Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Little Boys Grow Up

I am sad this morning.  If you are one of my close friends, you may be tempted to call or email, but honestly, that would make me feel worse.  Just say a prayer and let me write and God will continue His good work.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting a new mom.  There were diaper bags by the door, toys on the floor.  There was an army-crawling baby and fresh banana bread.  It was a wonderful time, a time of reflection for me and new experiences for her.  Her little guy grunted and squawked.  He squirmed and wiggled.  Oh, those were hard days.  Longs days.  Days of isolation, exhaustion, and few rewards.  And I thought of my little wiggling, grunting boy who is away at his first year of college.  There was a burst of joy and sadness.  And gratitude.  God has been so good.  This new mother, with her eyes on Jesus, is already praying for and with her son.  Her husband is man of faith. What a joyous, blessed future they have!

Then last night I watched from a distance as a father brought his boys to church.  He won't stay.  Hasn't stayed.  He brings the boys and disappears.  He moved out on his family.  Church is not a comfortable place. Ah, what heartache.  And I thought of all that father has given up.  Of the brokenness, pain, tears, and struggle those little boys experience and will continue to experience.  I couldn't smile.  I couldn't wave.  I couldn't bring myself to welcome him.  I was angry and disappointed seeing what he doesn't, or chooses not to.

And when my husband returned from an afternoon at the farm show with our son and his new roommates, I was jealous and upset and I didn't know why.  And I missed our little boy and I was angry at that father and I wanted to encourage that new mother.  And saw the wonderful, incredible privilege of the long nights, the short nights, the frustration, the exhaustion, the tiredness of picking up after everyone and the countless piles of laundry and floor silt.  And I am seeing more and more how good God is and how frail I am and how many times I depended on Him without realizing it.

I've added a new page to this blog, "Praying Hands."  It's the prayer pattern we taught our children when they were little.  Use it, personalize it.  If you have children at home, revel in their prayers.  You will never regret the time spent loving your children as God does, teaching them as Christ would, living with them in the same way the Spirit lives within you.

Jesus said, "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:10-12)
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." (John 14:15-17)

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Value of Knowing One's Self

Awhile back I shared how God chose to use my area of weakness (keeping house) to minister to others ("God in my Weakness").  In the space of two days, I visited three of my friend's homes and helped them clean and organize: one who is entering full-time missions with four young children and needs to down-size big time, one who moved into a new home with no built-in storage and brought  children and furnishings from Africa, the U.K., Germany and Kenya, and a family from the Congo who purchased their first American home.

What a privilege and humbling opportunity!  Being asked was a compliment.  Spending time with them and seeing their hearts in their homes was a blessing.

Our time was not so much about my expertise (ha!) as it was for each mom and family to understand and know themselves and their needs.  I simply entered their homes and asked, "How can I help?"  Followed by, "What do you need here?  What have you done in the past?  What is do-able for your family?" etc.  They needed to discover themselves and think through a new situation.  After talking about who they are and how their family works, we considered options and possibilities.

When Christ moves into our lives through faith, He knows it all--but we will miss much of the blessing and fullness if we don't study ourselves as we learn of Him and His ways.

That came to mind as I read between books yesterday:

"As a parent, my goal is not only that my children come to know God, but that in so doing, they also come to know themselves.  It's only when a person knows God that he can truly know himself, and as this happens, his hunger for God increases.  This critical interplay of the spiritual life is what we want to see produced in our teenagers, a deep personal knowledge of God and an every-growing knowledge of self."  Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp, p.

"The oft-quoted words, 'not I, but Christ,' tend to give the believer the impression that he as a person is crucified, and out of the picture, and now there is only Christ as his new life.  He is wont to feel that he must somehow get himself out of the way, that Christ may be all.  Granted, the old self must go down--but the new self must grow up.
"It is true that He is our risen life, but it is also true that His is the life and nature of our newly created life, 'For to me to live is Christ,' 'Christ, who is our life; (Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4, italics mine).  We are not to become lost in Him, but He is to be found in us. 'That the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh' (2 Cor. 4:11).  He lives in me, not instead of me; He is the source and motivation of my Christian life.
"I am to realize and rest in the fact that it is my being, my personality, which is enlifed by the human-divine life and nature of the Lord Jesus.  I am the same person, but with a new life in union with His life.  By the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit I will grow in grace and increasingly be conformed to His image."  The Complete Green Letters by Miles J. Stanford, p. 146.

How well do I know myself, my habits, my abilities, my weaknesses?  Each is intended for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ.  As I look into His Word, I need to ask, "How would Jesus live and look in my being?"  That's worth thinking and praying about!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School Life at Home

This time of year the controversy between home school, public school, private school, and fill-in-the-blank school comes to a head.  Today's blog is different than some.  We shared a challenge at our home last night  and I wanted to encourage parents and students that God is working in and through us, that life is ministry, no matter where we are.

My husband and I are intentional about sending our children to public school (you can read more in the page on this blog, "To Tango with a Teacher").  However, we do not oppose the idea or practice of homeschooling.  As a certified teacher, I have supervised homeschooling families for the last 15 years.

That said, let me share some of what God is doing in our youngest daughter's life in public school. 

Yesterday was the first day of the year.  She came home from fifth grade happy and excited.  She'd even finished her homework on the bus.  Yay, God!  But around suppertime there was conflict which led to a complete meltdown.  Remember Elijah?  The root of her reaction was that she felt left out and unfriended at school.  I'm sure there are real reasons (we all struggle with a sinful nature) and spiritual reasons.

What began in tears opened an opportunity to visit with her about God's view of friendship.  Those of us who belong to God don't "need" people.  We love them.  When we realize how much God loves and values and treasures us, we don't live or die based on the approval of others.  We are already approved.  So instead of living to be noticed and liked by others, we live knowing we are noticed and loved by God and we can love people.  No strings attached.  (Thank you, Ed Welch, author of When God is Big and People are Small and Lou Priolo, author of Pleasing People).

It's something she and I worked on this summer with her sisters, but now she's in a different playing field and is learning to think about loving others the way God does.

It wasn't until we were on our way home from church that the "Elijah" piece came together.
She was nearly jumping in the backseat after leaving church, "Mom!  I got two tracts at church tonight.  Now I can give one to Chloe at school tomorrow!"
"Why Chloe?"
"Because yesterday in line she said her grandma died and she wondered where she went.  She said she wants to go to heaven, but doesn't know if she will.  I told her I know I'm going. And I told her how she can know, too!"
So that was it!  Spiritual victory often gives way to emotional and physical fatigue.  Perhaps that is why other pieces of the day hit hard and left her feeling blue.  And that's okay.  God is at work and she is laying up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.  Once again, God has blessed us and we are grateful.
What a wonderful picture of God working in our childrens' lives--and ours.

Please leave a story of your own to encourage others or thoughts about your child's growth in their school environment.  I'd love to hear you brag on God!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


This morning I stood in the door frame waiting for our 16-year-old daughter to get situated and pull out of the garage on her first day of school this year.  She didn't need my help.  I didn't have anything more to say or encourage or suggest.  But she looked to see if I was watching.  She just wanted to know I was there. 

Many, many times over the years God has worked to teach me the value of waiting and this morning, I realized why waiting is so difficult.  It's difficult because of me. 

If I wait things may not turn out the way I want them.  If I wait, I am not doing the thing I want to do, I'm doing what someone else wants to do.  When I wait, I rarely see an immediate benefit, which is generally annoying, irritating, frustrating--especially if I haven't "agreed" to wait (i.e. the "shortest" line at the grocery store which takes the longest amount of time).

But waiting expresses value--a confidence, an affection.  It is the giving of me for you; my way for yours.  It is submission to the will of another. It is beautiful.  It is Christlike.  It is the way of God.  No matter the circumstance, I am ultimately waiting on God.  Whether I'm waiting for Him to move the line or give wisdom or answer a prayer, my willingness to wait and depend on Him is the way of Christ.  It is an echo of His prayer, "Not my will, but thine be done."

What are you waiting for?  Is your heart quieted and content in the lap of God?  Or are you clamoring for more?

"O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever."  Psalm 131

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Confessions of an Enthusiast

If you're married, you probably found there are times your spouse catches you off guard--even though you know better. One of David's first glimpses into my desire for and execution of ideas was when I insisted we have a pool with goldfish inside the church for our wedding.  If we were going to walk over the arched, white-washed bridge, we needed water, rocks, live plants and goldfish!  I know he really didn't want to tote in the truckload of rocks to line the pool on either side, set up tarps, plants, and settle the goldfish, but he did. What a wonderful husband!  And a wonderful memory.

It's been 23 years and my enthusiasm still stretches him--and gets me into things I haven't totally thought through.  So here's a public confession and apology to our fellow youth workers after last night's meeting.  I see a vision.  I get excited.  I know just how it could be done.  And, at least for a time, I cast that vision one way and another and another.  It's so real.  It's so amazing.  It's so do-able.  It's so....  Ahhh, and the next morning reality hits as I struggle to get out of bed and do the tasks that belong to today. 

This morning, before coffee, I wondered how I could be excited about anything.  After the first cup I struggled with how to do what needed to be done now, today.  By the time I drained the second cup, clothes had been gathered, wash started, beds made, dishes done and I was praying for those who patiently listened to and considered the wonderful ideas we tossed around, knowing their plates are much more full than mine.

Now that I've had time in the Bible, my heart and mind are more settled and I have hope.  This is what I read in Matthew chapter 1 this morning:  "So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord" (v. 22).  Matthew was writing about the beginning of Jesus' earthly life--his conception, the state of Israel and the set up of Joseph and Mary's circumstances.  Their lives were turned upside down by Jesus' coming.  Their circumstances appeared out of control--and they were (out of their control--aren't they always?).  But God knew.  He was working His plan.

The take away?  There is nothing I can do apart from God's purpose and plan.  He will bring about exactly what He has in mind--and I hope to be part of it--but it doesn't depend on my ideas or my efforts or my limitations. And those things we talked about and got excited about and wondered about last night will happen just as God intends.  How that removes the pressure, the weight, the fear of criticism, the frustration.  God has done.  God is doing.  God will do.  And we are blessed to be a part.

God said, "Let their be light."  And there was light.  But His Word in our hearts is accomplished on a much different time frame.  May we be true to His Word, faithful and obedient servants who love Him with the excitement and enthusiasm He deserves.

Are you an enthusiast or do you live/work with one?  Would you be willing to share how God is using it in your life?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Other Line

We just returned from "the happiest place on earth."  This particular amusement park has a fabulous new feature that saves your place in line.  One simply runs an admittance ticket into the hold-my-place-please machine and returns an hour or two later to be ushered to the front.  Each time our family walked past the sweaty, impatient, foot-shifting line I felt a twinge of guilt and secret indulgence.  I had to remind myself that we all had the same access, but we spent it on different rides, at different times.

During one of our quick trips I overheard a British teen (what a lovely accent!) ask his father why we got to go and they had to wait. "Because they've paid money for special tickets."  What?  No, we haven't! I wanted to protest.  Their conversation nagged at my thoughts as we zigged and zagged through the cue line.  I wondered if it they would have listened to me, "You can too!  Just take your tickets--the ones you came in with--and run them through the hold-my-place-please machine!"

God's gift is very much the same.  Those of us who know God, who believe Jesus died in our place and took our punishment, trust Him.  We converse with Him daily, experiencing a joy and peace unknown to the rest of the world.  The majority of people watch as we travel through life enjoying good things and bad, living by faith, living with fewer worries or cares, loving and caring for one another. How often they wish for the beauty of forgiveness, not realizing they have the same access, the same opportunity.  God has revealed Himself through His Word.  He is accessible through prayer.  We must simply let go of our way and cling to His.  This is not a ride that takes longer for some than it does for others--it's for now, for eternity. I've banked my life on it.  If you haven't, please take time to read the questions and answers in the margin on the right side of this blog.  If you have, how willing are you to share with others?  Are you living fully, to the honor and glory of God?