Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Wilberforce Tip For Journaling More Consistently

Do you struggle with consistently journaling thoughts and events from your day?

While I love to journal, I've rarely mustered the daily discipline a journal requires. I'm a wordy person, meaning, I naturally describe a happening with the most words possible. Multiply that by every concern, prayer and victory I experience everyday and I'm writing a novel each night. That was until I began reading the journal of one my favorite history figures.

Currently I'm reading the five volume edition of "The Life Of William Wilberforce" by Robert Isaac and Samuel Wilberforce. This biography is full of efficient, yet informational diary entries by a man who was very time-conscience. William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament in the eighteenth century and the famous abolitionist of the English slave trade, was a man of many responsibilities, relationships and requirements on his time. Also, he was, by his own confession, weak in the area of self-discipline. Yet, this man still managed to keep a journal most of his life - a source his sons and a host of historians since have relied heavily on in recording an incredible life. So how did he do it? The thing is, William Wilberforce only recorded the highlights of his day, expounding only as needed. This method allowed him to leave behind a full-rounded view of his daily life that is also short and concise. For instance, while running for the highly sought seat as the representative of Yorkshire in 1734, Wilberforce recorded:
 
"Thursday, 25th March. Dined at York Tavern. Message from Bluitt's, about supporting anyone, if we would support Foljambe [for the seat of York] -- our answer. Stanhope, Fauconberg, &c mentioned me. Sir Robert Hildyard spoke again - I speechified again - and they agreed all should separately sound out their neighbors, and come with the result to the country meeting about a week afterwards, so putting off the determination concerning me till the nomination."*
To render into 21st century American terms, Wilberforce names the dining establishment which was the stage for the big dogs' reactions to his bold aspiration to claim one of England's most important parliamentary seats; mentions a speech he delivered and how his supporters agreed to "sound out their neighbors" in how much support there was for him before the nomination meeting. And he did it in one paragraph. To write a paragraph of this length would take me five minutes. Five minutes: pretty short investment to ensure the most important events of my life are recorded for latter years. 

So now here is how I'm planning on restarting my journal keeping habit. 

1. Limit myself to recording the most important highlights of my day (ones that I will still care to know ten years from now).
2. Focus on consistency more than content. Like every skill, the beauty of how the content is arranged will improve as I work my journaling muscle. 

3. Discipline myself to write today. One of my greatest past hurdles has been when I inevitably miss a day or two, I feel I must make up the past days before writing the current one. Yet, as faithful as Wilberforce was with his own journal, there are missing days in the account. He didn't let himself get distracted from today by the failure of yesterday. If making up past days makes the task too cumbersome, then take satisfaction in writing down today's events and move forward.

Do you have any favorite journaling tips or examples? I'd be tickled to hear them in the comments below! :)

*Robert Isaac Wilberforce and Samuel Wilberforce, Volume I, The Life of William Wilberforce, (London: John Murray, 1838), 59

 


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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When Our Naomis Need Ruths

When someone who has been a godly example to you stumbles, how do you react?



Some of my most cherished blessings are the family members and friends who have been godly examples to me throughout life. Maybe you have some too: mature believers who have taught you in the way of the Lord through word and action. But like anyone, those mentors can hit foggy patches in the journey. It may not be the result of sin or rebellion against God. A devastating loss, betrayal or calamity can slam anyone so hard against the ground she wonders if a single bone remains unbroken. But the question remains: when the strong stumble, do we step up or step back?

As if anticipating our need for an example, God has given us a beautiful picture of a young woman becoming an example to her example. You may have heard this tale before, but not like this. As it unfolds place yourself in our heroine's sandals and deeply consider how you would have responded.

You are married and extremely close to your husband's mother. From the moment you met her, the sweet gentleness of her spirit made you want to run and hug her. As your relationship grows, this mother-in-love shares the secret of her joy: her God is all powerful. While He doesn't demand the blood of a firstborn son, he does command obedient faith that trusts Him above all. In return, He promises the blessings of children, riches and length of days to enjoy them. He loves His people. Day in, day out, you watch this woman live her faith. Just as you fell in love with the spirit of your spiritual mother, you come to fall in love with the Unseen God. You believe.


Then your father-in-law dies, leaving your precious mentor a widow. Shortly thereafter your husband's brother is taken in a premature death. Finally, death snatches your own beloved mate.

As grief subsides, you slowly find joy in life once more. You are yet young; chances are good of starting over once more. But while you find hope again, your late husband's mother does not. The woman you first knew fades and a bitter, depressed, torn one takes her place. You share her grief but realize there is something more. Something else is terribly, terribly wrong.

One day your spiritual mother announces she is returning to her home land. As the elder of the family, her decision includes you. Together you pack your few belongs and set out for the unknown.

But halfway into the journey your mother-in-law does the unthinkable: she commands you to go back to your gods and their land. You are in shock. Why? Why after all she has taught you about her God would she want you to go back to lies? Does she doubt your love? No, she weeps tears of gratefulness as she thanks you for your kindness to her and her son. Then why?
“Because I have nothing else to give you. I'm old and can't give you the man you who is key to your future, protection and legacy. My God's hand is against me and beats me with bitter blows. My grief for myself is crushing enough, but the thought of you suffering because of me is more than I can bear. It is better for you to serve at the feet of idols than suffer with me at the hand of the true God.”

What would you do? The person who taught you about this God sees Him now as an enemy. What do you do when your teacher needs a teacher?

As you likely guessed this story was once the reality of a young widow named Ruth. For years, Ruth's mother-in-law had taught her in the way of truth. Now in her pit of grief, Naomi needed what she had given. In reflecting on Ruth's life I see three pillars we can build our hearts and actions on when reaching out to our own stricken Naomis

Ruth Showed Naomi Trust

Ruth and Naomi faced the same loss. Their lot was a shared one, yet Naomi believed God had brought her misery upon her. Ruth, on the other hand, continued to trust Him. Why?

The inhabitants of Bethlehem wondered the same thing. Ruth's quiet trust contrasted so starkly against Naomi's hopelessness it had everyone talking. So much so when a certain wealthy land owner meet the foreign widow, her fame had gone before her. Boaz reveals Ruth's source of faith when he says, “The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” (Ruth 2:12)

Like Boaz, Ruth believed God would reward those who diligently sought Him--even when her current reality showed opposing evidence. Though not of his blood, she became a daughter of Abraham because she judged Him faithful Who promised.

I think one reason we feel it so hard when an older believer struggles is because we depend on their faith to supply our own. As a sapling relies on the wooden stakes to brace it against the wind, we lean on older Christians. But like that sapling, our true need is to stretch our roots downward, establishing our own testimony of God's trustworthiness. We must be witnesses of God's faithfulness; not merely hearers. Only then will we be able to give our beloved elders compassion instead of criticism. Rather than looking down at them because they disappointed us, let's get on our knees beside them. In that posture pray for them and whisper God still uses evil for good.

Ruth Showed Naomi Understanding Love

Because Ruth wasn't counting on Naomi's testimony to sustain her faith, she could look past the bitterness and see the bleeding heart inside. That Christ-like action, filled her with understanding love; a love that kept Ruth from becoming offended when Naomi didn't even acknowledge her to the women of Bethlehem. A love that didn't chide Naomi for not taking the initiative to see that their basic needs were met. Instead of offense, she had compassion. Instead of feeling belittled, she felt sympathy and shouldered the responsibility of providing for their needs so Naomi had nothing else to burden her mind with.

Ruth Showed Naomi Courageous Submission

What awes me is even after Naomi misjudged God and was more consumed with herself than Ruth's welfare, Ruth still respected and even submitted to her mother-in-law's instruction. Ruth didn't make Naomi feel as an inferior Christian for stumbling. In fact, it was almost as if she purposely determined to make the transition as smooth as possible when Naomi was ready to assume her motherly role – even if the stakes meant Ruth's future and reputation.
While I'm not advocating foolish hero worship where we blindly submit, I do believe deference is a powerful act of love we can give our Naomis (male or female) when they need Ruths. When Naomi told Ruth how to secure their future, she wasn't instructing her to be immoral or heedless. The recommended route was scary, but not ungodly. So when our recovering mentors seek our good, let us gracefully welcome them back. As before, continue to judge their instruction against God's word, but don't shut them out of your life because of their momentary faith fatigue.

When Naomi faltered, Ruth refused to leave her beloved mother-in-law behind. Instead she befriended, loved and cared for her when it was most difficult, trusting in the wings of the LORD God of Israel. May we do likewise. When our Naomis slip, may we, like Ruth, become their flesh and blood illustrations of what it means to trust God, live out understanding love and courageous submission.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Question That Rattled A King

None had experienced more than he. All his life, the king had given himself to know wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

"The Sun Also Ariseth And Goeth Down" ~ Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography


And he was rewarded. The most powerful monarch of his age, his wealth was unsurpassed, his wisdom unmeasured, his fame unrivaled. But at the end of life, he was left wanting. All he had worked for left him hollow with one haunting question to fill the void: what doth it profit?


The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
 (Ecclesiastes 1:1-3)


Though the king was the one who put words to it, this question echos in every heart. What is the point of our labor? Failing to answer this correctly slides us into a spiral of meaninglessness, discontentment and frustration - even for Christian women. How many discouraged mothers, disgruntled daughters and disheartened entrepreneurs have thrown up their hands in defeat, exclaiming, “What is the point?” What does this work, this time, money, diligence, yes, even choosing of wisdom; really profit in the grand scheme of things? We needn't let the question hang unanswered: God penned it for us through a royal hand. If our Creator thought this question was important enough to devote an entire biblical book to it, shouldn't we take time to read it?

Until very recently, Ecclesiastes was a very difficult book for me to understand. Reading it right after Proverbs gave me spiritual whiplash, as it seemed to contradict everything else the Bible praised about wisdom. But then I did a Bible word study on work and labor, which in turn opened my eyes to the message of Ecclesiastes. And you know what? I completely misjudged this book. In coming posts I'll share some of what I'm learning about this amazing treasure. Will you join me in discovering what God's big picture purpose for our lives are?


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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Year Of Promise

The old year is passing away. A new one is coming. No doubt as we look ahead we have many thoughts and plans. Whatever the past year held, a new chapter of blank pages lies before us, new, crisp and clean. The tale of our lives continuing for good or evil, blessing or cursing, better or worse co-written by the providence of God and our obedience to Him. Rather sobering to think what power our choices have, isn't? I'd be frightened to death if not for a beautiful word known as promise. Especially the promise of our Father to never leave us nor forsake us.
 
Maybe you stand at a crossroad this year. Or maybe the last year ended on a cliff hanging and you aren't sure to turn the page or not. Maybe Jesus is calling you to more this year.  Maybe you are just not sure what He wants you to do.Whatever thoughts are swirling through your mind right now, will you resolve to believe His promise whatever happens?
Remember He is the Shepherd Who said, And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:21) At every crossroad you meet this year, draw near to the Shepherd and listen for His voice.

For the one who wonders how to change, heed the counsel God freely gives in His word.  
Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
(Psalm 73:23-24) 

If the upcoming year is a blur of questioning confusion, stop and wait for Jesus to make the crooked straight before you. 
And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16) 
If fear of tomorrow holds you, turn your eyes to the Deliverer and declare, The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? (Psalm 118:6).

And if the sunshine of God's Spirit has made it plain what you should do, keep your heart teachable before your God. Cry for Him to teach you, not only where to walk but how to walk.

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. (Psalm 143:10)
So whatever thoughts are swirling through your mind right now, I pray above all you will trust in the Lord. Obey Him in every decision, in every act, in every plan and trust His promise to direct and guide.

We know not what may lie ahead. But we know the One Who does. If we walk in obedience to Him, each day, each moment will be written in the handwriting of His nail-scarred handed.

For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me. (Psalm 31:3)
 
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Herdsman: A Glimpse Into The Childhood of An American Frontiersman

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
The youth felt the splash of the chilly creek water before he saw it. Goosebumps broke out on his flesh but his brain registered it just long enough note the water was already warmer than when he last brought the herd through these grounds. As the young man and cattle clambered out of the creek onto the bank, a wide meadow laced with looming, dark forest broke before them. Already the emerald newness of spring was slowly blanketing the earth. A shiver raced up the youth's spine – not from the cold, but from boyish thrill.

A mile into the midst of the meadow, our herdsman left the cattle to nuzzle the new grass. His sharp, blue eyes studied the landscape. If a bear or mountain lion were to attack the herd, the woods would be his best advantage. A smile spread across his tanned features. Of course the woods; his world; his love.

The youth spent the morning discovering for the thousandth time the secrets of the forest. With his gun at his side and his bare brown feet as light and noiseless as a cat, he noted everything. The flick of a squirrel's tail, the soft stepa, stepa, stepa trot of a deer with her fawn. At one point he even heard the far away rustle of a bear aroused from her winter slumber. Later in the year, he would hunt her down, but in the spring a bear was hardly worth anything. So he listened only long enough be sure she lumbered in a direction away from the herd.


Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
A little past noon, he wandered back to his four-legged charges. Some of the older cows were missing. Bother. I hope this doesn't take too long. I'm famished. Those girls probably went toward the river bottoms again. After tracking to the north he found the stragglers and brought them back to the safety of the meadow. As he settled against a tree to eat, his thoughts wandered. Herding isn't so bad. If Mother didn't have to oversee the cows while Father kept the store, I'd never been able to roam the woods. The youth cast his eyes west towards the mountains. Only a few men knew what lay beyond them. What if he could be one of them? The Virginia colony – like all the rest of the American colonies – had an undefined western border. Trappers at his father's store often speculated about how far west the land must go. Few had ever been west of the great Mississippi River. The west was a giant question mark that plagued the youth's imagination. Someday he would know. As soon as I'm a man, I'm going to cross those mountains. Yes, sir. As sure as my name's Daniel Boone.

Is there a future frontiersman in your home? Did you know most of the men who carved homes from the wildernesses of our land were more made than born? Before there was a Daniel Boone there was a Sarah Boone who gave him an outlet to master the unknown about him. No doubt Sarah only wanted to help her husband put food on the table for their brood; allowing her boy to tramp in the woods was likely the furthest reason in her mind for keeping her dairy. Yet a mother's industry became the wings for her son's future. Think of the up and coming men-to-be in your life. What can you do that would inspire your young sons, brothers and nephews to someday be the men God created them to be?


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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Leave Sitting To The Hens: Sedentary Behavior and Our Health

If you were paid for every activity you do standing up, how wealthy would you be?
Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
Turns out that is exactly the case - except we are paid in health bucks. After hearing several comments about the health concerns of sitting (or sedentary behavior as it is known in sophisticated circles) for prolonged periods of time, I decided to dig into the research myself.The results: anyone whose work is done in a sedentary position - writers, accountants, drivers, editors, or any work done at a desk or computer - do indeed have cause for concern.

According to an article by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, sitting for more than four hours a day can cause “A nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause” and “About a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack" (James A. Levine, M.D., Ph.D., "What Are The Risks Of Sitting Too Much", <http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005>)

They went on to say, “Sitting in front of the TV isn't the only concern. Any extended sitting — such as behind a desk at work or behind the wheel — can be harmful. What's more, spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaged in moderate or vigorous activity doesn't seem to significantly offset the risk. The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall." (Levine)

Dr. Levine's article is a good representation of my research results. Here are some facts that got my attention:

Cancer, Diabetes 2, high blood pressure and increased weight gain around the waist can be caused by sitting too long.

TV viewing was often quoted as the worst form of sitting, but other “screen-time” activities were also noted to be harmful. Non-screen activities like sewing, board games or reading had conflicting results among the studies.

(This one surprised me the most!) Regular, daily exercise is not enough to fully combat the harms of sitting. Basically, the harmful effects of sitting – just like smoking, drinking, etc. are not nullified just because you're are a champion sprinter.

While studies varied, sitting for more than four hours at a time seemed to be the typical qualifier for “too long”.

Taking frequent breaks and move around more in general is a better remedy than long, vigorous periods of activity.

Why Is Sitting So Unhealthy?

The Lord designed our bodies to move. While we often think the condition of our bodies are maintained by eating right, daily exercise and quality sleep, frequent movement is just as needful as any one of these other things. Movement keeps our blood flowing which prevents plaque from building up in our arteries, lowers cholesterol, strengthens our muscular system and much more. For a helpful discussion on why sitting can be so harmful, check these insightful articles “Reducing Sedentary Behavior: Sitting Less and Moving More” and "Is Sitting A Lethal Activity?"

What Can We Do?



Stand More

Standing increase the energy in your body and frees you to be more active. Even rocking back and forth, stretching, or shifting feet is better than sitting. Take any activity you do sitting and ask, "Could I do this standing up?". For writing, editing or long periods at my laptop, I've been able to make a "mobile" stand-up desk with a 12" plant stand. Standing also lessens the chance of you being sedentary for a longer period of time.


Take Regular Movement Breaks

Walking and stretching are my favorites, but be creative. Every hour get up and do a ten minute household chore, brisk walk or whatever else gets you moving

Don't snack while sitting. 

When we sit, we either fall into mindless eating or don't become hungry or thirsty until our body is suffering from lack of nourishment. Discipline yourself to eat regular meals at regular times and drink before you're dehydrated.



Trash “I'll Get Up After This”  Thinking 
Retrain yourself to value movement over convenience. One trap of sitting is we get comfortable and before we know it, we've spent hours on our tushy. Make it a goal to train your body to "crave" movement and when the thought to get moving comes, do it!

Our bodies are the Lord's temple. In previous generations, women wore out their bodies crossing the Rockies in covered wagons, chopping trees to build log cabins, and birthing babies with low-nutrient diets. Now our major health haphazard is wearing our bodies out from lack of movement. Let's start integrating active habits in our days now, so in our golden years, we'll still be women who are strong in body, soul and spirit.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Open Honesty About the "Money" Issue

Special guest post by Amanda Tero ~*~

Courtesy of Amanda Tero
Some have accused me to be the "business woman" simply because I have worked on three different businesses in the past two years. Right now, my life is spent teaching piano and violin, running With a Joyful Noise music, writing, and occasionally doing photography or graphics designing. From the outside looking in, I am successful. My days are busy. I'm doing what I love. But, there are days…
   
If you've been in the self-employed business world for any length of time, you know that building a business isn't a bed of roses (or maybe it is -- because you see more thorns than blossoms ;) ). It takes a lot of work, sometimes with very little monetary gain.



And usually, money is the last thing I think about.

Until my computer basically crashes.
And my website needs to be renewed.
And a room needs to be finished for a piano studio.
And the price to print books increases.
And postal prices increase.
And, and, and…

The list goes on until even the smallest things ("What?! My phone bill is about to be raised $5?!") are catastrophic.

Then, the brain begins to work.

What can I do to get more followers?
How can I promote my music so more people notice it?
How can I convince people to buy my books?
I need to stop doing giveaways.
I need to spend more time on social media, being interactive.
Don't people even see my photography work anymore?
HELLO WORLD, I'M OUT HERE!!!!

Okay, so maybe the means aren't quite that desperate, but you get the picture. The temptation comes to stop viewing my businesses as ministry and instead view them primarily as a money maker (or the desire for them to actually make money).

I was recently reading a passage with which I'm very familiar (in fact, I have it memorized), but I suddenly noticed two verses that connect. You'll recognize the verses: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." (1 Timothy 6:10-11)

I acknowledge that 1 Timothy was written to a preacher, but as I read these verses, it suddenly struck me as a business owner/manager. My goal should never be money, but that which fades not away, because it is the desire to be rich that leads into a temptation and a snare (1 Timothy 6:9).

These verses beg me to evaluate my heart.
- Am I spending as much time pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, as I am thinking about better ways to publicize my businesses and gain sales?
- Am I more concerned about the dollar sign attached to my product or whether it leads its consumers to these spiritual truths?

Courtesy of Amanda Tero
And as I evaluated, I realized some places where I had been tempted to go.

In writing, "genre" is pushed. Non-romantic, Biblically-solid historical fiction is not what's popular. Dystopian? Romance? Fan-fiction? Oh yeah.

In music, hymns are a dying thing. You've got to catch up to the rave of pop, soundtracks, and limited popular modern Christian songs of the day (note: some of these Christian songs are Biblically solid).

My reasoning for doing any of these would be one thing: they will likely get sales.

Which leads me to a third evaluation:
- Am I working to get sales… or to present truth?

Just a few seconds evaluating my heart, and I realize where I've slid.

I'm looking at money, not ministry.
I'm looking at popular, not prayer.
I'm looking at cash, not Christ.

And I am reminded of all of the lessons that God taught me these past years in my businesses: my eyes must -- at ALL times -- be fully fixed on Him.

In my entire life, He has provided for my EVERY need. When I need the money, it's there. When I need the work, it's there. And sometimes, He even goes a step further and gives me an extra-special blessing, something that I don't even need -- just because He's good like that.

Above and beyond that, God has blessed me more times than I can begin to count by the encouraging words of others. Hearts are being reached… and I'm worried about money?!

At the conclusion of this heart-searching and reminders, I am brought back to the place I needed to be the whole time: my knees. I can cast my every care upon Him, for He cares for me.

So my computer's basically dead.
My website needs renewal.
My piano studio needs to be finished.
Books are more expensive.
Postage is more expensive.

Sure, I have these cares. But am I thinking about these things which will one day fade away? Or am I looking at the things of God:
Righteousness
Godliness
Faith
Love
Patience
Meekness

Because when it's all said and done, this is what God has promised me: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33, emphasis added)

So yeah, I can work double-time to promote my businesses, but it will be at the expense of my spiritual walk. What is really more important for me? What kind of blessings does God have in store for my businesses -- if only I will get my perspective right?  ~*~


Amanda Tero is a homeschool graduate who desires to provide God-honoring, family-friendly reading material. She has enjoyed writing since before ten years old, but it has only been since 2013 that she began seriously pursuing writing again. If something she has written draws an individual into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, it is worth it! Drop by Amanda's website 
to find her family-friendly novellas and short stories.

To learn more about Amanda's music and photography, click below:






This guest post was originally published on With A Joyful Noise blog, November 3, 2016. Used with permission.