Friday, March 29, 2013

The Need for a Savior

I've been praying and asking the Lord for direction all week regarding this Good Friday post.  I do not take lightly the following subject and wanted to be certain my words were truthful and loving. 
 
I asked the boys a few days ago the following question: 
 
Why do we celebrate Easter? 
 
We had a lengthy discussion together with many different thoughts and ideas.  
 
 
In the end, it all boiled down to this one simple truth: 
 
 
The beginning of understanding the significance of Easter starts with recognizing one's NEED for a Savior
 
It isn't until one grasps the depravity of his own sinful nature that he says, "I need Jesus." 
 
 
For some this is an easy lesson, but for others it takes time.
 
 
Skeptics and non-Christians are hesitant even to admit we are sinful beings. 
 
 
I remember very clearly a debate that was had in an Anthropology class I took in college.  The debate was about morality and the issue of right and wrong. 
 
 
The teacher's message was that determining right and wrong was all RELATIVE to one's perspectives and beliefs and that it was always a GRAY issue.  She concluded that there cannot be an ABSOLUTE TRUTH, or a black and white line, in regards to the debate over right and wrong. 
 
 
I recall listening to the teacher and many students for 20 minutes or so before I couldn't stay quiet any longer. 
 
 
Finally I raised my hand and asked, "Isn't your stance in itself a contradiction.  By arguing that right and wrong are relative you are, in fact, believing and arguing FOR absolute truth."  
 
 
To be honest, I had regrets that I said anything at all because I then found myself at the center of the debate for the next 45 minutes:  Them versus Me.  It was lonely on my side.
 
Throughout the debate, I found myself posing this kind-of question:
 
If there is no right or wrong, or sin as some call it, THEN...
 
  • How do we explain men who beat their girlfriends over and over again?
  •  
  • How do we explain the bullying that goes on in schools?
  •  
  • How do we explain men who financially destroy the poor all in the name of business?
  •  
  • How do we explain lying to gain advantage over another?
  •  
  • How do we explain murders and theft?
  •  
  • How do we explain greed, lust, and pride?
  •  
  • How do we explain the men who sexually abuse young boys and girls?
 
Just watch the news.  Clearly, human nature is fallen. 
 
This debate over right and wrong is key to Christianity
 
There simply is no need for Jesus if sin doesn't exist.
 
I remember a time growing up when I did what I now call, The Perfect Experiment
 
I was about 10 years old and decided that I was going to wake up in the morning and try really hard to be perfect.  This went on for about a week and every day I failed. 
 
I recall making it to the morning bus ride and blowing the whole thing by telling my sister to, "Shut Up." 
 
This probably sounds silly to you.  Skeptics would argue that my obsession with perfection and the guilt I felt over my sin was the result of my religious upbringing and nothing more.  I disagree.
 
This experiment had a lasting effect on me.  In the midst of my pride, each day I began to understand more clearly that it was utterly impossible for me to be good, or perfect on my own strength.  I just kept missing the mark.  I innately had a desire to do good but my flesh kept tripping me up.
 
Long ago I recognized my need for a Savior. 
 
The Perfect Experiment only confirmed it.
 
Scripture teaches that "ALL have sinned" and that "there is no one righteous, not even one." Romans 3:10, 23
 
This reality can make people nervous, even angry. 
 
"How dare you tell me I'm "evil" or "bad! 
I'm a decent person who tries to be kind and good."
 
I understand the struggle.  It's hard to stomach that we are sinful, especially when we can compare how we live to the likes of murderers, thieves, and rapists. 
 
Christianity, however, is not about shouting at people and telling them how horrible they are.  This is hypocrisy and religious pride rearing its ugly and destructive yet.  Jesus was clear in saying that only "he who is without sin is to cast the first stone." (John 8:7) 
 
Christianity is about humbly recognizing one's own depravity and need for a Savior.  It's about looking to God and accepting His grace, forgiveness, and love.  It's about the freedom to admit one's shortcomings and LET God make up for them.  And then it's about humbly sharing our story with others. 
 
And this, my friends, is what I long for my children to understand about Easter. 
 
We celebrate Jesus because we so desperately need His forgiveness and love.
 
In Philippians 3:9 (NLT) Paul confesses:  "I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith."  
 
I pray that someday all my children will make this confession. 

Happy Easter!
 
Join me in prayer today.
 
Jesus, I pray that this Easter my children will begin to understand and recognize their NEED for a savior.  I pray they would see that they cannot count on their own goodness or ability to do what is right, but that they simply need You to save them.  I pray you would grant them the gift of faith to believe in You and accept your grace, forgiveness, and love. 
 
Romans 3:10, 23; Philippians 3:9
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

TEAMWORK

There is a saying spoken often in our household,
 
"We are a TEAM and we all need to BE PART of the team."
 
 


Using a sports analogy to highlight the workings of a close and loving family works with our sports-obsessed kids. 
 
We argue that just like on the basketball court or soccer field,
every member of this family...
  • Is important and valuable to the family as a whole.
  •  
  • Must learn to share responsibilities; for family is not a one man or woman show.
  •  
  • Has strengths we NEED so as to function efficiently and effectively.
  •  
  • Needs to pick up the slack when another member is struggling.
  •  
  • Needs encouragment and a good Pep-Talk every so often.
  •  
  • Deserves a chance to shine.
  •  
  • Should protect and defend each member.
  •  
With these arguments come expections. 
 
For example if mom is running around with her head cut off trying to get out the door, the rest of the team needs to do their part like grabbing socks for Allie, getting shoes on, turning off the lights, or carrying something to the car. 
 
If one of the family members is having a bad day then the rest of us need to encourage and help them by lending emotional support and taking over responsibilities when needed. 
 
If a member of our family has a strength or gifting, the rest of us need to let them shine without trying to draw attention back to ourselves; we need to spur each other on and appreciate how his/her strength makes the family unit that much stronger.
 
We talk this "TEAM" business on a daily basis. 
If our family wants to be STRONG, we must work together in all facets of life.
 
Scripture also makes it clear that followers of Christ are a TEAM, a Family, One Body...
 
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
 
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
 
The message is clear: 
 
Every believer has value and purpose in the body of Christ.  
 
This is a message I want my children to understand. 
 
Just like every member our family has value and purpose, so it is with ALL believers in Christ. 
 
Understanding this message teaches that no believer is to consider him/herself better than another nor are they to devalue another's gifting.  Furthermore, it teaches the importance of emotional and physical support toward one another in good times and in bad.  
 
My hope is that learning to be a loving and effective member of OUR family will prepare my children for membership in the body of Christ.
 
Join me today and pray the following:
 
Lord, I pray that you would continue to teach my children the value of teamwork in our family unit.  I pray they would see the connection between our family and the body of Christ.  I pray they would understand Your perfect family design of the body founded in unity and respect.  I pray they would learn to emotionally and physically support all believers when times are good and when times are bad. 
1 Corinthians 12:12-27

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Embracing Change

Change.

 
We've all experienced it.

 
It is impossible to avoid it.

 
It sparks a range of emotions from fear, anger, and discouragement TO anticipation, excitement, and wonder.

 
It often carries the promise of new beginnings.
BUT, implementing and carrying out change is STRAIGHT UP HARD.

 
And at times it can feel like we are swimming upstream with rocks blocking and pushing us to retreat and return to life's easier natural flowing direction.

 
At least once a week there is a battle fought in our household over the Changing of Clothes.  We've set a precedent that Grayden is to wear nicer clothes to preschool.  By nicer we mean jeans, NO sweatpants or as we like to call them, scrubpants. 

 
You could not even imagine the drama that arises when I ask him to CHANGE.  He insists the jeans are "too crunchy" and that he can't "run in them."  He says untrue statements like "none of the other kids wear jeans" and "I'm never going to school like this." 

 
For the record, I'm not much better in how I respond to change.  During this adventure with my skin I've had to make lots of changes in lifestyle and diet that have caused me to throw a few mini tantrums myself. 

 
For example, I haven't eaten dairy in nearly three weeks.  You better believe that watching other people bite into cheesy pizza and ice cream has caused me to make ridiculous statements like "It isn't fair that no one else has to do this," or "I can't eat anything fun or good now." 

 
I've also been trying to sleep on my back so as not to lay my face onto my pillow.  Oh boy, I've thrown fits throughout the night about this one.  Tossing and turning, growling and complaining about how "My life is so hard that I can't even sleep the way I want." 

 
I've been a little ugly and dramatic while trying to make these physical changes. 

Hmmmm, I wonder where G gets it?

 
These physical requests of change in Grayden and my life can be similiar to God's spiritual requests of change in our lives.  And like the physical requests, we can emotionally react to these changes in a very ugly, dramatic way.    

 
Scripture is clear, however, that when God calls us to change, He promises relief and direction in even the most difficult of cirumstances:

 
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not see it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:18-19

 
Furthermore, Scripture promises that in Christ the "old has gone" and we are now a "new creation." [2 Corinthians 5:17].  And that, if we let Him, He will transform us through a spiritual change of the mind and THEN we will learn to recognize and know God's perfect will for our lives:

 
"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
Romans 12:2 (NLT)

 
And finally, even when everything around us is changing, God is forever the same.  He does and will not change.  We can count on that when everything else around us is shifting:

 
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  James 1:17

 
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8

 
Both physical and spiritual change can be hard.  Yet, once change is accomplished we find ourselves renewed, refreshed, empowered, and prepared for God's new adventures. As we trust God's direction we begin to forget that which was behind us and find hope and joy in the new plan God has for us. 

 
Our children cannot and will not be able to avoid change in their lives

 
The very foundation of choosing Christ lies on the expectation of change.  And the pilgrimage of walking with Him requires continual acts of change in order to become more like Him and to follow His directions.

 
Join me today and pray the following:
 
Lord, I pray my children would trust that YOU never shift or change.  I pray they would find peace in knowing that You are dependable and true to your perfect, loving nature.  I also pray that you would tenderly teach them to embrace Your change by transforming their minds to trust in Your perfect will and believe in Your perfect plan.  I pray they would see that Your requests of change make a way in life's deserts and provide streams in life's wastelands.  I pray that change in their lives wouldn't be emotionally ugly and dramatic but rather joyful and willingly obedient.
 
James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Isaiah 43:18-19

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

THE Real-Deal Superhero

Kids love superheroes. 
 
They love the movies, the books, the games, and the costumes. 
 
They love imitating their favorite hero's powers. 
 
And they love pretending to be saved and protected by their hero when worried or in danger.
 
 
I believe the fascination with superheroes stems from an inner desire to be safe and protected.
 
 
One of the my favorite Bible verses describes our God's superhero-like powers:
 
 
"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings."  Psalm 17:8
 
 
FIRST, He guards us as one would guard his sight. 
 
 
The "apple of your eye" is a reference to the pupil, the most delicate part of the eye that is essential for vision.  Thus, God guards and protects us because we are essential and valuable to Him.
 
 
SECOND, we find refuge under the protective power of His love. 
 
 
"God's wings" represent power and are the spreadings out, i.e., the manifestations of His love, taking the creature under the protection of its intimate fellowship.  
 
 
The "shadow" of His wings is a metaphor for the eagle who covers her young from heat and danger.    Thus, God's "shadow" is the refreshing rest and security which the fellowship of His love affords to those, who hide themselves beneath it, from the heat of outward or inward conflict.
 
 
Maybe today or in the near future when our children are playing or talking about superheroes we can teach them this verse and show them how God is their real-deal superhero
 
 
If our children are drawn to these made-up, hollywood superheroes, how much more should they be enthralled and captivated by God Himself?
 
 
Join me as I pray the following today:
 
 
Lord God, you are GREAT!  I pray that you would give me opportunity to teach my children about your superhero-like qualities of love and protection.  I pray they would know and believe that they are the apple of Your eye and, thus you long to guard and protect them under the shadow of Your loving and powerful wings. 
 
Psalm 17:8 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Honoring the Elderly

We spent the weekend celebrating my Grandma's 85th birthday
 
 
She is a very honest, loyal, and strong woman who loves Jesus.  Time and time again I've witnessed her generousity to others and her faithfulness to her family. 
 
 
My mother and her siblings did a wonderful job throwing Grandma a special party where all her friends and family were able to visit and celebrate her 85 years. 
 
 
Unfortunately, the night before the party my Grandma came down with food poisoning.  She had a difficult sleepless night and was very weak and tired the day of her party. 
 
 
If you've ever had food poisoning you know how it can knock you out and leave you depleted and so very weary.  Nonetheless, Grandma came to the party and made it through four hours of visiting with friends and family.  Bless her heart.
 
 
The next day one of my dear cousins had a wedding shower.  My Granmda was still very weak but insisted on going.  As we helped her get ready she was unable to comb her hair and asked my mother to help her. 
 
I was emotionally moved as I sat and watched my mother, her first child, tenderly comb through her elderly mother's hair.  She fixed a few loose curls, placed a curler on one side where the curl had gone flat, and double checked with Grandma that she was shaping her hair just as she liked it.  
 
 
It was a very simple but sweet moment between mother and daughter.
 
 
The whole weekend I witnessed moments like this where five children and many grandchildren HONORED my Grandma. 
 
 
I am reminded of the commandment in Scripture which calls children to "Honor your father and mother."  (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3) 
 
 
The Hebrew word in Exodus for honor literally means "to be heavy" with the added meaning of "to be impressive, renowned, great, noteworthy."  To be honored means "carrying a lot of weight."  
 
 
Thus, Scripture is reminding children that their parents are noteworthy and impressive AND that to give them honor means to place a heavy value and significance on them.
 
 
This weekend my Grandma was heavily honored by ALL her children through words and action.  The esteem and value her children have for her carried a lot of weight and thus, she was honored as one who is impressive, noteworthy, and renowned.
 
 
I can only pray that MY own children would obey Scripture and honor Keith and I in our old age.  And in the meantime, that they would honor the elderly by placing value on their lives (no matter how different or old-fashioned) by honoring them through words and actions.

 
Join me and pray the following:
 
Lord, May my children value the elderly all the days of their lives.  May they honor them with kind words and service-filled actions.  And may they be obedient to your Scripture and honor Keith and I in our old age.   

 
Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3      

Friday, March 22, 2013

Great Role Models

Today is my sister Ruth's 30th birthday!!! 
 
 
I have known all week that today's blog would be dedicated to her and very much, inspired by her.
 

I wonder if you all think about the other people who will influence and shape your children's lives as much as I do. 
 
Maybe it is because I was a school teacher and saw firsthand the strong influence teachers and peers can have on a kid. 
 
Or maybe I'm not alone and, like me, you have all had that unnerving moment when you realize that your parent, protective bubble will eventually POP and no longer will you alone influence and shape your children's worldview and morality.  
 
Waiting right outside our doors, awaits a world full of people who will play a large role in shaping our children. 
 
Some good.  
Some bad. 
Some great. 
Some horrible.
 
When we are fortunate to find an individual who belongs in the "great" category our hearts rejoice and we scramble to provide as many opportunities for our children to glean from him/her.
 
In 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul is encouraging his young apprentice, Timothy, to be a good example to other believers. He challenges Timothy to "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."  
 
Even Paul, the pastoral father of the early church, understood the importance of having "great" individuals influencing God's children.  
 
That's my heart's cry and challenge for those individuals who step into my children's lives. My hope is that their example is "great" in that it exudes Christ and that my children carefully watch and then imitate their Christ-like behaviors.
 
For me and my children, Aunt Ruth falls into this "great" category. 
 
My boys simply adore her. 
 
Whatever she does, they imitate. 
Whatever she says, they repeat. 
Wherever she is, they would like to be. 
 
Trust me, the leverage her name carries is extraordinary. 
I can get them to do a lot of things by using Ruth as the reward.  
 
If I was ever going to be worried that they might love someone more than me, she would be the one. 
 
So I naturally have to consider what it is about Ruth that makes them adore and love her so.

Here are just a few reasons:

  • She makes everything and every situation like TEN TIMES more fun.  Her energy and zest for life is contagious.  There are very few dull moments when she is around.  Her mere presence makes my children smile and laugh.
 



  • She showers them with creative stuff from extravagant Easter baskets, to the full cast of Sesame Street characters adorning their walls (plug for Cricut), to themed birthday parties decked out in the coolest decor.  She doesn't just swipe her credit card...she takes time and energy to make them things that are sentimental and in-tune to their current hobbies and interests.




  • She is their biggest cheerleader.  She shows interest in their newest endeavors and praises their most recent accomplishments.  Whatever they tell her is the greatest news she's ever heard.  Whatever they give her is the best gift she's ever received.  And whenever they are with her they are the best company a girl could ask for.  She builds them up, up, up, and UP.



 

  • She loves Jesus.  She prays for them regularly.  She reflects Christ to them through patience and genuine love.  She encourages them to trust God.  Her words and actions are aware and protective of their little eyes and what they see and their little ears and what they hear.
 
Her example to them in her speech, in her life, in her love, in her faith, and in her purity is EXACTLY what I desire for my children. 
 
 
Is she perfect?  No. 
 
 
But I trust her with my children because she is a kind, God-fearing woman whose values align with Keith and mine. 
 
You better believe I scramble for opportunities to have her with my children.  There will be a lot of people vying for my children's attention and I'm happy to give Ruth as many moments as she'd like. 
 
I pray there are and will be people in YOUR children's lives like my sister Ruth.   
 
 
Happy Birthday dear sister!  You have been a blessing to ME for 30 years and now to my precious children.
 
 
 
Join me today and pray the following:
 
Jesus, I must trust you with my children for I cannot protect them forever.  I pray that you would bring more and more "great" individuals into their lives like _____________ who will set a Christ-like example to them in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.  I pray for wisdom in knowing who the "great" individuals are and who the "not so great" individuals are.  I pray they would have a handfull of people in their lives whom genuinely have their best interest at heart and love them through Your eyes.
1 Timothy 4:12
 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Using Manners

Manners.
Table manners.
Bathroom manners.
Conversation manners.
Thank You manners.
Holding the Door manners.
Manners, Manners, Manners.

As a mother I feel it is my responsibility to teach my kids to use manners.
 
And if you were giving me a grade, I imagine I'd get a BIG FAT F.
 
Not for lack of trying though.
 
I have become convinced over the past few weeks that I will be reminding my children to use manners for the rest of their lives.  It feels this way, at least. 
 
How many times will I have to remind them to say thank you to the librarian when she gives them a sticker?
 
How many times will I have to remind them to say thank you to the deli worker at Kroger for giving them a FREE cookie?
 
How many times will I have to remind them to close their mouths when they chew?
 
How many times will I have to remind them to ask politely if they could have more dinner or be excused?
 
How many times will I have to remind them not to shove by the 80 year old woman when walking into Target?
 
How many times will I have to remind them to clean the toothpaste spit up off the sink, to wipe the toilet seat of their pee drops, or to give others privacy while using the bathroom?
 
I'm not angry.  I'm just frustrated with their lack of progress.
 
Using manners is probably not THE, or even, ONE of THE most important lessons I will teach my children. 
But, in my opinion, it's a lesson worth teaching.
 
Here's WHY:
 
Jesus said, "Do to others as you would have them do to you."
 
Luke 6:31
 
Ahhh, The Golden Rule.
 
Unfortunately, at this point, the Golden Rule is not a huge motivator for my boys to use manners.  Frankly, they do not really care if someone says thank you to them, closes their mouth while eating, or cleans up their pee off the toilet seat.  
 
YET, I have hopes that eventually they WILL.  And then it will all make sense...
 
"Oh, I get it.  I don't want to sit in someone else's pee, so I shouldn't make them sit in mine. "
 
And this is why I pray today. 
 
I pray that the "eventually WILL" happens sooner than later
 
Join me and pray the following:
 
Lord, I pray that my kids will learn the value of the Golden Rule in relation to using manners.  May their actions be considerate of others and thankful at heart.  I pray the Holy Spirit would gently remind them to do to others as they would have others do to them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stupid and Foolish Arguments

Recently the boys have begun arguing about ridiculous things like:
 
  • Who drank all their water first.
  • Which matchbox car is whose (granted we have like 50 of them).
  • How many pretend basketball points one of them scored.
  • Whether their pretend cat is sleeping or eating.
 
In 2 Timothy 2:23 it says,
 
"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."

So often, the arguments I have to listen to between the boys ARE "foolish and stupid."  And like the Scripture teaches, they do end up in quarrels...in Grayden and Cole's case usually the quarreling involves wrestling on the floor.  Nonetheless, no matter the method of quarreling somebody usually finds themselves hurt physically or emotionally.

As a girl, I'm very familiar with foolish and stupid arguments.  I can remember arguing with the girls I went to school with about stuff that had little to no significance whatsoever. 
 
Those of you ladies reading know what I'm talking about.  The petty drama that girls seem to be magnets to...the arguing that sadly leaves emotional scars for life. 
 
I got into an argument in fifth grade with a girl because she told me by "bun" hairstyle looked funny.  I, of course, disagreed and thought my hair was fantastic and stylin'.  We fought for days about this and I hate to admit it, but even today I still can get angry thinking about it.  Stupid and foolish.

Girls are not the only ones, however.  Just yesterday I read an article about how Dr. Oz is getting sued by his male neighbor for planting trees in his backyard that apparently are blocking his neighbor's view of the New York skyline.  The article was filled with ridiculous statments from both parties that only fueled the foolishness of the argument. 
 
Not trying to take away from their supposed struggle, but I laughed reading the article because it highlighted two grown men arguing about something really silly.

The following verse in 2 Timothy, gives alternative behaviors to arguing.  Verse 24 says,
 
"And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful."

The three alternatives make very good sense to me
 
As Christians,
 
 
We must choose kindness over arguments. 
For kindness reflects God's love. 
 
 
We must choose teachability over arguments. 
For the ability to teach others truth through word and example is completely destroyed by arguing.  No one respects and learns from a hypocrite. 
 
 
And finally, we choose forgiveness rather than arguments. 
For a resentful heart fuels anger, bitterness, and pride.
 
 
Join me and let's pray the following over our children:
 
Lord, I pray that my children would begin to understand the futility of foolish and stupid arguments.  I pray they would mature to the point that they desire to have NOTHING to do with such arguments.  And I pray they would choose kindness, teachability, and forgiveness INSTEAD of quarreling.