STILL Musing on Nehemiah

I am working on finishing up my last week of homework from the study of Nehemiah. Yes, The study is technically over, we have met together for the last time, but I didn’t get it done and I don’t want to miss any of the truth God has to speak to me from this book. So here I am.

This morning, phrase after phrase is speaking to my soul. Lifting me. Singing to me.

  • “take this work of raising a family as a serious calling and be faithful in that”
  • “Satan likes to use our busy lives and our busy minds to help us forget what we’re to be focusing on. I pray my mind stays focused on what the Lord has put before me to do.”
  • In the book of Nehemiah, there is a “sense of community even in adversity, and the building for tomorrow”
  • “I…am learning to see through the enemies’ schemes to pull us away from our God given work.”
  • “We may not always feel like it. We may arrive weary, afraid, or discouraged. Warren Wiersbe said it best, ‘ Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place where God wants you.’ Sometimes obedience simply means showing up.”

I needed these words today. After all my years of walking with Christ, I am still amazed sometimes at how he speaks directly to my need at exactly the moment I need it. I serve an awesome Saviour. He hears me, He sees me, He loves me, He speaks to me, and He takes action on my behalf.

Last night I began writting a post titled “A Plea for Help.” You see, I feel overwhelmed. More accurately, I feel like a person with multiple personalities swirling around in her head, all competing for domanice and struggling for balance. I am Heidi, Heidi the wife, Heidi the mom, Heidi the housekeeper, Heidi the cook, Heidi the teacher, Heidi writer…and on and on. If Heidi the housekeeper gains control, my house looks fabulous but my children suffer because Heidi the mom is no where to be found. If Heidi the mom rules the day it is awesome…but eventually the house is so disgusting I don’t want to live here anymore!

I know that the idea of “getting it all done” is a farce. No one gets it all done…even if they look like they do. But where is balance? I believe with all my heart that loving and teaching my children is one of my top priorities but if housework falls onto the “not to do” list permanetly, how can we live in that mess? If my relationship with Christ is top priority, does it trump preparing meals for my family?

Meanwhile the ongoing mental arguments make me weary. The cacophany of voices screaming about what I should do, need to do, and want to do, drowns out everything else. The struggle for balance is not successful, just ongoing. I want to quit it all. Run away. Hide.

Then He speaks.

The voice that calmed the sea speaks peace over my soul. The voices stop screeching, if only for a moment or two.

“Peace, be still”

Maybe, for today, I don’t need balance. Maybe, for today, I just need to be still. To be present in the place where God wants me. To recount His faithfulness aloud. To remember how it is His hand that has lead me to this point. To stand in the conviction that it is in Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him that I will continue on.

“I am doing a great thing” (Nehemiah pt 3)

I’ve been in the doldrums lately. Going through the motions without joy, the vision for the future was blurry. I contemplated easier options. And then I started last week’s Bible study and ran headlong into this: the enemies of Israel were terrified of the wall of Jerusalem being completed and they did not pull any punches in their attempt to distract Nehemiah. They attacked, spread lies, stirred up fear and tempted Nehemiah to sin. They sent messages asking him to meet them for peace talks, which sounds like a good thing, right? I love his response: “I am doing a great work and I can’t come.” Wow.

Vision
Nehemiah had a clear vision of what he was to do. He knew what God had placed in his heart and it was specific. When his heart was burdened for the people, he did not ask the king to let him go help them somehow. He went to build the wall. Remember, he did not immediately see the whole picture and have a complete plan as soon as he felt the burden of the need in his heart. He prayed…for months. How else can we know what God wants us to do but by asking Him and seeking to hear His voice? If the vision is from God we can know that it is a “great work.”

completely convinced
Nehemiah was completely convinced that then plan that God put in his heart to do was a “great work” therefore it was worth putting aside a comfortable life and rightly-earned amenities. Who would stand against constant opposition unless they truly believed that what they were doing was worth it? No one is willing to sacrifice for a mediocre work. A good work sounds nice but when we get tired there is little motivation to continue on. It must be a great work. If the vision is from God we know it is a great work because our God does not do anything mediocre.

be undistractable
Nehemiah refused to be distracted from his work, even by things that seemed good. I think he understood the lesson my Dad repeated to me countless times, “good is the enemy of the best.” Oh, to have such a clear vision and determined focus that I cannot be distracted by the ‘good’ opportunities that come along! Perhaps the hard part is that some things may be great things in one season but good things in another. And something what is a great thing for you may be a good thing (read distraction) for me.

I used to teach 3 year old Sunday School and loved it! It had its moments but for the most part it was a joy and blessing to me. Then my kiddos got a little older and we began homeschooling. Each week I felt more and more that I was not doing my best at teaching Sunday School or teaching at home because my time & energy were divided between the two. I labored over the issue, I tried to rationalize continuing with both. I felt that God wanted me to focus on the great work of educating my children and that, at least for a season, meant that Sunday School was a distraction. The guilt of stepping down when there was already a shortage of teachers plagued me…for a while. As I became more convinced of how great the work is that I am currently called to the guilt faded. You know what? That class has a teacher. Someone who may not have ever stepped up to offer to teach before but who is enjoying teaching the 3 year olds as part of the great work God has for her in this season. I know that God is in control but when I see Him work things out like that I can’t help but smile.

The are other types of distractions. You know the ones. The time wasters, fun but of little be benefit to anyone. Not everyone will be susceptible to distraction by the same thing but we all have something. I am currently battling a certain electronic distraction. I’ve thought about tossing the whole thing but it isn’t all distraction, there are some big benefits for me. My second thought was to answer every beep, bell, chirp and chime with a very loud “I am trying to do a great work here!”

ahem. Obviously, I’m still working through my distraction issues.

keep working
So what now? If I have a clear vision of the great work God has for me to do and I am completely convinced that it is great and I am carefully guarding against distractions, what then?

Do the work. Keep doing the work. And finish strong.

Stay the course, my friends. A great work will never go unchallenged. A work done by the power of God will be completed. When the wall of Jerusalem was completed everyone knew that “our God had done it.” (Nehemiah 6:16) No one praised Nehemiah for his wisdom and focus or his excellent plans. God received the glory. Ultimately, shouldn’t that always be our goal in all things?

So, what is your great work? What distractions do you battle and how do you fight them?

If you will excuse me now, I have a great work I need to get back to.

To Muse or to be Amused, that is the Question (Musings from Nehemiah part 2)

This is a topic I’ve been musing on for a while. I had even written the beginnings of this post. Then I read the following paragraph in our study of Nehemiah and I just had to share these thoughts.

Nehemiah 3 repeats the phrase “they laid its beams and put in its doors with their bolts and bars in place” over and over. Kelly Minter had this to say about the ‘gates’ in our lives:

“Have you ever wondered if “mindless entertainment” might actually be a wide-open gate in your life by which many hurtful and deceiving ideas are sliding straight into your thinking? What about the friendships you keep, the magazines you read, the conversations in which you choose to engage? Are your doors open to the uplifting, truth-telling, and life-giving, or to what corrodes your soul? All day long we choose what goes in and out of our hearts and minds, and if you’re like me there are some doors, bars, and bolts that need tightening”

Let’s start with Webster

This is going to start out sounding like a vocabulary lesson but hang with me if you will, it will all come together in the end.

Muse is not a commonly used word these days…except in the sense of finding one’s muse but I am not talking about the source of your inspiration. According to good ol’ Webster: Muse (verb) to think or meditate in silence, as on some subject; to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon; deep thought, close attention, contemplation. Synonyms: consider, contemplate, deliberate, meditate, mull over, ponder, reflect, speculate, think, think over, weigh.

Amuse is more common. We have parks dedicated to our amusement and an industry devoted to entertaining—or amusing—us. All may not be as it seems, however. You see, when you add “a” to the beginning of a word it means “not” or “without.” For example: amoral means without moral quality, having no moral standard. So, in a basic sense, amuse means without musing. Going back to Webster we get a somewhat broader picture. Amuse (verb) to hold the attention of someone, entertain or divert in an enjoyable or cheerful manner; to cause laughter; to cause time to pass agreeably; to occupy or detain the attention with agreeable objects; to engage the attention by hope or expectation as to amuse one by flattering promises. Synonyms: Charm, cheer, delight, divert, gratify, interest, please, tickle, wow.

Hmm…

Muse with me a moment

I don’t know about you, but an overdose of amusement leaves me bleary-eyed. I don’t mean sleepy (although there have been countless times that I have stayed up too late watching tv or movies or reading ‘just one more chapter’ and am consequently sleepy the next day) I mean out-of-focus, not alert, dull of senses. A few months ago I felt like I was dealing with a terrible case of mommy-brain. I felt foggy all the time. I wasn’t getting much accomplished in a day and I had a tendency to be short with my kiddos. Then it hit me. I was glued to my new iPhone all day long! Between instant access to email, Facebook, Pinterest and the ‘with friends’ games (not to mention texts and phone calls) my phone was with me all the time and in use for the vast majority of my waking hours. No wonder I was frustrated with my kiddos…they had become interruptions! And you can figure out why I wasn’t getting anything done! I was being amused to the point that I couldn’t muse even when I wanted to.

Looking over those definitions a few other thoughts come to mind.

Most entertainment (tv, movies, magazines, games on your phone, social media, even books) can be considered amusing. It engages our attention, diverts us from our real-life problems and causes time to pass agreeably. But, I believe there are other forms of amusement that we should be aware of. “To charm, to engage attention by expectation as with flattering promises, to tickle” (as to tickle the ears perhaps?) This smacks of politics to me. I don’t care which side of the aisle you are on, politicians generally spend much time attempting to charm people, and they tickle our ears with promises. If we choose to listen, believe and form opinions without musing over what we are hearing, then we are being amused. Am I wrong?

So how do we avoid being taken in? How do we avoid the brain-fog induced by amusement?

We muse! Consider. Deliberate. Think.

Check the gates, tighten the bolts, and make sure the guard is on duty.

We cannot give deep thought and close attention to anything if our senses are dulled. We can either spend large amounts of our time turning off our brains and being entertained OR we can practice the art of musing—engage in thinking, studying, discerning, conversing, weighing each word we hear and read.

Balance, grasshopper, balance

Now before you go and throw away your tv hear me say this: amusement is not all bad all the time. No, I didn’t jump to the other side of the argument here, I am trying to point out that we need to find balance. We all have times when we need to de-stress by doing something mindless, and I believe there is nothing wrong with that. We just need to be aware of and carefully choose what we allow ourselves to be exposed to while we are “vegging out.”

Allow me to share about a time when I was not careful of what was coming ‘through my gates.’ Several years ago, Owen and I got into the habit of watching tv for an hour or so after we put the kiddos to bed. There were 2 sitcom type shows that we enjoyed and that conveniently came on at that time slot. I would consider them both to be ‘good’ shows, no bad language or moral issues, just funny and relatable. One of the shows had the stereotypical tv family…the wife was pretty, educated, gave up her career to stay home with their children while the husband works, drinks beer, lies to his wife to go to sporting events and cannot care for his children for half an hour without an injury or other catastrophe. The other show had similar themes of smart wife/dumb husband. No biggie, right? After all,it was funny. It was several months later before I began to see how these shows were effecting me. I love Owen, I think he is brilliant, capable and a great husband and father. During this period of time, however, I found myself almost despising him in my thoughts, viewing him as stupid, incapable of doing things the ‘right way.’ And those thoughts occasionally turned into words…to him and to others. Needless to say, my thoughts, attitude, and words were hardly beneficial for my marriage! We stopped watching those shows and I spent months purposefully working on changing my thinking, replacing lies with truth. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when I am mystified by his thought process or way of doing things, and times that I get frustrated with him, but during this period of time it was way beyond that. I firmly believe that having a steady diet of smart wife/dumb husband tv shows (while my brain was turned off!) effected my thought process…and I didn’t even realize it. We now avoid similar shows for the most part and on the rare occasion that we do watch them, I am aware of the negative messages and can guard against them instead of passively accepting them.

I think that is the trick to finding balance, don’t expose your mind to the unknown when your brain is not engaged. That would be like the guard who watches the gate calling out ‘someone is coming’ then opening the gate and heading home for dinner without determining whether it was friend or foe approaching!

Another way to look at it is through the parallel of eating while reading or watching a movie. When we eat while doing something else we often fail to think about what and how much we are eating. If you have ever consumed a whole bag of popcorn before the ending credits roll, then you know what I mean. The theater lights come up and you ask yourself, “who ate all the popcorn?” If we take the precaution of choosing a healthy snack we will likely feel fewer ill effects later even if we ate more than we intended to. Are you catching the parallel? If we choose our amusement carefully beforehand, fully aware of what we are exposing ourselves to, we will likely experience fewer ill effects later.

I hope I’m making sense. It all boils down to: think, choose wisely, check your gates.

Thanks for musing along with me.

Musings from Nehemiah

Sometimes when I write, the words flow so quickly I cannot stop and when I am done I feel like a wrung-out dish towel. This is one of those times. I may have typed these words but I did not think them up…I was merely the pen. It is a little long but I hope you will read all the way through.

Oh, and you might want to buckle your seatbelt too.

“Sometimes I shield myself from finding out what’s really going on with people for fear I will be held responsible. Because with information often comes responsibility; if we know we might be required to do something” Kelly Minter

Has that ever happened to you? Or have you ever learned something before you had the chance to put your fingers in your ears and felt crushed by the need to take action?

Nehemiah *wanted* to know (Neh 1:2 he asked) and then he could not sit back and relax, he had to take action, had to do something.

Knowledge is dangerous. It changes us. Think about it. If no one ever told you “veggies are good for you, dessert is bad for you” you would not feel at all guilty when you pass by the bowl of broccoli and eat a plateful of cookies. But, true or not, someone did tell you that at some point and you probably think about it every time you put anything in your mouth. You may still choose to eat the plateful of cookies but now you feel guilty about. Am I right?

So when we see pictures of children playing soccer with some trash that they squished into a ball-shape and someone’s precious feet wearing flattened water bottles for shoes, we should feel compelled to do something. When we know there are children who do not know when they will eat again and others who will are being sexually exploited, we should feel burdened. We should have compassion that spurs us to action.

There is a problem though. It is easy to make excuses. There are millions of reasons why I can’t help. “We barely make enough to pay our own bills” is probably one of the first mentioned– I get that, I live that sometimes. But I am going to be blunt here, we all have little luxuries– probably things we may not think of as luxuries– that we could give up so we could give to others. Redefine the necessities of your life. Maybe it is giving up your daily stop at Starbucks or your regular trip to the salon for a mani/pedi. (please note: I am NOT condemning these things! Lord knows I love a little Starbucks and pretty toenails. I’m just suggesting that cutting back on these types of things would free up some extra funds in you budget) There is a book I’ve been wanting to read called A Place at the Table — the author challenges the readers to eat a diet similar to what would be available to a child in a poor country (think beans and rice, folks) for 40days and donating the grocery money you saved to an organization that provides food in one of those countries. Could you handle that? My point is this: even if our budget is tight we could find creative ways I come up with a few dollars to give each month. If we really wanted to.

So say you are already eating beans and rice for every meal and have never darkened the door of a Starbucks. What then? The way I see it you have 2 major ways you can still take action. Pray and share.

We tend to think of prayer as passive. Have you ever heard someone say, “I can’t do anything but I will pray for you.” Really?? Prayer should be our #1! The first and biggest thing we can do! How about, “I have no money to give but I can lift you up to the God who rules over all things, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who cares about you more than he cares for the birds and flowers and who has worked mightily on my behalf because I know He is faithful and will work mightily on your behalf!” Seriously, people! Some people can pray and give, some can pray and go, some can just pray but we should all pray!

We should pray. We should give. We should also SHARE.

You know because someone told you, now tell someone else. Forward the email, post on Facebook, tweet, blog, make phone calls, mail letters shout from the rooftops. Whatever works for you, just tell, spread the word. Because when the word spreads the Word can be spread and that’s what it is all about, am I right?

This is Great Commission stuff here. We need to be concerned about souls. People need Jesus and we need to tell them. But Jesus was practical. He met needs. Shouldn’t we follow His example?

I came across these statistics a while back. I read over them occasionally…especially when I feel like I am getting comfortable.

  • The total number of orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa is greater than the total number of children in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Canada and Sweden.
  • “Worldwide, the State Department estimated that in 2010 there are 12.3 million adults and children in modern-day slavery – including forced labour, bonded labour and forced prostitution,”
  • Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • Every day 1,500 women die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth that could have been prevented. Each day 10,000newborns die within a month of birth, and daily the same number of babies are also born dead.
  • Roughly 12 percent of the world’s population, or 884 millionpeople, do not have access to safe water.
  • Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
  • Florida is one of 9 states with a higher household food insecurity rate than the national average from 2008 – 2010 at 16.1%

Don’t believe we are blessed? Read about life in Ethiopia here. Read about slavery.

Now you know. What are you going to do about it?

Need ideas for how to help? Check out these opportunities:
Bring Love In – http://bringlove.in/sponsor-a-forever-family/

Mercy House – http://www.mercyhousekenya.org/

Compassion International – http://www.compassion.com/

http://www.thea21campaign.org/

The Children’s Malnutrition Center of San Juan, Guatemala

There are so many more!

I know some will say something along the lines of “we can’t help everyone everywhere.” That is true. Does that mean you will not try to help even one?

I am going to say it again…now you know…what are you going to do about it?