Thursday, April 28, 2011

Whirlwind Weather

"The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
      And will not at all acquit
the wicked.

      The LORD has His way
      In the whirlwind and in the storm,
      And the clouds
are the dust of His feet."  Nahum 1:3

This morning my heart was heavy as I pulled up the national headlines and saw the terrible news of devastating storms in the southern part of the country.  In particular, the state of Alabama was especially hard hit this round, and for both Andy and I, we have a soft spot in our hearts for Alabama.  Many years ago, while traveling, we were traveling through tornado weather, and sought refuge in the state of Alabama.  We were treated to the most amazing, honest-to-goodness southern hospitality, and honestly, for a while, I think we both kind of toyed with wondering what it would be like to live there someday. 

The last few weeks have simply been crazy in our country for weather.  For ourselves, we had several weeks where we went back and forth with tornado-filled storms and winter snowstorms.  I know I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but after seeing the news this morning, it's definitely fresh in my mind again.  What on earth is God trying to tell us with the weather?  I mean, as I look at the photos of destruction in the state of Alabama, I just want to weep for all these people!  So much devastation- and so many lives lost as well.

I can't help but wonder if I didn't pray like I should have.  When I saw yesterday that severe weather was expected for the south I said one of those quick, covering prayers, but maybe that should have been my moment to do some serious intercession, to ask for mercy for the south.  Is that what God is trying to tell us?  That we need to spend more time praying on behalf of each other?  I mean, I'll be honest, there is a part of me that is so grateful that this horribly severe weather was in the south and not anywhere near us.  Yet, when we are under the gun with severe weather, all I can think to do is pray.

The Lord has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm... maybe God just wants us to start really praying for one another.  Really.  In a country that is so divided right now, perhaps the first step towards healing is to take notice of one another and spend some time praying for each other.  The north needs to pray for the south.  The east needs to pray for the west.  And vice versa.  The left and the right need to pray for each other more than ever.

"if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14

It's time for the church to humble themselves and show the rest of this country what needs to be done.  We need to take the first step and start praying for each other instead of fighting with each other.  I know right now there is some serious divisiveness going on in the church communities all over the country.  It's time for us to stop fighting with each other, and to start praying.  And to start praying seriously, one for another.  Jesus tells us specifically to love our enemies, we need to set the example. 

And when we pray, God will hear us.  He will hear us, and perhaps this torrent of horrible weather that seems to be plaguing our nation will abate, and we will all come together then and give glory to God for the peace and the beauty that surrounds us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons."  Ezra 6:10

Here we are again!  The weekly reminder to be praying for your leaders!  Our day of the week, where we specifically set time aside to pray for the people in office around us, because in these days, they need our prayers more than ever.  And they need our prayers, whether we agree with them or not, because more than anything, we need leaders who will tune in to the voice of God and know the direction that God wants for the people.  The best part about praying this way, is that whether or not the person in office is someone we voted for- God can touch them in just the same way.  God loves the people on both sides of the aisle, and He loves to hear the people pray for their leaders.

So this morning, I pray for Godly wisdom for President Obama.  He's in a precarious position right now, where he needs to focus on the things that are going on in this nation now, and yet, his eyes and ears also are beginning to look ahead toward the 2012 election season.  May his focus stay where it needs to for now- and may he see that being a strong, Godly president is better for his chances of re-election than putting focus on any campaigning.   I also am praying for the first lady, Michelle Obama and their two daughters.  I really, really admire Mrs. Obama and her campaigning for healthy food and activity in the children of this country.  I pray that she is encouraged to keep fighting the fight against childhood obesity, and I just pray that God would bless her with a healthy dose of joy. 

I also would like to take just a moment this morning to pray for protection for the people of the world who are descending upon the city of London this week for the royal wedding.  There will be people from all over the world attending the wedding, and I just pray that the whole event will be God honoring, and that God will protect all the people in attendance- both while they are attending, and while they travel to and from.  A royal wedding is a great reason for celebration for the country of England, and as the people of that country watch the fairy tale unfold before their eyes, may they also be reminded of the royal wedding that is to come: The wedding that will unite the Bride with Christ.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Prisoner? Or Not?

"And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea."  Acts 27: 33-38 (NKJV)

The kids and I have been reading the book of Acts for school the last few weeks.  When we read these chapters about the travels to Rome, I had to go back myself and read a few things, and see if that was really what was said.  In particular, these verses caught my attention, because I don't recall them ever being mentioned in a sermon or anything.

These verses are puzzling to me.  When I read through them again,and also go back and read a little further back, I get the idea maybe, that Paul might be fasting.  Paul is spending time in prayer and petition for this journey, and for the passengers.  They've had many troubles, and have thrown many things overboard in an effort to lighten the ship.  When Paul starts fasting, and not eating, everyone else on board follows suit and does the same thing... why?  The first time I read these verses, I thought that maybe there was a food shortage, and Paul worked a miracle and multiplied bread enough to feed 276 people, but then reading it again, I see that wasn't the case- at least, that's not what I'm reading here.   I actually think that all 276 of these people saw Paul fasting, and thought that they should do the same, to try and ensure their safety and their lives.

They had gone 14 days without food, and I'm sure were seriously languishing.  It would be pretty difficult to muster up energy to steer a ship with no energy going in, and Paul saw what a situation he had before him, so he broke his fast.  Since all these people were following his lead, he had to break his fast in order to get the sailors to eat as well.  So he did just that, he thanked God for food, and ate.  Encouraged by this, the men proceeded to eat heartily, and then, knowing that they would be reaching land shortly, tossed the rest of the food overboard, because they needed a light ship in order to run aground on an island.

Paul was a prisoner!  He was being escorted to Rome where he would stand before Caesar, and he was a prisoner on board this ship.  And yet, there are two very notable things here.  One, these sailors and soldiers obviously believed Paul when he told them they would be safe with him.  And two, though he was a prisoner, Paul was praying for, and petitioning God on behalf of his captors.

"But [even] now I beg you to be in good spirits and take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you but only of the ship.    23For this [very] night there stood by my side an angel of the God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship,
    24And he said, Do not be frightened, Paul! It is necessary for you to stand before Caesar; and behold, God has given you all those who are sailing with you.
    25So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith (complete confidence) in God that it will be exactly as it was told me;"  Acts 27:22-25 (AMP)

What an example Paul is to us! In the midst of a great trial, he was praying for his captors, he was praying for the safety of every single person on that ship- I believe that is why we know specifically that there were 276 people on board.  I suspect Paul knew each and every one of them- and whether or not he did or didn't, God knew each and every one of them.

But what do we do in a great trial?  When there are those who come against us, what is our reaction?  We usually try to defend ourselves, we pray for deliverance, and we most likely kind of wish for something bad to happen to those who come against us.  Paul does none of this.  Paul takes on the responsibility of every single one of his captors, and more than that, he encourages them.  He would have every right to be angry with these people, but he isn't- not even a little.  He encourages them, he shares a vision he has, and tells them to keep up their spirits, because all will be well.  Honestly?  I think if I were in such a situation, I would be thinking that it would serve my captors right if they were swept overboard in a storm. 

Paul showed great love toward each and every one of these people- even going so far as to break his fast, simply to encourage them and get them to take in sustenance which they desperately needed themselves.   This here is a great example of loving our enemies- Paul didn't just do it in word, or just a little bit.  Paul went all out and showed great love to each and every one of those people on the ship- all 276 of them. 

Could you love 276 enemies?

Thank you God, for such a wonderful example of the love of Christ, working in Paul's life.  May we strive to learn to love like Jesus did, and like Paul so elegantly displayed for us.  May we learn from the example of Paul and show great love in our darkest days.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Love Holiday

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."  1 Corinthians 13:3

In the month of February, we Americans, and maybe other cultures around the world, (I really don't know), celebrate a silly holiday called Valentines Day, where we celebrate love.  We buy loved ones cards and candy and gifts and profess our undying love for each other, and often times you will find scripture verses about love quoted and talked about- even from the pulpit in church.  I'll be honest, I don't celebrate Valentines Day.  My husband doesn't either, and my kids don't really give it much attention either, it's just another day for all of us.

The thing is, the real love holiday is the one we're celebrating this coming weekend- the holiday of Easter.  This is the ultimate example of love- this is the day that we should be sharing our love with one another as we reflect on the great love that was shown us, when God sent his only Son to bear all our sins and make a way for us to spend eternity with Him.  The ultimate love was shown to each and every one of us when a man, guilty of no sin, was beaten and hung on a cross for no other reason than that the people didn't like some of the things that He was saying.  The ultimate act of love came when Jesus descended into hell and unlocked the gates, and set the righteous free. 

Easter is all about love.  It's not about candy and eggs and bunnies and chicks, though it is fun to see all the pastels and spring characters after a very, very long winter.  Easter is all about love.  Love, love, love.  It's about unconditional love.

Unconditional love.  Do you know what doesn't come with unconditional love?  A critical eye.  If there is one thing that I would confess to being guilty of is that all-too-often, my Christian-colored-glasses come off, and the critical-eye ones go on.  I always regret it once I know what I'm doing, but there have been far too many times where I find myself looking at a brother or sister in Christ and criticizing something about them.  Something about their appearance, something about their lifestyle, or even something even more trivial- like the music they listen to or the games they might choose to play on Facebook.   The fact is that God made each and every one of us to be a completely unique individual.  How boring would our lives be if all our friends had the same exact tastes and likes.  It would be way too Stepford Wivish in my book.

And so, when I find myself doing those things, I try really, really hard to focus on something else that I love about that person.  When I do that, thoughts of love fill my mind, and just like that, I've banished the critical eye just for a moment.  When we let that critical eye focus for too long, it can cause a cancer of sorts.  It can cause a type of cancer that affects the way we love a brother or sister in Christ, and it can become terribly difficult to remove that blemish from our thoughts.  Only love can completely overcome those untoward thoughts we may have. 

Easter is often celebrated as a time of new beginnings- as well it should- it is usually celebrated (at least in our country) at the beginning of spring- a time of true new beginnings.  A time of restoration.  And so I want to challenge my readers this morning as we go into the holiday weekend.  Have you been spending too much time wearing those Critical-Eye glasses?  Try swapping them out this weekend for the Love Glasses.  Try looking at those around you as Jesus looks at those around you.  Jesus loved them so much, He gave his life for them.  Jesus loved YOU so much, He died so that you, too, might have eternal life.  Let's take that love this weekend, that precious gift, and let's share it.  Let's make Easter the true love holiday that it really is.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Warfare Wednesday

"For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth’;Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength."  Job 37:6

As I wake up this morning and look out the window, I see 9 freshly fallen inches of very wet and heavy snow.  On the 20th of April. It's absolutely insane, and yet as I look around, this is easily one of the prettiest snowfalls I've ever seen.  Because it's so wet and heavy, it's literally sticking to everything.  Everything.

I thought about what I should blog about this morning for Warfare Wednesday.  There are so many issues going on around the globe that any one of them could take my attention that way.  Our congress is battling over our national debt and spending, and in my home state, organizations of people are working hard to recall some of our elected officials.  I am grateful this morning for the safety of Michelle Obama, who had a little scare Monday with the plane she was flying on.  Thank God for her continued safety and protection.  Of course, I always use my Wednesday mornings to focus some of my prayers on President Obama.  He needs them more than ever, as eyes and ears are starting to focus on the elections two years away.  May our President stay focused on what is important- his presidency is not over, and I pray that he is able to finish out this presidency with wisdom and Godly understanding.

But I keep coming back to the snow outside and the crazy weather that has been running around our country for the last several months actually.  One week ago we had tornadoes barrel through our area.  The week before that we had a blizzard, and here we sit with the dumpings of yet another serious snowstorm.  What on earth is God trying to say to us?  And that is my prayer focus this morning.  As the weather around the country has been unlike anything it has ever been, I pray this morning that God would open our eyes and ears to see and hear exactly what He is saying to our country.  He's got much to say, and too many people are quick to place blame for the weather on things like global warming and jet stream patterns.  Yes, that's how our weather works, but what is this snow saying?  Right there, in Job, it says that the snow falls when God tells it to fall...

You know, last week during the severe weather that produced 8 tornadoes in our immediate area, we also had some major, major lightning.  It was non-stop for hours, and the meteorologists on TV were saying that they'd never seen anything like it.  Something the kids and I have learned about lightning, is that it actually cleanses the air where it cracks.  The heat and the electricity purify the air, so to think about that going non-stop for several hours, just think about how clean and refreshed the air must have been by the time the storm was over!  And then this week, we have a stunning blanket of fresh, new snow, snow that God sent down to cover us. 

“ Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “ Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool."  Isaiah 1:18

First, our atmosphere was purified by lightning, and now it is covered with white snow- could it be the snow of forgiveness?  The snow of righteousness?

God is saying something with the weather.  May He open the eyes and ears of the people to see and hear what it is He is saying!  All around the globe, weather events are happening like they've never happened before, and I just pray that the people will see and know that God is talking to them, and that they will understand what it is He is saying.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Words of The Prophet

"Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream."  Numbers 12:6

I don't talk very much here about some of the more..."controversial"... subjects running around these days.  Prophets are a heated subject because, quite frankly, they're often associated with cults and other badness.  Leaders of cults tend to call themselves prophets, which is enough to make anyone run away from even the idea of the word "prophet".   But the truth is that God has always used prophets- all throughout the Bible there are prophets- in both the Old Testament and New Testament.  Prophets were specific- they were special, for lack of a better word.  And yet, something happened in the New Testament to the office of the prophet.  The Holy Spirit entered the picture, and became a part of the church and the body of Christ.  And along with the Holy Spirit, came the Spirit's gifts- one of which is the gift of prophecy.

"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."  Romans 12:3-8

And then if we go on to 1 Corinthians, we read that Paul is encouraging us to seek the gift of prophecy more than any of the others.

"Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy."  1 Corinthians 14:1

The act of being a prophet, and being able to prophecy to someone is not only a gift from the Lord, it's also something that is available to anyone who desires it.   I have had many people come up to me over the years who have said they had something to tell me from God.  What is one to do in that instance?  Well, first, we need to look to the instructions that Jesus gave us to identify whether our prophet is true or false.  That's easy enough to discern.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 1617 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? can19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 a bad tree bear good fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Who is this person giving you a message from God?  Is it some random stranger? I'll admit, I would be wary of that one, and I would spend time talking to God and asking him to show me if those words were truly from Him, or if I should discard them.  But is it someone you know or interact with?   Or maybe it's someone you don't really know, but your pastor may know.  That right there may be your number one source of help- ask your pastor about that person, about their character, and what they think of the words they've spoken to you.   If it's someone you know, surely you know a little about them, their lifestyle, to know if they are spending time in their Bibles, and in prayer and quiet time with God. By their fruit you will recognize them- those are Jesus's words to us in identifying a messenger from God.

Which brings us back to ourselves.  If all else fails, and someone has come up to you and given you a message that's supposedly from God, how do you really know it's something good that you should reflect on and consider.  Go to your Bible.  What does your Bible say about that particular thing?  Honestly, if it's not in the Bible, and not something good from God, I would stay away from it.  God would never tell a person to do something that goes against His Word.  He would never, for example, tell someone to kill another human being.  Or tell someone to steal another man's wife.  God will tell us to love, to have peace, to be encouraged and to live an abundant life.  His words to us, sometimes through another person, will be words of love and encouragement. God is a God of love and peace, and He loves His children.

I want to add one more thing on these thoughts about prophets.  Several years ago, a friend of mine felt really strongly that she needed to tell a friend that she would have a baby by Christmas.  This woman had one child already, but had a miscarriage at some point and was struggling to conceive again.  The friend delivered this message, and then watched as a Christmas came and went without a baby.  I think both women were a little discouraged.  But then shortly, a child was conceived, and arrived just a few months before the following Christmas.  Sometimes God may have a word for us from someone- but we, as human beings, put a time limit on what they have told us.  Someone tells us that we're going to get a new job with better pay and we immediately look for it to happen tomorrow.  That new job is actually four or five years down the road, and we just need to be patient.  There is also something else we must do.

I like using the job example, because it fits perfectly.  How do you get a job?  You don't just have someone call you out of the blue and ask if you'd like to work for them.  You have to DO something to get a job- several somethings.  First, you have to apply for a job, and then you have to do an interview, there may be exams or tests you have to take to show you are eligible for such a job.  Then you may or may not get the job.  But the point is, you have to DO something.  Many times, I think that God gives us words from other people to activate us, to get us out of our seats.  How many of us just sit in a chair and ask God what He would have us do?  Instead, we should be spending time reading our Bibles, spending time in prayer, and maybe try our hands in various ministries to get a feel for what we're good at- to find what we like to do.  Someone doesn't just sit there week after week, and then suddenly decide they are a missionary and fly away to Africa the next day. 

The reality is, when we get a message from God, we have a choice.  We  have a choice to accept the message first of all, and then we have a choice as to whether or not we'll activate that message.  You don't hear of missionaries walking around the globe saying "God made me be a missionary."  That person made a deliberate choice to accept the call of God on their life and become His servant to unreached peoples.  In the example of the job, if God told that person they were going to get a job, and that person never even applied to one place, they are choosing to not activate that message from God.  It's ultimately their choice.  If God told someone that they were going to spend time getting deep in Bible study, in getting to know God's Word better, and then they never even pick up their Bible, they are making the choice to reject that message from God.  A word of prophecy almost always requires a deliberate act to activate it.  Sometimes that can simply be a word from our own mouth of "yes, Lord".  But sometimes it requires us to do something.  Someone who was told they should work with children can't work with children unless they make the effort to get involved with the children's church or Sunday School or kids outreach programs.  You can't sit in the back and be an usher one day, and then suddenly you're in charge of the kids programs.  That person would have to make the choice, at some point, to get involved and be participatory with children. 

I think I've written several thoughts here on prophets and prophecy- I could have easily split this up into several little messages, I think, but apparently more needed to be said on the subject.  The main point is that a prophet is not a person to be feared, and their words are not something to be alarmed over.  But as with anything else, if you have doubts, or a red flag shoots up, you should always go to God and go to your Bible for discernment.  Go to your Pastor for guidance as well, if someone is giving false words to one of his sheep, you can bet he'll want to know about it.

"Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength."  Joel 2:22

Do not be afraid, as the prophets today begin to bear their fruit and share it one with another.  It is that fruit that will strengthen the body of Christ and get her ready for the days to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mom Encouragement

“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”  Mark 9:37

Sometimes, in the essence of church family life, being a mom can bring a whole new set of problems and challenges within the church.  We've all been taught from infancy that if we are a member of a church, we should be an active member- we should be helping out with something within the church.  In many circles, it's those activities that begin to define a person, and makes them important.  But for the new mom, or the seasoned mom, sometimes, there just is not time to participate in ministry. Sometimes, the mother's own children have to come first, and in most cases, that mom is usually left with a feeling like they are doing something they shouldn't.  I know, I've been there.  I've been there, when my son was an infant, and I did nothing in church except attend, so that I could see to his needs at all times.  While I was firm in my stance that I needed to be mom to my children for that time, there was a part of me that maybe felt like I wasn't complete- like I was letting the church down by not doing anything outside of my own family.

Moms, it's a-okay to be that way.  Andy and I have had a policy since our daughter was born over ten years ago, that our children will always come first for us while they are in our care.  That has carried over into every aspect of our lives for the most part.  Now that my children are older, and not so needy for mom's attention, I've been able to participate in more ministry within the church, and yet, I still have those moments where I feel like I'm letting someone down.  Several weeks ago we had a day-long prayer meeting at church, and after spending weeks going back and forth as to how much we should be in attendance, I decided that I needed to give my children attention that day.  We went for small bits of time to this prayer meeting, but we did not stay for the entire day-long duration.  When we left before noon to go have lunch and spend time together, I really had a strong sense of regret on my part.  I wanted to be at that meeting, sure, but  more importantly, I felt that I was maybe letting people down by not being there.  As I drove my children towards home, I had a strong sudden sense of peace come over me, along with the thought that while I am still a mom, my children are my number one ministry.  After that, I felt okay about missing parts of the meeting.

My children are still my number one ministry.  Some churches and circles of friends place so much importance on all the other areas of your life where you could be serving, and it is too easy for a mom to feel exasperated and stretched to her limit.  It is okay for a mom to say no- it's okay for her to focus solely on her children and the ministry she does within her own home.  God gave us these children! He wants us to minister to their needs- and yes, caring for your own children IS a ministry.

Our children come first.  At all times.  In a hypothetical situation, if we were at church during a service, and one or both of my children really needed me for something, I would totally step down in the middle of worship and see to their needs.  Even though we have a church full of wonderful friends who would be more than willing to step in and do what they can while I am busy, my main role in life, at this stage, is as mom to my children.  No one, no matter how well-meaning can take that place.  And that's exactly how God designed us.  God designed children to need their mommies, from birth they know this woman who carried them, and a crying infant, away from its mom for too long, will start crying, and often times those cries are instantly soothed by being back in the arms of their mom.  It's  beautiful magical thing that doesn't go away simply because the child ages.  My ten year old daughter still needs the comfort of mommy's arms from time to time.  She still needs mom's approval, and she still needs as much attention from me as I am willing to give her.

Children need their moms (and their dads), that's how God designed them, and it's time for us moms to stop feeling second-rate because we choose to focus solely on our children for a season of life.   Our children are more than worth it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Busy Bee

"She seeks wool and flax,
      And willingly works with her hands.
       14 She is like the merchant ships,
      She brings her food from afar.
       15 She also rises while it is yet night,
      And provides food for her household,
      And a portion for her maidservants."  Proverbs 31:13-15

I don't know how she does it.  We have had this crazy busy week, and I feel a wee bit frazzled.  I've been so busy, that the mere thought of blogging a few days a week just added a layer of stress that I decided to let go.  I don't think I've ever not blogged here because I've been busy.  Yet, I did that very thing this week.  Twice, in fact.  And, yet, while I've been busy with this and that, I've also had my thoughts in other places, because I've been thinking again on this Proverbs 31 woman.  She pops up in my mind from time to time, and then I seem to need to spend a few days reading through these verses over and over thinking about what God is saying to me through her.

This woman has brought me such encouragement over the years.  In fact, she is partly responsible for the person I am today.  It was through her example that I started being more responsible with the daily housekeeping and chores.   When I read about her, I see that she is a busy bee- she is always busy, always doing something, and it really makes me wonder about when she rests, to be honest. 

I have had this intention- since last week at this exact time- to work on re-planting my plants that are growing in my basement.  I've had the new trays out for a week now, just waiting for the time to do this re-planting, and it just has not happened.  I finally decided that I would do it late in the day, when the kids went to bed, and Andy and I usually spend time together watching something on TV.  I can do two things at once, right?  Yeah, by the time the end of the day comes, all I want to do is sit, and anticipate sleep.

So where does this encouraging woman in Proverbs 31 get her rest?

"Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;"  Psalm 37:7

And that may be my error.  Being a busy bee, my time of resting in the Lord is at a bare minimum.  I think on God a lot, and a song will come to my head, and I'll sing praises to Him while I work, but that actual quiet time, of resting with His Word and listening for His voice just doesn't happen.   I need to figure out a way to be more purposeful in that during busy days.  That would be the one thing that I wish this Proverbs 31 woman would give a clue about- when did she spend time with the Lord?  When did she get her quiet time? 

Something to think on this morning.  And yet, just reading through Proverbs 31 again this morning has given me new strength- almost a supernatural strength.  As I am about to tackle my day I feel new vigor and energy and I'm ready to tackle task after task.  They are lined up and waiting for me, and just reading about this woman's day in the Bible, I feel a new empowerment.  An idea that yes, I can get it all done, and I can do it joyfully and happily.   I will rejoice in this new day, in this new busy day, and I will be thankful that it IS a new day.  It is a new day, a new opportunity to love God- even if I have to shrink that time to the briefest moments scattered throughout the day.  I think that God understands that there are days that us moms are busy, busy, and I think he blesses us for that. 

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
      But a woman
who fears the LORD, she shall be praised."  Proverbs 31:30

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When The Children Pray

"When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed."  Acts 21:5

This morning I'm just feeling really grateful.  Sunday night we had some serious storms sweep through our area- and part of that time, we were on the road, traveling home from a dance competition.  We arrived home, literally, in time for the tornado sirens to sound off, so we headed to the basement, where we spent the next several hours.  It was crazy! Tornado sightings here and there, and some serious damage only a few miles from where we live.  As I see the pictures of the destruction, I am grateful that we were spared, but I am also grateful, because as dangerous as these storms were, the warning systems were spectacular, and there has been no loss of life, and not even any injuries related to the storms.

Tornado warnings are one of those terribly difficult things to deal with when you have children.  I clearly remember when I was growing up, that every time it got even a little windy and rainy, I would lay awake most of the night, terrified that we were going to be flattened by a tornado. So we try really hard to calm the kids down, and yet, you can only do that so much when you're huddled in the basement, watching the storm information on the TV.   While Sunday night was one of those nights to remember, what I remember most is this.  Sitting down next to my son, and having him put his head on my lap and saying "can we pray about this?"  He had tears in his eyes, and was clearly upset, and his first notion was to pray about it.


That's the type of lifestyle we're trying to instill in our children.  That when things go wrong- anything- that we take our problems right to God and let Him deal with it.  And do you know, right there, we did pray.  We prayed that God would keep us safe, as well as our family and friends- as this was a widespread swath of destruction moving into the area.   God heard the prayers of my little boy.  We didn't even have so much as a new tree branch on the ground when all was said and done.  On top of that, we have family who lives in one of the areas hardest hit.  They can literally stand on their front porch and see tornado damage just a few houses down- they were that close- but they are safe and had no damage themselves. 

When the children pray, God listens.  My children have experienced answered prayers before, and as a mom, I just love that God does that for them.  Because it's setting them up for a lifetime of turning to God in their times of need.  Every day, when we start school, we spend time praying together, and while there are particular requests we hear most days, the more we pray together, the more their prayers get specific.  One of the most endearing prayers to me is when we pray that more kids will come to church, because they think kids church classes would be more fun with more kids. 

So what are we doing to really encourage and teach prayer to our children?  Honestly?  We're not doing that much, except making it a normal part of life.  When something comes up, there's just a matter-of-fact response to them to make sure they talk to God about that.  With Abigail's dance competitions this year, Abigail was concerned about all the driving we'd have to do, and we simply told her that she should pray about that, and maybe God would provide us with the funds to stay in a hotel so we didn't have to do so much driving.  God did provide in both instances, and that speaks volumes to her, and tells her that God cares about her, and it encourages her to continue to turn to God when she needs something- anything.  I know she's prayed about some little things, and God has answered those for her to.  As a parent, I'm not really doing anything except encouraging her to talk to God.  It's God who's doing it all, by listening, and answering, and building up her faith to expect God to do awesome things for her.

"But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 19:14

Maybe, as adults, part of our problem with seeing answered prayers is that we don't come to God with the attitude of a child.  A child comes to a parent and expects that their desires and needs will be met.  When Zander comes up to me and says he's hungry, he expects that I'll give him something to eat- not hand him a stick or a rock.  When we go to God with a desire or a need, we go to Him and say "IF it's your will, Lord", and our expectations for an answer are not there. 

When we pray, when we come to God with a need, we need to approach Him as if we were a child, approaching their daddy.  My son prayed that we would be safe, God heard him, and answered.  Why should I expect no less when it comes to the needs that I take before the throne?  God loves and hears all his children-every single one.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


"Be of good courage,And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD."  Psalm 31:24

"Why are you cast down, O my soul?And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance."  Psalm 42:5

You know how when you're on the other side of something you can look back and see the reality of what was going on?  That's where I am after this last weekend.  It was a weekend that I had no expectations for- and I suppose I should have.  We had a prayer meeting at our church this weekend, basically a weekend-long meeting to spend time praying for each other, our state, our country, and to learn the tools for effective prayer as well.  And that was what I was expecting- a weekend in prayer.  I had things to tend to with the kids, so I was in and out for some of it, but when I was there... well, it wasn't just a prayer meeting, as I had anticipated.  There was a whole lot of good teaching, and I came away from this weekend just completely blessed and encouraged.   (Though, I did feel a little bad for going into the weekend thinking that it wasn't going to be anything special.)

The thing is, as I look back over the last few months- especially the month of March, I have to tell you, I can turn around and look and see how the devil was really working overtime to try and bring my spirit down.  If there was something that could go wrong in the month of March, it did go wrong.  With Andy still not working, it literally became impossible to take care of some things, and all I could do is just shrug and worry about paying it later.  The whole family went through a round of the flu- of which I was hit the worst, having to deal with it for over two full weeks.   We had a peek at spring, and then just like that we got another round of a winter storm and cold that just totally affected my thoughts about the joys of spring.  Spring?  We were still getting blizzards, where was the joy in that?  It just was a horrible, horrible month, and the thing is, at the beginning of it, I felt good about March.  Someone had used the term "March Forth" and I felt like that applied to me, that I could march forth, strong in the Lord and know that He would take care of us in an awesome way, and once I had that mindset, everything just started to crumble.

I can see that now.  I can see the poor attitude I had for much of the month- I can see how I was almost teetering on the edge of despair- I really did not want to leave home for anything, I didn't want to go to church, didn't want to take the kids to dance, I just wanted to curl up and sleep.

Thank God for hope. As the old poem says "Hope Springs Eternal", and just when I was at the point where I just thought maybe it was time for us to do some suffering for Jesus- maybe all the good things and the promises that we've been hearing just aren't going to happen.  But then I spent some time with Him this weekend, and I just felt like He was a Father, holding out his hand and saying "It's really going to be all right."  And just like that, that nearly-broken spirit was put back together, and I have renewed hope.  I have renewed hope that God truly does have a plan, and that ALL THINGS work together for good.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."  Romans 8:28

Sometimes, maybe we get to that bottom-ness so that we have to look up- so that we have to take that time to remind ourselves that the only way up is to lift our hands towards heaven and say "Abba, Father." 

Anyway, this morning I have a renewed sense of hope, and a renewed sense of how much God loves me, and how much God loves my family. And that same hope?  It's for you, too.  God sees the trials and the cries of His children,and all we need to do is turn to Him, and trust that He will show us the correct path to work things out.  I trust in Him, and I have hope.  I have great Hope in the one who created the universe. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Warfare Wednesday: Unity

"But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."  Matthew 12:25

I caught myself today!  Good gravy, I had a post all written up, spell-checked it, went to hit publish, and then said, oh my gosh, it's Wednesday!  Guess I shouldn't have skipped Monday's posting, as it threw me off!  But I caught myself in time, and as I read the headlines this morning, I knew immediately what today's Warfare Wednesday prayer focus needed to be.


Our federal government is not united.  It's so not united, that they cannot come to an agreement about the budget, and that means that if no agreement is made, a shutdown of our government will take place.  This means thousands of people who work for the government will not work- they will not have an income.  It also means, well, our government will be running on the bare minimum.  When is that ever good!? 

In a time when people are just filled with despair, and they look at the news and see bad this and bad that, it's time for some good news to come about!  It's time for our country to come together in unity and agree with each other to work for the good of ALL people!  A house divided cannot stand!  Those are Jesus's very words, and they are very true- our country needs to stop fighting itself and come together under one banner- the banner of God!

So this morning, as we continue to pray for President Obama, I am focused on one thing, unity for our United States of America.  It's how this country came together in the first place!  People came together in unity and wanted to worship God in their own ways, and not according to the ways of the king.  And as I think about all the fighting and bickering going on in our nation's capital, I just can't help but think, what if, every single one of those people just stopped for a moment and asked "what would God like to see for our country" then they could come together in unity- desiring God's best for this blessed nation.

One nation, under God.  It is possible, but it will only happen if the people will pray.

"if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A Big, Big God

"By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen."  Hebrews 11:3

As I'm thinking about this verse today, I'm thinking about how too often we put God in a box.  And by that, I mean that we limit God.  We limit the things that God could do in our mind, or we limit the things that God has already done in our mind.  Sometimes we simply don't connect the dots.   Maybe some of it is that to think on the enormity of God, we really can't comprehend just how awesome He really is.

Like thinking on the universe.  Just think about the universe, which scientists say go billions and billions of miles in all directions.  The universe, all the many solar systems, suns, stars, and other outer space phenomenon were all created by God... with just one word.  God created the universe in just a moment, and thinking on that is a little bit mind-boggling.  But then when I really think on it, the more mind-boggling part is that the same God who created the entire universe with just one word is the same God who created me.  He's the same God who created the tree that's outside our back door.  The same God who put billions of stars in the sky in their specific, perfect location, is the same God who put all the hairs on my head.

We serve a big, big God.  And yet, with all these wonderful things that He's created, what God loves most is you and I.  He loves people! He loves mankind!  He loves us so much that when evil tried to take us away from him for all eternity, He made a way and sent His son to reconcile us to Him.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),"  Ephesians 2:4-5

I think our basic minds simply cannot process the enormity of God.   But it's when I really take the time to think on all the things that God has done, and all the things that God will do that I feel more of a sense of awe about Him.  When I look out in the backyard at the melting snow, and see the tiny crocuses peeking out, I think about how awesome God is- that He created that flower just to bring us a spot of encouragement those years when winter just seems to drag on.  Like this year.  It brought me such joy yesterday to look in the backyard and see those flowers for the first time!  And yet, there is an awareness about me these days that the exact same God who put those tiny flowers in my backyard is the same God who created the entire universe in just a moment.

"Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also."  Genesis 1:14-16

God may be a big, big God, but He is a loving God.  He knows each and every one of us by name- He knows every cell in our body, and every hair on our head.  Thinking on that this morning impresses me.  It impresses me, and it fills me with a sense of wonder today.   To think that this God who created the universe for His pleasure, also created it for my pleasure.  That's a really great thought to get my day going in the right direction.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Thankful Friday

"For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD."  1 Samuel 1:27-28

The last couple of weeks have been rough weeks for me.  Health-wise it was terrible (I'm feeling MUCH better now, thank you!), and there were also moments where I just felt low.  Almost every time I would feel that low, blue feeling, God would do a little something to bring me out of the blue- and almost every single time, it would be something either one or both of my kids would do.  Or, I would get a text message with a photo of my newest nephew- things that couldn't help but make me smile and feel joy about.  My kids just have a knack for that.  When things are a little rough, they come up with the silliest games or jokes or questions that just fills my heart with delight and wonder at these two incredible people.

And they are incredible people.  Every day it seems I get glimpses of their unique personalities, and every day I find myself so incredibly thankful and grateful that I get to be the one to spend time with them.   When I think of all the moments I could have missed had they been in a building school instead of at home with me, my mind just starts spinning, and I feel bad for all those parents who drop off their kids in the morning.  Because my children are such joy, and I am just so thankful this morning that they are in my life.  Everything else in life could be in the worst place possible, but with those two balls of sunshine to greet me every morning when I wake, it seems like nothing could really be that bad.

And yet, just over a week ago, I was very saddened to learn that an online acquaintance of mine lost her only child in a horrible car accident.  It was just heartbreaking- obviously for these parents, but also for our online community which is very close, and we all felt like we lost one of our own.  Except that I can't possibly know what it feels like to lose a child in that way.  I've spent a lot of time over the last week reflecting on that, and of course, some of that is wondering why such things have to happen- why did this young man have to die, just as he was finishing up high school and looking at college beyond.  His life was just about to get going, and now he's with Jesus.  A much better destination than college, to be sure, but it still doesn't make sense to the human mind.  That family has been in my prayers for the last week, and will continue to be so for some time, as they learn a new way of life without their precious boy.

But you know what I can do?  I can love and appreciate my children every single day.  Every day I can take advantage of the opportunity of spending time with them to tell them how much I love them, and how much God loves them.  Every day I can thank God for another chance to learn with my kids and spend time with them. So that's what I'm doing today.  I don't think I do that near enough.  As a mom, there are just some days where you want to be alone- for just five minutes, or you just want quiet- for just five minutes.  Or there are days where you wonder why on earth you had children!  But you know, if you start out every day, looking into the eyes of your child, telling them you love them, and then thanking God for this precious life, the day just can't help but get better from there.  Joy, great joy comes from the Lord, and many times, I just know that He chooses to put that joy in our hearts via the children he's blessed us with.