Tuesday, October 10, 2017

When You Rise Up - Chapter 4 - Parenting 101

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada (2015)

1.  Share your observations about how parents in our culture today try to be a pal rather than the parent.  What problems do you see with this approach to parenting?

I think it brings a lot of confusion into our kids' lives.  They don't truly understand about healthy boundaries, or negative consequences for wrong choices.  We see a lot of entitlement in our society and you don't have to work for or earn anything.  Just because you exist is enough and it isn't.

2.  How does forgiving your own parents (or others who have hurt you) help you as a parent?  Consider the following verses as you answer this questions.
  • Ephesians 4:26-27 - 26 “When you are angry, don’t let that anger make you sin,”[a] and don’t stay angry all day.27 Don’t give the devil a way to defeat you. (ERV)
    • When we don't forgive, roots of bitterness grow deep within us.  Then we do things that aren't good out of that bitterness, with a seething anger.  So many awful things and some people commit awful crimes because of unforgiveness.  We won't live this life without being wronged.  And forgiving doesn't absolve what was done, but it's releasing the bad ties to that person and letting God deal with that person.  If we do not release forgiveness, this gives the devil a way to work and attack our lives.
  • Colossians 3:12-13 - 12 God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So your new life should be like this: Show mercy to others. Be kind, humble, gentle, and patient.13 Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. (ERV)
    • No matter what, our kids will wrong us many times.  They will infuriate us, but we need to continually forgive them and be an example to them about forgiveness and restoration (where possible).  It teaches our kids not to be prideful, because forgiveness, as I see it, is a humbling thing.  This all points to Jesus and that we do not have control of others.
  • Hebrews 12:14-15 - 14 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord. 15 Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many. (HCSB)
    • God is love and peace, even though He is a God who also judges.  But first He is love.  The devil has no love.  He is selfish, prideful, arrogant and filled with destruction.  If we allow God's love to dwell in us, eventually, by the grace of God, others will see this and want this in their lives. 
3.  Read Ephesians 6:1-4 - Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV)
  • What instructions are given to children in this passage?
    • Children are to obey their parents, to honor them.
  • Name 2 or 3 observations you make in regard to parents' responsibilities in these same four verses.
    • As parents we are to teach our kids, to discipline them, correct them, but not in such a harsh manner that it causes them to be discouraged, angry, bitter.  
  • Why do you think Paul included this teaching to the church in Ephesus?  What do you think prompted this?
    • Families are so important and are the backbone of any society.  Without strong families, societies are weak.  He's encouraging all parts of the family - not just children, but also parents.
4.  Share some successes that you have had as a mom in having fun with your children without sacrificing your parenting principles with your children?

We have gone on many trips together that are super fun, as well as hiking and many other outings.  We never have to worry about our kids acting up or not obeying because we work on those things at home so when we are out, it's smooth going and an enjoyable time for all.

5. Hopefully you can laugh about some of the things that your children have said and done.  Share a funny parenting store that you have experienced.  Why is laughter important to being a good parent?

When my daughter was maybe 3-4 yrs old and my son was a baby, we were in church.  We had taught our daughter to say AMEN after prayers.  The pastor was praying a bit long and had stopped, or a long pause.  My daughter thought he was done and shouted, AMEN!  I told her he wasn't done.  But she refused to stop saying AMEN!!  She kept shouting AMEN and I had to take her out of service.  That was really funny (well, not at the time) and I could hear some people laughing.

6.  What was the most helpful or encouraging to you as a mom in this chapter?  Share your insights.

Not forgiving could have awful consequences that manifest in bad ways later in our lives.  So we must forgive.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

When You Rise Up: Chapter 3 - Who's In Control?

Boyce Arboretum, Superior, AZ (2013)
1.  Share one positive quality that you respect about your husband.  This can be anything.  But it needs to be positive and honoring.

My husband is consistent with correction and discipline while I am forgetful and inconsistent.  Though, with his help and God's, I am becoming more consistent.

2.  How does God's view of women, as discussed in this chapter, encourage you as you consider His command for wives to respect and follow your husband's leadership?  How should this change the way you understand your role and responsibility to support your husband?

God views women equal to men in terms of value.  No more, no less.  This means no matter what, we are to obey God and God gives husbands the leadership role.  My role is just as important in being my husband's helpmate.  No marriage can have two ultimate leaders.  Especially when I disagree, I need to relinquish the control to my husband.  God will honor this even if my husband is wrong.

3.  While we may disagree with our husbands on different issues, what do these verses say to us about the way we are to treat him whether we agree or not?  Discuss your answers.
  • Romans 12:9-10  - Better to be an ordinary person with a servant than to be self-important but have no food.  The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.
    • It's better to humble ourselves than to be prideful.  We are to humble ourselves to our husbands, especially when we think we're right and disagree.  It's better to obey God than do what we want. (NLT)
  • Galatians 5:25-26 - If we live by the Spirit, let us also [a]walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (NASB)
    • We are to remain humble, obeying God.  Allow the Holy Spirit to direct us, not our fleshly desires.
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 - 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. 32 Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave [a]you. (AMP)
    • We are to forgive, not allow ourselves to get bitter, angry.  Submit our emotions to the Lord.  We're to be kind and helpful.  This is extremely challenging but I found when I submit my emotions to the Lord, repent, bind the enemy and kick him out, the Lord reigns in my attitude.
4.  How can we encourage our husbands to follow his God-given leadership, but not act as his Holy Spirit or his mother, but as his helper and friend?

We can not nag, have a nice tone of voice, a pleasant, genuine attitude, be kind and caring.  We are to be interested and respectful when he has to make the final decisions.  We can ask if he wants to hear inputs and not try to control the situation, but allow his word to be final without holding grudges, trusting that God will work everything out in the end.

5.  Look up each verse and consider what insights they offer to encouraging your husband in his leadership role.
  • Proverbs 15:28 - Prayerful answers come from God-loyal people; the wicked are sewers of abuse. (MSG)
    • Continually pray for my husband, but don't allow myself to say mean, discouraging, hateful, disrespectful things to him.
  • Proverbs 16:21-24 - Anyone with a wise heart is called discerning, and pleasant speech increases learning.22 Insight is a fountain of life for its possessor, but the discipline of fools is folly.  23 A wise heart instructs its mouth and increases learning with its speech. 24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb:  sweet to the taste[c] and health to the body. (HCSB)
    •  Be disciplined with what I say and say things gently, considering my husband and where he is.  Don't be harsh, but use a good tone of voice that shows him respect.  Use respectful speech.  Sometimes say nothing if it needs be.  Love my husband in the way he needs to be loved and then possibly God will help change his heart to listen to me.
  • Romans 12:16-18 - 16 - Live in harmony with one another.Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[a] Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV)
    • Don't need to have my way, but really trust God despite whatever decisions my husband makes.  Don't be prideful, but be willing to forgive as well as ask for forgiveness.  Have a change of heart and truly trust God that no matter what decisions my husband makes, God's will for our lives will be done.  Don't be prideful and even if my husband is vengeful towards me, show him love and kindness instead.  Live peaceably and learn to communicate in a manner that touches my husband's mind,  heart, and soul and that's by treating my husband the way God wants me to treat him - well, respectful.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - 16 - Always be joyful.17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)
    • Even when situations don't seem joyful, joy does not come from our circumstances, rather on God.  Continue always to pray in good and bad times, because the devil wants us to be lazy.  And even when things are bad, be thankful for what God is doing because in due time, He will make things right.  God is always in control and He has His purpose for allowing or doing things.
6.  Share one thought or verse that impacted you most from this lesson.

Proverbs 16:24 - I am sometimes too direct and need to keep a reign on my mouth until the words I use are sweet to the taste, but truthful and loving, kind.  This is a huge challenge, but God is making progress in me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

When You Rise Up - Chapter 2 - What Does He Know?

On Our Wedding Day - Simple Bands, But A Deep Love That Crossed Oceans & Continents
1.  Share one or two differences between you and your husband that first attracted you to him before you were married.  Has this changed?  If so, why do you think it has?

Two things that attracted me to my husband originally were his ability to really take the time to listen and his good manners.  Many Latin American men I knew were arrogant and egotistical and I was not attracted to such men.  He still is a great listener and takes the time to listen, whereas I am a hurried listener.  And, unless he's really upset, he is a gentle person.  So in both these, he has changed for the better.  And I have learned to become a better listener.  Though, I still have a long ways to go.  He's helped me to be a better listener by providing helpful feedback and with EMDR therapy, EFT, soaking warfare prayer, I am changing.  My personality is fairly aggressive and assertive, but I'm seeing that isn't always the best and seeing that there are times to be gentler, kinder.  Now my husband's style of listening and responding to things, especially when things upset him, are much better.  He's learned to acknowledge when he's wrong, apologize and to make changes to not do again.  But, we've both changed a lot for the better.

2.  Name one parenting difference that you have with your husband that may be a difficulty for you.  Why do you think it is difficult?  (Be sure to be respectful toward your husband if you are sharing this in a group.)

My husband is very consistent in parenting and he doesn't forget usually.  I used to be the complete opposite - really nice and wonderful, soft and then really harsh when I was frustrated, like a roller coaster.  What I was doing was not good.  My husband's consistency has been super helpful and has helped given the kids greater stability, even if they don't always like the correction and discipline.  There is greater respect, honor and order in our home, as well as peace and I believe happiness.

Being consistent in parenting is challenging for me because I grew up in a very strict, harsh home and I didn't want my kids to feel like I felt - useless, good for nothing.  I know now that my parents didn't mean it like that but that wasn't so when I was a kid and I ended up making a lot of bad choices because of it.  I want my kids to be sparred that, but I also don't want them to feel entitled and not work for or earn things that they should be.

3.  How does Philippians 2:3-4 - In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too. (ERV) encourage you to see your husband's unique perspective?

There are usually multiple ways to skin a cat.  Our perspective is based off our experiences, knowledge, emotions, values, beliefs.  No two people are exactly alike.  I've learned that my husband has great insights that shock the pants off me often.  I didn't think he thought that deeply about some things and he does.  Whereas, sometimes I think in some things he thinks deeply and he doesn't.  He has a high emotional intelligence and I've come often to value this great quality in him.

4.  Is there any area in your marriage that you need to give your husband more respect?  Is there something in which you know he needs your verbal support?  how will you show him respect his week?

I think when I'm stressed out, tired, and/or not feeling well, sometimes I take things wrong and can be quite sarcastic in a mean way.  This is not good and right now while I'm under the weather, I need to be extra careful that I'm not offensive and more understanding as he is understanding towards me.

He loves his bonsai tree hobby and though at the beginning I fought him on it, the Holy Spirit convicted me that I am to let me husband lead, be loving, kind, supportive, but also offer good wisdom (when asked) and God will take care of things, even if my husband makes mistakes, which he will.  Learning to let this go and show him support, be interested in his bonsai stuff through taking photos, helping him with his plants with watering, misting and all the many things I do are things I show support to him.  Also, having a great attitude and truly being interested and concerned when he is.

5.  Reflect back on the following verses from this chapter and write out how you can apply them to your marriage today.

  • Proverbs 12:18 - 18 Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal. (GNT)
    • While I'm ill, I can THINK before speaking.  Is this value added?  Is this going to help?  Sometimes silence is better than saying poor words.  I know I'm getting better in this because of all the loving things my husband is giving back to me in affection.
  • Proverbs 16:21 - A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation. (MSG)
    • I am learning that I do not have to fix or solve all problems.  Sometimes my husband just wants to tell me things and he doesn't want anything from me except listening to him.  For this, my husband is most appreciative and it makes him feel loved, feeling listened to and respected because he doesn't need me to solve everything for him.  I'm his wife, his life partner, not his mom.
  • James 1:19-20 - 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (NLT)
    • Sometimes just by listening and not reacting emotionally, it's a great thing.  Actually, usually.  Sometimes we get angry as we don't fully understand the situation and even if we do, doing things in a calm, rational manner is usually far better than being over reactive.  God can do great things when we control anger.  Another way to help control anger is to continually forgive those who offend us so that no bitterness takes root in our hearts, thus we are not angry people.
  • Ephesians 5:33b - and the wife [must see to it] that she respects and delights in her husband [that she notices him and prefers him and treats him with loving concern, treasuring him, honoring him, and holding him dear].
    • My husband has really taken notice of how much more loving I am towards him by not over reacting and being all emotional about everything and about wanting control over everything.  This has caused him to be a much nicer, gentler, caring husband as well as more affectionate in the way I want.  It's taking awhile, but if we honor God in His Word, even if it looks impossible, He will make a way.  I treasure my husband by respecting him through my words and actions.

Monday, September 11, 2017

When You Rise Up: Chapter 1 - The Best Job Ever

Zion National Park, Utah (2015)
The weeks to come, I am going to be doing with my Titus group When You Rise Up written by Lee Sumner.  It's a book of wisdom for moms who want to parent with purpose.

1.  Share your own experience of having your first child.  What surprised you most?

I was really surprised that I didn't gain very much weight - 13 lbs total.  And I was surprised Labor and Delivery was so quick and easy.  I had exercised throughout my pregnancy.  My daughter came 2-3 weeks early.  And I didn't really feel the labor pains.  She just really popped out.  It was fairly easy.  Despite my getting pregnant with her out of wedlock, I was so surprised at God's Grace & Mercy for me in giving me a great and easy pregnancy.  And, after I gave birth, I had no weight to lose rather I weighed less than before I got pregnant.

2.  In your experience, what has been the most difficult part of being a mom?  What has been the greatest joy?  Who has been a source of encouragement to you?

The most difficult part of being a mom is to correct & discipline my kids consistently.  The greatest joy has been leading both of them to Christ at early ages.  My greatest source of encouragement in this motherhood has been this women's group - Titus.

3.  Read Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 2:8-20.

  • Describe how you think Mary felt concerning her "greatest job" ever?
I think she felt very scared, nervous, confused.
  • What do you learn about Mary from Luke 1:38?
She must have had great faith and trust in God.  She truly believed.
  • What insight can you glean about her from Luke 2:19.
She had a really close relationship with God.
  • How does Mary's example as a mother encourage you as mother today?  What hope does her life story bring?
I'm really not sure.  I feel so different than Mary.  I'm not sure what hope it brings for me.

4.  What encouragement do you receive from the following verses as they apply to being a mother?  Share your insights.
  • Jeremiah 29:11 - God has a plan for each of our lives.  Even though we have trials and go through tough stuff, He is using those things for the better and for good.
  • Philippians 4:4-8 - I love these verses.  It tells us to think on good thoughts.  To be thankful in everything.  To bring our concerns and requests to God.  God will give us peace.
5.  Share one thought or Bible verse from this chapter that most encouraged you.

I really love Philippians 4:4-8.  Those verses always encourage me.  That God has everything under control.

Monday, July 10, 2017

To Christian Leaders

My husband and I this morning were talking about the church - the difference between the church I used to go to and the church I now go to.  We also talked about drawing people to Christ and how our lives as Christians are in the U.S. as opposed to another country.

Since I have never lived abroad, but my husband comes from Colombia, I don't have his perspective, but now I am seeing more his perspective after having left my previous church.  While there, people were nice to me, at least to my face.  Now, I realize that the church is made up of flawed people and no church is without flawed people.

I have seen more growth in my Christian walk after having left my last church and I didn't realize why.  And it was because I was no longer being confined to an underlying legalism that I didn't realize existed.  Now I can see more of what it was.

Not on social media much except in one place and I do see the how now I am shunned by most of the people that I went to church with - both still now attending that church and by many of those whom no longer go there anymore.  It's sort of weird.  I didn't leave that church because I was angry, rather it didn't seem like we were fitting there anymore.  Frankly, I'm not sure if we fit there for quite some time.

Yes, I learned a lot and perhaps I could have connected more.  In my own brokenness, my own flaws, maybe I should have connected better.  Maybe it through my writing, my posts I connected with people.  I found it odd that some people were super friendly with me, but that was only because they wanted something from me - they needed my help, they needed me to fill in for them, or to bring something or anything like that.

Yes, there were a number of years I was needy and I was helped by the church.  For that, I am grateful.  I wasn't asking for it, but some people out of their own hearts, came to assist me.  I'm not saying all things or even most things are bad of that former church, but I am left confused.  When I make a comment on someone's stuff and they are wanting to connect with people, I guess ignoring them, eventually they go away.

What was my crime?  I was just trying to provide for the needs of my family and they weren't being met where we were, so with careful prayer for over 2 yrs, we made the decision to leave.  It was scary to leave my comfort zone, and after searching every Sunday for several months and talking to a number of churches, we found a church we liked that we all agreed we wanted to be there.

Is being a Christian ousting those not in your clique?  I have been offended at some people deleting me, while yet retaining others whom we know, or ignoring my friend requests, or blocking me.  What did I do wrong?  I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a Christian, a follower of Christ.  But, I wonder to some of these teachers of the Bible, are they really just a Pharisee, claiming they love Christ, but don't really love others?

Ghandi would have become a Christian, I would surmise, except that he saw the lack of love and the actions of those people who called themselves Christ followers.  Jesus spoke Truth to people.  He loved ALL people.  He may have not accepted or liked their actions, but He loved ALL peoples.

My husband had told me maybe there wasn't really anyone at my last church that really liked me.   That hurt to hear, but I think he's probably correct.  Maybe all those meals I made, or helping people move, or praying for others never really mattered except to be used for at that time.  Maybe Life Group there was just to form those social cliques and if you're outside of them, you're not accepted.

I saw some other people also at the church ousted by people from the church.  I didn't oust them.  I would still talk to them.  If I didn't talk to them, and there was only one person, it wasn't because of the church, rather it was because she couldn't respect my boundaries which I had told her directly.  I think my past church.

Maybe I should have talked to the pastor about us leaving, but quite a few other people had tried to do that before me and it didn't go well with them.  I never felt super connected to the pastor and felt mostly that he was beyond me.  And, at the time of where I was, I didn't want to feel further rejection so I just disappeared into the night.

Not saying everyone there is like that.  I can name one person who is not like that at all, maybe two.  But, if a church is to grow and to flourish, maybe when people leave, shutting the door to them may not be a good thing either.

Honestly, I've never faced this before, well maybe some when I divorced my first husband and left that church.  That's understandable as his family had been there for more than 2 decades and me divorcing their son . . .

Maybe it's just the church I left.  I didn't feel I left on bad terms.  Well, it's just the way it is.  I just need to know that I don't want to be like many of those whom are doing this - look good on the outside, play Christian well, but only use people for when you need them for whatever your purpose is and then when they are of no use, then discard them.  Keep preaching the Gospel, but don't have to live it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Screwtape Letters (by C.S. Lewis) - LETTER 1 - Reason & Reality

"The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground." - Screwtape

1.  Use your imagination and describe Screwtape and Wormwood.  Take into account their appearance, personalities, and demeanor.  Who would you rather have a conversation with and why?

I see both Screwtape and Wormwood as being very prideful.  The appearance in my mind is that Uncle Screwtape is a large, grossly fat man - aging, old clothes, fat stubby fingers.  His face is craggly and old, deep crevices, mangled skin and a bit disfigured.  His clothes are mainly neat, but ill fitting.  I imagine his voice to be firm, forceful, thundering, strong, sarcastic and commanding, condescending.  As for Wormwood, physically I see him as taller, slender, but his figure has had less disfiguration.  His hands have long slender fingers, but with darkened nails and tips with long fingernails.  He always has a smug look on his face, like he knows everything, but at least he tries to listen to his uncle and sort of thinks his uncle is a bit of a nag and pompous.  He has contempt for his uncle.

Personally, I would like to have a conversation with Uncle Screwtape.  He has a great deal of experience and knowledge and I would like to glean this knowledge from him and get help from Uncle Screwtape's Enemy (God) to combat his own schemes.

Both my kids saw Uncle Screwtape as slender.  But we all agreed that they were both prideful.

2.  SCREWTAPE'S GAME PLAN - Which action of Screwtape below do you think would be most effective in keeping teens from knowing Christ today?  Why?

a.  Convincing teens that "real life" is just like their favorite reality show.
b.  Convincing teens that they are immortal and will never die.
c.  Replacing "right" or "wrong" with "what's trending".
d.  Acting without considering any consequences.
e.  Distracting teens with media and other forms of technology.

I would choose E, to distract teens with media and other forms of technology.  If you keep them distracted, they don't have time to think about anything.  Their time is consumed with frivolous things that take up time, waste time, and have no eternal value, yet they'll think it's important.

My son chose B and my daughter chose C.  We had a nice discussion on this and this is where we saw things differently.  

3.  True or false.  Satan wants you focused only on spiritual matters not non-essential matters.

False.  Satan wants you to focus on the non-essential matters making you think they are really important.  He doesn't want you to think at all about spiritual matters, so if he can distract you to not think of things, the better.

We all agreed on this.

4.  Have you ever known someone who refused to come to church because of their disappointment with another Christian or the church?  How does that change the way you talk to them about church?

Yes.  Actually much of my family is like this because Christians they have seen have a worse testimony than the lives they personally live, why would they need to go to church?  I don't really talk much about church to them, but really just try to live my life correctly, in a way that pleases God, but not necessarily like people expect or think Christians should be like.  Our actions and how we live life will speak much louder than the words we say.  At some point, however, you do need to say some things, but your life should already show the words in action.

The kids shared about different people they knew specifically that this is applicable to.  

5.  BIBLE STUDY QUESTION - Read Luke 10:39-42.  39 She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. 40 But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part.”41 But the Lord replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her.”  What ordinary, everyday distractions was Martha concerned with?  Who did it make her resent?  What did she miss out on?

Martha was concerned with preparing dinner, cleaning house, getting things ready for dinner.  How that looks like for each of us may be different, but it's really those things that have no eternal value that we put all our focus on so there is no time to think about or do what is important, that has eternal value.  Martha resented Mary for not pitching in to help her because she thought getting things done was more important than to pay attention to what Jesus was wanting.  Martha missed out on a lot in terms of really getting that doing all the dinner & other stuff was trivial in the grand scheme of things.  Not saying those things didn't need to be done, but maybe it could have been done to a less perfectionistic standard so there could be time listening to what Jesus wanted to share.

How this looks like in real life, in my life, is I can be like Martha a lot, taking care of things and then being resentful of my family for not cooperating.  But, when all is said and done, though it's still important for my family these things get done, maybe I can minimize the "stuff" that needs to be done and really love and listen to them, take time to spend with them instead of always being so busy.

We all were in agreement here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Screwtape Letters (by C.S. Lewis) - Introduction

This summer I decided more than a month ago that my 2 teenage kids and I would do the study guide for teens on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  If you haven't read this or listened to the audio, it's really well worth reading or listening to.  The premise of this book is based on how the devil trips up Christians and I really think it's so well-written.  C.S. Lewis is a prolific and profound writer.  He was once an atheist.  This book is a satirical, fictional novel that addresses Biblical Christian theological issues such as temptation, sin, resistance.

Having a 16-yr old, soon to be 17-yr old and one final year of high school left, I am faced with wondering if I've prepared my daughter enough for the "real world".  Things look much differently now than when I graduated from high school more than 30 yrs ago and embarked on my own.  Many things that were wrong were called wrong then, but now many things that are wrong are right and finding that those things that are right (meaning good as defined by the Bible) are shunned and there has been persecution of Bible Christians now more so in the United States than ever.

Granted, persecution for Christians in the U.S. is still nothing like that of many parts of the world where it's really bad even to the point of death or a tortured death.  It's important for my kids to be able to see the ploys of the devil and to know how to make good decisions that please & honor God, as well as better understand what they believe.

I'll be sharing this journey we are embarking on this summer through the 31 LETTERS of this book.  Each of my kids and I will read each letter separately, as well as answer the questions in the study guide for that letter.  Then, we will come together to discuss the letter and the study guide for that letter.  I will share my portion of the study guide.  Truly I am excited to be doing this with my two teenagers.

Hopefully this study will be very beneficial for them and life changing as they go on to make decisions and choices in their lives as young people.  It is a challenging world we live in and I want to equip them with not only practical tools to live in the every day world, but more importantly, spiritual tools to help them stand strong in this evil day.  To help them have a solid walk with the Lord.  In some past summers, we've read the Bible together on multiple occasions in different translations, as well as chronologically.  We've had many great discussions.  Now it's time to dig a little deeper in this area of sin & temptation and how to combat this.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Intentional Woman: The Widow of Zarephath: When There's Nothing Left - Chapter 18

A Beach in Malibu, CA
1.  Write down any thoughts or insights that you gained from this chapter.  What was notable to you from the reading?

I felt at some points in my life like the Widow Z - there was nothing left for me to give.  But, unlike the Widow Z, I knew the Lord as my Savior.  But still then, it was a challenge to trust God's provision because I had never before trusted Him in this manner.  When I lost everything financially and every other avenue was exhausted, there was no one to turn to but to God.  For nearly 6 years, I lived and depended on God's continual supply of miracles and He did just that.

Actually, God more than abundantly supplied when there was nothing.  He made something out of practically nothing, which that is what He did through Elijah for the Widow Z.  I have come to learn to trust God, even though now I still have great challenges, I recall God's provision to sustain me and to honor my faith in Him.

God is good and faithful all the time.  How He is may not be our definition or how we'd like to see God turn things around for us, but His ways are ALWAYS best, as I've come to learn.  His timing is always perfect.

2.  Has there ever been a time in your life or a situation where you felt you had nothing left?  Maybe it was physical, emotional, or even spiritual?  Describe your story here.

Yes, in 2007 when I learned my husband was cheating on me and through to 2014 when during that period of time I had lost my marriage, my home, all the financial stuff I'd worked so hard for for years, I had to really rely on God to meet my needs.  He did.  In the end, last year, I got full and sole custody of my kids, got remarried in 2013 to a really great guy, moved into our home in 2015.  God has really blessed, but it took years as God had to work in and through my life to show me how personal and how much He cared for my children, husband and I.

The rest of the story is in the question before this.

3.  How do these verses encourage you about God's sufficiency for everything in our lives, including difficulties and suffering?
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast [a]about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with [b]insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)
When we give up fighting with God and give Him the control, that's when we are the strongest.  So often we think like we can do everything on our own, but the truth is, we can't do anything with God.  It doesn't mean we're helpless, but it means that we're to acknowledge that it is God that gives us our breath, our life, and to be humble before Him, knowing that HE is the one who empowers us.
  • Ephesians 3:20-21 - 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations [a]forever and ever. Amen. (NASB)
I have a number of verses in the Bible that are my favorite and these are a couple of my favorite.  As a child, I remember saying to God that HE could do more than my imagination?  Wow, that's pretty big.  And thus, I went about seeing if this was true or not.  But, when I went through my downfall, it was challenging to see that the God I loved and served while as a child and young adult would be this same God who would carry me through my challenges.  BUT, He IS that same God and so much more.  I had to learn to be humble and truly acknowledge success from God and that God gives success to many people whether they love Him or not.
  • Philippians 4:19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (KJV)
This is so true.  I saw God when we had nothing or almost nothing supply all our needs.  There are many examples through my difficult financial years that I can recall God coming through.  One Sunday I had gone to church and I was in need of gas for my car.  I told no one, but after church JL came up to me and asked me if he could provide some gas for me.  I nearly cried because the only person that knew of that need was God.  He laid on JL's heart to provide this need at that moment.  I pray that God richly bless JL for all his life for being obedient to God and providing for this in my life.  He is a humble servant of God.

4.  How do you think Widow Z's faith impacted her son?  What does this say to the importance of living by faith as an example to our children?

I think it greatly impacted Widow Z's son - her faith.  He saw her example and I think that allowed him to trust God.  Thus, when we are not trusting God, our children see this, but they also see when we trust God.  Faith is not seeing, but acting upon as if it were.

5.  Before God did the first miracle in Widow Z's life, Elijah sensed that she was afraid to trust God.  He tells her not to be afraid of the outcome of obedience, but just obey God's Word.  Often in Scripture God encourages us regarding fear and obedience.  Write out these verses and comment on what they teach us regarding fear and trust?
  • Psalm 27:1The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom should I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom should I be afraid? (HCSB)
God is above all and though the devil may have a great influence in this world and there is real evil and terror, God is greater than the devil and though our bodies can be destroyed, if we are God's, then no one can take us from God spiritually.
  • Psalm 139:7-12I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.  If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.  11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.  To you the night shines as bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to you. (NLT)
God sees and knows all.  Sometimes we think we can do something in secret, but we can't because God sees.
  • Isaiah 43:1-3aNow this is what theLord says—the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel—“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.  I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.  For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. (HCSB)
God doesn't delight when we go through troubles, but He says He will be with us no matter what.  When we are one of His children, it doesn't mean we won't go through hardships, but it does mean He will be with us through those challenges.  Those challenges are to help mold us to be more like God, pleasing to Him.  But also, they are to reveal God's glory.  God knows us each personally and intimately, but do we?
  • Matthew 10:29-3129-31 “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. (MSG)
If God cares for the little creatures in life whom were not formed in His image, how much more does He love us?  So if He cares for them so much, their needs, our confidence that He cares for us should be solid.
6.  Has there been a time in your life that you were afraid, but trusted God, living by faith not by sight?  Or is there something in your life right now that God is asking you to trust and obey Him in first, though you can't see the outcome, though you might have fear in doing so?  Explain.

Yes, when I lost my home and all my finances.  Yes, there are a number of things I have in my life right now that I'm trusting God on - my husband's walk with God, my children's walk with God, His financial destiny for me, God's spiritual work He has for me, the kids' education and lives.

What I do now is daily I am on my knees praying to the Lord.  When I sin, or God reveals to me I am sinning, then I am quick to repent and get healing for those soul wounds that those sins caused.  Basically on a short leash with God, however, what I want to make sure is that I have nothing in common with the enemy and his cohorts so that my prayers are powerful and effective.  I want my walk with the Lord to be powerful, all the strongholds in my life to be broken and to walk close to God, hearing and obeying Him.

Yes, there is still some fear, but in 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says that we're to take captive all our thoughts and put them in submission to Christ.  The fear I have I know is not from God.  So, I am delving more into God's Word, memorizing Scripture more as this is a spiritual battle and it's very real.

7.  In times past God did raise people from the dead to demonstrate death no longer has power over us if we receive Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Because of the fall in the Garden of Eden, death was the penalty for sin.  But because of Christ, no longer will those born again have to pay the sin penalty of death and live in eternity without Him.  

While He does not seem to raise the physically dead in our day, He certainly could.  But the principle of resurrection is clear:  God is able.  He is able to resurrect marriages that seem dead and buried.  He is able to resurrect prodigal children who seem lost and dead to their families because of rebellion.  He is able to resurrect a soul that seems hardened and hard to reach.  He is able to give us life just to do the ordinary duties of a wife and mother that may seem overwhelming to us too.  Yes, God is able!

How do these verses encourage you in God's ability to meet the needs in your life and help you live intentionally for Him?
  • Isaiah 50:2b“Why, when I came, was there no man [to greet Me]?  When I called, why was there no one to answer?  Is My hand really so short that it cannot redeem [My servants]?  Or have I no power to rescue?  Listen carefully, with My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers into a desert; Their fish stink because there is no water And die of thirst. (AMP)
God can do anything, I mean anything.  Sometimes I doubt God can, but that's in my own sinfulness and frailty that I succumb to wrong thinking.  Who am I to question an omniscient God?  He can make time stand still.  He can move Heaven and Earth to get something done.  He created the galaxy and all there is.  There is no reason to doubt that God can provide and meet my needs.
  • Jeremiah 32:7, 27Watch! Hanamel, the son of your uncle Shallum, is coming to you to say, ‘Buy my field in Anathoth for yourself, for you own the right of redemption to buy it.’  27 “Look, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?
Nothing is too hard for God.  God uses challenging times to sometimes test us, sometimes just to show His glory, to draw others to Him or even ourselves, or even just because He can.
  • Psalm 139:7-18 (a must read!) - I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!  If I go up to heaven, you are there;  if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there.  If I ride the wings of the morning,  if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me,  and your strength will support me.  11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—12     but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.  To you the night shines as bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to you.  13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!  Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  16 You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  17 How precious are your thoughts about me,[b]O God.  They cannot be numbered!  18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!
Absolutely nothing is hidden from God.  When I feel small and alone, that's a lie from the pit of hell.  I am not alone.  Even when everything seems like a lost cause, God has a Divine plan.  I do not need to be in control.  He knows everything I am going through.  He knows how I feel and all of that, He cares for every bit of it.  That is comforting to know.


Write any thoughts or convictions that you have in regard to this chapter.  What personal lessons concerning the Widow Z will you apply to your own life?  How will you be more intentional as a woman of God?

I've already and still am applying the things that Widow Z does.  Though financially I am not in hardship now and I have a good life, I would like to see my husband walk closely with God, to have a heart after God's own heart and to lead our family spiritually.  I would like to see my kids have a really deep relationship with God instead of doing things in their own strength.  But, the key is for me to role model doing these things, which I am working on.

God is helping me get rid of destructive independence and to develop complete reliance on Him.  Sometimes I just get caught up in my own stuff that I am no longer intentionally being the woman of God He desires of me.  But, God's kindness always brings me to repentance and I get back on track again and again.  I am grateful for God's never ending mercy.


What will you take away from this study?  Which Titus 2 attribute spoke most to your heart and why?  What changes will you make to be God's most intentional woman?  Which woman of God lesson impacted you the most?  How will you be more intentional as a result of things you learned from her life and situation?

The thing I probably take most from this study is to be really intentional in my walk with God instead of the sometimes haphazard ways I've approached in the past.  I think the Titus 2 attribute that spoke most to me was that submission isn't just the physical thing of submitting, doing, but it's really a heart thing, an attitude.  If you have a wrong attitude, even though physically you may be submitting, then you are truly NOT submitting.  That was really eye-opening.

I've already made many changes and continue to make changes in my walk with God as an Intentional Christ Follower.  I've talked about them in the prior 17 chapters.  God has a purpose for each of our lives.  Each person that is talked about in the Bible has a purpose, whether the person was a good person that loved God or an evil person against God.  I can learn from each of these people.

The two people I loved most reading about were Esther and Mary, mother of Jesus.  Those 2 chapters moved me the most.  Esther with her submission to her King and husband, though he was not a Christ Follow and Mary, in trusting God with the whole plan for Jesus.  How challenging it must have been for each women to hold onto faith in God's plan, even though they could not see or understand.  The willingly submissive spirit that gave them strength in the face of great trials and tribulation.  They were intentional and received God's blessing for obeying and honoring Him.

I want God to say to me one day, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Listening without needing to put my own thoughts into others.  Be slow to speak, swift to listen.  I love in Proverbs it says that a wife ought to do no harm to her husband, but bring him good all the days of her life.  Sometimes when I have gotten angry at my husband, that's not the case, but the Holy Spirit convicted me of this.  So, when I am upset with him, I'm to think only good thoughts, to bring my husband good, to bless him during this time of upsetness.

I am to continue to guard my thoughts and to think on things that are true, lovely, right and take any stray thoughts captive, submit them to Jesus.  Test my thoughts to see if they are in line with the Word of God and if they're not, then be quick to repent and get healing for my soul.

This has been a wonderful book and study that we went through the past 9+ months and I have enjoyed it, learned a lot, was challenged by it.  My marriage has gotten even deeper and better than before this study began.  It's amazing.  I have also been greatly challenged in my own personal walk with the Lord.

I went through a huge decluttering thing physically of my home.  Before that, I was decluttering relationships, people and things that no longer served me.  I am working now on decluttering my virtual environment.  God is helping me to be intentionally a godlier woman, wife, mother, friend, person and through obeying, I am hearing His voice so much better.  It's not easy, but I feel a greater closeness to my Lord than before this study.