Thursday, February 28, 2013

Appreciating God's Creation

Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening!!!

In light of yesterday's vulnerable and a very LONG post, I'd like to lighten it up today.
 
The boys and I read a great book the other day from the library. 
 
It's entitled, Passport Into The Wild and was written by Jungle Jack Hanna.
 
The description reads: 
 
Explore the 7 continents in search of the most incredible animals on the planet!




As we read it, we traveled "by passport" into all the continents of earth and learned about their animals, cultures, and climates.  
 
Jack Hanna shares diary entries from his own personal visits describing the wonders of each place. 
 
In the beginning of the book he writes,
 
"Grab your passport, and together,  let's head out on this grand exploration of God's beautiful creation."
 
It was a fantastic book to spark conversations about God's creation and how WONDERFUL it all is!
 
I was inspired to spend more time talking about the wonders and beauty of God's creation with Grayden and Cole.  So starting mid-March, the boys and I are going to spend 7 weeks exploring the 7 continents of the world. 
 
We will draw maps, color pictures, read lots of books, study Scripture, and scour the Internet's vast resources talking about and appreciating ALL that God created. 
 
If we want our children to see God's creation for all its majesty, we must make time to explore and talk about it! In the everyday moments, as well as, in purposeful structured teaching moments. 
 
Will you join me in this quest?
 
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1: 1, 31a
 
"How many are your works, O Lord!  In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures."  Psalm 104:24

Join me as I pray the following:

Lord,
"I pray that my children would intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually grasp the truth that YOU are the creator of the heavens and the earth.  Just like You, may they explore Your creation and see that it ALL is very good.  And as they appreciate your creation through study, may they see your wisdom in each and every work."

Genesis 1:1, 31a & Psalm 104:24

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Christ's Ambassadors to the Hurting

Let me start by saying...
 
I have wrestled with God about being vulnerable and sharing the struggle with you that I'm about to describe.  Mostly because I fear being hurt or patronized
 
However I've recently watched a few dear friends, going through a difficult time, allow others into their struggle.  As a result, God received so much glory.  I do fear vulnerability with you BUT, at this point, my greater fear is that my silence and isolation will rob God of the glory He should receive. 
 
I could wait until my struggle is over or I could allow you to walk the hardest part of the journey with me.  I will choose the latter.  With that said, I will trust in God's protection over me as I let you all in.  And I thank you for caring enough to even take the time to read the following words I wrote early this morning. 

Here I go...
 
It's 4 AM.  I cannot sleep.  The physical pain gnaws at me, robbing my body of rest.
 
For the past two and a half months I have been struck with severe cystic acne.  Not small breakouts that heal in a week.  I'm talking deep, painful cysts which ache and throb and take weeks, if not months, to heal.  No matter what I've tried, and trust me I've tried a lot of different things, they haven't gone away.  In fact, they just keep getting worse.  
 
It is now to the point where my face hurts so bad that it is hard to talk, eat, and sleep.
 
Here is a picture of what I'm dealing with.  I apologize.  I know it is rather disgusting to even look at.  And to think this is only one side of my face.



Not only am I experiencing physical pain, but emotional pain as well.  I'm embarassed, anxious, fearful, and very much heartbroken.  The severity of my physical pain has made it difficult for me to wear any make-up and, thus, I have begun to isolate myself from others for fear of ridicule, pity, or judgment. 
 
I've reminded myself things could be worse.  I'm very much aware that I'm not the only person in this world with a physical flaw and an emotional heartache.  Many have gone before me and survived worse.  Many are presently enduring MUCH worse. 
 
Nonetheless, I AM hurting and struggling.  I can't deny this and I can't tell myself to get over it.  It's real.  It's hard.

YET, as cheesy as it may sound to some of you, BECAUSE of Jesus I am NOT alone and I am loved without condition
 
Though I may be hardpressed on every side, I am NOT crushed. 
 
Though I am perplexed as to why, I am NOT in despair. 
 
Though I am physically and emotionally struck down, I am NOT destroyed. 
 
For the life of Christ is at work in me.  Outwardly I may be wasting away, yet inwardly the sacrificial love of Christ is renewing me each day.
 
Thus, I will NOT lose heart
 
For this light and momentary trouble is achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs it all.  Living in light of eternity with my God diminishes the importance of this trouble.  Because of Christ, my soul has life and death has lost its sting!  So, I must fix my eyes on Jesus.  For what I see on my face is temporary, but the unseen glory of my relationship with Jesus is eternal.  [2 Corinthians 4:7, 9, 12, 16-18]
 
Dear friends, whatever your trouble...whatever your heartache...Jesus is the answer. 
 
As I've cried out to Him throughout this struggle, He has tenderly given me strength for each day through His unconditional love. 
 
And to add to His tenderness, His love has been demonstrated to me so faithfully through others
 
Through the loving affection and unwavering support from my husband,
 
through the compassionate truth from my dear sister and mom,
 
and through the faithful prayers of dear friends...
 
I HAVE BEEN LOVED WITHOUT CONDITION
 
A love that is only known to Jesus and can be extraordinarily demonstrated through His faithful ambassadors. 
 
Oh how fortunate I've been that Christ's love compelled them toward me.  Through their demonstrations of His love I am lifted up, held close, and reminded of my worth and value! 
[2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 19-21] 
 
This is what we want for our children.  Whether they are on the receiving or giving end of Jesus' love.  Either way...we want them to experience a love that is so full and so life-giving that no struggle can minimize its majesty.  And that they would give and receive this LOVE WITHOUT CONDITION. 
 
Join me as I pray the following today:
 
Jesus, I pray that my children would be so compelled by Your love that they would faithfully represent and tenderly demonstrate it to the hurting in this world.  Likewise, in the midst of their pains, may they know and receive the unconditional love of Jesus through His faithful ambassadors.  And may they fix their eyes on Jesus and be renewed each day.
 
2 Corinthians 4:7, 9, 12, 16-18; 5:14-15, 19-21

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Building Up versus Tearing Down

One of the more difficult elements of parenting for me has been teaching my children about the power of the tongue.  I talk frequently with the boys about the effect our words have on others. 
 
They are beginning to understand that their words can either 
 
BUILD SOMEONE UP
 
or
 
TEAR SOMEONE DOWN.
 
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..."
 
The word "build" here means to strengthen or to edify.  To edify another is to be a spiritual benefit to them.
 
Allie is at the age where stacking blocks entertains her simply for the fun of knocking them down.  She will watch and sometimes help me stack them block by block.  Then comes her favorite part, she hits the base block and the entire tower will come tumbling down.  She claps and giggles.  Such fun!
 
Similarly, when we speak encouraging, strengthening words to a person we are building them up word by word.  They feel tall, strong, valued.  Yet, it only takes one good, tear down word for them to come tumbling down.
 
I ask the boys frequently, "Did your words build up or tear down?"
 
Part of walking with Jesus is learning to keep a tight rein on one's tongue.  James 1:26 says that if anyone does not do this "his religion is worthless."  A wild, uncontrolled tongue is a complete spiritual parasite...it destroys us and others from the inside, out.
 
I had one of those proud parenting moments recently with Grayden.  Let me preface the story with the disclaimer that my son is not perfect and I give God ALL the credit when his choices reflect Christ.  Trust me, I take none. 

 A week before Valentines Day, Grayden's preschool teacher sent a letter asking him to make a valentine card for everyone in his class which he would bring and distribute at the Valentine's party.  I encouraged him to make his cards from scratch.  He spent several hours over the course of a few days making cards for each of his preschool friends and teacher, 9 in total.  He decorated them with pictures and stickers.  They were very nice.  But what struck me most was that in each card he had written a sentence stating what he valued about that person.  For example, to his friend Clara he wrote, "You are good at gymnastics."  To his friend Ian he wrote, "You are a good friend." 
 
The day of the party I watched him clutch those cards as we walked into the classroom.  He couldn't have been more excited about giving them to his friends.  I was very proud of him.  Not because he had made and decorated each one but because he had taken the opportunity to "BUILD UP" each of his friends with encouraging words.  I think he is starting to get it.  Or, at least I hope so. 
 
Let's pray the following together over our children:
 
"Lord, help me to teach my children about the power of the tongue.  May they learn to keep a tight rein on it by using words that will build others up rather than tear them down.  Mold their hearts to SEE the good and the gifts in others and give them boldness of tongue to voice those insights." 
 
1 Thessalonians 5:11; James 1:26

Monday, February 25, 2013

Who are You Wearing?

Surely if you surf the Internet today, read the paper, or watch the news you will come across at least one story about The Oscars...The Stars...AND "Who they were wearing."  I am baffled by the fact that as The Stars walk the red carpet they are almost always first asked about what designer they are adorned in.  Then a fashion "expert" critiques the said adornments with either raving or scathing reviews by comparing the fashions against one another.  It's all rather disturbing. 
 
Yet so many of us read these stories.  Most common, ordinary people could never afford to buy a dress or suit by a hollywood designer yet many pay very close attention to these fashions.  The reason for this is simple really.  Even the common, ordinary person is fascinated by beauty.  Whether one simply appreciates, strives to emulate, or is painstakingly jealous of another's beauty...he/she pays attention when beauty presents itself.
 
Now stay with me on this one:  If those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus were to walk the red carpet and be asked the infamous question, "Who are you wearing," what should our answer be?
 
Romans 13:14 says to "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ."
 
Figuratively speaking, we are to WEAR all the virtues of Christ.  In otherwords, as Jesus guides our lives His beauty is displayed to others through what they see us doing.
 
In Colossians 3:12 God tells His dearly loved people to "clothe yourselves" with the beauty of Christ's, "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience."  
 
The beauty of CompassionGranting mercy to ALL, regardless of what one deserves.
 
The beauty of Kindness:  A grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which is harsh and austere.
 
The beauty of Humility:  Living in light of God and estimating oneself as insignificant and unworthy of His marvelous grace. 
 
The beauty of Gentleness:  An attitude of the spirit by which one accepts God's dealings toward His children as good.  A condition of the mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness but in power; a balance born in strength of character.
 
The beauty of Patience:  A quality in oneself that recognizes the power to avenge yet refrains from doing so. 
 
 
Joan Rivers and the like might not be familiar with the fashions of Jesus, but I am certain that when our children are adorned by His beauty people will pay attentionAnd like the Stars of Hollywood wear the fashions well and sing the praises of their designers, so we and our children can wear the "fashion" of Jesus well and, in turn, sing His praises!
 
Lord Jesus,
Our prayer is that our children choose You as their "fashion" designer.  And as they grow in their relationships with You may they be clothed in Your beautiful virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  And as they inwardly possess Your beauty may their outward demonstration of it sing Your praises to the world around them. 
 
 
 
 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Courage

We are going to attempt to renovate our half-bath this weekend.  It needs some serious updating and fixing up.  We've never tackled a project like this before.  And frankly, WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE DOING
 
Yet, we've found some courage to GO FOR IT!  
 
I'm sure there will be many puzzled, frustrated moments.  We will be calling friends, watching YouTube clips, and scouring Internet articles educating ourselves on the best possible strategies and methods to take.
 
I'm proud of my husband for being courageous enough to try his best to make something better. 
It is a great example for our kids
 
I want them to be courageous enough to fix or repair what might be broken or in need of improvement in their own lives.  Whether it is a friendship, an aspect of their character, an ineffective department of their work, a destructive habit, or injustices in the world. 
 
 
I don't want them to pretend a problem does not exist or to run from it.  As they walk with Jesus, I want them to be bold as lions!  
 
"The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion." Proverbs 28:1
 
 
I want them to find their courage and strength in a God that will go with them!
 
"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."  Deuteronomy 1:9
 
 
Let's pray the following today:
 
Lord, may my children walk with Jesus through life and find the courage and strength necessary to be as bold as lions when something needs fixed or repaired in their lives.  May they not be crippled by discouragement or fear, but be encouraged and empowered knowing that You are with them always. 
 
Proverbs 28:1; Deuteronomy 1:9
     

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Integrity

A week ago today, Valentine's Day in fact, I received THE phone call that no wife wants to get. 
 
Keith had been in a car accident. 
 


I was instantaneously gripped with fear until I learned that he was OK.  Long story short, another man ran a red light and slammed into the passenger side of his car.  The car has over $6,000 worth of damage.  The car and the money do NOT matter, I was just so thankful that Keith was alive and well.
 
There is so much that can be taken and learned from an experience like this but both Keith and I found ourselves shaken most by the lack of integrity of the man who ran the red light.  He denied any wrongdoing and lashed out verbally toward Keith while filling out the police report.  There was a witness to the accident who conformed Keith's story, nonetheless, the man stood by his lie. 
 
We do not know his life circumstances.  We do not know what would motivate him to lie.  Perhaps he truly thought he had a green light.  At this point it does not really matter.  We have chosen to give him grace.  And frankly, we are just thankful that both he, and Keith were ok.
 
I've thought a lot about this over the past week, continuing to come back to this issue of integrity. 
 
In our world today it can be difficult to find people who maintain integrity in all facets of life. 
 
We've all probably been treated unjustly by someone who hides behind lies.  And maybe many of us have been the one hiding behind our own lies.  So many people dodge consequences due to them and hurt others with shady finagling. 
 
Bottom Line:  In a world where it seems that very few people maintain integrity, we need to do our very best to raise our children to be men and women dedicated to integrity.  
 
Proverbs 12:22
"The Lord detests lying lips, be he delights in men who are truthful."
 
Hebrews 13:18 
"Pray for us, for we are sure we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things."
 
2 Corinthians 8:21
"For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men."
 
And my favorite: 
Proverbs 20:11
"Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right."
 
Join me in prayer today:
 
Lord, give me the strength and wisdom necessary to teach my children about what it means to have integrity.  May they understand that you delight in those who are truthful.  I pray that they would maintain a clear conscience throughout life's ups and downs.  I pray they would act honorably in all things.  May they be known, even as a child, as one whose conduct is pure and right.
 
Proverbs 12:22; 20:11; Hebrews 13:18; 2 Corinthians 8:21

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Finding Reasons to Praise God

I love the song by Matt Redman entitled, "10,000 Reasons." 
 
My favorite line is: 
 
"For all Your goodness I will keep on singing 
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find."
 
Have you ever spent 10, 30, 45, or 60 minutes searching your heart and Scripture for ALL the reasons to Praise God?  There would surely be 10,000 reasons.
 
I grew up in one of those non-denominational churches where we would praise God through tambourines, dancing, shouting, and singing.  Worship alone would go on for over an hour on most Sundays.  We always had this special time in between songs where all we would do was sing our personal praises to God.  It sounds strange but I cannot begin to describe for you how beautiful a sound it was and how significantly it grew my faith.  There is just nothing like using song to praise God for all He is and for all He's done in our lives.  While my church was not perfect, one thing it did VERY well was allowing time every Sunday to passionately and genuinely Praise God!
 
My heart's desire is that my children would learn to passionately Praise God.  That they would have hearts which find new reasons every single day to sing His praises!

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits.
Psalm 103:1-2 NASB

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 NLT

Let's spend time today with our children talking about ALL the reasons we have to Praise God.  Then, let's praise Him together through song.  Maybe it's a song you sing at church, maybe it's one you make up together, or maybe you can sing this one: 



Join me as I pray today:

Lord, there are 10,000 reasons that my heart can find to praise You!  As my heart finds reasons to praise you on a daily basis, may my children yearn and learn to do the same.  May they praise You with all that is within them.  May they never forget the good things you have done for them.  May they SING your praises from the depths of their souls.
Psalm 103:1-2



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Talking About Heaven



Thanks to this book, I had a wonderful conversation yesterday with my boys about HEAVEN!

Reserve it at your library Today!!!


We discussed:
 
What is heaven?
Where is heaven?
Who is in heaven?
How do we get to heaven?
How do people feel in heaven?

And here's the beauty of it all, I didn't have all the answers.  There is a great mystery and wonder about heaven!  But truthfully, I am so very glad that we do not know everything there is to know about this wondrous place.  I'm a BIG fan of surprises, especially great ones that the God of this universe has in store.  He is a mighty creative God. 
I am certain of one thing:  His home will be like no other!
 
Yet like all good surprises, God has given us a few sneak peaks. 
 
We know that Jesus is there.  
 
We know there is much room.  (John 14:2) 
 
We know in His home He will wipe away every tear from our eyes AND there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Rev. 20:3-4) 
 
We know that the city and its streets will be made of pure gold and the foundation of its walls decorated with every kind of precious stone. (Rev. 20:16-21) 
 
We know that there will be no more night and the light of the sun won't be needed for the Lord will give it light. (Rev. 22:5)
 
And finally we know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father's home except through Him (John 14:6).  And that if we confess with our mouths that "Jesus is Lord," and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved...For ALL who call on the name of the Lord, will be saved. (Romans 10:9,13)

God used this book to grant me the opportunity to talk candidly and honestly about God with my boys.  I walked away from our conversation so thankful for God's perfect timing and direction when it comes to teaching my kids about Him!

Join me today and pray the following:

Lord, help me to see the teachable moments you give me with my children and give me wisdom to answer their questions with the truth of Your Word.  Please continue to stir within them an excitment and wonder for heaven.  May they long to live in Your home for eternity.  Give them the gift of faith to trust in Jesus and call on His name!

Monday, February 18, 2013

God's Boundaries

Baby Gate Time!
 

We quickly realized yesterday that Allie's crawling speed had hit a dangerous level.  We rescued her from the stairs a few too many times.  So...we pulled out the good old baby gate! 
 
The boundary line had to be drawn else she would end up hurting herself.  She was not a happy camper and, as you can see in this picture, was a little puzzled as to why we ruined her fun.  But, we love her too much to watch her crawl into imminent danger.
 
Drawing this boundary for Allie reminds me of the need for God's boundaries in our own lives.  In His Word, there are clear boundary lines drawn which we understand as His laws, commandments, statues, precepts, or righteousness.  He does not draw these boundaries to ruin our fun, rather to demonstrate His love for us. 

As you read the following Scripture make note of the underlined descriptions of God's boundaries AND then the bold benefits they ensue upon those who follow them.

Psalm 19:7-11
"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward."

I love the descriptions of God's boundaries:  perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure, righteous, precious and sweet! 
 
I am motivated by the benefits of staying within His boundaries:  revives my soul, makes my simple mind...wise, gives joy to my heart, gives light to my eyes, and brings great rewards. 
 
On paper, the descriptions and benefits outshine the fun that might be ruined as a result of staying within the boundaries.  However, when push comes to shove we often are blinded to the benefits because we are so fixated on the BOUNDARY itself.   And not the perfection of the boundary but literally the boundary...that which we are restricted from. 

As we teach our children about God's perfect and trustworthy boundaries for their lives, let's pray the following: 

LORD,
Thank you for loving us enough to draw boundary lines for our own protection.  Give us wisdom as we teach our children about Your perfect, trustworthy boundaries for their lives and help them to focus on the benefits rather than the boundaries themselves.  May they understand that Your love for them motivates the boundaries you've set and, as they stay within them, may they experience the great rewards of wisdom, joy, and revival of their soul.  Psalm 19:7-11

 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rejoicing with Others

We went to an indoor recreation play space yesterday morning and the boys spent most of their time Ballin'! 
 
There is a lot of basketball watching and playing in our house these days.  The boys practice defense like Craft and three pointers like Thomas...for those of you who are OSU fans you know what I'm talking about. 
 
I rather enjoyed watching them but I was struck by Cole's strong desire that I see and celebrate all the great three-year old successes he was having.




"Mom!  I made it!  Did you see it?"
"Mom!  Look at me, look at me dribble!"
"Mom!  I'm getting better.  See, I can shoot it in the hoop."

Our kids just love showing us the new things they learn to do.  Like me, I'm sure you experience this quite often.  Your kids run up to you jumping and yelling about something "great" they've done like going potty, zipping their coat up, reading their first word, finishing a puzzle, drawing a picture, getting an "A" on their paper, winning the game, and even finishing their vegetables!  No matter what the success, they look to us to join in their celebration.  And we very willingly do.

However, there are many life situations where this isn't as easy to do and we don't find ourselves as willing.  Here's the unfortunate reality:  There is something in our fallen human nature that makes it extremely difficult to be glad when other people succeed.  It is far easier to envy others when they experience success than it is to rejoice with them. But God calls us to take joy in another's success and to rejoice with them. 

"Rejoice with those who rejoice." 
Romans 12:15

The implication here is that it isn't enough to simply smile at them and say, "Good job!"  The Greek word for rejoice here is a verb.  Thus, we are called to join in their rejoicing.  We are called to be actively and demonstratively glad for them.
 
 
My heart is that my children would also learn to rejoice with others. Starting with their parents and siblings and moving on to their friends and coworkers. 
 

Join me today and let's pray:


Lord, help me to genuinely rejoice WITH my children as they experience successes in life.  May my actions demonstrate to them the value of rejoicing with others.  Protect their hearts from envying the success of others.  Soften their hearts to others sucesses and give them the strength to actively and demonstratively REJOICE with those who are rejoicing!
Romans 12:15

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Our True Valentine

 

Ahhh, the infamous Valentines Day. 
 
The day of creative and thoughtful demonstrations of love. 
 
The day where expectations can be dangerous.  
 
The day where some feel unique and special and others feel lonely or slighted.
 
The good news is that we serve a God who demonstrated His love for us before we were even born.   No prince charming could ever compete with the love our God has and continues to bestow upon us.
 
Our God wrote the book on love.  
 
For, "God demonstrated his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8
 
For, "This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him"  1 John 4:9
 
For, "Neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus."  Romans 8:38-39
 
 Oh how I want my children to know and be changed by God's love. 
 
Since having children, Valentines Day has also grown into a day where I can shower not only my husband but also my children with demonstrations of love. 
 
However, there is no amount of love I could ever give them that could ever compare to God's love for them. 
 
Take a moment and listen to one of my favorite songs written by Matt Hammitt of Sanctus Real entitled, "I couldn't love you more."  Then, gather your children onto your lap and sing the words directly to them.



 
 
Join me as I pray today that our children would know God's love in Christ.
 
 
Lord, as my children grow up and seek love from those around them may they always be shown and reminded that Your love is ALL that they need.  May they see with faith-filled eyes Your powerful demonstration of love in the sacrifice of your Son Jesus.    And May they trust that there is nothing in all of creation that can separate them from Your love.
 
Romans 5:8; 8:38-39; 1 John 4:9

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wise Friendships

Do you think about who your children will call their "friends" in the elementary, middle and high school years?
 
I do.  Very often, in fact.
 
As a middle school teacher, I saw the power and influence a friend could have on one's character and interests.  I'll never forget watching a smart, respectful, and innocent 6th grade kid at the beginning of the school year change into a foolish, disrespectful troublemaker within three months.  And I'm not talking the normal middle school foolish behavior that most kids go through.  I'm talking drugs, sex, and violence.  His parents were baffled as to how their 6th grade son could do a complete 180 in only three months.  They were heartbroken.  I was heartbroken right along with them.
 
Of course they wanted to know why. 
What had happened to their sweet little guy? 
 
The answer was simple
He had made friends with a very foolish boy the first week of school.
 
Proverbs 13:20 says,
"He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm."
 
I was talking just yesterday with a dear friend about our childrens' friends.  It was the discussion many of you probably have had.  We ask ourselves:
 
How do we protect our children but not keep them in a bubble? 
 
How do we teach them to love and even befriend the troublemakers but not become one? 
 
How do we decipher which friends will build our children up and which will completely tear them down? 
 
And will our children even listen to us and heed our wise counsel about who they choose to be friends with?
 
If you're like me, you don't have the answers to all these questions. 

Thus the reason we pray.  

Here is what God's Word teaches about friendship: 

A righteous man is cautious in friendship.  (Proverbs 12:26)
  • I wish my children to be CAREFUL who they call their friend.
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17) 
  • I wish my children's friends to LOVE them with a love that is patient, kind, not envious, not boasting, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, not delighted by evil but rejoices with truth. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6)
A friend sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)
  • I wish my children's friends to be LOYAL.
Two are better than one...If one falls down, his friend can help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
  • I wish my children's friends to LIFT THEM out of trouble or hardship. 

I am compelled today to pray for our childrens' current and future friendshipsPlease join me.

Lord, help my kids to be cautious in friendship.  Give them the spiritual insight to decipher whether a friend is truly loving, loyal, and one who will lift them up.  Protect them from joining a companion of fools. Bring creative, fun friends into their lives who walk with Jesus.  And teach them, through Your Word and example, to BE a wise, loving, and loyal friend to others. 
 
Proverbs 12:26; 13:20;17:17; 18:24; Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Generosity

We have many incredible neighbors.  Directly next door is a family with two older elementary boys.  At least once a month, we find a grocery bag on our front porch from them FULL of toys, clothes, shoes, and games for the boys.  Rather than selling those clothes and toys that their boys have grown out of, they generously gift them to us.  Over 80% of the toys and about 40% of the boys' clothes and shoes are from them.   
 
To be generous is not only to simply meet the needs of another, but to benefit and bless another ABUNDANTLY.  It is not generosity unless one sacrifices and gives more than what another may need.  Our neighbor's generosity is exactly this...one of sacrifice and abundance!
 
God's Word teaches that,
 
"A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."  Proverbs 11:25
 
This is an incredible nugget of wisdom!  When we are generous with others we refresh them and ourselves.  Refresh in the Hebrew means to lavish upon, to satisfy, to quench.  Furthermore, when we are generous with others, they are blessed with abundance and we prosper.  Prosper in the Hebrew literally means to be fat, well fed, rich.  Fat animals were considered to be the healthiest; therefore the concept of prosperity was associated with fatness.  Our motive for generosity musn't be for our own refreshment and prosperity, rather our motive should be obedience to God.  However, Scripture is clear that with obedient generosity comes satisfaction and riches (both in a variety of forms) from our Heavenly Father!
 
With what can we teach our children to be generous? 
 
Their...
  • Money
  • Possessions
  • Time
  • Friendship
  • Words
  • Relationships
  • Affection (appropriately)
  • Hearts--Mercy, Grace, Forgiveness, Love
 
Let's pray the following today:
 
Lord, may my children see and be refreshed by the generosity of others.  May they also demonstrate ABUNDANT generosity to this world through words and actions and THUS, experience the blessings YOU bestow of prosperity and refreshment.
Proverbs 11:25