Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Preoccupation with Outward Form

As parents we look for and are drawn to other parents who seem to be doing a great job in their calling as parents. It is a good thing to desire positive examples in our lives that we can glean from and draw strength from as we pursue our own charge to raise godly children. So often we look at the outward fruit and draw our own conclusions of godliness. For instance, we are impressed by the modesty, grooming standards, wholesome music styles, respectful manners, organized schedules, and orderly homes of Christian families. This is outward fruit that may or may not represent the inward fruit. We need to be cautious not to be preoccupied with these things in our own parenting as well as being too fixated upon these outward standards in others. Nothing is wrong with these admirable qualities unless we make them a priority and a standard for molding our children's behavior while we altogether miss their hearts. The question to ask here is, "What is the priority?"

In 1 Timothy 2:9, modesty is addressed. However, Jesus emphasized many more times about a changed heart bearing outward fruit than issues of outward form. If the enemy can tempt us to focus on the outward issues above the inward, then all the hype about modest dress, rules of behavior, hairstyles, music choice, etc., are all vanity and pride. The result of this outward focus is judgement in that it is inevitable we will apply our chosen standards to others as if our way is the only right way.

In the last article we discussed how the Pharisees were confronted numerous times by Jesus for defining their own chosen standards as holiness. Then they belittled others who did not hold to their standards. For example, when I was a young mother of 2 children, I went to visit a friend who had three children who were older than my sons. My oldest, Bradley, was 2 at the time. I had not seen my friend in several years. One of the first questions she asked me was if Bradley was "potty trained" yet. When I replied no, she gave me a frown and critically said, "I cannot believe that. I had ALL of mine potty trained before they were two." Needless to say, I left there that day feeling like a failure as a mother because of some other's standard for potty training.

Here is the test. When we believe or feel like WE have achieved results with our children, we can very easily become proud of our accomplishments. Furthermore, in our pride, we judge others by those areas we feel most successful. Beware. We must not elevate issues more that Jesus did.

Another point here is that we need to guard against our motives for why we make certain choices in our families. In my past experiences I have heard many mothers share about how they make their bread from scratch, raise their own food, and mop their kitchens everyday. These are all great things. Homemade bread is one of my favorites! However, if we do these things to parade them in front of others as an indicator as to how great we are as parents or we think that certain methods of doing things exemplify the best to our children, then we are deceived.

Recently, I read a story about a pastor who visited a mother who was dying with cancer. Her pastor asked, "If you could go back and change one thing as a parent, what would you do?" This dear mother replied, "I would have baked less bread and spent more time playing with my children." This is a sobering story. We should all be exhorted to continually assess our methods and our standards along with the motives behind them. Remember, it is more about touching our children's hearts, not molding them on the outside into our cookie cutter ideas of successful children.

Many times I have failed in this area with my teenagers. I became so focused on their external state, that I did not take time to be still before them and listen to their hearts. We must also guard against this especially with our teenagers. Many times I think we as Christians can get so caught up in expecting "bad fruit" from our teenagers because of the world's attitude about teens. When one of my teenagers becomes very quiet and aloof, I have been guilty of making wrong judgements upon him because I was focusing on what I thought was negative fruit. If we are not careful to "listen to their hearts", we can push our teenagers away in seasons when they need us the most. How needy we are as parents to be still in our hearts during our busyness that we may correctly hear the inward cries of our children.

Lord, help us to continually humble ourselves before You that we may have tender hearts toward our children's hearts. Help us not to be overly focused on outward form that we may have clear vision of what they need in their souls. You say to be still and know you are God. Teach us to do just that so we will know Your best for our children . In Jesus Name, Amen

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Religion of Avoidance

When our now 17, 15, and 13 year old sons were much younger,I was very sensitive to their surroundings and everything they were exposed to. Yes, I admit it. I was a "smother mother". Isn't it a good thing to guard and protect our children from the negative influences of this world? After all, God's word says "Guard your hearts for it is the well-spring of life." When our children are very young they do not understand what this means, so we are responsible for sheltering them from things that could influence them spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically.

However, I do believe that sheltering can be more of a detriment to our children rather than a positive enhancement when we become to rely on it as the solution to the problem of our children being influenced by the world.

When our three oldest were younger, I was very cautious about what they watched on TV, what types of stories they read, and who their friends were. These things in themselves were not bad, but I did over react in these areas many times. For example, we had friends that we spent a lot of time with. They had one son who was the same age as our second child. The little boy loved to watch a show called "Power Rangers". Power Rangers was a "no no" at our house because it was violent and "supposedly" based on New Age beliefs which presented your own power rather than God's power to fight and destroy evil.

When we would have this family over, the little boy wanted to constantly act out the characters in Power Rangers. I would politely, but firmly tell them that particular type of play was not allowed in our home. However, all of the little boys would continue running around kicking and performing their intimidating "karate chops" on one another. It irritated me so much that I almost stopped allowing our boys to play with the little boy. However, we continued to build a friendship with this family. If we had not been in their lives at the time, the mother and father very well could have divorced as they had just come through a trial of infidelity in their marriage. We were able to be utilized by the Lord to help save their relationship. My religion of avoidance could have stopped us from being a blessing to this family who needed safe friends during a time of darkness in their marriage. Furthermore, our chidren are not ruined for life because they played a few rough and tough games of Power Rangers.

This should make us think of the Pharisees who were the religious rulers at the time of Jesus life on earth. Jesus was constantly confronting them because they avoided anything that seemed to taint or defile. This practice of avoidance made them appear and feel holy. If we as parents become too fixated on keeping our family from corruption, we can become prideful of our higher standards. therefore,we are not much different from the Pharisees.

The fact is that if we are not careful, parenting can become one of the most prideful and arrogant areas of our lives. We must not think we are prone to even the point where we "boast" or "share" with others the standards we share. We really should not offer our standards unless we are asked.

Another negative to being fixated on sheltering is that in our pride we become very in tune to what other parents are doing or not doing in their methods of parenting. Unfortunately we fall into being judgemental. Not only does this hinder us from developing relationships with others that need the Jesus who is in us, but it also teaches our children to be self righteous and prideful. As they "inherit " these seemingly "holy" mindsets, they also go through life looking down at others whom God wants to touch through them. It "messes" with our entire destiny.

Let us guard against the horses and chariots of over sheltering. Instead of them being a tool in our hand to defeat the enemy, these weapons can easily be turned against us and our children for our own destruction instead of our glorious transformation.

(Check back soon for the next horse and chariot of parenting, PREOCCUPATION WITH OUTWARD FORM)

Monday, July 23, 2007

The ABC's of Parenting Part 1

Some trust in horses,some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the LORD OUR GOD. (Psalm 20:7)

Quote: "In life, children have a tendency to transition from total dependence in their younger years, to total independence from their parents as they get older. The goal of parenting is to lead our childrern to interdependence within the framework of a strong Christian faith."

(In these next several blogs, we will be breaking down the ABC's of parenting into seperate articles. We realize that raising and training our children is not as easy as "ABC". However, we hope to impart the simple truth in that we serve a loving God, the only one true God who is trustworthy.)

A IS FOR ALIGNMENT- we must align ourselves with the truth and take action toward that truth.

Imagine you are a king and a warrior. You hear from your trusted watchmen that a massive army of men and chariots are planning to come against you. A feeling of dread and fear tries to settle upon you for you know your men do not equal in the strength and the number of your adversaries. The enemies possess elaborate chariots which can hold 3 or 4 soldiers and strong horses to pull them. These chariots also have sharp blades protruding forcefully from each wheel ready to mow down and slice up anything in its path. You ask the internal question, "What am I going to do? There is no way we can defeat, much less survive this multitude of aggressive warriors who have the weapons and the power to flatten us in a mere moment."

This was an actual event recorded in 1 Chronicles 18 and in 2 Samuel 10.
Whenever the Israelites were preparing to send a king into battle with his troops, a prayer would be spoken over the king and the army. Psalm 20 is the actual prayer spoken by the people over King David, Joab the commander, and the entire army. Because of the law of the land, the Isrealites were not allowed to have all of the intricate weapons that the Ammonites and the Syrians depended on. However, they had God and they knew He was all they needed. In Psalm 20:7, they declared, "Some trust in horses and some trust in chariots, but we trust in the Name of the Lord our God."
And because they truly trusted in the God who is trustworthy, David and his army faced their fear and defeated the enemy. Through his faith and dependence on the Lord, David and his men killed 40,000 men and destroyed 7000 charioteers!

What does this have to do with parenting? It has everything to do with parenting because it is all about trust. Where do we put our trust when it comes to raising our children in a godly way? This is a question we must continually ask ourselves as none of us are prone to getting off track. As Christians, we desire the best for our children, but even with the best intentions, we can fall so easily into leaning on the horses and chariots instead of the Chief Warrior, Jesus Christ. Some of the methods and ideas we look to are usually very good, but good elevated above the best becomes a detriment if placed on the throne above trusting the Lord.

Horses and Chariots represent our own strengths and our own reasonings of what will mold and make our children into successful, well behaved, well respectful human beings. In this segment we will share the first horse and chariot of parenting.


As parents we all have a strong desire to see our children be and become all that God wants them to be. However, sometimes we can get so caught up in the goals and dreams we have for our children we can become overly focused on the envisioned results and even succumb to using them as a measure of success in our parenting. When things are going well, we often become very relaxed and even a bit prideful. Family can become as a trophy or as a badge of honor to be admired by others or even God. This is a form of idolatry because our true security is from God, not how successful we are as parents.

In addition, we must realize that all idols require a sacrifice. Therefore, we end up sacrificing relationship with our children for the idol of the family. We make a trade here that was never our intent. We exchange their hearts for our reputation.

The world measures success in every area of our lives by the observed results. Because God's ways are not ours and His thoughts are far above our way of thinking, He defines success in moment by moment, day by day obedience.We have heard the statement over and over." The true test of your parenting is not evident until you see how the child turns out as an adult." How about all of the parents who are obedient and look to God with consistency and devotion and their children choose to go the wrong way in life? Can we really judge the parent? We must realize that God measures parents' success by obedience not by how their children choose to respond to their influence. Obedience is not the formula for success, obedience is the highest success. Isn't this a liberating truth?

(Check back soon for the next part, RELIGION OF AVOIDANCE)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Measly Pickins"

People were everywhere. The old and the young made their way down the grassy hill toward the awaiting shore. It was not the water they were drawn to, but a Man who was and is the Source of living water. Deep down they all knew, the babes, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas. They knew where the real Water was, so that was all they could think of that day. They must not have known how long they would linger to listen and to gaze upon the God Man who had everything to give, for most of them came with no plan for the day except to glean and feast of the Bread of the Living Word.

However, there was a little boy who came prepared that day. His mother must have had a inner knowing or even a hope that her little boy would be away for a large part of the day. Therefore she sent him off with a package of bread and fish.

Jesus had been teaching a good portion of the day, so he began to feel the natural hunger of the crowd. He turned to Phillip,one of his disciples, and asked, "Phillip, Where are we going to buy bread to feed all of these people?" Why was Jesus asking a question He already knew the answer to? He wanted to impart a truth to Phillip in a way that he could not learn from a mere lecture.

Looking around as he pondered the question, he replied, "It would take a fortune to even begin to feed them." As this was being discussed, Andrew was listening in and seeking his own solution to the problem. He spoke up. "There is a little boy here with 5 barley loaves and a couple of fish, but what good will that do?" Jesus then told the disciples to have everyone sit down on the grassy hill. Jesus began to show His name faithful, by passing enough bread and fish out to fulfill all of the people. In addition, the scraps were gathered which filled 12 baskets with enough leftovers for the disciples. What a powerful example of GOD making the seemingly impossible, completely possible from the measly pickins of a little boys' lunch.

When the impossibilities stare us in the face, the reality of what is within us surfaces, just as the doubtful comments of the Phillip and Andrew. The ironic thing is that the disciples had already witnessed miracle after miracle. You would think they would have immediately blurted out the answer to the question Jesus asked.

As I was meditating on the faithless response of the miracle marinated disciples, I began to think about what my own response would have been. I also thought about how I have responded to impossible situations. Because I have always been a pretty emotional person, my first response would probably have been panick, anxiety or distress. Being the "feeling" person that I am ,I may have broken down in fearful tears and judged the whole situation through my timidity and anxiety.

Now there are those who are rational thinkers who like to process things through figuring it out. "Well, in ain't lookin so good. Now see here, we have 5 little biscuits here, and two smelly little fish. Hmmm, Nope, just ain't no way, just ain't no way."

Then I think of the ones who are full of faith and even though they cannot feel it and they cannot figure it, they proclaim, "WITH MY GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!"

So let us ask ourselves,"Am I a feeler, a figurer or a faither?" Regardless of what we are, God meets us with our "measley pickins" if we will transfer them to Him. What are your measley pickins? What if God is showing you an impossible situation that you know you cannot comprehend how it will work out? Maybe you are thinking, "I do not have the time. I do not have a dime. I am not spiritual enough or smart enough. I do not know enough scripture, and I have too many of my own problems. I am too shy, too weak and tired." God says, "Give me your little lunch, your measely pickins and watch what I can do with them. All I ask is that you give me your seemingly pitiful offerings. When you place them in my hands, the miraculous will happen. Your offerings of weakness and inadequacies are lovely to Me."

So beloved, as you wait upon the shore of the never ending river, be assured that when we hand over all things to Him, our little bits as well our abundance, He is faithful to multiply it all into more than we could ever imagine in our limited minds. Let us be thankful for the Sovereignty of God whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are far above and beyond our own. Taste and see that the Lord is Good. Have a great Lunch!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Reasons for This Season

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Just days ago, before the miscarriage, I wrote a blog about being a comforter. As we have received much comfort, we must freely give that which has been freely given to us by the Master Comforter. When we first saw the ultrasound and the evidence that there was no longer life within my womb, immediately I went into shock mode. It was as if some voice said, "FREEZE". And that I did. My heart stood still as if it had stopped beating all of a sudden. I felt dead.

This entire circumstance has and is one that I could never imagine unless I was in the midst of it. You do not really know until it is happening or has happened to you. It does not mean that you are hard hearted and without compassion when one is going through something you have never experienced. However, there is a depth created in those places of suffering that one cannot know unless you are personally walking through that valley.

The valley I have been walking is the valley of death through miscarriage. I have cried out to My God to show me what it is He wants to teach me about Himself through this. He has said to me over and over, "Be still and know that I am God." Okay Lord, I am frozen, I am paralyzed by this grief. Now what is it You want me to know about You?

He has been showing me many things about this turmoil and pain. I refuse to not talk about pain. Miscarriage seems to be such a "hush hush " topic. It is minimized by many because this life never passed through the birth canal and entered into this life. This child was never seen, therefore it is easy to brush it under and to "forget" . It was "only" a miscarriage.

I am here to say this experience has opened my eyes to a silent pain that I never knew existed. A mother knows when her body begins to change with the signs of life within her. This begins in the first weeks of conception. With me, I knew after 5 days that I was expecting. I felt dizzy and strange. I felt tired and queasy. I knew there was new life within me. I was over joyed!! The life flow of the little person was already a part of me and the eternal bond was there to stay.

My hope and prayer is that everything God is walking me through will be a blessing to others who will walk this valley also. I hope to be a vessel who God will offer many blankets of peace and comfort to others suffering this silent grief. I mentioned earlier that I had asked the Lord what He wanted to teach me. I am learning that He is not teaching me, He is training me. We can be taught many things, but there is a deeper level of knowing, of understanding, of living and breathing when we are trained. Training is when our hands are in it and we are doing it and experiencing it. Teaching is gaining knowledge that may only go so far as an intellectual understanding. Teaching leads one to think, but training guides one to feel. It is all about passion.

There are many things God is revealing to me through this season. One, I am realizing that I am not as in control of myself as I thought I was. When you are hurting with such an intense pain, it is as if you have been traumatized by a huge tidal wave that has crashed upon you. You are tumbling this way and that with deep sorrow, anger, numbness, confusion, fear, and on and on. I am not in control of myself and this has been a humbling revelation. One of the fruits of the spirit is self control. Should not I have self control if the spirit is within me? Why am I feeling out of control with my emotions? The Lord reminded me that He will allow these pains to reveal to us that there is never an end to our dependence on Him. Just when we get to a place where we think we are walking so close to Him and that we are fulfilled, He will remind us through adversity that the well of need that HE created will never be filled so much to the level that we have arrived to some spiritual accomplishment.

No I am not in control! Praise His faithful name. However, He is in control. Last Tuesday, after the D&C, my Dr. told my husband that I came to a little after the surgery. She told him that I opened my eyes and said, "GOD IS IN CONTROL!" I do not remember saying it as I was still affected by the anesthesia. I was encouraged to know that even though I have felt out of control, that there is rest and peace in the truth that HE IS IN CONTROL! The Hope of glory within is in control of me. I have not one thing to fear, for His love holds me close, so close to His breast as He constantly breathes everlasting grace into my soul without reserve. Shalom.

(My next few blogs will be about more things God has been speaking to me about waiting on Him, abiding in Him, His faithfulness to come to us in His manifest presence, and being thrust into His arms through pain and disappointment. Keep checking back if you would like to read about these things)

Many Blessings and thanks for reading the things I am sharing from my heart. I pray you are blessed and strengthened.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Joy I Knew

You came into my life
A lovely surprise
You gave me smiles and laughter
The thought of you filled my soul
And my spirit rejoiced.

Within me I felt your life,
Yet you were so tiny
I never felt you move,
or kick or squirm.

Yet you moved me
And you always will
For I knew who you were
And I know who you are now
You are Joy.

I saw you as an arrow
Being shot straight up to Heaven
To be a blessing there
As you were to me here

You brought laughter to my heart
Whenever I thought of you
Whenever I shared about you
You are as real as the tears I cry.
You are Joy.

I miss you and the pain is overwhelming
Knowing that we are apart
I never felt the stabs of grief so deeply
I never felt so empty
but you are Joy

I know I am blessed
Beyond measure
To have known you but for a moment
I cradle you in my heart always
You are Joy

I feel my dreams have died
And my hopes have been eliminated
However, life is more than now
Life is beyond this present span

You are there in the Arm's of glory
And His joy is rocking you
Ever so gently
Ever so lovingly
Forever you are Joy

I have hope and I know
That one day I will hold you
And I will see your beautiful face
And kiss your laughter filled cheeks

For now my precious Joy,
I will think of you everyday
I will hope in the coming day
And I will rejoice in your life
Always you are Joy

This poem is written to honor our little angel who went to live with the Lord on June 28th, 2007. We named the baby Joy. We lost this baby to miscarriage at 7 weeks and 4 days. However, the life of this child was real. The life of this baby meant so much. I want to honor this precious beautiful life who was within my womb for only a moment. This life had a purpose and I believe one day we will hold this child when we enter the gates of Heaven. I am blessed to have known this child. I never saw the baby or felt the movements of his or her life. However , I felt and still feel the way this baby moved my heart. I am eternally grateful for this precious Joy.