Friday, June 28, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Freedom

GUEST BLOG FRIDAY
by Leah

My cousin Leah wrote four guest blogs and sent them to me about  a month ago.  Today's post is the last of the four.  I cannot thank her enough for giving us a window into her praying heart for precious Madison, the young girl she mentors.

And I'd like to thank ALL of you for continuing to pray with me daily for the children in our lives. 

God is good.

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Back again! With more stories of Madison. If you've yet to read about Madison, you can catch up by reading Curious, Sassy McSasspants, and Ditching the One-Dimensional God.

Our best conversations happen when it's just Madison & me in the car. She's not distracted by my possessions in the house, focused on food, or intent on impressing my husband with her antics.

It's just me, her, and the open road. (Well...and whatever trinket she stuffed into her pocket after school. Trash to most of us—treasure to Madison.)

One of the deepest conversations we've had lately started off with a confession.


Madison wanted me to know that she struggles with stealing.

The gravity of her addiction does not escape her. As I said in previous posts, she's terrified of being arrested or even reprimanded by police.

From her body language and tone of voice, I expected her to say she'd been stealing money, iPods, and pretty coats.

"Pencils."

"You steal pencils?"

"Yeah, and erasers. You know how sometimes if you don't have a pencil, you might be embarrassed to ask the teacher for one, so you might steal it?"

You like how she switched the pronouns so that I'm now the thief? This was the moment when I tried to make sure she couldn't see my smile in the rearview mirror.

We actually had a great conversation about God, forgiveness, repeating our sins, praying when temptation knocks, etc.

Still, Madison doesn't totally get it.

She hasn't yet grasped the truth the Paul writes about in Galatians:

Gal 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Though she's progressing in the right direction and tells me she hasn't stolen since our chat, Madison is still shackled by her past.

She is well aware that her biological parents made some mistakes that landed them in jail.

She sees that some of her siblings struggle with stealing (much bigger items than pencils).

And she knows her own imperfections.

The logical conclusion in her eleven-year-old mind is that she is tainted by all of these familial sins. They are part of her, and she's not quite sure how to shrug off the "yoke of slavery".

Freedom is a great word.

We often associate it with America and other good things.

But the freedom of Christ is on a whole other playing field.

It's total. It's precious. It's deep and complete.

And I want Madison to know that freedom and the peace of mind it brings.


Let's pray the following for the kids we love:



God – I just love you. Thank you, thank you for setting me free. Give my kids an awareness of their sins and an understanding that your freedom trumps those sins. May the peace of your freedom give rest to their little minds, and may it eradicate any guilt that plagues them. May they know true repentance, sweet rescue, and total freedom as they "stand firm" and refuse to be "burdened again by a yoke of slavery". Amen, Lord.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Remarkable Faith


When my children have the sniffles, my heart aches for them.
When my children have the flu I long to bear it for them.

I've determined there is no greater pain than watching one's child suffer.

I simply cannot fathom how moms and dads of very sick children endure the heart wrenching pain.

The son or daughter, whom they love THE MOST in this world, is physically suffering & may even be close to death.
This is every parents' worst nightmare and they are living it every day. 

Yet, I have countlessly seen many of these parents continue to trust Jesus in the midst of their hell on earth.

At a time when no one would blame them for struggling to trust God and His sovereignty, they have this REMARKABLE faith.

It is faith so remarkable that even those with absolutely no faith at all, begin to see God.



Yesterday, I watched a mom (via facebook) sing a lullaby to her very sick child.

I don't know this mom personally, but I know that hers is a story of remarkable faith.

A story of a mom whose baby boy is deathly ill, yet she clings to her faith and trust in Jesus.

So much so...that she sings His beautiful name to soothe her precious son to sleep.

Friends, this video will move you.

Because when faith in Jesus trumps all fears...the spirit of man cannot help but to cry out, "Jesus! Jesus!" 

I hope you will take the time to watch it in its entirety.  If you are unable to open this video, I apologize. My pathetic technological skills stump me and I did the best I could to link it correctly. 
 
Baby Caleb

I KNOW some of you who read this blog have children close to you who are very sick..and yet, your faith in Jesus remains steadfast.

May I take a moment to say a few words to you?

Your faith builds mine.  Your most treasured possession on this earth is suffering, yet you remain steadfast and faithful to your trust in Jesus.   Without trivializing that, you must know that it gives ME the strength to endure hardship in my own life, it gives ME the faith to cling to and to trust Jesus in all circumstances, and it makes me praise and glorify God!

You have set an example for the believers..in faith.  [1 Timothy 4:12]

You have stood firm in your faith.  You are men/women of courage.  You are strong.  [1 Corinthians 16:13]

Your faith pleases God, He delights in you. [Hebrews 11:6]

Like Timothy, you strengthen and encourage the faith of others. [1 Thess. 3:2]

You are, as Jesus desired, His "light" before men. [Matthew 5:16]

And..."Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith" in all the "trials you are enduring." [2 Thess. 1:4]

So, "With this in mind, [I] will constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.  [I] pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." [2 Thess. 1:11-12]

I know your struggle is like no other.
I know you grow weary.

But, stand firm in your faith, because God is doing something remarkable through you. 

To my community of prayer warriors, let's lift up those who have children dear to them who are physically suffering.  Let's give God glory for their remarkable faith.  And let's pray that our own children will someday exhibit such remarkable faith in their own suffering and trials.

Jesus,
As the mother's song so beautifully said, You love our children more than we ever could.  So, we pray for the children who are physically suffering today.  May you wrap Your loving arms around them and hold them near.  We pray for their parents whose remarkable faith has remained steadfast in You.  Be their hope, be their strength, fulfill Your every good purpose in them, and may they continue to be Your light in the midst of their very dark trial.  And finally, we pray for our own children.  May they trust You and exhibit remarkable faith in all things.

The Beatitudes

Today's blog lends itself to be INTERACTIVE with the children in our life.
 
The Beatitudes taught by Jesus, during His Sermon on the Mount, are declarations of blessing which encompass 8 virtues Jesus expects ALL Christians to live out
 
And one is declared BLESSED when he/she lives out a virtue to the world around them.
 
Today with our children...

Let's read The Beatitudes.

Let's talk about what it means to be BLESSED.

Let's talk about what each of the virtues mean.

Let's come up with examples of how we can live out each virtue.

And then...Let's pray together for Jesus' help to live them out!
 
Note:  You may have to change certain wordage so that your younger children understand!
 
Set The Stage 
There are crowds of people swarming around Jesus.  So...He climbs a hillside and his disciples climb up after him.  They all sit down (it is probably a lot quieter up there) and He teaches the greatest sermon ever taught.  He begins with the Beatitudes, 8 moral virtues He wants every follower of His to live out.  And the most exciting part is that He calls those who live in the way that he asks...BLESSED!
 
Definition of "Blessed" 

To be blessed means far more than just being "happy" because happiness is an emotion often dependent on outward circumstances.  "Blessed" refers to a distinct spiritual joy only attained through relationship and obedience to Jesus.  To be "blessed" because of Jesus is to have peace and hope regardless of one's circumstances.    
 
The Beatitudes 
Matthew 5:1-12
I give both the NIV & The Message version for increased understanding.
 
Virtue #1
 
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
 
In your own words, what does virtue #1 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?
 
Virtue #2
 
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
 






In your own words, what does virtue #2 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?

Virtue #3
 
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.






 
In your own words, what does virtue #2 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?



Virtue #4
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
 






In your own words, what does virtue #4 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?






 
Virtue #5

7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
 
 7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
 





In your own words, what does virtue #5 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?

 
Virtue #6
 
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
  
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
 







In your own words, what does virtue #6 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?

 


Virtue #7
 

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
 


9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
 
 

In your own words, what does virtue #6 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?

Virtue #8
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.


11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
 
In your own words, what does virtue #8 mean?
Can you give an example of how we could live it out?



And then let's pray with our children...

Jesus, We pray that You would give us Your wisdom and strength to LIVE OUT these 8 virtues on a daily basis.  Make us sensitive to these virtues in all circumstances and help our actions to reflect You and Your perfect love.  And may we receive Your BLESSING of peace and hope as we do what you ask.   



















 
 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

God Disciplines Those He Loves

Disciplining my children is NEVER fun.  
But I do it because I love them TOO MUCH to not teach them right and wrong.


It's the same story with God.  

And one of THE MOST frequent ways God disciplines or corrects me is through a humbling experience.

Pride is almost always at the core of any sin in my life.  It isn't until He allows me to go through a humbling experience and my pride is shattered that I see my sin in a painfully clear way.

Over the past week, I've had several extremely humbling instances as a mom that brought me to my knees before God in humble repentance

They all had to do with wanting my children to "perform" for others.  One instance I wanted them to perform by displaying perfect behavior.  Another instance I wanted them to perform by flaunting their accomplishments. 

In both instances it was all about me.  I wanted them to make me look like a great mom.  I wanted them to earn me the respect of other people.  I wanted their performances to validate my parenting AND boost my mom-ego.

It's honestly difficult to write this.  It's so utterly humbling to admit that I have used my children to build myself up.  So incredibly humbling.

As you can imagine, neither instance went as I had planned or hoped for.  In fact, in both instances I was left looking like a completey cruddy mom.  As control slipped from my fingers, my ugly anger issue reared its ugly head.  I said things to my children that I should not have.  And I looked nothing like Jesus.

I walked away from each instance completely humiliated.  I was regretful of my words and actions.  I wanted to quickly rewind and redo.  My mind began to scramble for a quick fix to repair the damage done to my reputation as a mom AND as a Christian.  I also became utterly defensive in my heart and made pathetic excuses for my behavior.

However, the embarrassment and shame present after both humbling instances were eventually enough to finally bring me to my knees in humble repentance before God. 

I was actually mowing the lawn when this occurred, God couldn't pass up 40 minutes of teachable alone time with me, even if I was cutting the grass.

He tenderly showed me His purposes for these humbling instances...to reveal my sin of Pride AND to remind me of a story from way back in high school.

I played basketball all four years of high school.  My freshmen year, the varsity coach apparently saw potential in me because he started to groom me as a player.  He corrected/disciplined me often.  I can remember vividly having to run line drills after a bad game for every mistake I had made.  He spent time pointing out my flaws and mistakes and then showed me how to improve upon them. 

He viewed me as a valuable player and his discipline was a form of grooming and teaching me to be the player he thought I could be. 

But it all changed my junior year. 
He stopped correcting and disciplining me. 
He stopped pointing out my mistakes from the game before. 
He stopped showing me how to improve. 
He basically ignored me.  

And he didn't have to say it, his actions spoke volumes. 

I knew that the potential he thought he had seen in me didn't play out like he thought it would so he no longer felt like I was worth his time and effort. 

I understood that by not correcting, disciplining, and teaching me he was communicating that he no longer considered me a valuable player. 

I can remember wishing he would discipline me like I saw him do to my other teammates.  I can remember wishing he would point out my mistakes.  Because I knew if he started doing that again, then that would mean he had started valuing me again.

I knew instantly why God brought this life story of mine to mind.  And upon that understanding, the verses in Hebrews 12 came flooding to my mind.   

vs. 5-6 "My daughter, do not make light of my discipline, and do not lose heart when I rebuke you, because [are you listening?] I discipline those I love...

[And Renee,] vs. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it will produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for you because you have been trained by it.

vs. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees." 

[This is a continuation of the call in verse 1 where God uses the analogy of a runner and calls His sons and daughters to throw off everything that hinders...especially the sin that so easily entangles, and to RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE the race marked out for them.]

So what I heard God saying to me was this:


 
"Renee, I understand your humbling experiences this past week were painful.  But, I needed you to see the pride in your heart.  And because I love you and STILL value you as My daughter, I had to correct and discipline you SO THAT I could produce righteousness in You and so that your sin would not entangle you and keep you from running the PARENTING RACE that I have marked out for you.  And know this...I will never STOP disciplining you because you ARE valuable to me and I have a very special race marked out for you as a mom.  You are my daughter and I cannot let your pride continue to entangle you, trip you up, and inhibit you from this."

As I began to understand his discipline in those instances, I repented of Pride in my heart and thanked Him for continuing to value me and for not giving up on me like my basketball coach had.  

Friends, would you pray that God would continue to chip away at the monument of pride in my heart?

And let's ALL pray that our children will learn to understand that God's (and our) discipline is a very sincere demonstration of love for them AND always has a very constructive purpose.

God,
Your love is demonstrated in discipline.  So, as hard as it is to say, I am thankful for Your discipline in my life.  And I thank you for the discipline my children have and will receive from you because it communicates that You love them and that You value them.  With all my heart, I pray they would have teachable spirits and respond to Your discipline with humble repentance.  I pray that through discipline, as painful as it might be, they would be strengthened and able to throw off the sin that so easily entangles them SO THAT they can run the race you have marked out for them.  And I pray that they would understand that You discipline BECAUSE you value and consider them Your precious children. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Let Your Light Shine

Recently, I've had a few conversations with Grayden about how there will not be "God-talk" or prayer when he goes to Kindergarten. 

He has attended a Christian preschool for the past few years where they learned Bible stories and prayed together daily.  So, hearing that there will be none of that in Kindergarten he asks a lot of WHY questions.  I do my best to clearly answer all his questions.

But I also assure him that although his teachers will not be talking about or to God, he still canHe can talk about and pray to God while he is there.  And he can even tell his classmates about his friend Jesus.   

He learned the following Bible verse yesterday in church: 

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

The Message version puts it this way:

14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven."

We spent a little of the car ride home talking about what these verses mean.  It went something like this...

"When Jesus is your best friend and lives in your heart, He is your light.  In other words, choosing to follow Jesus is like turning on His lightswitch inside you.  And other people can see His light in you. 

They see His light when you act as Jesus did/does.  Extraordinarily  

When you show kindness. 

When you consider others first. 

When you give up what you want in order to help someone else.  

When you see and love others with compassion and grace. 

When you forgive someone who does you wrong.   

And the Bible says that when you do these good deeds, the light of Jesus will shine through you and other people will see it...and upon seeing it, they may chose to live lives that glorify Jesus as well."

Let's pray that our children will be the LIGHT OF JESUS in school and elsewhere. 

Jesus, I pray you would you show my children how they can shine Your light to those around them.  Would you grant them courage and boldness to be Your light in preschool, elementary, middle school, high school, college, and beyond.  May their deeds and actions reflect Your love, grace, and forgiveness and TURN the hearts of others to You.  And regardless of where they are and who they are with, I pray they would remain in You and spend their days talking about and to You.  May their light shine before men!  And may You be glorified!!
 

Friday, June 21, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Ditching the One-Dimensional God

I LOVE GUEST BLOG FRIDAY!!!

This is the third post written by my cousin Leah who mentors a young girl (Madison) in her town.  I have been very blessed by her previous posts.  Here are the links to her previous posts in case you'd like to catch up:   CuriousSassy McSasspants   

She writes today about a topic dear to my heart...taking God out of a box and seeing Him as THE awesome, multi-faceted LORD that He is.  I trust you will find her post very applicable when considering how you can pray for the children in your life.

And AS ALWAYS...if you would ever like to guest blog PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do!  All of the readers of this blog, including myself, benefit from hearing the hearts of others when thinking about how we can pray for our children.  If you aren't sure how to contact me, just comment on a post and I'll get back to you.

God bless you friends.


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written by Leah

I'm not a mother yet, but there are plenty of kids that I already adore. And I care very much about their spiritual development. Madison is one of them.

The older I get, the more I realize that the one-dimensional God of my early childhood is actually infinitely multi-faceted. There are new things to discover about Him in all phases of life, and each phase gets sweeter.


Madison's current view of God is pretty one-dimensional: He is loving, but it's from a distance. He's way more focused on giving rules and exacting punishments on the rule-breakers.

Madison's birth parents have both been in jail at one point or another, so this view of God is understandable. She's simultaneously fascinated and terrified by authority figures.

I cannot count the number of times she's asked me, "If you [insert any infraction, big or small], would the police arrest you?" She's nervous that she'll end up in jail like her parents, as if she's automatically inherited their character flaws.

And yet if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, guess what she says? A policeman. (Forget political correctness. She's not going to waste a syllable to say "policewoman".)

I desperately want Madison's view of God to be expanded.

She's got Him pegged all wrong, and sometimes it breaks my heart. But I trust that He'll find ways to reveal more and more of Himself to Madison as she grows up. I trust that eventually she won't view Him as "a policeman".

Let's base today's prayer off of the following verse:


2 Cor 13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Does any other verse speak so well of God's multi-faceted awesomeness? Read these slowly again:


The grace of Jesus.

The love of God.

The fellowship of the Spirit.

I could bask in that all day long. While I bask, you pray:

Jesus, beautiful Lord – I ask today that my kids would be astounded at how little they know of You, amazed at each new discovery of You. Expand their view. Widen their understanding. Give them the gift of uncovering You in fresh ways. And give me the blessing of witnessing these new discoveries: May my child run to me sometime this next week with an exclamation of amazement over You. And of course, since this journey of discovery is never over, I ask You to show me a new side of You today. Sometimes I mistakenly think You are boring. Stale. Old news. As if I already know everything there is to know about You. But I'm so hungry to see You. Remind me that You transcend the parameters of my shallow mind. Unveil yourself, God, even as You open my eyes. Amen.