Tag Archives: faith

Saints, God is Cheering You On!

The-Journey-From-Syria-Matthew-Cassell-CeasefireHow often do we crawl into our coziest chair and gleefully open our Bibles to discover something that God wants to share with us? Consistently our God pulls us into his presence to give us the security that comes through his adoring love. A child always is secure when he knows he’s loved, desired and affirmed. This is our God. He’ll never leave us or forsake us. After a time, He pushes us out but only because he wants us to give out what he’s poured into us. It’s like a back and forth game that a child would play with a parent.  Maybe you’ve witnessed the cute giggles as the little girl runs to her Daddy’s lap and then runs several feet away for a few minutes only to return to her Daddy’s loving embrace.

Our view of God the Father is crucial to our wholeness. We can’t possibly run to a Father that we think is always criticizing us, watching us with a stern eye or ready to take away some of His blessings back for our bad behavior. Scripture says that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. Repentance is having a change of mindset. How ironic that by continuing to unleash his goodness towards us, we will slowly but surely change the way we think for the better.

The beauty of becoming can be, if we let it, a process of brutally naked surrender to a God that whispers hope, affirms our efforts, and gives us courage for a journey that none of us are prepared for.

westmorland-story-background-july-2015Arduous but seasonal, this journey is a long adventure. I believe in a Loving Creator that does not give us more than we can bear but knows that if we glean from his wisdom and blanket ourselves in his care, we can actually face battles head on and win. We can win at parenting! We can win at adulting! We can win at reflecting Christ to our co-workers! The prize is self-awareness, spiritual maturity, and emotional health.  Old baggage burns and chains of insecurity that have made moving forward a challenge can be abandoned.

No matter what your stage and season of life, you can begin to appreciate that this journey of personal transformation refines the quality of our love for others and provides a healthier well-being for ourselves.

Keep running dear saint. God is cheering you on!

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(This is an excerpt from the introduction of a manuscript that is almost finished. The proposal will be submitted in the Fall to a publishing company. No matter what season in life we are in, parenting, singleness, or retirement, we can choose to acknowledge every situation that chisels away the hardened places in our souls. God wants us to be malleable clay and when we choose to comply, a wellspring of emotional health comes forth.)

 

Mommy or Me: Who is first?

Ages and Stages Part 4 Mommy or Me: Who is 1st? (Repost from 2014)

bw profileI think I was in my upper-twenties when the dawning occurred. “I” had become lost in the role of “Mommy”. The decision to be a stay-at-home mom cost us financially but rewarded us with the certainty that we could completely oversee our children’s formative years and we could home educate them, teaching each subject according to a Biblical worldview.

Sure, I loved strolling to the playground, attending story-time at the library, and visiting friends 3-4 times per week. But I also loved writing, playing the piano, and learning whatever I could about God.

I never wanted to forsake my “personhood” for the roles that I’ve been blessed with. As much as being a wife and mother delighted me, I knew that I had been endowed by my Creator with certain gifts, talents and missions to accomplish while on this earth.Deep within

Some young mothers get caught in the cage of “I have no time for me.” Ladies, whether we work in the marketplace, at home or not at all, we have to make time for ourselves and I know it ain’t easy. I thank God for the friends that became like family. They encouraged me to nurture my interests even though my husband worked 80-90 hours per week back then.

As moms, we can make it work. Our dreams really can come true…one day. For me original bedtimes stories became the inspiration for a fiction series that I started called The Ages of Laus Perennis. My passion for prayer, teaching and personal ministry grew as my husband and I began to attend various East Coast conferences that equipped us for future roles within our local church.

I remember playing piano for a Baptist church, sitting my one year old daughter on my lap and teaching her to keep her hands on her thighs so that I could reach around her to play the piano. Since I had no babysitter I had to make it work. 543159_570549866336064_696008493_nMany times I had to volunteer to host something in order to be a part, especially when there was no money for a babysitter. My kids would play quietly in their rooms or be in bed while a prayer meeting or bible study was going on, or the “baby at the time” would just sit on my lap.

You know the adage: “where there is a will there is a way.” Really, this is quite true. God wants us to enjoy life. Since He doesn’t want us to shrug off our motherhood, He shows us how to juggle the duties of these roles with the wonderful interests, talents and missions that make us come alive. After all, He gave us those interests, talents and missions.

I wouldn’t trade motherhood for the world! I’m a strong advocate of parental rights. I love having so many children and I love their wide age range. It isn’t always easy, but I applaud God for the choice He made for my life.

What opportunities are waiting for you? What doors are open but you haven’t noticed them? Being an author, intercessor, friend, gardener, DIY-er, home chef ( I LOVE to invent recipes), songwriter, worship musician, Castle TV show junkie, and home educator enables me to be fully me.

We are better parents when we give ourselves time and attention, not by neglecting our kids or spouses, but by heeding the wisdom of our Father.

Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Father, Your desire is to continually guide us, for our desire to be satisfied in scorched places, and for our bones to be strong; so that we will be like a watered garden. (Isaiah 58:11) As we faithfully fulfill our family roles and spend time with You, show us how to use every deposit that You’ve given us, that You may be glorified and we may be satisfied.

Respect the Rules of My House

stock-vector-vector-illustration-of-male-neighbors-talking-over-fence-133161437Most mornings I do a quick perusal of my Facebook Newsfeed. I came across an article that made my heart ache a couple of weeks ago. I ended up taking a few minutes to jot down some thoughts in a quick post. This “quick post” has gotten pretty high approval ratings Lol and I’ve decided to delve more deeply into the societal issues that were on my heart when I wrote the first post. Here is a lengthier, more controversial, but heartfelt cry to those who don’t want to respect the rules of my “houses”.

Whether it is the obliteration of the possibility of offense or the idolatry of sensitivity, we’ve seen a lot of attack on traditional faith values, particularly when it comes to the hot button topic of gender issues. This traditional value crosses religious lines. When it comes to this one issue, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have common agreement. It’s true that in Christianity, some denominations are splitting over this issue and they have the right to do so. Those who follow a traditional reading of Scripture disagree with the view that scripture evolves or is dictated by ever-changing culture.  Islam is not without it’s inner debates. Some conservative Western born Muslim women disagree with the traditional Islamic view of women and children as being inferior to men. The differences need to be respected, not suppressed or banned.  Right now there is pressure for churches and individuals to not teach or share their faith values because what they believe may offend someone else. In some cases, it’s being touted as hate speech or at the very least…a phobia. Tolerance, one of the gods of the early 2000s has lost it’s luster for a more sinister god, that in my view, lacks basic common sense. Instead of tolerance, society is being duped by the doctrine of compliance.

In other words, there is a segment of society that wants me to change my house rules to comply with their worldview. Right now the attack has begun with houses of faith and houses of self-enterprise. I pray the day never comes when the attack comes to your personal house or mine. Why, oh why can these various “houses” just be respected for having different worldviews and left alone? Let’s be neighbors and respect each other’s individual intellectual property when it comes to belief and speech. I learned the importance of this at a very young age as a young black girl living in a mostly white suburb.

When I was young, we lived in a community with a mixture of Jewish people, Catholics, and Protestants. It was okay to acknowledge the differences and not be insulted or offended. I learned that my 4th grade buddy Jonathan’s family ate matzah and didn’t believe Jesus was God. His mom let me try matzah. I didn’t like it. He invited me to his birthday party at the Jewish Community Center. I was the only black person. Despite feeling a little overwhelmed by the cultural differences, I was ok. Jonathan and his family liked me. We played together almost daily, trying to figure out how to sell our “furniture” that was made from sticks and Ohio buckeyes. No one back then got afraid, indignant or nervous that one of us was going to proselytize the other. My few Catholic friends also had some different beliefs. I went to a mass once and decided at eleven that I liked my faith better. My friend wasn’t offended. It was normal to respect differences of opinion. It was fine for each of my friends to think “our” way was the best and not be offended or feel discriminated against. I’d never expect Jonathan’s mom to serve me ham, just because I like ham. When in each other’s houses, Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant, we knew to respect “house rules” even if we didn’t participate or personally agree with them. We never got offended and thought that the “house rules” were discriminatory towards us. It was our choice to go to that friend’s house or not. 
I miss that era. If people come to my house, house of faith, the business I own etc, they should respect me and the “rules” of my houses. It’s their choice to come or not. We can still be friends even if we don’t agree with the tenets the other’s faith, lifestyle decisions, or worldviews. We can do what my friends and I did as kids: know there are differences and not be offended by them. We don’t have to take their differences of opinion as an affront to our well-being. I had one childhood friend whose “house rules” were uncomfortable to me. Therefore I didn’t go into her house. We played outside.
I hope in this present era that my house, your house, our individual houses of faith, self-employment venues etc will be respected for their “house rules”: tenets, beliefs, worldviews. I don’t like the taste of matzah, You may not believe that Jesus is God. There’s no reason for offense to be taken, just understanding to be offered.

Do you remember the adage that you learned as a child, “Respect your neighbor’s property”? My parents instilled in us an understanding that while we share a neighborhood, each property line distinguishes boundaries of ownership. My small four street neighborhood right outside of Shaker Heights, Ohio had a block party one summer. It was a wonderful experience! I remember zooming down the street on my bicycle with kids that I knew and some that I’d never met before. We shared food and fun. However, an unspoken rule remained as I looked around. No one, but no one stepped onto the lawn or driveway of another property owner. We stayed in the street, the area that belonged to us all. I was impressed.

If a person goes into a house of faith, whatever the spiritual tradition, there is an unspoken rule, or understanding, that you now comply with or respect the “rules” of that house. I can’t enter a mosque and expect to be served Holy Communion. I can’t go into a Muslim country as a woman and expect them to let me roam freely without a burka. That would be rude.

Private businesses, schools, churches and homes reflect the values of their founders or owners. None of us wants someone else to come into our home or business and tell us that we have to never eat peanut butter because someone with a severe nut allergy may come over.

No civil authority has the right to censor religious doctrine or individual speech. There is a divine boundary line between state and individual. What is deemed private should never be violated by the ever-changing court of public opinion.  We have a divine gift to believe what ever we perceive is Truth. Our lives reflect this Truth each day in our lifestyles and words. No state or law has the right to make us comply with something different. Traditional faith values as well as other worldviews deserve mutual respect. We do not have to agree with each other’s “house rules” in order to live as neighbors.

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neighbors Leslie Oshana and Marilynn Taylor(glasses) talking outside their homes.

A Mother Worth Mentioning

Mother’s Day Saturday, May 7, 2016

What her eyes saw – lack and death– suddenly did not matter. Her heart saw the reality of God’s faithful and protective hand in her life.

Mothering becomes more difficult when a husband isn’t in the picture. In the past two weeks, I’ve been struck by the mother in 1 Kings 17. Her courage to believe God’s voice changed the outcome of her circumstances.

The widow was getting wood in order to prepare one last meal for herself and her son when Elijah shows up on the scene. Elijah wants some food. She lets him know that she doesn’t have enough food to share with him. In that time, it’s remarkable that she had food at all. Famine was present in the land and she was a widow. We don’t know how long her husband had been dead. The Bible calls her son “a child” later in the passage.  She was probably younger than thirty. Economically, this impoverished single mother had no hope during this drought. Circumstances beyond her control had taken over her life. Then she hears this stranger say to her: “Give me some food first and God will continue to provide for

you until it starts raining again.”

How many of you would listen to some stranger rolling up on your doorstep saying the same thing? Verse nine reveals that Elijah met the widow knowing that God had already commanded her to feed him.  We have no indication from her of this. We merely see her do what Elijah asks. She fed him first.

Her natural eyes saw lack in her home. Surely she and her son heard each other’s hunger pangs. As a mother, she’d probably been making her son’s last meal cakes a tad bit larger than hers even though she knew that death was inevitable for them both. Her visible reality shouted “Death!”  But in another human being’s words, she heard the voice of God. She trusted that God was speaking to her through another human being. Wow! That takes courage and faith.

Faith acknowledges the reality of the unseen.

I wonder if she had heard of Elijah and if so, if she recognized him when he approached her. Even if she had, it still took faith for her to believe in the creative miracle that he said would happen: the meal in the barrel would not run dry.  The oil jar would not dry up. What her eyes saw – lack and death– suddenly did not matter. Her heart saw the reality of God’s faithful and protective hand in her life.

Her supply would not fade.

I was impressed to use this passage as my Mother’s Day post. I believe God wants to calm the fears of mothers whose visible realities shout “Death!” There are mothers who may be facing crushed dreams or failed marriages. Others may be watching their children spin into the downward cycle of addiction or plummet into the merciless clutch of disease.  Many single mothers deal with economic lack. Despite the fact that the drought was to remain for a period of time, God’s intervention for the single mother of 1 Kings declared “Life!” Still, she had to trust God. What if she had turned her back on the prophet of God? What if she had not turned her eyes from her visible reality and looked into the eyes of the servant of God to see the invisible reality of God’s desire for her life? It took faith and courage to use the rest of the meal in and make three cakes instead of two.

I pray this Mother’s Day for mothers everywhere. I pray that despite our visible circumstances, we will believe in the faithful provision of our loving Father. I pray that we would be courageous and trust in God’s Word first even though we live in a culture that renounces biblical authority. Lastly, I pray that when a situation is shouting “Death!” to our faces, that we would look up and see God declaring “Life!”


My Kids Need To Grow Up!

Repost from Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I looked at the woman reading peacefully under the tree at the park. Her kids were old enough to play by themselves and by the sound of it, were having a great time. Thoughts of envy blared in my head.

I can’t wait until these two are old enough to play together”, I thought as I helped my toddler navigate the stairs to the platform. Once he was there, I ran around the playset to meet him at the slide where I waited to catch him at the bottom. A few feet away, his slightly older brother “drove” on the playground motorcycle.

A couple of years have passed since this scene at the playground. What I realize now is that the woman that I witnessed was probably having a rare but needed respite from two loud and adventurous boys.  Now, I’m in her shoes.

Every step on this staircase of raising kids has its sighs of relief. “No more middle of the night feedings!” No more diapers!” “No more chauffeuring, they have their license!” But each step also has its challenges. “Lord, help them drive safely.”  “I’m not buying you a phone. You’re too young.”

When my four oldest children were young, there was another playground we would frequent.  On a particular occasion, a mindset changing thought popped in my head. “I’ll never have this moment in time back.” I remember looking around at my kids, each born around 2 ½ years from the previous one and making a commitment to relish each moment and each stage no matter what the challenges.

I decided to write this post not just to encourage moms and dads but to remind myself of this commitment that I made so many years ago. Child #5 is now old enough to care about how I cut his hair and occasionally tells me that he doesn’t like me because he has to do school work. Child #6 has decided to pick on his older brother as much as he can. The yelling and tears are ridiculous. Sigh. Just last week I thought, “Wow, it was so easy when they were younger and didn’t care about which TV show they watched before bedtime.” I stopped and caught myself. I shook my head at the irony.

One day these two will be as old as my first four who are seventeen to twenty-four years of age.   I am familiar with the upcoming road, its challenges and its joys. But in the meantime, right now, I need to make a decision. The same decision that I made over a decade ago: “I’ll never have this moment in time back. I need to relish these moments and understand the Father-heart of God through them as well as help my little boys discover God in them. I need to thank God for the opportunity to have children and steward them.”

So now my heart is tearing up. I do love my children. SO much.  Parenting has taught me more about myself than even marriage, which says a lot! So when the bickering starts, I’ll choose to look up towards heaven and breathe in deeply. When I hear, “I still don’t like you.” I will smile ‘cause I know better. And when they hug me from behind, I’ll pause what I’m doing and receive their clutch.

Cause it only lasts for a moment.

God, help me remember that in every difficult moment, you are my very present help. When I’m tired and frustrated, give me wisdom and peace. I surrender to the way you mold my character. Help me train my kids in the way that they should go. In Jesus’ name. Amen.