Tag Archives: God

Realizing that Our Kids Can Become More Important to Us than God

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:12

So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the Lord’s people transgress…Nevertheless, they did not heed the voice of their father… 1 Samuel 2:23-5

Eli

Eli was a priest. How in the world did the sons of a priest become corrupt and unrighteous? It was their dad’s fault. When it came to raising his kids, Eli had areas of emotional immaturity.  Emotional immaturity and a weak will kept Eil from applying his knowledge of God’s ways to his parenting style. In verse 27, God speaks to Eli through a prophet and later through a young boy named Samuel (1 Sam 3:13). Both tell him the harsh reality about the way he raised his sons and the forthcoming consequences to his lineage.

For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.

Eli preferred his children more than he revered God. How would this have looked? It may have meant that when his sons were mischievous boys, he did not discipline them. He let them get away with more than he should have. Maybe he catered to their whines and false apologies and never helped them see the sin in their hearts through gentle and honest conversation. As a priest, he did not teach them to honor the systems of offerings and sacrifice and he greedily took the best of what the people brought for their offerings. The fact that he preferred his children more than God was idolatry.  At the stage where we meet Eli, he was a priest who did not revere God enough, did not revere the system of repentance that God set up, hadn’t acknowledged his own issues, and was confronted with the scandal of his sons.  Propitiation of their sinful behavior was available through the Hebrew practice of blood sacrifice, which foreshadowed Jesus’ bodily sacrifice, but the sons scoffed at offerings and sacrifices.  Now grown men, they were promiscuous and defiant adults. When Eli tried to reason with them, it was too late. He missed the opportunity to guide and train them during their formative years.

Eli and Samuel.  And he said 'It is the Lord:

Now Eli wasn’t a total screw up. Despite being faced with his fatherly failures, God allowed him to mentor the young Samuel, who was called from an early age to be a prophet. Eli affirmed Samuel as he learned to hear and obey God even when the boy was tasked with telling Eli his forthcoming demise. Because of Samuel’s success story, Eli became one of the most important prophets in Jewish history. He was a man who eventually recognized his issues, addressed them and became a different man. This was the man that Samuel was trained by.

When we are confronted with our issues we must remind ourselves that we have the opportunity to change. We must be quick to close the door to self-condemnation and guilt. When we humbly acknowledge areas of immaturity, God steps in and begins the unseen and somewhat mysterious process of changing our hearts and minds.  

The truth is that we are fallible adults who still need guidance and help. We are not all bad and we are not all good. Better than those two subjective measuring sticks is this truth: we are treasured! In Christ, we are forgiven! We are desired by a perfect God! Worth cannot be based on how well we do, but on the fact that our very existence is significant. The Old Testament did not offer the option for redemption, but the New Testament does through the blood sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. This redemption is so amazing, that today’s parents who may have been “Eli’s” at one time and whose adult children are now prodigals, whose hearts and minds are far from God’s best, enjoy the possibility of these adult children can be wooed by the Spirit of God. The course of a lineage can be altered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. 

I believe in a Creator who imagined each of us out of the goodness of his nature.  We have to keep our eyes on the process of change, not the goal. God is in charge of the finish line; we just need to yield to the journey.

…being confident of this very thing, He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ  Philippians 1:6

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New Seasons, Shifting Sand

dpp_0055.jpgOceans lovers like myself know what it is like to feel wet sand being displaced under your feet as the underwater current urges waves forward. We continually have to lift our feet and reset them for firmer footing, lift them, reset them, lift them and reset them.

Such are the seasons of our lives.

This last day of August 2018 offers both a “finally” and a “beginning”, a lifting and a resetting. School started a few days ago and since after 20 years, I am no longer a home educator, I find myself settling into another season journeying with the precious parents at our small Christian private school. I must say, parental involvement in this top-notch school is noteworthy — here are working and stay-at-home parents that give their time to help the teachers, encourage the administrative staff and join hands with each other in friendship. God will bless this, indeed.

For most US communities, personal lives are dictated by academic schedules. So like millions of other parents I now exhale summer activity, spontaneity and Southern humidity, and inhale reflection, coffee shops, after-school schedules and vocational duties.

I’ll be honest, August has been tough until today.

I exhale loss and sadness and inhale hope and promise. The stain of death and two older kids leaving home for higher education made sleep difficult. My dad died in August 2017. Another friend died in August 2015. Two families I know had sons killed in August 2018. (sigh)

I inhale God’s comfort and I exhale the difficulty of shifting sand under my feet that makes me lift and reset, lift; reset. Underneath this metaphorical sand is a very real rock: God’s Truth which is my foundation.

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:7-8)

August was ironic. I drove to some of the highest peaks of my life….traveling across theLake Tahoe nation to luxurious and amazing destinations like the Rocky Mountains and Lake Tahoe. My heart soared and my eyes absorbed the beauty of God’s creation. God kissed me through this trip. I remember driving through Kansas on I-70. It’s not the most scenic route and I kept watch of the dark clouds to the north, but for a few moments, I was overwhelmed at God’s goodness. I teared up. This bucket-list trip had happened! Joy in the midst of a challenging month.

Beauty in the midst of pain. Hardship in the midst of hope.  Newness in familiarity. I encourage anyone who, like me, is experiencing a shift in their lives to imagine your hand reaching and holding the Divine hand.  My personal picture is me grabbing God’s hand with all of the strength that I have! He holds on just as intensely.

Friends, we are loved by a faithful and devoted God, who created us with good reason and profound intent. Yesterday I heard a pastor say this (my summary) “Our heavenly Father is SO good at taking tragic situations and events inspired by pure evil; reworking their consequences for our good….(in order that we grow through them), that we often begin to believe that he actually authored the events.”

The Lord says of us:
“He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15)

14446133_1189737564418217_4322761516211056887_nMy soul rests while I regain my footing because I am loved by God who takes challenging events and uses them to cause me to seek his comfort. He teaches me how to get through earth’s journey triumphant rather than beat up and disillusioned. He wants to do this for all of us.

Do you need to exhale your yesterday so that you can inhale your present and your future? As you lift your feet under the ocean water of your life, remember that the current of God always has new sand for you to reset your feet on. Lift, reset. Lift and reset.

Beneath seasonal sands is a sure foundation.

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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.

When Silence Screams

Restlessness. Distractions. Chatter. We don’t know how to be silent anymore.
But Silence desires our attention.

Psalm 46:10
Be Still and Know that I Am God

As an introvert, I can sit quietly in the shadows at a party.  That is different from sitting alone in my house with no phone in my hand, no window open to hear the distant traffic and no TV on in the background. Silence. Complete silence can be uncomfortable because I’m wired for sound. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a household of four children who played instruments, a mandatory chore for some, but a pleasant break from homework for me. When we weren’t practicing the tuba, cello, piano or viola, we were playing our radios in our bedrooms. Silence arrived when everyone was finally asleep.

My current family is even bigger. I’m mother of six children, ages 5 – 25. All but the oldest lives at home and so sound is a part of my life. Lots of continuous sound.

My best friend still doesn’t understand how one of my sons can ask me a question and I don’t “hear” him. Sound. It’s always around. I’m so used to it that someone’s question just melts into the stew of busyness in the house.

Don’t get me wrong, sound isn’t bad, but it can be such a constant in our lives that we forget sometimes to turn everything off and just appreciate the silence.

In the past week, I’ve asked myself “Why is it to challenging to sit down and do absolutely nothing, close my eyes while fully awake and just be?” After all, God’s still small voice and the reality of his omnipresence is more apparent when I’m still and quiet. Sometimes it takes so long to even turn off my inner voice that I hear Silence scream “Shshsh!”.

As a former worship leader, there were times when it seemed as if Jesus had come into the sanctuary. A holy awe swept the room and silence urged our attention. But still, it was terribly difficult for me to restrain playing the piano quietly, thinking that He needed my sound in order to stay.

What He desired was 100% of my attention.

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Practicing silence can be an act of worship to God. Due to the variety of denominations in the Christian church, outsiders may think that some do “it” right and others do “it” wrong when it comes to service style. We’ve seen scenes of  loud “holy roller” Pentecostal churches and quiet and stoic Anglican or Quaker churches. The contrast is stark.

I’m a firm believer that God inhabits the praises of his people in song and spoken word. I believe that every believer should be comfortable “shouting to God with a voice of triumph”. Can we hear the Spirit of God say “Clap your hands, all ye peoples!” and do it?  (Psalm 47:1) But sometimes He wants our silence. “Truly my soul silently waits for God; From Him comes my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1) In the place of silence is divine rest. We quiet our own voices because we know and we trust in the One who has all of the answers. We turn off our internal speakers, the mental lists, yesterday’s marital squabble, and the spirits of hell that seek to steal our peace.

We can and should use silence in two ways. Sometimes we need to be silent in order to actually hear what is going on within our souls. Have you ever been quiet for awhile and then you get to a place where you are forced to pay attention to the state of your soul? We can carry on conversations with co-workers with smiles on our faces and sobs in our hearts. We are good at masking ourselves. We are good at denial and suppression. Silence is helpful in allowing us to admit what’s really going on inside and then turn to the One who can make things better. At the same time,  there are times in our moments of solitude when we self-introspect and talk too much. God is trying to speak and we have our lists and wants and petitions and needs and then we finish throwing it all up, get up and resume our day with burden-laden souls. There are times when we need to be still and listen to the silence. A mysterious rest descends like a soft blanket. Reliance and devotion to God is strengthened because in our silence we are saying, “Your presence is enough.”

Psalm 131:2 Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

Are you willing to wean your soul from the distractions and just be still? and silent? Are you ready to close your eyes and not be afraid if you, oh tired mother of toddlers, fall asleep in the midst of your quiet time with God?

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Feel the weights fall off and every atom in your God-breathed being begin to vibrate with heavenly peace.   And if God chooses not to speak in his still, small voice, welcome and appreciate His constant presence. Jehovah-Shammah. God is there.

I know He speaks in the stillness.

I believe He heals in silence.

When silence screams “Shhhh!”,  stop and

just be.

 

Isaiah 32:17-18 (NKJV)
17 The work of righteousness will be peace,
And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.

18 My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation,
In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,…

 

 

 

 

Cover Them With Your Wings

 

I love the picture of God as a bird. I personally picture him as an eagle in this Scripture:

Psalm 91:4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

I found out that mother eagles fly under their young in order to catch them on their very wide wings if they fall. What a beautiful picture of watchful care and meaningful presence as these babies learn to fly on their own.  An eagle’s wings can mirror our human life experience.  Our life experiences have given us knowledge and understand that can protect them from unnecessary danger. Predators know that they can’t get to an eagle’s babies if they are hiding under their mom or dad’s wings.

Protecting our children is one of the main duties of a parent. I often think of the mother bear or mother lion who ferociously attacks any predator who comes after its young. Since families are the building block of communities I can easily extend this role of protection to the Bible figures Noah and King David.  Being warned by God of mass judgment and destruction, Noah built an ark to protect his family from disaster and the Warrior King David fought to protect his people from the Philistines and Syrians in 2 Samuel chapter 8.

Google defines refuge like this: “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble.”

Our God is a perfect protector. We can snuggle in the safety of his authority. He is safe. No matter what you learned in bible class, you don’t have to be afraid that God will give you any disease or calamity.  Bad experiences come into our lives as a consequence of our individual choices and living in a natural world affected by the effects of sin in mankind.  Our Creator-Redeemer is caring. He seeks to rescue us and he desires to be our refuge.

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As parents we are quick to protect our children from the dangers without, but what about from dangers that come from within their own hearts and our own homes?

While we’ll never do a perfect job, it’s helpful to remember that our homes should be sanctuaries of safety from trouble. In our technologically advanced culture, this may mean internet safety. When they are school age it means making sure that they know how to judge character and develop healthy friendships. When they are young, it’s making sure that we instruct with clarity and patience.

Furthermore as parents, we need to take inventory of our choices, attitudes and actions. Kids are watching and listening at all times.  Is kindness and tenderness evident in our actions? Do we gossip to our friends? How much are we on our phones, laptops, tablets, etc?

Covering our children is much more than providing the best shelter possible. It’s a place where their souls –minds, emotions, physical bodies — are protected from anything that would cause a trauma or a wound that keeps them from knowing God as a safe authority figure. When wounds do come from within…from within our homes due to our rash responses or quick tempers, may we be quick to apologize and comfort.

I firmly believe that the better we know God as safe and use him as our covering and refuge, the better we’ll be able to offer the same for our own children. We can learn from the best when we remind ourselves that we too are children, under the care of a safe God who sent His only begotten Son to rescue us from trouble.

1 John 3:8 For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Galatians 1:3-4  Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Psalm 91:1-6

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord“He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler[a]

And from the perilous pestilence.
 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

 

 

 

 

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!”


The Push and The Pull of Raising Kids

Repost from Friday, June 17, 2016

One Saturday morning instead of running into your arms, your young daughter runs onto the couch to watch her morning cartoon. You shrug your shoulders and get her breakfast. The next week the same thing happens. You begin to notice a decrease in the amount of times that she crawls onto your lap, or nestles her head in your neck or turns to wave before heading into the school building.

At first you’re caught off guard. Then you wonder and slowly begin to mourn the inevitable ending of a stage. Finally you get used to the new norm and hope that the security you instilled in your young daughter through physical affection and verbal affirmation was consistent enough to stay in her memory banks as she journeys on the road into adolescence.

As parents, it’s instinctual to begin to push our young ones away incrementally. At first it may be mom weaning baby from the breast. Next it may teaching kids how to put on their clothes by themselves. For some dads it may be when your kids want to hang out with friends instead of go fishing or watch sports with you. Their total dependence on us must end at some point. At the same time, we don’t want to short circuit their natural need for parental covering. Sense of identity and security begins at home in the formative years. Some people believe that quality time is more sufficient than quantity time for young children. I don’t believe this. I’ve surprisingly found that even my teens actual enjoyed quantity time at least as much as quality time. The push into autonomy must occur at various points based on an individual child’s God-given developmental timetable. The push is necessary.

But then we see them adapting. And we realize that we miss the morning snuggle. Our maternal bosom or our paternal arms looked forward to “the embrace” before heading out the door to work. And we are tempted to pull these precious God-breathed souls back into us…to smell their hair, to be comforted that they are also comforted by our presence. The pull is normal.

Isn’t this similar to our Heavenly Father? He keeps his arms wide open and draws us into his sheltering presence. (Psalm 91) He delights when we come to him. He delights when we want to know more about him. (James 2:23) Relationship is powerfully precious. At the same time, our Heavenly Father tells us to go—go out and represent him in all that we do and say, especially to those people that have not yet recognized His reality. (Mark 16:15) At some point He wants us to let go of the childish stage of our faith journey and step into mature partnership with him. (1 Cor. 13:11)

A godly parent will reflect our Heavenly Father. We’ll push when it’s time for them to grow into another stage, yet desire to constantly remind our children that we adore them, that we will be safe for them, that we will always have open arms for them. The push is not to their detriment. It’s not based on our convenience. The pull should neither serve our own needs nor stifle their individuality. Rather both the push and the pull maintain the security of relationship and the value of growing up.