Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Lesson On Forgiveness

Sometimes I am blinded to how wonderful the forgiveness I have in Christ truly is.  I take for granted, even forget, that I serve a God who is full of grace and mercy.  And then I see an image of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness in the flesh and, like a blind man who regains his sight, I see clearly and vividly what has been right in front of me all along.

A little over a month ago on a lovely afternoon, I was driving to my neighbor Liz's house to drop off her son.  He had joined my kids and I on a fun excursion to Chuck E. Cheese that morning.  As I pulled into her driveway, two of her kids and another boy from across the street were playing out front.  It was nearly lunch time so I didn't have plans to drop in and say hello.  Instead, I thanked her son for joining us and he let himself out of my van.  Before reversing out of her driveway, I rolled down my window and asked all the kids to stand in front of my van where I could see them.  Looking in front of me I counted heads to make sure each kid was accounted for.  I even checked my rear view mirror multiple times.  All clear.  So I slowly backed out of the driveway, keeping my attention on the four waving hands in front of me.

As my back tires reached the street there was a THUMP.  I quickly counted the waving hands in front of me again.  All four were accounted for.  I must have hit the curb, I thought.  But as my front tires reached the street I saw something in front of me lying on the ground: a little dog. 

I looked up and the four waving hands stopped and pointed in horror.  "Cappy!" they cried.

I quickly parked my car on the side of the street and jumped out. 

Friends, this was a sight I will never forget.  The dog was still alive.  I heard his moans.  There was blood.  And their were tears and cries coming from the kids. 

I was scared and shocked.  For a brief moment I was completely frozen.  But the thought, "What do I do?" came rushing into my mind.

Before I had time to think of an answer I saw my other neighbor Kelly, from across the street, running out of her house.  It was her Cappy.   A dog she's had for more than a decade.  As I saw the horror and pain on her face, my heart began to ache. 

What have I done?

"Kelly I didn't see him," I said.  "I'm so sorry.  I didn't see him."

What followed is sort of a blur.  I instructed the kids to go inside to Liz's house.  Kelly came running over to Cappy and asked me, "What should I do?"  I had no answer.  She ran inside her house to call the Vet.  I ran inside Liz's house to check on the kids (my own were still in the car watching all of this).  The kids were all crying and huddled around Liz as she prayed.  I stood there unsure of where my place was.  "Go be with Kelly," Liz kindly says. 

Frankly, that was the last place I wanted to be.  I was aching for Kelly.  I had caused her deep pain.  Reluctantly, I mustered up the courage to run back out, only to watch Kelly wrap Cappy up into a towel and head to her own car.  I ran over knowing there was nothing I could really do at this point.  She laid Cappy into her car and gave me a few instructions to relay to Liz about her son (who had watched the accident) and her baby girl who was already with Liz.  Then she drove off.  I stood there motionless, sorrow and guilt washed over me. 

What have I done?

I went into Liz's house again.  She was still in a prayer huddle with the kids.  I gave her Kelly's instructions.  Liz, with kind eyes and a compassionate voice asked me to stay.

"I have to go," I said.  Tears were welling up.

I ran back out and got into my car.  As I closed the door, the tears burst out of me.  My own kids began asking me questions.  I couldn't answer them.  Guilt consumed me and I just sobbed. 

I drove home and for the next hour I was a wreck.  I ran the scenario back through my head dozens of times.  Each time I never saw the dog.  I tried to perform my motherly duties.  I sobbed through them all.

Then the phone rang.  I saw Kelly's name on the screen.  I tried to collect myself and with shaking hands I answered. 

What followed is a conversation I will remember for the rest of my life.  Full of mercy, grace, and forgiveness Kelly tenderly processed the horror of it all with me.  Cappy was gone.  Death is hard, but death is really hard when you're responsible for it.  Yet, I felt so incredibly loved by Kelly.  Her words were full of grace and forgiveness as she said to me, "I forgive you Renee."

And in that moment, I saw Christ on the cross.  I saw His unmerited grace and forgiveness for me in a way I had never seen it before.  So clear.  So vivid.  And I felt deeply loved.

In the flesh, Kelly was an image of Christ's love for me.  I didn't deserve her grace and forgiveness, yet she freely gave it.

In the week that followed, Kelly poured more and more grace on me.  Never once was she angry, bitter, or accusing.  We both grieved, but she didn't let me grieve alone.  She processed with me. She prayed for me.  She checked up on me. 
Friends, I was and am deeply sorry for what I did.  I ache in my heart for the hurt I caused.  Yet, I've felt so loved.  Through Kelly, God has opened my blind eyes to how perfectly He loves me and how perfectly He forgives me.  His grace and mercy have tenderly washed over me.  My heart is overflowing with thankfulness for the undeserved redemption and forgiveness I have in Christ.

Ephesians 1:6-8
"to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."

This story doesn't end here.  A few weeks later I had an opportunity to show grace and grant forgiveness to someone who had "hurt" me.  I won't go into great detail.  It wasn't to the degree of the hurt I caused Kelly.  But while I did experience hurt, my hurt was completely overshadowed by the memory of Kelly.  I knew that if Kelly could so graciously forgive me for killing her precious dog, then I must forgive this hurt.

The words of Jesus trumpeted in my ear, "Shouldn't I have mercy on my fellow servant, just as God has had on me?" [Matthew 18:21-35]

As I think about my kids I long for them to vividly see God's grace and forgiveness in their own lives so that they can freely forgive others.

A few weeks after I killed Cappy, I saw Kelly's Kindergartner who wasn't there that day.  I had taken a loved one from this little girl.  I was anxious seeing her.  I wondered if she'd be scared of me or angry with me.

Yet the first thing she says to me is, "I'm sorry you ran over Cappy with your car Ms. Renee.  I'm sorry you're hurting."

That my friends is the gracious and forgiving heart I so desperately want my own children to have. 

Let's pray.

Thank you for the undeserved grace you have extended to me.  Thank you for loving me regardless of who I am or what I've done.  Thank you for granting me Your perfect forgiveness.  Today I pray and ask that You would open the eyes of my children to the redemption and forgiveness of sins that You have freely given them.  I pray it would wash over them.  May they know Your love in all its fullness of mercy.  And may that knowledge in turn give them the courage and strength to love others with gracious and forgiving hearts. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Others Centered Hearts in a Self-Obsessed Culture

Recently I had a very bad day.  So bad in fact, that by lunchtime I was literally sobbing as my children sat near and watched.  I'm talking the kind of crying where you can barely catch your breath.  You should know that this isn't something that happens frequently.  I don't think my kids have ever seen me cry so desperately. 

Yet, their response was selfish and inconsiderate.  As I'm crying my boys very frankly (and coldly) ask, "When are we going to eat lunch?"  There was no, "Mom, are you okay?"  Or, "I'm sorry your sad."  They didn't draw near to give me a hug.  There wasn't one iota of consideration for me.

In the moment, I was so angry with them.  So as to not explode on them in anger, I simply asked them to give me space and leave the room.  As time went on and I thought about their response to my sadness, I became greatly disturbed.

I began to ask myself, "Where have I failed that my children could be so cold and selfish to me in a moment of great sadness?  Have I taught them this through my own behavior?"

For me, this life event has spiraled into a deep longing for God to break through and change the selfish hearts of my kids.  I have been praying and asking for wisdom on how to raise kids with others centered hearts in our self-obsessed culture.   

The dictionary defines self-obsessed in this way:  The act of being constantly preoccupied with the thought of yourself and everything in this world that involves you or should involve you. 

I look at my children and pray that they won't live self-obsessed lives. 

I look at myself and pray that I won't live a self-obsessed life.

The saving grace is that God was and is wise to our self-obsessed nature.  Hence the reason He sent Jesus to demonstrate a perfectly others centered heart. 

Jesus taught in Luke 6:31 to "Do to others as you would have them do to you."  Ironically, our self-obsessed nature knows exactly how we want to be treated.  God knew and knows this, which is why He chose to articulate His command in this way.

Jesus also calls each of us to "love others as well as you love yourself." Mark 12:31

Teaching our children to treat others the way they want to be treated and to love others the way they want to be loved is a tough job.  Especially in our self-obsessed culture where our children are taught to "Do what's best for you" and to "Think of yourself first." 

However, as I've prayed and reflected on this I've been encouraged to start simple.  The idea being that if they learn to think of others in small ways, they will begin to think of others in more substantial ways.

I believe that God has shown me that a simple start to teaching our children Jesus' commands is to teach and train them to be considerate in small ways.  A considerate individual thinks of others and considers how his/her words and behaviors affect others.

For example, below is a short list of small ways my children are regularly inconsiderate (and ultimately, self-obsessed):

Pooping in the toilet and leaving it there for all to see.
Running sticky, filthy hands all over the wall as they walk upstairs to wash them.
Leaving blue crusted toothpaste splat all over the bathroom sink.
Dripping pee tinkles on the toilet seat and floor with no thought to cleaning it up.
Tossing clothes to and fro while changing.
Wiping their snot on anything and everything besides a Kleenex.
Shoving by people (like their sister or a sweet old woman) on their way to get to where they apparently really need to go.
Handing me (aka The Trashcan) their trash.
Talking while someone else is talking.

In the past my response to one of these inconsiderate behaviors sometimes included a sarcastic and exasperated remark like: 

"Again?  You've got to be kidding me."  Sigh.
"Are you seriously doing that?" or "Did you seriously just do that?"

But lately, I've sought to be wiser in how I respond.  I want them to understand how their behaviors are affecting others.  So I've started responding with one of the following questions: 

"When you do that, who are you thinking of?"
"When you do that, who are you loving?"

You see, I don't mean to patronize or belittle my kids.  And I understand that some of these inconsiderate behaviors are the result of immaturity.  But they are nonetheless, selfish.  So I need them to see how their self-obsessed nature is motivating inconsiderate behavior in small ways.  And I need them to see that when they behave inconsiderately in those small ways, they aren't treating and loving others as they want to be treated and loved. 

Ultimately, a shift from a self-obsessed heart to an others centered heart can only be accomplished by the Spirit's power...sifting and refining them from the inside out.  So I understand that my teaching and training is limited. 

However, I am reminded that God instructs us to train up our children under His Word:  "Teach them (God's commands) to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:19

So, I'll start in small ways and pray that the Spirit will transform their hearts in a big way.

Let's pray friends! 

By Your Spirit, will you transform my children's self-obsessed hearts to hearts that are others centered.  I pray they would love others as well as they love themselves.  I pray they would treat others with the consideration, respect, and love that they want to be treated with.  When people around them are hurting or in need, may they see them and love them with Your heart and with actions that imitate Your character and will.  And Lord, give me wisdom as I teach them Your commands about being others centered, even in small ways.  Grant me patience and endurance to be faithful to teach them Your ways wherever we are and in whatever we are doing. 



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sibling Arguing

During the first 4 years of marriage, my husband and I rented a house near a very active train track.  Our house was about 5 houses down from the junction passing where the conductor, by law, had to blare his/her horn multiple times to warn drivers on the road of the train's arrival.  I would estimate that roughly 15 trains a day would rumble across the track blaring their horns loudly and repeatedly.  

For some families who live near railroad tracks, they can grow almost fond of a train's lullaby rumbles.  This was never the case for us.  From the day we moved in to the day we moved out, we never got used to the booming and shrilling sounds of the trains.  Probably because the sounds weren't lullaby-like rumbles, rather they were heavy metal-like shrilling vocals and guitar playing.  Imagine being abruptly awakened from peaceful sleep three to five times a night to a heavy metal concert blaring in your ear.  Trust me, it wasn't ideal.    

If you're a parent of two or more children, the sounds of sibling arguments and fighting throughout the day can be like the sounds of those trains I too frequently heard those early years of marriage.  Booming, shrilling, heavy-metal type sounds that you just never get used to.

I have to believe that at least some of you know what I'm talking about.  Perhaps the sounds aren't as frequent as those trains my  husband and I used to hear, but they are more frequent than you and I would like.  And there is simply nothing soothing about the sound of sibling arguments. In fact, for me, that sound is one of the most grating and exasperating sounds I hear on a regular basis (other than, "Mom, someone peed all over the floor again").

While my children do have wonderful moments of fair and cooperative playing each day (Praise the Lord!), they do argue and fight often.  And so, I pray frequently to the Lord asking for His wisdom and grace as I parent through argument after argument.

Over the weekend, I spent time at a biblical counseling conference and felt the Lord speak directly to me through one of the speakers regarding this issue of sibling arguing.  The speaker encouraged us to ask ourselves (or our counselees) the following question when we are smack dab in the middle of an argument (justified or not):

Which is most evident: 
the disagreement or my godliness?

A compelling and thought provoking question, isn't it?  I love how it challenges us to look at our arguing from an outside perspective.  And I also love how it doesn't diminish the fact that sometimes arguments are necessary (as in the case of fighting for justice or truth). 

As I thought about this question in regards to my kid's arguing with each other, I saw very clearly that their disagreements are usually exceedingly more evident than their godliness (even in arguments that are necessary). 

So if I may, I'd like to share with you a few reflections God has given me this evening as I spent some time with Him regarding this question and issue of disagreements amongst my kids. 

The definition of godliness in Scripture is simply a devotion to God.  And devotion to God is defined as a wholehearted attachment and loyalty.  It is saying "Yes!" to God and "No!" to our fleshly-selves as well as the world around us.

Therefore our godliness (or devotion to God), when authentic, should therefore be very evident in disagreements with others.  For example, there should be evidences of the fruits of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 

The following verse gives us more wisdom:  

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these [God's glory and goodness] he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith....godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love."  2 Peter 1:3-4, 5a, 6b, 7

Here's are 4 truths that I believe this Scripture can speak to our children regarding arguing and fighting with their siblings:

1. God's power in our children (who've through faith trusted in Jesus) will give them whatever they need for life and godliness. 

2.  Because of God's glory and goodness they have been given the promise of a Counselor, a Spirit of truth in them and with them always. 

3.  This Spirit of truth will teach them all things (like how to respond to and reconcile arguing), give them peace (as they live life and play with their siblings), and give them strength to escape sin in their arguments (like pride, anger, a vindictive spirit, etc).   [John 14:16-17; 26-27; Romans 8:26] 

4.  Thus, my kids should be making every effort to add to their faith godliness; and to godliness, a warm hearted affection called brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  The outgoing, selfless kind of love that leads one to sacrifice for the good of another (like a sibling).   

Before we officially pray, I'd like to compel you to examine your own arguing.  God spoke very clearly to me in my Spirit that if my children are to trust and live by what God's Word says about their arguing, then I must set an example for them in my own life when it comes to arguing.  I must ask myself:  Is my devotion to God more evident than my disagreements? 

As my children look at my disagreements, what do they see? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with my husband? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with their teachers?  

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with my pastor or other believers? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with other family members? 

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with another driver on the road?  

Do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with non-believers? 

And finally, do they see my godliness when I have disagreements with them?

I've found myself humbly seeking God's forgiveness this evening because friends, I know my godliness isn't always more evident.  And while I am not called to perfection, I am called to a progressive process of sanctification!  And I gently and lovingly say the same is true for you.  So let's hear and live out the four truths of 2 Peter 1!

It's time, let's pray for our sweet babies and their relationships with each other!

Lord Jesus,

As my children seek You, I see you revealing Yourself to them more and more.  Thank you Jesus that You are a God who longs to know Your children personally.  Thank You for giving them Your Spirit of truth to teach them all things for life and godliness.  And so Lord today I pray that Your words in 2 Peter 1 would begin to reign true in their lives regarding sibling arguing.  Would you reveal Your heart to them in their sibling relationships?  Would you give them peace and the strength to escape sin as they live and play with each other.  And will you help them Lord to add to their faith godliness, a wholehearted detachment and loyalty to You, that motivates them to act with brotherly kindness and selfless love toward one another. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Daily Morning Prayer as Our Kids Head Off to School

Like many of you, I pray with and for my kids each morning before they head off to school.  And, like many of you, I want those daily prayers to be more directed than just the common, "have a safe, fun day" kind of prayer.  I want to pray God's truth and life over my kids.  I want to, as a family, give God creative control over every aspect of the day.  I want to ask for the things that God wants for my kids.

So the big question is: What should we pray each morning before our kids head off to school out of our care and control?

As I've spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on this question, I've found the perfect answer (and words) in His Perfect Word. 

I thought I would share with you the core elements of what I've begun to pray each day.  I hope they will be encouraging and helpful to you as you daily pray with and for your kids as well.

First, I (we) ask for protection over them. 

I mirror Jesus' prayer for believers in John 17:15, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."

Second, I (we) commit each day to Him.

"Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans...In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:3,9

The Message version puts it this way:  "Put God in charge of your work, then what you've planned will take place....We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it."

The word commit literally means to "roll" the burden of care upon God, to cast upon Him our desires and intentions for the day (1 Peter 5:7).  It is a clear picture of surrendering the whole day to His control.  The verse then promises that when we give the LORD our works and our day, His purposes and plans are established in and through us. 

Third, I (we) pray they would know Jesus personally with ever-deepening intimacy each day.
"What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith."  Philippians 3:8-9
I love the life-giving truth of these words.  Nothing else matters but knowing Jesus.  As parents, we cannot demand spiritual perfection from our kids. Why?  Because God never demands perfection.  "Untainted morality vanished with Eden." (Swindoll)  Our children are saved by grace, not by works.  No amount of good works or spiritual disciplines will make them holy.  Thus, their only duty as followers of Jesus is to know Him. 
So in the words of Charles R. Swindoll, "If they read Scripture, pray, meditate, journal, or fast, let them do it for the sole purpose of knowing His mind.  If they worship, serve, partake of communion, or spend time in the company of believers, let them learn about Him through His transforming work in others.  If they feed the poor, defend the weak, comfort the lonely, or proclaim the gospel to a broken and needy world, let their walking in His sandals give them firsthand knowledge of His character.  Let every trial or triumph bring them closer to knowing Christ's nature and to understanding His purpose."

Fourth, I ask God to daily transform them into His likeness.  A fancy theological term for this is to sanctify.  Again I pray the words of Jesus, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."  In laymen's terms, Jesus was praying that we would become like Him.

2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks to this, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

As our kids come to know Jesus more personally, the Holy Spirit will do what only He can do:  make them more like their Savior.  "As the moon reflects the light of the sun, yet has no light of its own, so our kids will shine with God's radiance as they live in proximity to His Son." (Swindoll)


My daily morning prayer for my kids has become empowered by these four core elements.

So whether or not you join me daily in praying these core elements over your kids, will you join me today and pray them?

Lord Jesus,

As my kids head off to school today, will You protect them from the evil one.  Keep their bodies and minds from evil, may Your life-giving truth be their refuge and strength.  And I surrender their day to You.  Enable them through Your Spirit to put You in charge of their day.  As they roll the burden of care upon You for this day, thank You that your plans and purposes will be established in and through them.  I also pray they would know You with a deeper intimacy today.  May they learn to seek only You in all things.  And as they come to know You more intimately, may Your Holy Spirit do its sanctifying work and begin to transform them into Your likeness so they will radiate You to the world around them.    

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The TRADE of a Lifetime

Growing up, my sister and I regularly turned our beds into a sort-of marketplace.  I would spread across my bed any possessions of mine I was willing to part with.  My sister would do the same.  Then we would spend the next 30 minutes or so trading our possessions.  She would give me 2 erasers for my purple pencil.  I would give her my key chain for her necklace.  You get the idea. 

Once in awhile she would offer me a downright bad trade, like a McDonald's straw for my favorite chapstick.  After making it clear I wouldn't make such a terrible trade, she would then try to convince me with a clever pitch.  Something that would have sounded a lot like this: "Renee, this is an AWESOME straw.  Look at the red line going through it.  It's one of the best straws in my collection."

Momentarily I might get caught up in her clever pitch and think, "Maybe this straw is awesome.  That red line is pretty nice.  And I would own her best straw." 

Don't worry.  I usually got out from underneath this nonsense and came to my senses, remembering that there is nothing awesome about a straw from McDonald's. 

Like my little sister and the McDonald's straw, the world cleverly pitches some horrible trades. 

Creams assured to erase fine lines and wrinkles in exchange for a lot of our money.

Popularity via social media in exchange for our privacy and personal rights.

Success and power in exchange for our time and talents.

Laughter and entertainment in exchange for any morals we might have left.

Love and companionship in exchange for our hearts.

The trouble is the creams can't combat the curse of aging,
the popularity is short-lived and shallow,
the success and power are unfulfilling and easily lost (not to mention our talents no longer feel like gifts),
the laughter and entertainment act only as a bandaid to our emotional wounds,
and the love and companionship is conditional, selfish, and heart-breaking.

None of these trade deals are good.  Perhaps for a time they appear to be, but in the end we see them for the empty-nothings that they are.

Several years ago I mentored a young high school girl.  She was beautiful and talented, but she had a ton of difficulty in her life (especially in her family).   As a result, she had really low self-esteem.  In the two years I spent time with her, she never saw herself as the treasure she truly was. 

I can remember sitting at a restaurant one day with her listening to her share about a recent date she had gone on. 

"He took me to the movies," she said. 

"Oh yeah.  Did you have a good time with him?"

"It was ok."

I could tell there was something she wasn't telling me.  I asked a few more questions and she finally came out with it.

"He was sweet to me.  He gave me attention.  Then halfway through the movie I knew what he wanted...so I gave it to him."

She went on to tell me how she "put out" (her words).  She told me what she did to him and what she let him do to her in the darkness of a movie theater. 

This wasn't entirely shocking to me.  I knew she struggled with healthy physical boundaries in relationships with guys.  It was something we had talked a ton about.

"Why did you put out?" I asked.   "I can tell by the way you talk about it that you really didn't want to."

"He paid for my movie.  I owed him."

While I wasn't shocked by her actions, her reason left me speechless.  It was as if she and this date of hers had played the same kind of trading game my sister and I used to play.  He gave her some "sweet" attention and a movie ($8.50), she gave him physical pleasure (i.e. her physical self and her hopeful heart).  And in the end she knew it was a crappy trade, a McDonald's straw kind of trade.  I saw it in her face and heard it in her voice.  And she knew with even more certainty when he never called to take her out again.

Here's my point:  I don't want my children to succumb to the world's clever pitches, and trade themselves for the empty-nothings the world has to offer.  I've traded parts of myself for a few of these empty-nothings and so I know how crappy they truly are. 

But I've also made the best trade of all.  I've taken the gift of love, grace, and life from Jesus Himself in exchange for my whole heart, the deepest parts of my soul, and all my mind.  Ours was a costly, and highly valuable deal for both parties.  But friends, it's been the deal of a lifetime.  And I'm not just feeding you "Sunday School Bull Crap."  I'm genuinely and sincerely saying it was a really good deal.

Jesus has breathed life into every facet of my being and none of the world's trade offers could ever compare.

I so desperately desire for my kids to go the marketplace with Jesus and say YES to His trade offer.  And I suspect if you are reading this you likely feel the same about your own kids.  So let's pray God's Word over them concerning this.

Lord Jesus,

You said that You came so that we "might have life and have it to the fullest" (John 10:10).  I pray my kids would choose life with You.  I pray they would love You as You demonstrated with a love that encompasses "all of their heart, all of their soul, and all of their mind" (Luke 10:27a).  May they see and know in their hearts that the "world and its desires pass away" (1 John 2:17).   May they say YES to Your "gift of eternal life" (Romans 6:23) and no to the empty-nothings this world has to offer.  


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

School's a Battleground

As the start of a new school year draws near, I worry a little more.  There are so many "unknowns" where my mom-control cannot reach.   

Will they be safe?
Will their teacher be a good fit?
Will they be challenged appropriately?
Will they fit in?
Will they make good friends?
Will they be a good friend?
Will they treat others with love and respect?
Will they seek God's heart wherever they are and in whatever they are doing?

If you are like me, these questions and all their unknown answers draw me to my knees.  I've come to Jesus with these questions over the course of the last few weeks, beseeching Him to be the REFUGE and STRENGTH of my children as they venture back to school.

I've been meditating on the following Scriptures:

Psalm 9:9  "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you."

Psalm 461-2a  "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear..."

Scripture is clear.  God is the place to which we flee in times of danger and oppression.  He is our lofty wall, our high tower, our fort, our fortress, our source of strength when we are weak and defenseless. 

As strange as this sounds, I believe school can be an intense battleground.  With all the social, academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual pressures they will face every day our kids need a place of refuge to flee to and a source of strength to trust in. 

Grayden, our oldest, is starting first grade at a new school this year.  He is entering an entire new battleground.  There are a whole lot of "unknowns" for him.  So my heart's cry is that when the going gets tough, when he has trouble, when he is weak, and when he needs a safe place that he will find it from The One who has never forsaken those who seek Him, The One whose name he can put his trust in, The One who is his refuge and strength...JESUS!!

Friends, no matter what grade your children are entering this year there are unknowns for them.  They are entering their own battlegrounds.  They will fight social, academic, physical, emotional, and spiritual battles every day of this school year.  But thanks be to God...He is their refuge and strength for each and every battle.  Will you join me today and let's pray for our kids as they begin a new school year?

I ask that You would continue to draw my children's hearts to You.  May they seek You and trust You as they enter a new school year.  When they are battling all those social, academic, emotional, and spiritual pressures, may You be their place of refuge to flee to and their source of strength to draw from.  As You have spoken in Scripture, I find peace in knowing that You are their ever-present help in times of trouble.  Therefore, I will not fear the unknowns.  I will trust in You and place my precious children in Your hands.  I ask that You will make this school year one of great spiritual growth for them.  Will You sift and refine them, sanctifying them through and through, as they battle through each day.  Amen!  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sometimes We Just Need To Get Out of God's Way

If you were to sit down and watch old videos of me as a young girl there is a phrase you will hear the videographer (i.e. my parents) say quite often,  "Get out of the way, Renee."

You see, I had a knack for standing directly in front of the video camera (my back to it) when someone other than me was being taped.  It wasn't on purpose.  I wasn't trying to steal the attention (though I did like attention).  I just simply didn't understand "staging" etiquette.

So it's quite ironic to me that one of the more recent instructions I received from the Lord was the exact instruction my parents used to give me, "Get out of the way, Renee."

You see, I'm a rescuer and I'm a problem solver.  People like me have a tendency to get in God's way.  My intentions are usually good, yet my solutions are limited. 

Over the past few years a dear friend of mine has been trying to get pregnant.  I wrestled within myself again and again, wanting to step in and help her as I saw fit.  I desperately wanted to be part of her problem solving process.  I had some ideas, some thoughts, some opinions, some solutions.  Yet while running and praying one day (these two go hand-in-hand quite often in my life), the Lord spoke directly to my heart.  "Get out of the way, Renee.  Let me.  Trust my plan, it's way better than anything you've determined."  I'll be honest, it wasn't easy stepping aside.  I'm a doer, so I did the only thing I could do...I prayed A TON. 

Grayden, our 7 year old, broke his arm at the beginning of the summer.  His first few days in a cast were tricky having to get acclimated to doing those common everyday tasks with only one arm.  Boy did I want to step in and rescue him as I watched him struggle to put on and take off his shirt, to eat, to write, to buckle his seat belt.  Yet that phrase, "Get out of the way, Renee" came quickly to mind.  This is not to say it isn't okay to help our kids when they need it, but in this case I knew I needed to let Grayden struggle through these somewhat challenging obstacles.  I can't rescue him all the time or else I'll always be in the way of God's building and refining process of his little heart.  And yes, I believe a broken arm can absolutely be a building and refining process of the heart.

Cole, our 5 year old, just recently learned to ride his bike without training wheels.  He got the riding down pat, but the starting and stopping proved to be a greater obstacle for him.  I gave him a few key pointers, even demonstrated the best plan of attack.  But the bottom line is that I knew I needed to let him solve this problem on his own.  He needed to work through it, put in some of his own sweat and tears to get to the point where he mastered the start and stop of bike riding.  Had I held his hand and helicoptered the process obsessively, he wouldn't have learned the value of hard work and determination...both incredibly essential qualities for anyone who follows Jesus these days. So I got out of the way.   

Friends, I believe that sometimes we just need God to give us a good shove to the side so that He can work, especially with our kids.  This is a hard lesson to learn, but one that proves to shape our kids' lives for the better.

And this is a lesson our kids must learn as well.  Will you pray with me and let's ask God to give them the faith to trust His way in all things and thus grow to understand that their best chance at rescuing or solving problems is by getting out of His perfect way.  Let's pray!

Lord Jesus, When our children are afraid for someone, even themselves, and want to step in and rescue or problem solve, teach them to trust in You (Psalm 56:3).  May they trust in You with all their heart, and lean NOT on their own [limited] understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  Gently shove them aside when they are in Your way, but give them eyes to see Your perfect work and plans.  Give them purpose in prayer as they let You work.  And as the God of hope, will you please fill them with your [sweet] joy and [relieving] peace as they trust in You.  May they abound in hope through the power of Your Spirit so that it becomes incredibly easy to get out of Your way. (Romans 15:13) 

And in case any of you were wondering, that dear friend of mind...she's pregnant.  And God's plan was brilliantly perfect.  I love it when He gets flashy with me.  And Grayden mastered those common everyday tasks with a cast in about 2 days, building his endurance and strength to overcome future obstacles.  And Cole, he practically has the starting and stopping of biking riding down.  Sure he got a few scrapes and bruises on the way, even threw a few tantrums.  But he did it all on his own, gaining a greater sense of the value of hard work and determination.  Lesson learned:  When I let go and let God, I am always glad I did.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What Do I Pray When My Kid's In A Funk?

My definition of a kid's funk:
Easily Angered
Indifferent and Unresponsive to Discipline

Have you seen this type of funk in your own kid?

All my kids have had these funks.  Some the result of sickness, lack of sleep, developmental changes, difficult circumstances, or a rebellious heart. 

Certain funks have only lasted a day, others have gone on for weeks. 

Regardless of the cause or longevity, they are challenging to parent through. 

As I seek to understand the "why" and help my children, I can become frustrated and frazzled.  There have been quite a few funks that have brought me to my knees with tears of desperation.  And I can recall a few that have even sent me spiraling into my own personal funk.

Our little Cole is currently in one of these funks.  And it's been going on for a few weeks.  I keep waiting for that breakthrough, that ray of sunshine to pierce through the stormy cloud.  Thus far, it hasn't come. 

His funk isn't constant, rather it comes in waves throughout the day.  As a whole, we've had a few more challenges with Cole.  He is a strong willed and stubborn little guy.  Yet, he is also a fun-loving, affectionate, and sweet boy.  When stuck in a funk, though, those latter attributes present themselves less and less.

To be completely honest, I'm ready to tag myself out and let someone else weather this storm with him.  Honestly, I hate that I feel this way.  It's just that I've become weary of disciplining, short on patience, and lacking in wisdom.  I feel very defeated.  I probably sound a bit dramatic, but that's what these funks produce...dramatic emotions that desperately need an abundance of God's grace and a good healthy dose of His truth.

While I may feel defeated, I am determined to not allow the Enemy to defeat me.  As I've been committed to praying for my kids over the past year and a half, I've learned that parenting can be an intense spiritual battle.  A battle that requires great faith and steadfast reliance on the Spirit.   The Enemy wants me to tag out with Cole.  He wants me to focus on the failures.  He wants me to dwell on the negative.  He wants me to get frustrated and frazzled.  Like a roaring lion, He is looking to devour me. 

So today I chose to fight the Enemy the same way I've been fighting him over the past year and a half, I will pray God's Word over myself and over my little toe-head that I love so much.

I'm using Psalm 107:28-31 & Job 33:28 to cry out to the Lord...

"Lord, I cry out to You in my trouble.
Will you bring me out of my distress?
Will you still this storm to a whisper?
Will you hush the waves?
For I will be glad when it grows calm,
because You will guide me to a safe harbor
where I will give You thanks for Your unfailing love
and wonderful deeds.
So Lord, redeem my life from going down to the pit,
may I live to enjoy the light."

And you better believe I am praying the exact same words for Cole...and I invite you to pray them over any child of yours who has a funk of their own.

"Lord, I cry out to You regarding Cole's trouble...this stormy, dark funk.
Will you bring him out of his distress?
Will you still his storm to a whisper?
Will you hush his waves?
And will you fill him with gladness when he grows calm?
Will you guide him to safe harbor?
And may he give you thanks for Your unfailing love for him
and for your wonderful deeds toward him!
Lord, redeem his life from going down to the pit.
May he live to enjoy the light."

I love the imagery of a storm that needs calmed or a dark pit that needs light.

As we've done for a year and a half, and as we will continue to do, let's pray the above prayers full of God's Word over our kids...especially as they (and we) battle those stormy, dark funks.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's Just Food

Before I begin, I feel it is important to clarify what this post is NOT about. 
It's not about dieting. 
It's not about weight. 
It's not about eating disorders. 
It's not about nutritious versus non-nutritious foods, nor it is about organic versus non-organic foods. 
Yes, all of these topics are legitimate and important topics in relation to food. 

However, today's post is solely about the control food can have on our minds and hearts

I've always been thin.  In grade school I was literally a bean pole.  In junior high and high school, I was a bean pole with acne.  So some might find it weird, even obnoxious, that I'm writing a post about food. 

Please don't misunderstand me, I fully recognize that I do NOT know what it is like to significantly struggle with my weight and nothing that I write today insinuates that I do.  I would never dream to compare myself to any individual whose struggle with food has direct correlation with their weight.  Just like I find it extremely insensitive (and obnoxious) when an individual with very nice skin complains to me about a single pimple on her face.  She doesn't get acne, just like I don't get low metabolism.

But please understand something:  In my experience, the issue of food and its control on an individual's mind and heart has become an epidemic across the body weight spectrum.  People of all different shapes and sizes can have an unhealthy mind and heart relationship with food.

While I have never significantly struggled with my weight, I am being openly honest in sharing that I have (and do) struggle with food and its control over my mind and heart.  Like so many individuals, I think about food too much.  I prescribe it to cure my boredom.  I seek comfort and refuge from it when I'm emotionally vulnerable  And, at times, I give it too much control in my everyday living...to the point that it dictates my highs and lows.  Simply put, at times I give food god-like control in my life.

Does this make sense?
Can you relate?
Have you personally struggled with giving food too much control over your mind and heart?
Recently, I felt the Lord breathe a new wave of grace over me when it comes to my personal struggle with food.  As I've asked Him to rescue me from food's control He has spoken one simple morsel of truth: "It's Just Food Renee."

In those moments of temptation to put food on the throne, I'm clinging to God's truthful message:

"Yes, food nourishes your body.
And yes, food satisfies your physical hunger.
But it's still just food.

Food cannot satisfy your hunger for companionship.
But I can.

Food cannot satisfy your hunger for happiness.
But I can.

Food cannot satisfy your hunger for rest and relaxation.
But I can.

Food cannot satisfy your hunger for relief.
But I can.

Food cannot satisfy your hunger for fun.
But I can.

Food cannot satisfy your hunger for purpose.
But I can.

Food cannot nourish the deep, dark places of your feeble soul.
But I can.

Let me renew your mind so your thoughts about food are realistic, logical, true and pure.
Release back control of your heart to Me so that you can love Me fully, without distraction or competition.
Food is food.
But I am God. 
The Creator of this universe. 
The Giver of life. 
The Merciful Father. 
The Source of all grace, hope, and love.  
I am everything you need all wrapped up into one. 
I can perfectly satisfy you. 
I can wholly nourish you.
My daughter, this is My gracious reminder:
It's Just Food."

It's easy to make something powerless a god in our lives, especially when we are hurting, disappointed, weary, experiencing difficulty, or even bored.  The trouble is that when we release control over to something that is powerless to help us, the enemy gets a foothold and uses it to enslave our minds and pervert our hearts to his lies and trickery.  

And thus, like the Romans, we exchange the truth for a lie:

"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator..." Romans 1:25 

Once we've exchanged truth for a lie and given something control in our mind and hearts, its tough to get it back.  We can spend years in therapy and never find freedom.

But I believe that with Jesus ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.  I cling to the power of the gospel in my life:

"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."  Galatians 5:1

If food has control over you, will you join me in approaching the throne of Jesus and asking Him to rescue us and set us free?  Friends, let's fervently pray for a breakthrough.  Let's exchange the lies of the enemy for the truth of God's Word.  Let's remember God's gracious message to us, "My children, It's Just Food."

And let's pray for our kids and their relationships with food.  If you are like me, you deeply desire for your kids to remain free from food's ugly control of their minds and hearts.

Lord Jesus,
For me, I ask for freedom from food and its yoke of slavery over my mind and heart.  Give me the strength and wisdom to stand firm against food and its deceptive control in my life.  May I know Your truth so that I am not deceived to believe any lies about food.

And for my kids, I ask You to fill their minds and hearts with Your truth about food.  May they resist the temptation to release control of their minds and hearts over to food.  Through Your Spirit working in them, may they be empowered to stand firm against the enemies lies regarding food.  May they trust You with food and would you graciously remind them that when it comes to food, 'It's Just Food.'  I pray food would remain in its rightful place in their hearts and I pray You would be their ever present hope in times of trouble.