Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hard Pressed But Not Crushed

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.- 2 Corinthians 4:5-10

Hard Pressed But Not Crushed

hard-pressed - adj. Experiencing great difficulty or distress

The Word of God tells that His light will shine forth through my life, as I preach the Gospel, but to also expect trials along the way. Even as I know that Truth in my head, it is difficult at times to walk that out, believe it, and trust His plan over my own.

This past week I experienced being hard-pressed. My son was struggling in school. Not making friends, not focusing, and not obeying his teacher. Many emails and lengthy phone calls, with his teacher, had my  husband and I praying again about another school choice. I was experiencing great difficulty and distress as others observed my child and his struggles. I was  mentally and emotionally exhausted each day. Definitely did not think adjusting to a new school would be so hard.

I didn't understand. I had prayed, gotten confirmation in scripture, and obeyed the Holy Spirit's leading to enroll my son in public school. But I realized His plan may look different than my own. We were encouraged by his teacher to consider homeschooling him again. Our family is  praying through where the Lord would direct us. God has a purpose and plan for my son's life. Even if the puzzle pieces don't seem to fit right now, they will someday, as the Lord is still creating more pieces to make the masterpiece complete.

Why would Christ lead us to a school for only one week? I am trusting and hopeful someday I may know. But until then I will trust, pray, and obey.

Is HE asking you to trust and obey? Do you need to let go and let God? Is there a difficulty you don't understand?  HE is still creating pieces to fit into your puzzle to make you complete and whole. HE is sovereign.

Remember you may be hard-pressed but you are not crushed, my friend.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lessons in Loss

         My husband lost his “bestie” to cancer almost 8 years ago.  Charlie fought courageously to the end.  Charlie was flamboyant and loud.  He loved life and lived it to the full.  Everyone who met Charlie was challenged by his upbeat personality and the amazing way he could cause you to be introspective in the midst of even a very brief conversation.
         Charlie had two loves as most of us do, but as mentioned, his were to an extreme.   Charlie loves were; eating and talking.  Well, you say, we all like to eat and talk.  Yeah, but if you were with Charlie and you went out to eat, you would leave the restaurant feeling like you had just had a thanksgiving meal.  And if he came to visit, there were always “Hot Donuts Now” from Krispy Kreme in tow.
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         And…Charlie could talk…and laugh…and be serious all more intense then most.  He could talk until you felt like your ears would burn.
         Charlie’s diagnosis was throat cancer.  With a constant sore throat he was forced to talk and eat less.  His cancer culminated with the removal of his voice box and he was given a feeding tube.
         Charlie’s two favorite vices were taken.
         How could he live without eating and talking?
         We walked closely with Charlie and his bride, Julia (of only a little more than a year) during his fight with cancer.  Charlie opted to leave the state we were living in to find a specialist.  Our entire family flew multiple times to stay with Julia in her temporary housing and to stay with Charlie in the hospital.
         I cherished the moments I was with each of them.  When I was with Charlie in the hospital I had such spiritual refinement.  I would do what I could to make him comfortable.  Like a secretary in an office, Charlie gave me assignments.  He would have me write letters to his friends. He would have me call his friends and I would talk to them while Charlie mouthed what I should say to them.  I would feed him with his feeding tube. 
         The biggest lesson I learned from Charlie in his last days was even prior to his removal of his voice box.  He said, “people talk so much and they don’t listen.”  I took that one lesson to heart and formed my own mantra, “Talk less, listen more.”
         This week our church family has had to say goodbye to another dear friend.  He leaves behind a young wife and a barely three-year-old child.  What do we do or say to love another mom facing such intense loss?  How do we comfort her? How do we help her? 
         As mothers we try day in and day out to “fix things.”  We want to “organize” to make life more simple and manageable.  However, because we live in this world, life happens.  Some as extreme as the loss of a friend
         We have to walk through this excruciating pain together.  That sweet wife needs us.  Not all at once.  Not only in the first weeks.  But as the Lord leads, let’s show up, let’s be there for her.  We don’t need to know “the right thing to say.”  We just need to be there for her.  We can choose to talk less and listen more.

         I am convinced that the temporary separation of death will be overshadowed by our understanding of eternity.  God will comfort our friend during her loss. He will show us the appropriate words or lack thereof.

Matthew 10: 19, 20
" not worry about what to say or how to say it.
At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, 
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Answered but not noticed

 “As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance  and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 11:17-19

I was surprised recently how forgetful I am. I’ve had a burden for my oldest son and had prayed that God would show me his heart and a root cause for some of his struggles. I’ve been burdened and had lived with the effects of that burden before God for a while. Eventually other, more pressing issues had come up and taken precedence over what was going on with my son and I simply stopped bringing it to God in prayer. While I was busy with other things, God went ahead and answered my prayer! It was an amazing miracle and true grace and mercy on my son and on me. I would have been shouting it from the rooftop if only… if only I would have noticed it. Ever had that happen to you? God answers a prayer you prayed months ago and you don’t even notice at first because you are so busy with other issues. I didn’t notice because I really wasn’t looking, hoping and expecting it anymore. I was shocked when I realized my lack of faith. I also have a pretty good idea of why I lacked that faith. If I’m really honest, my prayers and pleas to God for my son came from a weary heart that was looking for comfort and ease for me first, not for what would bring God the most glory.
Like all the lepers in the story and because God is good, I did get my prayer answered anyway, but the lack of faith caused by the wrong motive, stopped me from noticing the miracle when it happened and thanking Him for it. Like the 9 lepers who got healed, I just kept on walking. Only one of them returned to give thanks and was declared to have had faith.
Could it be that the motive in prayer also determines how we perceive the answered prayer. In my case, it caused blindness and forgetfulness and I didn't notice God at work. I also couldn't share it with others and thereby glorify God.

The other part is simply remembering when He has answered us and not moving on to other things so quickly that the glory is diminished and the blessing forgotten. I suggest keeping a small notebook to record all our specific prayers with a date of the request and another date when that prayer is answered. The point is not to journal but to simply record and remember Gods faithfulness.  This “remembering” is very biblical. In Joshua chapter 4, God had the Israelites set up stones to help the people recall Gods faithfulness.

And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.  He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Josh.4:20-24
So many times we think that our answered prayers are for our benefit only, God just wants us to feel loved and blessed. But we forget the bigger picture. Our answered prayers are a testimony to the world and to our children “so that the people of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
I wonder how long the other lepers kept walking before they realized that their returning to give thanks, very much revealed their faith.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Dedication of our Children…to the Lord

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28 NIV)

Have you dedicated your child(ren) to the Lord?  Do you know what this means?  This is a wonderful gift that the Lord allows us to do for our children and for our sakes too.  Child or Baby Dedication simply means to give them back to the Lord, like in 1 Samuel 1:27-28 (Hannah with Samuel) and also in Luke 2:22 (Mary & Joseph with Jesus).  It’s also an opportunity for parents to publicly declare that the child will be raised in a Christian home and the parents will look to the Lord for wisdom and guidance as they raise their little one.  (And we SURE DO need His help!!  Can I get an AMEN?)

I love what the dictionary definition is for “dedicate”: to set apart and consecrate to a deity or to a sacred purpose; to devote wholly and earnestly, as to some person or purpose.

When we dedicate our children to the Lord early on, we can have the peace that surpasses all understanding that overshadows any anxiety about raising our children.  Our son Matthew is only 3 ½ but has already gone through two surgeries, asthma, broken bones, vaccinations, colds, bumps and bruises, POTTY TRAINING, and so forth and so on.  Just knowing we’ve declared Matthew as God’s kid helps us have that “thick peace” of God’s presence in the scary moments.   God knows we gave Him all authority to direct and guide us in the choices we make for our kids and He is going to do what’s best for them and His glory.

Dedicating your kids to the Lord is so important as a mom, knowing we can only offer “just so much”.  It also serves as the firm foundation of building the blocks to their salvation someday.  It is the building block for us to accept the will of the Lord, and to be able to look to Him for comfort and trust.

A great little site with scripture verses for Child Dedication is

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Say Something!

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3-4

For many years, I used the above verse to NOT have difficult conversations with my brothers and sisters. Then I read verse 5. Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” - Matthew 7:5

If I see my brother or sister struggling with a particular sin, that I have been blessed to have overcome, I am supposed to share in their burden. I am supposed to help them overcome and onto the right path.

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2

God has placed it on my heart to have (what I perceive to be) a rather difficult conversation with a friend. After many months of excuses, I have accepted this charge and am now praying for His Holy timing and for His voice to be heard through my mouth. I pray that the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts and words and readies her ears to hear the voice of the Lord, not mine.

Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful. The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive. - Proverbs 16:20-21

Challenge: Is there someone God is calling you to speak with, pray with and/or encourage? Pray He gives you the courage to help that person back onto the right path.

Monday, August 26, 2013

'Slow Your Role'...

My dear brothers [and sisters] take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”   James 1:19-20 (NIV)

Patience. It is one of the many things God has been working into me over the years. It’s something I prayed for when I was a little girl. It is something I still struggle with.

I desire to be patient, but there is a little part of me that always wants to know “when”…okay, and maybe “how” things are going to work out.  I find that this thing called patience…or the lack thereof, bleeds into all areas of my life. No one or nothing is exempt—especially my kids. 

My son Mikey is such a beautiful gift. He lightens me up in so many ways. He is calculated, yet free; cautious, yet zany. Although outwardly he is always on the move, inwardly he seems to be in no rush at all. And it is this late point on which we differ so much. 

I am naturally a go, go, go person---outwardly and inwardly. I find that I am often multi-tasking outwardly and focusing on several different things inwardly at the same time. I am often in a rush. I need to slow down. 

Mikey is never in a rush—never in a rush to put his shoes on, go to the bathroom, brush his teeth, put his clothes on, etc. He would be perfectly content to have all of the above be a process in which he takes several breaks (in the middle of each task) to stop and play with a toy.  He needs to speed up.

I have found that this difference in our personalites often gets my pressure pot cooking.  I have found that once again I need to stop and ask the Lord for wisdom and balance. I need to slow down a bit, AND I need to lovingly teach him how to pick up the pace. In fact, God has been showing me that when I slow down and exercise patience with him, I enjoy him a whole lot more.  I come to appreciate him for who he is…I tend to focus more on what he does right! On the other end of the spectrum, when I am moving far too fast, I tend to focus on what he does wrong. :(

I have come to realize that I need to be more of a teacher than a corrector. I want to train him up to be a man of God. My husband told me about a “Focus on the Family” broadcast he listened to recently. In the broadcast, the woman discussed how important it is to be wise and thoughtful in dealing with our kids. One thing she said that really got my wheels turning is that we often think we need to shape our kids, but we don’t. We need to unfold the person that God has created them to be. As I meditated on that, I realized that far too often I was trying to shape Mikey into a little me. I like myself as much as the next person, but we do not need another me walking around our house. ;)

In an effort to unfold him, there are three things I need to remember to do each day:

1. I need to be consistent. He needs to know what the rules are, and I need to enforce them so that I am not blowing my cool because “I have already asked him five times”. He needs to learn first-time obedience. I need to lovingly enforce first-time obedience. As my husband would say, “Don’t get angry and start lecturing the boy. Just write a ticket!”—a police metaphor for giving him a consequence (time out, take away the toy, no TV show that day, etc.) after he does not listen the first time.

2. I need to take the time to have meaningful dialogue with him. I sometimes need to know“why”  he behaved that way.  I know some may disagree, but I have often found that asking Mikey “why” gives me a glimpse into his heart. Sometimes he isn’t being defiant, sometimes I learn that he needs help or was confused about my directions. Other times, he is just curious to know how something works, so he stopped to analyze. Asking questions often helps me respond appropriately to the situation. It also gives him “grace to grow”.

3. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to fill me each day so I can be poured out instead of drained out. This beautiful thing called motherhood that was begun in the spirit needs to be continued in the spirit, not in my fleshly, fallen way. I need to daily spend time with the Lord so I can grow to be more like HIM. As I am filled with the love of the Father, I can pour that love out on my kids.

I pray that you and I will both seek to unfold our kids so that they can grow into the young men and women that God created them to be.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your incredible love and your incredible patience with me. Truly, I do not deserve it. Help me to extend that same type of patience to my kids so that they can grow in you, knowing that they are loved by both you and me as they grow and sort things out. Help me to be quick to listen and slow to become angry. Help me to do what I so often tell my kids—to not say anything if I don’t have anything nice (or loving) to say… so that in my rushing I don’t say something harsh. Help me to put you at the center of everything, and please help me to slow down. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Verses to consider:

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” Ephesians 7:8 (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Your Child - Your God

 You shall have no other gods before me. - Exodus 20:3 NIV
This past week was a doozer. Our son started his first year of public school and we were super excited Monday morning. We got the new socks, backpack, pencils and crayons. New shoes, uniform shirts and fun lunch box items! We ventured forward and knew we would have some hiccups along the way but our son struggled a lot more than expected. 

We prayed daily for him and his teacher. And for that one "special friend" that he might meet in his class. But as always, the Lord had a bigger lesson for me in store. As our struggles in school increased, my daily conversations IN and OUT became about my son. From his teachers' emails and phone calls to drop off and pick up line, to the calls I was making to family and friends. A CONSTANT in my conversations was about the struggles my son was having, questioning what to do, and looking for wisdom in the multitude. 

But as I did that CONSTANTLY this week. My heart was consumed. Consumed with the struggle instead of my Savior. Consumed with the problem instead of on the One who is praiseworthy. A good friend of mine, gave me some simple yet profound counsel and reminded me to not allow my CHILD TO BECOME MY IDOL. WOW, I totally had done this. In such a subtle way, my flesh desired to focus on the temporal instead of the eternal.  

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. - Psalm 73:26

Do you do that too? Have you allowed your child who may be struggling to become your god? Remember to grasp hold of the hand of Christ who will give peace, comfort, and joy! Go back to your first love, the Lord, and allow His Word and Spirit to refresh. It is there we will find rest. It is there we will have the hope for the teacher who doesn't know Him yet. It is there my child will see where I must put my focus in order to stay balanced and heavenly focused. 

Is your child your god? Stop and ask the Lord for help. Allow yourself a few minutes to sit and hear from the Creator of your child. He will remind you of Truth! He did for me this week as well. It was wonderful to hear counsel from friends but it was in the Word that my heart was healed and given the strength to get up, brush off my knees, and keep going! You're not alone!

 No other gods, only me. - Exodus 20:3 MSG

Friday, August 23, 2013

Poker Faced Parenting

        Don’t you just love a good story?  Some are experts at storytelling.  You stay on the edge of your seat from the beginning or you start with a giggle that builds to an avalanche of laughter.
         Our children love to tell stories too!  It starts with a line of intrigue or of an unsuspecting risk.  Sometimes their stories lack a point while others end with the proverbial “happily ever after.”   Invariably one of our “wee ones” will share a story simply for a reaction, namely, from us!
         It has become my custom to let the children talk.   In fact, I let them completely finish their stories, without my interruption or interjection.   Doing this allows them to remember what they were trying to communicate, but specifically it allows me to hear the entire story.
         Recently, a friend of one of my oldest was sharing an extraordinary purchase she had recently made. It was one of those ridiculous, frivolous expenses that we all make in our early “twenty somethings” and within a few years we ask, “Why didn’t someone try to stop me?” (When in truth, everyone had tried to stop the young adult, but they press ahead with their desire.)
         My first impulse was to gasp in horror over this ridiculous expense.  Rather I allowed her to finish the story.  The end of her story was that she realized how unnecessary the purchase was and returned the item.
         A friend observed my response.  She later said how impressed she was with it.  Saying she would have stopped our young friend mid way to tell her how “silly, foolish, ridiculous” this purchase was.  My friend said I had held a poker face.  The young friend would never have recognized my shock or disappointment with her decision.
         Moms, sometimes we need a poker face.  If we stop them before the story is finished (even with facial disapproval or rolling of eyes) their story may rectify itself.  Our interruptions may cause the child to feel discouraged or that they have disappointed us.  Equally as bad is it may cause our children to shut down.  Our children may stop talking, stop being honest, stop asking questions, stop coming to us for direction.
        While some may seem to have an excellence for storytelling, having a poker face might be the upper advantage! 
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         Proverbs 18: 13  “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.”


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Err Jordan

The Israelites just finished their initial takeover of the Promised Land and the tribes from the west side of the Jordan River headed home.  When they get home they decide to build an altar that looks very much like the altar that was built for sacrificing to the Lord in the Promised Land. 

The ten tribes of Israel that are on the east side of the Jordan River hear about this and are enraged.  They immediately think that they are worshiping and sacrificing to idols; so they prepare to march over there and wipe them out.  But first they send over a group to talk with them, to remind them of all the senseless harm that has come to their nation because of idol worship.  And this is their response:

“No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? 25 The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.”   Joshua 22:24-25

They had built the altar not for sacrificing but as a reminder.  Upon receiving this new information the ten tribes from the east side decided not to pursue with wiping them out.  They thought this reminder was a great idea.  And at first read I agreed with them. 

I thought what ‘Jordans’ are there in my life that may cause similar problems for my descendants and what altars could I build as reminders?  And before the thought could even come to completion, there was another.  It was not God’s desire for His people to have the Jordan River between them.  They chose for themselves not to cross over into the Promised Land.  They put their descendants in danger.  And this “reminder” altar, that seemed like such a good idea, is more likely to become a stumbling block and a place of idol worship for both sides. 

The better question to ask myself is: “What ‘Jordans’ am I not crossing that will keep my descendants from harm and what altars am I building that could become stumbling blocks for my descendants?”

Father open my eyes clearly so I can see.  Never let me choose to camp on the wrong side of the Jordan or build stumbling blocks for my descendants and others.  Keep me always in your will and obedient to you so these things do not happen.