Sunday, December 30, 2007
His message was a positive one…filled with hope and joy. But, there was something that bothered me about it. As I listened to the praise music, and then listened to his wife, and finally to him, I found myself wondering if he had ever faced true adversity. If he has, he didn’t mention it. And, praise God, I hope that’s true. But what that led to was my questioning if his message was “real”. Did it have substance? Could this really be the “best year of my life” as he indicated it could?
Candidly, no…this isn’t the best year of my life. And for some of you reading this blog, this wasn’t the best year of your life either. I can think of other years when my kids were really young and I saw the world with wonder and awe through their eyes. The year I was baptized (which was a number of years after realizing Christ as my Savior) was one in which I was on fire for God and incredibly close to Him. The year Kriss and I got back together after being separated a year and a half was a really good year…even before we reconciled, because we had become friends.
Every year that I can remember had its blessings and its heartaches. But, some were definitely “better” than others as a whole. God was in the midst of every year, and my faith does become stronger every year – so in that way, each year is better than the last. But, when it comes to the “best year of my life”…well, this year just doesn’t quite measure up.
Today’s message at church really summed it up – it comes from John 16:33, “In this world, you will have trouble”. But, in spite of that, “Take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world." Things will happen to us that we can’t control, but certainly we can control our response to them. As Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I recognize that is easier said (or read) than done. In the midst of turmoil and pain, it is incredibly difficult to not be anxious and to continue to have a heart of thanksgiving. So this is an area in which I agree with that positive preacher – if we focus on the negative, that means we have taken our eyes off of God and His perspective, which will only move us away from His perfect will and His plan for our lives. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from Me, or seen in Me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9) We cannot “name it and claim it”. The “Law of Attraction” has some Biblical truth as shown in this Philippians passage, but many take it too far in believing that if they just think hard enough, focus enough, or even pray enough, they can cause something they want to happen in their lives. Reading the book of Job will show you that just isn’t the case. We are not ultimately in control. But Job does provide us a model for praising God in all circumstances, and that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him. Job 42:12 says “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.” I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me and my family, as I continue to trust Him and place my hope in Him, in spite of this year not being the “best”. I guess in terms of having something to hope for, it is the best after all…
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Merry Christmas to our Family & Friends!
C. S. Lewis once said, “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” Time is such a great equalizer, isn’t it? You can’t buy more time or spend more time than anyone else. So, here we are at the end of another year, reflecting on how we spent our time this past year, and anticipating what we will do with it next year. Hmmm…this doesn’t sound much like a Christmas letter does it? But, we do pray that you have come to this time of year thankful for the past and hopeful for the future. And, that’s what our Christmas letter is about this year.
The Shriver family is thankful for:
- We’ve had some ups and downs this year, but the end result is a family who spends more time together, parents who are much more in tune with our kids, and a renewed appreciation and admiration for how we can handle adversity.
- God blessed us financially this year, and we were able to buy a rental property that had 40+ inquiries on it within the first month. Our renters seem to be good people (and they signed a two-year lease)!
- Cody received his driver’s permit this year – and since Michelle hates to drive, she now has a built-in chauffer.
- Kriss had the opportunity to be an assistant coach for Justin’s baseball team, and they went to the State Tournament in Keystone, Colorado (and played some really good games there).
Michelle took ski lessons for the first time…and though she’s not very good at it, she did have fun. And, there were no broken bones this year from the boys’ snowboarding!
- Kriss’ sister Erika, her three boys, and his mom are all coming up right after Christmas. The boys haven’t been to our home in Colorado before, and we are looking forward to a fun (and chaotic) time.
- Michelle’s parents adopted their three great-grandchildren – Alora, Devin & Dillon. While it isn’t always (or even often) easy, we are thankful these three beautiful kids have a home together and with family.
The Shriver family is hopeful for:
- Michelle has been offered a new position at Ameristar’s corporate office in Las Vegas. While we are incredibly sad to leave Colorado, we are thankful for this new opportunity for Michelle and that we’ll be within driving distance of much of our extended family. (We’ll be moving around June 2008.)
- Kriss had to take a break from college this year, but he is looking forward to taking more Graphic Design classes in Nevada next year. He already produced his first printed piece, which was a direct mailer for a local company – and it turned out GREAT!
- 16-year-old Cody will be a Junior in High School next year...can you believe it?? We’re going to have to start looking for colleges soon (and a great baseball program in Las Vegas to continue to enhance his skills so he can get a scholarship! He did show up in a local newspaper this year for his pitching skills.)
- Justin is now a teenager (age 13) and we look forward to seeing how this kid uses the gifts God has given him – whether it be academics, sports, music, humor or even cooking – what a diverse and talented kid!
Most of all, we hope and pray for a blessed 2008 for you and those you love, and we are thankful for you in our lives. “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.” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Why is it our mood so often swings back and forth? In one moment I can be filled with awe at God’s hand in my life, and then just days (sometimes hours) later feel despondent about relatively small problems. How can we have such seeming clarity to help others with their issues (or worse, become judgmental about what others can/should do about their problems), but answers to our own seem to allude us or appear insurmountable?
My mom is a worrier. It seems to be in her DNA to worry about all manner of things. Whether it be things she has control over or not, she worries about them. Whether they even impact her or not, she worries about them. I pray for my mom often. I pray for her health (as I believe the worry is wearing not only on her soul but on her body). I pray for her spirit (as her worry clouds her view of her world and she primarily sees what is wrong rather than what is right). How I pray that the mother of my youth would return – the woman who had people wait in line at the bank she worked at, just so they could go to her window. The mom who attended all of my gymnastic meets and enthusiastically clapped and cheered for me, and told those around her, “that’s my daughter.” (By the way, I wasn’t that great.) The aunt who joyfully sent birthday cards, holiday cards, congratulations cards, and all-occasion cards to her nieces and nephews for every occasion in their life…she always remembered, and even more, she cared so much for others’ happiness. Even back then, she worried about so many things, but it didn’t consume her thoughts and she seemed to enjoy life in spite of that. But today, I see her bitterness and resentfulness growing, which I believe is primarily a result of her worried spirit. When you are so focused on the negative, it’s hard to see through the darkness to the light. Oh how I pray for my beloved mom to find that light. And, candidly, I pray that I never allow that light to become dim in my own life. (I sometimes fear that I have that “worry DNA” from my mom…as it’s so easy for me to slip into the pity party and a sense of foreboding, as I mentioned above.)
Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” 2 Samuel 22:29 says, “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.” The Book of Isaiah is filled with references to the Lord being our Light, and that He will light our way. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
But, it goes further than that. We are called by God to be His light. In Acts 13:47, Paul instructs, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Why? 5:9 says that “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.”
God’s Word and direction is always meant for our benefit. His commandments are not meant to restrict us but to set us free. Just as He told His people exiled in Babylon, “‘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.’” (Jeremiah 29:11) He went on to say, “’You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” (29:12-13)
Lord, I call upon you. I pray You will lead my mom back to the Light. I pray that you will remove from both her and I the spirit of worry, and may we focus on Your Word and follow Your commandment to “not worry” as You instruct us in Matthew 6. Lord, I seek Your will. I desire to follow the path You have set before me. May I always walk in the light of that path, rather than stumbling through the darkness to find my own way. Lord, You know the many decisions I have coming up. May I choose wisely based on Your guidance and leading in my heart. Lord, most of all, may I live out your commandments to be a light to others. Give me opportunities to do just that. May I use the gifts You have given me to serve others. Wherever my path (Your path) takes me, may I always take the time on that journey to be Your hands and feet along the way. I praise You Lord for the blessings you have so graciously given me. I praise You for the opportunities You have placed before me. All that I have, and all that is yet to come are Yours…may I always remember that and may the decisions in my life reflect that Thank you, Jesus, for Your perfect plans for me. Thank you, Jesus, for your love and care of my blogging friends, and I pray that You will light their path so brightly that their way is clear. I pray blessings on their lives, clarity for their decisions, and a spirit of joy and not worry each day.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
I am most thankful that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is FOREVER faithful. He has taken situations filled with turmoil and confusion and turned them into blessings and hope. Some of the blessings were “in disguise”, but revealed themselves as blessings nonetheless.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take time to reflect on the blessings in your life. Even in the midst of pain, God is working in your life. Seek Him and look for His masterful hands working it all for good. If it’s not visible, trust Him. He loves you enough to die for you…
In addition to God’s saving grace, I am thankful this year that:
- My husband is a good man; one I adore and respect. In spite of our challenges, our “ups and downs”, and our often completely different points of view, I consider myself a blessed woman to have him. I thank God for him.
- My “wayward” son is home and safe…and my relationship with him is better than it has been for a long, long time. I do believe he knows how much I love him, and I pray that ultimately leads him to embracing the Lord’s love for him. He is beautiful, he has a good heart -- albeit easily distracted from goodness, and I believe in my heart he will do great things someday.
- My youngest son is smart, funny, has a strong sense of right and wrong, and oh how I know he loves his parents. I pray he knows how much he is loved in return. What a wonderful boy…a bit temperamental (as I suppose all teenagers are), but such a joy. He makes me laugh daily.
- My sister-in-law, her three boys, and my mother-in-law are all coming to visit for Christmas. We are so looking forward to having them here. We know that there will chaotic moments, but we are so blessed to have such a loving (and fun-loving) extended family.
- I have parents who love me and who are interested in my life and that of my family, in spite of having their hands full with a “new” family of their three adopted great-grandchildren. My parents are the model of selflessness and living for others.
- The Lord has blessed us financially, giving us the ability to respond to many unexpected expenses this year. I am in awe of His generosity, and I am also thankful that I know from Whom all blessings flow…
- I work for and with other Christians, in a business where one might not expect to find many (if any) Christians. My immediate boss is a Christian, at least three of my counterparts are Christians, two of my direct reports are Christians, and one of my direct reports has just started to come to church with me. I am surrounded by people who I care about, who care about me and who care about others.
- When I feel alone, afraid or disappointed, the Lord so often sends just the right song on the radio, a perfectly timed blog entry from a blogging friend, an email of encouragement, or even His tiny whisper through His Word or through an inward thought. He is ever present, and even when I don’t see Him or don’t sense Him for a moment, He is there. He is my friend, closer than a brother.
I primarily read the NIV of the Bible, but from time to time, I look at other translations to see if I can gain a different perspective. Psalm 34:1-8 is perfect praise, particularly at Thanksgiving, and I thought The Message version was especially relevant and beautiful for all circumstances this time of year…
“I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. I live and breathe God; if things aren't going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let's get the word out. God met me more than halfway, He freed me from my anxious fears. Look at Him; give Him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from Him. When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God's angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray. Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is. Blessed are you who run to Him.”
Blessings dear friends. May you have a season filled with all manner of things to be thankful for.
Monday, November 5, 2007
One of his quotes is, “Many people aren't living their priorities, they are trying to do guilt management...” I often find that to be the case for me. I have spent a lot of time defining my passions, my gifts and my priorities, but I have not yet completely overhauled my calendar to reflect those things. Instead, I handle the crises as they come... If I’m behind at work, I take time at home to try to get caught up. (By the way, getting caught up NEVER happens.) Then, when my family feels neglected, I put the work aside, but then the family is so used to functioning without me that we all end up in separate rooms doing separate things (surfing the internet, playing Xbox, reading, watching TV…). In the midst of that my mom calls from over 1,000 miles away and says, “I haven’t heard from you forever!” (I remind her it’s only been about a week, to which she responds that is too long.) Around 11p I remember that I was supposed to call the children’s ministry director at church to discuss volunteer opportunities, but it’s certainly too late at night for that…it goes on tomorrow’s “To Do” list (where it’s been for about a month). Oh yeah, all of the managers at work are reading First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, so before I drift off to sleep I pick up the book and end up reading the same page about three times because I keep nodding off. By the end of the day, I haven’t prayed as deliberately as I’d like, it’s hit or miss if I completed my devotions, and I sure haven’t had time to work on my “life plan” based on the previously mentioned passions, gifts and priorities. All this leads me to question what my priorities really are.
In the book, John tells a story of an executive who kept saying he would have more time for his family and himself, “once things settle down”. Guess what, folks…things never settle down. This executive kept climbing the proverbial ladder…up, up, up…until he fell off and died. Time ran out before he had the chance to “have more time”. There is no more time…we all have 24 hours in a day, and we all have a finite amount of time to live. How will you chose to spend that time? How will I??
The life story of Jesus is not about someone climbing up the ladder, but it is instead the Son of God descending the ladder to become a servant of mankind. The King of the universe deserved an earthly throne, but instead took on the cross. It was His outpouring of love that moved him to live and die for us. What will we live and die for?
"Lord, I desire to live for You. I pray for Your priorities to be my priorities. Help me to live my life based on Your calling, and may my daily calendar and actions reflect that. Forgive me Lord for climbing a ladder that has led me away from my family and even away from You. Help me to descend that ladder and create a clear path for me to follow. Lord, I know that you call us to step out in faith. It is not enough to ask You to show me the way, I have to take it. The priests carrying the ark had to step in the river before you stopped it from flowing. Moses had to stretch his hand out over the sea, and the Israelites had trust You to walk through enormous walls of water on either side of them to reach safety. Give me the strength to trust You fully, and may my mustard-seed size faith move any mountains that block my path. Thank you, Jesus, for descending the ladder and modeling for us on this earth how to really “live life”."
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I participatd in an unexpected conference call at work tonight. During this call, it became very clear that the future of my career with this company is uncertain. The timing of this is incredibly poignant, as for those of you who read my blog know I am struggling with my career, and I have been pondering how I might take a different path in my life. I have been in prayer for the Lord to open and close doors as He desires and based on His will for my life. This may very well be a closing door. And instead of the anxiety and fear this would normally cause (considering I am the only income-earner in my family), I am at total peace. Even though the news was completely unexpected and even stunning, peace has permeated my thoughts and soul.
It gets better…my boss called me later (after I was home) to discuss the situation. She said, “you are much calmer than I expected.” I explained how God had blessed me with His peace. She is also a Christian, and had the same perspective, but she is in a very different place financially than I am, and she fully expected to need to help me come to terms with this. Instead, we discussed how God is in control. We talked about all of the other Christians in this company, most of whom have sacrificed so much for their demanding jobs, and some who have talked of pursuing other opportunities (such as starting or entering ministries). We rejoiced in our faith and our ability to be at peace in such uncertain times.
But there’s even more. After all of this, I read an email from a dear high school friend tonight who had read my blog and clicked on the link to the Turning Point devotional (from my post titled, “No Fear of Bad News”, below). Instead of taking her to the October 16 webpage, it took her to the current day’s devotional (which was at the time, October 19). And guess what the verse was? Joshua 1:16, “All that You command us we will do, and wherever You send us we will go.” She explained how that verse ministered to her at just the right moment…and little did she know how much I needed to read that verse as well! God is so good…He takes what we do and returns it to us in multiples!
Nothing may come of the news that was relayed to me at work tonight, and even if that’s the case, this situation has given me a much-needed attitude adjustment – the reminder that God is in control, a confirmation of what I believe I should be pursuing in my life (my vision/mission), and a willingness to follow Him in all that He commands me to do and to go wherever He sends me. And I believe my post from October 16, and the devotional I read that day, prepared me for tonight’s news. In fact, it is even more meaningful today than it was when I first read it. Since, if you click on the original link, it takes you to the current day’s devotional, I wanted to provide the original text from October 16:
No Fear of Bad News
He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
At first reading, Psalm 112 seems too good to be true; but on further study, we realize it's so good it must be true. This Psalm explains how God blesses us when we praise Him, fear Him, and delight in His commandments (verse 1).
Our children will be blessed by our faithfulness (verse 2), our needs will be met (verse 3), we'll become more gracious, compassionate, and righteous (verse 4), and more generous and discreet (verse 5). Best of all, we'll be secure in our hearts, unafraid of bad news (verses 6-8).
This isn't a promise that bad news will never come, for we all read the headlines every day and sometimes face that dreaded call in the night or those difficult conversations with a friend. But faith turns the bad news into items of prayer and objects of trust, for we know God works all things together for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Because of God's sovereignty and Christ's resurrection, we have a peace the world can never understand. Our hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Blogging friends, I pray you trust in the Lord today, embrace the peace He desires for you, and that you cling to the truth of Psalm 112:7, and also follow the exhortation of Joshua 1:16. May you experience the incredible blessings of God that He is sure to bring you as a result.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
One of the most valuable pieces of advice she provided was to shift the paradigm of my thinking by remembering that "I don't know what I don't know". Instead of trying to fit my ideas into a pre-defined mold, I need to stay open to other opportunities by focusing on what my passions are and coupling them with my strengths/natural abilities (or what Dory calls "calling cards"). In just one hour she pointed me toward possibilities that I hadn't really thought of before.
Also, she calmed my fears about really being able to accomplish my dreams (or actually the fear is that I can't accomplish them without negatively impacting my family financially). I instead need to look at this current chapter as creating the building blocks for my future goals and to define the financial "jumping off point" where I will be comfortable moving from my current career into something new. (You're probably thinking, "well yeah, that makes sense...why hadn't you thought of that?" Okay, okay...I had defined a number of things, including the dollar figure of what I need in the bank to "retire" someday, but I hadn't defined in detail this important milestone in between.)
Here’s the one caveat…it’s again more “work” to move toward a different future. More time, more effort, more work setting things in motion. Already I’m burning the candle at both ends, so that’s truly a dilemma. I’m getting only about five hours of sleep a night. (Well, except today, when my oldest son had to wake me up for homeschooling because I was so tired last night I set the time on my alarm clock but forget to actually turn it on! Okay, and here’s the amazing thing…he actually woke me up and didn’t take advantage of the fact I overslept! I homeschool him on Mondays and Friday mornings due to my work schedule…and I cherish those days…and obviously he doesn’t dread it as much as I thought he did!)
Today I read in one of the blogs I like to visit (http://www.lovejoelr.blogspot.com/) that “the day just needs to be longer than 24 hours”. I sure have felt like that the last couple of months. Honestly, sometimes I forget that my hope is in the Lord. I cannot place my hope in a lifestyle coach, a new career path, or in myself and my efforts. I must meditate on Isaiah 40:31, which states, ”…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I have been trying to rely on my own strength, and I am so weary. I look forward to soaring on wings like eagles as I give it all to God and ask that He be the One to show me “what I don’t know”.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
You see, I ensure that whenever I can (which is most mornings), I take my youngest son to school on my way to work. I do that to ensure I see him at least once during the day since I often have to work late into the evening. Lately, his question has broken my heart more than usual. I drive away crying, and I find that I am struggling more and more being away from my boys, away from my husband, and yearning in my heart to “come home”.
My job demands many hours and much effort. It consumes not only my presence, but also much of my thought, time and attention. And, as the sole person working in my household, I have felt basically powerless to change it. However, I pray that changes tomorrow.
I entered a contest through “The Daring”, a community website that exists “to bring women together to collaborate, grow their businesses, enhance their lives, and achieve their most daring dreams”. The contest was for a free one-hour coaching session with Dory Willer, founder of Beacon Quest Coaching, which specializes in business success, career and life renewal coaching. Dory went from being an executive at a Fortune 100 company to a successful entrepreneur, which prompted me to enter the contest. After all, she has accomplished what I have only dared to dream about. I am ready to make my dreams a reality.
The contest entailed writing about what makes me ready to take my life to “the next level”. I spoke of my situation, and I explained the work I have done to define my vision statement, which is:
To provide individuals desiring to improve their lives, and the lives of those around them, with Christ-honoring information and resources that enables them to achieve success and fulfillment, personally and professionally.
I wrote of several business models that I thought could be used to fulfill this vision. And, I asked for the one-hour coaching session to help bring clarity and structure on how to successfully start the process to move from a more-than-full-time job to living out my dream full time. I want to move from the temporary trappings of this world and leave a legacy that points to Christ, just as Nicole Nordeman’s song says. May God open my eyes and heart to the path that will lead me there…for His glory, not for my accolades. Nicole says it better than I can…
By Nicole Nordeman
I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me,
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest.
You could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all who's who and so ‘n’ so's that used to be the best
At such 'n' such ... it wouldn't matter much.
I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights.
We all need an 'Atta boy' or 'Atta girl'.
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world.
I want to leave a legacy.
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering;
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed Your name unapologetically,
And leave that kind of legacy.
I don't have to look too far or too long awhile
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy.
It's an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile
Where moth and rust, thieves and such, will soon enough destroy.
Not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred;
Just want to hear instead, "Well Done" good and faithful one...
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
I do not know the depths of such grief. I pray with my entire being that I will never know the grief as one who lives with such a loss on a daily basis. But this woman also exudes love. Love and peace and joy. She is an inspiration, and she is the reason I started blogging, though I have never met her in person.
I praise God that I also know such love. The love of a parent for a child. You have all read my heart as it relates to my own boys, as “My Purpose” states to the right on my blog. Today, I was the recipient of that kind of love…I received the most beautiful email from my father. It read,
I know you are all grown up with a family, but you are still my little girl and I love you. This link is a music video that I heard and expresses my feelings.
The music video is Tim Mcgraw singing “My Little Girl”. I cried and cried upon hearing it. What an incredible father I have. This is a man who has always believed in me, accepted me even when I disappointed him, and though his life is quite busy and at times chaotic (raising his three great-grandchildren), he took time to think of me and send me this song. Oh, to be so loved. What a blessing.
Today, have you told someone you care about how much you really love them? Have you done something that expressed that love in a meaningful way? Please hurry. Do it today. Do it every day.
I recognize that for some reading this, you may not have experienced this kind of love from your earthly father. Do you know that there is a God in heaven who is your Abba Father? I remember watching a video one time and seeing a little Israeli boy running after his father and saying, “Abba, Abba”, and the father scooped him up and hugged him close. Abba literally means “Papa” or “Daddy”.
The apostle Paul says that you can call out to God saying, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:14 and Galatians 4:6) The word “Abba” is a loving term. You can cry out to God saying “Daddy”, or “Papa”…and He will answer, scoop you up, and hug you close.
A song, “Abba Father”, written by Rebecca St. James, Tedd T. & Otto Price, really speaks to my heart. It goes like this:
My Rhapsody Playlist
I'm feeling like the eagle that rises
Flies above the earth
And its troubles
Oh yes he knows that
There are valleys below
But under his wings
There's a stronger power
Oh Father - You are my strength
On You I wait upon
You make the road rise up to meet me
You make the sun shine
Warm upon my face
The wind is at my back
And the rain falls soft
God I lift You high -- You are my Abba
Running in this race to the finish line
The only road for me is the narrow
Not gonna stop or even look to the side
When I fix my eyes on You Jesus
Oh Father - You are my strength
Now more than ever
When you've run too far
And the road is long
Can't walk another mile
He is waiting
Hope in Him again
He'll renew you
Then you will rise
Gather up your wings and fly...
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
He gives strength to the weary
To those who hope in Him
They will soar like eagles
Thank you God, for being my “Abba Father”. And thank you, too, for giving me a father who truly exemplifies You and helps me to see You through his life. May I be that kind of person who shows such amazing love…that others may see You through me as well.
Friday, September 21, 2007
This past Sunday, we had our second message in a series titled “Evolve”. It’s about evolving our walk with Christ, and I was really moved. I have been growing closer to the Lord through prayer, but in the craziness of life, I have not been as diligent about reading His Word on a daily basis. Yet, when I do, I am significantly challenged and changed. I have now moved back all of my appointments at work so that I have at least ½ hour in the mornings before meetings start. I work at least 60 hours a week, so I think I can afford some time for me at the start of my day. I receive a daily devotional by email from Proverbs 31 Ministries that will be perfect to get me going. And while I always listen to Christian radio in the car, I’m sure there are good devotionals on tape or CD out there that I can plug into as well. I am so excited!!
Now my next challenge is to spend some time writing freelance. I have a course on Copywriting for the Christian Market (through the American Writers Institute), but I haven’t had time to work on it. Between work, homeschool lesson planning and grading, blogging (which also feeds my soul), watching my boys play sports, fixing up our rental property and showing it to prospective lessees, and all the other stuff of life, I have not found a way to fit this in. I also want to write some articles to see if I can get them published, but that hasn’t happened either. Whew…I am tired just thinking about it all. And I have to be really careful not to lock myself in my office on my computer, away from my husband and kids. It is so easy to get lost in cyberspace or even in my own thoughts and musings, and to miss out on “real life”. How do all you other bloggers do it?
Listening to the radio, I heard a quote that originated with Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life, which was “do not confuse activity with productivity”. There is so much that fills our day, and much of it feels important and necessary…but it is really? Is how we are choosing to spend our time truly productive in the sense that it moves us into closer relationship with the Father? Do our activities honor God? Also, in the day-to-day of life and work, do our activities move us toward our goals? At the end of the day do we have a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, and have we contributed toward those feelings in others’ lives? Finally, what are the goals we are working toward? Do we have a “purpose-driven life” or are we allowing life to just happen?
At the end of every day, I am often amazed at how busy I was. I run out of daylight long before I run out of work to do. I usually run out of steam, too, before I am finished with all of the tasks at hand. There’s a funny saying that is so true…”the problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat”. I don’t want to win the rat race; I want to win the prize that God has prepared for me. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Part of our strict training (which, to me, means “daily”) is the discipline of reading God’s Word to hear His instruction, praying to the Lord and listening for His guidance, and serving the Lord in the areas He has called us. And, oh the beauty of the crown we will then get to wear…the crown of love and compassion (Psalm 103:4), the crown of blessings (Proverbs 10:6), the crown of everlasting joy (Isaiah 35:10), and the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8).
Isn’t it wonderful to be a child of the King? May I run the race toward Him…the finish line.
Monday, September 17, 2007
He’s My Son by Mark Schultz
I'm down on my knees again tonight
I'm hoping this prayer will turn out right
See there is a boy that needs Your help
I've done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired
I'm sure You can understand
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand
And she tries not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes
Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
See, he's not just anyone
He's my son
Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep
I dream of the boy he'd like to be
I try to be strong and see him through
But God who he needs right now is You
Let him grow old
Live life without this fear
What would I be
Living without him here
He's so tired and he's scared
Let him know that You're there
Can You hear me?
Can You see him?
Please don't leave him
He's my son
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I cling to Ephesians 5:33, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” I know God will honor my submission and bless our marriage. My husband has given up much of his life to care for our boys and our home, but what is funny [interesting] is that I know he would rather be out conquering the world while I would rather stay home. (I believe Wild at Heart by John Eldredge is right on that point.) The reality is that he does not believe he can match my "accomplishments", nor my salary, so he stays at home while I work. How did we get so reversed? I know I am driven, have an incredible work ethic, am able to work well with many different types of people and, candidly, probably have a high need for accolades. Success at work feeds those attributes. And so, I progressed quickly…to the point that instead of holding a job, my job has complete hold of me. I make an incredible amount of money and have stock options and other perks, but all I want is to spend time with my family and write freelance. Instead, my husband “gets to” spend time with our boys, homeschools our oldest, is an assistant baseball coach for our youngest, and his creative outlet is playing the guitar (really well, I might add). He dropped out of college (studying graphic design) to homeschool our highschooler. What he views as a loving sacrifice, I view as luxury. There are times I must fight off jealousy, knowing that emotion is so incredibly destructive and “that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
But that is not all…as I am also struggling with the environment in which I work. I am painfully aware I have not stated what type of work I do. It didn’t used to bother me as much, but as I draw closer to the Lord and seek His will for my life, I feel uneasy. I know my work does not define me, and I am confident in my salvation, but I believe the Lord is pulling at my heart…and my hands and feet…to consider how I can better serve Him. You see, I work in the casino business. There, I said it. It’s out in the open, and I cringe at the criticism to come. I remember the time when I came across someone from my son’s Christian school (the basketball coach) sitting at a bar in our casino in Kansas City. He asked me how I felt working at a casino as a Christian. It was all I could do to not ask him how he felt sitting in a casino bar as a Christian. Instead, I answered that the Lord knows my heart and that I am making an honest living. I work hard, I act with integrity, and in fact, I work with other Christian believers. My boss, the Senior Vice President at our corporate office, came to believe Christ as her Savior about two years ago. Two other General Managers for different casino properties are born-again Christians…with one desiring to enter into fulltime ministry. We just hired a Vice President of Human Resources who is a Christian. Our Corporate Director of Finance is a Christian, as is the Vice President of Administration, Communication and Entertainment. I have a Bible on my desk, and I’ve invited people to church. I don’t mean for this to sound as justification, and I guess I say it to ease the reader’s mind that Christians really are everywhere and in every walk of life. The first time I realized that not everyone knew or believed that was when I was attending a Bible study at my church. A couple of months into the study, one of the woman admitted to me how horrified she was upon learning where I worked. She wondered what in the world I was doing at a Bible study. So, when she finally spoke to me, she apologized…though I had no idea why until she told me. She said she had judged me and had initially determined I must not really be a Christian, and that she had previously judged anyone the same who worked in such an environment. She said she now realized how wrong she had been, and this was a significant lesson for her, one in which she better understood the Lord’s instruction on judgment and mercy (Luke 6:36-38).
My husband does not share my uneasiness. Nor does he see “a way out” without detrimental impact on our family. So, on the eve of our son’s 16th birthday as I pray for his future and for new beginnings in his life, I also pray for new beginnings in my career, and for a new future as well. I pray the Lord will open doors, my husband’s heart, and my eyes to see the path he has for me. I desire to be a “Career Christian” and while I will need to continue to do that in my current environment, I also know the Lord has plans for me…"plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
And, what exactly is the foundation of America? It can be found in our Declaration of Independence, which speaks of God’s laws and of our Creator. It can be found on our coins’ motto, “In God We Trust”. It can be found in the last stanza of our national anthem, which reads, in part, “…Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust’…”
So, it is as it should be…history and the Bible intertwined and united. The First Amendment says nothing about the "separation of church and state." It simply states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." And, in my household, we study both together, just as God spoke of His reign and of the history of the earth together in Psalm 46:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
How appropriate and relevant is God’s Word!
Sunday, September 2, 2007
In another blog today (I am so sorry I don’t remember whose) I read that in America Christians pray for the problems to be removed off their back, but in other countries Christians pray for their backs to be made stronger. I have not been praying for a stronger back; I have been praying for a lighter load. And, that wouldn’t be a bad thing I suppose if I was truly following Matthew 11:29-30, which says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." But, if I look deep into my soul, I have to admit that I’m not taking upon Christ’s yoke, I am trying to throw off any and all yokes. But, what is a yoke? The definitions I found are that a yoke is (1) wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals are joined at the heads or necks for working together, and (2) a clamp or similar piece that embraces two parts to hold or unite them in position.
My goodness! I need a yoke! What a blessing to be joined together with Christ for the purpose of working together! And, I want to be embraced by Christ and united with Him! I have been looking at my burdens all wrong, and praying about them with the wrong intent.
It’s just like reading the Bible in context and really seeking to understand what God is saying (rather than what we’d like Him to say or what we think He should say). Hebrews 12:1-3 reads, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” This passage says to throw off everything that hinders us …not to just throw off everything. And, it admonishes us to run the race marked out for us…not the race we want to run or think we should run or the path that looks the best. The passage tells us to consider the opposition Christ encountered and that we should not grow weary or lose heart. I have been praying for removal of the opposition…removal of the yoke…without realizing what the yoke is really for. It is not to restrain me, it is to guide me alongside Christ, to join me with Him.
I have much to be praying about...my children, my marriage, my occupation, my finances, my future…but I’ve been lax in praying about my heart in these situations; I’ve neglected to ask God to strengthen my back to be able to carry the yoke; I haven’t considered the opposition Christ endured and counted myself blessed to be in His company. And, thanks to God, that my opposition isn’t the same as His, but that He cares just as much about my life and my hurts…and your’s…that He willingly puts on that yoke to carry it with us.
Monday, August 6, 2007
My heart couldn’t be any more full and overflowing, but yet broken, for my family. Before I had children I had no idea I had so much capacity to love…and hurt. And as I try to come to terms with the situations that cause the love to overflow, and those that cause my heart to break, I often allow those “feelings” to get in the way. I want more times of happiness and less times of grief. And so I try to force the happiness. I make decisions and concessions I wouldn’t otherwise make…which only prolong the hurt.
I recently watched the movie “Pride”. It’s about an inner city swim team, and a coach who helps the youth…and the community they live in…believe in themselves. He doesn’t do that by telling the kids what they want to hear. He doesn’t do it by becoming their friend. Instead, he speaks truth in their life. And, in the movie, they listen.
I know life doesn’t always happen that way. Some of you, and myself, have spoken the truth to our children only to see them turn away and continue to take the wrong path. It’s at those times I find myself most vulnerable…most likely to compromise and chase after them. I turn my head to what’s wrong in their life so I can continue to walk alongside them. But, then, you will find your kids are still on that wrong road. And, instead of being prompted to turn the other way, I am enabling them to continue walking on it.
In the middle of the movie, I got it. I paused the movie and wrote it down. “Speak Truth.” And then I wrote, “Earn the Respect.” Being my kids’ friend may give me moments of peace and even of happiness, but I believe if I focus on the friendship, rather than on the truth…which really is love…the end of that road will end in sorrow.
I often accuse my husband of being too hard on our oldest son. I feel he is driving him away. From my point of view, he appears harsh, unforgiving and angry about our son’s behavior and his mistakes. Honestly, he has a right to be angry. The trouble our son has found himself in is destructive, expensive, and has turned our life upside down. I know my husband loves our son…I just don’t think he knows how to show it without seemingly condoning the behavior he abhors. On the other hand, my husband accuses me of being too easy on our son. He feels I don’t hold him accountable and that my leniency gives him license to misbehave. In fact, he probably believes I love our son more than I love him, as I often take an opposing view and “stand up” for our son. I think we are both right. I think my husband drives him away, and then I widen the chasm by trying to be the peacemaker and not just forgiving but overlooking our son’s mistakes. At the same time, this creates a valley in our marriage relationship. Honestly, it’s not just our son that is creating strife in our household…it’s us…and it’s me.
As I traverse through life, and struggle to find my way on unmarked paths, I have made so many wrong turns. It is only when I look up, instead of on the path, that I find my way again. I get so wrapped up in the scenery alongside the road (beautiful and ugly) that I miss the Light above that is there to guide me. When I do that, I find myself in darkness…devoid of light not only around me, but in me. But there is always a way out…a path to the sunshine…a path to the Son.
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” – Psalm 139:1-12
Yes, such knowledge is too wonderful. And even in darkness there is Light. As I focus on that, may I speak in truth, knowing that the Lord is beside me…and understanding that the Lord is equally beside my son and my husband. It is up to me to be the peacemaker…but not in the way I have been up until now. I can bring peace and happiness to my soul in spite of all circumstances. And maybe as I speak the truth, others will listen. Or perhaps it will plant a seed. Even so, the truth might be for those who look in our lives from the outside. If nothing else, the truth shall set me free.
”Jesus, be my truth. May You give me the strength, courage, and wisdom to speak Your truth in love. Keep my eyes upon You, and my feet on Your path. Illuminate my way. And as I walk in that Light instead of chasing others or becoming distracted by what I see on the way, may those I love turn and join me. In Your name I pray. Amen.”
Monday, May 14, 2007
First, we had a really tough interview with a Case Manager for my son. This person was condescending, judgmental, and even disparaging toward my son, my husband and I. She questioned my husband’s motives for leaving the workforce to be a stay-at-home dad. She expressed her distaste for our decision to homeschool our son. And she basically tore down my son to the point he stopped talking to her. I have never been through an experience as demeaning and hurtful as this one. I do praise God we should never have to deal with her again.
This has also been a tough week in terms of getting enough sleep. Between late-night meetings at work, getting my youngest to school in the morning, baseball tournaments that start at the crack of dawn on weekends, and lesson planning for homeschooling, my energy is waning. And my time with God has been the first to go, which then compounds my feeling of being drained.
Sorrowfully, we’ve learned that my mother-in-law has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it seems to be progressing quickly. My grandmother also had Alzheimer’s, and it truly is a devastating disease. Once a vibrant, witty, full-of-life woman, my grandma became disoriented, confused, forgetful (to the point of not knowing her family), and eventually lost her speech. My husband’s sister is the only child living in the same town as their mom, and she is feeling overwhelmed and frightened. She has three children of her own, and starts a new job in June. Finances are tight, and while we can help somewhat with that, I know from experience how important emotional support (and a break / escape from the situation) can be. She is in my prayers daily.
And now, there are mounting problems at my place of employment. The team of people I am responsible for are starting to develop unhealthy “cliques”. A key member of the team unexpectedly resigned in the midst of a critical project he was responsible for. There is an accountability issue with yet another team member. I am feeling discouraged with the recent backward progress. (Those two terms don’t belong together, do they? It’s pretty much an oxymoron to have “backward progress”.)
Of course, we are still walking a long road facing the realities of my oldest son’s troubles. Between court dates, meetings with investigators, case managers, counselors, attorney’s fees, and restitution to be paid (not to mention missed days of work, my husband dropping out of school to homeschool him, the loss of friends my son has experienced, and all the other things I’ve already relayed in the past), it can be daunting to think of what all the future holds.
So, I have to ponder, am I allowing others to steal my joy? Who am I expecting to fill my emotional needs? I am again reminded that it is through the difficult situations in our lives that we grow the most, learn the most-lasting lessons, and become the most reliant upon the Lord. In all of my 39 years, I have never identified more with the saying, “I know God won’t give me more than I can handle; I just wish He didn’t have so much confidence in me.” However, I’ve realized it is when I take my eyes off Him that doubts, fear and frustration rise up in me. It turns out I am not only dodging the curve balls, but have actually started throwing them in my own life. By not keeping my eyes, heart and mind focused on the Prince of Peace, Mighty Counselor, and Savior, they become focused on the muck and mire of the world.
How do we do this practically? I mean, it’s nice to say and all, but how do we stay focused on the Lord rather than our circumstances? Trust me, I’m not an expert, or I wouldn’t need to keep coming back to this place. But when I recognize I’m getting off track, there are some things that help redirect my path. The Bible makes no secret of these things; all we have to do is follow them. And thankfully they are not hard, but they do require dedication, time, and effort. Once you’re in the habit, however, you’ll find the effort and emphasis you placed on lamenting over your troubles were actually harder.
1. I said it my last post, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV). And, I really mean “without ceasing”. Keep the music off in the car, and pray as you drive. Post sticky notes around your house if necessary to remind you to pray, or to remind you of scripture verses so you can focus your mind on them and pray by reciting scripture. Pick up a book by Stormie Martin, who has written numerous books with practical prayers for you as a mom, woman, wife, etc. Start your day in prayer, before you get out bed (i.e., between the times you’re pushing the snooze button), and end your day in prayer. Spend time journaling your prayers (and then be sure to record the answers!). Before having a conversation with another, before picking up a ringing phone, and before walking in the door after a hard day’s work (or before your husband does), pray that your words would be a blessing, uplifting, truth spoken in love, or whatever the situation may call for. Train yourself to pray continually, and you will find yourself doing it even without prompting.
2. Probably the most common exhortation you receive from your pastor, from Christian writers, and from many other sources is to stay in the Word of God. The Reverend Billy Graham says that he leaves his Bible open somewhere in his home or office (or wherever he is traveling), so that he will come across it during the day. He then takes the opportunity to read a verse, or a chapter (or more) as he comes across the Bible. What a great idea! And, how many of us have more than one Bible, so we can leave them open in different areas of the house?! (Thanks to Jerry B. Jenkins for this tidbit about Rev. Billy Graham.)
The Bible is such a terrific “instruction book” for life. As it says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105 NIV). So often I will come across scripture that ministers to my soul in a way that speaks directly to my current situation. I know that this is one of those ways that God “speaks to me”. And, the more I am in the Word, the more I learn and the more encouraged I become. So, while you’ve heard it before, it bears repeating: Study the scriptures!
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing in the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)
3. By serving and ministering to others, you keep your focus off yourself and on others. It truly is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This doesn’t have to be elaborate…you can make a difference even by emailing a quick note to a hurting or concerned friend, penning a letter to let someone know you are thinking of them or praying for them, or sending a greeting card that contains a poignant verse. In return, I have been so uplifted by responses to emails I’ve sent (or comments I’ve made on blogs). Sometimes I wonder if the responses I receive have more impact on me than the original recipient of my writings. Serving and ministering can also be done very practically through volunteerism (whether at your church, local food pantry or at a homeless shelter). One thing I would caution here is to ensure you are serving within your gifts. For example, don’t sign up to help with the children’s ministry unless you love being around kids and are blessed with a good dose of patience. Also, charities have many different needs for which you can volunteer your time. If you don’t feel working directly with people is one of your gifts, find out if your local soup kitchen needs administrative / office work done, or if they could use your help with fundraising (if those are your gifts instead).
Bottom line is that it always helps me to put into perspective my situation when I read and/or respond to the struggles of others. As it says in Proverbs 16:3 (NKJV), “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Plus, what a joy it is to serve God in ways that he himself served (a kind word to someone hurting, feeding the hungry, etc.).
4. Finally, I encourage you to consciously remember your blessings. Do this is a very real way, such as writing them down in a praise journal or verbally thanking God for them during your prayer time. If you have trouble, read through the Psalms, and you will see the many different ways and times David praised the Lord, in spite of his troubles and persecution by Saul. By focusing on your blessings, the Lord has an opportunity to give you peace and joy that surpasses all understanding. “Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11).
It seems fitting here to list just some of the blessings I have experienced in the midst of my turmoil recounted above.
- At the end of a tumultuous meeting, my son’s Case Manager referred him into a juvenile program that will eventually clear his name and record, assuming he completes it successfully. (And, you can imagine we will be praying hard for that.)
- In the midst of a lack of sleep, I have spent some quality (and quantity) time with my family. Also, the late-night meetings at work produced a well-received presentation that provided a source of pride and accomplishment for my team.
- My mother-in-law’s diagnosis gives us a very really opportunity to serve, both her and her daughter. It also seems to have drawn my husband much closer to his mom than he has been for many years.
- I am supported by those I report to in how I address the challenges with my team at work. I work directly for a terrific Christian woman who is compassionate and encouraging, and who can always be counted on to provide wise counsel.
- My husband’s and my relationship with our oldest son is stronger now than it has been at any time in the past year. Our homeschooling has brought us closer to him, and provides more one-on-one time with him than we have ever experienced before. Also, we now live life with eyes wide open to the challenges and dangers of his adolescence. We truly do feel everything that has happened is a blessing in disguise, as we are more aware of what our son is experiencing, how he is living his life, and who his friends are.
If you have actually read through this entire blog (what a marathon!), I would love to hear about the methods that work for you in keeping focused on God, especially when faced with pain, anguish or confusion. Thanks, and may God pour His richest blessings out on your life, regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
In the midst of her tumultuous life, my sister decided at some point there was no God…and even if there was a possibility He existed, He certainly did not care about her. Much of that stemmed from an abusive relative and a pastor who recommended an abortion when she ended up pregnant at 14. Sadly, that advice was followed, and my sister lived with the guilt, shame and grief over that decision for many, many years.
I prayed for my sister, sent her cards, bought her a Bible a time or two, and then, when she was almost 50 years old, had the glorious honor of leading her to Christ one night over the phone a couple of years ago. Tonight, I just got off the phone with her, and had to weep over the radical transformation in her life. Oh, she has had her ups and downs and her slips and falls in the last couple of years. Decades of substance abuse have taken a severe toll on her body, and she is in very poor health. At times, she has slipped back into old patterns, particularly when she runs out of her medication or neglects to take it. But today was a good day. To hear the peace in her voice and her love for the Lord is overwhelming. Tonight she talked about her passion for gardening and how it brings her closer to the Lord. To hear her say, “Jesus is my best friend…He spends time with me in my garden and is all I need” brought me to tears. It is remarkable how God can take such a broken life, one filled with heartache, disappointment, cynicism and despair, and make it beautiful, full of hope, and brimming with joy. I praise God for His faithfulness to my sister. He never gave up on her, in spite of her giving up on Him so many years ago. He continued to seek after her, and she has now found in Him new life. Her body remains broken, but her heart is whole.
As I think about my sister’s life, and I compare that with those whose bodies are whole but whose hearts have a hole only God can fill, I realize that she is truly the one who is blessed. While I wish she wouldn’t have gone through such pain to come to where she is today, it really does show just how great God is. He gives up on no one, and He will leave the 99 to rescue the one who has strayed (Luke 15:3-7). I do not have the words to express how in awe I am of the grace of the Lord. And it gives me great hope for those in my family who have yet to experience the saving, and freeing, love of Jesus Christ. I regularly pray for them, and write their names in my prayer journal with the expectation that on a future page I will be listing them under “answers to prayer”.
I urge you to never stop praying for your family and friends. The Lord who can be born of a virgin, walk on water, and raise the dead (including Himself), can most certainly find the most lost of sheep. As the apostle Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17 NKJV).
Please let me know if I can join you in prayer for one of your family members.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I also thank You for the trials in my life, for You so clearly show Your power within the midst of them. You have drawn me closer to You as I walk through the valley. You give me purpose and redefine my priorities through these trials. And, I believe You are giving me a ministry by what I learn through them.
Lord, no matter what happens in my life, you remain the same today, yesterday and forever. I can count on You – Your faithfulness, Your love, Your peace and even Your joy in the midst of turmoil. Who is like You, oh Lord? Where else can I find such unfathomable comfort and hope, even with uncertainty all around me? Lord, continue to use my trials to mold me into a vessel you can use to speak and work through. May the fire continue to refine me. May I reach others for You and show them Your glory and power as I live a life of beauty out of ashes.
You, Lord, are my Rock. There is no other explanation for the amazing joy, comfort and peace I feel as I stand firm among the crashing waves. Thank you, Jesus.”
I feel like I have grown so much over the past week. God is so amazing. There is no one else who can change a life and give a life meaning like He can. More has happened in one week that has changed my perspective than probably all of the past year. (1) Our son’s court date went as well as could be expected – better in fact – as we received even more than we asked for in changing the terms of his current bond. (2) Then on Friday night I had the opportunity to hear Jerry B. Jenkins speak, and I was moved and inspired as he spoke about working with Billy Graham on his memoirs and also about writing in general. (I purchased his book Writing for the Soul and can’t wait to read and apply it.) (3) Coincidentally (or, I like to think of it as a “God-incident”), the next day I happened to listen to an audio tape from Thrive Today that talked about purpose and vision, and how it needs to transcend all areas of your life (in your career, with your family, and all other responsibilities and activities), and as a result I simplified my ultimate purpose into a mission statement that energizes and excites me. (As you might have guessed, writing is part of it.) (4) This past week I was also able to let go of bitterness I was feeling toward my son’s school, as I realized those who acted inappropriately don’t “define” what the school stands for. And, I will continue to choose to forgive those involved until I feel it. (5) Finally, as I homeschooled my son today, I realized how much I enjoy and look forward to spending every Monday with him. What precious time God has given me with my son, despite an overwhelming work schedule. When he was in traditional school, I was able to spend very little time with him as I worked long hours Tuesday through Saturday, and even some Sundays and Mondays. Sunday has become a little challenging as the lesson planning literally consumes hours of my time, but the Monday payoff is worth it. Now, I am challenging myself to find a way to spend quality time with my youngest son. He loves playing games, so I am thinking that a regular game night (or two) would be the answer.
The world says that there is a silver lining in every cloud. The Bible says close to the same thing, but a little differently – “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)” Also, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God and who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)” I pray you will find these truths evident in your life today. If you cannot see the blessings of the Lord, I encourage you to delve into His Word, pray for your eyes to be opened, praise Him in love for who He is (regardless of whether you currently see Him in action or not), and then silently wait for His answer. I believe He will reveal His blessings to you in the most unexpected ways, as you faithfully seek Him and wait upon Him.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
It was brought to the king’s attention that three Jews refused to worship the idol. After giving them a second chance to bow down, which was soundly rejected, Nebuchadnezzar was furious, heated the furnace seven times hotter than normal, and ordered the three men to be bound and tossed in. The soldiers charged with carrying out the order died from the intense heat of the furnace as they threw in the three men. What had made the king so angry? It was their refusal to follow his orders, instead trusting and believing in God as the ultimate authority and the only one worthy of our praise (1 Chronicles 16:25). In fact, they said to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had an incredible faith. Not just that they would be delivered from certain death in a fiery furnace, but even if they were not, they would stand firm in faith on God’s word. WOW! Their faith was not contingent on what God could do for them, or even what He had already done, but it was based on what they could do for God, and what He was capable of doing (whether or not He did it). How often do we lose sight of what God is capable of and what we are called to do for Him? When deliverance isn’t certain, and even when it doesn’t come, that doesn’t change who God is. It doesn’t change the truth of His word. God is so much bigger than the reality of our world.
Another interesting part of the story is how apparently Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were among the minority (if not the only ones) who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. The Bible says that “all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold” (Daniel 3:7), but some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews, saying, “But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:12) These three men stood alone, in spite of the fact that “everyone else is doing it”. How often do our kids do the “popular” thing or are afraid at being singled out or ridiculed for being different than the crowd…even when the crowd is wrong? (How often do we?)
It is the eve of a court date for my son. In some ways, I feel as if I’m standing at the opening to the fiery furnace. And I know it doesn’t end tomorrow, as there is still a long road ahead regardless of the outcome of the proceedings. Even more, I fear for my son who figuratively stands at the same opening. And I don’t have the power to pull him to safety.
Will I chose to cling to my faith in spite of the heat? I will…because I know even if I end up in the furnace, the Lord will be there with me. And I’d rather be in the furnace with the Lord than anywhere without Him. That would be the true definition of hopelessness.
I also wonder if both of my sons will walk the road less traveled and stand firm for what is right and true? Or will either of them follow the crowd, living for the moment rather than for God, and worshipping idols? Oh, I don’t mean ninety-foot high statues of gold, but the idols of today such as popularity, fame, money, and other treasures on earth. The Lord has called us to “store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20)
I pray that my boys will find real treasure here on earth, not the man-made kind. I pray that they will put their faith in the treasures of heaven, and that the Lord will keep them from the fiery furnace. But even if they end up there, may the Lord walk with them through it, and may all who see what’s happened proclaim, “Praise be to the God of [these boys]… How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation." (Daniel 3:28, 4:4) I pray that for your children as well, and I encourage you that if you’d like for prayer by name, please respond with a comment, and I will add your child to my prayer journal.
Warm blessings to you and your family.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NKJV)
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37 NLT)
“Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’" (Matthew 9:12-13 NIV)
My heart has been chipped away, if not downright broken, at some of the situations we have faced as parents of a child in trouble. Parents of his friends have forbid their children to spend time with our son, and while I understand their decision and their concerns, what I cannot understand is what they say to their children…”He’s a bad kid…We don’t want you near him…He’s the not the kind of person we want you spending time with.” Don’t people know their children almost always tell their friends what their parents say? Do they care? Would they care if they knew how these words have hurt my son and created more self doubt and despondency?
My son’s former Christian school has said and done things that are downright unbiblical. I understand their decision to disenroll him (and his four friends), but ways in which they treated these boys and information that has been shared with others are contrary to how Christ has told us to live and act.
Lest your mind take you to the extreme, I want you to know that my son and these friends have not caused physical harm, and their actions have not resulted in any irreparable damage. Out of respect and love for them, I desire to tread lightly in this “public forum” because it’s not my intent to dwell on what’s happened, but what we can learn from it. With my son, I don’t go back over the events that led us here, and I don’t need to remind him of his very real consequences – they impact his daily life already – but what I do strive for is that he knows none of this changes my love for him and my acceptance of him. Oh how I wish I could shield him from those who have chosen not to love and accept him. Or those that say they care for him but cast him into the “leper colony” of life (seemingly saying, “we love you, but only at a distance”). But Christ said to the apostles, “…Preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:7 NIV)” Jesus didn’t hang out with the religious leaders of the day, he hung out at the homes of tax collectors, lepers and sinners.
I guess if I were really honest, I would have to say that I can be pretty judgmental myself…especially before entering this season of my family’s life. And, I guess I am being judgmental even now as I write this and consider those who disparage my son. However, I have come to learn that things are not always as they seem. What we may characterize as “bad” or “ugly” or “undesirable”, Jesus may characterize as “lost” or “hurting” or “in need of grace”. I have come to a place where I pray daily, often minute-by-minute, for my lost child, and others like him. But I know that the Lord does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance. And He will rejoice with me when my “prodigal” son “comes home”. Indeed, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the righteous who do not need to repent (Luke 15:7).
I have often prayed for God to break my heart with the things that break His. I had no idea what the answer to that prayer would be. I would not have chosen this situation to be what “broke my heart”, and it has been difficult for my husband and I to come to terms with it, but it has drawn me closer to God. It has further softened my heart toward my son, especially when he’s being “difficult”. It has pointed out where I have been prideful and even arrogant. It has led me to examine my life to see if it’s truly in line with God’s will (and I am finding where it is not). It has pointed out the weaknesses in our family as it has magnified the stress fractures that threaten to crack us wide open. It gives me an opportunity to Rock-bolt things back in place (with Christ, the Rock). It has also given me a new perspective for other not-perfect Christians and non-Christians alike. I will embrace this situation, and I will continue to learn from it. And God will use it for good, as He said He would. I pray He uses it to speak to others as well…
Oh, and it would be completely unfair and wrong of me to say all this and then neglect to mention how many others have come alongside our family and my son and shown us love and grace and concern. My church family at Red Rocks Church, my sister-in-law, our parents, my direct supervisor, our counselor, and others have been so gracious and good to us. They have been Christ’s hands and feet in this situation. If any of you are reading this…thank you, and we love you!
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
But what do you do when your children don’t feel like "a gift" or “a reward”? What happens when your heart is burdened and broken, and you cry out to the Lord, "what do I do with this child?!?"
My husband Kriss and I are walking through a difficult valley with our 15 year old. While we've been concerned for some time, the things we have learned in the last month have grief-stricken us. The path he has chosen, and the consequences of his choices, are very real, and very devastating. As we muddle through the uncharted waters we find ourselves in, oftentimes we feel completely inadequate with how to respond, what to do, and even what to pray for. There are times when all I can do is simply pray the name of the Lord, saying "Jesus...Jesus..." I thank God that He knows my heart, and the words that I cannot form, He already knows.
One thing that also continually comforts me is that God loves my son even more than I do. As a mom, that is almost unfathomable. Can you imagine anyone loving your child more than you? But when I consider the brutal sacrifice made on a cross for my son (and for all of us), I can start to understand. And I am grateful, because I know my son’s pain is probably greater than my own. I can’t imagine being a teenager in today’s world. I remember my confusion, my questions, my doubts, my fears, and my longings to belong. Since he’s not inclined to tell us, I can only imagine how much greater my son’s burdens are. I must admit, however, there are times I’m not focused on my son’s pain, I am focused on my own. Even worse, I’m not focused on what Christ is doing is our lives, I’m living as if it’s “all about me”. I become wrapped up in grief, turmoil, stress, and exhaustion. At the end of the day I’m pretty good at laying my burdens at the foot the cross, but come morning, I pick them back up again and walk out of the house carrying them with me. Sometime during the day, I’ll realize the load I’m carrying, and I’ll lay them down again. But, at some point later, even without realizing it, I find myself lugging my baggage around with me again.
Some days are better than others. I always laugh at the well-known prayer, “Dear Lord, so far I've done all right. I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed. And from then on, I'm going to need a lot more help. (Author Unknown)” I think I’m going to rewrite that one with a spin on packing our bags and carrying them around with us. What we need to do instead is go on vacation with God, unpack the bags and stay with Him a while. That’s so easy do while we’re still cozy and snug in our “bed” (when things are good). It’s a lot harder once the alarm clock of life goes off before we’re ready, and our bare feet hit the cold tile floor, and we have a day filled with unknowns. But we must remember God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us. At what must have been a dark time in Moses’ life, as he wandered around in the wilderness, and he learned he would not be able to enter the promised land, Moses said to the people of Israel, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” This theme is repeated several times, including in Hebrews 13:5, “…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Praise God for His faithfulness.
So once again I lay my burdens at the foot of the cross. And tomorrow (or actually later this morning…I’m not getting a lot of sleep these days), I will wake up and chose to leave them there. I will leave my bags unpacked and walk out into the day the Lord has made. And no matter what may come…and there have been many unpleasant surprises lately…I will chose to keep my eyes focused on Him. Through His eyes, I will truly be able to recognize His gifts. My children, no matter the circumstances, are among the greatest gifts I have ever received. Thank God I am able to see them through His eyes. May they see Him through mine.
Blessings to you until next time.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
That's not always easy. Especially when my children make poor choices and the inevitable consequences come, I want to save them. I want to pick them back up and protect them, rather than "give them to the Lord". There are even times I want to bear the consequences rather than see them suffer. But we all make our own choices, and ultimately we all answer for them...on this side of heaven or on the other. I believe strongly in, and hold fast to, God’s direction to “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I also accept the fact that the book of Proverbs is not a collection of promises that will be fulfilled as long as the conditions are met, but instead are maxims that wisely describe the way God has made the world to operate. Of course, God often blesses Godly parenting, but ultimately our children have free will; they can choose to follow or reject our ways because God created them with the ability to do so. Even the Lord Himself knows what it is like to be rejected by His children (Israel) and to have disobedient children (Adam and Eve). I am reading a terrific book titled, “When Good Kids Make Bad Choices [Help and Hope for Hurting Parents],” which has reminded me of these truths.
Of course I also realize I am not always a "Godly parent". Thank goodness for mercy and grace and forgiveness. The Lord is so faithful. Think of how many times He blessed Israel, even when they would fall back into sin after being rescued by God. I also don't hesitate to ask my kids for their forgiveness when I have messed up. I pray that the humility they see in me (as well as my strength and resolve in other situations), will make an impact on how they treat others, and help them see the benefit of repentance. I also recognize the need to forgive them when they have intentionally or unintentionally hurt me...whether they ask for forgiveness or not. We are commanded to forgive to be forgiven. (Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:36-38 NIV)
And, finally, what I have found most important lately is that my boys know I love them...no matter what. When they were small, I would say, "I love you more than the world is big." And I want them to know that is a really "big" love...an unshakable and unmoveable love...an unconditional love. Regardless of what choices they make, and what consequences come, I will love them. When they are acting most unloveable, that is when they need to hear it the most. Oh, my words may not be accepted at the time, and they may seem like they don't care. They may even throw hurtful things back to me. But I cannot waiver, or I lose an opportunity to live out the purpose I've stated on this blog...that my boys would know they are loved, valued, adored, cherished...by me, and by God.
I pray something in what I've written has touched your heart, reminded you of a truth, or given you something to praise God for. If nothing else, remember that "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him." (Psalm 127:3 NLT) If you are a parent, thank God for His gift. If you are not, know that you have still received, or have access to, an even greater gift. The gift of having a Father in heaven who loves you "more than the world is big". He knows every choice you've ever made...good and bad; He knows your every thought...good and bad; and He loves you no matter what. His is a free gift of love, hope, joy and ultimately an eternal life in a perfect place He is preparing for you. It's the best gift you will ever receive.
Oh...and in my next post, I think I will explore how to react when you don't feel like your child is a "gift...a reward" (at least in the moment of chaos, turmoil, pain or even just disobedience). But for tonight, I choose to praise God as both a mother, and as a child of His. Blessings to you.