Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5 Things I Hope My Children are Learning from Me

I will never forget the day I held my firstborn child in my arms.  Joy, laughter, excitement… fear, anxiety, the unknown.  These emotions (and more) were just swirling around in my mind as I started the chapter of motherhood that would last the rest of my life.  There are so many things I’ve done wrong as a mom, and a lot of things I’ve done right.  It’s not easy raising little independent people, wanting so desperately for them to make all the right decisions, behave all the right ways, and avoid all the pitfalls that life wants to throw at them.  Then they become teenagers!  I have three teens in my home right now and every single day is an adventure.  A wonderful, exciting, joy filled adventure.  An exhausting, mind numbing, hair pulling out adventure.    Can it be both? 

Well, as I am wading through these years of guiding these young lives into adulthood, I face the natural fears that come with parenting.  I wonder if I am really being the mom they need?  I know I’m too hard on myself sometimes.  There’s a thousand blogs and even more books that tell us moms to take it easy on ourselves, but what about the things that really are legit?  I’m not perfect.  There are so many things that I wish I had done better when they were younger.  There are so many things I wish I was doing differently right now.  Some I can change, some are outside of my control.   And so, I reflect on a few areas that I hope and pray are getting through to my kids despite my inadequacies.  This list is brief, not at all complete, but these are the things that are on my mind today. 

Five Things I Hope my Children are Learning from Me

1  . To be in the word of God.  Life is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, victories and defeats.  Temptations come in so many shapes and sizes.  Trials are lurking just around the bend.  How do we navigate?  How do we know how to live?  Only by reading, studying, applying, and living the Word of God do we find the answers to these questions.  God speaks to His children exclusively through God’s Word.  He can use people, he can use anything to speak to us, but ONLY when it lines up with God’s Word can we truly say God spoke to us.  If what we are listening to contradicts God’s Word one bit, then it was NOT God speaking.  I want my children to know God’s Word.  I want them to experience God as they learn about Him in His Word.  I want them to see firsthand that the Bible is living and breathing in their life.  I hope that I’ve taught them that enough in both my word and example that it stays with them forever.  Without it, they will suffer so much unnecessary heartache.

2 .  How to Pray.  Watching my children go from their “Dear Jesus” prayers as little children, to heartfelt, relational prayer with their Heavenly Father is a great joy to me as a mother.  I hope that my children know that prayer is not about the right words, but about the right heart.  It’s not about checking off our to-do list, it’s about a lifeline to the God of the universe.  I hope they see the power that prayer has had in our family and even in their young lives.  As God speaks to us through His Word, we speak to God through our prayers.  Relationships fall apart when there is no communication, and I want my children to experience a full, sound relationship with their creator and savior.  I hope that when they are in the middle of discouragement, their first reaction is to look up and ask God for help.  I hope that when life is going awesome and they feel like they’re on top of the world that their first reaction is to look up and thank God for all He has blessed them with. 

3 .  To Love Unconditionally.  The first commandment, Jesus says, is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.  This is one of those areas that I know I should be doing more to instill this truth in their lives.  Love others, no matter what.  Show that love for others by our actions.  Take the time to make sure that girl is ok that you see sitting alone in the cafeteria.  Pray for that bully and show kindness to him knowing that there is almost definitely something going on in his life that has caused that behavior.  Don’t force your way into the popular crowd, but go sit with the kid that everyone makes fun of.  Love.  Always.  Share Jesus with everyone God allows you to.  Love.

4 .  The importance of self-respect and self-confidence.  I hope my children know how absolutely amazing they are!  They each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses.  One is not greater or lesser than the other, they are simply different.  I hope that when the devil tries to tell them they aren’t good enough that they remember that Jesus valued them enough to die for them.  I hope that when they sin, they don’t wallow in guilt but that they remember that God is waiting for them to forgive them and cleanse them from all unrighteousness.  I hope that when they feel depressed or discouraged and they don’t know who they really are yet, that they remember Whose they are and that they are fully capable to do anything that God calls them to do.
5 .  To work hardJosh and I have reminded my kids throughout the years that God created work for man before sin entered the world.  Work is God ordained.  We live in a lazy world filled with people who want to take all they can get but who aren’t willing to put forth the effort it takes to get it.  I hope my kids know the value of hard work.  I hope they put the effort into their jobs that show what it means to do all things to the glory of God, working for God and not for man.  I hope that they don’t remember the nights that I’m curled up in pain at home all night, but that they think about the hard work I did all day that put me there.  I hope they see that I get up every morning and face that work all over again, knowing where it puts me at night.  I hope they understand that we have high standards on their chores because a good work ethic matters.  I hope that one day they will appreciate how much we push them to work harder. 


Monday, May 8, 2017

Does Prayer Always Work?

The Christian life is full of landmark moments, those crucial points in time that led us to the cross and continued to change us as we grew in Christ.  It begins with the first time that God sends someone to plant the seed of faith in your life.  Later, others come along to water that seed that was planted.  Eventually, you hit the most pivotal moment in your life.  The day you accept God’s gift of salvation by putting your faith and trust in His son, Jesus Christ.  Your history re-written, you begin to move forward in your new Christian walk.  As you grow and develop, becoming more and more like Christ, you face many moments that later will become landmarks to you.  These are the moments, that if carefully recorded, you can look back on decades to come and see how God used each moment to change you into who you are today.  Maybe you have moments that are not so good landmarks, moments that you were faced with a crisis of belief and you chose to turn a blind eye for a time.  Sorrowful as those decisions may have been, they are still a landmark pointing you to the exact spot that you sit right now. 

Landmarks in history.  Pivotal moments that alter the course of life.  We all have them, and most often they appear through moments of extreme anguish, heartache, or pain.

The most pivotal landmark, I believe, in all of history can be read about in the gospels of the New Testament.  Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, on the brink of the most agonizing time in His existence.  The plan was set before the foundation of the world.  He would give up some of His godly rights, join mankind on earth to become one of us, so that He could meet all the requirements of a just God to be the only sacrifice worthy of covering the sin of every person to ever live.  As 100% God, He knew the plan, He knew it was the only way, and He knew it was time.  As 100% man, he was in utter agony over what He was about to go through. 

Three times He asked His Father to let there be another way.  “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matthew 26:39.  “If this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it….” Matthew 26:42.  He “prayed the third time, saying the same words.” Matthew 26:44.

In His moment of trial, knowing what was coming that night, agonizing in the sorrow of what He would go through Jesus did the one thing He knew would work to get Him through this overwhelming time:  He prayed.  He went to a familiar place, where He often went to be alone with His Father.  He fell on His face, He prayed, cried out, agonized with His Father about this task that He didn’t want to do.  If there is any other way! 

Pivotal moment.  If Jesus had stopped right there, begging God to change His circumstances, refusing to go through what needed to be done, then mankind would be completely and utterly lost.  There would be no hope of the resurrection.  There would be no remission for sins.  We would still be slaves to the law, trying our best to be good enough but falling short every single time.  There would be no salvation.  What a dark, bleak future that would have been. 

Alas, Jesus did not demand his circumstances be changed.  He asked for there to be another way, but He humbly followed it up with “not as I will, but as you will… your will be done.”  Jesus trusted God completely.  The prayer of Jesus that night in the garden didn’t change His circumstances one little bit.  He would still be arrested, tortured, beaten and bruised, and hung on a cross to die the death that you and I deserve.  I am so thankful that He didn’t give up. 

I think my favorite part of this landmark  in time is the moment Jesus gets up from the ground.  I picture my savior in a crumpled heap in the dirt, crying out to God in agony, sweating drops of blood from the sheer physical strain of the emotions He was experiencing in that moment.  Face down, grasping at the ground as He wrestled with his humanness of the moment.  He prays… He prays some more… He prays even more, fueling up for what is waiting for Him when he turns around.

Then, my Jesus stands up.  I imagine Him slowly coming up from the dirt, raising himself up to his full height, squaring back his shoulders and taking a few steps forward to wake up his friends.  Gone is the agony.  No fear, no anxiety, no hesitation.  Jesus doesn’t leave His prayer time to go hide in the bushes in hopes that the Roman soldiers won’t find Him.  Nope, not my Jesus.  He grabs His disciples and says, let’s go, my betrayer is at hand. Matthew 26:46.  I love the way John describes the next scene in John 18:4.  It says “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, WENT FORWARD and said to them, ‘Whom are you seeking?’”  No running away.  No cowering.  Jesus faced the circumstances head on and did what He needed to do to be obedient to His Father and to open the doors for everyone who will believe that we too can have a relationship with God the Father. 

Are you as in awe about this as I am?  Do you know my Jesus?  When you are overwhelmed, facing a storm that you just don’t want to go through, you can go to the Father trusting that He knows what He’s doing.  You can spend time with Him in prayer, not to change your circumstances and make life easier, but to grow 10 feet tall, square your shoulders back, and walk into that storm head on.  No fear!  No anxiety!  That is the power of prayer.  That is the power of my God.  That is power that comes with believing in Jesus Christ.  If you don't know Jesus yet, then that's the first thing you need to take care of right now!

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28.  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

When you’re struggling, when you’re weak, when you just don’t think you can keep going, fall on your face before your Father and cry out to Him.  Simply trust Him.