{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

{ Recipe for a Happy Birthday }

 

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Ingredients:

1- 5# bag of expectations

2 gallons water

1 cup possibilities

1 lb. gratefulness

1 cup sugar

3 1/2 cups whatever!

 

  1. In a large bucket, mix expectations with 2 gallons water.  Stir until dissolved.
  2. Dump this mixture outside. (Makes good compost.)
  3. Chop possibilities into bite-sized chunks and set aside.
  4. Using a blender, combine gratefulness with sugar and process until fine.
  5. With fingers or a pastry blender, chop whatever! into coarse crumbs.
  6. Layer the possibilities mixture alternately with the whatever!, sprinkling gratefulness / sugar mix liberally over each layer and on top.
  7. Let sit 30 minutes, allowing flavors to combine.
  8. Serve with coffee or tea.
  9. Enjoy immediately, because it will be gone by tomorrow.

 

 

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Word Prompt:  harmony

 

 

Photo credit:Audrey Fretz

{Practicing Affirmation}

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“Sam’s book is a healing balm for cranks, misfits and malcontents who are so full of self they scarcely see, let alone celebrate, the simple beauties of imperfect virtue in others.  Or to say it differently: I need this book.” 

— John Piper, from the Forward to the book Practicing Affirmation.

I just finished reading Practicing Affirmation by author / pastor Sam Crabtree.  My borrowed library copy is almost due and going back into circulation, but I plan to exchange it for my own purchased copy.

I want to remember this book.  More importantly, I want to practice what I learned.  Here are some thoughts that grabbed me:

—Think about how often we correct / complain / criticize. This causes “drag” on a relationship, especially because corrections / complaints and criticisms tend to outweigh affirmations.

“It takes many affirmations to overcome the impact of a criticism, because criticisms are heavier and sting more.”

–Affirming others acts like a key, with the potential to unlock relationships.

“Many people are puzzled as to why their relationships seem stuck and uncooperative, yet they are not putting the key in the ignition. It’s not too late to use the key.”

–Affirmations should be consistent in a relationship.

–Affirmations should be God-centered. Focus on character, not outward appearance. Look for God’s character seen in people of all beliefs and backgrounds. Commend sincerely without flattery.

“In doing so, we’re pointing to something very valuable, and we’re saying, “I see it in you!  I value it… and the God who is the source of it!”

–When we are affirmed, it makes us happy. But the affirmation giver gains a                         mysterious joy as well.

–Affirmations are for everyone and everywhere. Use them in the workplace.  At home.  Use them in a “stuck” relationship.  Give them to your children.  Give them to your spouse.  Give them undeserved…and give generously.

–One of my favorite parts of the book was chapter 9, where it listed 100 Affirmation Ideas for Those who Feel Stuck.

“When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.” – John Piper

Photo credit: Alejandro Alvarez

Word of the Day Challenge: https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/potential/

{ Change }

 

 

There are dozens of songs containing the word change somewhere in the title:

Change of Heart

Seasons Change

She Changes the Weather

We Can Change the World

I Don’t Want to Change the World

Can’t Change Me

A Change Would Do You Good

Everything Changes

Nuthin’ Changes

We change our minds, our décor, and our favorite frothy drink at the coffee shop.

It’s amazing – and comforting—to ponder the fact that God never changes. 

  • “For I the Lord do not change…”—Malachi 3:6
  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” –Hebrews 13:8
  • “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” –Numbers 23:19

But people change. We age. We grow. We are different now than we were ten years ago.

We experience a changed life when we surrender to Jesus Christ.

And then, we keep changing:

  • Growing— in grace and in the knowledge of God. (2 Peter 3:18)
  • Decreasing—so He can increase in us. (John 3:30)
  • Filling up – with the knowledge of His will. (Colossians 1:9)

A solid Christian should grow like a healthy tree: producing mature fruit, sheltering branches, and a constant reach for heaven.

Keep changing.  Keep growing.  Keep softening the rigid ways that are just tradition or denomination.  Keep learning how to love like Jesus did.

Don’t change your convictions if they are based on God’s word.

Don’t change because of your whims, or because the current culture screams at you to do so.

“…You and I cannot change or control the world around us, but we can change and control the world within us.”– Warren Wiersbe

“When you live in the light of eternity, your values change.”– Rick Warren

 

Photo Credits:

Marina Khrapova

Gary Bendig

{ Love is Like Water }

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Love is like water

Flowing free

Or scarce —

Sourced in Someone.

Gushing past you

Sometimes sprinkling its spray

On passers-by.

Ignore it —

Or drink up,

Bottle and

Redistribute.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

--I John 4:10

Photo credit: didin emelu

{ God’s Valentine }

renee-fisher-494610But now thus says the Lord,
He who created you, O Jacob,
    He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine!

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When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

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Isaiah 43:1-3

photo credits:

rapids:James Mertz

fire:Matt Howard

hearts:Renee Fisher

{ Final Words }

When Ma Ingalls left for a rare outing, she gave a list of instructions to her family.

“Watch Carrie! Don’t forget to churn the butter…and watch out for rattlers in the grass!”

Parents give their “final” speeches just before leaving, hoping to avoid any disaster that would happen during their absence.

Mine would go something like this:

“Don’t use the stove, and watch the little guys. No videos unless all the laundry is folded and put away!”

In 2 Peter 1 there is a passage that also contains Peter’s “final words.” He knew he was about to die, so he gave his beloved brothers and sisters an important “to do” list.

I have heard it before, but overlooked how valuable it is for anyone looking to:

  • know what to do next
  • mature and grow as a Christian
  • find God’s will

2 Peter 1:5-15 is written to believers and assumes that first, they possess faith.  It’s the quality essential to every Christian.  We all are on different places in our walk with God, but the essential is faith. Assuming that starting point, Peter tells us to supplement our faith with the important qualities of:

  • virtue
  • knowledge
  • self-control
  • steadfastness
  • godliness
  • brotherly affection
  • love

“If these qualities are yours and increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

Do you want to be more effective? Want to know what God wants you to do? Want to grow? Start with this list.  Working toward these qualities doesn’t earn you salvation.  But it gives you a goal.

Peter says if you lack these qualities, you may forget where you came from.  (2 Peter 1:9)

Might that, in turn, make us:

  • ungrateful to God for all He has done?
  • self-righteous, thinking we have made ourselves what we are?
  • puffed up and ready for a fall? (2 Peter 1:10)

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What’s on the horizon for you and I in 2018?  We cannot know for sure.  God has it all in His hands.

But, if you are looking for some New Year’s resolutions, powered by God’s never-ending grace, this list in 2 Peter 1:5-15 is a good place to start.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credit, horizon: unsplash-logoFernando Pereira

{ Marriage Is Like Football? }

The Vikings won yesterday!

  • Will they make it all the way to Super Bowl LII –here in Minneapolis?
  • Will the Vikings break our hearts OR
  • Will they conquer as VIKINGS should do?

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On an entirely different note, some family friends are getting married next weekend.

Some of us are involved in the wedding as usher, best man, food server, etc.

Wedding talk and football discussions are mixing it all up around the house.  So, I thought it was time to put them together…

4 Ways a Christian Marriage is Like Football:

You wear your gear.

Ephesians 6:13-17

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

You play your position.

Every team needs players.  Is the offensive lineman better than the kicker?  They both have their important roles to play.

In our marriage, my husband acts as the general manager / head coach. He makes the final calls. But we both give our input.  I have a different perspective on things. He welcomes my input (and wants to make me happy.)  But, I allow him the right to make decisions and remind myself not to pout even if it all doesn’t go my way.

Ephesians 5:33

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Note: Does this sound strange to you?  Do I sound like a doormat?  I am a (fairly) normal, college educated, suburban raised, coffee consuming female.  I am not superwoman. I claim Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

You follow the rules.

It would be easier to study and practice a list of stringent rules than to obey rules of love, given in I Corinthians 13.

It takes nothing less than the Spirit of Christ living in me to be patient, kind and humble when it would be more natural to respond selfishly.

This passage is a perfect marriage playbook:

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 

 It’s great to have lots of people on your team.

Neither my husband nor I grew up in a large family.  But when we got married, we decided we would take as many children as God would give us.

Eleven children later, we are grateful.

They are gifts.  They are tools God uses to refine our character.  We have our good days and bad days.  We are a one income family and work hasn’t always been steady. But we have never regretted this decision.

Psalm 127:3 “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.”

 © Lisa M. Luciano

 

 

{ 3 Things About 3 Things }

shumilov-ludmila-59388One.

I am writing weekly, short spotlights on amazing missionaries, composers and church leaders. Here’s what I *taught myself* as I wrote this week:

  1. Be brave and fearless like Mary Slessor. Care more about loving people than what people think of you.
  2. Have faith like John G. Paton. Press on in your work, even though people around you doubt that God can answer prayer and do miracles. Faith, combined with sweat, dirt and hard work, will be worth it.
  3. What you have been doesn’t mean that’s what you will be.  With God’s touch, people can move from being purposeless jokers to daring, adventurous life-changers, like Brother Andrew. 

Two.

If I had to choose a keyword for 2017, it would be “Listen.” Reading a few books about better listening skills has improved me and ruined me at the same time.  I now have goals when I sit down at a gathering to talk to someone.  The talker doesn’t even have to be interesting.  They will become interesting when I give them the gift of my time and attention; when I immerse myself in what they are saying and see the soul behind it.

But, reading these listening books has opened my eyes. It bothers me now when I make the “listening mistakes”, or…when I feel people aren’t listening to me.

I’ve learned that most people don’t really listen. They often just wait as they get ready to talk at you. It takes self-control and self-denial to listen to someone.

Here are three things I want to remember about being a good listener:

  1. Don’t disengage while someone is talking to you.  Don’t ask someone a question, then drift off or look around. That hurts.
  2. Ask thoughtful questions. It lets people know you are listening, keeps you engaged, and actually makes their spiel more interesting.
  3. When you listen, you learn — about everything. “Everyone is an expert on something.” And, when you actively listen to people, you learn something you never knew before.

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Three.

This is the most difficult. After years of calling myself a Christian, I realized I don’t have enough of the one thing that is supposed to mark a Jesus-follower. Yes, I have the quiet time, the doctrine and the lingo. But I want to love people like Jesus showed me from the Bible. Hating sin is the easy part (when it’s someone else’s sin.) And Christians are good at hating the sin, but sometimes not-so-good at loving the sinner…

  1. Look at people (all made in God’s image) with a Godlike, eternal, loving perspective.
  2. Love God and love people. Show I love God by loving people. Show people I love God by loving them.
  3. Expect God to show up every day in my life.

So…thanks for listening.

Lisa 🙂

Three books that have prompted me to write parts of this post:

  1. The Lost Art of Listening 
  2. We Need to Talk
  3. Why Nobody Wants to Be Around Christians Anymore: How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Faith Magnetic.

Photo credits:

Pears — Shumilov Ludmila

Hearts —Jessica Ruscello

{ Love, Learning & Lunes }

I just saw Jesus
love people
with no pasted smile

 

Those church buildings?

Just shells.

Feeding action souls.

 

Lord, prompt me to love

I just can’t

Please do it for me.

 

Lunes inspired by what I’m chewing on — reading up to page 48 of the book I mentioned in a previous post: “Why Nobody Wants to be Around Christians Anymore: and how 4 acts of love will make your faith magnetic,” by Thom and Joani Schultz.

Info on types of Japanese poetry, like the lune, haiku, senryu.