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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 mercy...so 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!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Most Inviting Home: A Prayer for Armor, Week 4

Devotion 4 in the Summer Series "A Prayer for Armor"

We began our summer devotional series three weeks ago with A Prayer for Armor.  The prayer is based on Ephesians 6:14-18.  Last week we explored the breastplate of righteousness, and this week we are exploring the shoes of peace.  How might they function in relation to Moms?  Recall these words of our prayer, which I reprint in bold, and remember that the words in italics are from Ephesians:


The shoes of peace when rain falls in our lives...
Dear God,

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.

I have been tempted to believe that having a peaceful home required perfection.  There would be no yelling, fighting or deep rooted differences in opinion.  What I am discovering, however, is that peace requires authenticity and commitment.  Family needs to be real and committed to working things out.  Peace is the result of resting upon that premise.

I have heard it said that young children are physically demanding while older children can be more emotionally draining for parents.  Although I cannot personally attest to the latter part of this statement, as my oldest is only four, I can imagine it's true.  With the developing child, there is a developing sense of self.  You walk a fine line as a parent in terms of when to step in and pull back, accommodate and insist, and support and override.  You are confronted with and experience a myriad of feelings.

My training as a pastor has impressed upon me that the universal impetus to action is unmet needs.  We might think that we act based on feelings, but feelings (such as frustration, embarrassment and annoyance) stem from unmet needs (such as a need for love, respect, and appreciation).  When we do some introspection and discover what those needs are, we have powerful information.  It allows our dialogue to assume a more poignant level with another person and ultimately enables steps for mutual fulfillment. 

A peaceful home cares about unmet needs.  A peaceful home isn't perfect, but it cares enough to stop and listen when there is pain.  It seeks to foster an environment of trust and respect.  As a result, vulnerability is invited and authenticity reigns.  The seeds of community grow as commitment to one another is a choice that's intentionally chosen everyday.  Ultimately, a peaceful home exhibits the unconditional love of Jesus Christ...And I can imagine no place more comforting.

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 about peaceful dialoguing, I recommend the books Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

TODAY Video Clip