me of a scripture He put but before not too long ago, from 1 Timothy 4, it says, "Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. I knew at the time when I read it He was referring to my children. As gifted as I am as a teacher and an exhorter (that's not pride, I know it is a GIFT) I had been using it only on the outside of my most precious circle. I knew the Lord was calling me to use these gifts to train and build up my own kids. They are my greatest "hearers" and I had been neglecting that very important privilege.

Saturday night we took the kids to an Angel game and by the time we got home Neal and I were about ready to run away. Ethan got sent to bed almost immediately after we got home because of disrespect. Though not in trouble we shuffled Victoria off towards bed as well just have some peace. Neal started a movie with Jacob and his friend/ our honorary son in the living room. A few minutes later I felt impressed to go and spend a little time with my daughter. We laid together and talked, read her Bible and the Lord began to give me insight into her struggles and gave me tools to began to work with her on changes that need to be made. Eventually I brought her back into the living room and Neal and the older boys joined me as we prayed over her and asked God to empower her with His Spirit to make better choices and to rely on His strength to do it and not her own. (I plan to blog in more specifics about the night on our family blog, feel free to check back for more on the story.)

The next morning I was alone with the little kids as Neal, Jake and Trevor were all serving in church that morning. I knew I needed to talk to Ethan a little about what had gone on the night before. I ended up having a good conversation with him as well, not as deep or intense, but I was laying ground work for more conversation ahead. It was different and what I felt in that moment was the Lord showing me how to train each of them each in their own bent. Again, a basic principle and seemingly obvious, but something I had neglected.

Neal and I ended up having a chance to go to dinner and talk about the need to parent with more unity, and be proactive, not reactive, training, not just dealing with what comes our way. And we need to work harder to bringing it all back to the Truth of God's Word, and giving them knowledge, helping them turn it into wisdom as they apply it. It felt good to get on the same page, we've always been a team, but now we working from the same game plan.

I've started journaling, writing is from the Lord for me, it's a strong area of communication, it's why I love to blog, but blogging isn't enough. When I blog as committed as I am to being real and honest, there is still the awareness of the reader, and a desire to communicate powerfully and effectively, but when I journal, it is just between the Lord and I. It is a tool to help me focus completely on Him, and I can muddle through, I can whine, I can complain and I can just be real wherever I am at without fear of judgment. Last week I had been doing it more than once a day. Then when the weekend came with a prayer meeting, a soccer game, 2 Angel games and the like by last night I realized I hadn't stopped for total focus and well past when I should have gone to bed I had to blog. I forewent sleep in lieu of the opportunity to connect to the Father. I know it was more Him drawing me than me being drawn.

Today, with spring break now over, it was time to start getting up early for my workouts again. Last week I had later hours to accommodate both the work out and the quiet time. I knew today would be tough. So at the end of my prayer journaling I asked God to help me be up and able to manage going back to the early hours. I was amazed this morning when I found myself wide awake even earlier than normal. I woke up rested and refreshed despite the short sleep and was able to get in a solid work out, a shower and a great quiet and devotional time, and still get the kids off to school on time (even with my wayward husband home and getting ready for golf.) As I was finishing up getting ready I marveling at how well the morning was going when I remembered the scripture, Matthew 6:33 which says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." I knew the Lord brought it to my mind to remind me of His wonderful "kingdom math." He promised if I would do my part, He would do His.

The bottom line is, it's about putting "first things first" which means He has to be first in all things. He wants to be a part of everything I do, and He wants to empower me to do the things I need to do. I talked to my daughter about that power from the Holy Spirit, and we likened to a balloon inside each believer, every believer has one, but many live a deflated life, with it deflated inside. I know I have been guilty of poking "holes" in my balloons with out of whack priorities, but when I put the Lord in His proper place (first) in every aspect of my life, it's like creating the perfect seal on a balloon that is continually inflated and making a visible impact. I want to live a fully inflated life.

By no means do I think I have this "covered." I don't think this an accomplished task in my life, but I do feeling like I am catching on, and working out my salvation. God has a purpose and plan for me, and I hinder it when I don't let Him be Lord of all. So I am doing my best to walk in obedience. I'm trying to do it in the care of my spirit, in the care of my soul, in the care of my children, and in the care of my gifts, including my writing. I am believing for God's good work and that I can grow through it.

It's exciting, and I have been praying for balance, and the first step towards that is definitely putting first things first.

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