Who Is My Neighbor?

Who is My Neighbor?

We’ve all heard the parable of how the Good Samaritan was a good neighbor to the man who had been badly beaten. Several years ago, the question, “Who is my neighbor?” took on a whole new meaning for me.

It was on a Wednesday night, just after church. My daughter Rachel, who was around six years old at the time, had just been given a new necklace in her class. Once class was over, an older girl walked in and began admiring her necklace. Next, she began to manipulate Rachel in order to take the necklace from her. She said things like, “My sister is your best friend!” (She wasn’t.) “Let me have it….PLEASE!!!”

Rachel didn’t tell me what happened until we were driving home. She told me she felt like she was being mean if she didn’t let this older girl have the necklace.

I immediately turned the car around and headed to the house where girl lived and I got her necklace back. On the way home, Rachel told me she was shocked when I did that for her.

I used this situation as a learning tool, teaching her that she is not being mean by telling a person they can’t have something that belongs to her. We talked about how she will meet many manipulators in her lifetime. She needs to think about how to deal with them in a respectful, but firm, manner.

Now some may say I did the wrong thing, and they are entitled to their own opinion. I, for one, believe I did the right thing by seeing my own daughter as my “neighbor,” and showing her mercy. (Luke 10:36-37)

A few years later, we were doing a mom and daughter bible study. One of the questions was, “Can you remember a time when your Mom went to bat for you?” With no hesitation, Rachel said, “When you got my necklace back for me!” Over two years had passed since this incident took place. Though she knew it was only a necklace, and she would be able to live without it, knowing that I cared enough to get it back for her spoke volumes to her.

What a lesson it was on being a neighbor! Too often, we think of our neighbors as those outside our home. Sometimes they live under the same roof!

© 2014, Stacy R. Miller

Loveless

Loveless

“But mark this:  There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.”
II Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

I thought it was interesting to note that in the Greek, “without love” actually means to be without family love.  We have sure seen an increase in this over the last few years.  I remember the horror of hearing how Susan Smith had killed her two young sons by leaving them in the car, then letting the car roll into the water.  Yet, there have been countless other stories in recent years of other parents killing their own children.

There was also the highly profiled story of the Menendez brothers killing their parents.  Yet, they weren’t the only ones who have done such an atrocious act.  There have been countless others over the last few years.  Doesn’t it sound like these families are “without family love”?

How does this scripture apply to the lives of Christian families?  Half of all marriages end in divorce, even in the church.  I know of a personal example of a ‘Christian’ man who decided to leave his wife and children so that he could live with his same-sex partner.  I know personal examples of ‘Christian’ men who beat their wives.  These are hard-core cases of families who are “without family love.”

I have a friend who used to work in a battered women’s shelter.  She told me that the top three abusers are policemen, military men, and pastors.  I have heard so many stories of youth pastors sexually abusing teenaged girls.  That brings such pain, not to mention shame, to their families when it is exposed.  It also causes a lifetime of pain for the young ladies who have been violated by a man whom they should have been able to trust.

What about families who are too busy in outside activities to ever sit down to a meal together?  What happened to family nights, where families would play games and enjoy each others company?  Could it be that we have traded family love for outside activities?

There are many families who leave the spiritual training of the children to a Sunday school teacher.  That is contrary to scripture.  Deuteronomy 6 makes it very clear that spiritual training is the job of the parents.  In Proverbs, there are many verses that mention listening to your father and not forsaking the teaching of your mother.  Again, it is clear that spiritual training is up to us, as parents, and not someone else.  When we fail to be diligent to train our children in biblical principles, doesn’t that also show a lack of family love?

We are all very busy, but we must constantly guard against becoming so inundated with activities that we fail to properly teach and train our children.  We must be militant in keeping the family love alive, in both our marriages and in our parenting.

© 2006, Stacy R. Miller

Homework

Homework

Some of you may ask why I bring up this subject when school is out for summer break.  I’m not referring to school work, but to our work in the home.  Titus 2:4-5 gives us an assignment for our home work.  It says that we are to love our husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, also to be busy at home, kind, and subject to our husbands so that the no one will malign the Word of God.

I am going to be sharing a lot from my personal experience in trying to live out the above scripture.  It was not an easy transformation, and I still have struggles at times, but it is an assignment that I am willing to continue doing because I have seen the fruits of putting it into action.  I hope that some of you are able to learn from my mistakes.

1.   We are to be busy at home.  (Titus 2:5)  As a new mom, who was used to working full time, this was really hard for me.  I craved time with adults.  Often, if I wasn’t leaving to go visit a friend, I was at least spending a large amount of time on the phone talking to friends.  While it’s not bad to converse with friends, many times I found that the conversations were going in a direction that wasn’t good.  Yes, I admit it, we were gossiping.  (I really don’t like that word!)

I was feeling isolated, trying to stay at home.  Part of the reason I was isolated was because I was out of God’s will.  The Bible tells us that we are to be busy at home, not to be busybodies!  The isolation was because I wasn’t obeying what God said.  As I began to read Proverbs and several books about women’s issues, it was becoming so clear to me that I was out of God’s will in several areas.  To try and stay home more was going to take a lot of work!  I began to ask the Lord to help me learn to be content at home (in all circumstances).  Phil. 4:11

2.   We are to love our husbands and our children.  (Titus 2:4)  To do this, you can’t be running on empty all the time.  I found that I was leaving home to go shopping or going to garage sales on a frequent basis.  There’s nothing wrong with doing these things, but if they become our focus, we get ourselves into trouble.  I found that on the days when I did so much running around, Rachel and I were both cranky.  We were both tired and I was very stressed.  I have found that running errands or going shopping are big users of my energy!  When evening came, I didn’t feel motivated to fix a big meal, nor did I feel like being too kind to my husband.  I wanted him to come in and take care of Rachel so that I could have a break!  It sure wasn’t a good way to show love to him or Rachel.  I’m sure that it often left him feeling like he was being taken for granted.  As I continued to pray for God to help me learn to be content to stay at home, I quickly saw that on the days when we did stay home, the atmosphere was MUCH more peaceful for all of us.  My stress level greatly decreased.  It quickly became my heart’s desire to be home as much as I could.

3.   Be self-controlled.  (Titus 2:5)  If we aren’t self-controlled, then our home work is going to haphazard at best.  I saw in Prov. 1 that the Proverbs were written for attaining wisdom and discipline, for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right.  I want to focus on the word “prudent.”  It refers to one who is exercising sound judgment in practical matters, who is cautious in conduct, and manages carefully.

I had begun to spend more time at home, but was feeling no real sense of purpose, beyond changing diapers, being a built in milk factory, and personal laundry attendant.  As I pondered on the word “prudent,” I came up with the idea of checking out the prices at several grocery stores.  I found out that I had been shopping at the most expensive store in town.  To use “sound judgment in practical matters,” I began to revise how I did my grocery shopping.  I was very quickly able to save us at least $20 to $60 a week.  I found a real sense of purpose in what I was doing.  I saw that I was putting some principles from Prov. 31 into practice by doing my husband “good, and not harm.”  I saw that my “trading” was profitable because it was stretching the money which my husband was earning.  I had a new sense of purpose and a joy in my heart because I knew that I was starting to live out more of the principles found in the Word.

4.   We are to be kind and pure.  (Titus 2:5)  I found that part of putting this into practice was by being cautious in friendship.  (Prov. 12)  Going again to the word prudent, we are to be cautious in our conduct.  I knew some people who were constant gossips, one of whom was constantly talking about her husband in a bad way.  It wasn’t like she talked about him to get me to keep him in prayer, but she just felt the need to give him a tongue-lashing, even when he wasn’t present.  I was striving to be kind and pure in my walk with the Lord, so I quickly began to find different friends.  I didn’t need a “friendship” that was going to suck the spiritual life out of me in just a matter of minutes.

Another way of being cautious in friendship is just by being mindful of how much time you spend with your friends.  You don’t want to cause your friend problems in her own family by the amount of time which she is spending with you.  I still visit my friends, mainly because it gives my only child a chance to play with other children.    Even then, we don’t do it more than once every 7-10 days.  The Lord has helped me to achieve a good balance there.  I also picked friendships that were like “iron sharpening iron,” mentioned in Prov. 27:17

5.   We are to be subject to our husbands.  (Titus 2:5)  Part of being subject to our husbands is learning to do what pleases them.  I don’t know of any man who desires to come home to a house that is dirty or cluttered.  Going back to being prudent, one who manages her home carefully is going to be one who manages to stay home to see that the work gets done.  Every day there needs to be a time set aside for tidying up the house before our husbands get home.  We also need to be mindful of how hard they work to make an income.  That requires sacrifice on our part at times — like staying away from the malls.  They are often a deceptive tactic of the enemy to cause us to be filled with discontentment.

6.  We are to teach what is good.  (Titus 2:3)  We are to be diligently teaching and training our children.  We are to be instructing them in righteousness.  I found that as I learned to stay at home more, I had much more energy, not to mention more time, to teach Rachel about the Lord.  We still often talk about God while we are running errands, but we are also spending a lot more time reading devotions together.  At bedtime, we are getting into the habit of reading the Word before we go to sleep.

Proverbs 19:16 tells us that she who obeys instruction guards her life.  The instruction for me, as a stay at home wife and mother was becoming much clearer.  (Although I haven’t really even touched the surface of it in this message.)  As I began to put this into daily practice, I found a new joy and contentment in my heart.  Granted, we aren’t at home all the time, but our days of errand running are down to only one or two days a week now, instead of three to four days.  I have much more energy for the tasks that are before me.

Yes, ladies, we have much home work to do, and if we allow God to teach us how to do it His way, we will find that godliness with contentment is GREAT gain.  (I Tim. 6:6)  This kind of home work may not earn us a diploma, but it may earn us these words:  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of the Lord.”
© 2003, Stacy R Miller

Joy

Joy

As busy wives and mothers, we tend to neglect taking care of ourselves.  We get so caught up in the needs of our family and the myriad of things to do each day that we literally get lost in the shuffle.  You’ve probably even had the famous acrostic running through your head,  “JOY stands for Jesus, others, and yourself.”  Keeping yourself at the end of the list, you may wonder, “When do I get to do something for me?”

The Son of God had to take time for Himself.  He’d go off to a mountain to pray.  Sometimes you would find Him at Mary and Martha’s house, enjoying food and fellowship.  He even had times when He simply hung out with the guys.  Once He was so tired that He took a nap on a boat during a terrible storm.

Jesus knew there were times when He needed to refresh His spirit, His soul, and His body.  If the Son of God needed to do these things, why would we be any different?  We must take care of our spirit and nourish it with God’s Word.  We need to nourish our souls, which could come from reading a book or getting together with a good friend.  We also need to take time to nourish our bodies through things like a refreshing soak in the tub or even a midday nap.


When I was growing up, I had a friend who used the word “you’uns.”  She would often say, “What are you’uns doing this weekend?”  I decided that her word would work great as an acrostic.  I think “JOY” should be
Jesus,
Ourselves, and
You’uns.

Sisters, it’s time we take some time for ourselves and experience some of God’s joy for us!

© 2005, Stacy R. Miller

Impressions

Impressions

God knows how impressionable our children are.  That is why He told us to talk about His ways when we sit, walk, lie down at night, or rise in the morning. (Deuteronomy 6:7)  Young children are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear.

If our children observe us gossiping, what impressions are we leaving on their little hearts?  Rather than gossiping, if we would turn to intercession, we would impress upon them that God is the first one to run to in a crisis.  We will teach them to daily take their needs to the Lord.

If we criticize the pastor, we impress on their heart that this man isn’t to be respected.  On the other hand, if we talk excitedly about something we learned from the pastor’s message, we teach them that church is an exciting place to get new insights about our Father.

If we speak critical words about the music they play at church or the songs they sing, we impress upon them to look for the negative.  If we talk about how the music touched us and replaced our worry with God’s peace, we place an impression on them that could last for years.  They will learn that godly music can be a healing balm to frazzled emotions.

If we frequently act out of our feelings, rather than God’s truth, we place a strong impression on their hearts that will steer them to do the same thing.  It could lead to years of living a very unstable life, being a constant slave to their emotions, rather than using God’s Word to master those runaway emotions.  Yet when we speak forth God’s truth and stand on the Word no matter what our feelings tell us, their impression will likely lead them to stand firmly on the Rock.

What impressions are you making in the hearts of your children?

© 2005, Stacy R. Miller

I’m Done!

I’m Done!

As mothers, don’t you sometimes wish that you could say, “I’m done!”  It seems that a mother’s work is never done!  Even when we are sleeping, we are still on-call for the one who may wake up ill during the night.  We get the house cleaned, only to find that by the end of the day, the kids have trashed it once again!

We can find ourselves falling into the mode of being ‘task-oriented,’ rather than ‘people-oriented.’  We can become easily irritated by any interruptions.  We seem to forget that some things which happen are God-ordained; we view it as another interruption to our already busy schedule.

In John 17:4, we find that Jesus is talking with the Father, saying that He has completed the work which God gave Him to do.  I wonder how we might view each day, if we are careful to only do the things which Father really wants us to do.  If He wants us to be diligently instructing our children in righteousness, will we be able to relax and let the housework go for a day?  Would that cause excessive stress to our flesh because we have to view the messy house?  Would we be able to set aside our plan to go to garage sales because someone is in need of a meal?  Would we be able to put aside the plan we had made to do something refreshing in order to go visit someone who is in dire need of some company?  Can we set aside our holiday tasks to play a game with the children, or read them a book?

In Matt. 8:1, we find Jesus coming down from the mountainside, after having taught the people for many hours.  He was probably hoping for some time of refreshing and relaxation.  What did He find?  He found that the crowds followed Him.  Moms, do you ever find that your ‘crowds’ have followed you?  Most of us can’t even go to the bathroom by ourselves!  We can certainly understand the frustration that a person would feel when they can’t get away for that time of aloneness, that time to refresh oneself.  But Jesus didn’t respond out of frustration to them.  He continued to minister to them, putting His own fleshly wants aside.  What a contrast between how the Master responded and how I often respond to those ‘interruptions.’  It’s quite convicting, to say the least.

In verses 14-16, we find that Jesus was visiting Peter’s house.  When we go to visit someone, it’s often to relax and fellowship.  Yet, we see that Jesus is immediately called upon because Peter’s mother-in-law was sick.  Not only that, while He was there, MANY were brought to Him.  So much for relaxing and fellowshipping…..

As we move on to Matt. 8:23-25, we find that Jesus is trying to sleep, and now it’s the disciples who are ‘interrupting’ Him.  Have you ever had those days when you finally get to climb into bed, hoping that you can find a peaceful night’s rest, only to find that just as you fall into a deep sleep, you hear these words, “Mom, I had a bad dream.  Can I sleep with you?”  Once again, a peaceful night’s rest seems to be out of the question.

Moving on to Mt. 9:1-2, Jesus crosses over in a boat to visit His home town.  Again, they bring people to Him.  Those of us who have loved ones who live out of town know how precious those family times are.  Yet, Jesus didn’t often have those times with His family because the crowds were always looking to find Him.

In verse 27, He is still being followed.  In verse 36, we find that as He sees the crowds, He has compassion on them.  When we are followed by our ‘crowds,’ do we respond in the same manner?  In my own life, I find myself falling short so many times when MY schedule is interrupted.  When I remember to view the ‘interruption’ as a God-given intervention, my attitude is quite different.

In Mk. 1:35-37 Jesus went off to pray.  Simon and the others came looking for Him, declaring that ‘everyone’ was looking for Him.  We all have days where we feel like ‘everyone’ is looking for us.  The kids need us, hubby needs us, the phone won’t quit ringing because others needs us, the neighbor rings the bell, in search of us.  The list can be endless.  How do we respond?  Jesus responded by saying, “Let us go…That is why I have come.”  Can we say, as Jesus did, that we have come to do the Father’s will?  Can we say, “Not my will, but yours be done?”

Lord, help us to face each day, conscious of Your intervention in our lives.  Help us to view interruptions as an ordained task, given by You.  Help us to remember that as we serve others, we are really serving You.  Help us to be able at the end of each day to say, “Father, I have completed the task that You gave me to do.”  Amen.
© 2004, Stacy R Miller

The House on the Rock

The House on the Rock

When my daughter was a toddler, we frequently sang a song about the wise man and the foolish man.  She loved doing the hand motions for the house that was built on sand.  I had no idea how the truths of that song would affect me in years to come.

Part of keeping our house on the rock is to make sure that we don’t choose the better over the best.  Sometimes I see the need to give up some very good activities so that I am able to grab hold of the best.  In my quest to try and keep my house built on the rock, I will frequently assess the activities in my life.

For instance, I was looking forward to attending a dinner for our women’s group at church.  It was the first opportunity that the ladies would have to hear our new pastor’s wife speak.  That same evening my daughter had gym class.  This was only the second time our homeschool group had met to have this class, and my daughter was really looking forward to participating.

I had to make a choice.  I could serve myself and enjoy the women’s function, or I could set my own needs and wants aside and serve my daughter.  Since my daughter is higher on my list of priorities than the women’s ministry, I chose to take her to gym class.  This helped me to keep my house on the rock because I chose to invest in my daughter, showing her that she is more important to me than the women at church.

My normal habit is to attend church on Wednesday evenings.  However, one Wednesday, I could tell that my husband was incredibly stressed.  Since he is higher on my priority list than my church attendance, I decided to have a friend take our daughter to church so that we could have some alone time – a huge rarity in our house.  I wish you could have seen my husband’s face when I made the arrangements for Rachel to attend without me.  He was very pleased.  Later when we were alone, I got out the massage oil and gave him a wonderful treat that he didn’t soon forget!  Once again, my choices helped me keep building on the rock, rather than shifting sand.

Another opportunity came when I found out that my friend’s son had a cyst on his brain.  I had not been able to get in touch with her, so I left a message on her answering machine, asking her to return my call.  Since she knows that I am adamant about not taking calls during our homeschool hours, I also told her that I would pick up the phone if I heard that it was her.  Now, while homeschooling is very high on my priority list, that particular day, I felt the need to drop it down a bit so that I could minister to my friend, as well as find out the details on what was taking place with her son.

Writing devotions is a passion of mine; however, I must not make the mistake of allowing it to come before the Lord.  Nor can I let it come before ministering to my husband, my daughter, or even keeping the household running.

Recently, I went through a season where I wasn’t writing at all.  Other things were just consuming my time.  During that time, it would have been very easy for me to become frustrated over not having any new material ready to send out to those on my mailing list.  Instead, I focused on continuing to build my house on the rock.  I knew that if I kept my priorities in order, God would honor those decisions.  Finally, I sat down one evening and grabbed my pen and paper.  Very quickly, I had written and typed up six devotions.  I was even able to write four more the next day.  I couldn’t seem to write fast enough to get my thoughts on paper.

As I’ve had to set aside a few of the things that I really wanted to do in order to choose God’s best for our family, I’ve had no regrets.  God is so faithful in pouring out His peace and joy when we are obedient to His Word.  The sense of balance that I have felt when I know that I have made choices that honored Him has been marvelous.  It makes it easier for me to say “no” to shifting sand.

Are you making choices that help you to build on the rock?

© 2005, Stacy R. Miller

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