Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When God Puts Us in “Time Out”

A few columns ago I shared that we had acquired a yellow lab puppy. Cleo is now four months old and full of energy. Our other dog, Colby, is a two and-a-half year old mid-sized mixed breed. They are fun, exhausting, and frustrating, all wrapped into one.

Some days the “frustrating” aspect is at its peak. Colby is bigger (for now), and very dominating. He won’t share anything with Cleo, who seems to want whatever Colby has. The dogs run through the house rough housing, growling loudly and yipping constantly. Last week the stress escalated to a point where I knew I had to do something. I said a quick prayer for help and was suddenly reminded of my four-year-old granddaughter, Elaina. At our last visit, while she and “PeePaw” put a puzzle together, she showed him her time out chair. “It’s where I go when I don’t obey,” she explained.

I realized that if time out works for kids, it could work for dogs, so I put Colby outside in the fenced yard for a while. Then, right before I let him back inside, I put Cleo in her crate for a nap. Ahhh, peace at last.

I heard another reference to “time out” this week that, at first, was funny. During our jail ministry board meeting, another board member mentioned that sometimes God puts people in “time out” when they go to jail. It can be His way of getting their attention, especially when they “don’t obey”.

It made me stop and think, because God has ways of getting the attention of law abiding adults, too. Sometimes it takes something serious, like an accident or illness, for us to slow down. In those times (jail time or physical impairment), we need to remember that what Satan means for harm, God can turn into good (Genesis 50:20). God may choose to stop us in our tracks to keep us from going down the wrong path, and in the process hopefully turn our heart to Him. Sometimes God allows “a time out” in our life for His divine purposes.

When kids are put in time out, the goal is for them to realize they have made a bad choice. We want them to learn from it, and, if warranted, apologize. God hopes for the same reaction from us. He is not being mean when He puts us in time out; rather, He is showing us how much He loves us. If we are making wrong choices (including not choosing to have Him in our life at all), He sometimes goes to extremes to get our attention…even sending His innocent Son to the cross…on our behalf.

Our parents trained us for a little while. They did what they thought was best. But God trains us for our good. He wants us to share in his holiness. No training seems pleasant at the time. In fact, it seems painful. But later on it produces a harvest of godliness and peace. It does that for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:10-11 NIRV).

Taking "time out" for Jesus,

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Fresh Starts

A while back I wrote about “do overs”, how we can’t go back and do any part of our life over, no matter how much we desire. I went on to say that the secret to wanting fewer “do overs” in life is to keep Jesus in the forefront, living with the end in mind.

Recently, while praying over what to write in my weekly newspaper column, I realized that we all need reminded (myself included) that, while we can’t “do it over”, we can have a fresh start every day, no matter our past. When we confess our sins and truly repent, God wipes the slate clean. He forgives and forgets, and expects us to do the same; forgive ourself, forgive others, and get on with serving Him. To stay “stuck” in our past is to say that we don’t believe God is who He says He is. We are actually saying we don’t believe He is a redeemer and a restorer.

The word “restore” is mentioned over one hundred times in the Bible. Often it refers to giving back what the enemy has stolen. It can even mean restoration of our inner peace: "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake” (Psalms 23:3). Not only can God fill us with His hope, peace and tranquility, He can also nudge us to get back on track and go in the right direction.

When my son was young, around eight or nine years old, he would sometimes wake up saying, “Mom, I am excited about today, but I don’t know why.”

It wasn’t Christmas or his birthday. As a matter of fact, there usually wasn’t anything on the calendar for that day. He was facing the day like we all should, with excitement and anticipation of the good things that could happen.

"Do you ever feel that way, Mom?” Chase asked once. “Like you know something good is going to happen, but you don’t know what?”

Yes, yes I have.

Oh, to wake up everyday with the excitement of a child! To begin our day wondering what is in store for us, keeping our eyes open to the awesome way God might show up in our life; looking for Him and expecting to see His works around every corner.

The prophet Jeremiah knew the secret: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13).

This year is still relatively young; why not commit to having a fresh start every day by pursuing Jesus with all your heart. Come to Him with the simple faith of a young child, beginning each morning with excitement and expectancy.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly,” (Psalm 5:3).

Seeking Him,
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