Mothers are on my heart this week. I have been praying for and ministering to several moms recently who are struggling in a variety of ways. Grown children, little babies and all ages in between. These children seem to have the strings of our hearts tightly in their fists, pulling and tugging away at us. I want to remind you today that although we love our children very much our hearts still belong fully to God. The strings belong in his hands and we praise him for that; he is still in control!
Below is a Psalm that I shared with one of the mothers and I want to share it with you today as well. I hope it brings you encouragement. If you are struggling and feel as if things are crumbling around you, remember that you are fully secure in the arms of God. He rules the mountains and the oceans; he can certainly rule your heart. Allow him to calm it and be your help.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Even though there may be uncertainty and difficulties surrounding you, you will not be moved out from under his care. If God dwells in the midst of you; you dwell within the fortress of the Almighty. Moms, I enCOURAGE you to find comfort in the steadfast words of God today.
It was one of those days… the kind where everything was out of control. The boys were either being wildly excited and loud or fighting like wildcats and even louder. Every inch of progress I would make seemed to get erased within 10 minutes by the two whirlwinds behind me. There was a reason their Grandmother called them Hurricane Peyton and Tornado Troy.
Although “chaos” would have adequately described my kitchen, I had still managed to get a decent supper on the table by the time Phil got home. My dear hubby could sense my mood as he tried to help get the table ready (yes, good Spidey senses do slowly develop as a husband matures, thank you Lord!). He tread lightly around me, trying not to do or say anything that might accidentally spark my shortened fuse.
I finally plopped the last dish on the table and sat down in a huff, feeling quite flustered and exhausted from the long day. Phil began to pray and while I breathed in Jesus (recall that blog?) I tried to remind myself that those praying with me at that moment were really gifts from God (wow is he a creative gift-giver, and with a mighty unique sense of humor I might add).
As soon as our heads lifted and our eyes cracked open, my youngest, Troy, stood up out of his chair and grabbed a huge forkful of fettucine, dripping with Alfredo sauce. He held it as far above his head as his arm could reach and slowly began to lower the long swaying strands of pasta toward his big mouth, making wild growling sounds like a hungry wolf about to eat his prey.
Suddenly the twisted wad of pasta slipped off the end of his fork and smacked him in the center of his face before falling and managing to hit his shirt, the chair and finally the floor. For the first time all day the whole house was silent. Everyone, fully aware of Mom’s strained mood, turned to me in obvious anticipation of what my reaction would be. I could see the fear in their eyes.
In my own mind (as we super-powered moms can do) I quickly assessed the fallout this attention-seeking antic would cause: the cleanup of the floor and the chair and the son, the stain removal from the shirt and the added laundry, the cost of the food he just wasted, and how this child obviously needs better discipline! Would this be the final blow that caused me to (justifiably) erupt…???
Ahh… what the heck… I burst out laughing. Seeing that fettucine bop him in the face and the look of surprise in his eyes was too much. It was seriously funny, and I let loose laughing like a crazy woman. After everyone realized I was not going to freak out, they laughed hard too. The laughs continued and from that moment on the whole tone of the evening changed.
It was a split second decision to love instead of be angry; to share joy instead of more angst. I don’t always make good choices in moments like this, but this one taught me a good lesson. Sometime you just need to SHOCK your kids with undeserved grace. It helps them and you at the same time. It is a powerful reminder of the utterly undeserved gracious gift of God that we are given in Jesus Christ. What a truly shocking reality that is.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.
The love of our Father God should blow us away. He never runs out and is always generous. We should love others the same way, always being full of grace. “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16.
I challenge you to find ways to shock others with this type of grace. The next time someone wrongs you, forgive them right away. When your husband puts his foot in his mouth… again (those Spidey senses don’t always kick in quick enough), don’t pout and act hurt, decide to laugh, roll your eyes and love him anyway.
And every once in a while, give those kids a break and shock them with CRAZY grace! When they know they have done wrong or made a bad decision, grab them, hug them, and tell them you love them and forgive them because God has forgiven you for all of the wrong you have done. Let them feel a small portion of the release and freedom that the power of grace provides.
When the opportunity arises, I enCOURAGE you to make a split second decision to love.
There you have it, my plea and proclamation for this article right in the title. Teach your kids not only to read well, but also to love to read. There are very few skills as vital as this one for their life, and yes, I mean vital. Make it a priority, I'll tell you why.
If you have school aged children or grandchildren you have heard the constant push. While in school, children are required to read every day, there are special “reading events”, and there is state and national testing done to evaluate how they are doing.
Despite these efforts children (and adults) still struggle terribly with reading proficiently and many certainly don't enjoy it. You know all of this already; you hear it all school year long. So what is my point? Here is the issue. When someone can’t (or won’t) read, the Devil does a happy dance. He loves the fact that fewer and fewer people are able to read and that most would prefer to pick up a remote control than a book. The last thing they will want to do is pick up a Bible!
Why grab a huge book with confusing chapter titles and odd words that could potentially make you feel stupid? The Bible will be seen as an undesirable object to avoid. What a terrible way to think about the Word of God that discloses the path to eternal life.
How are they to learn about the about the promises of God, the history of his people, the story of Jesus and what that means for him or her today? How are they to relate to the 119th Psalm of David as he proclaims his love for the word of God with lines like these:
“I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (11)
“Give me life according to your word!” (25)
“Strengthen me according to your word!” (28)
“I hope in your word.” (81)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (105)
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (130)
How will your children see Jesus clearly if their eyes are not enlightened by the word of God?
Now parents, no pointing fingers at teachers, the education system or even your own child. The responsibility is squarely on your shoulders (yep, mine too). First learn to accept that fact and then figure out what you are going to do about it. Please don’t wait for the “system” to train your child to love to read. That’s like expecting them to teach them values too.
Read to your children and read with your children. Let them see you reading and doing so in your free time (not as an obligation). Many children don't like to read because their parents don't like to read. If this is the issue, time to retrain yourself, get help if you need it. It’s okay if you aren’t a great reader or you are a slow reader. Your children will delight in the effort you are putting forward and will be encouraged themselves to keep reading no matter what.
Get excited about reading, visit the library or book store and grab a great classic to dig into together. Visit Narnia with C. S. Lewis, the Shire with Tolkien or travel along with a brave missionary in a foreign land with Benges. Allow each of these to spur conversations about the ultimate story of Jesus Christ found in the ultimate book of all time, the Bible. Then open the Bible together too.
If we want our children to know Christ and be fully equipped to serve him, we must train them to be readers. I understand some truly do have limitations, and other sources should be sought out (i.e. audio versions), but the vast majority just need a Bible in hand and be taught how to read it. The Word of God in the hands of a Reader is a mighty weapon. I enCOURAGE you to train your children to wield it with passion.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
Ladies, last week I posted a blog that was stern and straight forward, asking each of you to make a choice of whom you will serve: God or the world. This week I want to truly encourage you on how to go about choosing to live for God. I will still use the same chapters from Deuteronomy so I hope you did read them like I challenged you to. I want to start by sharing how God recently worked in my own heart.
God has set before me a task that I don’t feel equipped for or even adequate for right now (I’m sure you will hear more about this in the near future). I was feeling particularly burdened one evening after talking to some family about this new calling. They were not as supportive as I had hoped and a couple tried to discourage me from taking this path. Since I had been struggling with this decision for several weeks and was finally feeling more secure in my decision, hearing these words of disagreement hit me hard. I found myself in tears that night, struggling between what the world (and nearly everyone in it) wanted me to do and what I felt God was calling me to.
I prayed for God to give me insight and grabbed my Bible with a bit of ferocity, determined to seek his will alone. I thought about where to read and decided to keep on my same track in the Old Testament that I have been on in my usual nighttime routine, currently that was Deuteronomy (yep, explains my recent posts). Chapter 31 was next in line so I started in. What I read caused the tears to flow and internal shouts of thankfulness to God to explode within me.
Moses was passing on his leadership of the Israelites to Joshua and was encouraging him for this very large and important task. I’m sure Joshua did not feel fully equipped or even adequate for this role (sound familiar), but God had decided it was his and assigned it to him. Here are the words Moses spoke to Joshua:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:6.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deut. 31:8
These words were like healing salve to my heart. How I needed confirmation of God’s care for me and the knowledge that he goes before me in everything he calls me to. I never walk alone, I never have to dread or be in fear since he is there.
I also needed to hear the direct commands to be strong and be courageous. These are commands, not suggestions or far hopes that Moses had for Joshua. No, he told him, “Just do it!” BE strong, BE courageous. Don’t shy away from this assignment, it is yours and I am with you in it. These words are for you today too.
When we choose to follow God and be obedient to him, we have not stepped into an easy task. Do not get visions of praying away your worries while guardian angels clamor to keep you safe and God pours blessing after blessing on your head. Sorry…it doesn’t work that way.
When the Holy Spirit grabs your heart and you accept Christ and choose to live for God, it is an awesome decision! It is the best and most important decision you will ever make in all of eternity. However, it is the very first in a long line of decisions to follow. Although the event of salvation (justification) is a one-time occurrence, the task of following Jesus is a continual and active process needing daily effort. To put it another way, we make continual choices of whether to follow God or the world every day. We need to be ready and equipped to choose wisely.
A final word of warning, when you read the book of Deuteronomy, two words will stick out to you. Those words are “be careful”. They are used over and over by Moses in this book. They are used to keep the people aware of the need to follow God’s commands always. One example, 12:28 “Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.”
Ladies, I continue to plead with you to choose God every day, choose to serve him wholeheartedly and with confidence. Not in yourself but in him. When God calls you to a task, and you know it is his will, get moving on it. Walk in strength and courage, being careful to know and follow his commands that we find in his Word. My enCOURAGEment to you today… BE strong and BE courageous!
Women, I want you to take this blog seriously today. My heart’s desire is for women of faith to be courageous and walk in the truth even when the world around them seems to be sprinting in the opposite direction. I want you to choose God over the world.
Listen to the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 31: 11-13. To the priests he says “you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Moses was soon to die and was preparing his people to move forward without him into the Promised Land. What were some of his final words? To paraphrase the above verses: “Make sure the people hear and know the words of God, make sure they obey the Lord, they must fear the Lord or they will come to ruin!”
We need to be proclaiming these same words today. We must know God’s words to us; we need to know his instructions and we need to obey him completely. Otherwise we will come to ruin like those who ignored the words of God long ago.
God told Moses what his people would do after they entered the bountiful land they would soon possess. Read these words and see if it reminds you of America today. Deuteronomy 31:20, “For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.”
The Israelites long ago lived in a blessed land filled with abundance and freedom. When they became comfortable, they forgot the words of their God, no longer obeying his commands. Maybe even the priests, who were charged with the task of reading these words out loud to the people, forgot (or outright neglected) their job and did not remind the people of God’s instructions. They did not correct their bad behaviors for fear of offending them; they did not proclaim God to the people as they were instructed.
Oh, how these same words so accurately describe today’s world. We as a country, a blessed people, have neglected God’s words and instructions to us and have turned to serve other gods. Worthless gods of success, fleshy pleasures and greed. We have grown fat on God’s blessings and have turned our backs on him, now despising him and his word. Not even those behind a pulpit often preach the truth any longer. Under the guise of acceptance and love, truth is shoved out the door; no longer desired or found worthy.
What happens to those who choose to disobey God? The answers are painfully spelled out in detail just a page back. Deuteronomy 28 contains the lengthy lists from God given through Moses; blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The blessings cover 14 verses and are grand; the curses cover 54 long verses and are excruciating even to read. Moses, responsible for this group of God’s people, wanted everything completely spelled out and crystal clear so that the Israelites would make a well informed decision.
After describing the blessings and curses in detail, he then calls the people to choose. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him.” Moses offers two options and proceeds to tell them exactly what to choose, the obvious choice – life!
I challenge all of you ladies to read these chapters in Deuteronomy today and think on what is happening in the world around us. Just as very few chose to follow God back then, very few choose to follow God today. Do not be swayed by the world and the opinions so prevalent all around you. Don’t form your beliefs to how you feel and then try to make God’s word fit your desires. It doesn’t work that way. There is only one perfect God and you are not him, you don’t get to rewrite scripture.
There is absolute truth and you must seek it earnestly. You must know God’s word (the Bible) by hearing it, reading it and studying it. The Word of God is the standard upon what all else must be measured, weighed and judged. If you do not agree with what it says or do not desire to obey God, then this faith is not for you and you must stop claiming to be a Christian, you are not a follower of God.
Ladies, the decision remains the same, choose this day whom you will serve. There are only two choices and will never be more; it’s the world or God. Decide. The rules are clear and do not bend. Do not think that Almighty God should bend for you or change his commands so you can live as you desire. He does not have to tolerate anything, he is God. He is just and he is good. I choose to follow him. I enCOURAGE you to choose the same.