Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Get A Little Crazy!!!

The kids and I had a praise-jam session in the car last night.  We were singing at the top of our lungs.  We were clapping and swaying to the music.  With shouts of joy (literally) and gladness we were lifting up praises to Him.  Had you driven by us you probably would have pointed and said, "Look at those crazy people."

I woke up this morning still buzzing from our jam session.
There is something magical about praising our God.
It transforms our minds.
It heals our hearts.
Our worries fade away.
We are set free.

This morning I'm meditating on Psalm 100.
As you read it and meditate on it with me, take some time for a little praise-jam session of your own.

Get a little crazy.
Sing and dance.
Shout for joy with words of thanksgiving.
Give thanks to Him unashamedly.
Bask in His goodness and glory.
Praise His name.
Get your children involved!
Throw on some worship music and turn your home into a house of praise!

Because as you give God the praise and glory due His name, He will remove the shackles on your feet.  Whatever you are bound by today will be loosened and you will be set free.  

"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his,
we are his people,
the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving 
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations."

I pray my kids would have hearts of worship and would be willing to get a little crazy for You.  I pray they would unashamedly shout for joy to You.  I pray they would worship You with gladness and with joyful songs.  I pray they would enter into Your presence on a daily basis with thanksgiving and praise.  May they give thanks to You in all things.  May they praise Your name freely.  For You are good, Your love endures forever, and You are faithful from generation to generation.  And as they lift up praises and thanksgiving to You, would you transform their minds, heal their hearts, dissipate their worries, and set them free from whatever they are bound by.  Thank you Jesus!  Thank you Jesus!  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Raise Thankful Children?

It almost never fails that when Keith and I let our kids do something special that they may not normally be able to do like...

stay up a little later to watch the basketball game,

play a game of Ticket To Ride on my phone,

pick out a candy bar at the grocery store checkout,

or play a game of Mario Kart on the Wii...

they end up grumbling or whining.

 Keith and I know that a huge part of giving is not expecting something in return.  However, when we give our kids a special opportunity we can't help but expect some amount of gratitude from them.  A simple thank you.  Or how about a tantrum/break-down free transition to whatever comes after the something special.
Once in awhile our expectations are fulfilled and we hear or see a glimpse of gratitude.  But honestly, most of the time, selfish, discontented, and entitled attitudes squelch our hopes for signs of gratitude.  

Do your children's attitudes sometimes wreak of selfishness, discontentment, and entitlement?  

Do your children grumble and whine more than they say, "thank you?"  If your answer is yes, then we are in this together.

I've determined that showing gratitude or being thankful doesn't come naturally to our flesh.  It definitely doesn't come naturally to me.  How about you?

Knowing we aren't innately thankful, it shouldn't come as a surprise to Keith and I that our children's hearts aren't consistently thankful.

A huge question that Keith and I ask ourselves often is this:  How can we teach our children to have thankful hearts?

Maybe if we expose them to those who are less fortunate, they will appreciate their blessings?

Maybe if we make sure they always have wants (not giving them everything they ask for), they will be extra thankful when we do give them something they want?

Maybe if we make them work for what they have, they won't take it (or us) for granted?

Maybe if they make a list of all the things they have to be thankful for, they won't forget them.

While all these things are definitely worth the effort, unfortunately they may never evoke the heart response we are looking for.  Why? 

Because we can't necessarily learn to be thankful, we must choose to be thankful.

And the discipline of choosing to be thankful only develops when we love Jesus more than we love ourselves.  Because when we love Jesus with all our heart, and with all our mind, and with all our soul our eyes are opened to all that we have to be thankful for.  His grace.  His kindness.  His faithfulness.  His tender loving care.  His provisions.  His blessings.  His love.

"Through Him (Jesus) then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:15 NASB

Loving Jesus motivates a humble response of worship to Him in which we regularly, in all circumstances, offer up sacrifices of praise. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)  And as we lift up to Him words of thanks those mountains of pride, anger, and selfishness are made low.

This truth rings true in my own life.  Having Jesus in my life enables me to see others & circumstances through His eyes.  For example, yesterday evening I took all three kids to the grocery store.  The traffic getting there was horrible and the traffic inside the store was crazy.  My kids were restless and wound up.  I had a list a mile long.  And we were all hungry before we even got there.  Had I let myself, I could have grumbled about a lot of things.  But instead, because of Jesus, I just kept choosing to be thankful for His financial provisions which allowed me to be there in the first place.  With a thankful heart, I lifted Him up with my thoughts & words and He made low everything else.  Thank You Jesus!

Though my heart's response isn't always one of gratitude, my love for Jesus does regularly open my eyes to His abundant blessings in my life AND thus, I choose gratitude above grumbling often.

So as I put my kids to bed last night hearing them grumble and complain about ridiculously stupid things, I knew I needed to take time this week to pray for their relationship with Jesus.

I pray that my children would grow more & more AND deeper & deeper in love with You.  I pray that each of them would seek You with all his/her heart, with all his/her mind, and with all his/her soul.  And as they do, may their eyes be opened to all that You've given and blessed them with; all that they have to be thankful for.  May this new sight evoke a humble response of worship to You in which they regularly, in all circumstances, offer up a sacrifice of praise and thanks to You.  And as they lift up to You words of thanks would you make low those sins of the heart like pride.  Above all things may my children, because of their love for You, choose thankfulness over grumbling and whining.  Even in their youth Lord Jesus! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Moral Unresponsiveness

A pastor at church this weekend told a childhood story about learning to play guitar.  At his first lesson, the teacher instructed him to hold down the strings with his finger.  

"Ouch, this hurts," he said to his instructor.

"At first it will hurt," replied the instructed.  "But eventually you will build up callouses on your fingers and you will no longer feel pain.  Just give it time."

The pastor used this story as a spiritual analogy.

Our hearts are the fingers.  Sin is the strings.
At first our heart's response to sin can be painful.  Going against the will of God causes unrest and grief in our hearts.  But eventually, over time, our hearts become calloused to these pains of sin.  The heart becomes hardened like a stone.  And the result is moral unresponsiveness.

A hardened heart acts like a virus infecting our spiritual heart to the point of severe illness, even death.

Ephesians 4:18-19 describes this well:

18 "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed."

Many of us could describe a time in our lives where we lost all sensitivity to sin, our hearts became calloused and unresponsive, so we gave ourselves over a sensual lust for sin and indulged.  

And many of us probably know that when the heart becomes hardened in this way, our separation from the life of God darkens our understanding and we live in fear and unrest.

I long for my children to be protected from this.  

Would you join me in prayer today?  

Let's pray our kids maintain a tender heart to God and His will.

I pray my children's hearts would be soft and tender to You and Your will.  I pray they would avoid habitual sins and choose righteousness so as to protect themselves from hardened hearts that become morally unresponsive to Your ways.  May they never lose sensitivity to You, and thus indulge in all kinds of impurity and greed.  Rather may they trust and obey You with responsive and humble hearts.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mediocre Love Just Won't Do

Another blog about love, I couldn't help myself.

17 years ago today Keith and I had our first date.

I'm not going to embellish the facts about those first few hours we had together.  They were very sweet.  But I can only imagine if we were to go back and watch ourselves, we might cringe at how shy and awkward we were.  

It's been over 149,000 hours since those first few.
And I can say with all sincerity that those were two of the most important hours I have ever lived.

17 years together.
It hasn't been a perfect ride.
We've had our ups and and our down.
We aren't perfect and its shown in lots of arguments.
But it hasn't been mediocre.

As I reflect on Keith, I'm so thankful I didn't settle for mediocre.  I'm so thankful I didn't settle for a man whose eyes wonder from my own.  I'm so thankful I didn't settle for a man who puts work, sports, or leisure ahead of his family.  I'm so thankful I didn't settle for a man who selfishly takes and takes.  I'm so thankful I didn't settle for a man who tries to control me.  I'm so thankful I didn't settle for a man who gets in the way of what God is calling me to do.  I'm just so darn thankful I didn't settle for less than God's best for me.

I confess that I'm not one who believes in soul mates.  There are probably a lot of guys out there who I could have loved and would have loved me.  Because when it comes to love, its always a choice.  But by the grace of God, my choice was a wise one.  And for that, I am forever thankful.

When I think about my children and who they will eventually choose to love, fear creeps in.
What if they settle for mediocre?
What if they give themselves away to a foolish choice?
What if they spend the rest of their lives regretting it?

While I know Jesus restores broken hearts and broken relationships, I would just rather they never have to be restored.  I've seen how painful this process can be.  

So my prayer is that when it comes time for them to choose love that godly wisdom would trump human emotion.  My prayer is that they will choose someone to love who loves like Christ (or at least someone who is striving to).

Faithful love.
Sacrificial love.
Grace-filled love.
Merciful love.
Love that runs deeper than any dark circumstance.
Love that rejoices.
Love that is free.
Love that is everlasting.
Love that sustains.
Love that breathes life.

In my opinion, the key to never settling is walking with Jesus in all things.

Having a relationship with Jesus, understanding the depth of His love for me, absolutely directed & drove my love choice.

If my children, like Matthew the disciple, "get up, leave everything, and follow Him" (Luke 5:28) then they will surely never settle for anything less than love like their Savior.  Because when they know and understand the depth & beauty of Christ's love for them, mediocre love just won't do.

So today, let's pray our children grasp how wide and how long and how deep is the love of Christ AND let's pray this knowledge will be the key to them never settling for mediocre love.

Your love IS deep and wide.  Your love is full of mercy and grace.  Your love sustains and breathes life.  Your love is faithful even in the darkest of times.  Your love is anything but mediocre.  I pray my children would know this love of Yours personally.  I pray Your love would seep into every corner of their hearts and secure in them their beauty and value.  And I pray that as they know and understand the depth of Your love for them, as it secures their identity, that mediocre love with a one night stand, boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse won't do.  I pray Your love will drive them to make a wise choice when they choose romantic love.  May they choose someone who loves like You.  May they never, ever settle for mediocre love.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Praying about Everything...Even the Trivial Stuff

Today I'd like to pray for something about Cole that isn't deeply spiritual.  Frankly, its rather trivial

To those of you who have real, serious, even life-threatening concerns about your children, I apologize.  I, by no means, want to offend you with my trivial problem.  And I am very aware that in the grand scheme of things, this concern about Cole matters little.  

Yet as my prayer life has grown, I've learned God wants us to talk to Him about everything.  He wants to be our #1 on speed dial.  Even for the trivial things.

He says in His Word:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"In everything" means we can't prioritize or departmentalize our prayer life.  We can't deem one need important enough to talk to God about and another unimportant.   We don't need to pick our battles, so to speak, with the Father.  He wants in on it all.  He never grows tired or weary of our knocks.  His patience runs deep.  His understanding and patience none can fathom, even for the trivial stuff.  [Isaiah 40:28b]

His desire is that we earnestly seek Him in all things.  And He rewards the "Alright then, You're about to hear everything" kind of faith.

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."  Hebrews 11:6 

With all that said, here's my request:

I would like to pray and ask our Great God to help Cole aim his pee in the toilet instead of all over the walls and floor

I told you it was trivial.

Friends, I'm just tired of walking into the bathroom and being brought to nausea by an intense smell of urine.  I'm tired of getting on my hands & knees and sopping up the pee all over the floor & walls.  

(And in case you're thinking this:  I have made him help me clean it up.  This tactic hasn't worked.  He isn't fazed by his own urine. And it usually makes more work for me in the long run.)

Cole isn't being blatantly disobedient with this pee problem.  He isn't purposely missing the target.  

This is just one of those "He's just a kid" kind-of problems.

Peeing for him is a nuisance.  It cramps his style.  It interrupts his playing.  So, he rushes.  I'm convinced sometimes he's not even looking.  I've seen him race in and out of the bathroom in as little as 5 seconds.  Don't worry, I sent him back in to wash his hands. 

He also is easily distracted, as most 4 year olds are.  He's the type to look around, see something unique (could be a speck of dirt), and need to immediately touch and examine it.  I've seen him take his hands off the "squirt gun"  (if I may) in order to reach for some random, tangible distraction.  And the result was pee everywhere.  The best, or worst, part about it was he didn't even realize what was happening.  He was too distracted by the random distraction.  

My point is that my sweet, little Cole-man just needs to grow up a little.  So I'd like to ask God to help him do just that.

Do you have trivial requests regarding your kids like this one?

If so, why don't you join me today and take it to God in prayer.  He wants to hear about it. 

Thank you for never tiring of my knocks.  Thank you for desiring that I pray to You about everything.  Thank you that You reward those who earnestly seek You, even with the trivial stuff.  So today, would you help my little Cole-man get his pee in the potty.  He's such a delight but his urine all over the bathroom is NOT.  Will you give him the patience to slow down during bathroom visits.  Will you give him the self-control to focus on the task at hand and not be easily distracted.  And will you show me how to help him grow up a little when it comes to a trivial thing like going to the bathroom.  And as always, will you give me patience so that I can give him time to grow.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What is Romantic Love?

For awhile now I've wanted to write a blog about Romantic Love.

Recently, I read a journal post written by a woman (whom I don't know) named Ann about Romance that communicated so much of what I've wanted to say about romantic love.  I encourage you to travel to her post via this link and read what SHE had to say as well.  She has articulated the message much more eloquently and creatively than I ever could.  She has one of those beautiful and cool looking blogs.  Her gifting as a writer and designer far exceeds my measly attempts.  So click on the link but don't forget to come back and pray along with me for our kids. 

The culture we live in today defines romance for our sons and daughters with princes & princesses.

To our daughters:  If you look beautiful enough, your prince will fight for you, be strong for you, and save you.  This is romance.  This is love.

To our sons:  If you find a girl who looks beautiful enough, fight for her, be strong for her, and save her.  This is romance.  This is love.

Yet the love communicated in these fairy tales is shallow and temporary.

This kind of love would never survive the real life trials and tribulations of marriage.

Because when beauty fades (sooner than one thinks) and the white horse tires, there will be nothing left to cling to but disappointment and unmet expectations.

Romantic love isn't like the movies.
Romantic love isn't roses, chocolates, long walks on the beach, and poetry.  It isn't even saying, "I love you" in candlelight.  It isn't heroism.  It isn't beautiful clothes.  It isn't a passionate kiss.

Romantic love is sacrifice.

Christ Jesus sacrificed His life out of love for you and I.  [John 3:16]  His is romantic love.

Romantic love is laying down (sometimes giving up completely) our interests,
our time,
our agenda,
and our expectations over and over again.

Romantic love sacrifices being right and offers peace.
Romantic love sacrifices being angry and offers forgiveness.
Romantic love sacrifices one's own needs for the needs of another.

Romantic love is also service.

Having the mind of Christ and His same love, romantic love is taking the form of a servant.  Like Christ, romantic love is humbling oneself and honoring our lover through acts of service...especially the acts that we hate doing. [Philippians 2:1-11] 

Romantic love says, "Less of me."

Keith isn't exceptionally romantic in how the world defines romantic.  He doesn't ride a white horse and try to save me because he knows that's God's job.  Instead, every day for the past 11 years he sacrifices himself and humbly serves me.  This is what makes my heart flutter.  This is romantic love.     

So let's not let movies teach our children about romantic love.  Let's demonstrate Christ's romantic love on a daily basis so they believe it to be true.  Let's show them romantic love through sacrifice and service to our spouse.  And let's tell them about the greatest romantic lover of all, Jesus!

You've got romantic love in the bag.  It's your specialty.  It's your flavor of the month EVERY month.  Your sacrifice and service to us on the cross is hands down THE greatest communication of romantic love there is.  By the guidance and counsel of Your Spirit, teach my children (and me) to love like you.  Secure in their minds the rightful image and definition of romantic love.  May they never be satisfied with the shallow and temporal love this world has to offer.  I pray they would never settle for love like the movies.  I pray they would choose and commit to someone who will love them as You loved a humble servant.  And may they in turn, love their future spouses with this same sacrificial love.   

Don't forget to go back and read Ann's journal post!  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Everyone Has a Story to Tell

 Yesterday I spent the early evening at a 5 year old's birthday party, one of Grayden & Cole's church friends.  As the boys ran around playing with their friends, I followed little Miss Allie all around.  Busy as I was chasing Allie every which way, I happened to start up a conversation with a dad who was their with his 5 year old son. 

He was a thick, stalky guy with a bald head and a long goatee; the type many would be intimidated by.  Yet, he had very kind eyes and was considerably friendly (for a dude).  After a few initial get-to-know-you questions I knew this dad had a story he wanted, even needed, to tell.  I could see it in his demeanor, he had concern and worry on his mind.  I could sense it in my spirit that perhaps he needed a friend.

So I hoped Allie would cooperate and I began to listen and ask questions.  And his story flowed like a river out of him.

After having their son, he and his wife were unable to have any more children.  So in hopes of growing their family, they began fostering babies with the intent to adopt.  Over the past five years, they've fostered 6 different babies who were all born addicted to cocaine or heroine.  He described the horrors of weaning a newborn off one of these heinous drugs; his descriptions broke my heart.  

As he spoke about each child and told their story I could see the love he had for each of them.  Yet in all 6 foster cases, the baby was eventually placed in the home of a distant family member (an aunt, uncle, or grandparent).  He and his wife (and their biological son) had to say goodbye to 6 babies whom they had grown to love and care for as their own.  I asked him how they dealt with this.  And he shared their honest, hard struggle at each goodbye.  

Presently they have their 7th foster child, a baby boy by the name of Hunter.  This boy came to their home a few weeks after he was born.  And like the others, he was highly addicted to drugs.  He described the regimented process of how they are weaning Hunter off the drugs.  Hunter's had a rough go it sounds like.  But great progress in the past few weeks has brought much needed hope and encouragement.

He pulled out his phone showing me pictures of the sweet baby boy.  He described his own son's love for Hunter.  He raved about his wife, her sacrifice and love for this baby she didn't carry.  

And he expressed a deep desire for Hunter to be The One.  They long to adopt this baby and make him officially their own.  

"If we lose him like the others, it will break our hearts.  We will have to take a hiatus from fostering." he said.

At this point it was time to leave.  I shook his hand and told him I thought he and his wife were remarkable.  And I told him I would pray.  I would pray Hunter would be The One.  And I would pray that God would give them the strength to make it through another goodbye if necessary.  He thanked me and said, "We could use prayer."

Friends, this man had a story he needed to tell.  Our conversation wasn't overly spiritual.  I didn't walk him through the Gospel message.  It was evident to me that my role was to simply hear his story and promise to pray.  I walked away overcome with emotion as I knew God had His hand on this man and his family.  And I thanked God for the honor of being the one He used to listen to this man's story.  

Reflecting on my time last night, I can't help but think of Jesus and His time here on this earth. Everyone who came to Jesus had a story.  The man with leprosy had a story.  The paralytic had a story.  The widow who gave all she owned had  story.  The sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears had a story.  The blind beggar had a story.  The woman at the well had a story.  The criminals to the right and left of Jesus on the cross had a story.  

They all had a story just like the foster dad I met last night.  
And I absolutely believe that Jesus listened and heard their stories.  I love the Scriptures where we read about a crowd sitting around Jesus (Mark 3:32) because I just imagine him teaching and listening to story after story.

You see, Jesus understood and continues to understand our need to tell our story.  There's healing and hope that takes place when we do.  

Unfortunately, so often we are too busy or selfish to take the time to let someone share.  After last night, I was reminded that part of walking with Jesus is being willing to extend a hand in friendship by listening to the stories of others.  Because when we listen, God is doing something great in the heart of the storyteller (even if we can't see it).  His love is penetrating those deep, dark places that need light and hope.  And the truth is we, the listener, are blessed as well.  God's love grows inside of us when we hear the stories of others.

So my prayer today is that my children will be willing to be used by God and listen to the stories of others.

While on this earth, You spent much of Your time listening to stories.  And being the great God that You are, You brought hope and healing to each story You heard.  I believe that You call us to be willing to hear the stories of others.  I believe You long to use this act of friendship as an opportunity to do what You do best: to bring hope and healing AND to love.  I pray my children would be willing to deny themselves, their schedules and interests, and would extend a hand of friendship and a listening ear to those who need to tell their story.  I pray they would listen with a kind heart, free of judgement and full of love.  I pray they would be Your vessel in this.  Teach them to be Your listening ear to those whose stories need to be told.  And may Your love grow inside of them deeper and deeper at each story they hear.  



Monday, November 18, 2013

A Sin Struggle

 For as long as I can remember, I've struggled with controlling my tongue.  

I can be way too outspoken and impulsive with my words.  Before I know it, I can tear down the people I love most in life with deadly speech.  

This is a sin struggle I'm well aware of.  God has taught me many lessons about being slow to speak, slow to anger, and quick to love by speaking words of hope & grace.  

I go through times where I walk in the Spirit and have my mind (and mouth) set on what the Spirit desires.  Yet, I'll also go through times where I gratify the desires of my sinful nature and this struggle is GREAT.  

This past week the struggle was great.  There were too many circumstances where I gratified the desires of my sinful nature and did NOT control my tongue.

With my speech I was rude to my husband, speaking words that dishonored him as a husband and father.

With my speech I was self-seeking, tearing my children down in order to lift myself up.

With my speech I was easily angered, spouting out deadly words in the name of frustration when my children did not act as I expected and my patience ran dry.

With my speech I kept records of wrongs, maliciously reminding both my husband and children of their mistakes and grievances against me.

It sounds ugly because it was ugly.
My words brought tears, induced fear in their eyes, and TORE THEM DOWN.

To those that I love the most in this life, my words were anything but.  For love,

"It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."  1 Corinthians 13:5

I am well aware of the Scripture in James 3 about taming the tongue.  It warns that "with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men...this should not be."  

Every day I write words on this blog that praise our Lord, yet some days I also then "curse" my family with words I wouldn't think of saying to friends, let alone strangers.

Why is this?

After years of this struggle, I know exactly why.

My sinful nature gets the best of me.
And I hate it.

The following verses describe exactly how I feel about this:

"I do not understand what I do.  

For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do---this I keep on doing.  

Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  

So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  

What a wretched man I am!  

Who will rescue me from this body of death?  

Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"  

Romans 7:15, 17-25

Can you relate?

Do you have a sin struggle that you hate?
Do you do that which you do NOT want to do?
Do you desire to do what is good but struggle to carry it out?
Do you need rescued from "death?"

Paul understood this struggle.  He was a sinner just like us.  Yet he was rescued by Jesus!

So as I laid in bed last night confessing my sin, I read those words and pleaded with Jesus to rescue me (yet again) from this sin struggle with words.

I then read the following verses and they brought healing and hope to my grieving heart:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.  

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.  

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen"  

1 Timothy 1:15-17

Jesus is surely showing His unlimited patience in me as an example to those who believe on Him and receive eternal life. 

If I, a wretched sinner whose words sometimes have the smell of death in them, can be shown mercy and unlimited patience then so can you and everyone else struggling with sin.

Including our children.
Jesus longs to show them mercy.
He has unlimited patience for their sin struggle.
He wants to rescue them from "death."
He wants to empower them with His Holy Spirit so that when evil is right there with them, even when they want to do good, they can overcome evil with good.

Join me today and let's pray for our children's sin struggle:

You ARE the King eternal.  You are immortal, invisible, THE only God.  All glory and honor is due You.  You show great mercy and display unlimited patience with even the worst of sinners.  Thank you Jesus that you rescue us from that sin that so easily entangles and trips us up over and over again; that sin that we hate; that sin that we DO NOT want to do.  

Lord, I pray You would teach our children about Your mercy and patience as they struggle with sin.  I pray their hearts would be tender toward You; I pray they would hate their sin.  I pray they would desire to do good.  And I pray that this desire would increase in them a desire to be rescued by You.  I pray that in the midst of their sin struggle they would run to You for mercy and for help.  I pray they would be transformed by your love and unlimited patience; that they would be moved to obedience because of them. 

And finally if and when they find their hearts grieving like mine because of sin, may they look to Your Spirit for the strength and wisdom to confess, repent, and turn from their wicked ways.  And may they give You all the glory and honor as sin loses its deadly grip on their hearts and minds! 

Friday, November 15, 2013

We Belong

We all want to feel that we belong.  That we are an integral part of a family or community.  That we are loved and cherished.    

Yet so often people feel like outsiders.  Perhaps their personalities warrant them odd.  Perhaps they have a sickness or disability that others don't understand or are even fearful of, so they avoid contact or interaction.  Perhaps they've made mistakes and are isolated by shame.

No matter the reason, they are alone YET long to belong.

Jesus cares about this.
He longs for people to belong.

I love the story in Matthew 8:1-4 & Luke 5:12-16 where Jesus heals the man with leprosy.  There is so much to glean about Jesus, His ministry, and how He cares for people in this story.  But I'd like to focus on the end of the story.  Jesus heals the man of this debilitating and incurable (at the time) disease and he then instructs the man to do something, "Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

To understand what Jesus was doing with this request we must understand Jewish Law at the time.  Under Mosaic Law, anyone with even one spot of leprosy was declared ceremonially unclean.  Anyone who touched the leper became unclean also.  Thus, lepers were not permitted to remain inside walled cities.  To be a leper was to no longer belong.   

The Law also provided that if and when a person recovered from sickness, or in this man's case was cured, he must go to the priest who would examine him and pronounce him ceremonially clean again.  This proof, or ritual certification of cleansing, would allow the man to be reinstated into society.

Jesus not only cared about the man's physical disease, He also cared that the man belonged again.  He encouraged the man to do what was necessary according to the Law so that he could enter inside the city walls again and be reinstated as an integral part of his community.

Doesn't it warm your heart to read that Jesus deeply cared that this man belonged again?

I can remember feeling a bit like a leper during my Acne episode

this past year.  I very much felt like an outsider.  Honestly it was the first time in my life that I felt like I was on the outside, looking in.  While my family never pronounced me "unclean!" nor did my community throw me outside the city walls, I did FEEL "unclean" and I absolutely felt like I didn't belong.  It's honestly hard to explain how I felt.  Nonetheless, it was a lonely place.

And I cannot even begin to imagine how many other people in this world today have felt, or feel, like outsiders; like they don't belong.

Yet this story reminds us all that Jesus understands our need to belong.  

The truth is, He came to this earth and died for our sins so that we could belong in His heavenly family.  And whether we believe it or not, to belong in His family is to be an integral member who is forever loved and always cherished.  When we belong to Him no "odd" personality, sickness, disability, or shame can condemn us outside of His city walls.  When we come to know Jesus, we are made clean, reinstated into His family, cherished and loved, and deemed integral!

Do you worry your children will feel like outsiders in this world?
Do you worry they won't feel as though they belong?

Spiritually speaking, as followers of Jesus none of us truly belong to this world.  Nonetheless, I believe the story of the leper shows us just how much Jesus understands our need to belong here on this earth.  We do need a community of people who love and cherish us, with whom we play an integral part.  

So let's take some time today and pray that our children first and foremost choose to belong to the family of Christ, but also that Jesus tenderly provides a loving community in this world to belong to as well.

To belong to Your family is to all we ever need.  There is no family or community here on this earth that we can belong to that will ever love and cherish us as much as Yours.  You came to this earth so that we could be made "clean" again and reinstated into Your family.  So I do pray that my children would choose You as their Savior and become a "clean," integral part of Your family. But I also pray that You would tenderly provide a community of people (believers) on this earth where they can feel they belong.  I pray You would protect them from feeling like complete outsiders in this world.  I pray You would give them an integral place in a community where they are loved and cherished for who they are.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

His Wisdom

I don't know what to do?

Over the course of the last week I have talked with several moms who spoke these exact words in regards to a parenting decision.  

When it comes to our children and parenting decisions, we don't want to screw up.  We long to make the best choice for them, the right choice; the choice that will protect, challenge, grow, and encourage them.  Yet so often we feel clueless.  We feel overwhelmed by differing opinions and options in parenting.  We simply do NOT know what to do.

Up against this kind of wall, we have great fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear that our failure will seriously harm our children emotionally, physically, socially, intellectually, and spiritually.

So what DO we do when we DON'T know what to do?

First, we pray for God's wisdom.  And by pray I mean the cry-out, "I'm pretty desperate here" kind of praying.

Second, we stop worrying and we start busying our minds with the Word of God.  We seek.  We dig, and dig, and dig the pages of the Bible until He graciously and mercifully gives us His wisdom.

For me personally, I've learned that this kind of praying and seeking is hard work.  It takes commitment and perseverance.  The wisdom of God requires knowledge of God.  And to have knowledge of God, we must wholeheartedly study His words in Scripture.

Proverbs 2:1-11 talks about praying and seeking the knowledge and wisdom of God:

1My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,

2turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—

3indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,

4and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,

5then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.

I challenge you, like I've challenged myself, to reflect on what all the underlined phrases practically look like for you on a daily, continual basis.  We must ask ourselves: how can I turn my ear, store up, apply to my heart, call out for, cry aloud for, look, and search for the knowledge and wisdom of God?  

When we do all these things, take a look at how God shows up:

6For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

7He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

8for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
9Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.

10For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

11Discretion will protect you, 
and understanding will guard you.


The Lord promises when we accept, store, apply, turn, call, cry, look, and search He gives us His wisdom in parenting.

To the upright, He gives success in parenting.

To those who walk with Him, He is their protective shield in parenting.

He guards our just course in parenting.

He protects the way of His faithful ones in parenting.

He gives us understanding about what is right, just, and fair in parenting.

His discretion will protect us (and our children) in parenting.

His understanding will guard us in parenting

Friends if you doubt God's ability to give an answer to your "I don't know what to do" parenting moments, then I challenge you to get downright serious (maybe even a little crazy) about praying and seeking His wisdom.  My bet is that He'll show up and blow your socks off with His perfect, wise answer.

Our kids will face countless "I don't know what to do" moments as well.  And there will be a plethora of "wisdoms" available to them via this world.  But my prayer is that they seek out the true source of wisdom, God.

Join me in prayer for our children:

Your Word promises that if we turn our ear to wisdom, if we call and cry out for it, and if we look for it as though we are searching for hidden treasure THAT we will find knowledge of God.  And where there is knowledge of God, there is understanding of His wisdom.  Today I pray that my children would get crazy real about praying and seeking You in all things.  I pray that in those "I don't know moments" they would remember that You DO KNOW and that You desire to give them direction, discretion, and protection through Your perfect wisdom.  A wisdom that points to the good path that is right, just, and fair.  May they desire Your wisdom above worldly wisdom!  May they find the knowledge and wisdom of God in the pages of Your Word.