Thursday, October 31, 2013

He Reigns

The trees, stripped bare of their leaves . . . just in time for Halloween.
All their glory trampled on the ground, decay and rot join the celebration of death.

Storms bear down . . . fitful.
Exposed branches, set on display.

Jesus, lifted up on a tree for all to jeer and stare. . .
                                                  bearing the shame of the world.

But . . . spring is coming.

Friday, Satan bruised the heel of Christ,
Sunday, Jesus crushed the head of Satan in a fatal blow.  (Gen. 3:16; John 3:16)

Jesus rises . . . the ground trembles.

Forces of darkness are given permission to roam this earth,
looking to devour the souls of men.

But only for a time.

In all their striving, all their combined efforts,
They will be wiped out . . .
                             with just the Word of His mouth.  (Rev. 19:21; 20:10)

One swift attack . . . pushed back to hell for eternity.

What was meant for evil,
is the glory and power of victory . . . the cross of Christ.
Far above all
Jesus the crucified,
Far above all,
Low at His footstool,
Adoring we fall,
God has exalted Him,
Far above all.    (author unknown)

He reigns! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

To Love A Child

"Inconceivable!" declares Vizzini.  But the response by Inigo Montoya is,  "You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."  (from The Princess Bride by Act III Communications)

In my last post, I mentioned that the one common denominator for a child's well being, is that they know their parents love them.  But love is an overused word meaning many different things to numerous people.   

And so I'm asking,  "What does it mean for us to love our children?"

The topic is huge.  I am not an expert, nor a perfect parent, but I do believe the term 'love' needs to be defined.  Therefore, I will attempt to summarize a few thoughts on the matter.   And these thoughts are, of course, not all inclusive. 

Love Effectively

First of all, we can be truly loving our children, but they may not understand it as love.  For example, a father may work hard to provide for his family.  This is his way of loving his child, but all the child sees is an absent father.  Or maybe that child is craving approval, time, or affection, but receives gifts instead.  For this reason, a parent must know their child in order to best communicate their love to them. 

Sometimes, a child honestly cannot see the love poured out on them.  An explanation can open their eyes.   Yet some are bent on self-pity, where even facts will not sway them from believing they are not loved.  We must learn to love in a way that is seen as love to our children. 

Love Selflessly

Secondly, in order to really love our children, we, as parents, need to lay down our lives for them.  At the end of the day we are tired, our patience run thin, and we are ready for down time of our own.  But effort must be made to lay that aside in order to give our children undivided attention, such as a story before bed.

Prayer fits into this category of selflessness as well.  It takes effort and discipline to pray consistently for our children.  How much easier to talk about our children's problems than to simply pray for them.  How big is our God?  Can He be trusted with our children?  

Furthermore, we cannot demand children open up on our schedule.  Often they are ready to talk at our most inconvenient times.  We need to be flexible, available, and ready to give them our listening ear when they desire to share their hearts.  

Love Visibly

Thirdly, though our ministry and work is important, we cannot let it consume our lives to the neglect of our children.  They will resent it.  The events of their lives might seem trivial to us, but we need to treat them as important.  We need to support them in their endeavors.  Our children need to know that they matter and that their opinions and activities have value to us.

Intentional instruction in truth is essential as well.  Children must be made aware that there is a God who loves them deeply but that they have offended this God.  Only by faith in Jesus who took their punishment for sin can they know peace with God.  If they respond positively, it will keep their soul from eternal death.

Love Hard

Fourthly, (and this may appear opposite of what I've said so far, but it is not), we cannot cater to our children.  To constantly change their environment when they run into problems only teaches that the world revolves around them and that they can have their way in it.  On the other hand, love encourages them to face their difficulty and learn submission, a crucial lesson for all of life.

One way to overcome this problem is to tell instead of ask.  Children bombarded with too many choices are overwhelmed.  It is too much for them to process.  Be the leader. 

Likewise, to let a child know what is expected before going into a situation helps tremendously on their behavior.  They need time mentally and emotionally to prepare for what is coming.  (As do adults). 

A child needs their parents to be clearly in charge.  This includes some enforced boundaries.   A child acting up is simply begging for the security of a firm 'no', a time out, or even the wooden spoon.  The will of a child must be broken, and the sooner the easier.

Love Interested

Lastly, we must establish an ongoing relationship with our children.  Get to know them.  What do they enjoy doing in their free time, (and please, give them some free time!), what are they passionate about, and what are their fears?  Our screen laden society makes it hard to build relationships.  We must, therefore, be intentional about it.  Spend time alone with each of your children.  Don't always lump them into big family events.

Avoid Extremes

Finally, we must keep in mind that there are extremes on either end to any of these points.   A parent must guard against rash actions done in anger.  On the other hand, we cannot sit back and be passive, letting the child find his own way in the world.  The key is balance.

Don't Give Up

On those days when we feel like failures as parents, we must remind ourselves that young children are very resilient and forgiving.  So too, there is no perfect parent.  God wants to use these incidents in the lives of our children for the building of their character, and to shape them into the likeness of Christ.   God loves our children deeply and for those who truly know Him, He will never let go.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Trophy Children

A radio commentator recently gushed over a 16 year old for deciding to skip college to pursue pro golfing.  Already, we were told, this young woman could win millions with her golfing abilities.  The commentator was in awe of the focus required from this individual.

While we applaud the accomplishments and drive of such people, it often leaves me feeling sorry for them.  If I were to sit down with this 16 year old in an honest conversation, I wonder what her story would be?

Did her parents decide golfing was their daughter's passion when she was five?  Did they live at the greens and did she spend every waking hour and every dime perfecting her skill?  Was she on the road weekends, traveling to other cities to compete?  Is she an only child?

I am fully aware that performing anything on a professional level is not a walk in the park.  I cannot imagine the dedication, discipline, and yes, focus, it must take an individual to achieve such a feat.  

I would like to think it is her own ambition and ability which has brought her to this place in life.  But call me skeptical.  I've seen too many driven parents determined to make trophies of their children, to believe the dream started out as her own.

Does the trophy child know that if grades, athletics, etc., are not their strong point, they are still loved?  Do they know that they do not have to achieve perfection to find their niche in the world?  

My husband's last 20 years in youth ministry, has gained us a unique vantage point on children. 

We've seen all types come through the youth group.  Public schooled, private schooled, home schooled, ADD, autistic, gifted and talented, broken homes, blended, and traditional families.  Yet, in all of that, there is one common denominator with their success or failure at life.

Did the child feel loved by their parents?   Many a parent has loved their child, but if it is not communicated in a way the child can understand, it becomes ineffective.

Were they treated as individuals with the freedom to become who God made them to be, or as trophies?  Was Jesus real in the lives of the parents or was hypocrisy the norm?  Were the children challenged in situations where they had to depend on God, or were they coasting along on their parent's faith, everything made easy for them?  

I'm hoping to raise children who follow in God's plan and know His love, but every now and then I have to stop and evaluate my true motives.  Am I seeking to mold these children into my own dreams and ambitions, or in what God made them to be?

It is not my image, but God's that matters.   And if God has a different plan for my child than I had anticipated or pushed for, can I accept and support that?

Our children . . . not prizes, but gifts.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Wonder

I had an experience at the start of this weekend that got me thinking about guardian angels. 

Friday morning I did not feel well, and so after getting my girls to school, I took some medication for my head and tried to sleep.  I was awakened by what sounded like shattering glass.  I thought someone had dropped a pile of dishes in the kitchen.  But being half asleep, I decided to wait and deal with it when I got up.   

A few hours later I awoke, and saw there was a smashed car across the street in my neighbor's yard.  It had careened out of control and at 40 mph hit the light post, knocking it over, and then hit a tree which stopped the car. 

Later, my husband told me the rest of the story. 

My neighbors had called 911, but were afraid.  They did not know what to do with the man in the car.  (This was before the emergency crew arrived).  To their relief, my husband was willing to check the man's vitals.  He was dead, but had a Bible in his lap. 

We are fairly certain, and police reports confirm, that he died prior to the accident.  It was only his car that was still moving down the street. 

Later, when I thought on the events of the day, several things came to mind.  I was grateful the car did not hit my house.  I was sleeping in the room closest to the street.  It could have been so much worse.  God's divine protection. 

Likewise, I was relieved it did not hit anyone else's house, but that it ran into a large, solid tree.  God's mercy.  His angels watching over us.  

Furthermore, I consider it a 'God thing' that my husband was home when it happened.  He was able to step in for my neighbors and be okay with handling a dead body.  God's divine purpose and perhaps a ministry opportunity. 

There are no accidents with God.  All went according to His plan. 

I have to wonder what my neighbors directly across from the accident are now thinking?  They have their yard decorated with tomb stones and Dracula creature heads popping out of the ground, skeletons and cobwebs, complete with emergency tape wrapped around their trees.  Creepy stuff. 

The police had wrapped emergency tape around the tree that the car hit . . . for reals.  Someone really did die there and our street was blocked off with barricades for three blocks.  It was not make believe, but reality.   I wonder if God was seeking our attention?  And I wonder if the car was drawn to that corner and that house because of the celebration of death next door? 

I'm probably reading far more into it, than is there.  But at the same time, feel God is always seeking to draw our attention upward, towards Him.  He longs for all to know Him and that none should perish.  Sometimes, events in our lives occur in order to grab our attention. 

I have to wonder, "Is this a preparing of hearts to speak of eternal realities?"  We've had a lot of contact with our neighbors lately, (besides this event), and I sense God is moving.  I believe there is a reason we live in this neighborhood and I don't want to miss it. 

And just maybe, I've got you thinking as well? 

"For God so loved the world, 
that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, 
but have eternal life."
John 3:16

Friday, October 18, 2013


In my basement is a little tin box full of rocks.  They are anything but ordinary as they shimmer and sparkle in the sun.  But what makes them truly unique is that as a small child, I collected them from the Nehalem River, near where I grew up.

I'm still collecting rocks, but of a different nature.  They are more like stones in David's sling, experiences with God, reminders of victories past, which give me courage for the present.

Some of those agates I've written of here.  I've seen the dead raised to life, seen God's strength perfected in my weakness, seen His grace sufficient in deepest sorrow, seen Him remove stubborn roots of bitterness, and seen Him turn what was meant for evil into good.  Yet, these stones, though showy, even beautiful, do not truly fill me.

Some would say my little tin box of rocks is full.  But really, it isn't.  There are spaces here and there . . . gaps, which simply cannot be filled by rigid stones.  I need the flow of Living Water to fill me.

Likewise, we cannot rely on sensational moments of our past to fill us up.  Only daily communion with our Heavenly Father is sufficient to do so. (Psa. 104:27-28)

Sometimes we still go rock hunting, searching for experiences or spiritual highs.  But most, okay, all, of my victory experiences have come about by seeking the Living Water, not the shimmering agates. (John 4:14)

God still speaks to us today, but primarily through His Word . . . the plain Word of God.  (Heb. 1:1-2)  Why do we so quickly turn to man's writings or experience before simply sitting at the feet of Jesus?

Those who are truly born again by the Spirit of God are indwelt by Him.  And it is the Spirit, through the Word, who reveals Jesus to us. With this truth, we can come before Him in confidence. (See John 3:5-6; 16:13-14; Rom. 8:11; Heb. 4:16)

I once thought I could discover Jesus through really hard study.  We are, indeed, commanded to study the Word for right interpretation.  Certainly, the best commentary on the Word is the Word itself.  (2 Tim. 2:15)  All other helps need to be treated as accessories, not the main course.  Yet, we cannot forget that God is not discovered, He is revealed.  (1 Cor. 2:9-15)

God provided manna for the children of Israel during all their travels in the desert wilderness.  But they began to complain, "We remember...the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic [of Egypt].  We are tired of this same manna, day after day." (Num. 11:5-6)  And God's heart was offended.  For in rejecting the manna they rejected God Himself.  (Num. 11:10; John 6:47-51)

How many times have I wounded God's heart by looking to other sources for my daily bread, my living water, which fills my empty spaces?

My husband thinks it ludicrous that every time we move, that little box of rocks moves with us.  But I insist, because they are sentimental.  Likewise, the victories God gives are important reminders to take with us.  However, these experiences must stay in the basement.  We cannot set them up as idols.  (I John 5:21)

The past, though treasured, is not what I lean on today.  I look only to Jesus, my living water and life sustaining manna.   He is all I need.  (Isa. 58:11)

  [Jesus] sighed deeply and said, 
"Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  
I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."  Mark 8:12

Friday, October 11, 2013

White Horses

I cannot wait. 
I am giddy with anticipation.   
Picture this with me. 

Gates open, releasing beams of light.
A magnificent horse, brilliant white, emerges.
Scarlet robes flap furious,
      enveloping a rider called Faithful and True. 
Eyes flash fire and crowns reflect the light.
Could these crowns be the crowns we have laid at His feet?
The Rider is Jesus, The Word of God.

But get this.

Following The Rider is a field of white,
ripples, like an endless sea of grain swaying with the wind,
Waves and waves of purest white, 
Fierce pounding of hooves,
A massive spray of flowing manes.
Their riders radiant as the sun. . .
                                          clothed in finest linen.
The armies of heaven.

That's us, people! 
We are the armies of heaven following the blood red Rider
                . . . those who have placed their faith in Jesus for salvation from their sins.  
We are clothed in white linen.  (See Rev. 19:6-8)

I cannot wait to emerge from heaven on a white battle horse, running full speed, knowing I am on the winning side.  A warrior bride. 

The thought is simply glorious!

These horses from Revelation 19:11-21 may be figurative, I don't know.  But I see no reason not to take them literally.  And in my heart I sense an urgency, a nearing of the Lord's return to earth.  In our grave concern for the plight of those who do not know God, we sometimes forget the incredible inheritance God has planned for us as believers. 

God has set eternity in our hearts, a pulling toward our true home. (Eccles. 3:11)
I cannot wait. 

The U.S. of A. is not the utopia of our dreams,
'This land is your land, this land is my land' . . . maybe not.

But, there is a land far better, a realm unseen, that will one day be revealed.  
I am so grateful to be a citizen of that country. 
For righteousness is the scepter of His kingdom, (Heb. 1:8-9)
And we will reign with Him.  (Rev. 5:10)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pass Interference

There was a time when football made no sense to me.  However, now that I understand the game, I can scarcely get enough of it.

Yet, one thing baffles me . . . the pass interference.  Why on earth would a player do such a stupid thing?  For college ball it is a maximum 15 yard penalty.  Automatic first down.  For the pros, it is even steeper.  The play begins at the spot of the foul, sometimes a 30 or more yard gain for the opposing team.  But it still happens.

However, I'm learning that I often do the same in life, especially in what I say.  I will be working hard at the game plan God has set before me, when suddenly I do a pass interference, almost without thinking.  I get distracted from what I'm pursuing to interrupt another person's game.  I meddle in their business.  Why, pray tell, would I do such a stupid thing?

The reason is the same for both football and life.  Our natural tendency takes over and we simply react with instinct, otherwise known as our sin nature.  

Just as it takes great restraint for the football defender to play fair by the rules, so in life, it takes a conscious effort not to jump in and tackle battles which beg response.

Furthermore, when I commit a pass interference, it totally derails me.  I lose focus on what God wants me doing, and instead, get wrapped up in a squabble or cause which is better left alone.

The penalty is the sin of omission.  The interference keeps me from accomplishing the goal.

I'm learning that I don't have to respond to everything that comes across my path, even if it seems others are winning or I think I have answers that would trump their arguments.  I don't have to defend myself, my convictions, my values, my country, or even my God.  Instead, I can let it go.   For, it is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me.  His grace is sufficient.   I know the truth and that truth sets me free. (John 8:32)

As my eyes, heart, and will are set on the path God has laid out for me, I hope to arrive at the end hearing the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."  (Matt. 25:23)

However, if I am beating the wrong path, even a good one, I will certainly miss my own.

Therefore, no more pass interference. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Speaks

Welcome October!  You are my favorite month of the year.  Wednesday of this week I went out to enjoy your splendor.

Your color takes just a few short weeks to peak, sometimes only days. Transition is swift.
Yet, some are hesitant to yield their color, 

. . . in denial that the season is changing.
But branches must lose their leaves if they are to bear the weight of winter's fury.

There is another fury coming, the judgement of God upon the earth.  The landscape of this world will most assuredly be changed as one third of the trees and all the grass will be burned up.  One third of the water in the sea turned to blood, one third of all living sea creatures dead, and one third of the ships destroyed.  The sun, moon, and stars darkened . . . a terrifying day for those still living on the earth. (Rev. 8:7-12)

Though we do not know the day or the hour of Christ's return to earth, we certainly know the season and that season is now.  The leaves are turning, shouting urgent, "Be ready!" 

We've been gathering wood to fight the cold months ahead.  Our lean to is stuffed full, yet still, there is a call to gather more.

Like souls brought into the fold of God . . . surrendered. . .
ready to be spent up for Him.

Our hearts yearn for second Christmas, that advent of the Lord, but it will not be the same as the first.  The Lamb will return as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and every eye will see Him.

Noah was given a rainbow.  (Gen. 9:11-17) Though we see it from below, God sees it from above . . . a reminder to never destroy the earth again with a world wide flood.  I wonder if God often needs this reminder, for surely, the wickedness of our times is a stench to Him.   

Fall speaks.  Winter's fury is coming.  It is certain.  Nothing will stop it from coming.  Yet, there is an escape.  The blood of Jesus is sufficient payment . . . for the one who puts their faith in Him . . . becomes the child of promise.  

His righteousness causes me to stand tall in grace.

The aspens are the world's largest single living organism.  Their roots send off shoots underground for new saplings . . . all one plant.  Likewise, I am part of a living organism called the Church.  (Rev. 5:10)  Together, we grow as a bride, beautifully adorned for her groom. (Eph. 5:25-27)

The health of one tree is dependent on the health of the entire plant.


We need each other.

A day is coming when God will destroy the earth with fire. (Rev. 18:8) Yet, every breath we take is another display of God's mercy.  In that breath He gives us another chance to choose surrender to Him.

Those who know Him, will be transported to the throne room of heaven where we will see the "train of His robe fill the temple" with glory!  (Isa. 6:1; Rev. 21:1-7)  But this, only in the foreground of the cross.  It is because He suffered and died, that I will have eyes to see and knees to bow. (Rev. 5:9)

Winter is coming.  Choose this day who you will serve. 

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  (Josh. 24:15)