Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We will remember you

As our children have been getting older we have enjoyed sitting around with them at the dinner table or in the evening before bed recounting memories of childhood. We listen to them and realize we never knew some of the things they were involved in. (I think there may be more stories like that the older they get...yikes!) Then they ask us about our childhood and we try to conjure up some old memory which frankly  may or may not have happened in that exact way but its our story and we're sticking to it! :)

Last evening as we sat around at the end of a long Monday reading some scripture and praying together we started talking, all 6 of us about the day, which in turn took many turns in conversation about numerous and sometimes humorous memories or subjects.
 At one point in the conversation I remember saying... " We used to have a plaque in our house that said... "The family that prays together stays together,and one beside it which said, God is the blessed controller of all things". Which made them all start reciting the different plaques of scripture or inspirational sayings they have seen in our house either previously or currently.  Which made my wheels start turning and made me ask myself the question..
"What is it that I am teaching them, however casually now that will have an impact on them in 30 or 40 years from now?"

You know in the book of Joshua, after Joshua had led the Children of Israel into the promised land, they had settled down and were overflowing with blessings. Joshua said this at the end of the book.

15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve theLord.

He exhorted the people who had received such rich blessings to remember the Giver of the Gift. They were happy and blessed but the next generation came along and had forgotten all about God.
It makes me wonder if the Adults who had received so much from their God simply forgot to remind their children who the great provider was. 
That same God is the one who many have forgotten today.
Many people who have enjoyed his provisions have failed to pass on the message to their children.
The scripture  has become archaic and boring and powerless in many church circles and it seems like other books are exalted and read across the pulpits and in homes more than His book. The one that is full of instruction and life and is living and active and cuts between bone and marrow. The book that changes lives and helps us to live with power contrary to that of a culture that has forgotten him.
The Provider.
The Blesser.
The Giver of all Good Things.

In that moment when my children said what they remembered I knew that I must continue to fill their minds with messages wherever I can. On their mirrors and dashboards. Messages reminding them of their Great provider who is in control of all things.

I never want them to forget him. In prosperity or adversity he is still in control.
He has been faithful and he will continue to be.

So along with Joshua I will say.. "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."

Do you remember any sayings on your walls? What do you have written on your walls?
What do you want your children to remember about the God you serve?

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Letter to my boys

Dear Son of mine,

I have always wanted to be a mother to boys. I think boys are some of God's best creation and I am so glad I have the opportunity of bringing you up!

The book of Proverbs is full of wise advise to sons when it comes time for leadership, love, wisdom and money.
I love that you have a father who is committed to you and has taken an interest in your games, your education, your discipline, your spiritual temperature,  your hearts. You are blessed.

  • Don't be afraid to lead. In a culture that lives in both ditches... Male dominance and abuse or Male passiveness and the sissification  of your gender I encourage you to be fully male while being sensitive and listening to your female counterparts. Your sisters, your aunts, your grandmother, your mother and someday your wife. Lead with your God given authority. Don't be afraid to step into places that look dangerous to others. It's where leaders go.. Into the unknown. 
  • Live with passion. A passionless person is a wandering person. Someone who can't seem to find fulfillment or have a dream. God has big plans for you! If God chooses to close doors along the way ask him to show you the new dream he has in mind for you. Don't be afraid to change directions when he leads you down a new road.
  • Be great. Remember being great doesn't mean you are well known or have lots of money. It doesn't mean that if you are the boss or the head of your home that you get to throw around your title. The definition Jesus gives us of greatness is to be the servant of all. Learn to serve those around you with tenderness, Strength, and compassion and you will be great in his kingdom. 
  • Be Kind. While you love to banter and show affection to each other by teasing and wrestling, don't let your words become rocks that hurt others. Be sensitive to how you speak to each other and to others around you. Your tongue can set a whole forest on fire or it can be a healing stream that brings life to those around you.
  • Let all your work be done for your Creator. Remember that he made you and he knows your bent. It is him that you want to please. This will keep you humble as you remember no man is his own master, we all fall under one Master and he is the one we should serve. Not ourselves. All your provisions come from him. He can give and he can take away. Blessed be his name.
  • Work now at becoming a good husband if you marry one day.  I know girls are complicated and sometimes a little irrational. But Your sisters are good to practice on. Learn to listen to them. Be patient with them. Be encouraging when you see something they do right or when they dress up and look especially pretty. Hold doors open for them and treat them with respect.
  • Never treat any girl as a commodity.  Even if they offer it to you. You will have many opportunities to travel down roads of temptation or death if you choose to take them. Stay far away from those who would prostitute your  heart. Don't live with the regrets of youth by succumbing to temptations of viewing images that change the way your mind processes. Don't believe the lie that, one real women for life is not enough. It's baggage that will hang on to your heart and make you pay longer than you ever thought possible. Save yourself including your eyes, mind, body and heart for that one woman, one day. If you are tempted to stray down a road that entices you ask yourself this... What if this person were my sister or my mom? How would I want them to be viewed?Treat all women known and unknown with that respect. Stay focused on eyes, and at times.. Look the other way.

  • Be gracious. Even if you're right. Be gracious. Walk Humbly in your role. Don't let power go to your head. Be extremely gracious.

  • When you're wrong. Say it. People respect you more when you admit your error than having to convince you of it. We all are wrong sometimes, stay humble enough to admit it when brought to your attention.
  • Forgive the unforgivable. It will keep you from the tormentors that will take over your thoughts and actions if you do not choose to let it go. Remember there is one who forgave the unforgivable in you.
  • Put falsehood and lies far from you. Your word is your honor. If you find yourself failing here, Confess it quickly and then do what it takes to  rebuild that trust. Honor God with your integrity
  • Fight greed. Give until it hurts to counteract the enemy called greed. Giving will help you fight The idea that what you have is never enough. If You feel the dissatisfaction in what you already have.... Give. Give. Give your time, your talent, your money...Give it away. It changes your perspective.
  • Stay Funny. We love your humor.   It's one of the things that draws people to you.You make life fun! Never use your humor as a tool to make fun of others or tease in undercutting ways. 
  • Keep loving on your mama. I love your hugs. Your words of affirmation are sweet kisses to my heart. You are my treasure my sons!
  • I believe you have what it takes to conquer and overcome in this world! I am watching to see all that God has in store for you!
     One day I expect to see you on the front lines fighting the enemy and being a Warrior like King David or moving in a direction just because God tells you to like the Man of Faith, Abraham. I encourage you to  lead where God calls even when those around you don't see it just like Moses did. To stand against temptation even in the face of losing all you have, with Integrity, just like Joseph. To be known for prayer, like Daniel. Be bold like Peter and Loving Like John.
    My Sons I love you more than you can imagine. One day another woman will love you too. Love her with your whole heart. Be her protector. And her friend. Lead her and never stop listening to her.
    You are forever in my heart!

    Saturday, July 27, 2013

    A Letter to my Girls

    It's Summer and we just spent a week at the fair.
    It's been a busy week with too many late nights.But my Kids love it just like I used to. I knew without doubt that I have gotten old when The one night we spent at home working in the yard was the highlight of my week.
    A week of watching people can send me down lots of trails in my mind. Funny people, interesting outfits, talented kids taking the stage, broken people, cute kids, kids that need a nap, or a swat on the behind...
    I was reminded that my stage of parenting has changed so drastically from what was a few years back... Within a half hour of entering the grounds, and the money divided out, all my kids promptly left me to walk with their friends so there I sat wondering why I had come. But as I sat there, I had lots of time to think and so My mind started writing my kids a letter. This one is for my girls...

    My sweet Girl
    I am writing you a letter this morning recognizing that I am fortunate indeed. You are an answer to my childhood prayers. I always wanted girls to raise and I know that you are indeed an answer...you are a beautiful gift.
    As I observe the culture I am bringing you up in somedays I can feel completely overwhelmed. The pressure around you to fit in and be like it is enormous! There are many things that I have tried to pour into you through the years knowing that what is inside of a person is far more important than how cute we fix the outside. And you know me, you know I love style and cute shoes, hair, things that sparkle, and bows and ruffles. But that will never trump the inside. 

    • Choices you make, and whatever you take in with your eyes ( which is why we have limited all those sitcoms on the Disney Channel that promote a different kind of young lady) is shaping you to believe either truth or lies that will last you a lifetime.
    • Never forget Kindness and Mercy will always trump Judgement and Exclusiveness. (I'm better than you attitudes) Always try to Reach out to the girl who is new or the one in the corner who needs a friend.
    • Don't let others around you make you believe lies of Who you really are. 
    Remember, The God of the universe created you, not an object or something to be sold. You are a rare and beautiful person of great value.
    •  Don't ever use your femininity as a commodity. It may get you attention today but in the long run it will never bring you peace or give you more value. Instead it could have long lasting negative effects on the way you view yourself and how others treat you, as if you were a commodity. 
    • You are a child of the King but don't act like a spoiled princess. Use your princess title to serve not to be served. You carry with you a light that shines brightly from the inside. It is not one that needs to be fabricated and fake. Use that light to bring honor to your Father. The creator of your body, your soul, your mind. 
    • Your mind is a terrible thing to waste. Don't believe the lies that only boys can be smart or spiritually deep. Some of Jesus Closest friends on earth were women. He loves his girls. Don't ever let your female status keep you from learning about the one who loves you most. You are more than just a pretty face. God created us male and female and that means you will have a different bent as a girl  but when it comes to value in his eyes... We are equal, male and female. 
    • Don't try to compete or prove anything. You don't have to. You can be who you were meant to be. You are accepted already. Competition is a killer of relationships. Don't fall prey to the lure of it.   Live your calling with inner confidence and poise. 
    • Be Gracious.                                                                                                                               

     I know boys can be difficult to understand sometimes but be kind with your words and their hearts. They don't like to be rejected anymore than you do.
    • When you go out in public and  are choosing your wardrobe ask yourself these questions...
    1. Does this fit my body?
    2. Am I being respectful to others around me with my choice?
    3. Is this classy? Or trashy?
    ~IF you still  question... Ask your brothers or your dad. They will be able to honestly tell you what you may not be able to see.
    You won't always get it right... But try hard. Be wise with your clothes. It says more about you than you know.

    • Forgive often. It's what will keep you from becoming bitter and hard-hearted. Forgive when you don't feel like it. Overlook petty offenses. 
    • Don't be a whiner. Nobody is pretty when they whine. It's just not becoming. If you have a bad day voice it. And then move on. 
    • If you get married someday...Marry someone like your father. Watch the way he treats me. Make sure you find someone with a sense of humor and a strong work ethic. A strong man who loves Jesus and his family more than anything else. 
    • Prepare yourself now to be the women who attracts the kind of man you want to spend life with.  Don't think you can wait until you meet him. Just like anything else in life. Marriage takes work. 

    I love you so much and I am so thankful you have made parenting so much fun. You already are shaping into this fine lady and I smile as I see your life unfolding. You have taught me so much. I am still learning along with you. I believe there are great things in store for you. Walk in that light.
    I love you so very much,

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    Not a Jonah

    First of all, I want to thank you for all your responses to the last post. You are so encouraging! Speaking with some of you face to face and others on Facebook. What kindness you have shown me!
    I write stuff on here praying God will use it to glorify himself and help others who may be afraid to share their own struggles but are so thankful to know they aren't alone. We are on this journey together, you and I, and I have found it's much easier to travel in packs then to travel alone. Thanks again for the many times  you have helped me with my load and encouraged me at the same time! I am refreshed by your kindness!

    This  summer I reread the little book of Jonah in two nights to my kids.
    I thought It would be good to refresh our memories of this story.
    When Malaina was 4 she memorized the whole story of Jonah off of  The Word and Song Cd. We have it captured on Video and it's priceless to me.
    I had forgotten some elements of this story.
    Like how it ended.
    It did not get wrapped up in a neat bow of lesson learned or any such other happily ever after tale.
    Jonah was kind of an unwilling participant from go in this whole saga.
    He didn't want to go. He Ran away from God's direct call. And then threw a tantrum when God used him in a mighty way.
    So while I can relate to some of Jonah's struggles, my will conflicting with Gods, Running from a call, you know the run of the mill kinds of issues, but for the life of me, I can not understand his thinking at the end. Why in the world was he so mad?
    So maybe I'm not exactly like Jonah.
    I like when God shows up and I would love to see him move a whole nation of people!! That would be amazing for me to be part of!! I pray that happens to our nation in my lifetime.
    But I wonder if we don't trick ourselves into believing we are okay because we aren't running from God, like Jonah did.
    What if that's not enough?
    What if God isn't any more impressed with the person who stays in one place day after day, year after year, stuck in that same old middle of the ditch, apathetic state, then he is the one who puts on their running shoes and sprints in the other direction?
    We read stories to our children about people like Jonah and click our tongues saying "don't ever run from God."
    But we ourselves haven't moved in our relationship with him since last July.
    Maybe we aren't running from God, But are we running toward him?
    How can we tell?
    Have we changed?
    Are our habits the same?
    Are we living on the remembrance of some old camp experience or college revival or " that time when"... What about now?
    What are we doing to run to him.
    A Fresh filling of his spirit is available anytime we ask. And we should ask often because we leak...Spiritually.
    And when we are filled with his Spirit we can better hear what he is speaking.
    We need to put those same running shoes on, and run fast and furious to him.
    Stepping out into the unknown. Saying yes to the small things that open doors to bigger things. Staying engaged in his word. Prayerfully considering opportunities that he brings our way.Walking into the awkward even when we don't feel like it. Sometimes sitting still in his presence. Making room in our lives for him to keep shaping us, changing us and sometimes squeezing us pretty tight.
    That is how we run toward him.
    Open hands, Open Heart.
    Keep shaping me O Father until I am Home with you.

    "Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart O take and seal it" seal it for thy courts above."

    Saturday, July 20, 2013

    My Bad Church Experience

    She sits there surrounded by the ones who stood at her baby dedication. The ones who promised to love her and instruct her and lead her by example. And while she believes they mean well she wonders about their glances that travel from head to toe across her frame.
    And then she remembers, there is a different set of rules for her. She is not like the others,  she is the pastors kid. She slips her hand to the side of her face, sits a little taller and pretends to engage in whatever is being said from the pulpit. She doesn't like the unsolicited attention and wonders what it would be like to slip in unnoticed like her peers seem to do. And yet this is life for her, always has been, but she promises herself that when she leaves, she will never marry a preacher.
    But after years of God stirring and shaking and molding her heart she lays that promise right there on an alter one night at Bible College. And the man who won her heart did indeed feel God's hand move him to set his heart on ministry through the Word.
    And now, once again she found herself some 20 years later sitting there that Sunday Morning with her arms tightly wrapped around her children begging God to keep them soft as the pain from church people threatened to once again make her wish she wouldn't be in the building.That she could slip out and never return. That she would have never agreed to God's plan.
    But the answer is never found in running from the pain.
    And she knows it. So she stays, and in the middle of that gut wrenching pain she is surrounded by the good side of church. The arms of those who wish to make the journey less burdensome but feel helpless to fix the damage done.
    This is my story. And I know you have one too. Because the truth is, if you have gone to church long enough...somewhere along the way there is a wound that happened. And the expectation is always that the church should be the last place we feel unsafe but the fact is it is where some of our deepest hurts come from.
    My prayer has always been that no root of bitterness grows in my heart toward the one who knows the ultimate bad church experience.
    That's right. It's amazing how we forget the one we go to worship in church buildings, has the most amazingly painful church story, that could rival any of ours.
    He grew up in a community that never really embraced him because he was illegitimate. He made the church leaders mad with all his questioning of their hearts and traditions. Not because he was stirring up trouble just to be quarrelsome, but because he was their creator, and he knew their hearts.
    He challenged the religious community and ate with sinners. He did not fit into their neat little community. In short he didn't behave according to their standards. And yet, he spoke with such authority and truth he scared them.
    When their hatred grew to a fever pitch, the leaders said... "We need to make him go away." He was now threatening to take their people, they decided he must be put away.
    And then they, the church people put him, the Messiah, on trial.
    They mocked him and called him names. They undressed him and spit on his face. They lied about him and betrayed him.They had him whipped until he wasn't even recognizable. They meant to bring shame on him. But he did not open his mouth. He never retaliated but instead looked on them with love.
    He knew his purpose on earth was almost complete. And this is why he had come.
    Ultimately they killed him. They put him on that cross and sighed some deep heavy breaths blaming him. I'm sure they figured it was his own fault, chiding his actions of disrespecting them had finally caused his death.
    But we know that this was his design for us all to be saved.
    Through his death.
    It is just ironic to me that his religious community, the one he was raised in, were the very ones that  put the nails in his hands.
    I worship that  Man.
    And the communities of faith and the churches we go to are just humans, flawed and sometimes sinful. They are not the ones we worship.They will hurt us. And if we give them so much power that we can never again fully worship the one who laid down his life for us, we don't punish the church, We just miss Jesus. And ultimately that would be our greatest loss.
    And while we long to be part of communities where there is no longer striving for position and hurtful speech, abuse of power, or judgement of others in our midst, we must remember that they aren't our gods, they are flesh like we are.
    May our hearts forever be set on the one who knows our struggles. He carries those burdens. And he asks us to drink from his cup of suffering with him.
    He has great things in store for the Church, his bride.
    I sure don't want to miss it and I don't want you to either.
    Today, I invite you to look at your past and then give it to the one who can redeem the most awful, raw and ugly stories and make something beautiful of the broken mess. He will restore you to people. He will restore you to himself if you let him be the turning point of your story.
    I think he is some kind of Wonderful.
    He turned my story into a song!

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    But... They don't deserve It!

    I hear it on the street and all around.
    The word that seems to be the new way of saying,
    "You get what you deserve".
    "What goes around comes around".

    The human mind is complex. Our emotions and sense of justice and violation of rights get all mushed up into our mind and heart and sometimes its difficult to sort it all out.
    Maybe some people think  of it as "sowing and reaping".
    But I have been wondering about something else.
    What if the word Karma is used in order that we may clap with satisfaction when someone receives a "pay back". Perhaps it's someone who hurt us. Deeply.  And we feel a little smug when they get stung by another. Maybe it's the satisfaction of seeing another's tears... feeling vindicated  that there is now a greater understanding how it feels to hurt so much.
    There is something in us that wants to see the bully lose and the underdog win. And when the one who appears to be boastful and arrogant  and lacking in judgement gets his just desserts we cheer and yell things like.... "Karma bites".
    And we smugly sit back satisfied that our world has not been blackened by the monster and good still exists.
    We want to know that there is an ultimate winner.
    We were born to win.
    And in the spirit of mankind there is something that cries out for order and justice and perfection. And one day there will be all of these. The one who created us will come and set all things right.
    But for today there is a war.
    Because the end has not yet come and we are dwelling in jars of clay.
    In the mind of man there is something that wars against the spirit and this is where the battle is found.
    People rarely indicate they need victory over the movement of hands, or feet,
    but the mind.

    The mind produces the thoughts that drive my actions.
    And the mind, when filled with messages of revenge including the messages repeated to oneself... Revisiting offenses and dwelling in the midst of the muck of unforgiveness and paybacks, leads to the action of evil. This includes Passive Aggressive retaliation  and underhanded back room deals.  Gossip and slander of another so someone agrees with us that indeed we were wrongly treated.
    But In order to justify our actions we call it "Karma".
    They got what they deserve.
    The only problem is, We were never given the authority as citizens of another kingdom to be the "dealer outters of just desserts".
    Instead we are asked to do the opposite of what we feel like doing.
    And so the war rages. Our minds, our hearts, our emotions cry one thing. Order. Justice. Revenge!
    And our Master tells us something else...
    He asks us to not retaliate, but leave it to him to deal with the offender.
    To pray for those who have hurt us.
    To love  and forgive those who do wrong to us. Over.And Over. And over again.
    It's unnatural and we struggle to do what is right while our whole body screams to do something else.
    He tells us that we were made for another world.
    He knows we don't have the full knowledge or wisdom to deal with matters of another's heart and he encourages us to remove the plank from our own eye instead of painstakingly and often mistakenly trying to remove the teeny tiny splinter from another's.
    He tells us that we don't war against flesh and blood but against beings we can't see.... That come to our mind and hold us captive if we allow them to.
    He instructs us to "do to others as you would want done to you".
    And it kind of just kicks the whole bucket of  "Karma" right over as we shake our heads...
    "How can they keep getting away with it"?
    "They don't deserve it", We say.
    But as I remove the plank from my own eye I realize,
      Neither do I. 
    No Not I.
    And No matter what, He forgives me. And keeps walking with me. And loving me...
    Over and Over and Over again.
    How can I be the judge when I am so in need of forgiveness myself?
    It keeps me soft. And it brings me low. Right where I need to be.
    Undeserving myself. But so grateful for grace.
    How about you?
    Do you need some grace today?
    Do you need to give some grace today?
    Let's forget about Karma and think about that.
    Because this morning as we rise His Mercies are new and fresh and enough for today.