Sunday, June 30, 2013

Where the Magic Is: A Prayer for Armor, Week 3

I am happy to report that I am now on Twitter!  You can follow me @VocationalMom. 

Devotion 3 in the Summer Series "A Prayer for Armor"

We began our summer devotional series two weeks ago with A Prayer for Armor.  The prayer is based on Ephesians 6:14-18.  Last week we explored the belt of truth, and this week we are exploring the breastplate of righteousness.  How might it function in relation to Moms?  Recall this excerpt of our prayer, which I reprint in bold:

Dear God,

May we know that our best is good enough as moms.  We believe that you are big enough to use even our mistakes for your glory.  Thank you for our successes, and we ask your forgiveness for the ways that we have fallen short.  Help us to rest in the promise that your love claims us all - no matter what. 

No one is perfect.  We know that we can all fall short.  We can fall short of our own expectations.  We can fall short of others' expectations of us that might plague our heads.  And we can fall short of scriptures' instruction in ways that are noticeable and ways that weigh secretly on our hearts. 

Falling short isn't any fun, especially when we are in the business of shaping the moral fiber of our children.  They look to us for guidance.  We break up sibling squabbles, model good sharing at playtime, attempt to instill good table manners over food graveyards on the floor, and oftentimes are the first to tell them about God and the importance of living honorably.

But the reality is that our little students probably learn more from how they see us acting than what we teach them.  And (sigh)...Sometimes we are tired and compromise our best.  Sometimes we are impatient as the tasks at hand mount up.  Sometimes we can vent by slamming doors, yelling in front of our children, or using our words to tear down instead of lift up in a fit of frustration or pain. 

I find myself continually drawn to a beautiful verse in Proverbs when I need encouragement for the high road.  "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down" (14:1, NIV).  Our sin can creep its way in and attempt to destroy the very thing we are working so hard to try to build up. 

Enter the breastplate of righteousness.  The breastplate of righteousness is such a valuable piece of our armor, Moms!  Every good effort that we make in instilling that which is pleasing to God in our children is sweet incense to him.  And every time that we do not live up to our best, we can confess it and be wiped clean.  Christ takes us by the hand and promises that sin will not have the last word.

The beauty of our faith is that we can claim strength exactly where we are most broken.  Just as God made us, God has the power to remake us.  To give us hope.  To turn our hearts away from bad choices.  And to weave beauty and reconciliation out of ashes.  And do you know what?  Our breastplate of righteousness is strong - it is a shield, a promise that surrounds us, no matter what.

The best way to teach our children righteousness is to model it ourselves.  We can petition the Holy Spirit for the strength to journey the high road: walking a path of present sacrifice for long term rewards, like building up our houses and contributing to a positive self image.  But our effort should also include modeling real apologies and true forgiveness to our children, just as our Savior does for us...And that can be where the real magic happens.

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

If you want to read more, I love this entry on the power of apologies with our children.  It is from the Mom's blog Momastry:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Firm Legs to Stand On: A Prayer for Armor, Week 2

Devotion 2 in the Summer Series "A Prayer for Armor"

Last week we began our summer devotional series on Ephesians 6:14-18.  This week, we are focusing on the first piece of armor mentioned in the prayer.  Recall these words of our prayer, which I reprint in bold, and remember that the words in italics are from Ephesians:

Dear God,

We come before you asking for your edification. There is a lot we face, there are things we hide, and there is a space that only you can fill. Please hear us as we pray with a mother's heart.

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist...

May we know your truth and share it with our children. Give us a hunger for Christ so that we can reap his blessings. Help us to not just see Christ in a picture on our wall or a cross around our neck, but may he be written on our heart.

Truth is a relative term in our culture today.  Political correctness dictates the terms of our social interactions, foundations that were once firm are being reexamined, and people can find themselves more confused and distraught as a result.  A certain amount of questioning is normal and healthy, but when it drives believers to cling to polarities, it is not helpful. 

One polarity is legalism.  Scripture and a walk of faith is reduced to a checklist for adherence.  The world is divided into black and white terms.  Although seeing the world this way can simplify things, it doesn't respect the wrestling that is normal to any relationship - including one of faith.  Think about Jacob and Job wrestling with God in the Old Testament, both literally and figuratively respectively.  For a relationship with Christ to be genuine, the give and take of prayer needs to be real, not prescribed. 

Another polarity is complete relativity.  Just as the world isn't black and white, it is not relative either.  We as Christians have been given scripture and the example of God in Christ to look to for instruction.  The psalmist describes the role that God's word should have in our lives by saying, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105, KJV).  Scripture is our map as travelers on life's road, and the Holy Spirit can be counted on for illumined directions.

We know that scripture is important.  Sometimes we have different opinions on its interpretation as Christians, but we are all under its authority.  Yet some well meaning Christians still wonder, "If Christ's forgiveness is promised, why do I need to follow scripture?  Why go to the trouble of obedience if I know that I can be wiped clean through Christ if my penitence is real?"  This is not just a question that your kids may ask, for adults wonder it too.

The answer lies in the value of truth.  Yes, God will forgive us, but we will still have to face the consequences of our actions.  If we steal, we may be spiritually wiped clean, but God does not erase the fact that we did it or the societal implications therein.  The reality is that God's law is a gift.  It was first given to the Israelites in the Old Testament to bless them, and it was so sacred that they built a special temple for it.  Christ expounded upon that law in the New Testament with the same trajectory - to bless us.

It may be a trite saying, but the truth really can set us free.  Being a Christian does not promise us a perfect life, but it promises us a better one.  The truth can set us free from the wages of sin and death.  The truth embedded in scripture, from its law to theological teachings, will deliver us from avoidable pitfalls and heartaches.  It is the opposite of the lies and trappings of our culture, lies that the world would have us believe now and wanted believers to embrace back then.  Clinging to God's truth sets us apart and liberates us to live on God's terms, which is the way that we were designed to thrive. 

So let us seek to impart that truth to our children.  When the world delivers hopelessness, we have a hope that springs eternal.  When the world pressures us to choose a dangerous path, we have a light for the high road.  When the world tells us that we are worthless, we have a Savior who says otherwise.  Don't let our relative culture rob you from the blessings of God in scripture.  Fall in love with it all over again, and teach it to your children. 

These words from the Psalmist promise great reward, and I pray that the Holy Spirit moves in your heart as you read them today:

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. 
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. 
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward."

- Psalm 19:7-11, NRSV

To pray, you are invited back to the full prayer from week one by clicking here:  A Prayer for Armor.  The full prayer will also be featured online at Faith Village this week in the Momzie section.  Please check it out!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Mom's Ultimate Blessing: A Prayer for Armor

Perhaps we have all heard Pat Benatar's popular song, "Love Is A Battlefield." But come on, if you are a mom, you no doubt have your hands in the trenches. Motherhood is a battlefield sometimes, right? I was reflecting on the armor of God that Paul discusses in Ephesians. What would it look like if applied to moms?

Our work is not only about the constant growth and evolution of our children, for we are changing too. We are amassing successes, making mistakes, and balancing the serious hurdles and responsibilities of life - while enjoying the tickle fights and celebrating the milestones.

Part of our challenge comes in balancing our own emotional, spiritual and physical well beings with our everyday demands along the way. It is important that we feel supported in faith and refueled in prayer. Paul recognizes that there are real spiritual struggles in life and encourages all of us to stand firm.

Life can get messy - and I am not just referring to paint smudges on the sofa. Prayer is a tool in which we can be honest, enlist heavenly support, and be recipients of God's grace. I invite you to pray the following prayer. It is based on Ephesians 6:14-18, which will appear in italics.

Dear God,

We come before you asking for your edification. There is a lot we face, there are things we hide, and there is a space that only you can fill. Please hear us as we pray with a mother's heart.

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist...
May we know your truth and share it with our children. Give us a hunger for Christ so that we can reap his blessings. Help us to not just see Christ in a picture on our wall or a cross around our neck, but may he be written on our heart.

And put on the breastplate of righteousness.  
May we know that our best is good enough as moms. We believe that you are big enough to use even our mistakes for your glory. Thank you for our successes, and we ask your forgiveness for the ways that we have fallen short. Help us to rest in the promise that your love claims us all - no matter what. 

As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
Help our parenting methods to foster peace in our families. Give us discernment and grow us toward that end. May our home be a sanctuary when the world turns cold; may it be a place of comfort and safety.

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.

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.

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.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.  
May this be our prayer for ourselves and each other, for we pray in one voice for the change we want to be in the world. We praise you for your faithfulness that never lets us down.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

If you are following along, the scripture referenced above comes from the New Revised Standard Version. Blessings, mamas!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Color Me Happy

As summer arrives, the task of keeping idle hands and fingers busy does too.  I am looking forward to our activities - vacation and camps - but also to having some down time with my children.  On the days when it is too hot to go outside, on the days when our errands have taken less time than anticipated, on the days when no play date has been planned, what will we do in those moments? 

I came across a poem a few weeks ago that struck me.  I know sometimes I can get too busy to utter yes to my children's petitions.  This is especially the case when those petitions involve something time consuming or messy.  I can get so preoccupied with keeping a schedule or my home somewhat clean that I miss opportunities to laugh and play with my children - and even, to be a kid again myself.  As summer moments draw near, perhaps you will appreciate reading this too:

Let there be Yes

I say no to them all the time:
No, you may not eat candy bars for breakfast,
color pictures on the carpet,
wear your tutu to the store again.
And stop blowing bubbles in your milk,
or abandoning your warm bed
after I've tucked you in.

Perhaps it's the wisdom of age,
or that this is not their full-time gig,
but their grandmothers have another way:
Yes, let's make projects with plenty of glitter and paint,
matching costumes for you and your bear,
hot chocolate for watching movies
on a Saturday morning in June.

I decide to try it myself,
tentatively - Sure, I suppose we can
bring out the modeling clay today.
So we spread an old vinyl cloth on the table,
and dump the box that holds baggies of red and black,
blue, green, and yellow.  From my post in the kitchen,
I watch them settle in to their work.

It's quiet; no one complains
of boredom or hunger
or cunningly-orchestrated breaches of room security
carried out by little sisters.  The only requests
are for assistance rolling up an errant sleeve
or for a toothpick to carve out fine details
and at last, the artist's signature.

As she bends over her masterpiece
to scratch the letters of her name,
I understand what it is my mother must know
when she says yes to these young creators:
we are wired to make, and we can make
trouble, or we can make goodness and art
and meaning and sustenance and play.

By Sarah Dunning Park, Author of What It Is Is Beautiful

It's amazing that uttering the simple word yes can bring such joy and satisfaction to our children.  When we provide them with the space and opportunity for creative play no matter what their age, we promote their exploration and self-expression.  We are mimicking an older generation's model.  And we can even honor God.

Our Creator certainly enjoys creating, for the world around us is far too intricate to believe otherwise.  And just as we can say yes to our children, God says yes to us as we seek to fulfill our callings in unique and expressive ways.  I have to wonder if embracing our children's creativity can unlock our ability to discern God moving in our lives anew.

Cheers to some "inspired" art this summer.  Please pray for my walls!

"You alone are the Lord.  You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.  You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you" (Nehemiah 9:6, NIV).

Prayer:  Oh God our Creator, we praise your amazing handiwork.  We seek to honor you as we consider our destinies to create by fulfilling our callings.  May we honor your legacy by encouraging our children's creativity.  As we help to unlock the world for them by fostering exploration, surprise us through our own discoveries.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Note:  To read Sarah Dunning Park's commentary on her poem above, click here:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Risky Business

"The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights" (Habakkuk 3:19, NIV).

I have been thinking a lot lately about the future and risk.  Perhaps you are awaiting an immanent move, a position like several of my friends.  Perhaps you or your husband are weighing a job opportunity that will mean changes for your family.  Perhaps you are navigating the health care decisions of a family member, unsure of what the future will bring.  Layered upon this adventure of child-rearing can come some pretty significant curve balls that can leave you grappling for courage or wisdom - or both.

We have all heard the exhortation that we shouldn't worry about the future; the present is a gift to enjoy, and the future will take care of itself through faith.  There can be a mind and spirit breakdown when living this truth.  Perhaps your spirit is comforted but your mind keeps racing.  You can't turn off its worry feed.  Or maybe your mind is convicted, for you remember how God has been faithful before, but your spirit is unsettled.  You don't feel relief and are grieving or restless.  Our mind and heart "know" things in different ways, and curve balls often demand the enlistment of both and all of the strength that we can muster.

It is then that we need the promise of hope from a God who never leaves us.  No matter what we are facing, we believe in a God who can bring hope to even impossible situations.  I invite you to read the following.  It comes from a devotional booklet by Sarah Young entitled 40 Days with Jesus: Celebrating His Presence.  She writes as if Jesus is talking to you:

Hope is a golden cord connecting you to heaven.  This cord helps you hold your head up high, even when multiple trials are buffeting you.  I never leave your side, and I never let go of your hand.  But without the cord of hope, your head may slump and your feet may shuffle as you journey uphill with Me.  Hope lifts your perspective from your weary feet to the glorious view you can see from the high road...

Hope is the permission we need to fling our many cares to Jesus.  Hope is the equipment we need to face our mountains head on.  And hope is the reason we can live this day to the fullest in the meantime.  I love how Young talks about an uphill journey.  We might be able to stay at the base of our mountains, but the view is so much better uphill from the top. 

I came across an insightful quote the other day.  It reads, "A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for" (William Shedd).  Moms, whatever you are facing, you were not made to stay in harbor either.  You worship a God who has calmed the seas in scripture and is offering you his hand right now.  Discern his direction and allow your faith to increase as he takes you there.  God will not only take you someplace different, he will equip you to go someplace better. 

Prayer:  Lord, We impress upon you the things that are weighing on our minds and hearts.  We approach you requesting courage and wisdom, and most importantly for a reminder of your unfailing presence with us.  Direct our steps.  As we chose obedience, grant us such joy that we can look back upon this time in our lives and wholly praise your faithfulness.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Note: Young's excerpt above is from "Day 24" in her booklet.  Also, if this post encouraged you, you might also like my devotion Warning: Peaks Ahead.

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