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