Friday, August 30, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Protecting Kids From Sexual Abuse

Guest blog Friday!

 
Nicole, a great friend of mine has written today's blog post.  She is a mother of two boys, Jude (4) & Isaac (2).  She also travels the country speaking about sexual abuse and has authored two books on the subject: Hush and Breath

Sexual abuse is a topic I've wanted to write and pray about for some time now and, in my opinion, Nicole is the perfect person to author the topic.

For more information about Nicole and her ministry go to www.iamonevoice.org or visit her blog at www.nicolebromley.tumblr.com

She's the real deal & she loves Jesus!

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As an international spokesperson and author on the issue of sexual abuse and trafficking, I imagine that when Renee asked me to write something on my heart about kids, she knew I wasn't going to write about how to get them to memorize Scripture.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse myself, it is important to me to talk to my kids in ways that always keep them close to me and the heart of God and away from things and people who will hurt them.

One of the best ways we can do all of those things is by simply talking to them.

Talk to the children in your life. Spend time with them. Ask questions.

Get to know them.

One of the most valuable things a parent can do is to take the time to really know their child. Know what they like and don’t like. Know your child’s friends. Know your child’s friend’s parents. Know your child so well that you are attuned to changes.

Kids are not second-class citizens. They are real people, with thoughts, ideas, gifts, talents, fears, humor and unconditional love. I love bedtime with my 4 year old because we often have real conversations that blow my mind. He understands so much more than I often give him credit for; he thinks deeply; he desires wisdom and soaks in information better than I could dream of doing.

Use teachable moments and everyday opportunities to initiate a deeper conversation, such as current news stories or stories they share with you about their friends.

Be patient.

Set a tone of openness. Talking openly and directly will tell your child that it is okay to come to you with questions, fears or confusion; and when your child presents concerns or questions, make time to really listen and talk with them.

Practice talking before there is ever a problem. Be willing to say the hard things, ask the difficult questions, confront red flag behavior. Speak the embarrassing words out loud; you will both become more comfortable using those words over time. Developing a practice of stress-free conversations surrounding tough issues with people (big and small) in your life helps to keep everyone open and honest. Make it obvious to those close to you that you are a good listener, non-judgmental, and will listen to what they have to share, no matter what.

When they ask questions, listen for the question behind the question. Sometimes a child may ask you something with the hope that you will take initiative in moving toward their real question. The child needs affirmation that their questions are okay and that you are willing to be there for them, especially in tough or awkward conversations. They are also testing to see if they can approach you on such subjects.

Who do you feel you can trust? Talk to your children about these people. Give them permission to talk to these specific adults when they feel scared, uncomfortable or confused about someone’s behavior toward them. And let them know that they should always talk to you—even about those you feel are trustworthy—and that you will always listen and love and protect them no matter what.

Don’t keep the family secrets; avoid perpetuating generational curses. Don’t avoid talking about situations or topics that arise in your own extended family or in families you associate with.

Maybe you still don’t feel comfortable talking about tough but important topics with your kids…here are some ideas to help you get started.


-write your child a letter

-make an appointment for you and your child to talk with a healthcare provider or child counselor

-watch a television show together and talk about the characters

-find a book or video on issues of growing up; read/watch it yourself first, then with your child and discuss it



Don’t plan to have one BIG TALK; instead, look for opportunities to have small talks and for special moments when the door opens for deeper discussion or heartfelt questions.

And finally, pray for your kids!


Heavenly Father, I pray for my children. I ask you to protect them from abuse and from those who do evil. I pray that as a parent you would help me to communicate with my kids. Help me to be a safe place for them. God, give me eyes to look beneath the surface and to see the unspoken hurts that might be present in my children, so that they may be spoken and healed. May my arms be open to not only my children, but their friends and to be a place of comfort and care for those who need it. Open my mind to acknowledge that things like injustice, violence and abuse are happening to children and families very close to me; do not let me deny it or live in silence but grant me the courage to be a voice, a listening ear and an advocate for them in their time of need. And, for the children in my life and in my kids' school, church, soccer team, etc, who have already experienced abuse, Lord heal their broken hearts and put their shattered minds and stolen innocence back together. You have the power to make all things new. In Jesus Name.

 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Modern Day Idolatry

On the heels of Hannah Montana's (aka Miley Cyrus) VMA performance, it seemed timely and quite appropriate for me to blog about something I've been wanting to write about for some time now...IDOLATRY.
 
Honestly, I feel a little sorry for Miss Cyrus. 
It seems as though all of the sudden our society grew a conscience.  Apparently the countless women before her who paraded about on stage scantily clad, sexually gyrating in the name of "dance," and setting a wretched example to the children and teenagers in our country have been forgotten.  Am I right? Hers is hardly the first "shocking" musical performance of her kind. 
 
I'll admit.  It is nice to hear that other people found her artistic expression rather crude and horrifying.  But for me, it honestly wasn't too shocking.  Mostly because to be on top in Hollywood these days, with a lucrative idol-like status, one has to get publicity (good or bad).  And getting publicity so often requires a scandal.  So whether or not that was her intension, her publicist is likely thrilled.  In some form or fashion, she (along with her publicist) WILL bank on all this new attention, regardless of its negative undertone.
 
In my opinion, the real lesson to be learned in all this is one about idolatry.
 
A Biblical definition of idolatry is the obessession with and worship of anything or anyone other than The God of this universe.

Our culture's obsession with celebrities like Miley Cyrus is complete idolatry.

Back in Ancient Israel, Old Testament times, idolatry presented itself in the form of images and falsegods like The Golden Calf (Exodus 32), Baals (1 Samuel 7:4),  and Asherah poles (1 Kings 14:15). 
 
Most important, these idols were false and powerless:
 
Psalm 135: 15-18
"The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them."
 
Modern day idolatry may not look the same as Old Testament idolatry.  Most of us aren't building a golden calf and bowing down to it.  But we DO worship powerless and false people and things who and which are incapable of granting us peace, salvation, and love.
 
Here are just a few examples of modern day idolatry:
 
Self-Centerdness:  The worship of self through materialism, vanity, and aggrandizing our success.
 
Money:  Obsession with having more and more of it, often driven by a spirit of entitlement and a lust for power.
 
Glory/Fame:  An almost desperate desire to be on top; an obession with being recognized first, even above others; hungry for the credit; simply looking to outshine everybody else.
 
Gluttony:  Wanting, even demanding, more than we need coupled with a willingness to do whatever necessary to acquire it. 
 
Entertainment:  Giving our precious time to whatever and whomever will drown out our sorrows and boredom; satisfy our lustful hunger for sex, violence, and vanity; and distract us from personal failures and moral indiscretions.
 
Celebrities:  In my opinion, this is our closest comparison to OT idolatry.  Beautiful people adorned with jewels and everything named brand are admired, emulated, and worshipped.  Some practically bow down to these celebrities as though they were a god.  We offer both time & money "sacrifices" by purchasing their products & obsessing over their talents.  We forego our own opinions and selves by buying what they buy, wearing what they wear, saying what they say, acting like they act, and believing what they believe.  
 
To a certain degree, we are all guilty of modern day idolatry.  There really is no question about that.
 
The question that we need to ask ourselves is this:  Do we love Jesus? 

If the answer is yes, then our heart's desire should be to worship Him and Him alone.

We cannot serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24)
  
Jonah 2:8-9 says this,
"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.  But, I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.  What I have vowed I will make good.  Salvation comes from the LORD."
 
No idol or form of idolatry can ever grant us true salvation.
We miss out on the grace and goodness that God has to offer when we settle for and sacrifice to modern day idolatry.
 
Loyal worship requires that our hearts and minds be first, and foremost, centered on God.  Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37)
 
So when we love the Lord with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry.
 
THIS is what I want for my children.
I want their hearts to be so crazy in love with Jesus that they leave no room for idolatry to settle in and wreak havoc in their lives.
 
So...time to pray!
 
Jesus,
You are a jealous God who does not tolerate idolatry.  You have no desire to share us with anything or anyone else.  And rightly so because Your love abounds deeper and resounds truer than any other generic version of love.  You are great and none can compare to You.
 
 
I pray for my children.  May they "flee from idolatry!" (1 Corinthians 10:14).  May they do all that is necessary to "keep themselves from idols." (1 John 5:21).  May they never forfeit the grace that is theirs in Christ Jesus by worshipping falsegods.  Keep them from the poisionous grip modern day idolatry has on the hearts and minds of those who bow to it and worship.  May they see those idols for what they are:  Fake & Powerless.
 
I pray they would love You first, above all things. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Secret Door

Sometimes I hit a wall in parenting.
A big, daunting, and obstructing wall.
The wall represents all that I don't know about parenting.
And I can't seem to find the secret door. 

Should I do this? 
Should I do that?

I read a verse in Proverbs [30:5] this morning that gave me wisdom regarding these walls I often face:

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him."

I know this verse has nothing to do with walls or secret doors.
Yet it does tell me HOW to get through or over the wall.

"Go to my flawless Word Renee.  Within it you will find the secret door.  I am your shield when the wall threatens to come crumbling down upon you.  So take refuge in me and then cuddle in the corner of the safe house that is Me and read my plan for you in the pages of My Word."

Friends, parenting is hard.  There are so many walls we come up against and we often have no idea what we are or should be doing to get through or over them. 

But we can find refuge in God.
And we can find the secret door in His flawless Word.

The same is true for our children.  They can find the secret, flawless plan of God that will get through and over any wall by turning to His Word for answers.

Join me and let's pray!

God,
Your Word is perfect.  When we do not know what to do, You have a flawless plan for us written inside of it.  May our children receive refuge in You as they devour Your Word.  May they find Your secret door to get them through those big, daunting walls that appear when they just don't know what to do or how to do it. 









 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Disrespecting Mom (& Dad)

Last fall as I was waiting for Grayden & Cole's soccer practice to finish, I overheard a conversation between a tween boy (around 11 or 12) and his mother as they were leaving the boy's soccer game and walking back to their car. 

The boy was noticeably angry and upset, likely about his soccer game that had just finished.  His mother said something to him, I wasn't able to make out what she said but I do know her words were gently spoken and her face showed motherly love and compassion as she said them.

What happened next I haven't been able to get out of my head since.

The boy looked at her and violently yelled,

"Shut up B**ch!  I don't want to hear your F***ing voice.  I'm sick of you, you stupid piece of SH**."

It took me a few seconds to register what the boy had said.
I thought, surely this is a joke.  I honestly had the thought that I was on one of those Dateline shows...you know the one where some crazy, unreal injustice occurs and the producers want to see if everyday people will jump in and "do the right thing."  Unfortunately, Dateline wasn't filming. 

It was very much real life.  

I was completely and utterly dumbfounded at the audacity of the boy.  He clearly had no iota of respect for his mother and found it extremely easy to dishonor and verbally abuse her, in public nonetheless.

I felt so sorry for them both.  Sorry for the mother who was visibly crushed, yet not visibly shocked by his words.  Sorry for the son who obviously had so much hurt inside. 

I'd like to say that my first response was to pray for them.  But to be honest, my first response was selfish.

I thought, "What if someday one of MY sons talks to me that way?" 

Even thinking about it, made me sick to my stomach.

Honestly I couldn't even go there and imagine it without my heart & mind consumed with crippling fear.

 
Like I said, I haven't been able to get this scenario out of my head ever since that spring day.  It comes to mind often when I sense Grayden or Cole disrespecting me in even the smallest of ways (Allie's still too little, but I trust it's coming).  Every time I'm instantly gripped with fear and my heart cries out, "Oh God!  I want my boys to respect me.  I would simply crumble if they ever disrespect me as flagrantly and heartlessly as that boy did his mother."

Yesterday changed everything and this whole disrespect thing became very real to me. We were running late for my six year-old Grayden's soccer practice and he was eating a quick snack beforehand.  He was dawdling and messing around with his brother while he ate and I simply reminded him to eat (for the 3rd time).  He violently turned his face toward me and yelled indignantly, "I am mom!"

Wait, what? 
Did that just happen?
I wish I could say I calmly responded with a controlled, reprimanding voice.
But that was not the case.
Instantly that boy's face came to mind, I became gripped by fear which led to uncontrolled ANGER

I yelled back at him something along the lines of "Don't you dare talk to me that way.  I am your mother.  You're to show me respect."

I'm not particularly proud of how I responded.  I need to seek the Lord and ask Him for more control next time.

I wish I could say that Grayden was repentant.  It breaks my heart a little to even write these words, but he never really showed any remorse for how he had talked to me.  He tried to defend it and eventually reverted to indignant silence. 

So, today's blog topic was an easy one for me.

Ephesians 6:1 says,

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'--which is the first commandment with a promise--'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'" [Exodus 20:12; Dt. 5:16]

I read a commentary discussing the meaning behind the word "Honor."  It said, to honor one's parents is to "show filial (devoted or dutifual) affection for them, and reverence and esteem of them, and by yielding obedience to them, and giving them relief and assistance in all things in which they need it; and if honour, esteem, affection, obedience, and reverence, are to be given to earthly parents, then much more to our Father which is in heaven.  [Malachi 1:6 & Hebrews 12:9 speak further to this]

Oh how I pray that my children will honor me as this verse means with esteem, affection, obedience, and reverence.

Yet even more earnestly I pray that my children will honor their Heavenly Father with esteem, affection, obedience, and reverence.

This is an area of parenting that I have great fear.  I have uncertainty and so many questions regarding the best way to teach my children to respect Keith and I.  You better believe that after yesterday, this is a conversation I will be having often with Jesus as the years progress.

But for today, I am drawn to lift it up to my Heavenly Father in prayer.  I am certain He has the answer.

Won't you join me today and pray for the children in your lives?

Father God,  Hebrews 12 teaches that as we are called to submit to our earthly fathers but that we have an even greater call to submit to You, our Heavenly Father.  I pray that my children would submit and honor You with their lives.  I pray they would be obedient to Your will, reverant to Your glory, affectionate to Your Spirit, and that they would esteem You above all else in this world.

I also pray that You would give them a heart for obedience to their parents.  I pray they would show us honor and respect in both private and public settings.  I pray they would revere our council.  I pray they would be affectionate and considerate, as well as, kind to us.  And I pray that their love for You would motivate and inspire them to show honor to us no matter their age.

 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Catching A Glimpse Into God's Heart for Others

At the end of our church service yesterday, while singing and worshipping to a few final songs, there was a little 2 year old boy standing in the aisle next to me.  I did not know him or his parents.  He had curly, short brown hair with beautiful blue eyes.  He was wearing a superman shirt with some Toms shoes.  He was stylin' and as cute as can be.

He looked a lot like this little guy
I watched him bounce up and down and slap his hands on his knee to the beat of the music.  He was smiling and thoroughly enjoying himself.  Slowly, as if drawn, he began inching forward down the center aisle toward the front...where the music was louder and the worship band was easier to see.  He continued his rhythm and dance to the music as he walked. 

As I watched this little boy, the words to the song we were singing began to stir up real emotions for me.  And not for myself, but for this little boy whose name I didn't know.

"His love is deep, His love is wide
And it covers us.
His love is fierce, His love is strong
It's furious.
His love is sweet, His love is wild
And it's waking hearts to life."


Since starting this blog the Lord has, in a new and great way, enabled me to see His desire for the hearts of children.  His desire to know them. His desire to LOVE them. 

There have been a handful  of occasions where I've seen a child, many of which I did not know, and felt so incredible drawn to pray for them.  And in most of these circumstances, I became emotionally moved as I prayed and as I saw God's heart for them...in a sweet, gentle, and very real way.
 
Similarly yesterday morning, my heart became drawn to pray for this boy.  Tears began rolling down my cheeks as I prayed that God's... 
deep 
wide
fierce
strong
furious
sweet
& wild
LOVE would cover him and WAKE his heart to life!

As he inched forward toward the front I was reminded of the words of Jesus,  "Let the little children come to me!" [Matthew 19:14] 

And I prayed that he would; and that he wouldn't just inch his way toward Him, but that he would RUN.

Friends,  I share this story because I am in awe of how God moves in my heart for children. 

As I've prayed for my own children, He's done this GREAT thing and given me a heart for more and more children. God becomes crazy real to me in these moments where He unexpectedly stirs my emotions for another child other than my own...because I know it isn't something I could conjure up on my own. I'm so consumed and emotionally invested in my own children that I've often neglected praying for other children. But I love when God breaks through and gives me a heart for children that don't share my genes.

THIS is what I want for my kids.  I want God, through His Spirit, to give them a glimpse into His heart for those around them.  A glimpse that moves them emotionally and stirs them into prayerful action.  Especially for those who aren't part of their family or whom they wouldn't naturally be drawn to. 

Maybe for a kid at school who is different from them,
maybe for a teacher they aren't particularly fond of,
maybe for a child who is sick,
maybe for a bully,
maybe for a celebrity,
maybe for a athlete,
or maybe for a perfect stranger.

If, and when, our children experience "God moments" like these where they are emotionally moved to pray for someone...I know that God, in those moments, will become even more and more real to them.

So will you join me in prayer,

Jesus, Thank You for those God moments where You give me a special glimpse into Your loving heart for another child other than my own.  May my heart always be open to Your Spirit's drawing in this.  And may I respond faithfully in prayer.

I also pray for my own children today.  I pray that You would begin to stir within their hearts.  Would you give them some of these God moments in which they receive a glimpse into Your love and desire for others, especially for those they wouldn't naturally be emotionally drawn to.  I pray that in these God moments they would faithfully pray for whomever it is You've emotionally drawn them to.  And help me to set an example for them in this by inviting them to join me as I pray for other children. 









Friday, August 23, 2013

Setting An Example

Keith took Grayden out for dessert the night before his first day of Kindergarten for a Man- to-Little Man pep talk. 

They ate chocolate chip pancakes and talked "real life" stuff.
 
Keith threw out school scenarios and they discussed how Grayden could and should respond.  Keith highlighted Grayden's strengths and encouraged him to work hard in school at making them even stronger.  They prayed together. 

And Keith shared and discussed HIS favorite Bible verse as a kid growing up.

1 Timothy 4:12
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

It's possible I've blogged about this verse before...at this point I struggle to remember. :)

Regardless, this is an extremely appropriate verse for school-age children as they begin the school year.

No matter their age, they are MORE than capable of spiritually leading their peers.

They can set an example in their SPEECH...saying words that are coated in respect and flavored with God's love and truth.

They can set an example in their LIFE...acting like Jesus to all their peers, regardless of their popularity.

They can set an example in their LOVE...treating others as God does with great compassion, grace, and mercy.

They can set an example in their FAITH...trusting God in all things, regardless of their circumstances.

They can set an example in their PURITY...walking with God and choosing His way.

Grayden went to his second day of Kindergarten yesterday morning and I wrote that verse on a sheet of paper and slipped it into a clear pouch on the back of his bookbag.

I had him read it to me and then he and I talked more about what it meant...especially in relation to school.

I emphasized to him that this verse is NOT about him being perfect, cause he WILL make mistakes.  "Jesus is awesome, and its just hard to be that awesome." 

But rather it's about living every day in light of God's grace and striving to be a shining light of Christ to those around him"When people see how incredible Jesus is (through you)," I said, "they will want Him to be part of their lives as well.  THAT, is setting an example."

As we drove to school I peered in my rearview mirror and saw him reading the words of that verse off his bookbag and reciting them quietly to himself.  In that moment, I prayed they would sink in, matter to him, and guide him.

To ALL of you reading AND to your precious children...It's Friday!  Another day to reflect Jesus in all that we do.  And another day to set an example and make Jesus irresistable to others!

Let's pray!

Jesus, You ARE irresistable.  But there are countless times I fail to represent You well to my family, friends, even perfect strangers.  Yet as I grow in my faith and relationship with You, I will trust in Your Word that You can use me to set an example for others.  May the words of 1 Timothy 4:12 personally sink in, may they matter to me, and may they guide my every step.

And for my children, I pray their youth would not be a stumbling block to their witness.  But rather, I pray you would show them how to set an example for others in their speech, life, love, faith, and purity.  May their words be flavored with Your love and truth.  May their life reflect You in action.  May they love as You do with compassion, grace, and mercy.  May their faith sustain them in all circumstances and demonstrate the JOY that results in trusting You.  And may they walk purely with you, choosing Your way over and over again.  I pray the words of 1 Timothy 4:12 WOULD sink in and guide them from grade K through grade 12, and even further onto their college years and beyond.





Thursday, August 22, 2013

Favor In The Eyes of Man

 I grew up hearing my parents pray that God would give me favor in the eyes of those in authority over me...my teachers, coaches, bosses, etc.

At the time, I generically understood it to mean that they were asking God to help those people to like me. 

As I grew older and actually experienced this favor they had prayed for, I began to understand the depth of this prayer.

The Old Testament story of Joseph sheds light on the subject.
Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery and forced to serve an Egyptian master by the name of Potiphar.  Yet Scripture says that,

"The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.  Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned." [Genesis 39:2-4]

How did Joseph find favor in Potiphar's eyes?  The LORD was with himJoseph's words and actions brought God's blessings and gave God glory.  Potiphar saw these blessings in the form of prosperity as favor from God in Joseph's life.

So when my parents prayed that I would find favor in the eyes of those in authority over me (especially those who initially did NOT seem to like me), they were praying that those authority figures would see God in my life and look favorably on me as a result. 

Living out godly virtues is one of the best ways for those in authority to see God in our life. 

For Proverbs 3:3-4 says, (italics are my emphasis)
 
"Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
 
bind them around your neck
(like a beautiful necklace for ALL to see),
 
write them on the tablet of your heart
(so that it governs your life). 
 
Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man."

Having favor in the eyes of man, especially those in authority, is good but WHY do we even need or want it?

Two reasons:

1.  God is glorified.  People can see God in and through us.
2.  Favor makes life and work here on earth SOOOO much better.

Simply put, when authority figures don't like us there are continual trials we face.  If you've ever had a boss or teacher who didn't like you, you know what I'm talking about.  It's an uphill battle FOR SURE. 


Proverbs 19:12 states that,

"A king's rage is like the roar of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass."

When an authority figure doesn't like us he/she's actions can terrify and seek to devour us, so to speak, just like a roaring lion. 

Yet here the favor from a king, one in authority, is compared to dew on the grass.  Dew refreshes and revives the grass causing it to grow and flourish.  Thus, the favor from a king to his subjects refreshes and revives them causing their work to grow and flourish.

We want the favor of those in authority over us BECAUSE our work becomes more enjoyable and we prosper in it...just like Joseph.  Not only was he permitted to live in his master's house, he also received a great promotion comprising of better work.  And he got what so many desire from those in authority over them...RESPECT.

Fortunately, there is a catch to all this.  Like Joseph,  God can give us favor in the eyes of man BUT only if we seek and live out His righteousness.


"For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield."
 
Psalm 5:12
 

So what's my point in all of this?

The other day I was listening to Keith share about something great that had happened at work for him.  And I was reminded that one of the most frequent prayers I pray for him is that God would give him favor in the eyes of those in authority over him at work.  As I listened to him that day, I began to clearly see God's many answers to this prayer. 

And so my growing faith has encouraged me to pray this over my children as well.

Depending on their age, your children may have lots of authority figures in their life.  My children are young so they don't have many quite yet, but they do have some and they will eventually have many.  So, I'd like to pray for the authority figures they may currently have and for those they will have in both the near and far future.

Will you join me today? 

Let's lift up our children, no matter how young or old they are, and ask God to give them favor in the eyes of those in authority over them!!

God,

May my children, like Joseph, seek and live out Your righteousness and thus be shielded by Your favor.  Would you give them favor in the eyes of their current and future teachers; their current and future coaches; and their future bosses.  May those in authority over them see Your virtues in and through them; virtues of love and faithfulness.  I pray their words and actions would be a dynamic reflection of You. 

And I pray that as you give them favor in the eyes of their authority figures that you would cause their work and efforts to flourish and grow.  May this favor You bless them with better their life's work and grant them respect.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Defending rather than Deserting One Another

I grew up in a house with one full bathroom upstairs and then a make-shift half-bath in our dungeon-of-a basement.

I wish I had a picture of it, but it looked similar to this.

The half-bath had no sink; just an old, rather gross toilet. 

The door consisted of an old sheet hanging in front for "privacy." 

The floors were cement and the toilet paper just sat on the back of the toilet seat. 

It had no electric light, so it was dark and cold.

And there were lots of spiders.

Altogether, it was pretty much a terrifying experience.

My brother, sister, and I ONLY used that bathroom if we were desperateI have many memories in which I sat in the hallway outside the upstairs bathroom door for a long time, trying to "hold it", waiting for someone to finish.  It was a torturous wait but not as terrifying as going down into the basement and using the half-bath.

In the event that one of us absolutely could not wait for the upstairs bathroom to be vacant, we never went down into the dungeon half-bath alone.  We went as a pair.  It was understood that if one of us asked the other to come down to the dungeon...we went (even if it was inconvenient).  It was a terrifying experience, but seemed a little more bearable with a companion to help us feel brave.

If you grew up with one or more siblings you probably understand and can relate to this story somehow.  

Maybe there was a room in your house that was particularly terrifying to go into and you always pleaded with a sibling to go with you?  

Maybe you never wanted to be deserted, as it grew dark around dusk, and left alone to clean up the toys by yourself?   

Or maybe you simply wanted your siblings with you anytime you were scared or sick?

Bottom LineIt's never especially fun to have terrifying experiences alone.

I've seen glimpses of this already with Grayden and Cole. 

Grayden will ditch and desert Cole outside and Cole becomes visibly upset and scared having been left alone.

Grayden will convince Cole to come downstairs with him in the early morning to retrieve a toy from the dark basement.

Cole wants Grayden to go with him and show him the ropes in situations that are particularly new and terrifying.

Having grown up with the half-bath of terror, I understand their desire to want each other around when they are afraid.

The other day while reading the Gospel of Matthew I read a verse that inspired this post.  Just as Jesus was being arrested, after having been betrayed by his disciple (and friend) Judas, the Scripture says,

"Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." [Matthew 26:56]

I'm sure I've read this verse dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.  But on this particular day it stuck out to me.  Here Jesus is experiencing the start of what he knew to be a terrifying death and ALL his friends (whom he loved) desert him.  Excuse my french, but "Yikes!  That really sucks."

On occasion my brother or sister would bolt up the basement steps and desert me while I sat on the toilet of teror in the basement.  I would scream and yell for them to come back.  I became angry and even more terrified. 

Jesus understood my terror...on a much greater scale.
Jesus understood what it felt like to be deserted by those he loved and called friends....on a much greater scale. 

You're probably thinking that Jesus, the God of the Universe, didn't need his disciples so why does it matter if they deserted him.  Yes, you're right!  But it had to have hurt him.  And the terror of what He was about to experience on the cross had to have seemed even more daunting as he stood their alone. 

Jesus overcame his fear of death because He received strength from the Father.  The same is true for me and my children.  We CAN overcome even the most terrifying of circumstances with only the strength and courage that God Himself gives us.  

But wouldn't it also be so much better if we have a friend, even a community, who are with us as well.  For Ecclesiastes 4:12 teaches, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves." 

Therefore, when fear threatens to overcome us, we first and foremost need Jesus, but Scripture is also clear that having someone else along to help defend us is important as well.

So I want to pray that our kids wouldn't desert each other (nor their friends) when they face terrifying situations.  I'd love for them to gain perspective thinking about Jesus and how He must have felt being deserted by ALL His friends.  And I'd like to see them defend each other when one feels overpowered by fear.

Jesus,  You understand how it feels to be deserted in a terrifying circumstance.  Yet, Father God gave You all the strength necessary to endure and overcome Your fear.  Similarly, I pray that when my children experience circumstances that are particularly terrifying that they would first find strength and courage in You.  Would you be their refuge in times of trouble and fear! 

And I also pray that you would make them empathetic to each other and others who are experiencing terrifying situations.  May they not desert their friends and family in those scary moments, but rather come alongside them and help to defend them.  Vice-a-versa, would you bring friends and family into their lives who won't desert them, but rather will defend them when they are facing fearful situations as well.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First Day of Kindergarten

THE DAY has arrived.
A day I'm certain I will never forget.
At 8:05, Keith and I will take Grayden, our firstborn, to his first day of Kindergarten.

My heart is torn between sadness and joy. 
I tear up even writing these words. 
Today is tough for me.

And my mind has hundreds of thoughts racing through it.
Many of which wish this day wasn't here yet.


However, there is one thought in particular that keeps rushing in like a flood:

"Please Jesus, keep him near, hold him close.  Lead him. Empower him.  Be his everything." 

For those of you sending older kids off to school again, you may laugh a little at us newbie Kindergarten parents.  Yet, I'm sure you remember

You remember the reality that the TIME IS HERE and your precious little baby is growing up and ready to enter "the world." 

A world where you will slowly lose more and more control. 

A world where your voice is set up against countless others.

A world where your baby must learn to thrive and survive on his/her own. 

A world where you must trust that the God who created the ends of the earth, who can measure the waters in the hollow of His hand, who never grows tired or weary, and whose understanding no one can fathom is with your sweet baby every little Kindergarten step he takes.  [Isaiah 40]


This, my friends, is the truth that I cling to this day. 

I will survive today because my faith reminds me that Grayden is His.  I receive strength in knowing that my GREAT God loves Grayden more than I do.

Yet, I still feel drawn to pray protection over him.  Specifically, that he would NOT be deceived by anything or anyone that sets itself up against the knowledge of his GREAT God.  

The "world" is full of enticing pleasures and ideas that are contrary to Jesus and His teachings.  Grayden will have to face them, sift through them, and make a willful determination to trust them or to trust Jesus

At the end of Romans, Paul urges the believers to be cautious about people and ideas that are contrary to Jesus and His teachings.  His words of caution are my words of caution for Grayden as he enters "the world."  

Romans 16:17-19
[the italics are my own personal changes]

"I urge you, Grayden, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus that you have learned.  Keep away from them.  For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.  By smooth talk and flattery they may attempt to deceive your innocent mind.  I am full of joy over your obedience to Jesus thus far; but I want you to become even more wise about what is good, and even more innocent about what is evil."

While I know that ultimately it will be Grayden's choice to trust Jesus, I still feel pressed to bring this concern to God...to lay it at His feet...and to ask that He would be greater than any obstacle or person who will inevidably attempt to deceive and steer Grayden away from trusting in Him.

So join me today and let's cover our school-age babies in prayer as they head off into the world!

Jesus,

I find sustaining comfort in being reminded that You are the God of this universe.  I rest assured knowing that if you can measure the waters of this earth in the hollow of your hand then You are more than GREAT enough to hold my children close as they head off to school.  I am strengthened, knowing that You can be (if they let You) their endless hope as they enter this everchanging and often, godless world.

I pray that they would be cautious to teachings that are contrary to Yours.  Would you give them discernment to sift through those ideas that are smooth and full of flattery?  And may all that remains be Your truth.  I pray they would keep away from and avoid those people whose ideas serve their own appetites rather than Yours.  And I pray that my children would grow wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil.  May their wisdom for good help them to serve You faithfully.  And may their innocence of evil keep them from the painful entanglement of sin.







Monday, August 19, 2013

Talking To God

As my children grow older and spend more and more time away from home (and me), I often long for them to return from wherever they've been and TALK TO ME.

I want to hear about their experience.
I want to know the ups and downs.
I want to answer their questions.
I want to be part of their lives as they grow more and more independent.

As Grayden heads off to Kindergarten tomorrow and Cole to Preschool in a few weeks, one of my rooted fears is that they will cut me off from this part of their lives.  That when I ask, "How was your day?"...I'll get some generic response like, "Fine." 

Now I'm realistic (and not too controlling), I don't expect them to tell me every single detail about their day.  But I would love to hear about the important stuff.  The stuff that matters to them. 

If something funny happened, I want to laugh with them.
If something awesome happened, I want to rejoice with them.
If something frustrating happened, I want to encourage them.
If something scary happened, I want to do what I can to calm their fears.
If something confusing happened, I want to help them sort it out.

I've taken this concern, or fear, of mine to the Lord on several occasions in the past few weeks.  And every time I have felt like He responds with, "I get it Renee."

Because although God CAN see everything that happens in my children's lives and is always with them, He too longs for Grayden and Cole to TALK TO HIM.


He longs for them to pray to Him all the time.
[1 Thessalonians 5:17].

His hope is that they would be completely devoted to Him through prayer.
[Colossians 4:2]

Instead of bottling up emotion and allowing fear to boil within them, He so desperately wants to hear about their fears and grant them His outstanding peace.
[Philippians 4:6]

His heart's cry is that they would pray to Him on all occasions and with all kinds of prayers and requests. 
[Ephesians 6:18]

So although I still desperately want to hear from their own mouths about their life away from home, I've found myself praying first and foremost that my boys would actively and continually pursue communication with God

Because there is this peace that washes over me when I think about them talking to God. 

One result of this blog is that I know firsthand the strength, wisdom, and peace that He gives when we talk to Him. 

And as I've spent 7 months diligently praying for my children, I know with even greater certainty that He is the best parent my children have. 

Unlike me, He always has an answer. 
Unlike me, He loves them unconditionally and never loses control. 
Unlike me, His grace and forgiveness are enough. 
Unlike me, He knows exactly how to discipline them. 
Unlike me, He sees their every strenth and has a perfect plan for them. 
And unlike me, His strength is sufficient in their weakness. 

So today, let's pray that our children talk to God often.

I love the following quote about prayer.  I find myself praying its words over my children:

Natural ability and educational advantages do not figure as factors in this matter of prayer; but a capacity for faith, the power of a thorough consecration, the ability of self-littleness, an absolute losing of one's self in God's glory and an ever present and insatiable yearning and seeking after all the fullness of God. E.M. Bounds

Yes, Lord!  I pray my children would insatiably yearn and seek after all Your fullness by praying to you often with great faith.  I pray they talk to You on all occasions and with all kinds of prayers and requests.  May they talk to You about their fears and questions, their highs and lows, their successes and failures, about it all!   And no matter how much of it I actually get to hear, I will put my trust in You because You are their greatest source of knowledge, hope, love, and grace.