Crazy Sundays

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imageNormally I love Sundays. I get up early to prepare my heart for worshiping my God along side my brothers and sisters in Christ. I get up early most mornings to read my Bible but I find Sundays to be special. I wake up and get my coffee and then I spend time pre reading and thinking through the passage on which our pastor will be teaching. If there is time before my kids wake up I aim to sqeeze in some worship music.

But this morning was off. I woke up distracted and hurried through my reading of Psalm 6 and didn’t think through it at all. My husband and I had a misunderstanding, and my daughter decided that the entire world must be against her. It was also my first time serving at our new church and I felt apprehensive about how it would go. My kids where completely chaotic on the way to church and I was very grateful when Shawn removed them from my care. I managed to put on a polite face as I went about my service duties at the church. I listened but I really struggled to connect with the pastor’s thoughtfully prepared sermon.

Then it was time for me to help serve communion. As I walked to my station I felt blank and disingenuous. People lined up to partake in this sacrament and with each new face I recited my line “This is the body and blood of Jesus, broken and shed for you.” Then I was struck by the beauty of it all. Here I was literally face to face with my brothers and sisters in Christ. These are the people my Jesus died for and we are all linked by that amazing, wonderful, and powerful bond. Each individual broke off their piece of bread and dipped it in the juice and I could almost hear a voice saying this one is mine, and this one , and this one. I found myself overwhelmed with joy and I used every ounce of willpower I had to not burst into tears.

I am so thankful for the church. It stands as evidence of God’s goodness. He provided the means for us to join together as a way of edifying each other while bringing glory to Him.

Priase God from whom all blessings flow.

 

Undone by the Gospel

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HOLY HOLY HOLY is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come.

The above statement essentially summarizes my thoughts and feelings of the past few weeks. Lately I have been reading through the Old Testament. I have read it several times before but this has been the first in a while. My normal method of study has been to read a chapter at a time, take notes, and prayerfully consider them. This time I choose to break away from my routine to just read large chunks at a time, no stoping for notes but just writing questions as I go.  It has been amazing to look at the scriptures as a continuous whole. I’ve watched Abraham who was not a religious authority cling to nothing but faith in God, who promised him that his descendents would be a special people set apart. I’ve wrestled with why God would harden Pharoh”s heart over and over again resulting in the severe suffering of the Egyptians. I was deeply struck when God informed Moses that he was no longer going to travel with the Israelites because they were so rebelious and I was convicted when Moses told God that he would stay where God was because no amount of cultural separation would make them any different from the nations if God didn’t go with them. Already in my journey I was seeing the text point to Christ and the need for his coming, time and time again.

And then I reached the ceremonial laws for the tabernacle and sin offerings.

Everything in the Tabernacle, even to what the priests wore was symbolic of Christ and our desperate need for Him. I encountered the process for sacrificing a sin offering. For some reason I thought the priests did all the sacrificing in the tabernacle, I was wrong. The individual would bring the goat or lamb to the tabernacle and would lay one hand on the animal’s head and kill it with the other hand. Every person offered their own sin sacrifice and would have been faced with watching the life of an innocent animal be abruplty taken by the guilt of his own hand.

My thoughts came to a screeching hault.

I’ve had a good understanding of the gospel for a while now. I knew Jesus came to this earth because of our sin and that we need a savior to redeem us from that sin. But God radically rocked my world a few weeks ago and my life is still trembling. After reading the Leviticus passage about sin offerings I put on some worship music to meditate on what I just read. In my mind I pictured the sin offering and how I would feel having to kill an innocent animal for my sin. Then I saw my hand on the head of a perfect man kneeling before me. He willingly raised his head revealing his throat and as I looked into his eyes I cut his throat to atone for my sin.

I am undone.

Jesus is called the Lamb of God. He in His infinite wisdom, love, and glory died in our place. He paid our ransom and set us free from hell so that one day in eternity we can be with Him and give Him the glory He so rightly deserves.

It has taken me far too long to learn what it means to take up the cross daily and follow Him. What is life when compared with what happened on the cross? The fear of war suddenly vanishes, the worry about politics becomes inconsequential, the pain of illness is diminished, the knowledge that there are people out there who don’t know him becomes unbearable. The cross puts our priorities in order, pride ceases to exist and humility takes its place. Unfortunately, it is easy to wander from the cross which is why we are told to daily take up our cross and follow him. We are to daily remember our place and purpose and humbly walk through this life seeking to bring glory to the only one to whom it ever belonged.

Do you take up your cross daily and follow Jesus? Are you undone by the power of the Gospel? The Gospel is central to everything in the Bible and without it everything would lose its value. I urge you to read the scriptures with thoughts of the cross humbling your heart.

To God be the glory.

To My Parents

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Mom and Dad,

Thank you.

I honestly do not know where to begin. I am overcome with tears just thinking about your marriage and the legacy it has created. I have watched you both for twenty seven years and I have been taught so much from your mutual commitment to one another. I’m going to try my best to convey what your thirty years together has given me and anyone else who crossed your path.

Mom and Dad, you both are completely bonkers. I have never met any other couple who have as much fun together as you two do. You both are a complete joy to be around. I love watching you interact in public places as you effectively draw strangers out of their shells with your infectious laughter. Everyone around you receives an unspoken invitation to join the party. Thank you for teaching me the importance of making marriage fun.

Twice Dad has been in the hospital fighting for his life and Mom you were faithfully by his side. As he lay there, incoherent and weak you lovingly cared for him as only a wife can. You put on a brave face to encourage Katie and I, but you gave Dad every ounce of your determination and care. I’m convinced Dad won those fights because of you. You were the anchor holding him steady and the lighthouse that brought him home. Thank you for showing me that no matter how scary the situation to always stand firm and brave for the one you love.

To be honest, you guys have not always been the best when it comes to fighting. There was a time when I was very concerned for your marriage. When things reached its darkest point you were not willing to call it quits, instead you sought out a counselor. The change was not instant, it took a lot of hard work and time but you guys were able to come together and rewrite your marriage. Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me that marriage is not something you give up on but worth fighting for.

Thank you for choosing to become parents. Katie and I owe you so much for the blood, sweat, tears, time, and effort you put in to raising us. Parenting is not for the faint of heart and you both sacrificed so much to bring us up. You were there for us when we were exhausting toddlers, infuriating children, insecure middle schoolers, and emotional teenagers. You never allowed us to play one of you off the other but were instead a team that stood firm together.

Dad you have worked so hard to support your family. Even when times were tight you did what was needed to take care of us, sometimes at the expense of your health. Mom God bless you for being a stay at home mom and homeschooling me. I am sorry I was such a nightmare when it came to school, but you never gave up on me. Thank you both for teaching me to persevere when things do not come easy.

It has been a complete and utter joy to watch both of you become grandparents. Dad you completely spoil my kids and have unending patience with them. Mom you have never been one who enjoys small children so it has blessed me to see how fiercely you love Bryce and Eden. They adore both of you and I know they will be better people because you are a part of their lives. Thank you for being such supportive and involved grandparents.

Above all else your marriage has had the greatest impact in your ministry. For as long as I can remember you have been in ministry side by side. From youth ministry to the children’s home and back again you have always ministered together. Dad you have endured difficult churches, harsh criticism, and heart wrenching conflicts because of your deep love of teenagers and your aching desire for them to know Christ. Mom you have stood by Dad as his right hand as an ally, a resource, a supporter, a defender, and as wise counsel. So many students have come to know and love the Lord because of your team work. I have watched you over the years and you both taught me how to love people because of your faithfulness to show Christ to the lost. Thank you for teaching me how marriage when done right is a ministry.

All of this barely skims the surface of what your thirty years together has brought the world. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Lord and to each other. You have been an amazing example for me to learn from and I pray that the Lord blesses you with another thirty years of ministry.

Disciplining My Children

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It is not easy being a parent. Many of my days have been spent in lonely frustration. I adore my children but my two toddlers have stretched and pushed me farther than I thought possible. What works for one child does not work for the other, the foods one child likes the other doesn’t, and they always seem to fall apart into puddles of angry tears at the same time! I have read many blogs and posts about how to discipline kids and there are as many opinions and methods as there are fish in the sea. I honestly do not read them anymore because the motherhood blog land is mommy mania. I was always shocked at how degrading moms were to one another, and I would come away from it feeling more conflicted and confused than ever. I was personally convicted about why I was going to the world for parenting advice anyway. The Bible is very clear about what God expects.  

Disciplining is so much more than the consequences I hand out to my children when they have done something wrong. Proverbs 22:6 states “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I don’t really see this verse as a promise but as more of a statement. To this day, I still hear the truths my parents taught me ringing in my ears as I go about my every day decisions. God didn’t promise my parents I would be a God honoring person but He did promise them that what I was taught would follow me wether I wanted it to or not. 

I can lose my temper pretty easily if I am not being very conscious of what I am teaching my kids through my own actions (not to mention my own personal accountability to the Lord). One thing that hit me hard in the past several months is that when my kids are misbehaving it isn’t an action against me but it is a display of their sinfulness against God. That honestly flipped my discipline views upside down. With that realization their behavior no longer angers me but grieves me to my soul. It is my (and Shawn’s) responsibility to train my children how to honor and love the Lord. My goal in disciplining isn’t to produce good behavior or create a successful adult. I long for my kids to know Christ and honor him with all they are. 

Now my discipline for my kids looks much different. When one of them makes a good decision we discuss how that action brings joy to the Lord. For example when my son actually shares a toy with his sister I try to teach him that it makes God happy because he cared more for his sister than he did for himself. I want my kids to know that it isn’t about just doing what is right but about having an attitude that pleases the Lord.

I hate spanking my son but unfortunately that is what best grabs his attention to make a teachable moment in the midst of his sin. I have tried time out but he gets completely distracted by ANYTHING (he will make his fingers into people and play with them), so he totally misses the point. I have tried removing toys and while that frustrates him and he understands why he lost the toy it doesn’t make him stop and think about making a better choice the next time around. When I spank him I try to stick to the same routine every time. We first talk about what he did wrong. After I’m sure he he knows why we are talking we then talk about how that action disappoints God. I tell him that by choosing to do wrong he is choosing to get a spanking. I then give him the spanking and immediately after I hug him until he calms down. We talk about how God gave him parents to help him learn how to please God. Then we talk about how he should have handled the situation. I never leave him until the emotions are mended. Afterwards (if the situation requires it) he must go and make amends with his sister. I have him hug her and say “I’m sorry for______”. 

My daughter is still pretty young (19 months) but we do the same thing for her in a condensed version. Unless it is a temper tantrum. She can throw a royal one. In that situation I sit her on our staircase (on the second step, for some reason if she is on the first one she tries to get up and walk away but the second step she will sit still on it) and I just sit in front of her and stare at her until she finishes. Her tantrums now last for a fraction of the time and after I am able to do constructive discipline. 

I feel like I’m now getting through to my kids. Who knows how my methods will have to change a year from now or a month from now but the message will always be the same and that is that our actions must bring glory to the Lord. 

 

Motherhood

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Today is my son’s second birthday. Shawn and I loved taking the day to celebrate the life of our little boy. I love him beyond what words can describe. As we went throughout our day, laughing, playing, and enjoying one another, I couldn’t help but reflect on my son’s life. Memories flooded my mind bringing me both smiles and tears. This evening as I prayed with him before bed I thanked my God for the immense blessing I have received through being a mother. I rejoiced because I have been able to spend the past two years of my life with such a wonderful little boy. Every night before I go to bed I, sneak into his room to give him one more good night kiss and every time it brings joy to my heart; no matter how difficult that day may have been. Tonight I sat for a bit longer and watched him sleep. As I looked at him the Lord changed the perspective I have of my son. He showed me that this boy that I treasure is so much more than a child given to me to protect. My son will one day be a man, and it is both mine and Shawn’s responsibility to guide him towards what that entails. I spent part of the day lamenting that he is no longer a baby but that is not fair to my son. He will not benefit from me wishing he would cuddle like he used to as an infant. But he can benefit from me guiding him towards what should be one of my goals as a parent: manhood. I am not raising a child, I am raising a man. Shame on me if he leaves my house without understanding how to be a Godly man. It isn’t easy to watch him grow up knowing that one day he will leave, but I love him too much to let him go without being prepared.

Censoring Myself

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Just recently I had a conversation with a friend regarding how I spoke out against a certain book series and movie that has taken America’s women by storm. She was/is (not sure where she stands now) annoyed with me for calling out other Christian women and telling them it is sinful to partake in such media when I most likely watch TV shows and movies that send similar messages even if they are far less blatant.

To be honest, I have never been a fan of watching anything with sexual content, but this friend did get me thinking. Yes, I research movies before I go to watch them and if it has any nudity whatsoever I don’t go. But I did go see the new Batman movie and in it there is a scene where Batman is in bed with a woman. It doesn’t show anything other than them talking in bed but everyone knows what happened. Which brings me to my point, where should we draw the line? Is knowing people had sex any better than watching people have sex? Sexuality seems to be moving more and more into the grey area and away from black and white and I don’t think it is okay. If we are uncomfortable watching people make out in public what makes it okay on the big screen?

Most men are turned on visually and as such men like my husband Shawn put safeguards around themselves (like anti-porn software and not being alone with a computer) to remain blameless before God and loyal to their wives.  Do we as women guard ourselves? Maybe we are not as prone to physical temptations but what about emotional ones? Romantic movies tug at our hearts and bring us to tears, but to what consequence? Movies like Twilight portray such a horribly wrong picture of what love is and as such people wonder why there is such a high divorce rate.  The world does not know what real love is so why do we go see the romantic movies it produces? We should find our emotional (and physical) satisfaction in our husbands alone and not allow the world to slowly undermine the biblical truth of love and romance.

I’m not saying that ALL outside romance is bad, the Bible has so many beautiful pictures of love. We need to be wary that the stories we subject ourselves to draw us closer to the Lord and as such our husbands.

All of that said, I have decided that I will not watch anything I would be uncomfortable allowing my children to see. This is something I have felt convicted about and I am not pushing my choice on anyone. Just don’t be offended if you invite me to a movie and I turn it down.

Offensive Love

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Lets be honest, it is hard to look past sin and see the individual. It must be part of human nature to judge other’s faults, why else would it be so easy? I know that when I see what other people struggle with it makes me feel like I have my act together. Why do we place ourselves in a sin hierarchy? God says all sin is offensive to Him even if we deem the vice as something small. My sin is just as scummy as everyone else’s.

As believers why have we taken it upon ourselves to speak out against specific sins? Jesus didn’t do it that way, why do we? Don’t misunderstand me Jesus did speak against sin but He dealt with it by speaking to people face to face, He didn’t campaign. Jesus reached out to those struggling in sin by literally meeting them where they were. Jesus is compassionate but unwavering toward sin.

The Bible tells us to preach the truth in love and yet we condemn others because of our bad attitudes.  It is not okay for unbelievers to feel alienated because Christians have treated them with contempt. If someone is uncomfortable around me I hope that it is because I am living my life out according to the Word of God. People should be unsettled by the truth of the Scriptures. God uses His Word to convict us of sin so that we can repent and be renewed.

Shame on me if I offend someone because I treat them with distain (something I will be held accountable for), but if someone is offended by the truth of the Scriptures I will not apologize or stand down. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 states:”For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?”

May we have offensive love, not offensive attitudes.