Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My mommy loved Jesus

Do you ever feel like you might not overcome an area of weakness? Like you keep coming back to the same place, over and over (I don't like this cycle). I think ultimately we do it to ourselves. It seems that there are times that I just do not learn from my mistakes. Like I am whisked away by my emotions rather than standing firm on God's directives.

During these very days I struggle with my response to the demands of three young kids. I know. It is really, really difficult, and the days truly can be long. I know I am not perfect, I am but dust, but it seems the message I hear from the Lord is that I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. And I don't just want to survive these demanding days, I want to thrive towards my kids.

It comes down to mindset. I have noticed over the recent months that the times where I am more easily frustrated are when I have other things I am trying to accomplish. Whether it is fixing a meal or trying to leave the house on time, when I set my mind on the tasks then my kids seem to be more of an interruption. But that isn't the message I want to send. Don't get me wrong, responsibilities still linger and some things have to get done. But I want my mind to honor the Lord with regard to my precious gifts from Him; so there are a few phrases I am convicted to meditate upon:
  • This little one is Yours, O Lord, not mine
  • Help me shepherd these little lambs to Your green pasture
  • My job as their mommy is to teach them Your ways and Your promises,
  • Which includes appropriate discipline and unconditional love
  • Convict me quickly of my thoughts, that I would honor You

The fact is that our kids will not be perfect. They are going to mess up...alot. That is why God put me in their lives--to teach and model a life submitted to the Lord. We need not take their poor choices personally, rather see those times as yet another opportunity to point them to the One who will give them a life of victory (I am preaching to myself). When my kids think back to their preschool years, my hope is that they will say, "I remember that my mommy loved Jesus." Oh, how many times I have failed. Thank you Lord that Your grace is bigger.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Little JuJu

I awoke this morning still heavily burdened for my dear friend Amber. As I type she and her husband seek physical rest on a hospital couch next to their 2 year old daughter who just had surgery. Less than 3 days ago the whirlwind began with the discovery of a tumor on one of her kidneys. The doctors have successfully removed the organ and the mass, leaving an 8 inch stitched incision across her little tummy. How surreal.

Though the tears and even wails are inevitable, Amber's reflections evidence the strength of Christ. She believes this road to be ordained by her loving, heavenly Father, trusting Him to provide for each and every one of their needs--physical, emotional, and spiritual. Praise you Lord. In Him is hope even through the most trying of seasons.

I have never suffered what she is having to walk through; I wouldn't even dare to vainly compare my own scars. But I do know our God. And I know that He is true to His promises. I have experienced His power and love, invading to the core of my being even amidst despair. My first prayer is obviously for healing--precious Julia. Second, that her family would seek God in spite of their feelings. And third, as strange as it may sound, that God would bless in such indescribable ways with His faithful provision and miraculous touch.

Our world is fallen. Heart-breaking valleys will come. The question for our souls to ponder remains, "What will we do with our broken pieces?" There is a God who is real. There is a God who longs to be the mender of your heart. Turn to Him and experience His touch.

You can visit Amber's blog at http://www.littlepapiandpunkin.blogspot.com/

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Praying Psalm 23

This entry is dedicated to a dear friend walking this day with great uncertainties. I love you, sweet friend.


You say, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want." But Lord my soul cries to you in anguish.
You promise to make me lie down free from fear and lead me beside the still waters, but Father I wrestle to find your peace and the waters appear as rushing waves.
O be true to Your Word and restore my soul, guiding me down the road paved with righteousness.
I long to glorify Your name.

Even though I must walk through this valley garnished with shadows of unknown,
I will remind myself of Your Truth and fear no evil.
You O Lord are with me.
You both protect and guide with the comfort of a Father's touch.

Enable me, by the power of Your Spirit, to feast on Your promises, though the world might question.
Remind me of the vast depths of Your love even though I must drink of this cup.
I believe the promises and preach them to my spirit: Your goodness and mercy are following me every day, every moment.
I choose to dwell in Your presence. I choose to rest in Your love.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teach me how to parent

I wonder how it was to parent Jesus. Have you ever thought about that? I bet that he listened to what Mary and Joseph said, and then obeyed. But my kids aren't Jesus. They need Jesus.

Some days as a mommy are so difficult. Yesterday was one of those. It was a day where I thought, "I must be doing something terribly wrong." I seek the Lord, try to teach love and kindness, and yet there are moments when I completely loose my cool after the tenth time that morning of having to discipline. I just want my kids to love each other and love God. But that is why Jesus came and died. We as people are sinful and selfish. We need redemption.

God uses days like yesterday to remind me of His own heart as my heavenly Daddy. Thankfully He is God, full of grace and patience, but we do see in the Old Testament His frustration when His children constantly whined and complained, not remembering His many mercies and blessings. There is good reason why the psalmist says, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations." (Psalm 100:4-5)

God does want us to turn to Him with our requests, just as we want our own kids to come to us when they have a need. He is the provider, sustainer, and healer. But we have so much for which to be thankful. I want to reflect a thankful heart to my God. I want to enter His courts with thanksgiving and praise, not whiny complaints. Remember with me today all the many ways He has blessed our lives. He is worthy. He is good.

Oh, and, pray for the moms in your life. We need wisdom and endurance, depending on the power of His Spirit within us moment by moment. With His grace maybe I won't mess my kids up too much. :)

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Me? Nag?

Have you learned yet that you cannot change people? Oh, I've given it really nice attempts along the way. But ultimately lasting change must come from within, not from external, manipulative, possibly nagging pressure. And we as women know how to nag--it is just innate. I think it comes with the estrogen.

To be honest it goes back to the fall of man in Genesis. When God says to Eve (and in turn every woman thereafter), "Your desire will be toward your husband," that means that we as women will desire to control our husbands. Yes, control. Am I stepping on any toes? Mine have almost fallen off in the past when I have dug deep into this issue.

But did you catch that the "desire to control" was part of the curse? It is not God's heart or will. In fact the book of Proverbs explains that it is better for a man to live on the corner of a rooftop than in a house with a contemptuous, quarrelsome wife. Ouch! Ladies, as hard as it might be, to experience the full freedom in Christ we must lay down those chains of control we try to wrap around others, namely our spouse. We must get our eyes off of the weaknesses and faults of him and set our eyes upon the One who gives life to the full. Freedom will follow.

To take it a step further we must even change our thought patterns. For years I reasoned, "At least I don't say the nagging thoughts I think." I believe that the nagging, critical thoughts have just as much affect as the words you actually speak. You and your husband are one. Your thoughts toward him will influence your attitude, facial expression, and eventually your words.

God has challenged me in this past year to turn thoughts of criticism into two things: prayers and blessings. First, pray for your husband if you sense an area of weakness in him. Remember he is not your enemy (though it feels like he is at times). We are in a spiritual battle and "the fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much." (James 5:16) Fight for him in the heavenlies. Second, turn thoughts of criticism into thoughts of blessing. Declare God's truth over your husband, "God is making you to bear much fruit!" Even when you cannot see, know that your prayers of intercession do not go unheard. God is at work.

I hope you do not hear words of condemnation. I have failed the Lord so many times in my short 7 years of marriage. But God has taught me much as I have sought His will. There is both hope and strength in Him.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Fight for it

Are you aware that marriages are under attack? It seems like almost daily I am hearing of another desperate situation where husband and wife are choosing to give it up and "move on." Oh my heart breaks.

Let's just get to the point. Marriage can be crazy hard. From slight inconveniences to heavy devastation, the emotional roller coaster is endless. But there is more to marriage than my own happiness; there is more to marriage than my individual needs being met. Our hedonistic culture seduces us into believing that if things in my marriage are not perfect, not pleasing to me at that moment, then I can just pick someone else. Believe me, I have battled that thought pattern over the years. But the teachings from scripture explain an entire spiritual dimension taking place.

In the very beginning when God designed marriage, he said that man and woman will come together and become one flesh. Do you know what that means? Two people are literally becoming one body. Yes, I know that you can still go get your nails done while your husband plays golf (Praise the Lord!). But there seems to be a whole spiritual aspect that takes place when we say "I do," a converging of bodies into one. That could be part of the reason why divorce hurts so very badly.

Every situation is different. Every marriage has its own set of struggles, some small and some huge. But if you call yourself a child of God, He is faithful to guide and lead. I can tell you honestly that there is hope. It doesn't always have to be the same it has been.

I know this topic gets sticky with "ifs," but God is in the business of bringing dead things to life. Seek His face. Find godly counsel. Hope in Him.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indwelling Sin

In light of my earlier post from today, this song has been playing in my mind. If you have any appreciation for rap music then I am sure you will enjoy. If rap music makes you cringe then you might want to avoid clicking the play button.

Lecrae is a Christian rap artist whose rhymes hit straight to the point. In this song he is conversing with his "indwelling sin" and making the choice to stand on truth rather than his feelings or flesh desires. Click here to read more about his life and career, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lecrae.

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I have to confess something to you: I am not that smart. When it comes to basic knowledge of stuff like geography and history and insects, I really do not know much. In fact Jeopardy makes me feel like a complete idiot. But I am OK with that; no need for words of encouragement.

Recently I was preparing for a talk and I came across the analogy of locusts. I realized that I really did not know what a locust was. I discovered it is something like a grasshopper. To be honest, I had always thought it was more like a slug. See? Nothing.

Here are some crazy facts about locusts:
  • they fly
  • they swarm and migrate with the wind
  • their numbers can be astronomical
  • one example: desert swarm crossed the Red Sea in 1889 estimated to cover 2000 sq. miles; there were countless millions of locusts, like dark clouds moving across the land

The Bible often refers to sin as a consuming locust. In the matter of minutes a locust swarm can devour everything it is touching. A lush tree will become a barren branch. Sin is the same way. If we try to compromise with sin, behaviors we know are in rebellion to God, we will be consumed and controlled.

In my own life I know of certain areas of weakness, places that I am more vulnerable to disobey. If I allow myself to open those doors, even a crack, I can easily become distracted.

If we are going to walk these days with the peace and joy that God wants for our lives, in spite of our circumstance, then we must guard ourselves against our individual areas of frailty. As Paul encourages, it is when we are weak that in actuality we are the most strong because then the power of God can be evidenced in our lives.

Turn to Him and trust His promises.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Smite em'

Do you get offended at the depravity of our world? Do you look around and wonder how certain atrocities and abominations could actually be occurring blatantly in our nation? And God just let's it go on? But what is our heart towards those committing the atrocities; are we hoping for God's grace, mercy, and love to fall upon them or would we rather see God's hand of judgment?

If you chose judgment then you might want to reconsider the heart of God. Jesus came that those who are in rebellion to God, those who are enemies of God, might have life abundant. He did not come to this earth to judge, rather to bring living water that quenches thirst. Don't get me wrong, the Bible is clear that He will return as judge and we will all stand before Him, the Holy God, and give an account. But as for now, His heart is that none perish, that all come to true life. So that should be our heart as well.

Yes the depravity of our world, especially our nation, makes me sick. There are certain things that our country promotes as right that I know breaks the heart of God. But people are dying without ever truly living. Men and women are chasing that which will never satisfy, reaching the doors of death only to wonder if there was something more.

If we call ourselves children of the living God, then our heart should be one of grace, mercy, and love toward a dying world. We should be out there loving people, pointing them to the God who brings healing and provision.

I cherish the words of Peter and John, disciples of Christ. They say in Acts 4:20, "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." True "evangelism" flows from what you personally see and hear. Maybe that would include knocking on doors on Tuesday night (I don't know) but true evangelism from the heart is spontaneous, real, and of the overflow; it is at the gym, the grocery store, and your child's school. But to have this overflow we have to see and hear from God; getting to know His heart and His desires.

I am in this journey with you, sweet friend, let's press on and look into His face.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Help me, Help you

I don't know how to help her stop. The habit seems to be in complete control of her. It is my 4 year old and she sucks her thumb. Her and I have been discussing our game plan to demolish this behavior. But she is reluctant. Sucking her thumb brings her comfort; and she isn't giving it up without a fight.

This morning was priceless. She explains her bargain, "How about I just suck my thumb a little at my daytime nap, but then when it is nighttime I don't suck my thumb at all?" Sounds reasonable, right?! But here is the problem: when you try to negotiate with a destructive habit, it will eventually control you.

Whether it is sucking your thumb (which hopefully you have laid down if you are reading this blog) or another "little habit" you struggle putting away, ask yourself if the behavior is destructive or productive. Like thumb-sucking, destructive habits are sometimes slow to show the effects. But over time you will have crooked teeth.

I have nothing but love for you, sweet friend, that is why I don't want you (OR ME!) to have to pay for braces.

P.S. Any suggestions on helping her kick the habit are well received and much appreciated.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

YOUR desires for me

God amazes me. Though I cannot yet share the details, God is up to something in my life. In one year's time I have gone from the deepest valley to the edge of a mountain. I can hardly comprehend it.

Last night I shared some fears with my husband, fears of insufficiency. Can I really do this? Do I have what it takes? The answer, "NO!" In my flesh, I can't. In my flesh I am selfish, deficient, and fearful. But when God calls, He also enables.

This morning, as my own fears were still lingering subconsciously, I began reading Jeremiah chapters 1-3 . Here we see God calling Jeremiah to be His prophet to Israel, and Jeremiah voices similar fears, "Ah Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." God instructs, "Do not say, 'I am a youth'...whatever I command you, you shall speak...I have put My words in your mouth." (coincidental? I think not)

OK, so I am not declaring my call to be a prophet to Israel. That's fo sho! But there is a deeper truth embedded in this conversation between Jeremiah and God Most High, applicable to us even today: God will equip us to carry out His will for our lives. He does not promise to give us "equipment" to carry out our own will, our own desires; but throughout scripture He promises to equip us to carry out His will in our lives. And He is forever faithful.

Strangely, I hear what you are asking, "But what is His will for my life?" Here's the thing I have learned in my own adventure with God. When you or I seek Him, spending time alone with Him, getting to know Him through His Word, He gives you His very desires for your life. His desires become your desires. But the key is knowing Him.

I am one of those people who believes the Bible to be true. I don't presume this blindly; I actually see a strong case for the authenticity and reliability of Scripture (a completely different topic). With that as my foundation, God has proven Himself faithful to His promises over and over again in my life. Just as you would spend time with a physical person in order to get to know their heart, their longings, their drive; it is of vital necessity to spend time with God the same way. And as you do, He will give you His desires for your life, His desires for your days, and even His desires for your very moments.

God is cool. He is so big and yet so intimately involved, if we allow Him to be. Love Him, sweet friend, with all your heart, soul, body, and strength. He is worth it.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Poor Martha

A guest speaker came to our church recently and said something that stuck. He asked the question, "What is going to be your one sentence?" He challenged that after we are dead and gone, one sentence will follow us.

"Johnny, I remember him, he discovered light." or "Mary, oh wow, she was a witch." So what will be my sentence?

Have you read the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible?

(Click here to read this passage from the translation called the Message, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:38-42%20;&version=65;)

Poor Martha. This is her one sentence. Though there are other brief documentations of her interactions with Jesus, this is the sentence that stands out. The sentence most often used to define this woman's entire life: Martha worried and fussed over the inessentials.

But it was just one moment in time.

On the one hand this story reminds me of how vital it is that we are faithful with our moments. Recently I connected with someone on Facebook from my elementary school years. The one thing I remembered from my early interactions with her was that I stole some personal notes she had written with another girl. Yes, in my flesh I am a thief. Why did I do that? I don't know. I am sure it was out of jealousy and insecurity.

When she "became my friend" on Facebook I knew I wanted to make that right; clear the air of my childish behavior. (And maybe make a new sentence for me in her eyes.) So I sent her a note of confession and apology, telling her I acted like an idiot. Her response was priceless, "Lara!!! You are adorable!!! You just warmed my spirit with that confession. Thank you." Now maybe her memories of me will not be left wondering if I was ever locked up.

Faithful with our moments.

The second lesson I learn from poor Martha speaks to our thought life. The other evening Adam came home after being gone for a day and a half working (the life of a firefighter). I was in the kitchen cooking with three kids pulling on my legs begging for attention (this is a typical scene). When he walked through the door they all went running and screaming, "DADDY!" So after a quick kiss and hello to me, he chased them all into the play room where he could more effectively tickle and tackle. I have a choice when this happens. I can continue cooking, irritated and frustrated that he isn't helping me with dinner. Or I can be thankful that he is a father who wants to spend time with his kids.

In those moments he has chosen the better thing. If I let my thoughts criticize what others do, then I am going to miss the blessings of my day. In this brief moment with Mary and Martha, we see Martha battling her thought life. She was probably in the kitchen, mentally listing all of the reasons why Mary should be helping her fix the meal. Then she was fuming.

We live for an audience of One. There is so much in the Bible that guides us with our thought lives. From our thoughts will come our attitudes and words. Let us live faithful with our thoughts, turning criticisms into prayer and then into thoughts of blessing and promise. As a believer (one who has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as their own) God promises that His Spirit dwells within you. You have the power to live victorious with your thought life, and in turn with your moments. We are all in process. No one is perfect. But as we come to know Him through His Word, we can fill our minds with truth and are better equipped to walk this road in abundance.

Turn to Him, sweet friend. Let Him change your one sentence.

"Finally, friend, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, pure, lovely, if there is any virtue and anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Societal "Crisis"

For a fleeting hour yesterday, my sister and I broke away from the kids. (Thanks Mom!) We actually had a conversation about something other than a child's bodily functions or sleep patterns. My sister is 6 years my younger in chronological age but about 16 years my elder in political knowledge. So I often turn to her for information.

In light of Michael Moore's movie Sicko (which I just watched 3 nights ago), all of these questions have been swimming around in my mind. Friend or foe, Moore brings an interesting perspective to the table. Could single payer health care really work?

As my wise sister pointed out, Moore is very persuasive. In this film he portrays the health care systems of other nations as ideal, and near perfect. One thing she said stuck with me, "The idealistic plan some propose will never work because people will always be people." Her point is that people will always be greedy for more. Communism might be a great concept theoretically but it doesn't work because people are not robotic; thankfully we have been designed with freedom of thought.

We both agreed that much needs to change. The health insurance companies and drug industry seem completely out of control and thoroughly corrupt. But ultimately, ultimately, the only peace will come from above, not government policy. This world is unstable, confused, ever-changing; but there is One who is faithful and true. Even amidst an economic "crisis," the Creator of this universe is secure.

I am not proposing that we isolate ourselves and do not become involved, locked in our homes and sprayed with holiness. We should become informed. We must pray for wisdom and voice our opinion (hopefully founded on truth). But God wants His peace to be our experience. He says to cast every care upon Him, not being anxious for anything...ANYTHING. As we turn to Him, setting our eyes upon Him, He promises to guard our hearts and minds with His peace (see Philippians 4:4-7). But we have a choice as to where we place our trust.

In an unstable climate, look at Him, sweet friend. He is the calm in the midst of a storm.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Are these dishes really from breakfast?

Dishes from breakfast,
Food stuck tight;
Sticky hands touch the windows,
Just cleaned that last night.

Tiny little pieces,
strung all across the room.
"God protect the baby,"
who knows what he's consumed.

Then I lay on the floor,
look into their eyes.
Hear pure little laughter,
get a foot in my thigh.

The years go by quickly,
Those little dimples will fade.
Like a bird, they will fly,
Help me see the blessings this day.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

How are we treating the sick?

What is true in politics? What is real? I ask these questions in the wake of watching Michael Moore's documentary Sicko. In this film Moore takes a look at America's health care system in comparison to the health care in other nations. My only response is "WHAT IN THE WORLD?" Believe me I know that this film is from one man's perspective, so to speak, but what are we doing in America? Why are people being turned away, in life and death situations, simply because their HMO won't cover the costs?! Or going into bankruptcy simply because they needed surgery. It seems completely twisted and laden with greed. It is all about money. From insurance companies to the drug industry to Capitol Hill (no offense to anyone working in these institutes), but it appears that the desire for more is the primary motivator.

I am not becoming an advocate of everything from Michael Moore. But this was eye opening. And though my husband and I jokingly finished the movie by saying, "We are moving to France!" the underlying reality is what really sickens my spirit.

Our country was established on Christian principles: love, respect, freedom. But this freedom has given way to greed out of control. Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:10 "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Money is not evil. But the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Greed consumes. Is this really where we have come as a nation? For more money, we as a nation would heap debt upon debt to the sick and dying, or worse, not even help those who are not "covered." Oh Lord, forgive us.

Government policy is not the ultimate answer. God is bigger than government. Government policy could possibly relieve some of the money stress our nation has incurred, but ultimately revival in the hearts of the people is what will change this nation.

The book of Proverbs exhorts us to seek wisdom from God. His ways are true; and His truth brings life. Chapter 3 verses 7-8 say "Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones." This world is fallen. Sickness will come. But I believe God's promises to be true. If we walk in obedience in our moments, choosing to submit to the Lord, then it will bring physical health. It doesn't mean you will never get sick, but I believe His Word teaches that you will avoid many ailments simply by obeying.

Think about it, if you take care of your body by what you eat and how you exercise, then you will most often avoid obesity which is the root cause of so many physical problems. If you don't smoke then you will better avoid lung cancer and emphysema. I know there are exceptions. Again, our world is fallen and sadly even children get terminally ill.

Thankfully as a child of God we are not at the mercy of the health care system or even the sicknesses of our day. You very well may be affected individually by the corruption. But remember, as a son or daughter of God, nothing can happen to you that hasn't first passed through His loving hands. Seek Him with all your heart. Obey His Word. He is waiting and wants to be your provision.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Need a Preachin'

Sometimes our soul's just need a good preachin'. In Psalm 103 David begins his praise to the Lord with these words:
Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; (vv. 1-2)
Can't you just see David pacing the room, declaring these words to his own soul. Almost taking his soul by the chin, so to speak, and pointing it upward to God Most High. "Bless the Lord!" he instructs, "Forget not His benefits!"

The truth is that there are days we are not going to "feel" the stirring of God in our soul's. And it is not because God has moved or changed. It is us. We are the ones who get distracted. We are the ones who wake up with lists trailing in our minds before our feet hit the floor. We are the ones who focus in on the temporal things of this life, when only the eternal truly satisfy. We have to make the choice to set our minds on that which gives life; meditate on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

So give your soul a good preachin', and forget not all His benefits:
He forgives, heals, redeems, crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, and satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (vv. 3-5)

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

we are made of corn

Americans in general want things three ways: cheap, quick, and without any sacrifice. I can say this because I am an American. Fast food, microwave meals, convenient stores, drive-thru, wal-mart, email...this is what we have become. Don't get me wrong; I don't think all progress is evil. With three kids, drive-thru gets my vote. And I don't know what I would do without my mp3. But I wonder if we as Americans are missing the point in many ways.

I watched the film King Corn last night (yes another documentary). The basic idea from this film is that most of what we eat in America comes from the corn produced in Iowa. Not sweet yellow corn you would first think, corn that has been genetically modified and sprayed with powerful herbicides, funded by government subsidies. This is the corn that ends up in almost every processed food Americans eat today (mainly in grain fed cattle or high fructose corn syrup; yikes!). And though there are a plethora of discussion topics from both nutritional and political standpoints, I want to mention how this reflects on the spiritual state of our nation as a whole.

When Jesus walked this earth he confronted the religious elite on many occasions regarding their hypocrisy. In the book of Matthew chapter 23 he says, "Woe to you...hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind (religious man), first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." (vv. 25-26)

Too often in America we are concerned with the external. It is just like these crops of corn from this film. Externally this abundance of corn looks delicious, yellow and plump. But it isn't edible! Even the farmers do not eat it. It is made to be processed. Likewise without much expense or sacrifice, we can look pretty good. Whether it is cheap versions of expensive clothing, constructions of big homes with slab foundation, or genetically altered "foods", resources are at the tips of our fingers so we can externally "fit in". But the problem is that cheap clothes fall apart, slab homes cannot be crawled under for maintenance, and processed foods have lost the nutritional benefits God designed.

Now, relate this to our spiritual state. Sadly, most who call themselves Christians in America bring this mentality into their walks with God. We tend to want sanctification cheap, quick, and without sacrifice. The easy thing is to dress pretty and go to church on Sunday morning. But actually spending time alone with God, waiting, listening, praying, reading, that is more difficult. Standing for God's truth in love when someone you care about is straying, that is hard. Obeying God's heart for holiness and humility when the world at large mocks righteousness, that's a challenge. We can quickly become like the hypocrites Jesus confronted, concerned more with the external than the internal.

If we truly want the life of abundance found in Christ, then it is going to take sacrifice. It is going to take time. God is patient and wants each of us to come to Him, to know Him, to sit with Him and hear His heart. He has created you, and me, with great purpose and design. Unless we seek His face we will never experience the fullness He promises.

Oh, sweet friend, stop and sit at His feet. Sacrifice some sleep, computer time, or TV (any toes stepped on? also, yikes!) to hear His voice. He is worthy and He is so very good.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

So many choices

I am pondering something this morning: my physical health. I heard a statistic last night on a Christian program that astounded me; Americans, on average, eat over 700 donuts per year, per person. Now maybe, like me, you say, "I rarely eat a donut." But what do we put into our bodies?

God has given us one physical body. That's it. And it is but dust. Yet He calls it His Temple, "do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

These verses are specifically referring to sexual purity. But I think it is worth relating to our physical health. We know so much more information today than ever. I can hop onto Google and find out anything, from ladybugs to motorcycles, Obama to the Dalai Lama. Isn't that amazing? Just two decades ago we relied on a trip to the library or a set of outdated encyclopedias. But that is not our reality today. And with knowledge comes responsibility.

Thankfully with Christ came grace (praise you, Lord!). But as Paul asks, does grace give us freedom to sin? Certainly not. I am not telling you to go clear your cupboards of all processed foods (though that would probably be the wisest and healthiest choice for us all); I am just being challenged personally with what I put into my mouth, what I feed this one body God has given me. And probably more importantly, what I feed my three kids.

In some ways it is similar to our spiritual health. Though we are free in Christ, and not under law, it is still more beneficial to spend time reading His Word rather than not. It brings spiritual health to digest His truth. Likewise our physical health is affected by our choices. Spinach will strengthen me more than candy. And water will help keep me trim, while soda adds the pounds.

Our moments are filled with choice. Whether it is what we look at, listen to, read, or eat, we have a choice. Give us wisdom, Lord. Give us wisdom.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

You want me to do what?

Most mornings lately I have spent time reading in the Old Testament. And throughout its pages we read the simplicity of it all; we as God's children will be blessed when we obey. Period. Cut and dry. It's like I tell my kids, "You have one job on this earth right now, to obey me and daddy. That's it." So why do my kids still hit? Why do they go in the pantry and sneak candy? And why do I still sometimes battle pleasing God vs. people, or submitting to my husband, or getting angry with my kids? Paul explains it best.

The book of Romans is dense with theology. This short blog entry could never do Paul's extensive words justice. But one thing he mentions in chapter 8 sheds light on our present dilemma.
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, (set their minds on) the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace...(and) those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Romans 8:5-6, 8

Paul goes on to explain that if you are a child of God, having accepted the sacrifice of Christ for your own sins, then you are in the Spirit. You have been made a new creation, with His Spirit indwelling you, giving you life. It means that you and I possess the power to walk this life in victory, if we so choose. We are no longer bound to sin; we have a choice. God did not make robots; without freedom of choice there cannot be love. So even as His child we have a choice in our obedience. We have a choice of where to set our minds.

Last year, during a very deep valley, I was faced with a choice. I could obey God, which honestly appeared crazy to the world at large; or I could demand my rights and go the way that felt right. The Spirit of God compelled me. Though my feelings pointed me in one direction, God's Spirit drew me in another, and I chose to obey Him. I can tell you that God has blessed that decision more than I could have dreamed. He has brought life from death. He has brought dancing from mourning. Praise You, Lord!

Obedience is not always easy. It just isn't. In God's economy things are pretty much opposite from the world's view: love your enemy, bless those who curse you, give to receive, forgive without bounds. Most of the time it just doesn't feel right. But God does bless obedience. Life and peace are His. He is faithful to His Word. Dig in.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Candy vs. Spinach

Walking with God is so simple in theory. If I obey I will be blessed. If I rebel I will have consequences.


We are the ones that complicate things.

God has both theoretically and experientially shown me over the years that He is faithful to His Word. He is a God of purpose which means that He has reason for everything He instructs. So why is it so difficult to obey at times? Often it is our feelings that challenge our obedience. You know, that teetering between what feels right and what God declares as best.
  • But I have rights... God says, "Lay them down."
  • But it hurts too bad... God says, "Trust Me with your heart."
  • But the future is so uncertain... God says, "Look at My face."
  • But I am so scared... God says, "I am faithful."

My 2 year old would live on candy if I let him. The first question he literally asks on many mornings is "Can I have some candy?". What he doesn't understand is that candy is not good for his body. All he knows is that it tastes good so he wants more. Similarly, our Creator knows what is best for us. Often we are like a 2 year old begging for candy because it pleases our taste buds, while God knows our body really needs spinach to grow. Spinach might make us gag but it will make us stronger and healthier.

The heart is deceptive, sweet friend. But God's statutes are trustworthy, even when our feelings scream otherwise. Search His Word. Seek His face. He will prove faithful.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Taking Applications

This goes out to all my mom friends out there;
who says you don't have a real job?
Seamstress, Waitress, Hostess;
They call me mommy.
Moderator, Contractor, Educator;
They call me mommy.
Librarian, Beautician, Handyman;
They call me mommy.
Hygienist, Nutritionist, Gymnast;
They call me mommy.
Housekeeper, Cheerleader, Timekeeper;
They call me mommy.
Doctor, Lawyer, Planner;
They call me mommy.
Encyclopedia, Accountant, Mind-reader;
They call me mommy.
Chef, Ref, Judge;
They call me mommy.
Character Builder, Spiritual Leader, Moral Teacher;
They call me mommy.
So the next time someone asks what you do, say with a wink, "They call me mommy."

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Deal with our Stuff

God is a lineage God. Have you noticed this? Throughout the pages of scripture we see the phrase "son of..." or "daughter of..." Why is this significant? Because we as parents don't live in a bubble or box. Our stuff, good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, affects our children. Things get passed from one generation to the next.

If you are a parent then you have seen it first hand. Though a superficial example, my daughter now tells stories like me: hand gestures, inflection, facial expression; it pretty much freaked me out the first time I noticed. But it was also a good reminder that our kids, more often than not, will become like us. So what are we passing on? Our stuff.

Parents, we have to deal with our stuff or it will be passed on to our kids. They learn what they see, not just what we preach. If we live in fear then they most likely will live in fear. If we battle addictions then they most likely will battle addictions. If we lie, gossip, and complain, they most likely will do the same. But if we walk in faith, love, and joy then they will more likely live victoriously.

Nothing is guaranteed. In fact I heard a profound statement the other day that comforted my mommy spirit. God was the perfect parent to Adam and Eve, yet they disobeyed and brought sin into the world. We could do everything right (which we won't) and deal with all of our stuff and our kids will still make poor choices at times. On the other hand we could do everything wrong and our child could grow up to be a mighty warrior for the Lord because God is so very gracious. That is life. But ultimately we set our kids up for greater victory if we portray a life of faith and freedom in Christ.

Some days as a stay-at-home mommy to three I can battle the question, "Is what I am doing, day in, day out, really important?" I know, I know, I know what you are going to say. And even though mentally I rehearse that it is "the most important and difficult job", the battle still ensues amidst the loads of laundry and dirty dishes. But the truth is that God is a lineage God.

We are building the next generation. God has placed little Johnny in your life with great purpose and design (see Psalm 139). He knows the plans He has for him...and you. Let's choose to deal with our stuff, let's choose to pass on great faith. God is worthy.

My own mommy responsibilities now call (and it's not even 7 a.m.). Enable me Lord to reflect You.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp. I watched this movie last night and am trying to wrap my hands around my thoughts. This is a documentary type film which attempts to define Evangelical Christianity and its "(requirement for) Christian youth to assume leadership roles in advocating the causes of their religious movement." The film follows three young kids (ages approximately 9-12) to the "Kid's on Fire" summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota.

So how do I feel after watching this film? Not too good.

One of my biggest criticisms is that they lump all of Evangelical Christians into this one group, portraying all evangelicals to have a political agenda and a "war to take back America" mentality. I would call myself an evangelical by definition. But as I watched this film I felt the need to defend my position (as my husband would tell you; I started to preach a little).

Yes, I believe scripture is clear that we should be praying for our country's leadership and standing for truth. But righteous government is not the answer to our spiritual state. Christ is. I also think we need a wartime mentality, understanding that there is a spiritual battle taking place (see Ephesians 6). But we are not at war with people; we are at war with the enemy of God. If we start to think we are at war against people then the foundational tenet of love will be replaced with hate for those Christ came to redeem.

I am not judging the heart or motive of the evangelicals in this film. But from what was shown in the 84 minutes of the movie, not once was love for others mentioned. I want to teach my kids to stand for truth in a world that doesn't. And I want my kids to be passionate followers of the Lord. But most of all I want my kids to be motivated by love, love for God and love for others. If we don't pass the torch of love, then we have missed the mark.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 12:1-3)

Do my kids see love in me? Oh, how I hope so.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Stir His Spirit

God is cool. His Word is alive. When I decided to go to seminary (a COMPLETE shock to anyone who knew me "before") I was so on fire for Jesus. I remember telling my mom that all I needed to take was my Bible...and maybe some clothes (which I am sure everyone appreciated). The years after seminary brought many changes personally which challenged me spiritually. I have been through many ebbs and flows in my walk with God over the last eight years. But lately His Spirit is stirring within me so richly.

Don't get me wrong. I have my days. Wow. Yesterday was definitely one of them. You know what I am referring to; the days where the battle within, between flesh and Spirit, seems to be pulling out the big guns...and the flesh appears to have a bigger oozy. But God. His Word is alive. His Spirit is real. And He has given His children the power to walk this life in victory. Do you know the key? Submission.

Submit our thoughts, our wills, our desires, our homes, our futures, our fears, our sickness, our struggles, our addictions, and ultimately our very moments to Him. He can, and has handled it all. Repentance is more than just turning away from sin reigning in our lives; repentance means a "turning to". You and I will only walk in victory as we turn to the One who gives peace in the midst of a storm and brings dancing out of the season of mourning.

So join me sweet friend, dig into His Word and stir His Spirit within. Revival is awaiting.

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