Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God Is So Good!

God is so Good!

God is so Good? If God is so Good, why did He allow me to be born into a home, where my father was a drunkard, and didn’t know God? God is so Good?

Yes, God is Good, because He gave me a mother who did love God, who prayed for my father, and read her Bible every night. God is so Good!

God is so Good?
If God is so Good, why did He allow my father to mock my mother and her Bible, and her God? God is so Good?

Yes, God is Good, because one day my father went to church, and accepted Christ as his Savior, and the God of my mother’s Bible. God is so Good!

God is so Good? Then why these doubts…these fears that I feel when my father explains to me that even though I’m only 8 years old, if I were to die in my sins, I’d go to hell? Does that show the goodness of God? Would a Good God condemn a little girl to hell?

Yes. But God is so Good, because Daddy read to me in the Bible that God loved me so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to die on the cross for my sins…in my place. He suffered death in my place, the death penalty for my sins so that I could have eternal life. God is so Good!

God is so Good? Would a Good God take my parents to Mexico, when in the middle of my teen years, when I was sixteen years old, I had to leave my friends, my school, my church, and my country to go to a strange land, whose language I didn’t understand, and whose customs were as different as the food and the people? God is so Good?

Yes, God is Good, because, although at times in my rebellion, little by little God let me learn Spanish, the customs, and even to love the Mexican people. And He put a desire, a call into my heart to spend the rest of my life serving the people of Mexico. God is so Good!

God is so Good? Why would he want me to serve Him alone? I was 24 years old, and not one man had appeared in my life who wanted to serve God the way I wanted to serve Him, where I wanted to serve Him. God is so Good?

Yes. God is Good, because I decided to serve God with or without a husband. God Who is so Good, gave me peace!

…and also a husband. God is so Good for sending me a husband…the man of my dreams, Tom Sloan!
God is so Good!

God is so Good? Then why did He allow Tom to suffer the last 24 years of his life from Parkinson’s disease? Why was he so limited in his medical profession? God is so Good? Then why did He take him away from me? Why did He take him to Heaven? Why couldn’t we spend our last years on earth together? Couldn’t we have served Him better together? Couldn’t he have served God better with good health?

It’s been six years now since he left, and I ask myself, “Why? Why? Why? Why so many abortions? Why so many divorces? Why so much crime? Why so many broken hearts and broken vows? Why so many abandoned children, and abused women? Why is a little nine year-old girl dying of cancer?

Could it be there are moments…instants when God ceases to be Good?
No, no! A thousand times No!
God allows sickness, and sorrows, and poverty, and abandoned children, and cancer in little ones to draw us closer to Him, so that He can show us His love and His mercy and His grace.
It’s when we suffer most that we need more of His love and His comfort.
The greater the heartache, the more of His grace and His presence I need. The more I have to depend on Him.
I give Him my sorrow, and He gives me His joy.
I give Him my battles, and He gives me His victory.
I give Him my anxieties, and He gives me His peace.
I give Him my sins, and He gives me His forgiveness.
God is so Good?
Yes, God is so Good!

December 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,

As I write this letter, I am beginning what will be a new adventure for me: a furlough. Because my son, David, and his wife, Jolene and their three children are in America for the birth of their 4th child, and will be returning to Ukraine in March, I have decided to spend some of this time with them. But I would also like to present my work to your church if you think I could be a blessing to you.

Over 36 years ago, my husband and I moved with our three small sons to a little village called Ixtapa. It was there that we actually started our mission work, and the training of Indian pastors. After 32 years, God has laid it on my son in law, Ulises’ heart to return to this town to begin a new work. He and Elizabeth, my daughter, go every Saturday to hand out tracts and evangelize. Not only have they seen many souls saved, they have received an invitation to start a church there. Please pray for the progress of this work.

The theme of our 12th annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet this year was “God is So Good.” My son, David, did a wonderful job preaching, and when the invitation was given, there were four saved, including a congresswoman, and the sister of a former first lady. We also celebrated the fifty years of God’s goodness and blessings to me after having arrived in México in 1960 with my parents and three brothers. I’m thankful for the honor of getting to live in México for most of my life, and am grateful to the Lord for calling me to be a missionary.

I am including an essay I wrote and read during the program, and I hope it will convey to you the gratitude I feel in my heart, and which I pray will encourage you to be thankful during this wonderful time of the year, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

May God’s riches blessings be yours as you begin a New Year.

Your friend,
Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Between You and Me / The Power of Negative Thinking

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and there be any praise, think on these things.”
Philippians 4:8

My husband and I bought our first Van after all eight of our children were born. So with our pickups and our Suburban our front seats were not divided. Not until several years after our youngest was born did we buy our first vehicle that had a divided front seat. So for almost half of our married years, I was able to sit next to my husband when he would drive. If you’re under thirty years old, you probably can’t relate to the past few sentences.

We raised our children before the strict safety laws were passed. So we always had a baby in the front with us. Although it would have been very practical to have placed our little one between the two of us, my husband would always put the seat or bed by the door, so I could sit next to him. He was very particular about there being nothing between him and me.

That was also an important principle in our marriage. There should never be anything between a husband and wife, in order for there to be a sweet relationship.

In a few days my children and I will be remembering that Sunday afternoon six years ago, when my husband went to Heaven. Now that I’m a widow, I find myself becoming more aware of things that come between the Lord and me…things that make it harder for me to feel His presence. When I become negative in my thinking, it’s hard for me to sense His nearness.

As I prepare this lesson, I find myself in a lovely hotel room, with an adjoining room where my son, David, and his wife, Jolene, and their three children are staying. I will be traveling with them, as they visit churches in America for the next few months, before their return to Ukraine, where they serve as missionaries. If you really want to spend quality time with someone, go on a road trip with them. One thing that impresses me most about my son is his positive thinking. I’ve observed many obstacles during this trip, which included a cross-country trip through Mexico. But he refuses to give up, or give in to little setbacks. And there’s power in that kind of thinking. Positive thinking achieves goals.

There was a book out several years ago called The Power of Positive Thinking. I never read it, but without even opening it, one can imagine the teaching of the author.

But there’s also power in negative thinking. I’ve experienced it recently, as I’ve had such thoughts as: “I’m not going to have enough money, I’m going to run out of time, and I’m not going to get this lesson ready by my deadline.”

So I’ve come up with a little remedy: as we were traveling along today, I was having such negative thoughts. They began to cloud my mind, and my disposition. So I just imagined myself sitting at a big desk, in a lovely room, leisurely working on this lesson. And immediately I felt my spirit brighten, and the Lord lifted my burden.

And here I am.

When I prepare my lessons, I must keep a positive attitude. Sometimes I have to psyche myself up by thinking, “Someone needs this. This is going to be a blessing to someone today. This may even change someone’s life, or even save their marriage.”

It’s more fun to be positive than to be negative. For example, if you’re a homemaker, just imagine yourself standing in your laundry room surrounded by piles of dirty laundry. You can either lie down on top of the clothes, and cry yourself to sleep in a fit of depression. Or you can close your eyes and imagine those clothes washed and folded in nice organized stacks. That’s a great motivator, also, to get busy and do something about our challenges.

There is an element of faith to thinking positively. You have to learn to trust. Trust the Lord to supply time you don’t have, strength you don’t possess, or money you lack in order to carry out your responsibilities and commitments. That’s what Salvation is all about. If you don’t trust the Lord to supply the faith that you lack in order to believe in His death, burial, and resurrection, you can’t be saved.

Positive thinking isn’t a humanistic approach to living. It’s a biblical principal. In Philippians 4:4-8, Paul tells us that our attitude has a lot to do with our relationship with the Lord. We can either rejoice, or complain. We have the choice to trust, or to worry; we can grumble, or be thankful; we can always be telling others about our problems, or we can tell them to the Lord. When we choose the positive options, we have peace with God, and therefore our relationships with others are what they should be. I’m not making this up. That’s what Paul is telling us.

Did you know negative thinking can affect your health? I’m told that many people who have stomach ailments are worriers. Many, many years ago when my husband and I first moved to San Cristóbal, we became acquainted with a precious couple who were quite a bit older than we were. We would get so amused at them. Hubby was a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow, and enjoyed eating right off the carts of the Indian street vendors in our little mountain valley home. He never was sick. His wife, however, was always sick. She would prepare “bugs” which I believe amounted to yogurt that she would consume in ample amounts in order to “keep the bacteria away.” She would come to my young husband, being the only American doctor in town, and he would kindly prescribe medication for her stomach upsets, and lovingly and patiently give her advice to calm her tummy woes. But later he’d smile as he’d tell me, “If she’d just go out to dinner every once in a while with her husband, and eat what he eats and relax, she wouldn’t have that trouble.”

At the risk of sounding pious, my desire is for everything I do to be part of what produces God’s perfect plan for my life. So when I doubt and fear that I will lack anything in order to carry out that plan, whether it is money, strength, time, wisdom, health or protection, I’m building a wall between the Lord and me. Doubt is the opposite of faith; fear is the opposite of trust; and doubt and fear produce negative attitudes and negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are exhausting; thinking positively energizes and motivates.

Negative thinking never makes dreams come true; negative thinking destroys.

Negative attitudes are powerful enough to make a child fail in his studies, and negative thinking makes for unreached goals.

Do you think your husband’s plan to start his own business is a lot of nonsense? Imagine him as an important CEO. Negative thinking can destroy a marriage, because it longs for encouraging words from its mates.

Do you have a child who is failing in Math? Encourage him as if he were making straight A’s. A child’s confidence is torn down by the power of a mother’s negative thinking.

I pray this prayer every morning: “Lord, help me to be a blessing to those around me.” But when I have a negative attitude, I affect others in a negative way.

However, the greatest damage my negative thinking does is to shadow the presence of God in my life. And just between you and me…

I don’t want that to happen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Between You and Me / Anxiety

“And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.”
Genesis 13:8
I have four daughters, and four sons. To each of you I say, “I don’t want there to be anything between you and me.” I have four sons in law, and four daughters in law. “I hope there will never be anything between you and me.” I have three brothers. To them and my sisters in law I say the same “Don’t let anything come between you and me.” If you know me, I want there to be nothing between you and me. I want our relationship to be everything it should be, whether as your mother, your sister, or your friend.

There’s a story in the book of Genesis about a man and his nephew. Abraham was a wealthy man. God had blessed him with cattle and land. He lived in the land of Canaan with his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot. They migrated there from Ur, a land of pagan idolatry. It was in this place that God chose to bring Abraham to start a new generation that would love and serve Him. Abraham didn’t use the excuse that he came from a pagan background. He trusted God to fulfill His promise through him and Sarah, although they were both nearing 100 years of age.

Everything belonged to Abraham. Lot was a tag-along. In fact God’s original plan was for Abraham to leave all. In part he obeyed, but not completely, because he brought Lot and his father, Terah with him. The Bible says that Terah was an idolater.

One day Abraham noticed that his servants and those of Lot were fighting over the greenest pasture for their sheep. Abraham valued the relationship with his nephew more than his animals. He knew that if their shepherds were disagreeing, in a short time, so would they. So although everything belonged to Abraham, he came up with a solution: “Lot, you choose the pasture land you would like to have. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right. If you choose the right, I’ll go to the left.” And Lot chose the richest pasture land. It reminded him of the rich land of Egypt, which by the way he remembered, because Abraham had taken his family there during the time of famine, instead of trusting the Lord to provide his needs.

Abraham was willing to give up the best pasture land in order to keep anything from coming between him and his nephew.

God saw Abraham’s heart, and He called Abraham apart to live in the land of Hebron. Hebron means “the place of communion.” The verb commune means to communicate intimately. Abraham and God were friends, intimate friends.

Abraham was far from perfect. But God chose him to be the father of a nation.

Maybe because I’m a widow, and I don’t have the companionship of a husband, but I long to have an intimate relationship with God. I’m not where I wish I were in our relationship, but I know what I long for.

But just as there are things that come between a husband and a wife to harm their relationship, there are things that can wedge themselves between the Lord and a Christian. I know. I’ve experienced it. Just as I’ve enjoyed close communion with the Lord, I also know what it is to feel something is not right.

The ultimate goal of a Christian should be to please the Lord, and bring honor to Him in all we do. Unless we take stock of our lives, and acknowledge what it is that is hindering our relationship, whether between husband and wife, mother and child, or a Christian and the Lord, we’ll never make that relationship more intimate.

So I’ve tried to analyze my personal relationship with the Lord, and I came up with a list of possible problems that could come between the two of us. At the top of my list is “Anxiety.” I’m going to share with you what I’m feeling this morning.

The dictionary defines anxiety as “uneasiness usually over an expected misfortune.” If I’m going to be a blessing to you, I must expose my feelings, and I’ll have to admit, I very often have feelings of anxiety. I started this lesson exactly one week away from a very exciting trip. The most unsettling thing I do is to leave the comfort and security of my beloved home. But this was going to be a happy trip, because I was meeting my son, David, and his wife, Jolene and their three children, whom I had not seen in almost two years. I was also going to be attending a Christian Womanhood Spectacular, which I’ve attended only in my dreams since I was a young wife and mother. The joy and thrill of that precious reunion, and my dream of a lifetime come true, was being over-shadowed by anxiety: what if my plane from Chiapas takes off late, and I don’t have enough time to change planes in Mexico City? What if the hotel I reserved for that night cancels my reservation, because I have a late check-in, and I have to sleep in the lobby, or in the airport? Is it cold in Chicago in October? Should I take a coat? Will my luggage be over-weight? And on and on went the “uneasiness” of this “expected misfortune.” Not only do those feelings bring a distance between the Lord and me, it robs me of the joy I should be feeling, it makes me unproductive, it robs me of much-needed sleep, it makes me irritable with others, it makes me say things that I wouldn’t say, or even think if I would simply do what the Bible tells me to do in Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The most valuable treasure anxiety takes from me is peace, the peace of God, according to this Scripture. I need to do what Peter tells me to do, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” I Peter 5:7 Peter was a fisherman, and I believe we can imagine our casting our cares on Jesus, just as Peter cast his net into the sea. I don’t envision God sitting up in Heaven, shaking His head in disgust at me for not trusting Him, because of the last part of that verse, “He careth for you.” Our anxieties are important to Him, because they’re part of what keeps us from being close.

So I took practical measures to at least limit my anxieties. I made a list of things I needed to get done before my departure date. I even put little abbreviations of the day I should have each one finished by the side of each item. I at least knew what needed to be done.

There are anxieties I have which are real. I have actually slept in a hotel lobby, but I have precious memories of that short night, and the lessons the Lord taught me. I have also had luggage that exceeded the weight limit several times. But I’ve also seen the Lord deliver me from having to leave anything behind, or even having to pay extra.

Many things that cause our anxiety, whether real or imagined, can be useful: they can motivate us to get organized, take stock of the way we spend our time, or just simply be thankful for someone, perhaps, we’re afraid we’re going to lose. Just as I may know the consequences of my plane taking off late, I must realize there are certain things over which I have absolutely no control. I can’t control the weather in Chicago, any more than I can control flight schedules. I must do as Peter tells me. I must cast my care on Him, Who cares for me, and realize that some things are totally out of my control. I must do the best I can to be on time for all my flights, and I wisely went online, checking the weather forecast for Chicago. But the success of failure of my trip didn’t depend on everything going perfectly. It depended on my trust in the One Who cares for me, and Who is in the “control tower” of my life.

So that morning I went fishing. I did some casting. I did this by just talking to the Lord, and admitting my anxieties to Him. I prayed for my pilots, and I asked Him to put kind people in my path. I asked Him to give me His peace for my anxieties.

And that’s exactly what He did.

Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 7

“The Common and Ordinary.
The Schedules and Routines”
I am writing this book shortly after my 65th birthday. I have eight children, and twenty-eight grandchildren. At the moment of this writing, I have been alone for almost three weeks. I am taking a brief respite from work and travels, and am enjoying being able to make my own schedules and establish my own routine.

Ordinarily, I am with one or more of my children, their spouse and their children. So there are times when I must “go with the flow,” and keep up with their pace. If I am traveling with my son, David, and his wife, Jolene and their three children…which is the only way I can spend time with them every two years during their visit in America, and before their return to their mission field of Ukraine…I must go on their strict routine and schedules.

When I’m at home in Chiapas, living across the drive from my church, necessitates doing certain things before people arrive in my yard for certain activities.

Even during this luxurious break from my normal routine, I am staying in a mission apartment, so I must comply with certain schedules of the church activities, which I thoroughly enjoy: ladies’ Thursday morning visitation, ladies meetings, and other church activities.

Can one ever say, “I am the sole ruler of my life? I can plan my day how I want, doing exactly what I would like to do, and when, and until I get ready, I’ll not quit?” Will I ever be so independent that I can completely eliminate all interruptions and distractions? I think not.

If that is your dream, as it is mine at times, let me confirm that the happiest person on earth is not the person who has all the money she wants to spend, spending it however she likes, with whomever she pleases. She does not get up at her leisure, and sleep whenever she gets tired.

Even in this brief time that I am at liberty to “do as I please, and go as I please,” I have found myself forming little limitations, routines, and schedules. Not only do I feel more rested than if I had nothing to account for having gotten up in the morning, but I actually have a sense of having accomplished things that I could have otherwise not gotten done had I been surrounded by children and grandchildren. I schedule times for reading, relaxing, and napping. I have a routine for shopping, and doing fun things. I have gone to the library, and browsed through expensive purses and suits, although I haven’t purchased them.

There is something inside us…at least inside me…that demands order…reasons for doing what I do, answers to “what am I doing here, and why am I doing this?”

And so it is with raising children.

I remember when my children were small, I would go to bed at night, and look back over my day with disgust. What had I done? I had washed, and cooked and cleaned. I had bathed my children, washed dirty faces and hands before meals. I had put them down for naps, washed out diapers, folded mountains of laundry, and I had made out menus and grocery lists. I had home schooled. All these activities were products of routine and schedule. And I would think, “I just worked and worked all day around my children, and never took time to talk with them, or play games with them, or listen to their stories.” Than I would begin to fantasize about the next day, and how I would change my life: “I’ll get up in the morning, and before I dress, or fix breakfast, or start school, I’ll sit down in the living room floor and play games with them. I’ll leisurely stroll into the kitchen, and have breakfast on the table in twenty minutes. Then before dishes are done, we’ll dress and go out for a walk.”

And on and on my fantasizing would go.

The next morning, just as one would step onto a ramp like the one you put your groceries on at Wal-Mart, or lug your luggage (so that’s where luggage got its name!) onto the ramp at the airport, I would step out of bed, and onto my routine-ramp, and before you knew it, it would be eighteen hours later, and I had nothing more to show for my day than the same things I had performed the day before.

But without my even knowing it, I was creating a nest of security for my children, and for myself. My children knew what to expect. They knew what came next, and what was expected of them, and what they could look forward to. There were certain dishes I prepared on certain days.

The greatest damage the devil can do to your happiness is to convince you that you are doing everything wrong. You’re the reason for all your problems. And many times he convinces us to do things the way everyone else around us is doing it.

From the time our children were born, until they left for college, we had a naptime routine. This didn’t necessarily come at the same time every day, but it did fall into the same slot: immediately after lunch, which at our house was about 2:00. We raised our children in Mexico, where the big meal of the day is served in the afternoon, usually between 2:00 and 3:00. This beautifully allows families to come home from school and work, enjoy a leisurely meal together, and then return to their work or school around 4:00. This is called, Siesta Time, and in my little mountain village, many shops and businesses close down during that time.

This is perhaps why this routine started, but even today, I find myself looking for a quiet corner wherever I am, as soon as lunch is over, and dishes are done, and enjoying a thirty-minute to hour long nap. I won’t go into the benefits of this tradition, because I’m talking about routines and schedules.

But even as I have spent these three weeks alone, I religiously take my delicious naps every afternoon. The great joy of being alone is that I can manage my own naps whenever I like…not while grandbabies are down for their naps.

There is a joy, and sense of fulfillment, a feeling of “doing what I should be doing, when I should be doing it,” in routine and schedules, even at my age. I schedule one hour for writing this book, immediately after my devotions. So my mind is not tangled up in thinking, “I should be preparing my IRS, or making phone calls, or running to Wal-Mart.”

Isn’t this somewhat similar to being in the center of God’s will? While your children are too young to know God’s will, schedule and routine will provide that safety for them, that feeling of being secure in knowing that they’re doing exactly what they should be doing, at exactly the right time. This familiarity with our activities creates this warm soothing comfort zone. There is the looking forward to story time after supper around the table. “This is a tough math problem, but as soon as I’m through, I can work on my spelling words.”

Don’t you remember as a child sitting in a classroom, maybe absorbed in trying to answer a history question, and all of a sudden visions of sitting around the dinner table came to your mind? How comforting, and soothing simple routines provide for us in our times of distress.

Is it possible that my two young friends, Josh and Caleb, even as I write, are somewhere in a prison, with thoughts of their father’s home going only three days ago…and their not being able to be with their families? What could possibly get anyone through such an agonizing experience? Do they have memories of their father doing the familiar, routine things with them? The familiarity of his being behind the pulpit, of always standing for what was right? Could this be their cushion in a cold prison? This warm memory of “Dad always…”

Is it family vacations he always provided for his children, and their families every year? This “looking forward to the familiar?” Tradition, routine, schedules…that’s what brings happy memories, and cozy comfort in cold, dark prison cells.

It was routine that allowed our family to always have devotions around our dining room table. It wasn’t the powerful messages that came out of those routine times. I never had time to prepare anything, and many times my mind wouldn’t have allowed me to organize spiritual thoughts in order to convey them to my children. It was routine that allowed my children to learn Scripture passages from the time they could sit up in a high chair.

Sitting around our table, Bibles in front of us, my little papers with Scriptures to be quoted and the Scripture of the week to be memorized, brought a feeling of “everything’s going to be all right. Everything is where it should be, and everyone is where they should be.” That sense of well-being, and peace comes forth from routine…the same ole same ole.

If I had not cultivated the habit of routine, the “this-comes-after-this” way of life, there are times when I wouldn’t know which way to go when I wake up in the mornings. Perhaps because as people grow older there is this sense of not having enough years, or months or days to get everything done that I would like to accomplish in this lifetime. I feel at times that there is going to be more crammed into the next day, because I didn’t get it all done today. There is a peace, a sense of direction and purpose and accomplishment every morning, as routine guides me through my maze. It’s the turning on the coffee pot and heading for the shower…steps firm and sure that I’m doing at least one thing right this day, and so everything else should fall into place, too. Even though my mind is numb with drowsiness, and I know by looking at the clock, and by the way my body is screaming to “please, one more hour under the covers,” that three hours’ sleep is not enough to perform all the activities that lie ahead. But by the time I’m through with the normal routine, and I sit down with my coffee and Bible, I have a certain feeling of accomplishment, and of being ready for the day.

It’s that turning off the decision maker…knowing exactly what comes next…that frees my mind, once it’s awake, to start praying for my children, and the other people and things and problems I pray for every day.

There is one simple thing I’ve learned in this life: the fewer the decisions, the fewer the mistakes. The fewer the decisions, the more freedom for peaceful thoughts and tranquility. There’s no “shall I start laundry today, or wait one more day?” Well, at my house if it’s Monday or Thursday, it’s laundry day for me. No decision there, so if the electricity goes off on Monday morning, I can put something else in the laundry slot for Monday.

When my children were all at home, I had…please don’t laugh…certain dresses for certain days. I absolutely loved Saturday’s at our house, because that’s the day we didn’t have school, and I got to do only housework that day. I had a yellow dress that I used only on Saturday’s. It was short sleeved, so I had more freedom to roll out the dough for our cinnamon rolls. I never wore that dress on Wednesday’s or Monday’s…just Saturday’s. I don’t particularly like yellow, and I don’t believe it’s my color, but it was given to me, and so I wore it for housework.

So what do yellow dresses have to do with anything? I would have asked the same question before my children left home.

But after they left for college, imagine the comfort in midst of the agonizing homesickness of knowing exactly what I was wearing when my children would think of home on Saturday’s….this yellow cushion to curl up on.

No matter how silly your routine, or how weird yours may be, don’t be afraid of it. It’s tailor-made for you and your children.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Hearbeat of a Banquet

(Instead of posting Chapter 8 of my book, My Kids and Me, I’ve decided to send you some of the thoughts I’m having, and the emotions I usually feel this time of the year. Thank you for letting me share them with you.)

“The Heartbeat of a Banquet”
On Friday afternoon, November 19, just two weeks from today, Lord willing, I’ll walk into the lovely Banquet room of probably the most prestigious hotel in our little town. As always, I will arrive about an hour before 4:00 in order to arrange my personal things…my folder containing programs customized for everyone who will take part in our annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, and my own program, which will basically play the part of my brain for the evening, telling me exactly what I should be doing, when, and where; my Bible, handkerchief, water, pens, music, etc. Don’t worry…all those items are on a list in a pretty pink notebook I’ve chosen for my notes this year.

I also want to be relaxed and organized so I will be able to greet each lady at the door.

But I think the most important reason I arrive an hour early is because I want to take in the beauty, and the atmosphere before anyone else arrives. My daughters and several ladies from the church will arrive about 10:00 that morning to finish the final touches of the decorations.

But by 3:00, my girls will be in their rooms at the hotel, which are reserved several months before the Banquet. I did this last year, and my children said that was one of the most wonderful parts of the Banquet…being able to leisurely dress for the banquet, and step out of their rooms and into the Banquet room. And then after the banquet, not to have to take babies and belongings out to vans and carry sleeping babies into the house late at night. By the end of the banquet, babies will be in their jammies, and tucked into bed by their “nannies for the evening.”

So if I get there an hour before the Banquet, no one is there. I just walk among the tables, taking in the atmosphere of what will soon be filled with the chatter of lady friends, some who have saved all year long in order to buy their $20 dollar ticket. Some will be wearing designer dresses, some dresses will be homemade, and some will be from last year’s Banquet. This represents the different walks of life these women come from.

But what will take place here on that night will also represent hundreds and hundreds of hours of work, planning, preparation, and prayer put into this event so dear to my heart.

Thousands of dollars miraculously raised by friends, children, churches across the USA, our church here, and the hard work of my Sunday school ladies are required to fund this gala evening.

As I walk in my imagination among the tables, which will be so beautifully decorated this year with fresh flowers, my mind goes back fifty years…

…1960. I was only 16 years old that November 15th afternoon, as my parents, my three little brothers and I drove across the border, and along the two-lane highway that led me away from my country, my beloved church, school, and friends into this strange land called México. Everything uncommon looks strange in the eyes of a teenage girl: the people, their customs, their food, and their language.

I was blessed enough to have a teenage brother who was my very best friend and constant companion. We even enrolled in school together, and for the next three years, which would conclude our high school years, we sat in the same classrooms, and shared the same friends. We went on “dates,” and we clowned around. We even enjoyed staying in the same bedroom in twin beds while we soaked in all the attention required for two teenagers with hepatitis.

How do a different people become yours? What makes a strange country become home? Why is it sometimes easier to express yourself in a second language than in your first language?

It happens by just being there, and letting it happen. It isn’t learned, and it isn’t forced on you. It happens to you like a sweet aroma happens to you when you walk through a garden, or a forest.

Never in my wildest teenage dreams would I ever imagine loving a land, a country, a city, a people like I love my home, and the place where God has called me.

I believe when God gives a call, He also gives a love. It’s like a magnet drawing you to it, whether it is to care for your children, to care for the sick, to pastor a church, or to minister to prisoners. The surrender to God’s call brings peace.

We’re talking heartbeats here.

My girls and the ladies in our church make up the core of the production of this event. They’re considerably younger than I am, and the part they play in this annual affair requires lots and lots of hard physical work…work with their hands, as they spend hours designing invitations, creating the lovely corsages for each special lady, making centerpieces.

Their tired feet walk and run from sun up until sundown, chasing toddlers, running errands, shopping, reserving, and ordering.

Their voices make phone calls, and rehearse songs, and invite friends.

Fingers work almost non stop at their computers, typing out programs, songs and menus; or punching in phone numbers as they call to make sure reservations are confirmed.

But the part of my anatomy that will be working most throughout the months and now days before the Banquet will be my mind. My mind works although I lie down for an afternoon nap. In my mind I can picture how I want everything to be that evening. I see the platform; I see the tables reserved for special guests; I hear the songs.

I go over and over in my mind the essay I will be reading that evening…something I’ve done ever since our first Banquet years ago…a speech that goes with the theme for the Banquet.

And you can’t involve the mind without getting the heart in on the act. My heart is stirred at times while I’m alone in the early hours of the morning with the Lord. As I open my Bible and read, my emotions are active as I realize the theme of this year’s banquet: “Celebrating Fifty Years of God’s Goodness.”

For some of the ladies attending that evening, this is probably one of many invitations that they will receive. Because of their position in life, events like this abound. Why do they choose this particular one year after year after year? Because the heartbeat of our Banquet, the purpose of this annual event is reaching hearts, and stirring emotions. And year after year these ladies tell me before they leave, “Thank you for this evening. It’s the highlight of my year, and of this season. My heart feels so full.”

If my heart isn’t prepared for that evening, their hearts won’t be touched.

As I grow older, my mind works a lot more than my hands or my feet do. My mind works now in fact, more than my hands or feet ever worked when I was a young mother. Only when I sleep does it also rest.

But my body gets tired and weary, so I must, especially during this time, make sure I eat the right food, and get enough rest…even more than I normally would. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I’ve noticed when I’m physically exhausted, my spirit is weary, also, and I’m not as aware of His presence.

I desire an alert sound mind, which is required of me as I write, speak, and teach.

I pray this prayer every night before I go to bed, for my children and for their mother: “Help me/us to wake up in the morning refreshed and encouraged about the challenge of a new day.”

If you read this, and if you are praying for this Banquet, will you also pray for the Lord to give this 66 year-old mind alertness required for the days ahead, and especially for the evening of November 19? Pray for my heart to be soft and not hard as I face the challenges and demands of each day.

And pray for the Holy Spirit to touch and change the hearts of the ladies who attend, so when they walk out that evening, they’ll be forever different than when they walked in.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Prayer Request List for Ladies' Christmas Banquet November 19, 2010

1. Wisdom and discernment in all the plans and decisions to be made.
2. Extra strength for the girls and me as we plan and make preparations.
3. For the wife of the city mayor, Idalia Garcia de Diaz, to be able to attend.
4. For the wives of the former mayors to be able to attend.
5. For extra finances for the cost of the Banquet, hotel reservations, plane reservation, etc. for our guest speaker.
6. Preparation of the special music, and choice of each song.
7. For our guest speaker, my son, David Sloan, missionary to Ukraine, as he prepares his message for the evening.
8. For the Hotel staff to be reached with the Gospel.
9. That the Lord would prepare the hearts of the ladies who will be attending, and for many to be saved, who will be an influence to others. We have had ladies saved in every banquet for the past nine years, including two former First Ladies.
10. For wisdom for my son-in-law, Ulises Martinez, our banquet administrator.

NOTE: This banquet is an annual affair, and will be attended by ladies, who for the most part are unsaved, and who either because of religious preferences, or pressures from home, do not attend our Church. The Lord laid these dear ladies on my heart several years ago, and I am as burdened for them as I am for the ladies in my Sunday School class.

Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends of México,

I can say with all my heart there is no place else on earth I had rather be than right here in Chiapas, doing exactly what I’m doing. I long for more results from my labors, but I rest content, knowing that God is the One Who gives the increase. My job is simply to be faithful.

You may have heard about the flooding in Chiapas. My daughter, Anna, and her husband, Andrés, and their two children were unable to get out of the village where they were attending the wedding of his nephew last weekend, until a canoe arrived, and they rode over water covering the tops of trees. The 20-minute dangerous ride ended safely, and God saw them to the other side of the river. Thank you for your prayers.

It was my joy to have won two ladies to the Lord since my last letter. Another lady who has been attending my monthly ladies’ prayer breakfasts invited me to her home to teach her how to pray. I told her the most important prayer she would ever pray is “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.” Pray that Eva will soon be saved.

Our good friend of many years, Pastor Louis Horton, and two of his members, Bro. Warren Stallard, and Bro. Ernie Flores, were guests here during the month of August. Pastor Horton preached a conference. When they returned to Decatur, TX, Bro. Ernie surrendered to start a Spanish work in their town. Thank the Lord for answering my prayer of nine years!

On the personal side, I received the joyful news that my grandbaby #33 is on the way. Steve and Ruthie are looking forward to the birth of their 7th from Heaven in April, 2011.

In about a month, Lord willing, we will be holding our 12th Annual Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, on November 19. I am sending a list of special requests, and ask that you pray regularly for this event. The greatest need I have is for wisdom.

Your friend and servant,
Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 6

Did you know I’m using you? You’re my “practice audience,” since I decided to put this book on my blog before actually turning it into a physical book you can touch. Thank you.

Since we have this special relationship, I’ll let you in on a secret: I believe this chapter about Hedges should have gone before Chapter 4, “Blending Routine and Schedule With Extras.” But when it appears in book form, it will be in that order, hopefully.

It’s been a long, long time since my children were little, and times have changed since then. I remember walking into the bedroom of my daughter, Ruthie the day after the birth of her first baby, and gasping at the sight of little Steven lying on his back. I calmly asked her if he shouldn’t perhaps be on his tummy. She also calmly walked across the room and brought me a book entitled, “Why You Should Never Place a Baby on His Tummy.” Wow!

When my babies were little, disposable diapers and Wet Wipes were exclusively for travel and nurseries. Those are common necessities for my grandbabies.

I know there are a lot of things my children do differently in the raising of my grandchildren, and I would never attempt to challenge them, even though their father was a pediatrician. But I stand strong on my convictions concerning hedges.

A hedge is a shrub of sorts. It’s a living plant that keeps in the good, and keeps out the bad. I know that’s oversimplifying, but basically that’s what it is.

But what do hedges have to do with my kids and me? Because that’s the way I survived motherhood.

I am a firm believer in confinement. Confinement is control, and control is order, and order is safety, and safety is security. Hedges are about security. What is it the Bible says about “a child left to himself?” A child left to himself is a child without hedges. A child left to himself is a child out of control. If you live in a home where a child is out of control, there is no order. Where there is no order, there is danger. And danger robs a child of security. Hence poor grades, rebellious teenagers, and drug addicts.

I often have people ask me, “How did you manage eight children when they were growing up, especially the little one?” And I reply, “Playpens, highchairs, car seats, seat belts (even before they were the law), walkers and strollers.”

I remember a missionary lady walking into our little travel trailer one day. Tommy was about a year old, and was playing in his crib. “Your baby will never develop normally if you don’t let him crawl on the floor.”

She had two children about ten and twelve years old, so I really considered her to have much more wisdom than I did. But after observing her uncontrollable son at the dinner table that night, I figured I’d just stick to my confining methods of raising my son.

There is a tendency to feel sorry for a baby who spends most of his waking hours confined to a crib or a playpen. And I believe each mother should let her instincts guide her in many areas of childrearing. But at least from my own experience, when my children ran around all day, pulling out drawers, climbing onto the table, and turning over lamps, just so I could say I didn’t cruelly confine him, “Mama wasn’t happy. And when Mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”

When your children are small, you are his hedge maker. You set the boundaries, the limits and the borders. The more physical the hedge, the clearer the limits. I’ve heard of mothers who purposefully put expensive candy dishes…with candy in them…down on a coffee table, and spend half a day spanking little hands. Baby spends the other half crying. I don’t judge you if that’s your method of training. That’s up to you and God.

But wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to put the candy dish out of reach or out of sight? Why complicate your already challenging job? I wonder if a mother like that actually looks forward to each day. I’m sure her child doesn’t.

Should motherhood indeed be a life of battles? I don’t think so. Make it easy on yourself and on your child by making visible hedges. Once the hedges are in place, then the disciplining comes into play when he steps across them. Once a baby is in his crib for naptime, or bedtime, he definitely should not be allowed to convince his mother by crying to take him out.

There are different kinds of hedges you should build around your children, regardless of your philosophy of childrearing. You don’t put your baby to sleep on the front porch the night you bring him home from the hospital. You don’t put him in a tub of water, and take him out when he’s soaked clean. Your arms are the first hedge your baby knows after his birth. Just as your womb was his hedge before birth, so your arms protect him, and provide warmth and security. We’ve all read of abandoned babies left on doorsteps of hospitals, and how that precious little one responds to the arms of a nurse, and the warmth of her body. The first hedge your baby needs is

1. Your love.

Have you ever had company, or gone out to dinner with friends, only to have your little one outdo herself by misbehaving? It is very, very possible that she is vying for your attention. I just had dinner with my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Jason, and we were discussing how hard it must be to be a working mom with little ones. Whether these children are left with a grandmother, or a “professional” nursemaid, there surely must be a gap in their hedge of security. A child needs the attention of her mother, that no one else can provide, no matter how much that grandmother loves her, or how professional the nursemaid. The second hedge you provide for your child is

2. Your attention.

There is another hedge that is perhaps the hardest to construct, because it requires quite a bit of disciplining your own life. You should live by schedule and routine. That is almost an obsolete concept, I know, in our “do as you please, when you please, with whomever you please” world. There are no hedges around our own lives, and so we find it difficult to put them around our children’s. In a home where self discipline is not practiced by mothers, the children never know what to expect. They don’t know what time dinner will be ready, or if there will even be dinner. They sleep late on weekends, because there is no schedule for weekends.

When our children were growing up, the sky could have fallen in, (and it almost did the day our quiet little mountain village town was attacked by an Indian uprising), but we had three sit-down-around-the-table meals a day. We had family Scripture reading, memorization, songs, and prayer every single morning. Our children knew what the sound of my whistle from the kitchen door meant three times a day, and especially in the mornings. Routinely, they would wash their hands, get their Bibles and come to the table. That was as natural as breathing. Our children were secure in that little routine. Routine and schedule build character. Like it or not, they did it, or they didn’t eat. To my knowledge, not one of my eight children dislikes the Word of God. They love it. They grew up on it. It’s part of who they are, and the times they have disobeyed the Lord, His Word drew them back to Him. While you’re building hedges, please include

3. Schedules and Routines.

I hope that you would never endeavor to raise a child without the help of the Lord. I enjoyed the blessing of having a wonderful, supportive husband, who was a model father. There were times when I don’t believe I could have survived without his guidance and wisdom. I feel compassion toward women who are compelled to bring up their children without the help of a husband.

But there were dark days and nights when only the Lord could bring me through certain times involved in the rearing of our children. I could never have survived, not even with my husband by my side, had the Lord not strengthened me, and comforted me. There were times when it was impossible for their father to be with them, to protect them from danger, in making adult decisions. It was during those times that the sustaining power of prayer was all we could provide to hedge them about. There is no other hedge as valuable as that of

4. Your prayers.

I pray for each one of my children, their spouses, their children, their material needs as well as their physical ones every morning of my life, no matter where I am, or what kind of schedule my day holds. I pray for their particular problems and needs that I am aware of. I pray for their finances, and the unique challenges of their ministries, and ask the Lord to help them to work in harmony with their co-laborers. I pray for their different relationships, and their children’s education. I pray for those who may be traveling, and a special prayer for my girls who are expecting babies.

At night before I go to bed, since it is early morning in Ukraine, I pray my morning prayer for David and Jolene and their three little ones.

After praying for them, I pray for the ones who live on my continent, for the Lord to bless each one of them with a sweet and peaceful night of rest. I call all of my 29 grandchildren by name, praying that the babies would all sleep through the night so that the parents could get a good night’s rest. I pray for those who experience sleepwalking and nightmares (please don’t bother quoting me the Scriptures that prove they’re not right with the Lord.) Then I commit them to the Lord’s care, asking Him to build a hedge of protection around their houses, and that He would help them to wake up early, refreshed and encouraged about the challenge of a new day.

About 2:00 in the afternoon, I pray my nightly prayer for David and Jolene.

“Is that all you do…pray for your children?”

Yep, that pretty well sums up the story of my motherhood.

And I don’t hesitate to say, that if you want to be a good mother, that will be the story of yours.

I didn’t really enjoy writing this chapter, because it goes against my principle of never writing a book on child rearing. It’s too preachy. But at the risk of sounding authoritative, I believe there is a mother out there who believes the same way I do, but because all her friends who are young mothers “un” hedge their children to run about as they wish, you shy away from hedges. You wish with all your heart you didn’t have to go behind that baby, spanking him all day, just so you can prove your training abilities. Well, latch on to this chapter the next time you feel lonely. The stronger the hedge, the easier your job.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends,

I hope when you hear my name, the name MEXICO comes to your mind, because I’ve lived here almost all my life…since I was a sixteen year-old. México, and in particular, San Cristóbal, Chiapas, is truly my home. It’s where almost all my memories have been made. México is where I lived when God called me to be a missionary. And I’m glad I answered “YES!” I hope you’re this happy, wherever you are, and if God has been half as Good to you as He’s been to me the past two months, you are blessed.

Since my June letter, I have been privileged to have won two ladies and a little girl to the Lord. I was honored to have been invited to once again speak to eight different ladies’ sessions at the annual Family Conference (in Spanish) in Elgin, IL. Pastor Fernández, and his wife, Martha, as always, were delightful hosts, and treated my daughter in law, Liz, and me royally.

Pastor Danny Ortiz was our conference speaker June 16-18, and while he was here, he helped to inaugurate the lovely “Casa de Recuperación”… Home for Drug Addicts…a beautiful complex situated in a garden on the side of a hill. Pray for the two young men who head up this much-needed ministry.

Vacation Bible School was lots of work, but I had lots of help, and the results: a high attendance of 149, and seventeen saved. I’d say it was worth it.

Please continue to pray for our monthly Ladies’ Prayer Breakfast. A former lady mayor attended our breakfast June 30, and last Wednesday a CPA who attended for the second time invited me to her house so I could “teach her to pray.” And I did: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” She didn’t pray that prayer, but she understood, and I pray she won’t rest until she asks God to save her. Pray for my new friend, Eva.

But I’ll have to admit; the most exciting thing that has happened to me recently, was the phone call from Ukraine on June 30, and my son David’s voice: “We’re going to have another baby!” Pray for Jolene, and for the safe arrival of my grand-treasure # 33, due to arrive in February, 2011.

Time and space fail me to tell of the wonderful Conference that ended Sunday, with Bro. Nathan Patterson, and our dear friend, Deacon Horace Clowdis. Bro. Clowdis played an enormous role in the life of my husband, Tom Sloan, even before we met. Not many like him around these days!

Billie Sloan

Nahum 1:7

Friday, August 6, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 5

Do you ever feel like you’re going in circles? Especially if you’re a Mom?...and especially, especially if you’re a mom to small children?

If you’re old enough to remember the days (“Please, Mom,” I hear my daughters wail, “no ‘good ole days’ stories!”)…please don’t interrupt me…the days when Birdseye was more than a brand of frozen peas. It was a well-known brand of diapers…CLOTH diapers. You know, the kind you soaked in Ivory Flakes, and washed separately. Then you dried them, and folded them in such a manner that they stacked neatly in your diaper stacker, ready to reach for and use at 2:00 a.m. I remember a neat little gadget that amounted to a clothes pin on the end of a plastic stick. When baby would soil her diaper, you would simply pin a clean corner of the diaper to the stick, and swish it around in water until the “soil” was off. Then you didn’t get your hands dirty. And then we went to pre-folded diapers. There were actually diaper services…companies dedicated to laundering your babies’ diapers. “Laundering” has sure come a long way, Baby, in its definition, hasn’t it?

Having spent almost all my mothering days on the mission field, except for the first nine months, I can even remember washing diapers in a creek.

So the term “going in circles” had to have been started by a Mom, because there are days when you finish the last load of laundry, and another one is in the making. A sink full of dishes is washed, and it’s time to start dinner. You get through the last bath, fall into bed, and the vicious CIRCLE begins all over again in just a few hours.

But I learned from my kids that circles are important in raising children. You can look at a circle as something that you run in (horrible grammar, I know!), or you can use circles to your advantage.

I once had a Pastor, Dr. Jim Vineyard, who is the father of my present Pastor, Bro. Tom Vineyard. Dr. Vineyard made a statement one time that I’ve never forgotten. It didn’t contain many words, and I don’t think it was the title of his sermon. But one of the basic things I’ve learned from living 66 years on this earth is this: “Go to church. Listen to the preacher. Do what he says.” I believe with all my heart if we would apply that simple, basic principle to our lives, whether we’re seasoned Grandmas, or new Moms, there would be less need for private counseling sessions, and pastors could spend more time with their families, and dedicating their ministry to winning people to the Lord. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. Just before leaving my house to attend church I pray this simple prayer, “Lord, speak to me through the preaching of your Word. Help me to be obedient to it. I pray that it will convict me, comfort, and guide me, and show me a truth I’ve never seen before. Amen.” We’ve gotten away from basics. We’ve complicated motherhood and marriages. We’ve created false idols. There are no perfect moms or marriages. And here comes the lesson.

Pastor Vineyard said, “Draw a circle. Everything in that circle corresponds to you: your responsibilities. Everything in that circle is what you’re responsible for. Leave everything outside that circle alone. Don’t mess with it.” That was it! But I’ve never, never forgotten it. I’m saying it’s been twenty years since Dr. Vineyard made that statement, and here I am sharing it with you.

You have a circle. Yours is a Mom circle. You might have a big circle which includes wife, Sunday school teacher, and home responsibilities. Have you ever sat down and thought about all your duties? Do you even know them? Maybe that’s why you’re literally “going in circles,” when you should just be “going in circle”…YOUR circle.

I’m going to address the older moms: The older we get, the smaller our “Mom portion” of our circle gets. From the moment our children leave home, whether it’s to study, marry, or follow a career, our circle of mom responsibilities becomes smaller. Other duties may take their place, but once Johnny or Susie leaves home, throw away the diapers.

I would like to write a later chapter on “Hedges,” the “circles” we make for our children. Hedges, like circles, provide security. If a child stays within protective hedges, he’ll be happier. And so it is with circles. When we live within our circle of responsibilities, well-defined duties, we live happier, more fulfilled lives. And I’ll tell you a little secret: so does everyone else. When your child marries, she has her own circle, much like yours. But it’s hers, not yours. I’ve gotten into more trouble by stepping into other circles! Do you know what happens simultaneously when you step into another circle that doesn’t belong to you? You’re stepping OUT of yours. You’re neglecting duties of your own, and attending to those that don’t belong to you. I once heard a pastor say (here I go again!) “The bad thing about sinning is not only the offense against God. When we sin, we’re not doing the good things we should be doing.” And that’s the way it is with circles. If you’re telling your daughter in law, let’s say, how to fix noodles without having them stick together, you’re missing out on the fun of playing with your baby grandson. Leave the noodle circle to her, and remember the grandma-grandson fun is inside your circle, once you become a granny.

Is this simple logic, or what? I think the title of this chapter should kindly be worded, “Keep your nose out of other people’s business.” Nosey grandmas, nosey mother in laws. It’s no wonder we’re classified as no-no’s. It’s because we’re no-no-nosey. And that’s the truth.

Write down everything contained within your circle. Your circle might look like this:

1. Christian: read Bible, pray, witness, attend church.
2. Wife: be submissive, iron shirts, fluff his pillows, cook his breakfast at 6:00, have his coffee and slippers ready when he walks through the door, wear his favorite perfume, put on a clean apron ten minutes before he comes home, etc. etc. etc.
3. Mom: bathe baby, supervise baths, brushing of teeth, monitor bowel movements (I’m very, very serious; do you keep up with that? If you don’t, you’re headed for trouble, and for the prune aisle!) home school, wash, iron, make beds, train child to make bed, wash dishes, train child to wash dishes, potty train, discipline, read Bible, teach Scriptures, and pray with children, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc……………
4. Homemaker: organize, clean, shop, garden, entertain, sew, cook, bake, decorate, pay bills, etc., etc.
5. Church member: teach Sunday school class, study, pray for members, visit members, visit elderly and sick, pray for pastor and family, show hospitality by preparing special meal for pastor, evangelist, etc.

Your circle may include other roles. If you’re a single mom, you may not have a wife role, but you play the father role, as well as Mom…you have to work to support your children, attend ball games, and teach your son to tie his tie.

It is beyond me how on earth a woman has time to step outside her circle, and into that of others. Think about this: has anyone ever annoyed you by telling you what to do? Unless you are under that person’s authority, I’ll tell you why: because they’re not minding their own circle of business. You can’t step inside another person’s circle without stepping outside yours. If that were possible, you would have to link the circles. And guess what you have when you link circles? Did you say chain? Don’t be guilty of chaining someone to you. Don’t step inside your husband’s circle when he lovingly disciplines your child. I won’t say what I’m thinking, but…well, yes I will: did you know that’s one of the causes of homosexuality? Dads with chains in their noses. A little boy begins to see his Dad as a wimp, and that’s the image he forms of himself…a feminine image. I read that somewhere. I didn’t make that up. “You keep your hands off him. He just threw his spinach across the room. What do you expect from a 5 year-old?” And we make our children to have a low esteem of their father, the authority figure in their lives. Take the chain out of Daddy’s nose, and get back into your own circle. Do you want to get a call in the middle of the night from the police station? Then right now, before that 5 year old can shoot a bowl of spinach turned gun, get out of Daddy’s circle. Go into the bedroom and close the door, and beg for mercy for your little son. But don’t interfere. We’re not talking child abuse here. If you know me at all, you know I would never approve of that. But loving discipline is part of Daddy’s circle, and yours, too, when he’s not around.

Did you know God has a circle? Part of God’s circle is calling people into full time service. I know people today who don’t serve the Lord, because Mama stepped into God’s circle when He wanted to use them in a special way when their hearts were young and tender toward Him. Mama discouraged them. I often wonder if Mama wishes she had stayed inside her own circle. God doesn’t push or shove. You want the reins? He won’t fight. But a mama that steps inside God’s circle causes her child to forfeit the peace that comes from living their life inside God’s perfect will. Don’t be guilty of that. I pray this prayer every day, “Help me never to do anything that would discourage him or her from serving You with all their heart.”

Well, you could CIRCLE the globe, and not find a mother who loves her circle more than I do mine. I think I enjoy grandmothering more than I did mothering. Half the work, twice the fun!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Secrets of the Heart

“…he knoweth the secrets of the heart.”
Psalm 44:21

If you had one whole day to do anything you like, what would you do? If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy? If you could spend twenty-four hours with anyone in the world, with whom would you spend them?

Do you know anything more intimate than the heart? Jeremiah said of our heart, “who can know it?”

Matthew 15:18, 19 says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

I’m afraid we spend too much time fixing family relationships, when in reality we should be focusing our attention on relationships between children and God…between husband and God…and between ourselves and God.

I maintain that if you have an intimate relationship with the Lord, you’ll have a good intimate relationship with your husband. If you work on having an intimate relationship with God, you’ll be the Mom He wants you to be, no matter what human authors tell us, who struggle with their own marriages, and have rebellious children.

The word intimate means interior, internal; that which comes from within. And when we apply that to our relationship with God, it takes on a very special meaning, because God is Spirit. John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

How is your secret life? Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?” My pastor used to say, “The real You stands up when you’re all alone.” And that’s true. Do you want to know how your secret life is? When no one’s with you, what do you do? What do you watch? What do you read? What do you think about?

How did you answer the questions at the beginning of this devotional? If you answer honestly those three questions, I’ll tell you how your intimate relationship is with the Lord, with your husband, and with your children.

I’m convinced that if we keep our secret life clean and pure, we’ll have better marriages.

My son, Philip, preached a sermon once titled, “You Don’t Know Me.” I don’t know you. Only God really knows us.

I personally believe that every woman needs to have time alone every day with the Lord. For me, at least, that time is early in the morning, before the phone and doorbell start ringing. I guard that time jealously for the Lord. I have fellowship with Him, and He with me. This is a time that I purposely reserve for the Lord. I plan everything I’m going to do during that time. My mind is fresh, free from the burdens and pressures of the day. I’m usually in a good mood during the first hours of the day.

But sometimes the Lord gives me surprise times alone with Him, times I hadn’t planned. It’s during that time that my real character comes forth.

There are things that we do in the secret places of our heart, of our homes, in our bedrooms that are not pleasing to God. Marriages today aren’t failing because husbands don’t take their wives out to eat once a week, or because it’s been a year since he brought her flowers. Marriages are falling apart because of what happens in the secret places of our lives.

There are secret places in our minds, places we reserve for Satan: bad thoughts, inappropriate desires. Those thoughts and desires don’t stay in our minds; they become looks, glances, gestures, and then words, and finally adultery. It all started in the secret places of our hearts.

What can we do to clean out those dirty corners of our hearts, and our minds? What can we do to have an intimate relationship with God?

1. Live by principles, and not emotions. Don’t let your mood affect your decisions. Did you know that’s why we have weight problems? We feel lonely, or sad, or depressed, and what do we do? We eat. We work hard, and at the end of the day we reward ourselves with food. If you live according to principles, and you’re sad or lonely or depressed, and one of your principles says, “Thou shalt not eat chocolates,” you won’t use food as a cushion, or a security blanket. I know women who are overweight, and apparently they don’t eat a lot…in public. But what about when they’re alone?

2. Live by schedules and routine. You shouldn’t let your emotions determine what time you get up, or what you do once you’re up. I once heard a famous pastor say, “I thank the Lord there’s a place I have to be, and a time I should be there, and something to do once I arrive.” A schedule gives you purpose, and helps you to stay focused. It gives you direction and motivation. Avoid the necessity of having to make decisions. Remember, the fewer decisions you have to make, the fewer wrong decisions you’ll make.
3. Choose carefully your friends. You don’t have to be a young person in order for others to have an influence on you. The saying, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you who you are,” doesn’t apply only to young people. It’s possible for a woman to have a good relationship with the Lord in her intimate life, but because of a negative influence, she can harm that relationship…the most important relationship a woman can have.
4. In order to have an intimate relationship with the Lord, you should reserve time alone with the Lord every day, preferably in the mornings. Don’t plan that time according to your emotions, or your mood. Plan a routine, in a private place. Ask the Lord, before you open your Bible, to speak to you through His Word, and to help you to be obedient to it. Ask Him to convict you of your sins through your reading, to comfort and guide you, and to show you a truth you’ve never seen before. And He’ll do it.

5. Remember, God desires an intimate relationship with you more than you desire it. He waits for you every day.

If you don’t know the Lord as your personal Savior, you don’t have a relationship with Him. In order to have a relationship with someone, you must know them. We know the Lord through His Son, Who died on the cross for our sins.

There’s a positive side to our lesson. Did you know God knows the secret longings of your heart? He knows the desires of your heart, the desire we have for a lost loved one to be saved, or a desire to be able to reach a goal. If you’re single, share with the Lord your desire for a husband and a home. Maybe your heart’s desire is for a baby, or the ability to win others to the Lord. Share that longing with the One who can make your dreams come true.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139:23, 24

Monday, July 12, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 4

“Blending Routine and Schedule with Extras”
I am writing this chapter in the bedroom of the home of my daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Jason Knabb. They are missionaries in a very small town, about 4 and a half hours from my home. But I actually wrote the title for this chapter several months ago. Evidently, the Lord has let me wait until now to write about it. And that’s good, because I am a little out of my routine, and I am learning some things this week to teach you.

Today is Saturday, and if I were home, I would be putting my “Sunday” dinner on the table. Since I like to have a special time for my children to come together, even though they are all married, and have their own families, and since our Sunday’s are non-stop, I decided several years ago to have our big get-together family meal on Saturday.

Of course, this is only for my children who live near me, or for occasional visits by the others.

But today I’m working on my book…something I don’t normally do on my regular Saturday routine.

What do you do when you are raising children, and you are away from home…or maybe a special event at church doesn’t allow you to do your normal routine activities? This is something that was constantly a struggle with me.

I can remember, especially, our trips to the States when our children were all at home. These road trips took three long days. Children respond so well to routine and schedules, so I would try to maintain the basic ones that we had at home. For example, we would leave before breakfast. I could, and may, write a chapter on “How to Survive a cross-country road trip with Eight Children.” That would be fun, because it brings back memories of the preparation for the trip. I would pack breakfast food, and as soon as we were loaded up in our 15-passenger van, everyone would take out their Bibles. We would have our normal family devotions, exactly like we would were we around our breakfast table at home. We also did this once we arrived at my mother’s or my brother’s, or the mission apartment, exactly the same way: breakfast stayed on the stove to stay warm, and we would gather around the table; or travel down the road, and go through our Bible routine.

Then after prayer, we would put our Bibles away, and I would “serve” breakfast going down the road. Every one of my eight children who are reading this, are sighing with happy memories, I’m sure…I hope.

That would be followed by personal quiet time, depending on the age of each child. How relaxing to have your “quiet, personal time with the Lord” while traveling. Even now as I travel…not with eight children, and not road trips, but in planes, I love settling in my seat, either at my gate before boarding, or on the plane, and closing out the noise of the world, and reading my Bible, and having my prayer time.

But if I didn’t normally have a routine of reading my Bible, or if my children never had a schedule which allowed us to gather around the breakfast table at home every morning, it would have seemed strange indeed to have family devotions while going down the road. No one would have known what to do, and I couldn’t have instructed them from the front passenger seat.

The same goes with anything you routinely do…walking, exercising, drinking eight glasses of water a day, staying away from sweets…these don’t have to stop just because we’re in different surroundings, with unfamiliar people. Once a routine is established, it’s easier to carry it out than it is to omit it.

I’ve read stories of young men who went off to war, but they still had their quiet time. How did they do this? I don’t know, and I can’t even imagine. But they did, because their routine and schedule was so instilled in them during normal days, that it must have seemed strange not to have carried it out, even on the battlefield.

During the twelve years our eight children attended Bible College, they continued their family devotional time, as much as possible. At one point, five of our children attended at the same time. Now, this is going to seem like bragging here, but it’s not. I am simply trying to show you that the simpler your devotional routine is, the easier it will be for your children to continue it, once they’re away from you and your care. Our second son, Joel, and his four younger siblings would meet in the little living room where the student body would have devotions at 6:00. Joel would meet with his siblings at 5:30, and have the same type of simple routine devotions they used to have around our dining room table. It was always such a delight to their mother, when we would go up to visit with them, and we would gather before breakfast, to hear them quote the Scriptures they had learned on their own…together…routinely.

Had I concocted some weird, complicated deep theological series of lessons, they wouldn’t have known what to do. But it doesn’t take much of a spiritual giant to simply open your Bible, look at the reading schedule…there’s that boring word again…go around the table taking turns reading, go over past Scriptures learned, and repeat the new Scripture for the week, ending with a song and prayer. You can almost do that in your sleep…and Sarah did once. (Sorry, Sarah. There’s not a college student alive that won’t identify with you, Sweetheart.)

Do you think routine does away with spontaneity? Of course not. Routine paves the way for spontaneity. Have you ever walked into your kitchen to prepare a routine, ordinary breakfast of pancakes? You begin to gather the utensils and ingredients, and prepare your griddle. Suddenly, in your relaxed comfort zone, you are inspired to add blueberries, or strawberry yogurt. See what I mean? I’ll guarantee you, all the fancy recipes in your recipe book…at least in mine…start with a basic, routine, normal recipe. I have about five recipes for homemade biscuits, but guess what! They all begin with “sift dry ingredients,” or “cut in shortening until pea-size mixture forms.” From there, they may substitute buttermilk for milk, or suggest adding cheese.

I’m going to venture to make a statement here: the success of any project you will ever undertake in some way involves routine, schedule, doing the same thing over, and over, and over until it is mastered. There will be improvements made, maybe changes for the better. We stand back and analyze, and ask “why didn’t this work? This would work better.” Achievement and routine are best friends, and they walk side by side. Keep with your routine, improve if you must, but don’t get away from anything that produces happy results. And someday, I may be reading a book you wrote about your accomplishments, and the routine that got you there.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear friends and family,

If I had learned as much when I was young as I have been learning lately, I’d be a very smart lady. Well, in spite of my mistakes, God is still Merciful and Good to me.

During the month of May, we were honored to have hosted the Ward family, Bro. Dan and Dodi, and their two daughters, Brianna, and Chelsea and her husband, Jared Miskovic. Please pray for them, as they continue their deputation and prepare to return here to work next year. They were a blessing to our work, and to our family.

Also, my son, Tommy and his wife, Mona, and their five children should be finished with deputation by the end of this year, and we look forward to their arrival on the field during the month of December. He and Bro. Carroll Blanchard, from Temple Baptist Church, New Iberia, LA, were our guests for a week, also.

Plans are already underway for the opening of our Drug Addiction Center. A building has been rented, and there are already young men lined up to receive the benefits of this much-needed ministry. One of the leaders of this Center is a young man from our church, who was delivered from drugs about a year ago. Upon the suggestion of Pastor Luis Ramos, he received training in another city in a similar ministry, and is anxious to get started. God is Good!

On April 11, Philip, my Pastor son, baptized 11 people; most of those were family members of two of our Indian preacher boys. I have seen two ladies saved in my different ministries recently. Please continue to pray for our monthly Ladies’ Prayer Breakfasts, which are for the purpose of reaching ladies with the Gospel. This is also a time dedicated to praying for the First Ladies of our city. In every one of our Prayer Breakfasts so far, we have had in attendance different ladies representing a place of prominence. They hear their name called out, as we pray for them. This is in preparation for our Ladies’ Christmas Banquet, which will be held on November 19. At our April 28 Prayer Breakfast, a lady was saved after my lesson, and the following Sunday I was able to win another lady to the Lord. We’ve been praying for Rosario for so long, and the Lord saved her, and she and another lady I won to the Lord were baptized during the month of May. God is Good.

Billie Sloan
Nahum 1:7

Friday, June 11, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 3

“Give it to Me!”

I’m writing this from my living room…the room that probably holds more memories of our child rearing years than any other room in our house. Our old carpet has been replaced with beautiful tile, but if I close my eyes, I can see my children lying on that old carpet in front of our record player, some on their tummies, some propped on pillows, but all totally focused on the old 33 rpm. Is it some western story? Is it the strands of an orchestra? No, they’re listening to the classic sermon by Dr. R.G Lee, “Payday Someday.” Sometimes I think children’s imaginations were much more active in the days of records and cassette tapes. Our children grew up on “Odyssey,” and early every Saturday morning, they would pile in our bed while Daddy tuned it in on our short wave radio. Uncle Charlie followed, and by then the French toast or pancakes were ready, depending on which Saturday morning it was. But the story that captivated our older children most was the one by Dr. Lee, as only that old famous preacher could tell it.

The story came from the book of I Kings. It’s the tragic story of King Ahab, and his wicked wife, Jezebel. Ahab wanted a vineyard of herbs that belonged to Naboth. But the vineyard was an inheritance, and Naboth was forbidden to give it away, no matter that it was to the king. Ahab offered to buy it from him, or to give him another one in its place. Up until then, Ahab was in his right. But instead of honoring Naboth’s explanation, he pouted, and went home to the palace. It is my personal opinion that he made a big show of his emotions in front of his wife, because she was a manipulator. He knew she was sinister enough to get him anything he wanted, no matter that he was a wimp, and didn’t have the backbone to fight for himself. There is a similarity between Ahab and a lot of children, and even grown ups. When we don’t get what we want, we pout, or we sulk. Children should never be allowed to pout. The sooner your little one learns that all the sulking in the world won’t get her what she wants, the sooner she’ll get the message of the futility of her little shows. Sometimes, though it’s just plain ole easier to give people what they want, than to put forth a little effort to do what’s right.

The story of Ahab ends in tragedy. Jezebel consoled her pouting husband by promising that by hook or crook, she would get him Naboth’s vineyard. And she did. She ordered Naboth killed, and then soothed her coward of a husband by telling him that she had indeed gotten him the vineyard that he desired.

If you are a mother of a child two years old or older, one of the phrases you will most likely hear “from the mouth of your babe,” is “GIVE IT TO ME!” Children are born with self-centered instincts. From the moment their little head or feet enter the world, (and I’ve often wondered if they aren’t shaking those little tight fists,) they’re demanding everyone’s attention, from the hospital staff, to the one who brought them into the world, and for the next two years, from anyone within screaming distance.

That’s where we come in. We must teach our babies and little ones that there are other people in this world, and the sooner they learn that principle the happier they and everyone else around them will be. They’ll be able to adapt to society more easily. Mothers who dote over their children, and give them, and promise them anything their little hearts desire, just to have some peace and quiet while trying to do their grocery shopping, are in reality harming their little one. In the culture where I live, and where we raised our eight children, this is the norm. I’ve seen mothers standing in line in the super market, trying to man-handle a screaming two-year old, while promising her “when we get home, I’ll give you some candy.” Not only is she training that little one to scream in order to get what she wants, but she is teaching her little girl that it’s OK to lie, as long as it’s for a general good purpose…in this case, to shut up her little girl, so that those around her won’t be disturbed.

When we give children everything they want, we’re training them for life to expect others to do the same, whether in school, on the job, or in their marriage.

Even as grandmothers, we’re notorious for giving our grandchildren those things we couldn’t give their parent.

But this can also apply to us. What do you want? What do you feel is rightly yours? I’ve made a list of things that I feel are mine, things I feel I deserve. I’m doing this, because right now I feel like I’m being cheated out of a lot of things I actually need. They are:

1) MY time. I’m 66 years old. Wouldn’t you think a woman my age would have oodles of that commodity on her hands? When our children were very small, we lived in a little village. I had four children at the time, and my baby was about six months old. A very sweet couple came to spend six weeks with us in order to work with my husband, and get medical training for mission work in Colombia. We lived in a little travel trailer, so we fixed up an apartment for them in our boys’ dorm building. They would basically come over for meals, make trips to San Cristobal with us, attend services, and accompany my husband when he would go to deliver babies or stitch up machete wounds. But I was tied down to my children. It seemed like I barely had time to breathe, and often I would look longingly at my friend, who had no children, and I even ventured to tell her one day, “I can’t imagine having as much time as you do.” She bristled, and said, “Don’t think that mothers are the only ones who have a lot of work to do. I have demands on my time, too,” and then she proceeded to enumerate her various responsibilities. I did a little bristling myself, but now that I have no little ones to care for, or even a husband to cook and wash for, I can identify with my motherless friend. There are demands on my time, deadlines, and interruptions. Time is of great value to me, and sometimes to my shame, I feel myself once more bristling, as I silently scream, “GIVE IT TO ME! IT’S MINE! I’VE WORKED HARD ALL MY LIFE, AND I DESERVE SOME FREE TIME, OR AT LEAST ENOUGH TIME, OR MORE TIME!” There’s a story that our family came across many years ago. A friend gave us an old cassette tape of a missionary to, I believe, New Guinea. It’s called “The Pineapple Story.” It’s a classic, and I’ve never been the same since I heard that story. This missionary struggled to protect his pineapple field which he had planted in his back yard. He suffered trying to protect his prize possession. One day after going to several lengths to get back and fight for what was rightfully his, he decided to give his pineapple field to the Lord. He could then look out his window, and peacefully say to the Lord, as he watched the natives stealing his green pineapples which hadn’t even had time to ripen, and pray, “Lord, look what they’re doing to YOUR pineapples.” It was then that the Lord began to work not only in the missionary’s heart, but also in the hearts of the natives. He was able to teach them valuable lessons that they would never have learned had he not exchanged the concept of, GIVE THEM TO ME, for, “Lord, they belong to You.” The Lord says to me, in times of struggle to be mistress of my time, GIVE IT TO ME. It belongs to Me, anyway. It’s then, and then only that I have peace, even in times of pressure to produce more than my time allows. Even though I’m not under the pressure of meals, homework, and laundry, there are other things and people who demand my time. What a joyful peace floods my soul when I give my time to the Lord, and let Him manage it.
2) MY privacy. MY space. Now I’m going to be very, very transparent here. Sometimes I feel like unless I get up long before daylight, I won’t get to have time alone for the rest of the day. I live very close to some of my children and grandchildren. Because I’m alone now, and I have a nice four-bedroom home, which at one time was occupied by my husband and me, and our eight children, there is a tendency to continue occupying what should be, and what I deserve to be unoccupied space. I am basically always surrounded by people: my children, my grandchildren, a little Indian girl who is my housekeeper, and since my house sets right across the drive from my church, church members and Sunday school classes routinely occupy MY space. While I’m addressing mothers and grandmothers, this is a lesson everyone, including single ladies could benefit from. If you’re a college student sharing a dorm room, or if you’re sharing a room with your little sister, learn this lesson: you are going to have to condition yourself to function in a decent and orderly fashion in the midst of people, people, people, as though you were living on an island. You almost have to learn to detach yourself from your surroundings. You can do this. Did you know, I can lie down on my living room couch and go sound to sleep with five grandchildren under the age of 5 years old playing on my living room rug? I can pray in the super market, and in crowded airports. I can read my Bible while my grandchildren play (quietly, of course) on my bed. I’m writing this chapter in my living room, while my daughter is homeschooling her children. I just stopped to look at my granddaughter’s ring, and I kissed her little hand. I waved to one of our preacher boys, as he was leaving out my front gate. Do you know why? I’ve given MY privacy, and MY home to the Lord. When I got up this morning, I started praying, and I asked the Lord to give me enough peace and quiet to coherently write this lesson that has been on my heart for several weeks. And He did. Sometimes I have a sudden urge to pile all my material into my car, and drive downtown to a little coffee shop, and work to my heart’s content; or to check myself into a hotel for a couple of days in order to work in MY own space. But because I’ve given MY privacy, and MY space to the Lord, He works things together so that I can produce more, and more effectively than if I had taken things into my own hands, demanding that He GIVE IT TO ME, and worse still, demanding others to GIVE IT TO ME. When in a million years would I ever be able to teach you this valuable lesson, sitting in the quiet corner of a coffee shop, wondering if I should order more coffee, or leave an extra tip for having occupied a table for the past two hours? When you give up what you feel is rightfully yours, you’ll learn lessons you would have never learned had you demanded your rights. The Lord says, “You want your privacy? GIVE IT TO ME, and I’ll give you peace in the midst of the noise.
3) MY possessions. I have a car, and a house, and a piano, and a computer. I have a kitchen, and dishes, and a yard. I made this statement to one of my son in laws not long ago, “Possessions mean nothing to me. I’ve come to the point in my spiritual walk with the Lord where things mean absolutely nothing to me.” As if the Lord were ridiculing me, He showed me the next day how absolutely wrong I was. Things indeed do mean a lot to me. They provide security, and peace of mind. They provide comfort, and joy. Don’t deny that. Go ahead, say it with me, “I love my house; I love my collection of __________; I just love to come home at night to my __________. I just couldn’t part with my _________.” Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t tell me, you’ve never gotten mad at your computer, and been tempted to smash the screen. If you don’t admit you are attached to certain possessions, you will never, never know the joy of giving them to the Lord. Say with the missionary, when you see someone destroying your lovely flower garden by running the lawn mower over it, “Lord, those are Your gardenias; Father, remember when we planted Your geraniums? Doesn’t it hurt You to see those beautiful rose bushes being cut down?” It feels good, like dumping a burden on Someone Else’s shoulders. More than that, you feel like you actually have Someone to commiserate with you. I never realized how much my things meant to me until someone suggested I move out of my large house, and into a small apartment. “This would not only give you more privacy, but you don’t really need a four-bedroom house.” Before I could think, I responded, “But I love my house.” This is the same person to whom I had said only a few minutes before, “Things don’t mean anything to me.” Oh, really? Then why do I love my house? While I am a believer in caring for the possessions the Lord has entrusted into our care, and we should certainly carry out the Bible teaching of being good stewards…or are we stewardesses?…of our possessions, in reality they belong to the Lord. When I grieve over things lost, or destroyed, or stolen, He says, GIVE IT TO ME. That car belongs to ME in the first place. It’s then, and then only that I can resign to the fact that they’re not mine in the first place. They already belong to HIM.

Now, it’s easy for me to give my time, my privacy, and my things to an Invisible God. That’s symbolic. I can say to the Lord, “Lord, this kitchen belongs to you.” But He’s not going to come down in bodily form, and clean up the sink full of dishes left by irresponsible people. I must find a body to wash those dishes, because they’re not heavenly. Dirty dishes are earthy in every sense of the word. I must find peace within my heart, by speaking to others, and gently asking them to clean up their mess, or by asking the Lord to give me joy as I work into the midnight hours cleaning up my treasured kitchen. When I consider my work as a ministry for the Lord, only then am I truly giving everything, dirty dishes included, to the Lord.

Do you feel like you’re being cheated by having to stay at home with your children while your husband trots off to the office every morning? The Lord says, GIVE IT TO ME…give me your resentment, give me your boredom, and I’ll give you joy, and I’ll let you have fun.

How do you feel, single mom, when you watch from your window, your neighbor as she waves good bye to her husband as he leaves for work, and then returns to her house in her robe, to leisurely care for her home, while you hurry the children to Day Care in order to get to your job on time? Don’t you feel a little bit of envy? The Lord says, GIVE IT TO ME, and I’ll give you grace and strength to be mother and father to your little ones. If YOU keep it, it will turn into bitterness, and anger and resentment. It could even end in wrecking another home, or in adultery. Is this sometimes the root of child abuse? Uncontrolled anger stemming from resentment can easily be taken out on defenseless children.

What is that sin you’re clinging to…that habit that is possessing you, or ruining your health, or your marriage, or your relationship with the Lord? He says, GIVE IT TO ME. You’ll never be able to control it. No organization in the world can break your will, or enable you to get the victory over those things you cling to for security, but that are destroying something in your life. If you give it to me, I can give you a clean heart, I can change your desires and your longings. I can satisfy your needs.

Guess what! Those children aren’t yours, did you know that? I recently told the ladies in my Sunday school class, “Those children aren’t yours, they belong to the Lord.” How easily we “give” our children to the Lord when we take them to the front of the Church when they’re newborns, and the Pastor prays a special prayer of dedication, “giving them to the Lord.” But that’s not really when we give them to Him. You give them to the Lord when you drive off and leave her standing on the college dorm sidewalk, while she is crying, and you are crying, and everybody is crying. (This is a true story.) The only way you will ever get through an experience like that is to say, “Lord, she’s Yours. You take her life, and do more with her while I’m thousands of miles away, than I could do if she were sleeping in her bedroom next to mine.” And He’ll do it. Do you have ambitions for your son? Do you have your son in law picked out? Wrong. Leave your children’s future to the Lord. Let Him plan it. Let him use your children the way He wants to use them. Train them, teach them, and protect them while they’re little. Guide them, discipline them, put hedges around them while they’re at home. But once they leave the nest, GIVE THEM TO THE LORD. Keep your hands off. They belong to the Lord in the first place. He gave them to you, and they’re not yours to keep.

Are you putting demands on others?...even on yourself?...on the Lord?

Do you have your life all planned out? Maybe you’ve even figured out your own way to go to Heaven. No, He says “GIVE IT TO ME. I have a better plan. I have a perfect plan, a way you can know for sure when you die you can go to Heaven. YOUR works? Even your good ones are as filthy rags. That’s YOUR plan, YOUR way, because it shows how good you think you are. Unless you give it up, and GIVE IT TO ME, and accept MY way, you’ll never make it to Heaven.”

“GIVE IT TO ME…your heart, your plans, your dreams, your future, your space, your time, your possessions, your children, and I WILL GIVE YOU happiness beyond your wildest dreams.”