on confirmation, attendance, and emails

Being the parents of boys often means loud sounds, body functions, and rough-housing. I wouldn’t have it any other way– except the body functions, of course.  Now that the boys are teenagers, my husband and I are no longer accosted by little chubby arms begging for hugs. We are now the ones asking for a hug goodbye or a hug goodnight.  It’s part of the cycle I guess.

In the past few days we have been notified by the high school that the boys have been absent or tardy from class.  Having been a teacher, I know better than to blindly believe my sons would be innocent of any negative behavior at school.  They are after all, still kids– just really tall kids.

I emailed my sons’ teachers about the attendance issues and immediately received responses explaining the attendance marks.  In addition to my inquiry, our younger son’s Spanish teacher responded to my email by saying he was a great young man. Our oldest’s German teacher responded with a similar tone.

It made me smile.  It was confirmation that all the training our sons have had in their lives is paying off.  Even when Mom and Dad aren’t around the boys still choose wisely.  I know that they are not perfect, but I am encouraged by the impression they make when out in their community.

I have watched my children interact with adults, peers, and younger children and each interaction shows me that instilling the importance of others, valuing each other even when there are differences, is coming through the in the ways the boys relate to other people.

To the parent that feels like training up their child/children is a steep climb up a slippery slope– don’t lose hope. Defiant children may become strong, independent adults able to think past the “crowd behavior” around them. The bossy child may be a leader in the making. The self-centered child may become a selfless giver.

We are not set in stone by our behaviors as kids. As parents we need to keep training, keep praying, and most importantly, keep loving our children into the young men and women they will become.

After all, our Heavenly Father does that with us all the time. Scripture clearly tells us that only God knows the end from the beginning, I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ (Isaiah 46:10 NIV).

So my prayer is that we will not grow weary, even in the trenches, but continue to build into the children God has blessed us with each day. (See Galatians 6:9 and 2 Thessalonians 3:13).

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First and Second

When I first accepted Christ, I was discipled by a dear friend who gave me the Blackaby Bible study Experiencing God. It was the perfect study to have as someone who knew about God, but didn’t truly know God.

I studied about Who God was, what His promises were, and gained insight as to how I should set aside who I used to be so I could become who God saw me to be.  It was a rich, deep time of study and learning and awakening for me.  I was an eager student, ready to learn all that the Teacher was sharing.

One of the verses I memorized during that study came from Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

These verses resonated with me then as a new way to live life.  Now, twenty-five years later, I find them fuller, richer still, than I ever imagined.  Just as when Paul wrote about the Fruit of the Spirit, so too do these verses build on one another.

If we first love God with everything we have– heart, soul, mind, and in some Gospels, strength, then we cannot help but love others as ourselves.  When we align our choices with God, looking at things the way He does, reacting and acting as He would-with grace and mercy, compassion and justice, then we cannot help but show those same characteristics to those around us. Even those who see the world differently.

This kind of love is not the mushy, junior high school crush love; this love is deeper, lasting, soul-satisfying, soul-healing kind of love.  It lasts beyond time and began before time.  It is the kind of love that cannot fully be understood by our finite selves, but when we try to understand we get a glimpse of something from Heaven itself.

I find myself often repeating this verse to myself as way to remember that I am called to more than I can ever be on my own.  Through God’s supernatural self I can and do become someone who focuses on others, not for accolades, but because I want to, I am drawn to love them more than myself.  My wants and needs are not as important.  God’s plan and purposes are what matters.

I am reminded of a song by Margaret Becker which asks “What kind of love is this?”
What kind of love is this?
What You would lay down Your life
For someone such as me
I’ll spend my lifetime wondering why
The beauty of heaven chose here in my heart
To pour out His perfect gift
What kind of love is this?

This is a love beyond me and yet within me.  It is possible to do, but only through Him.

 

 

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Carry On

Within the last week, I have seen posts and received texts from family and friends who are carrying heavy burdens. Cancer still ravages my dear friend, my mom’s illness is flaring again and it will be a month until her surgery. Another friend is struggling with loss, exhaustion, and major changes in her life.

Once again, I am on my knees on their behalf. Praying for their spirits, for their situations, and for their immediate families as they walk through this pain.

I am still far away, but I also know that God is near. So, I will choose to carry their hurts and their burdens and concerns straight to the Cross. To the God whose love and healing covers everything.

Galatians 6:2 says it best, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

This is the kind of thing I am glad to carry.

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Release

I am letting go of my anger, I am letting go of my need to please others who are out only to take.  I am letting go of my sadness, my disappointment and my shame for not “measuring up” to someone’s expectations.

I have to let go of these things.  I cannot be whole or heal the broken spots in my heart and spirit if I don’t empty my hands of the junk I don’t need.

I want open hands to take hold of the Hand of the Healer, the Redeemer, the Great Shepherd, the God Who loves, Who restores.

To rest in the joy of a love that doesn’t measure me against my failings, my broken promises, a love that covers all my wrongs and all my shortcomings.  A love that wraps me up and brings all the shards and pieces that have been scattered into one whole person again.

I am reminded of a song by Chris Tomlin that I would sing with my high school students.  I used to close my eyes and let the words be spoken just between God and me. I also would choose to listen to the high school students make the song their anthem.

With this heart open wide
From the depths from the heights
I will bring a sacrifice
With these hands lifted high
Here my song here my cry
I will bring a sacrifice
I will bring a sacrifice

I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down
Oh, hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down

Letting go of my pride
Giving up all my rights
Take this life and let it shine, shine, shine
Take this life and let it shine

I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down
Oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down

It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way, always

It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way, always

I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down

Songwriters
INGRAM, JASON / MYRIN, JONAS / REDMAN, MATT / TOMLIN, CHRIS

 

May it be so, today and always.

 

 

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Silence

There are times when we feel like we have to fill the silence with words. We feel awkward, uncomfortable, and uncertain when it’s quiet. We don’t like to be left alone with our thoughts– they might overwhelm us– so we say words– filling the air– to keep going.

Maybe it’s best to be silent sometimes. We can let our thoughts settle- like silt on a riverbed.

God calls us to be still. Quiet, silent. Once we allow ourselves to stop, God will be able to start. Start healing us, start leading us, start teaching us.

So go be still somewhere.

God will be waiting there for you.

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Nothing

In recent news we have heard again of the deaths of Christians for sake of being “Christian.” Twenty-one Christians were beheaded by ISIS in Egypt sparking sorrow, grief, and outrage around the world’s Christian community.

We are being reminded again and again that this world is not our home, we are just travelers here.  Many well-known and respected Christian leaders and church leaders have spoken to remind us that this is only the beginning.  We will see this same brutal, merciless behavior continue unless Christians stand up against the brutality.

I do not make light of these deaths.  I am heart-broken by this kind of depravity and it shakes me to my core to think of the families who are mourning their sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers.  I also look to those who stood before, facing death on this earth and facing eternity– those who were killed, burned at the stake, drawn and quartered, and crucified for the name of Christ.

Paul, Peter, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon the Zealot, Jim Ellliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Martin and Gracia Burnham, and so many whose names were never recorded for the masses to know and remember.

We are standing in the days, we are kneeling in the days, we are serving in the days, where our actions and our inactions will tell others what we really believe.  Do we really believe that God offers us eternity?  Do we really believe that when we say we will follow Jesus “no matter what” we will follow Him?

We are in the days when we need to decide if we will choose Christ regardless of what someone threatens to do to us, or to families, or to our children.  Will we choose Christ?

I know that by my choosing Christ I will never be separated from Him.  I found this verse when I first became a believer and to this day it has brought me comfort and encouraged me to continue to choose Christ–even in the difficult moments– because He is with me always.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NIV

If Jesus will not be separated from me or me from Him no matter what happens, then I pray I will stand strong when the seas rage and foam and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Psalm 46).  The day is coming.

Who will you choose?

As for me,  I choose Christ.

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So much

This morning I woke up in a warm bed.  My children were able to have a warm breakfast, put on clean clothes, get ready for school, wear shoes without holes, and drive to school in our second vehicle without worry or danger to themselves while they drove.

My husband and I stopped by a pharmacy to pick up some medicine that he needed.  He had the money to pay for it.  He and I drove to work together, where we will work for a paycheck that will cover all of our expenses and we will have money for savings as well.

When it is time for lunch my sons, as well as my husband, and myself will have a healthy lunch that gives us energy for the rest of the day.

We can drink water that is safe, clean, and refreshing.  We only had to walk a few feet to fill our glasses.

When we go home tonight, we will have dinner, watch some television and spend time together before returning to our separate beds to sleep and prepare for a new day.

This isn’t just a “normal” day for me, it is a blessed day.  My list of gratitude covers so much. It doesn’t matter that I don’t drive the shiny car driven by a celebrity in a commercial.  I could care less that my clothes don’t have a designer’s name on them.  I realize that all that I have is more than many could ever dream to own.

I have a long list of so much to be grateful for today.  So do you.

Just think about it– and say Thank you to the One Who has blessed you with each and every thing.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. ~James 1:17, NIV.

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submit? what?

I admit submit could fall into the “four” letter category by default.  It causes strong-willed people to bristle at the idea when advised they should submit and those who are meek-spirited to often cringe.

So many people get hung up on the word “submit.”  As if it means to bow before an almighty, powerful person, grovelling and acting as if the grovell-er is somehow a “less than” person.  It isn’t at all the way Paul wrote the chapter.  Paul wrote it from the perspective of freedom.  Verse 21 says it best, Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We don’t submit out of fear, or out of the belief that we aren’t as worthy as the other person.  We submit to one another because we believe that the other person is more important than our selfish wants.  (For more perspective– study Ephesians 5:22-33 NIV).

We, as wives, can show our love to God, to Christ, by honoring our husbands and showing respect to them and their role as the servant-leader of the home.  At the same time, our husbands are showing love to God by loving us and caring for us and the family we created.  It can be through working so that we as the wife can stay home with the kids.  It could be staying home with the kids while we worked outside the home.

I am frustrated and disappointed whenever I see wives belittle their husbands in public because they don’t make enough money, look like a certain movie star, or because they didn’t do something the wife thought mattered for a moment.  It tears down the man.  He is created to protect us and when we tear him down, it cuts in ways no one else’s comments would.

Similarly, when a husband withholds love from his wife because she doesn’t keep the house the way his mom did, or because she isn’t the same size she was before she had kids, it cuts her too.

Where did we see Christ withholding love for His Church?  Or the saints (Hebrews 11) withholding submission because their ways mattered more than Christ’s?

We are each called to stop demanding the other person think of us first– when we should think of them first (Philippians 2:3-4, 14-16).  Can you imagine the way a home would run if couples truly, Biblically submitted to one another?  The legacy left to the children and grandchildren would be richer than any bank account could ever hold.

 

***Note– in no way am I saying a wife should “submit” because she is being abused–in any way– if you are — get out, find help– Traditional submission– “submit because your husband told you to submit and he’s the man” is NOT what we are called to do by Christ.  Biblical submission has nothing to do with fear. ****

 

 

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Glass of Grace

One of the worst “Christian” misconceptions I know of is that if I say I follow Christ, I will therefore judge, criticize, condemn, and vilify anyone who doesn’t abide by the “rules.”   The older I am, the more I realize this misconception  is because of someone in the past who “claimed” to be a Christian, but really wanted to bully someone with the way they thought the world should act, live, and behave.  This action has nothing to do with Christ.

When God sent Jesus into the world two thousand years ago, He sent Him with the purpose of shining light on the dark places, bringing life to the dead places, and bringing hope to the hopeless places.

As believers, when we speak about the Truth, of the right Way of Life, many feel we are condemning them.  I have seen family members reach heated levels in conversation because one person has perceived that he or she is being attacked, when really the “attacker” is just saying there is a different view.

I have said before, that love and kindness, grace and mercy, will win the hearts of those who don’t know Christ.  The problem I am finding is the preconceived notions and misleading teachings of judgmental people causes many seekers to feel defense toward the Love and Grace being offered to them.

If you are allowing your perspective of the world to become so narrow that you are vilifing and condemning a person who doesn’t think like you, sing what you sing, dress like you, or parent like you, then please, for the ministry of Christ, stop.  You are not helping spread the Love of Christ.  You are spreading the lies of the enemy who wants us to believe we can never receive what God has already given.

When I met my best friend many moons ago, I tried “beating” the Truth into her with Scripture, telling her she had to ask Christ into her life to avoid hell.  (Grace was missing from my approach, my message and me).  After the tense discussion on our walk, we arrived at my house where my mom over-heard our conversation.  She asked what were talking about and I expressed very passionately, that my best friend needed to accept Jesus.

My mom turned to the sink where she was washing dishes and filled a clean glass with water.  Turning back to my best friend she said, “This is the Grace God is offering to you. If you want to, take it. If you don’t want to, that’s fine.  He will still hold it out to you until you are ready to receive it.”  And then she turned back to the dishes.

Our conversation ended and we went on with our day.  But my mom’s simple analogy remained.  Nearly fifteen years later, my best friend took that “glass of Grace” and asked Jesus into her life.  She has never been the same.

What do you think won her over?  My factual Scripture-based argument or my mom’s honest, gracious reality of Who God is and the kind of God He is?   That glass of Grace made all the difference.

We need to turn the tide of divisive actions and criticism toward those who don’t know Christ.  The only Jesus they may ever meet might be us– what kind of example are you giving?  Judgment or Grace?

 

**note– there are those who will argue for arguments’ sake- do not join in, there will be no “winner.”

 

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accountable grace

A friend recently posed the question “How do you show grace and still hold someone accountable for their sins?  And is it possible to do both?”

It’s not an easy answer to give.  If we say we will give someone grace then there the misunderstanding that we are giving the transgressor carte blanche to make as many mistakes as they want to make. On the other hand, if we hold someone accountable there is the idea of dragging someone across hot coals and cut glass to make them penitent of their behavior.

I believe Scripture speaks of giving the wrong doer both.  As a new believer I felt such shame, sorrow, and regret for my actions prior to my accepting Christ.  I felt like I had to “earn” His grace and show that I was changed, that I was worthy of the grace and forgiveness He had given to me.  Boy, was I wrong.

I started to study the verses commonly called the Romans Road which took me to verses like Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and Romans 3:10 which says  As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; so in otherwords, there was nothing I was going to do that was going to make God love me more, or prove that deserved the grace I received.  That was the point — Ephesians 2:8-9 says so,  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.

As to accountability– that is a tricky one to handle well when dealing with someone who has sinned.  We have a tendency to want to pass judgment over their actions, declaring often “I wouldn’t do that.” Well, maybe you wouldn’t, but I am sure there is something you would do that the other person wouldn’t do — it doesn’t make your sin any cleaner than than theirs– just different.

I am reminded of the best example of accountable grace from one of my favorite stories in the Gospels.  John 8 shows Jesus holding the woman caught in adultery accountable to her sin, but He also offers her grace.  He agrees with the Pharisees that the punishment for adultery is to be stoned, but He turns the Law on it’s ear when He says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  When each person leaves, Jesus turns to her and says, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”  She tells Him that they have left.  Jesus responds with one of the most grace filled commands, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   He doesn’t say her behavior was acceptable, but He also doesn’t make her earn the grace He offers.

We are not called to judge– but we do– all too often.  However, calling someone out for their behavior is not judging either.  It is the reality of holding our brothers and sisters in Christ to the higher standard set by Christ Himself.  We need to encourage our brothers and sisters to be honest with God about our failings so we can grow in Christ-likeness while at the same time not dragging each other over the hot coals.

Jesus died “once for all” for our sins.  We don’t need to “nail” each other for our sins.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Grace Greater than Our Sin lyrics by Julia H. Johnston

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