Monday, December 23, 2013

The Hearld Angels SING!

Dr. David Jeremiah of Turning Point Ministries made some interesting comments about Christmas songs last week.  First, he remarked in his sermon how singing is integral to the Christian faith.  The praise in our heart needs expression.  We see this demonstrated by the many songs in scripture and the popularity of Christian music, especially at Christmas.  Recently I had the privilege of seeing the New York Philharmonic perform Handel's Messiah, for instance.  Scripture was sung for almost two hours in the heart of Manhattan, and it was incredible on many levels.

Dr. Jeremiah made a surprising observation about the Bible too.  The books that have the most songs are Psalms, Revelation, and the Gospel of Luke.  I would have expected the former, but I would not have guessed the latter.  I have always appreciated Luke's gospel for its attention to social justice and the treatment of women, but now I like it for its songs too.  It contains six songs in its first two chapters, and all of them surround our Saviors' birth.

Luke knew it, and we know it:  The birth of Christ is something to sing about.  Whether it's the sound of giddy children singing with a humbling innocence, whether it's an adult clinging to the hope of familiar choruses in their own dark night, or whether it's experiencing the joy of communities coming together in witness to a hope that's bigger than our everyday worries, we sing.  And we are inspired.

Have you ever read the history behind the songs we treasure as our hope at Christmas?  Click here to read my favorite article that I came across this season.  Its author tells us the history behind five Christmas classics and includes a link to hear her favorite rendition of them.  I pray this historical exploration enriches the joy these carols bring you and your families this Christmas.

{Photo by Sister 72 at Flickr}

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reclaiming Christmas

I live in a neighborhood that really gets into decorating.  Inflatables were everywhere in our neighborhood last Christmas.  And by inflatables, I do not mean small ones.  No.  There were penguins in a life-sized sleigh, a six-foot Frosty, an eight-foot Snoopy, and a traveling twelve-foot Santa who graced several lawns...that was curious.

Our kids loved riding around and seeing the characters, huge outdoor ornaments on trees (we never had those growing up), and lights.  But on one drive by, I was disappointed to see an inflatable Santa in an outhouse.  He would move to peek his head out as the sign above him read, "Occupied."

I get the joke, three shades more crass than the beloved movie classic Christmas Vacation.  But we can choose when to turn a movie on and off in our house.  When something's on a neighborhood lawn, it's a different story...

To read the rest of this article, please click here to find it on  The article is about honoring Christ first this Christmas and not allowing culture or the holiday flurry to dictate the terms of our celebrations. 

If this article resonates with you, please join me in prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for sending your precious son Jesus into the world.  Help us to honor that gift as we teach our children.  Give us insight into establishing meaningful traditions that breathe new life and hope into our families and bring us closer to you.  Make us your witnesses, for we praise your glory and marvel at your love.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

{Photo by KB35 at Flickr}

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Virgin Mother

My father grew up Catholic.  I always remember his mother, my grandmother, relaying to me that she had a special relationship with Mary.  When she died, she was holding her rosary, which was later given to me.  While I am not Catholic, and am in fact a Presbyterian minister, I too have felt a closeness with Mary - an awe, really.  Amidst so many church fathers, she serves as a female biblical example of ultimate faithfulness.  The fact that she did so through mothering is that much more inspiring.

As we approach Christmas, I want to draw our attention to Mary, who is a largely unsung hero in the Protestant tradition.  What can we all learn from her as Christians?  The story of Mary's faithfulness begins in Luke 1:26-38.  An angel visits Mary and tells her that she will bear the "Son of the Most High" even though she is a virgin.  She agrees by telling the angel, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." 

It's interesting to explore what Mary's thought process might have been at the time of angelic announcement.  At first she is incredulous:  How can she become pregnant as a virgin?  But it's possible she was fearful too.  She had a lot at stake by saying yes to God in light of the patriarchal society of her day.  She was risking being shunned as an unwed mother, and her access to basic provisions like protection would have been in jeopardy. 

I came across a poem entitled Mary, Pondering that attempts to delve into her thought process furtherI invite you to read it as we glimpse into her faithfulness:

What is this seed which God has planted,
Unasked, uncompromised, unseen?
Unknown to everyone but angels
This gift has been.
And who am I to be the mother,
To give my womb at heaven’s behest,
To let my body be the hospice
And God the guest?
Oh, what a risk in such a nation,
In such a place, at such a time,
To come to people in transition
And yet in prime…
What if the world, for spite, ignores him,
And friends keep back and parents scorn,
And every fear of every woman
In me is born?
Still, I will want and love and hold him,
His cry attend, his smile applaud.
I’ll mother him as any mortal,
And just like God.
Mary chooses obedience at great potential cost, and she does so with a song of praise on her lips.  Less than one chapter later in scripture, we read Mary's song of praise to the Lord that's known as the Magnificat.  You can find it in Luke 1:46-55.  It begins with Mary proclaiming, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."  She then describes the depth of the Lord's provision, mercy and strength for his people.

Mary's willingness to live in service to Christ and actually praise God’s provision in doing so is a powerful example of faith.  It involves faith because considering Mary’s precarious situation, provision was not a certainty.  Her obedience was risky, but she sings of the virtues of God as reason enough to trust him.  It is interesting to note that the biblical Greek used to describe God’s work in the Magnificat is in the past tense, yet it describes God’s work in the future.  Some commentators conclude that this is a testament to Mary’s faith:  She is describing God’s future promises with such conviction that it is as if they were already accomplished. 

As we seek to keep our focus on Christ this Christmas, may we dare to answer the Lord's call too.  [Tweet that.]  Is there an area in your life where God is calling you to obedience however risky it might be?  Our faith in the Christ child sometimes dictates that we simply trust while clinging to his promises.  It sometimes involves uncertainly while we're armed with only the praise on our lips.  Christmas is a reminder that hope is always being born even into our darkest hour, and if we agree to take that next step in faith, God may use us too to change the world for that little baby's glory.

Mary, Pondering is a poem from the book Cloth for the Cradle by the Wild Goose Worship Group.  It can be found on page 47 in the paperback edition that was published by the Wild Goose Resource Group (a division of the Iona Community) in 1997.

{Photo by Ted Hodges at Flickr}

If this post inspired you, please pass it on to friends and family through email or Facebook.  It would be a fantastic Christmas gift to me to continue to spread the word about this ministry!  Thank you for the gift of your reading, Friends. 

Vocational Mothering was invited to join the site Mommy Hot Spot.  My blog is listed there, and they are having a winter contest.  If you haven't yet, please click the button on my homepage to vote for me!  You can vote every 24 hours, so feel free to do so whenever you check in here.  It just takes a simple click!

Finally, make sure to stop by Vocational Mothering's Facebook page.  I often share quick links that you will not find on my blog.  For instance, I will be sharing my favorite Christmas article I've read from another author this season soon.  If you "Like" the page, you won't miss it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Moms, We Have a Microphone

This winter I am challenging myself to be positive. And I don’t mean positive in a superficial kind of way. I mean being intentional about what I verbalize about myself, my husband, and my children. It’s one thing to have a negative or discouraging thought; it’s another to speak it aloud and allow it to take root.

There are so many things that can plague our minds as moms. Our job can come with a lot of responsibility and little accolades. And to make matters worse, we can be hard on ourselves all the while. “Why am I having trouble losing weight…praying more…scheduling it all…” Sound familiar?

As much as we need to be mindful of the beautiful creations that we are, we also need to think about the creations who are forming under our watch...

Click here to read the rest of my article over at (In)Courage: Home For The Hearts of Women.  I'm so excited to be featured there - it's a wonderful website for Christian encouragement.  Check it out, and let me know you stopped over by leaving a comment!

{Photo by Juan Alvaro}

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is Thanksgiving Religious?

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever" (Psalm 107:1, NIV).

I was driving the other night and had my radio on to the seasonal Christmas station.  Yes, it's before Thanksgiving, and it's already started to broadcast this year!  Regardless, it was fun to listen and observe the first of the Christmas lights.  But what the radio announcer said that evening shocked and disappointed me.  She said something along these lines:  "Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  I love Thanksgiving.  It's just about giving thanks and being with family - it's not about the presents, the decorations, or any particular religion..."

At face value, her comment might seem true.  People do celebrate Thanksgiving regardless of their religious identities as inhabitants of America.  But that doesn't mean that her comment was correct.  First, let's not forget that the Pilgrims who founded the holiday were religious dissidents.  It was religious persecution that brought them to America, and they were willing to make the trek and take on serious risk for the freedom to live their Christian ideals. 

Not only were the Pilgrims Christian, but the very act of giving thanks on the holiday is a kind of prayer.  I was taught as a little girl that prayer has four parts, which are represented by the acronym ACTS:  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  Thanksgiving is not just a holiday; it's a verb too - it's what scripture encourages us to do as Christians.  We celebrate bounty, but we are never to forget from Whom that bounty is from.

So while we are gathered around our tables this week, may the most important part of our meal be the prayer before it.  May we model for our children a healthy understanding of true thanksgiving, which is an acknowledgement of our blessings that's grounded in humility.  Humility is the result of being aware of where those blessings have come from.  They've been crafted especially for us by our Maker, which makes them that much more awe-inspiring indeed.

My older son's Thanksgiving project.  Each feather is something he's thankful for!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Surprises in Breastfeeding

I began as a skeptic with low expectations.  My husband had not been breastfed and I had been largely formula fed as an infant.  I wasn’t sure if breastfeeding was in my DNA, plus I was planning to go back to work.  We attended a lactation presentation about a month before our first child was born.  My goal was to learn more about it and breastfeed during my maternity leave.  My husband supported me because - let’s face it - it meant saving a lot of money.  With several unknowns and baby expenses already piling up, it was appealing.  But it became more so for reasons that I could not have anticipated...

To read the rest of this article, please click here to find it on  I explore the marked benefits of breastfeeding, including a recent study covered by NBC News.  I also talk about breastfeeding from a theological perspective; I have never heard it discussed in that light, but it's fitting because there are many scripture verses that refer to it.  This article is perfect for an expectant mom, a mom who breastfed and wants to further reflect on it, or anyone who is interested in learning more in general!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Truth in Suffering

I heard in a sermon on Sunday that the American culture is the only one that does not view suffering as an expected part of life.  Instead, when we encounter suffering, we view it as a surprise, an unfair occurrence, and something to move beyond immediately.  It's not to say that we should welcome suffering and adopt a victim mentality.  No.  But the pastor believes that our existing expectations have perhaps preconditioned our culture to depression.  Trials hit us even harder.  And the depression rate in our country is climbing at about 20% per year

I began to reflect upon my studies as a World Religion major as a result of the pastor's point, and I found some resonance.  My degree required the study of Eastern and Western religions.  For my Eastern concentration, I chose Buddhism because of its raging appeal on campus.  I wanted to find out why.  And a primary belief of Buddhism is that life is suffering, or dukkha, which is certainly different from our pervasive cultural view.  I found a pithy explanation of the term on Wikipedia that reads: 

Dukkha is commonly explained according to three different categories:
  • The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying.
  • The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
  • A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.
The Buddhist tradition emphasizes the importance of developing insight into the nature of dukkha, the conditions that cause it, it how it can be overcome.

Rather than conveying a negative world view, Buddhism offers a pragmatic approach to life as it exists and how to rectify it.

With an understanding of suffering being integral to the Buddhist path, I reflected on our Christian faith.  I believe it is no mistake that the cross is at the heart of it.  We worship a suffering God, and there is strength in that.  [Tweet that.]  We have a Friend who understands our brokenness.  We have a Confidant who knows firsthand about injustice in our world.  Christ's cross reflects the reality of suffering.  It helps to explain why he had to go through it.  Maybe it wasn't so much for God's sake as a righteous judge but for ours. 

Buddhism offers a path, but Jesus offered his life.  By doing so he demonstrated where our real hope lies: his never-ending love.  His love acknowledges that even our worst sins cannot keep him away.  His love testifies to the future that awaits us beyond the grave.  We have resurrection power offered to us through faith in this life and the next on account of his victory.  That means no situation is too dark for Christ's light to break through.

What is your worldview of suffering?  Does it resonate with culture or your faith?

Let's not look anywhere else than to Christ, for it is he who expresses truth that will set us free.  Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (Luke 4:18, NIV).  Jesus was actually quoting Isaiah when making this proclamation, so he's fulfilling a promise that's etched across scripture.  His words summarize his mission and reveal a keen understanding of the troubles of this world.  He knew what he was up against, and it didn't stop him.  And suffering shouldn't come as a surprise or become a barrier for us.

 {Photo by Jungle Boy at Flickr}

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Small, But Packs A Punch

Mustard Seeds

A bug recently went through our house.  Each of us took our turn with it, manifesting slightly different symptoms.  Early one morning, my sons saw me struggling with mine - awful congestion.  I reached for my 24-hour Claritin.  Before I could put it in my mouth, my preschooler asked to see it.  He then exclaimed, "Mommy, it's so tiny!  How can it help you?"  I had to step in and defend my wonder drug.  "Well, Honey, sometimes even small things can be very powerful."

Enter the theological moment.  Even small things can be very powerful - Jesus says that's true!  Remember his words, "...Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matt. 17:20, NIV).  Faith the size of a mustard seed is small indeed; the seed is only 1 to 2 mm in diameter.  Jesus is saying there is power in even little acts - like our everyday thoughts, words, and prayers.  There is power in our faith to the extent that we allow it to manifest.

Is there an area where you have stopped believing anything will change?  Will you allow yourself to believe that God has something great in store?  Jesus is challenging us to start taking small steps of faith.  He says a mountain can move at our command; consider what you've taken to be fixed and immovable in your life.  Remain close to him, and you will see something change.  It could be a healing, it could be vindication, or it could be a dream that will be fulfilled. 

But that wasn't the only time Jesus talked about a mustard seed.  He also said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matt. 13:31-32, NIV).  In other words, what starts tiny can grow into something impressive. 

God can take what is pleasing to him multiply it beyond our imagining.  Both of these sayings remind me to make sure that my heart is fertile soil for Christ, because no effort of faithfulness is overlooked.  Even though growth takes time, when we tend to faith's seeds, something amazing is possible.  And by the way, mustard seeds were not the only small seeds in Jesus' day.  He intentionally chose a seed that adds great flavor to our dishes.  Maybe he wanted our faith to spice up our lives...Sounds like something amazing indeed.  

{Photo by La.Catholique at Flickr}

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Raising Children, Protecting Marriages

Ever feel like its been too long since your "date clothes" made an appearance?  Has your mommy identity taken over all of the others - like being a wife?  It's easy to have this happen when we're already sleep deprived and balancing a million scheduling items while pushing aside our own.  This article encourages us to reflect upon the attention we are giving our marriages.  Prioritizing our husbands is biblical, and it can make a real difference in our own fulfillment and the strength of our families.

Make no mistake, I know that parenting can be an all-encompassing, sacrificial enterprise.   We want what's best for our children from the moment that they are conceived.  But our culture seems a little off kilter in support of parenting these days.  With terms like "helicopter parenting" being the norm, when do mom and dad get a break, let alone have time for each other?

I would be remiss as a mommy blogger to solely focus on my children and child-rearing.  Yes, that's what my blog is most about, but what that ministry actually rests upon is the construct and stability of the family...

To read the rest of this article, please click here to find it on  This is my first published article, so give it some Facebook likes!  Thanks, Moms.  I pray that it inspires you and brings you blessing as we journey on!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Safety Tips Every Mom Should Know

Jesus had a special heart for the suffering and vulnerable.  Children are indeed vulnerable because of their youth, and it is our job as adults to protect them.  I recall Jesus' words to his disciples concerning our day of accounting in heaven, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40, NIV).  What can we do to come alongside our children and protect them from abuse in the name of Christ?

I attended a seminar on child abuse recently and learned that the best prevention is education; thus I am sharing some important tips with you.  Sexual abuse in children is more common than we might think.  It can make us uncomfortable to "go there," but doing so can be what makes the difference.  Perhaps you will find these statistics as starling as I did:

Startling statistics:
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday
  • The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old
  • 98% of offenses against girls and 90% against boys are committed by males
  • Less than 1% of child sexual assaults reported by a child have be found to be false
  • 90% of offenses are committed by someone known to the child and trusted by the parents

Child abuse is called the hidden epidemic, because it has the highest rate of recidivism (re-offense after a conviction or sentence) of any other crime.  What's more, 95% of child abusers were themselves abused as children.  Thus, it's a perpetuating cycle.

Luckily, most offenses occur after a period of grooming and desensitization by the offender;  therefore, they are often preventable.  The criminal prosecutor that I heard speak said that the offender often begins by showing favoritism to a child, like giving special presents and sitting next to him or her and casually rubbing their leg.  Therefore, having our radar up, observing our children around others, and trusting our instincts are key to prevention.

Because 85% of child abuse occurs in a one-on-one setting, here are some additional and concrete steps that we can take:
  1. Identify private parts to your child.  The best time to do this is during bath time for young children.  An easy way for them to remember is whatever is covered by their swimsuits is private.  Explain to older children that no one should pressure them to do things that make them feel uncomfortable.
  2. Teach your child the proper names of private parts.  That way, if your child ever attempts to report abuse, any adult can understand what is going on. 
  3. Never force a child to be physically affectionate with an adult.  Children need to know that they are in charge in a physical situation with an adult.
  4. Monitor the supervision of your child's activities and make a habit of stopping in unexpectedly, even on family members.  When I did youth ministry, we were encouraged to have "two-deep" leadership, meaning that there were always two adults with children - never just one.
  5. Trust your child's instincts.  Do not force or encourage situations where your child is uncomfortable.  Let him or her know you respect their feelings and instincts.  Our goal is to empower our children.
  6. Your child should speak with confidence after an interaction with an adult; monitor any changes in mood and reluctance to speak about time spent apart from you.  Both are warning signs.
  7. Set family boundaries.  All members of your family should have the right to privacy in dressing, bathing, sleeping and other personal activities.  If anyone in your family expresses a desire for privacy, all family members need to respect it.
  8. Do not have secrets in your house, only surprises!  I found this to be an interesting and helpful tip.  Make it a family rule that there are no secrets in your house.  Explain the difference between a secret (something that you are never meant to tell and excludes others) and a surprise (something that's exciting and revealed after a short time).  Tell children the worst secrets of all are secrets about private parts.
  9. One way to equip children with confidence in decision-making and self-protection is to play the "What-If Game."  When faced with an uncomfortable situation with an adult, children often don't know how to react and fall back into obeying the adult.  Use downtime at restaurants, appointments, shopping, etc. to give children real-life examples of situations that may happen and talk about what they should do.  Help them come up with appropriate responses.  With younger children, it often helps to mix silly situations in with more serious scenarios.  Use new experiences like sleepovers, camps, etc. or incidents in the news as opportunities to go over the "rules" with older children.
  10. Always encourage an open line of communication between you and your child! 

Finally, if you suspect abuse, here are some important pointers:
  • Believe your child and make sure he or she knows it.  Thank them for coming to you and praise their courage.
  • Encourage your child to tell you what happened without using leading questions and try to remain calm so that you respond appropriately.
  • Assure your child that it is your responsibility to protect him or her and you will do everything possible to make sure it happens.
  • Report the abuse to trained professionals and don't panic.  Sexually abused children who receive support and help can and do heal.  Your belief in them and your commitment to stop the abuse is a large part of the battle.

I hope you find this information as valuable as I did.  Please help me pass it on.  WE can make a difference in protecting our children!  Together, we can help make God's creation safer for the vulnerable who are under our watch.

These statistics and tips are a summarization and sometimes direct copy of information by criminal prosecutor Beth Little and are used with her permission.  She lives in NJ and has four children.  For further reading and help, Beth's recommendations include the DARKNESS to LIGHT and Stop It Now! agencies. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

What to Do in Life's Storms

This month marks the year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy.  It marks the anniversary of our family's eleven days without power.  My children were cold, my husband and I were on the verge of panic, and we saw a devastation around us that we did not think possible in New Jersey. 

We experienced firsthand that storms impact several of our senses.  We hear the noises, whether it's rain pelting our roofs or claps of thunder.  We might feel the wind's vibrations.  In addition, we can see the leaves spinning in circles and the trees bowing down in wave-like motions.  And sometimes, when the power goes out, we see nothing.

When it storms now, our littler son gets especially scared.  I wonder if some of his fear stems back to that big storm last year.  He was only one, but no doubt he remembers.  When the heavy rains and winds come, he starts crying and calling my name.  As I enter his room, it's dark and sometimes the wood floor creaks as I approach him.  There is a coldness in the nighttime air.  I pick him up and we cuddle on the rocker; he becomes warm and calms to my breath.  Oftentimes, I've looked at the weather radar and know what to expect.  I reassure him that storm will pass quickly.

We may not shudder every time it rains as adults, but we still have scary storms.  There are times in life when we face situations that appear insurmountable.  Fear and anxiety set in as we realize that there are certain things we cannot control, and sometimes only God knows how long they will last.  Just as my son cries for comfort, we need it too.  We might need the embrace of a friend or spouse.  And we surely need the reassurance of God in scripture. 

I like to read Psalm 46 in those times.  It begins, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."  God is a refuge for us during our storms.  The psalmist goes on to say, "Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult."  It is no coincidence that the psalmist is describing a natural disaster.  It is a storm, something wholly beyond his control, and it is precisely in that moment that he encourages us not to fear. 

The mountains are crumbling.  The waves are crashing.  And what is the psalmist doing?  Not running.  Instead, the psalm ends with instructions to stand still!  He describes the Lord, who's proclaiming, "Be still, and know that I am God!"  The psalmist takes comfort in the fact that God is actively working in his life and is ultimately in control.  Therefore, it is in humility and with praise that the psalmist approaches God as his refuge. 

That humility and praise can be helpful for us too.  Do we have the humility to reach out to others in the midst of our storms when we need help?  Are we praising God for the times that he has been previously faithful when we're encountering uncharted waters?  Most importantly, are we following God's command to be still, allowing ourselves a break from worrying?  Scripture tells us that we are invited to rest in the sanctuary of God's providential care.

We worship a God who will not let one hair on our head be harmed that's contrary to his purpose (Luke 12:7).  We worship a God who will never leave us alone.  Further, a friend reminded me this week that everything has a beginning, middle, and an end according to Ecclesiastes (3:1).  If you're going through a hard time right now, remember that your storm will only last for a season.  Stand firm in faith, and God's love will always be victorious.

Hurricane Sandy did have an end.  But the incredible thing was that God did not leave my family alone during those eleven days without power in its aftermath.  We worship a God who brought us an invitation from another family to stay at their house that had power for almost eight days.  That incredible hospitality was offered in the name of Christ.  Be assured, God is waiting for you too - with life vests.

If this post resonated with you, you might also like Warning: Peaks Ahead and Risky Business.

{Photos by mrpbps  and Scott Butner at Flickr}

Friday, October 4, 2013

When Is The Best Time To Plant A Tree?

It's fall.  I love the persistent breeze and gentler sun of fall.  And I think of trees.  I think of the beautiful foliage that has just started to turn.  There are hills and mountains out east, so in a few weeks, they will present breathtaking views.  The kind of views that make you want to drive somewhere, sniff the air, and pick some apples.  With their sticky juice on your fingers and the crinkle of leaves beneath your feet, you know you've entered a special season. 

A friend of mine sent me a post the other week about the best time to plant a tree.  Its author was at a tree nursery and had a conversation with the owner.  She wondered if fall is the best time to plant a tree. Yet while there, she recounts an old Chinese proverb:  The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.  In other words, the answer to her question wasn't dependent upon the seasons at all.

There was something spiritually nagging at me after I read this short encounter.  The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is today.  We know that trees serve a vital role in our ecosystem, so of course they need to be respected and plentiful.  But the Chinese proverb hints at something more.  Trees also signify strength in their stature, a persistent life force in their growth, and quiet wisdom in their enduring presence.

Is there a place in your life where you need to plant trees? 
  • The best time to kick a bad habit was twenty years ago, but the second best time is today.  There is strength waiting for you from your Heavenly Father, who is reaching out his hand and saying - today is the day
  • The best time to end an abusive or damaging relationship was twenty years ago, but the second best time to seek help is today.  The God of heaven cares about every hair on your head, and you where made for something greater.
  • The best time to cast your fears aside and invite the Word to inform your daily decisions was twenty years ago, for it's invitation is ongoing, but the second best time is today.  Not only does Jesus want to be your best friend, but he has tremendous plans for your life - and he wants to accomplish those plans together.

As usual, I write for me as much as for you today.  We all have things that we would like to change.  God knows this about us.  That's why there is an invitation linked to that Chinese proverb through the lens of our Savior.  God is in the business of planting.  But God doesn't just plant and leave us alone; scripture says that we can only thrive if we stay connected to him (John 15:5).

God can give us new and abundant life, and he wants to take us higher.  Allow him to sow seeds in a new direction in your life, even if the pattern is ingrained and the history is long.  Allow his love to enable you to dream again.  Christ claims that if we simply have faith the size of a mustard seed, which is the smallest of seeds, then he can move mountains (Matt 17:20).  I can think of no better time to claim that blessing with confidence than today.

Does this post resonate with you?  Please share this post with any friends whom you know could use some uplift today!

{Photo by Tony Hall at Flickr}

Monday, September 30, 2013

Protecting Family This Fall

Catherine Pearlman had a excellent post on the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog this week.  If you're like my family, fall and the beginning of school has hit you like a force field.  The start of new commitments, renegotiating old ones and getting used to a new rhythm can leave your head spinning.  Her post entitled "Is Your Kid Overscheduled?" is therefore timely. 

Pearlman notes that although rigorous schedules keep everyone occupied, they can be detrimental to the family unit.  We can lose some of the impromptu and enriching moments of family life.  She discovered that by embarking on a lengthy family vacation with zero scheduling.  She reflects:

A few years ago, when our children were 3 and 7, my husband and I decided the four of us should take a month-long vacation to Spain. We swapped houses with another family with the hopes of living the life of real Barcelonans. On the first night, I had a miniature panic attack. What was I going to do with my kids for 31 days without the benefit of gym class, school, sports practice, piano, dance or theater? How could I survive so long without organized activities?
Within a couple of days I realized that, lo and behold, the vacation was a breeze compared to my real life. There was no rushing. No need to pack lunch to eat in the car so we could make it to class in time. I didn’t have to occupy my little one in the waiting room of dance class for an hour while my older one pranced around in a tutu.
On the airplane home I nearly cried. Those 31 days were the most relaxed and enjoyable family time we had ever had.  We didn’t merely get along—we learned to love being just us. We stopped all the mindless rushing, and instead casually played games and invented songs and raced Hot Wheels and played rocket from our enormous armchair. Without the commitments of school and play dates and classes, and without all of the distraction of our overscheduled lives, we found our family.

What an inspiring experience.  I found myself empathizing with her initial panic and surprising discovery.  The joy of that discovery rested upon simply being, not doing.  It is in the absence of the regular frenzy that her family really found love.

It's a challenge to pull back and be selective.  Type A personalities like mine fight it.  It is also difficult because we are often presented with good options - activities that are fun, enriching and maybe even spiritually enlightening.  On paper, why wouldn't we want to do them?  We remember why when our stress and fits of rushing produce short tempers with exactly the people we were hoping to positively impact, right?

In the last few weeks of summer, I distinctly remember leaving my weekday calendar free of regular activities for my children.  I remember the home cooked meals that we enjoyed.  I remember the delight of staying in our pajamas until the late morning.  And I remember actually recharging in way that we hadn't in a while.  That is not realistic now - after all, there are places we have to be.  But I am intent on keeping some of that magic.

That quest will look different from family to family.  Maybe it means truly letting the Sabbath be a Sabbath.  Maybe it's dusting off an old board game to play together each week.  Or maybe it's keeping one weekday free of planned activities - that's Pearlman's idea, and I like it.  Whatever it looks like for you, I am convinced that it will require a conscious decision and commitment.  But it will also have rewards.  Looking back, we will always remember the moments that we did it.

Dear God, Give us wisdom as we chose our family's activities; show us what to support and what to cut out.  Help us to protect the development of our enduring relationships.  May our work be pleasing to you, and may it enable us to dwell in your peace.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

If you liked this post, you might also like Watching the Green Grass Grow.

{Photo by Rupert Ganzer at Flickr}

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Is Education Wasted In Child Rearing?

A friend of mine passed along an article the other week about the choice to be a stay at home mother.  It’s interesting to read the article, O, Alma Mater by Anne-Marie Magginis, and the string of comments that follow to familiarize ourselves with the debate.  Magginis is a Princeton graduate who defends her choice to stay at home with her two young children, despite critics calling it a waste of her top notch degree.  She even felt disparaged by an alumni survey from her own university.  Being a stay at home mom did not appear to be a viable option, since it was seemingly without esteemed and measurable societal contributions.

Whether or not you stay at home with your children, this is an issue for all mothers because it touches on society’s value of our efforts.  Mothering is a challenge regardless of career decisions, but the thing that stay at home moms often lack is the feedback that is possible in the workforce.  There are so many tasks that all mothers do for the benefit of their families, tasks that are often unrecognized or unnoticed, and yet are essential to daily functioning.  Doing a job without vocalized gratitude that is then denigrated by society too puts stay at home moms especially in an unsupported position.  Out of respect for our communal goal to appreciate and advance the task of mothering, this should never be the case.

My intent in this post is to esteem the choice of being a stay at home mom by infusing the debate with a faith perspective.  To begin, it is helpful to recap the opponent position from the article.  Kelly Goff of the U.K. Guardian wrote a piece entitled “Female Ivy League Graduates Have a Duty to Stay in the Workforce.” In it she argues, “Any Harvard Law School degree obtained by a woman who then chooses not to use it in any sort of professional capacity throughout most of her life is a wasted opportunity. That degree could have gone to a woman who does want to spend her entire life using it to advance the cause of women—or others in need of advancement—not simply advancing the lives of her own family at home, which is a noble cause, but not one requiring an elite degree.”

As a graduate of Princeton Seminary, I found her particular focus on an elite degree interesting.  Goff clearly has stated expectations linked with that opportunity.  Yet her argument really applies to all well educated women:  Is education a waste if simply applied to child rearing?  She would argue yes through the lens of unattained professional advancement, but her perspective is flawed from a faith perspective, and here’s why:

First, Goff is operating under the assumption that there are two life spheres, the personal and the civic.  She finds it problematic that a mom would use an elite degree for strictly personal purposes.  Magginis argues that there are civic implications to stay at home mothering on the contrary.  Stay at home moms are not only giving all of themselves to their children, who form the next generation, but they are also often inclined to civic volunteerism.   That point resonated with me, as my ministerial work is largely volunteer at present.
Yet beyond debating the finer points of exactly where the personal and civic spheres actually rest, there is a sphere that has been neglected:  the spiritual one.  As Christians, we believe that the spiritual sphere informs the other two.   Our ultimate goal is to glorify God in life.  We seek to live in obedience to God and in response to God’s calling.  If God has opened a door to a particular institution and given us the means and desire to walk through it, it is our responsibility to embark upon that journey despite what any third party might say.

Second, Goff’s argument rests upon a controlled outcome.  If one gets "x" degree, then "x" particular professional expectation is set.  Yet we as Christians know that there is some level of mystery and surrender to following God’s plan for our life.  So often we may not understand all facets of the path we follow until we have the benefit of retrospection.  Success therefore isn’t perfect planning and execution, as Goff may argue, but rather perfect and sometimes blind obedience.  Further, we worship a God who holds both the personal and civic in his hands and can orchestrate for the good of both far beyond our expectations. 
I can honestly say that I never intended to stay home with my children.  But in the end, I couldn’t leave them.  I’m lucky that I didn't have to and was called to a profession that is allowing me to benefit from both worlds currently.  I am neither full nor part-time, yet I have an outlet that I am passionate about as a stay at home mom.  Sometimes that is exactly how God works.  His plan for our training comes out even better than we could have imagined.  I can think of no better way to advance our world than to live in submission to the One who created it, and advancement is ultimately what is wanted by both sides of the debate.

In our effort to pursue God’s calling for our lives, may we never demean the path of another.  Being a stay at mom should elicit our respect regardless of our professional choices.  It is through unifying rather than dividing that we can best affect a positive world for our children together as moms.  Education is never wasted, and investing in our children is noble and needed – and I would even go a step further by calling it a vocation, a ministry.  Yet the redeeming aspect to Goff’s argument is the challenge:  Are we making the most of every talent, skill, and blessing that we’ve been given as we follow our call?
What do you think?  Please comment below!

Thank you to my friend who passed this article along.  I love getting articles from fellow moms, so please keep them coming!  Feel free to leave links to articles in the comment section of my posts – I always check them!
And if this post encouraged you, you might also like Inspiring Quote: This Blog's Beginning.

{Photo by Molly Darling at Flickr}

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Would I Really Never Change?

I saw a commercial recently that makes the claim:  "If you're not whitening, you're yellowing."  Well, considering the regular intake of red wine and caffeinated beverages by many adults, that's probably true.  But what a claim.

Yes, our mouths might be changing a little bit every time we take a sip of our morning coffees.  I know that I cannot wake up without mine; my kids hit the ground running, and I need a little help to do so as well.  And our mouths might be changing again when we have a glass of wine after our kids go to bed.  Ah, that sometimes sacred glass of wine that we might enjoy with our husband once the sun goes down.  We can relax, admire a certain stillness to our surroundings, and appreciate a day well done.

Could this subtle change in our mouths be the result of a mother's day wide awake and well lived?  Why should we hide the effects of our lifestyle, when the seeds that we're planting are infinitely more important than any superficial observation of our appearance? 

It is as if our culture wants us to revert back to youth, and that is the standard for assessing ourselves.  Try to make your teeth look like your two-year old's.  Pluck out that gray hair, which instead is revered as a sign of wisdom in some cultures.  Try to "get your body back" so it looks like you've never had a baby. 

Yet anyone who has ever had a child knows that nothing will ever be the same again - and that's a good thing.  We have the privilege of living for another life, a life that we get to shape and love, and a life that can show us the beauty of the world all over again through sheer innocence.  It's an immeasurable blessing that comes with age.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look our best.  And we shouldn't let living for another life keep us from taking care of ourselves.  For when we burn the candle at both ends, it eventually catches up with us.  But we also shouldn't be ashamed of the effects of caring on our bodies.  Experiencing motherhood and it's journey has been what has added the most value to my life in Christ's service, and that is something that I wouldn't undo for the world.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done..." (Proverbs 31:30-31, NIV).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

When My Preschooler Couldn't Find Me

I have been thinking about dependency lately.  Why is it easier to feel and express our dependency on God when we are going through hard times?  It isn't as if we forget God when things are going well, but I guess prayers in trouble seem to flow off the tongue a little easier than praises do sometimes.

Every morning my older son comes into my room to find me.  Because he has been getting up earlier and earlier, he is frequently my alarm clock.  Well, the other day I had a morning appointment and had to get up before he woke up.  I went downstairs and made a cup of coffee.

It wasn't long before I heard the pitter patter of his feet on the hardwood floor upstairs toward my room.  I knew he wouldn't find me in bed and was expecting him to come downstairs looking for me.  But, I heard nothing.

After about five minutes of hearing nothing, my mom instinct prompted me to go upstairs.  Too much quiet spells trouble - had he gotten into mischief?  I climbed the stairs and went into my room only to find him standing quietly by my side of the bed.

"I didn't know where you were," he said.  He had just been standing in the same place the whole time.  He wasn't crying.  He wasn't up to mischief.  He just didn't know what to do, because his day had never begun that way.  His day begins with finding me.

As I looked into his wide eyes, I could see traces of fear that were melting away as I walked toward him.  His blank expression turned into a smile, and he ran toward me for a hug.  I felt his appreciation and love for me anew, and I was grateful. 

Sometimes we are so busy pouring juice, packing lunches, and rushing out the door as moms that we miss important realizations.  We may miss just how much we mean to our children.  And we may forget just how dependent upon us they really are - just as my son had surprised me.

Seeing his dependency reminds me of our dependency on God.  If we're honest, we may not always be aware of the extent of this dependency either.  I wonder what it would be like if we approached each day with my preschooler's eagerness to find our Heavenly Parent - to hear his word and allow him to tend to us and orient our day. 

Jesus once said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14, NIV).  I think Jesus was alluding to the holy nature of dependency.  The children were coming to him unencumbered.  I wonder what it would mean to God to see us embracing that same attitude whole-heartedly, instead of going about our daily rhythms preoccupied...And I can only imagine the blessings that would be ours if we did.

Prayer:  Meditate on Psalm 23 and the provision of our Lord.  This is the God whom we are dependent upon.  Just as we provide for our children, we are not forgotten, and God desires to tend to us and bless us.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Essential Supplies for Fall: Upcoming Read

The Essential Supplies for Fall series is coming to a close soon; there will be one more bonus post on the series next week.  I hope that it has enriched your library with supplies to help cultivate your child or children's faith.  The best supply that we can give our children for the new school year is knowledge about a God whose love never ends and whose presence never leaves us!

This week's category is Upcoming Read.  We have addressed our favorite children's Bibles, devotionals, and Christian movies, and now it's our turn!  This category applies to our own Christian parenting reading library.  It applies to books that will encourage us to be godly parents and help us cultivate what matters most. 

Lately, I've been chewing on books; I've been reading a few things broken down into daily bite-sized portions.  One of those books is The Power of a Positive Mom by Karol Ladd.  I encourage you to check it out.  It's full of practical tips and biblical wisdom to make motherhood enriching for everyone in the family!

I plan to read Trophy Child: Saving Parents from Performance, Preparing Children for Something Greater Than Themselves this fall.  It's written by Pastor Ted Cunningham.  As with all faith-based books, I am not expecting to agree with everything that I read, but I am excited to benefit from its biblical discussion and goal.  In our performance-based culture, children (and we parents, right?) need to be reminded about the meaning of true success - which is simply living the life that God has destined for each of us.  We experience freedom as we cast off societal pressures!  If this resonates with you, check out my prior devotion entitled Tiger Mom, as Cunningham explicitly labels his book as an Anti-Tiger Mom book.  I can't wait to read it.

So what are you reading??

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Essential Supplies for Fall: Christian Children's Movie

This month, we are taking a break from weekly devotions and having a chance to exchange resources - just in time for a great start to the new school year!  In the August series, Essential Supplies for Fall, I am introducing a new category of Christian supplies each week.  I will share the best recommendations that I have found in that category, and I invite you to share yours too.  Devotions will begin again in September - please check out the archives to reread your favorites or check out ones that you might have missed in the meantime!

This series is a great way for us to learn from each other and share resources.  I have purchased The Jesus Storybook Bible that was recommended by several Moms the first week of our series.  I am loving it!  The stories are so beautiful; they have brought tears to my eyes.  I enjoy reading something that I am getting as much out of as my kids.  Thank you to those who wrote in or emailed me. 

The category this week is Christian Children's Movie.  Let's face it, movies can sometimes be a Mom's best friend when you have to do laundry, fix dinner, or get something accomplished around the house without little people that is!  What a great gift to be able to put on a movie that encourages positive values and teaches children about God.  With a four and two-year-old, I have found that Veggie Tale movies do that AND keep their attention - well, my older son's attention at least!  His favorites are The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything and The League of Incredible Vegetables.  Both include lots of adventure and snappy musical tunes that boys love!

Does your child or children have a favorite Christian movie?  If so, please tell us what it is and their ages!  Moms out there with girls, I could especially use your comments!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Essential Supplies for Fall: Children's Devotional

I just got back from vacation...time to get back in the swing of things!  I hope you are enjoying your summer too. 

This month, we are taking a break from weekly devotions and having a chance to exchange resources - just in time for a great start to the new school year!  Just as we work hard preparing our children for school by accruing supplies, attending orientations, or soaking up the remaining summer quality time with them, it's important to prepare for their faith journeys as well.  This year they will have the opportunity to get to know Christ better, be presented with good and bad choices, and be one step closer to becoming the person whom God made them to be - and we can assist in that process!

In the August series, Essential Supplies for Fall, I am introducing a new category of Christian supplies each week.  I will share the best recommendation that I have found in that category, and I invite you to share yours too.  This is a great way for us to learn from each other and share resources! 

The category this week is Children's Devotional.  I cannot stress the importance of a good kids' devotional enough.  It is something that can encourage your children, propel them to start thinking theologically, and serve as a springboard for family discussions.  Most importantly, it can allow them to know Christ better by enabling them to apply the bible to their everyday lives.  On that note, I like the devotional Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotions for Kids by Max Lucado.  Each one-page devotion includes scripture, an application, and prepared discussion questions.  And there's one for every day of the year, so it's not about us originating the material, but rather just engaging our kids.

My Mom read a devotion aloud every morning at breakfast before school growing up.  Those words of encouragement, coupled with a brief prayer, helped to set a positive tone for our day.  In a world where kids increasingly have varied after school commitments, family dinners can be spotty.  Breakfast time can offer meaningful connection and centering time with you.  It's a wonderful time to consider adding a devotion to the routine.  I look forward to trying this with my boys down the road once the food stops flying!

Do you have a kids' devotional that you enjoy?  Please let us know what it is and the age of your child or children.  Also, let us know when your favorite time to read it is!

Update:  I have recently learned of another devotional for kids that I plan to get.  It's Sarah Young's Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids.  I have Sarah Young's Jesus Calling for adults and love it!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Essential Supplies for Fall: Children's Bible

The kids are going back to school soon, which means school supplies!  With newly sharpened pencils, fresh notebooks, and big dreams, they prepare for a new year - perhaps with a butterfly or two in their stomachs.  Their preparation for school makes me think about our preparation for their Christian journeys, journeys that they will simultaneously be making too.  What supplies would be helpful for us to have on hand for a great year in faith? 

Enter the new series for August, Essential Supplies for Fall, where I will introduce a new category of Christian supplies each week.  I will share the best recommendation that I have found for that category, and I invite you to share yours too.  This is a great way for us to learn from each other and share resources!  So this month will be less formal without a weekly devotion, but I invite you to go back through the archives and reread some of your favorites.  And as I prepare for a great fall launch with new devotions, I hope to read comments from each of YOU!

This week, I wanted to talk about the category of Children's Bible.  My home church back in Indiana gave me our favorite one.  The church has a meaningful tradition of giving out kids' Bibles at each baptism as a gift from the congregation.  They gave us The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories (Zonderkidz Publishing), which covers major Old and New Testament stories.  The stories are short and simple and filled with endearing pictures.  Both my preschooler and toddler love it, and we have already read it cover to cover at my preschooler's request! 

What about you?  Do your children have a favorite Bible?  If so, please share the one that you use and tell us your child or children's ages! 

Update:  You have overwhelmingly recommended Sally Lloyd-Jones' The Jesus Storybook Bible.  Add that one to your list for preschool-aged children on!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Strength in Numbers: A Prayer for Armor, Week 7

Devotion 7 in the Summer Series "A Prayer for Armor"

This is the last devotion in our seven week summer series on A Prayer for Armor.  We have explored how the armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:14-18 applies to Moms.  Motherhood can be a battlefield, and each piece of armor can equip us for its success.  We can rise from its challenges unscathed and triumphant, knowing that we are employing scriptural wisdom for godly victories in our children and households.  And we can rest in the comfort that we have all hands on deck - that we always have Christ with us and accessible to us in prayer.

There is strength and power in numbers, and not only is Christ with us as we march forward, but we also have each other.  We have each other through this blog, for instance.  I am struck by how Paul closes our section of Ephesians in verse 18:  "To that end keep alert and always preserve in supplication for all of the saints."  He knows that the saints are valuable in numbers, and that's why he requests prayer for them collectively.

The final piece of armor in our arsenal is the sword of the Spirit, and I am convinced that there is a collective element to it too.  Recall these words of our prayer, which I reprint in bold, and remember that the words in italics are from Ephesians:

Dear God,

...And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

May we teach your word to our children and mine it ourselves.  Forgive us when we approach your word as a mere duty or triviality; make it alive to us.  May it bring hope and remind us what is real in life, so that we can be free and our children can make good choices. 

In the second week of our series, we explored the importance of truth and its presence in scripture.  Scripture's truth can take the form of law or theological teachings.  Adherence to it distinguishes us as God's followers and promises reward.  That reward is both heavenly and earthly, ranging from salvation to the ability to thrive here on earth, for we lead better lives when we follow the laws of the One who created us.

Truth indeed is a gift from God to be shared.  God shares it with us through the pages of scripture.  We can share it with our kids as we teach them its stories.  And we can enlist the help of our faith communities to supplement both responses.

The help of our faith communities is essential to the Christian development of our children.  I read a shocking statistic the other day that the majority of Christians commit their lives to Christ between the ages of 5-12.  About 30% of children in that age range respond to the invitation, verses a mere 5% as adults.  Adults have more barriers to overcome for conversion, whereas young children basically believe what they are told and can build upon it for a lifetime. 

Our children have a unique susceptibility to God, yet it's problematic because many parents are currently leaving the church.  Instead of formal affiliations, they adopt a spirituality that is individually practiced.  Some of these adults have been burned or disillusioned by the church, and although their frustration is real, their solution is problematic.  It seems freeing to leave the church, but it really entails a heavier burden.  They are isolated from formal help through life's challenges, and their children lack the support that might be needed for them to accept Christ and mature their faith.

The sword of the Spirit is strongest in numbers.  We know that we parents are not perfect, so inviting others to share scripture's truth with our children takes the sole burden off of us and opens more channels that might resonate with them.  If you are reading this blog, chances are you had someone other than your parents help to shape your faith as a child too.  Think for a moment and remember whom God sent into your life.

As mothers, we read scripture and teach it to our children.  But we also open other channels.  In so doing, we make sure someone always has our back as we march on - and we take advantage of the comfort that will also catch us when we fall.

To pray, you are invited back to the full prayer from week one by clicking here:  A Prayer for Armor.

The faith statistics above are from the book Leading Kids to Jesus by David Staal. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Promise to Live By Forever: A Prayer for Armor, Week 6

Devotion 6 in the Summer Series "A Prayer for Armor"

We began our summer devotional series five weeks ago with A Prayer for Armor.  The prayer is based on Ephesians 6:14-18; the verse in Ephesians that we're focusing on each week appears in italics in the prayer.  Last week we explored past scars, and how they can be transformed by the Healer.  The shield of faith protects us from attack and opens up a future of possibility.  This week we're focusing on the helmet of salvation.  How does it function for Moms?  Recall this excerpt of our prayer, which I reprint in bold:

Dear God,

Take the helmet of salvation...

We know that as seriously as we take our calling as moms, this world is really about you.  We thank you in advance for your salvation in Jesus Christ.  May it claim each member of our family - make it personal.  And help us not to sweat the small stuff along the way.

The helmet of salvation is literal and figurative for us, Moms.  It is literal because it assures us of eternal life with God in heaven.  This is possible through faith.  The promise of eternal paradise with God is inviting, especially when we are overwhelmed with the trials of this world.

Yet eternity with God can also be perplexing if we're honest, for our whole worldview is conditioned by a sense of time.  It is at this juncture that it's necessary to trust - trust in our Creator who knows what's best for us, trust in our Savior whose love never fails, and trust in scripture's words that we are going to a better place.

Just as an understanding of heaven can be difficult for adults to grasp, it is for kids too.  That's why it's best to introduce the subject to children but not dwell on it for too long.  Heaven can be a place where they will see loved ones who have passed away again, and where they will see the God who loves them face to face.  That is a comfort to them, as it is to us.

The helmet of salvation is literal, but it is also figurative.  It is figurative because it provides us with salvation here and now too.  There are days when our responsibility is overwhelming - we're overrun with emotion and at our wits end.  The helmet of salvation says that our eternal relationship with God is strong and active now.  It says that the love that defeated death is accessible now.  And it says that what we are doing as Moms is noticed by God now and ever so valuable.

Most importantly, our helmet of salvation helps us keep it all in perspective.  It's the water so the seeds of Christ's commandment not to worry can grow in our soul.  Let God's promise that the big stuff has already been taken care of wash over you and provide you with a special comfort today.

To pray, you are invited back to the full prayer from week one by clicking here:  A Prayer for Armor.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Allowing the Healer into Our Scars: A Prayer for Armor, Week 5

Devotion 5 in the Summer Series "A Prayer for Armor"

We began our summer devotional series four weeks ago with A Prayer for Armor.  The prayer is based on Ephesians 6:14-18; the verse in Ephesians that we're focusing on each week appears in italics in the prayer.  Last week we explored the shoes of peace (or rain boots of peace according to the picture!), and this week we're focusing on the shield of faith.  How does it function for Moms?  Recall this excerpt of our prayer, which I reprint in bold:

Dear God,

With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Whatever shadows haunt us from our past, whatever insecurities gnaw at us behind closed doors, whatever tricks us into thinking that we are not your precious children, root it out.  May our faith equip us to stand against old and unhelpful patterns so that we can drink in your grace and create a healthy and thriving world for our children.

This part of our prayer is perhaps the most tender and personal.  Just as we are not perfect despite our best parenting efforts, we realize that our own parents weren't either.  Some of us were lucky and had the parents we wanted and needed.  But some of us had neither and grew up in abusive environments or without one or both parents.  And some of us had the parents we needed, but they didn't parent in the way we wanted.  Even though our basic needs were met, pain and frustration were daily reminders that the kind of relationship we wanted with them was not possible. 

Whatever your childhood experiences were, all of us have scars.  Pastor Joel Osteen is a champion of encouraging us to view the past as past and unlock the limitless possibilities of the future.  He believes that even a difficult past cannot hold us back from blessing if we chose to live faithfully.  It's a powerful message of hope.  He invites his audience to believe in new life out of ashes, just as Christ's resurrection promises us.

It's important to remember that a past that has not been healed can be repeated.  What that means is that if we have not healed from childhood scars, we are at risk of repeating them ourselves.  Some people cannot grow up fast enough in an effort to leave the past behind and never look back.  It's an understandable response in the face of pain, but unfortunately not a helpful one.  Although this effort might appear freeing, it is simply burying pain.  And that which is buried will resurface in one way or another. 

When I served as a hospital chaplain for two years, I saw Christ as Healer.  I saw Christ desire connection with those who were isolated, speak love to those who felt rejected, and impart hope in physical and emotional brokenness.  I am convinced that Christ as Healer wants to work in each of our lives too, nursing our scars back to a better and stronger self.  It takes an environment of trust, a hunger for growth in love, and a willingness to face the truth to accept his invitation.

It is not through burying our scars but through facing them that we can be truly set free.  We can invite Christ into any pain in our past and allow God to be the Perfect Parent that only God can be.  There is strength in our brokenness.  We worship a God who "redeems our life from the Pit, who crowns us with steadfast love and that our youth is renewed like the eagle's" (Psalm 103:4-5).  We worship a God who not only can heal us, but make us better parents for our own children as we experience the power of his love.

To pray, you are invited back to the full prayer from week one by clicking here:  A Prayer for Armor.

If you are looking for a powerful, faith-based book on healing from the past, check out Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud.

Have you seen Christ work through your scars?  If so, please comment below!

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