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 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!