Saturday, March 10, 2018

Wait a minute...

Ever have one of those "thoughts" that make you go "Heyyyyyy, wait a minute"? Yep, had one of those today. (Repost from a few years back...)

This morning in one of my email devotionals, I read about Josiah. I've always loved the story of Josiah. He became king at the age of 8, tore down all the idols of foreign gods at age 16 (sounds just like the radical move of a 16-year-old!) and was known during his 31-year reign as one of Judah's greatest kings. He did everything he could to bring Judah back to God and His Word....but when he died, things went back to bad - worse even!

I did a little more reading and discovered that when Josiah died, his sons took over the throne. One only ruled 3 months before an Egyptian king overthrew him and put another of Josiah's sons on the throne instead. From what I could tell, that son was little more than a puppet king. Judah pretty much went back to its "pre-Josiah" days and started back up with the idols and pagan practices. 

All this got me to thinking about Josiah's sons. Why didn't they have the same strength of character and purpose that Josiah had? Why were they so easily overthrown and used by the enemy? Could it be because they did not have the same personal relationship with God that Josiah had?

That's when my thoughts, of course, traveled to my own two children. I want so much for them, but mostly I want them to know and love the Lord. I want their faith to be stronger than my own...that's when I could almost hear the Lord start talking to my heart.

"How did your faith become strong?"
"Through trials, Lord. You've carried us through so much."

Okay, by now you're probably already ahead of me here. Just a two-line conversation with God, but through it, I learned so much. 

I want so much for my children to have a faith that can stand....but I also want so much to protect them from pain, heartache, difficulty, you name it. But those very things are what can cause their faith to grow. I want them to hold on to God for all they are worth, yet I want to hand them so much they have no need of anything else. 

As a parent, it's natural to try and save your child from hurt. I ran alongside their bicycle as they learned to ride so that they wouldn't fall....they eventually fell anyway. I helped them study for tests...which they sometimes failed anyway. I warned them of friends that might do them harm or of the dangers of lying - yep, you guessed it. It seemed they had to learn the hard way.

I think what I need is a new mindset. While my heart breaks watching my daughter sit at home on a Friday night with seemingly no friends to hang out with, instead I should see it as a time when she has to rely on God as her friend and comfort. When I see my son struggle with rejection or failure, instead of trying to rescue him I need to see it as God showing Him that only through His strength can he truly become great. Those trials - let's call them what they often are, huge mistakes that my children often make, are something God is allowing in answer to prayer...the prayer that their faith might be greater than my own. I wish they would learn from my mistakes...but my mistakes are what made my faith grow. 

I wonder if Josiah protected his children like I WANT to protect my own. The difference is, Josiah was a man of wealth and power. He could MAKE things happen. I often feel like all I can do is sit and WATCH things happen. That's not true...I can watch and PRAY when things happen so that my children can grow strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 

I always thought I wanted to be like Josiah; instead, now I think I'd rather be like Timothy's mother and grandmother. Yep, my kids may have a rocky road ahead, but I have confidence that He who began a good work in them will be faithful to complete it...no matter what trials lie ahead. 

Wow...God can show you a lot in a minute! 


2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

Romans 5 (Message)

 1-2By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

 3-5There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience, in turn, forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash

Monday, January 15, 2018

Learning to walk...

Every day you can find videos of babies learning to take their first steps. They, of course, make you smile. To see those precious chubby legs stagger forward evokes memories of our own children taking those first steps that eventually became long walks...walks away from home and into their own lives. Okay - so now the smiles are getting a bit misty. Those first steps were usually TOWARD you. As they get older, their steps seem to carry them away, and let's be honest - that can be hard.

Just as difficult as watching them walk away, can be watching them fall

When they are tiny, we might help lift them to their feet, but we also encourage them to try again. What we don't usually do is pick them up and tell them it's okay - that they don't have to walk if they don't want to. No, we help them up and cheer as they stumble forward...because that is love.

Sometimes, a child might need extra support because their legs don't work the way they should. In those times it can be even more painful to watch them struggle with the pain of learning to walk - and more rewarding when they finally overcome. 

So what's all this "walk talk"? 

I am currently learning to watch my own children walk. Those who know me realize I'm NOT talking about toddlers. My children are young adults. And I'm watching them learn to really walk on their own.

To be honest, it can be difficult at times. As they take their first steps, those steps usually carry them away from home...and sometimes they stumble and fall. As a parent, it can be tempting to reach out and grab them so they don't hit the ground, but as many of my friends tell me, you have to let them fall. I've heard so often, "Don't bail them out of the situation." No, my children haven't wound up in jail, but we often bail them out of the problems of life. We hate to see them suffer, but let's be honest, most of us can't afford to "pay the bail" for everything they can find to get into! We want to protect them, but how do you put a bumper pad on life?

I'm also learning another hard lesson. When they fall, it's not necessarily ME that needs to help them up. I'm learning to let them fall and let God catch them instead of trying to do it myself. I can hug and love and definitely pray, but ultimately it is God who will help them back on their feet. 

I keep thinking of something that happened years ago when my son was about 3 or 4 years old, and we went to Walmart to pick up few things. He was probably chattering on about the latest Power Ranger he hoped I'd buy for him. We entered the foyer where they keep the buggies (shopping carts for those up north) and I stepped over to grab a cart. Levi was right behind me and with one hand I pulled the cart which came immediately, not hanging up at all! Miracle! We took a few steps toward the store and I heard a roar, turning just in time to see a van drive through the double doors and slam into the wall next to me. My thoughts went to my son as I whipped around. Where was he? I screamed out his name and frantically looked for him. Somehow, (with an angel's help?) he had wound up past me and inside the entryway of the store. He was safe...and I had NOTHING to do with it. I was RIGHT THERE, but there was nothing I could have done to keep him safe - but God could.

As a parent, it can be hard to realize that as much as you love your child, God loves them more. They are His. He will help them walk...and run the race He has set before them.

I won't claim I have learned this lesson completely. I sit here trying to figure out the best way to help my son deal with his first steps away from home. I watch him stumble and my natural instincts are to reach out and grab him before he hits the ground...but a random thought comes to mind. Babies are built low to the ground. When they fall, they aren't going to fall all that far. What if they didn't start to walk until they were 6 feet tall? That fall will hurt a lot more. In the same way, allowing our children to falter now will be far less painful than having them wait until they are my age. 

My parents have been gone for a long time now, but I guess in lots of ways I'm still learning to walk on my own. No fear - my Father God will lift me up when I fall.

Psalm 37:23-25
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread.… 

Psalm 94:18
The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,”
    your love, God, took hold and held me fast.






Thursday, January 4, 2018

How do we get there from here???

The following blog, while written many years ago, still applies today and somehow fits with the previous re-post.

Many years ago, when my husband and I were younger and gas was MUCH cheaper, we'd just go out for a ride to see where we'd end up. Once we wound up at a gas station that had the unique name "Someplace Else". It stuck in my mind because I've had lots of times when I thought I was going in one direction only to find I wound up at "someplace else." 

I guess being slightly ADD, or HD (High Def) has added to this problem. I have to ask my husband on a regular basis how to get started going somewhere. Oh, I don't have difficulty with the places I'm really familiar with, like work and church and the way back home....but places I go to only occasionally, like Meridian or Atlanta or ANYPLACE other than the norm...I have to ask which way I go to get started. He is always patient and tells me something like, "Go like you're going to Laurel..." or "Go past the convention center," or even "Go past the school where you work, but don't turn in there...just keep going straight."  Once I'm on the road, I'm pretty good....make that pretty good if I have a map.

Well, this past week I read a verse from Romans 5 that really caught me off guard. It was talking about hope, something that we could all use a lot of this year! What struck me was the unexpected way you go to get there! Here, see for yourself: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." The emphasis part is mine, cause it is what caught my eye! I never thought of suffering as the road to hope before.

The translation I was reading at the time offered a bit of help. According to this translation, suffering was translated as 'thlipsis' (Strong's) and a further explanation was given that it meant "pressure, oppression, stress, adversity....imagine taking your hand on a stack of loose items and manually compressing them. That is thlipsis, putting a lot of pressure on that which is free and unfettered. Thlipsis is like spiritual bench pressing." Okay, so evidently the first leg of the journey to hope isn't at all what I had imagined...it is difficulty!

That suffering takes us through the next town on our journey - perseverance. This trip is tougher than I'd imagined. Perseverance means endurance....the ability to keep on keeping on. I know from running, one of the hardest parts is building up your endurance, and sometimes it comes down to mind over matter! My mind wants to quit long before my body reaches its limits. Please tell me I'm not alone in this battle. Surely others know what I mean.

The next town we come to on our trip is "character". We've all met some real "characters" in our life, but that's not what this word means. Here it means more strength of convictions. I heard once that "character is who you are in the dark when no one is looking." That's a pretty good definition. I knew that trials helped produce good character in us, but I'd never really thought of it as part of the route to hope.

Finally, we reach our destination...hope. According to Strong's, "hope is not a sense of optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without foundation, but it is the sense of confident expectation based on solid certainty." have you ever met someone who had that hope? I have, and come to think of it, they had all gone through some pretty tough times, yet with God's help, they had endured. They had a character that shines like the sun in the dark places, and no matter what, they had hope. It wasn't some Pollyanna attitude, it was based on what they knew...that no matter what - God is faithful.

This year, I hope you find your way from here to hope. You may not like all the towns you pass through on the way, but trust me - it's worth it. May your years be filled with hope that never fails.

Lost???

I had been listening to a dynamic speaker, Christine Caine , and she was sharing about the lost sheep. She mentioned that we have the wrong idea about the "lost sheep". We get the idea that they are bad! They aren't bad, they are lost! (For this blog, by lost sheep, I am referring not as much to those who have never been a part of the flock as I am to those who are already a part of the body of Christ, but have lost their passion.)

That lost sheep didn't get up one day and decide to separate from the flock. They just put their head down and were eating and when they looked up, everyone was gone! She compared this to people, saying lost people are like that - they didn't intend to get separated from God, but they were busy dealing with bills, trying to get through life, and they were preoccupied. Next thing they knew, they were lost! This immediately brought to mind a field trip I took with our students a few years ago.

We went to a nearby city to visit two different museums with 3 bus-loads of students. It was noisy, fun, and more than a little chaotic. As always when I am with a large group of students, I am on alert. I feel my job is making sure everyone else is safe (and hopefully not terrorizing those around us!)

On this particular field trip one of my students, who is in a wheelchair, was on my bus. Now, there were adults who were helping make sure she got off the bus, strapped into the chair, etc. but for some reason, I felt responsible as well. So, as the other adults lined the children up and got them to the museum, I stayed and helped get my student into her chair. The problem was, none of those working with this student really knew where we were going, and when we looked up - everyone else was gone! We had gotten separated and they were nowhere in sight! We weren't being "bad" or disobedient, we were just busy! We were doing what we were supposed to be doing, but we got separated. The entrance to the museum was NOT where we parked and despite looking everywhere, we couldn't figure out how to get inside!

I left the other adults with my student and sprinted down the sidewalk, around the building, testing every door. Finally, I found someone who could direct me to the entrance (on the OTHER side of the building) and I went back to get the rest. Once we got inside the museum, I found one of the other leaders. They had no idea we had been lost.

As this new year begins, even as believers, I know that we will find times when we feel "lost" - separated from the rest. We get busy and when we look up we wonder where everyone else has gone! I recently had a conversation with a friend where we asked, "What happened?" What happened to our passion? We looked at friends we'd served with years ago who had gone on to great things...and yet here we sat. We had been traveling together for so long, having fun - excited about the journey, but when we stopped, we got separated. We weren't bad. We didn't even decide to separate. We just got busy trying to survive and when we looked up, everyone else was gone! 

There are two groups in this picture...the ones who are lost, and the ones who moved on. At times, I think I've been both. As the "lost" person, I have to look up and realize I have gotten separated; but when I am the person who has moved on, I need to look around and realize, "Wait! We've left someone behind!"

This year...I want to be different. I want to look up. If I have gotten separated, I want to make the effort to catch up; and if I notice that someone is missing, I want to help find them. I want to act as that "sprinter" who can run ahead and find the way and then return to guide the others. I want to find the passion once again.


Luke 15 (MSG)

15 1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.
4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

Repost from 2014

Friday, December 29, 2017

Wanderings...


This doesn't happen often, but every once in a while I re-read a blog I don't even remember writing. Oh, who am I kidding? It happens more often than I'd like. Seems I rarely remember what I've done longer than 5 minutes. Anyway, this one encouraged me so I thought I'd share it once more. I might even go for a hike if the weather warms up! For now, I think I'll just re-read the book!

I just finished reading, The Surrender of Ethan Moses, by Terry Goetz, and I am recommending this book to almost everyone I see! It is about the life of a man who works daily to find God's will and surrender to that will. (I really don't do justice to the story...I'm sure you can read a tagline about it on Amazon.com or this link will take you to a review of the book by a friend of the author: (Review)


After reading this book, (which I finished in only two sittings - I didn't want to put it down), I look at my "wanderings" in a new way. Things that happen now don't seem so happenstance; they are another step on this wonderful journey our Father has prepared for us.

This morning as I thought about the story, it brought to mind being on a wonderful hike with God. This is a path in which our Father has already traveled and He delights in watching us discover what He has already known since the beginning of time. The thought of this truly is stirring inside me and I wish I could communicate it more clearly.

I know I've taken hikes with my children along familiar paths and it is such a joy to watch them discover rocks and plants and the sunset (we rarely make it out for sunrise) or just all that surrounds them. It may be a path I've traveled many times before, but when I take them with me it is filled with a new joy at watching them see what lies before them. Once I "hid" treasures for them to find and I still laugh at their surprise as they discovered what was prepared for them!

I have traveled these paths many times before...they are like second nature to me. I know the places that are easy, and I also know the places along the path that can be more difficult - rocks that slip underneath your feet or places you just have to watch your step. I doubt my children noticed that along those places I had my hand right behind their back, ready to catch them if they fell.

If I, being human and filled with flaws, can take my children along a familiar path safely...how much more can our Heavenly Father lead us along the path He has CREATED for us?

Wow...what an amazing thought, and all before I've had my second cup of coffee!

May your journey today be filled with wonder - and as soon as you can, I definitely recommend reading, The Surrender of Ethan Moses....it's one of those books you'll find yourself thinking about a LOT as you travel along.
 


Matthew 7:11 
New International Version (NIV)
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Ephesians 2:10

The Message (MSG)
 7-10Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The day after Christmas...


Yesterday was Christmas...so of course, that makes today the day AFTER Christmas. I know, I'm amazed at how quickly I catch on to things like this. (Repost from 2009, but the message still holds true.)

On Christmas Day, my son came into our room at 6:03 to let us know it was morning. Of course, I found that statement debatable, so my husband and I told him to go back to bed...it was too early. Fifteen minutes later, he was back again; we told him to go to back to bed until 6:45. With that, we got up and started a pot of coffee and proceeded to "hide" the last two gifts underneath the covers of our bed. We then got our coffee, sent Levi in to wake his sister and waited for the festivities to begin. 

Now that the kids are older, it's definitely more difficult to buy for them. Samantha was happy with the bag her gift came in on her first Christmas; Levi was only a month old at his first Christmas so he was happy with a warm bottle and dry diaper. Trust me, they are far more difficult to please now.

As the children opened each present, I watched their faces. They were happy with their gifts, but I could tell they were hoping for more. When everything under the tree had been opened, we asked if they were happy with their Christmas. Samantha, who has learned to be polite even to us, said yes. Levi said yes, but you could tell his heart wasn't in it. It was then that I asked Levi to go and get my glasses from my room.

As he left the living room, I whispered for Sam and my husband to follow so we could see if he discovered his "gift". I caught him with his hand on the covers - he had found his sister's gift...so his face now had an expression of guilt mixed with disappointment. I asked if he had found his present as well. What followed was one of those times when you WISH you'd had the camera ready. He hurried over to the bed, flung off the covers and his face went from forlorn to ecstatic in less than a second. Finally, he'd gotten what he wanted! The gift we had somehow managed to make him think he'd never get.

All day long he played with his gift and then would come to us to tell us about it. At times, it wouldn't do what he'd hoped until he'd worked to learn more about it. It was a day filled with excitement. 

Today, he's sleeping late. I'm sure he can't wait to play with his gift again, but even that won't rouse this sleepy head from bed on a cold, cold day. That's what got me to thinking those Random Thoughts.

We all know that Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. It is the time when we reflect on the greatest gift of all - Jesus. But what about the day AFTER Christmas? What then?

Do we lose some of our excitement? Do we forget what a gift we have received, the one we thought we'd never get? For some, it stays exciting for a while, but even that will fade in the day to day. For some, if it's not what we'd expected it to be, we get downright angry in our disappointment. What then?

The only gift I've ever received that hasn't broken, gone out of style, gotten old, or let me down is the gift of Jesus. I started to say it had never disappointed me, but to be honest, there have been times I have been disappointed because I thought it was going to "do" something that it didn't. Still, even in that, I have learned to realize that it wasn't really disappointment so much as forgetting what the gift truly means.

I have to ask myself this question on the day AFTER Christmas...will I remain in this state of joyful surprise at receiving the gift I truly wanted, or will I allow the newness to wear off and become routine? Will I wake up each day excited about the discovery of this gift, or will I soon begin to "sleep late" because it is no longer new? Can I find a way to make it "Christmas" every day in a new way, or will it simply become the day AFTER Christmas? What about you? What will you do?

John 3:16: " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Lamentations 3:22-24, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’.”

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Imagine...

Today's random thought became a part of my lesson for children's church so I decided to share it with others. 

Imagine you could choose any gift you wanted - money is no object. What would you choose? This is the question I asked my students today. The answers varied from a trip to Disney to unlimited money. Then I added a caveat - you can have it, but you have to spend every night in prison for the rest of your life. You can have fun during the day, but each night you must lay your head down inside a prison cell. You would do this to the day you died.

The kids, of course, said things like they'd bail themselves out (those who had wished for unlimited funds) but they were quickly told that there was no bail. Others said they'd get their parents to get them out, only to hear that parents would not be able to do that. The only way for them to get out of this endless cycle of prison was if someone would come and take their place...but who would do that? 

Of course, that's exactly what Jesus did. He came to earth to free us from the prison the enemy had designed for us. The distractions of gifts and fun might make us forget for a while, but the truth was that we were still nothing but prisoners.

The enemy would love to distract us with the shiny, glittery things of the world, but eventually, we have to realize we are still held captive and the only way to find release is for someone to take our place. Our parents can't do it for us, neither can our friends. Only one who knew no sin could take our place and still survive. Jesus.

Jesus knew exactly what lay in store for Him when He came to earth. 

The greatest gift of all, born as a sacrifice in a stable, has come to set us free.
THAT is what Christmas is all about.

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (MSG)
God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
  Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash,