Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Power of a Child's Praise

I invite you to scroll through your memory and remember a time that a child blessed you...

It has been my experience that children regularly have the ability to serve as agents of grace.  Through the unexpected quip, the little hand in yours when you need it most, or their innocence and boundless excitement for the world when you feel weary, they have a special power.

Scripture agrees with me.  Psalm 8:2 reads, "Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger."  There is power in a child’s praise.  The Lord uses it to ward off enemies and silence evil.  Its purity is unmatched.  That’s why Jesus later quotes this verse from the Psalms in his own ministry (Matt. 21:16).  That’s why Jesus welcomes the little children and challenges us to be like them to receive heaven’s blessing.

What do you desperately need in your faith walk?  An uncontested trust in God?  A tangible reminder of his unconditional love?  Encouragement to enjoy the moment rather than feeling consumed with worry?  Have you been around young children lately, who often express these principles so effortlessly?

A child’s praise is powerful because of what children are able to model.  They can demonstrate the principles of faith in such a way that not only pleases God, but teaches us...

Please click here to read the full article over at  In the article, I share some tips on how to nurture faith in our children.  In order for children to praise, they first need to know the God who is worthy of praise.  Their faith journey is a blessing not only to them, but to parents as we experience their unique and special witness!  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Gospel According to Little Boys

In honor of Easter, my two-year-old was decked out in paraphernalia when I picked him up from preschool. He wore a special cross hat that he had proudly colored. (His teachers had made it skillfully out of a paper plate - Seriously, how do preschool teachers repurpose all they do into such niffy concoctions?) In addition, he was carrying an Easter basket full of candy, holiday poems, and that grass you never can stop picking up all over the house. Finally, he had a new plastic cross necklace around his neck. That was his favorite.

And when we went to the playground, I found out why.

There was my little two-year-old, running around the playground interacting with children twice his age. He loves playing with his brother's friends. That was not unusual. But what happened next was: He picked up his cross necklace, pointed it at one of the boys, and made a shooting sound.

I was m-o-r-t-i-f-i-e-d.

I went over to him for an explanation. He said, "Mommy, do you know my cross has power?"

"Oh really, what kind of power?" I asked.

"Fire power!" he exclaimed as he happily ran off. He left a trail of laughs from boys behind him as they joined in the fun.

If you're a mother of boys, you might be letting out a knowing sigh right now. I've come to expect my boys' rough and tumble nature to come out in surprising moments. And sometimes, I've learned to just roll with it. But in this instance, we certainly talked about appropriate play and a respect for the cross.

What's interesting about the incident, though, is that my son's statement was correct. The cross really does have "fire" power. Scripture describes the Holy Spirit as fire, and the Spirit witnesses to each of us about the power of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

I sometimes wonder if we tame Easter too much. It's become a holiday of egg hunts, a fluffy bunny who likes to pose for pictures, and ruffled dresses. Maybe we say a sentimental prayer about the importance of family before we feast. Maybe it's the one Sunday a year we go to church...Maybe we are missing something.

Jesus' crucifixion was gory and messy, and his resurrection on Easter Sunday was far from a casual event - it was a cataclysmic one. It changed everything. The evil forces of this world were defeated, and we are grafted into that victory through faith. There is definite warfare imagery going on.  Therefore, in the spirit of my son's playtime: 

  • To discouragement - Take that!  We now have a renewing, insurmountable hope.
  • To desperation - Stick it!  We are now never without additional reinforcements through our Savior.  
  • To panic and disappointment - Hi-Yah!  There is now a blessed, eternal future promised to us.  
  • To numbness and brokenheartedness - Pow! Pow!  There is now an unconditional love that claims us from the grave.  

I love how my son naturally related the cross' power to terms young boys could understand. That's exactly what Jesus did in the parables: He took big truths and distilled them down into little nuggets through the use of images that were second nature to his audience. The parables retain their power by still being applicable outside of their original audience, however, just like my son's example is to us.

So if you're looking for Easter to mean a little more this year, check out a two-year-old boy on the playground. Maybe he'll be grinning ear to ear and darting to and fro while his cross necklace dances across his chest. He's pretty adorable, and he's taught me something too.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stranger Danger Tips Every Mom Should Know

To a parent with little kids, spring means "Hello, playgrounds!"  (Along with a sigh that means, "Thank God they can finally run around outside!")  As much as we eagerly anticipate letting them hit the ground running - literally - it is also important that we teach them how to do it safely.  And I am not talking about safe acrobatics.  Today, I want to communicate some very important information about keeping our children safe around strangers.

We pray for safety for our children.  We worship a God who promises, "He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield..." (Psalm 91:4).  After attending a child safety lecture this fall, I am convinced that God uses parental instruction, intuition, and attention to help keep our children safe.  By learning the right information and acting upon it, we can be a shield of protection for our children - for there is often a pattern to child abuse.

The information I am sharing comes from a seasoned criminal prosecutor and mother of four children.  If you missed my first article this fall, be sure to read Safety Tips Every Mom Should Know for her invaluable, practical tips on how to protect your children from sexual abuse.  Today, I am passing along some essential stranger danger tips.  Less than 10% of child abuse is committed by strangers, but these assaults are the most dangerous.  

You can protect your child by following these tips:

Grown-ups don’t ask kids for help.  The most common tactic pedophiles use when approaching children is to ask them for help with something.  Let your children know that grown-ups need to ask other grown-ups for help and that they should run to their parent or caregiver if an adult approaches them for help.   Teach your children that they are responsible for keeping themselves safe and they have permission to ignore an unknown adult requesting help.

No names, only initials.  Never put a child’s name on anything that will be worn or carried outside the home.  If an adult knows their name, a child assumes they know THEM.   This is just as true for older children as younger ones.

Teach young children to ask a mommy for help when lost.  Teach children that if they become separated from you, they should stay where they are and not go looking for you.  If they need help, they should look for a “mommy.”  Even very young children know what “mommies” look like and women (especially those who have children with them) are the safest option.

NEVER get near an unknown adult in a car.    Children who are abducted into an automobile are at the greatest risk.  Teach your children that they should NEVER approach a car driven by someone they don’t know well under ANY circumstances.   Let older children know that they should scream, fight, run and do everything and anything they can to avoid getting into an unknown car.  If someone does try to approach them in a car, they should run away in the opposite direction. 

Be careful when letting young boys use men’s restrooms!  Don't be afraid to open the door to the public restroom and check in with your child by asking, "Are you okay in there?  Mom is right out here!"  Not only will this potentially comfort your child, but most importantly it serves to let other adults know that you are tuned in and attentive.  Teach your children that it is never okay for another adult to touch them.

For further exploration, a good friend recently recommended these resources:
* The Safe Side - Stranger Safety: Hot Tips To Keep Cool Kids Safe With People They Don't Know and Kinda Know (2005).  This is a video for children ages 2-10.
* The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers.  This is a book from the popular series for children ages 3 and up.

The majority of the information above is a direct copy of material written by criminal prosecutor Beth Little and is used with her permission.  She is eager for you to pass it on! Be safe everyone!

{Photo by Carl Wycoff at Flickr, Edited}

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Vocational Mothering?

My oldest son's hand in mine.

Recently, I heard a discussion about change that put my vision for this community into sharp relief.  Maybe it will inspire you too.

Have you ever given thought to what really motivates us to change?  On the one hand, we can respond to a push.  When we feel pushed to change, it is not very effective.  Guilt or shame can be the driving forces that push us to change in a way that we are not really inclined to do.  We might have good resolve for a while, but any long-term resolve is lacking.  You know what I mean.  We've all been there before.  Think about the New Year's resolutions that last, say, one week.

Change is really possible through a pull, however.  A pull is something that's really motivating.  We are quite literally "pulled" toward a goal, and the closer we come to it, the more energized we become to stay the course.  A pull often taps into our dreams, mind and heart.

We all have pulls, but we still need to identify and nurture them.  I believe we can become better mothers when we identify ours.  I certainly don't want to become a better mother because of a push - because of how someone else assesses me, because of how I compare myself to others, or because of shame or guilt for something I've done wrong.  Instead, I want to become a better mother because I'm inspired by how God can use my work to touch my life, make a difference for my children, and use our family to bless others.

I am a woman who never wants to stop growing.  I believe God is still able to do amazing things in our midst, and one of the most amazing things he could do is to strengthen our families.  I want to be a channel of blessing from God to my family.  I want my home to be a life raft for the stormy seas of life.  And I want God to bestow his strength, compassion, and wisdom to make this happen for each of us.

I am a pastor whose whole world changed the moment she held her babies in her arms.  For almost ten years, I have been ministering to mothers and families - from visiting high-risk mothers at the hospital to baptizing babies and doing youth ministry.  I adore motherhood and have a passion for using my training to reflect upon our monumental work.  That's why I respond to current events, relay poignant moments that encapsulate the blessing of motherhood, and reflect upon God's word and its theological implications for our parenting in this blog.

Ultimately, I am eager to grow a community of mothers who believe:

  • We are not perfect, but we believe God can magnify even the smallest act of faithfulness for the benefit of our families, and we seek to be faithful. 
  • Amidst the sometimes lonely moments of motherhood, we have the power to connect meaningfully with one another here so that we remember we are never alone on our journey.  What's more, we're stronger together.
  • Parenting is difficult and life is not without its challenges, but God is bigger than any of them, and there are divine resources that we can mine together so that we can live encouraged and inspired.
  • Motherhood is a sacred task, and by esteeming it as such, we will invest in our own emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being and that of our children.  We want to create homes of abundant blessing.
  • Love is our motivation, our pull.  We bask in the unconditional love of God, whom we want to know more each day.  Further, we give love to others out of its overflow so that we are continually renewed on our respective journeys.

We will become the best parents we can be not because we are perfect, but because we are striving, because we look to a higher power as our guide, and because we know the unconditional love of Jesus.  Grace begets grace as we allow God to mold us.  Parenting, therefore, is not the art of mastery, but the art of surrender to God.  For as we listen, he will inform.  As we question, he will gently nudge.  And as we look to show our family love, we will be able to do so with abandon because of his overflowing love for us.

I'm looking for fellow parents who love God and believe that our faith has something relevant to say about the choices we make everyday for our families.  I am done with the tired debates about the value of motherhood.  I am eager to elevate it to the holy calling - the vocation - that it is.  

Is that your pull too?

TODAY Video Clip