Why Mary Pondered…

sad-womanSeveral times in Luke, scripture states that Mary pondered accounts of Jesus in her heart.

When the Shepherds came to the stable to find Jesus and proclaimed to everyone all that was told to them concerning Jesus (Luke 2:18-19)

She marveled at the things which were spoken by Simeon, whom God promised would see the Messiah and was led into the temple by God’s Spirit. (Luke 2:33)

At the temple, young Jesus left teachers astounded at His wisdom and understanding. Although worried at His whereabouts, Mary got a glimpse of Jesus’ ministry in action. (Luke 2:51)

As a mother, I have committed many things to memory that my children have done or said or participated in; but, I think this “pondering” goes beyond motherly affection.

I believe each of these instances were used at the cross to give Mary strength and comfort to allow God’s plan to unfold in the gruesome way it did.

Mary knew from the beginning how this calling on her life and the life of her Son would end. She, no doubt, either read the prophesies or heard them read. Can you imagine? Having heard the prophesies, she may have even thought how cool it would be to be the one chosen by God. To be found pure and upright in the sight of God Almighty! That desire to be worthy may have even motivated her to stay pure in the heat of temptation awaiting her wedding day.

Mary’s calling was one of honor and came with the highest accolades from God Himself. This honorable calling required someone of a pure heart, godly integrity, bold faith and strength of heart and mind to see this journey to its prophesied end.

That’s why I believe Mary’s pondering wasn’t the typical motherly storing of memories. Mary pondered to gain the strength needed to watch her Son fulfill His life’s purpose. It’s what planted her at the foot of the cross to see this journey out to the very end.

I can’t even imagine the grief that struck her heart as she not only watched Him suffer and die for the sin of the world; but, witness people cast lots for His clothes, mock and disrespect Him. It is a true testament to the power of God that He kept Mary’s “mother bear” instinct in check. And, praise God, His plan didn’t just end there!!

I am so thankful that Mary pondered.

Thank you, God, for the example of Mary. Thank you for fulfilling call and purpose in and through Your Son, Jesus.

What I Learned from a Frog

o-FROG-UMBRELLA-1-570“Dog days of summer” at our house means doing what we can to keep our four dogs, cool, happy and hydrated when they have to be outside. One of their new favorite things is to sit in a baby pool of water while they drink. Not very sanitary, but I’ve seen them do worse. Anyway, a few days ago we notice a frog hanging out on the side of the baby pool. I guess with the swamp-looking conditions the pool has recently taken, she felt like it was a good place to deposit her babies.

As the boys and I were watching the tadpoles awkwardly make their way around, they (the boys, not the tadpoles) were remarking how cool it was that frogs start out in water with a tail and gills and such and then end up on the surface with lungs and legs.

This got me thinking.

Tadpoles breathe water, eat fungi, and swim. After they transform, they live on land, breath air, hop and eat flies. Frogs are a completely new creation.

We, as believers in Christ Jesus, are a lot like frogs. When we join the membership of God’s family, we transform into a new creation. We become a child of God and a resident of Heaven. We can no longer dwell in our old environment continuing in our old habits and expecting to sustain our new life. We must learn new ways, form new habits and learn new techniques that will help us adapt to our new way of life. We are transformed into a new creation in Christ Jesus!!

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

I love these every day reminders of Who God is!! He has a plan and a purpose and He makes it known through His Word, His people, His Spirit; and, even His creation cries out in testimony!!

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Wait Well…

waitingWaiting is not my forte’. And, although I can appreciate the good waiting does toward developing godly character in my life, I fail miserably at waiting.

I feel like a child in “big church,” squirming in the pew, waiting for the service to end. I look for stuff to do to fill the void, occupy my mind and make time pass faster.

Is that really waiting?

Filling my time with distractions while waiting for the next mission is more like what happens in my house when we’re getting ready to leave. We tell our boys to get ready and what time we are leaving. When we do the call out for everyone to head to the car,  suddenly, boys are scrambling to get their shoes or finding pertinent items for where we are headed.

“Why aren’t you ready?” we ask, in a stern yet loving tone…sort of…well, the stern part is accurate.
“I am!” they reply. “I got dressed and then was just playing my game a few minutes while I waited for everyone else to get ready. It will only take a minute to grab my shoes.”

Mostly ready and ready are worlds apart, especially when we are now eating away at our drive time waiting for them to grab those last minute essentials they were supposed to grab during their allotted prep-time. Instead, they get to a comfortable level of preparedness; and, then give in to more exciting distractions while “waiting.”

Distractions waste our prep-time. Distractions, even godly ones, keep us from not only focusing on what God wants to prepare in us during our prep-time; but also, hinders us from resting in Him so we can be renewed and ready. Isaiah 40:31 …those who wait on The Lord will be renewed in strength.

I keep saying that I’m waiting on God; but, I believe God is waiting on me. Patiently watching me as I scramble about in business, all the while asking Him to reveal His next mission for me. Maybe He is telling me, but, I am so consumed with the noise around me, I can’t hear Him. I need to learn to wait well. But, what does that even look like? For me, I think it need to look like this…

Read the Bible without writing a lesson or blog about the content. Let it simply feed my mind and heart. Reflect on it throughout the day and ask God to help me apply it to my life.

Pray reverently. Submit fully to Jesus. His will, His timing, His method. Jesus prayed reverently. He used this time to focus on God the focus and submit His desire to the perfect will of the Father.

Hebrews 5:7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Sit and Listen to God without my own agenda, without looking for distractions. Focused on Him.

Are you waiting on God or is He waiting on you?
How do you wait well?

New School Year…New Challenges

images-1It’s back to school time, and, if you are like me, you feel both excitement and dread.

I’m excited to have made it through the summer with the children at home, bored, arguing, tracking in on my freshly mopped floor, eating a months worth of groceries in a week, and constantly, well, there and under foot.

However, I’m also feeling dread. The dread of early morning mayhem, homework, arguing, parent meetings, fundraiser, sporting events, new learned attitudes and habits to deprogram and just the lost feeling of security by having my little family constantly… there and under foot.

Amid the bipolar feelings of joy, sorrow, peace and angst, perhaps the most notable concern for me is the effect this year will have on the spiritual health of my children.

Here are a few things you can do to help prepare your child for school and nurture their spiritual health:

Pray. I know this seems obvious; but, prayer is truly the most valuable tool we have as parents. We can’t always be with our children whispering wisdom in their ear; but, God can. There is nowhere they can go to be out of His reach and that alone is invaluable. Pray with them before they head to school each morning and invite them to pray with you. Encourage them to voice their concerns to the Lord with a thankful heart. Intercede for them while they are at school and school functions. Pray over them at night while they are tucked in their beds.

Educate. Run through scenarios of possible temptations or problems and help them think through how to handle them in a godly way. The hardest part on this one is balancing the information with sensitivity to their psyche’. Sometimes running scenarios can create fear and anxiety. Provide Bible verses to back up doing the right thing and making wise choices. Two verses I use constantly with my children are

Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Combine Forces. It is much easier to stand firm when you have at least one buddy. Connect with parents you know hold the same values you do and brainstorm proactive ways to prepare your children, together, to withstand problems. Make sure the children know they can depend on each other at school and have each others backs.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Communicate. Be in constant conversation with your child. I know this can be the most challenging part, especially if you don’t have a good relationship with your child. However, it is vital that your child knows that you care enough to ask every day and you will love them no matter how that conversation goes. Keep pointing them towards Jesus and help them make wise choices. If you aren’t sure how to get through to your child, pray! Ask Jesus to give you wisdom, understanding, and boldness to communicate truth to your child.

Also, communicate with their teacher, school staff and other parents. The more you are present in your child’s school environment, the more equipped you will be to respond to situations or even head them off.

Now, I’m not saying to be, “that parent;” but rather, be present by means of helpful and available. Your positive input into the school and classroom will help you gain credibility with the teachers and staff. When you voice a concern or have a suggestion, you are more likely to be heard instead of dismissed as yet another parent who is never there but always willing to tell the teacher how to do her job.

Bottom Line: No matter how much we prepare our children, teach them to do right, take them to church, abstain from certain shows, words and people, ultimately, it is still up to them to choose the right path and make this faith their own. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is the bad choices that nurture the strongest faith. Just keep giving them to the Lord, stand firm in your beliefs and values and love them through it.

I pray that as you continue to nurture your child’s heart for the Lord, He will bless you with a bountiful return for your labor. Have a great school year!

God Knows…God Loves…God Gave

imagesGenealogies are so daunting to read that often I just skip them. I have only read the “begats” of 1st Chronicles once, just to say I have. But, to really see the big picture of God’s grace and His loving kindness in action you have to consider the familial fabric weaved into Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew chapter 1.

First in the lineup who may give pause is Tamar. Tamar was widowed by one of the sons of Judah. And, due to unfulfilled promises of redemption through other sons, she played a harlot to entice her father-in-law, Judah, and became pregnant by him. Next is Rahab. Rahab was harlot by trade who lived in the walls of Jericho. She hid Joshua’s spies in exchange for refuge for herself and her family. Finally, Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite who adhered herself to Naomi after the death of her husband, Naomi’s son.

God honored each of these women by placing them in the bloodline of His perfect Son, Jesus. I love this fact because it echoes the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. This is His plan for all of us. To put us in a place of honor we did not and cannot earn. We so often get lost in the ugliness of our past that we let unworthy mask the fullness of what God offers us-FULL REDEMPTION. 

God knows…God loves…God gave.

That’s the bottom line.

“For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What is keeping you from embracing the fullness of God’s mercy and grace?

Let it go…today…right now! God gave you full unmerited redemption through Jesus Christ. Live in this fact today!

By His Wounds

From the archives…Easter 2012

People react differently to scars depending on their origins. If it’s from a sports wound, a c-section or even a gunshot wound obtained in the line of duty, the scar may be displayed proudly like a trophy serving as a positive reminder of one of the happiest or bravest moments of your life. Regrettably, some scars are not so glamorous. The ones from the wounds of physical abuse inflicted by another or self or even the emotional wounds that haunt the bearer bringing shame and regret.

In His 33 years on earth, Jesus was wounded. His friends betrayed Him repeatedly, authorities sought to discredit Him everywhere He went, He was falsely accused, beaten and brutally killed. His wounds were deep. His scars plentiful. The 39 lashes that crossed His back and ripped the skin with each recoil of the cat of nine tails. Nails pierced His hands and feet securing Him to the hard, splintery cross. The crown of thorns used to mock Him penetrated His skull as soldiers shoved it further into His head with each blow as they struck Him over and over again. Then finally, the wound from the sword that punctured His side to prove, “It was finished” as He proclaimed. The astounding part of this for me is that He could have stopped all this at any time yet He endured. Why? Because Isaiah prophesied that by His wounds we would be healed. (Isaiah 53:5) Jesus knew that all scripture must be fulfilled and He was the One-the Chosen Messiah. (Mark 14:49)

When Jesus was resurrected three days later, the scars from those wounds were the proof that He was (and is) the risen Savior whose blood cleansed and covered all our scars and skeletons. By His wounds you are healed.

What if Jesus had hidden His scars?

When you become a child of God, you are given the power to overcome-the power to endure. At that moment, you are truly forgiven for all sins and screw ups. Sometimes, though, those screw ups leave some pretty nasty and unsightly scars. Our natural human instinct is to cover or hide our scars from the world. But what if your wounds could help heal another? As we share our stories (our testimonies) we help people with the same struggles identify with us giving us the opportunity to point them to Jesus- the One who truly heals.

 

Three Essential Truths Children Need to Know

 

teensEphesians 4:24

“You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your mind; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Alright, I’m going to be blunt here. Christians are not living in true righteousness and holiness. In fact, most of the time it is difficult to pinpoint who in a crowd is a believer and who isn’t. There is just as much perverse talk, corrupt actions and negative attitudes in Christian environments than in secular. The only difference being that the Christians are doing it behind the backs of those who will call them out for their actions. And this is true for our children too.

One of my sons suffered culture shock when he entered middle school. Three elementary schools were mixed together, so there were numerous children he didn’t know bringing in untold back-stories, home-lives and faith; but, this wasn’t the problem.

What bothered him was seeing his friends lives take a 180. The same children he grew up with, who professed Jesus in elementary school were cussing (including the “F” word), indulging in perverted conversation, bullying, and disrespecting authority, themselves and each other.

This bothered him so much that he became physically sick at the thought of having to go to school. He even opted to eat lunch in the counselors office rather than sit with his peers.

We were talking about it at the dinner table, trying to console him and give him a pep talk in preparation for the next day, when my high school son decided to offer his consoling remarks, “You think that’s bad, just wait till you get to high school!” My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I felt sick. Then I uttered the most un-motherly words to my high school son. I said, “Please don’t ever tell me what goes on in high school.” He laughed…but I was serious.

The truth is, the age of innocence is dwindling. This degradation of moral character is trickling down to the elementary level at an alarming rate.

I learned this the night I helped chaperone an elementary school lock-in. Girls were parading around with cell phones, engaging in caddy conversations and talking about boys. Guys were huddled in groups whispering, laughing and pointing at others. One boy made a sexual comment toward a girl who, thankfully, had no clue what he was saying. It was an eyeopener.

We can’t isolate our children from worldly influences-nor should we want to; but we do need to educate them to handle it.

Here are three essential truths that children need to know.

  1. As a child of God you are not ruled by sin-When you accept Jesus’ payment for sin, there is a transfer that takes place, Dead to Sin~Alive in Christ. This doesn’t mean the absence of temptation. It means that the option to say, “No,” comes with the power of God helping you resist. Our children need to know that they will be confronted with the desire to do ungodly things, they will want to do some, if not all of them, saying no may be difficult and unpopular but it is essential for their spiritual growth.
  2. Sticking to godly principles in the heat of temptation displays true maturity-Satan has our youth believing that indulging in worldly pleasures displays their maturity, like a right of passage into adulthood. When in fact, it takes more maturity and strength of character to resist temptation.
  3. Developing godly character takes time-You are a new creation created in Christ Jesus; but, there my be a breaking in period. That old self with it’s sinful desires will not give up easily. Temptations will hit daily and the desire to give in will still be there. The key is to feed the spiritual nature so it is more dominant in their mind and will hopefully be the “go to” voice in the heat of temptation.

Temptation is indispensable for providing growth opportunities and refining godly character. But when our children are ill-equipped to withstand it or fail to see the need to resist; they will live fruitless lives or abandon their faith all together.

What Defines You?

imagesI have never been a trendsetter. Chances are, if you wouldn’t be caught dead in what I’m wearing or doing what I am doing, then there is a good chance you are cool!

I am just rebellious enough that if something is “all the rage,” then I don’t want anything to do with it. But rebelling against the norm doesn’t mean I don’t want to be accepted. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be recognized as a valuable member of society. We may claim that we want to be different but that doesn’t change our need to be accepted in spite of our difference.

Being Cool. What does that mean, anyway?

I would love to say that cool has a different meaning depending on your station in life. But, that’s not true. On the surface, cool may look different if you are a teenage from business man or a mom or an artist; but the core is the same. At the core of cool is confidence. Confidence in who you are, where you belong and what you believe.

As a believer, we know that confident identity can only be satisfied in Jesus Christ.

The world wants us to seek this identity in stuff and status but those things are only a band-aid on a gushing wound. The world tries to mask the truth that the only true cool is in Christ. The only true confidence is in His unchanging love for us and who we become because of Him and His sacrifice on our behalf.

It is easy to lose sight of this truth. Especially when you are in a job you hate, a bad relationship or no relationship or just feel lost or alone. When the world says, “This is what happy is suppose to look like,” but that is not what’s happening for you. We just came out of Valentine’s Day and those flowers are starting to wither and the candy is gone…or now only visible by scale, and maybe even that boyfriend/girlfriend is gone. You may find yourself wondering, where is the love? Where is that feeling of belonging that was there just a few days ago?

I say, it’s time to redefine what defines you. Where do you find your significance? What are you going to root your identity to?

Relationships, status, job titles, money, fame? All of these fade and none of them satisfy that core desire. This place is reserved for Jesus Christ alone. God created us to have this longing need that only He can fill.

I love what David wrote:

Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God knows the plan He has for you. This plan is different from what the world says is normal or necessary for happiness and success. I know this knowledge doesn’t always remove those innate desires to marry, have children or find that perfect job, etc; but, there is an indescribable and incomparable peace and satisfaction in life knowing these things were never meant to be your identify.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22
Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set His seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

1 John 3:1
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.

So, what are you going to let define you?

[Photo credit: crayon2papier.deviantart.com}

Bring Back the Shoe Box!!

Screen shot 2012-02-08 at 10.27.26 PMAs a child, I loved Valentine’s Day…the elementary version that is. You know, the one where everyone gets a valentine from everyone. Then, you spend the next few days reading them from the coveted decorated shoebox or a huge construction paper heart. It was very sterile and generic but effective. Everyone feels equal. Everyone feels loved. If only it would remain so easy and so innocent.

I’ve always thought it so ill-timed that just as the pubescent, awkward, self-conscience phase hits, (also known as middle school) suddenly Valentine’s Day becomes validation…especially for a girl.

Getting a valentine means you aren’t ugly or at least, not as ugly as you feel and you’re not an outcast in society. It doesn’t matter if you like the boy who sent the valentine, it just matters that you got one. Receiving that valentine becomes a beacon of hope! Hope that you won’t remain single and unloved for the rest of your life.

Sound overly dramatic? I know; but, I assure you that these are the thoughts of most teenage girls.

I was a late bloomer and not really interested in dating until high school but even I secretly hoped to get at least one valentine.

This should not be. No girl should ever have to feel unattractive or unwanted because of not receiving a valentine. No boy should fear being rejected by unreciprocated feelings nor feel pressured into a huge romantic gesture.

But too much pressure and significance is placed on the premise behind these little notes of fondness that this “holiday” becomes a time of dread, depression and loneliness. And, unfortunately, it get worse with time.

So how do we help our teens reclaim the innocence of Valentine’s Day? How do we shield them from being damaged by the societal significance placed on this day?

The normal Christian answer is to make sure they know their true significance through Christ Jesus; and, actually, this is still good advice. Advice that needs to happen every day of the year.

Unfortunately, as much as you know this as a teen, it still hurts not to get that valentine. So, here is a thought.

Send the teen girls in your life a valentine from Jesus. Order a rose or a school “gram” from their biggest admirer and put a Bible verse on it like:

1 Corinthians 13:13

So now faith, hope and love abide, these three but the greatest of these is love.

 1 John 4:19

We love because he first loved us.

 John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in  him will not perish but have eternal life.  

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

How has Valentine’s Day affected your teen?

What creative ways have you come up with to combat societies warp of this holiday?

My Child Would Never Do That…

tugof_war_teens (1)I had an interesting conversation with some friends the other night at church. The statement was made, “You never really know your children.” At one time, I would have argued that this wasn’t true. “I know my children and they would never_________,“ fill in the blank with whatever anti-godly “pleasure” teens struggle with.

However, over the course of the year, I have had several parents shock me with the stories of their good natured, godly children. Children who compare in demeanor and faith to my own sons. Children who grew up in church and accepted Jesus as their Savior at a young age. Children who have a good support system at home. Children who know better but still gave in to temptation.

These stable, well-grounded children are trying drugs, having sex, stealing, and getting drunk. Things they have been taught are not good for you nor permissible from a spiritual standpoint. But it’s happening.

I don’t like this topic. I don’t like the thought that this could be my child. I would love to offer some revolutionary “how to” list but there really isn’t one. We just have to keep doing what we know to do:

  • Pray for them, with them and over them. Entrust them to the only One who really knows them and see their heart. Ask God to help you know when you need to step in and when you need to back off. If He’s giving you the gift of peace, then, proceed with that peace in what your child is doing. If He is prompting you to take action, then, by all means, do so. You may not always be able to trust what the surface relationship with your child is indicating; but, you can trust God’s prompting.
  • Talk to them. Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure they know you are still interested in their lives and watch for changes in behavior. As teens grown and develop and start changing; they can be difficult to talk to. So, often, we have the tendency to back off and disengage, waiting for them to come to us. Don’t do that. Stay involved. Be connected. Ask questions and more importantly, make sure they know you still care what is happening in their life. Continue to nurture them through this time but recognize that they are in a new stage in life. Don’t just tell them what to do, help them come to the right conclusion and learn to make the right choices.
  • Complement them. It may sound silly but I know this gets harder to do as they get older. Not because they do less noteworthy stuff but they have a tendency to roll their eyes or get embarrassed when you point out their great qualities and achievements. Don’t let that stop you. Let them know they are valued!
  • Go to the Word!! Keep pointing your child to the never changing Word of God. When they need advice, back up your response with scripture. Part of our role as Christian parents is to help our children develop a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ. It is vital that they know the answer can always be found in Scripture.

 Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 

Proverbs 22:15

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Proverbs 29:15

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.