Tradition

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Traditions!  Many times during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we celebrate by observing traditions.  Traditions are customs that are done every year and become so much a part of the celebration that the celebration would seem empty without the observance of these customary routines.  During Thanksgiving this year, I learned of a few yearly traditions that have made it into the Dykema annals of tradition without me even realizing it.  Here are a few examples: we have to have hot apple cider on Thanksgiving morning, the Christmas tree cannot be put up and decorated without a glass of egg nog, and sometime during the week-end there must be monkey bread.  (We are very food orientedJ)

There is comfort and familiarity and a feeling of home when these traditions are observed.  There is joy in knowing what there is to look forward to and comfort in things always being the same.

Many of us have heard the story of the Mom who made ham every year for a particular holiday and before cooking the ham she cut the ends off the ham.  One year, her daughter asked her why she cut the ends off the ham.  The mom replied, “That’s what my mom always did.”  So the little girl asked her grandma why she cut the ends off the ham. To which the Grandma replied, “That’s what my mom always did.” So the little girl asked her great-grandma why she cut the ends off the ham.  To which the Great-Grandma replied, “That was the only way I could fit the ham in the pan.”  Tradition sometimes carries on without any reason or story as to why it has always been this way.

God in His great wisdom does not want this to be the case for His children.  He wants us to be purposeful in what we pass on.  He wants us to be intentional. He wants us to communicate.

“One generation shall commend Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4).

God wants us as parents to be intentional in talking about Him and the awesome things He does.  This process happens through both verbal and nonverbal communication.  There needs to be consistency between what we say and how we live our lives or our children will be more likely to reject what we say.  They must see us living out our faith and communicating with them about it.

The Old Testament heroes did not have the Bible in print form to read.  Rather, they passed down the precious words of God and the precious stories of their history verbally.  God challenged them in Deuteronomy 6:7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk to them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Tradition is not just what foods we eat during various holidays.  Tradition should include being diligent in talking about God’s great works, His mighty acts, and most importantly who God is!

God encouraged the Israelites to set up stones after they crossed the Jordan River so their children would ask their parents, “What is meaning of these stones?” (Joshua 4:6).

God has done many great things for us.  Do we share these things with our children?  Do we share with them the things God is teaching us through His Word?  Do we get excited over the works of God and His mighty acts and praise His name over these things in the presence of our children?

“One generation shall commend…and declare…to another.” (Psalm 145:4).  If Christianity and living Biblical lives is to continue to my grandchildren, I need to be talking about and living out my faith for my children to see.  Then they can in turn teach my grandchildren.

Just like the ham, traditions can be passed on without meaning.  Let’s be sure that we tell the next generation about God’s wondrous works and then demonstrate them throughout our daily lives.

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What are you thankful for?

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Thanksgiving brings different thoughts into all of our minds.  Some think of the meal itself that many of us as Americans will eat and enjoy- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, corn, and pumpkin pie.  Many think of being together with family and celebrating this meal.  Some people will be alone for thanksgiving.  Some families will be missing a family member this year; death has taken this loved one from our presence. So many different memories this holiday brings to mind.

At the heart of Thanksgiving, we are to count the blessings that we have in our lives.  We easily grumble; do we easily give thanks?

“On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wondrous works, I will meditate.” (Psalm 145:5).  As I have spent time memorizing and meditating on this Psalm, I have been overwhelmed by the glorious splendor of my God.  His Creation “speaks of the might of His awesome deeds…” (Psalm 145:6).  God’s Creation day in and day out speaks and even shouts of His awesome deeds.  The sunrises. The sunsets. The snow. The intricacies of the body. The earth being the perfect distance from the sun. The seasons. It all proclaims with explicit detail the awesomeness of God.

God’s creation:

“Speaks” (Psalm 145:6)

“Pours forth” (Psalm 145:7)

“Sings aloud” (Psalm 145:7)

Of God’s wondrous deeds.

The physical world around us cannot help but speak, pour forth, and sing aloud of God’s wondrous deeds, and yet God did not send His only Son to pay the penalty for their sin.  He sent His Son to pay the penalty for my sin, mankind’s sin.

During this time of Thanksgiving, how thankful am I for who God is and what He has done for me?  How much do I speak, pour forth, and sing aloud of God’s wondrous deeds?  If the magnificent colors of the trees, the beautiful sunsets, the roar of the mighty oceans can sing aloud of God’s greatness, how much more should I?  Jesus died for me.

Give thanks during this thanksgiving season in a new way.  Praise God for who He is and His magnificent Creation.  He made it for us to enjoy, shouldn’t we thank Him for it and proclaim to the world of His mighty deeds?

Extol

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Have you ever asked the Lord for something for what seems like forever and know the answer to the question is in His Word, but can’t quite figure it out? I have been on a quest asking the Lord for a deeper and more meaningful prayer life. I sometimes feel like those Jesus used as an example in the New Testament who “heap up empty phrases…for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7).  I have been praying to the Lord to show me how to deepen my relationship with Him.  I have been asking Him what is it I need to do so my prayer life brings honor to Him.  I so desperately want to be a better communicator with my Savior, so I have been pleading and asking Him what or how to pray and communicate with Him in a more effective way.

We go to school and take speech class or a communication class.  We read countless books on how to communicate better with our spouse or how to more effectively love our spouse.

So what do I do to learn how to pray more effectively? I have bought books, lots of books on prayer.  I have been reading God’s Word looking for all the clues I could find so my prayer life would be more pleasing to my Savior.

Since I am more of an extrovert than an introvert, people energize me.  Hence the driving need in my life to experience a deeper and more effective prayer life. I don’t want to just pray in a way that checks the box.  I don’t want to pray always looking at God as the “genie in the bottle.”

I simply want my prayer life to be pleasing to God most High, my Savior, and my King.  This gnawing search will never be complete until I reach glory, but I feel like God has shown me a clue in His Word that will shed light on my search. Let me confess that this “clue” may not strike the same chord with you as it did with me.  That is the beautiful thing about God’s Word.  It is so vast and deep that different parts may show and convict each of us in different ways.

I started reading Psalm 145, and it was so rich with truth for me that I could not even complete the entire chapter.  My soul was blessed and enriched in a way that caused me to slow down and begin to dig for even more treasure.  As I read this chapter, I realized I would have to finish it the next day.  I was still so enamored with this chapter that God challenged me to just read and memorize and meditate on one verse a day.

What a rich and rewarding time this has been for me.  If you will allow me to take you on this journey with me, we will begin to look at Psalm 145 together through this blog.  It may take a while, as I have felt so enriched by the depth and breadth of what my Savior is teaching me. Let’s begin.

“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless you name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1)

The word “extol” means to praise enthusiastically.  This reminds of a man watching a football game, or any other game for that matter.  They jump up and down and yell and scream in rapturous joy over the magnificent play on the field.  We have all seen this behavior.

Do I extol or praise my God and King this enthusiastically?  I was exceedingly convicted, but also exceedingly encouraged by the revelation I had received.

As you consider your walk with the Lord today, let me encourage you to think about praising our Savior as we do a magnificent play on the field or the court.  Our God is much more magnificent than this.

Extol…Praise God today enthusiastically, I challenge you.

Uncle Butch

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Life is short. I am reminded of this after the passing of Dave’s Uncle Ron (we called him Uncle Butch) last week. He liked to fish, garden, and bake. He was able to fix just about anything.  When he talked about the things he loved, his eyes would sparkle. Uncle Butch had a love of life. He did not start living for the Lord until the last few years of his life. What a transformation we saw. In May, he was baptized. He had COPD so breathing was a daily challenge for him. He also had many other health problems that made the process of getting baptized a real struggle. But he was persistent and wanted to push through the physical challenges and be a testimony to those he knew. We as a family were able to watch this miraculous event in his life.
When Dave and I picked him up for the surgery he needed a couple of weeks ago, he showed us two lung CT scans: one before the mass and one after the mass. The Doctor had no explanation as to how the mass had disappeared since there had been no treatment. Uncle Butch gave all the glory to God. Right before his surgery, the pastor came to pray with him. We found out that Uncle Butch wanted to teach children about God and His Word. What a switch from the Uncle Butch that I had known for years. He didn’t go to church for as long as I knew him, but in the last few years he not only attended church but was usually there early.
Now to find out, he wanted to teach children about the love of God and the important truths from God’s Word.
A true testimony of the transforming work of our Savior.
Uncle Butch is in heaven now. He is breathing easy, and worshipping at the feet of Jesus.
I have had a lot of thoughts the last few days as I have sat by his bedside watching the man who always had a sparkle in his eye and a quick witted word slowly leave this earthly life to enter a heavenly life with his Savior.
1. A personal and growing relationship with God needs to be the center of our lives. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and because of this sacrifice, God looks on me through the righteousness of His Son if I accept this free gift. It is never too early or too late to accept this free gift.

2. What is the dream that God has given you? Do not wait to begin reaching for that dream. Make it a priority and begin planning a way to make that dream a reality.

3. We are made for relationship. There have been volumes of work written about relationships so I do not need to repeat what has already been said, but there are a few things I feel the need to recap. Relationships are a two way street. Sometimes one person sacrifices, sometimes another person does. Relationships take two people: talking together, spending time together, and making memories together. It is hard to have a relationship if both people do not make it a priority. It is hard to make memories if both people do not seek to spend time together. Celebrating life together. Living life together. I am so thankful that last Thanksgiving, most of Dave’s family was able to come to our house for Thanksgiving. It was our last time together as a family with Uncle Butch. I am so glad we have this special and cherished memory.
Thank-you, Uncle Butch, for reminding me how valuable people are. We may have a few people in our lives or many people in our lives, but no matter the number, do we treasure those relationships just as God treasures our relationship with Him.

The value of becoming Unplugged

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In our days of being technology driven, we often hear people who choose to become unplugged for a period of time in order to refocus, to capture lost time spent on the internet, re-prioritize what is more valuable, and slow down and unwind.  While being in China for this time, my technology break has been a forced break rather than a self-induced break. None the less, I have allowed it to be a positive thing in my life.  I have enjoyed most of the benefits of this break.  The only thing I can do is text.

No Facebook.  No Instagram.  No emails. No Pinterest.  There are times I cannot even send pictures with my texts.

So the times that I normally look at these things, I have been given time to do something else.  I find when others pull out their phones to do any number of functions, I pull mine out and memorize Scripture.  It has helped me to focus my mind on things “above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2).

This has helped me to work on one of my goals: memorize a verse a week.  I used to be able to memorize verses, and have so many committed to my memory from the days of memorizing Scripture as a child.  Now my mind does not seem to hold onto Scripture as easily.  It takes me more work, more repetition to etch God’s Word into my memory cells.  I hope that if I review them enough they become permanently fixed and ready for recall when needed in the future.  I hope that during this time of unplugging, I am developing a new habit: pull out my phone and review the verses I am memorizing rather than plug into the media scene.

If I developed this habit and spent 50% of the time I am usually plugged in to media to memorizing Scripture, my mind would be more filled with the wisdom of my Lord.

A second positive to this is that I have more time to “notice.” When my eyes are not glued to my phone all the time, I can notice more things and more people. I connect via media to stay connected to people, but how many times do I look at the same things or see the same posts. I do like the new way Instagram shares its feed and it alerts you to when you are “all caught up.”  That is helpful and quite the time saver.

As I look up, I can see the needs people may have that they may not express, but have etched on their faces.  Noticing people and their needs may provide me an opportunity to serve others.

The third thing I have been able to do is have more time to read books.  This has encouraged me anew that I need to read a chapter in a book every day.  There is great wisdom in books.  Things to be learned or contemplated.  I am currently reading a book by Andy Andrews “The Traveler’s Summit.”  I have already read this book, but did not fully realize it while packing my bags.  I decided to read it again, and sure enough I have not been disappointed.  Part of the book talks about what we feed ourselves (not food) results in how we think and feel.  So if I am anxious or afraid or down, do I continue to dwell on the things that are making me feel this way?  When we are feeling this way, we seldom feel like doing things that will change how we feel.  We would rather brood, or take a nap, or sequester ourselves, or continue to contemplate the situation that made us feel this way.  Rather than these negative behaviors, we must discipline ourselves to respond differently.  Our flesh longs to brood, or nap, or hide.  Self-discipline requires us to change these habits and integrate healthy ones into our lives.  We must find a friend who brings us joy.  We must go for a walk in the sunshine rather than hide.  Maybe we find someone else to serve and bring joy to their lives rather hide away from the world that made us feel this way.  Every situation demands a response.  There are always two paths before us and it is our choice in how we respond.  It takes self-discipline to respond above our emotions.  We must choose to respond in a positive and therapeutic way knowing that our emotions will soon catch up and joy can be our friend rather than sorrow.

Being unplugged and being intentional about how I spend this time has been very positive for me.  It has brought rest to my soul.  It has brought an opportunity to be more contemplative.  It has allowed me to observe things in others that I would not have taken the time to see.

If you choose to unplug, be intentional in the time you recover.  If not, the time you recover will be wasted along with the activity.  Decide how those extra moments will be spent.  Sometimes it is just looking out the window when you are driving down the road.  Who knows what beautiful site you may see.

A Sweet Love Story

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Aren’t we secretly and some of us openly always up for a sappy Hallmark movie.  Why does this story always strike a chord in our hearts?  Because we all long for that wistful romance to be a part of our lives.  I have watched a real life “Hallmark” movie play out before me.

Danielle, our oldest daughter, and her boyfriend Aaron got engaged a few weeks ago.  The beauty of their love story is the simplicity of it.  There was no drama.  They met.  They took their time and got to know each other.  They started dating.  They got engaged. Now they are planning their wedding.

They always invited people to be a part of their lives.  They lived their love story out loud with no secrets.  Nothing to hide.  It is simple and sweet.

As much as they enjoy being together, they also enjoy being together with others.  They have friendships they still enjoy and have not left those behind because of each other.  They did not forget who they were before they met.  They did not forget the friends they had before they met.

They look for ways to serve the Lord together and apart.

If I could write a script for a love story, I would write it to mirror theirs.  The names would be different.  The circumstances would be different.  But the sweetness and the innocence would be the same.

When they got engaged, they invited all who had been a part of their journey to be a part of their engagement.  They invited family to celebrate with them.  They invited friends to celebrate with them.

Our lives were meant to be shared, not kept as a secret.  Not meant to be held so closely to the chest that no one could read what we write.

They strive to be pure.  They willingly and sweetly do nothing in private they are not willing to do in public.

They treat each other with kindness and respect.  They are students of each other seeking to love the other as they want to be loved.  They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and do not hold these things against the other, but accept these things and encourage each other to strive toward greatness without a hint of condemnation.

The journey they have been on has been a challenge as Aaron battled cancer soon after they started dating.  They grew stronger together through this difficult battle.  They drew strength from each other and saw the Lord do wonderful things in and through them during this time.

Aaron and Danielle, congratulations!  May this sweet journey you have embarked on continue to be a beacon to those around you of a love story that can be if we keep our eyes fixed on the “Author and Perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2).  I love you both and am thankful that you have found each other.

Take your wife to work

I walked in my husband’s shoes today.  I have been married to this man for 26 years and I have never had a “take your wife to work day” before.  Now mind you this was not just any “take your wife to work” day.  I actually flew half way around the world and experienced what he experiences when he travels for business.  In the nature of what he does, he sends hundreds of emails each day to communicate many pieces of a puzzle that he is a part of.  While in China In order to communicate effectively with the American part of his puzzle, he awakens at 3 a.m. in order to have 2 hours of time to communicate all he needs to and answer all the questions that he needs to before those in the U.S. leave at 5 p.m.  (China is 12 hours ahead of the U.S.)  Then he spends a few minutes on the treadmill, showers, eats breakfast, catches up on any other work he needs to before departing from his hotel at 8 a.m.  He is then driven to different places in order to meet with different customers.  Many times spending an hour in the car between stops.  At each of these stops he is dealing with issues and problems that have arisen.  Managing people and problems and language barriers effectively.  Then back to the hotel for a few more hours of work before going to bed by 8 p.m. in order to get up and 3 a.m. and start all over again.

This peak into his day gave me a new level of respect for him that I quite honestly have never had before.  He manages a lot of different things every day from people to problems to projects.  As I sat and watched him and listened to him, I realized how much he does. He carries mountains of stress on his shoulders every day.  I see why when he comes home at night, he does not need to be hit with a list of my complaints.  He has been listening to complaints all day.  What he needs from me is a warm smile.  A word of encouragement.  A listening ear about his day.  My problems can wait for a while till he has time to unload his.

I saw the need that he has for me to respect him.  He is with people all day that show him respect.  When he comes home, he needs to also be respected. Romans 12:10 says to”…outdo one another in showing honor.”  Since I love a good contest, this verse has always challenged me.  As Dave’s wife, I should be seeking to honor him more than those he has been with all day.  I may have been at work all day myself and be overwhelmed with my own set of circumstances, but the Scriptural challenge in Romans 12:10 is not conditional.  As a matter of fact, no Scriptural mandate is conditional.

As I have been on this trip with Dave, I have tried to not be demanding of my needs. Rather, I have tried to go along with his schedule and see the world through his eyes rather than try to have him accommodate my agenda.  I realize that this is not always possible in everyday life, but for these days of “take your wife to work” I can be flexible for him.  This is what has given me the ability to see his life through his eyes.  This has helped me to gain perspective.

I have walked a mile in his shoes, and after 26 years of marriage I respect him in a new way.  I see him with different eyes.  I love him more deeply. I want to outdo the honor that others have shown him.  I may not have fruit waiting for him on the table when he walks in the door, but I can take care to be a better student of what he needs when he comes home and make every effort to be what he needs.