Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Jabez Kind of Day

And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh, that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your Hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what He requested. 1 Chronicles 4:10

I have been in the habit of praying this semi-regularly, not like it is a lucky charm, but because it communicates so directly to the Lord the deepest cry of my heart, to reach others for Him. Apparently, enlarging my territory is exactly what the Lord had in mind for me.
We had reached the point of the summer that we moms live in dread of, the doldrums. The other day, my eight year old yelled at me, “You are the worst mom in the whole universe.  Ever.”
And I stopped to thank God for expanding my territory.
I had moved from being the worst mom in the world to having my stature encompass both time and space.  I’m not even sure how I got there . . . apparently movies, rootbeer floats, and trips to the pool are the direct route.
Seriously, though, I did pray that He would keep us all from evil in this time of great drama, that I would react as an adult and not on equal footing with an eight year old. One of my favorite tools is just a little question and answer session, asking my nominator of the “Worst Mom Ever” award to tell me how I qualified for it. When kids, and adults, live in a space of absolutes, our reality will feed into that. When we are required to list concrete occurrences, we start to lose our footing and can see, rationally, that maybe, just maybe, we are overreacting.
Once the intensity of the moment has passed, I am free to extend a little grace. Being on the receiving end of the Worst Mom in the Universe award is really no easier than nominating someone for it. Heat, humidity, boredom, and just plain old being a kid, can take its toll. I remember those days, of feeling trapped in a world that I had no control over, and can afford a little compassion.
After the talking is over, that is.

What strategies do you have ready to go when someone needs to be the adult in a situation? Come up with a few “diffuser questions” now, before you need them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hanging with Mary DeMuth!

Mary DeMuth is a force to be reckoned with. She writes fiction that challenges you to dig deeper into your own life. In her memoir, Thin Places, she invites us to experience the times in her life, good and not so good, where the space between her and God was transparent, and also to look for our own thin places. As an author, she reaches her hand to help those on the same journey. It was my privilege to bawl my head off in the front row of her seminar at She Speaks, Memoir Writing 101. In it, she said that some of us would change the face of the Kingdom by sharing our stories, at which point I was reduced to a pile of goo, which explains the pretty picture, lol. I'm excited to be featured on her blog today, which you can read by clicking here.  Please take time to peruse her site...you will be blessed beyond belief!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Bug's Life

This time of year, the song of the cicada fills the air. I posted this awhile ago, but thought of it this morning as I picked up a cicada still in its shell and placed it on a tree where it would have a chance.

"You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world..." Ephesians 2:1.

I was looking at a cicada still in its shell, walking around on my neighbor's shirt. Before it started to move, I thought it was actually dead, one of the leftover shells. Then it started to move. I was reminded of this scripture because I used to be dead, then I started to move. Not dead like in the ground, but dead in that I had no hope. I was very caught up in this world, the fears, the temptations, the emptiness of it all, never quite feeling complete but not knowing how to get there. To anyone who looked at me, I looked very much alive. And depending on which side of the fence you were on, I might have even looked happy.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..." Ephesians 2:4

But God...these are two really important words. But God...can take that which was dead, hopeless, empty, and breathe new life into it. Into me. By nothing I did either, except accepting it. The word mercy means kindness to one undeserving. It has nothing to do with cleaning up our act first, it is all about recognizing where we are...lost...and following the Only One who can lead us home. But God...is a God of transformation. He can take something with a hard shell and give it wings to fly and a song to sing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Sure Thing?

Standing in front of the school secretary, I listened in disbelief as she told me that my five year old was not on the list for admission to kindergarten. This is the same school that my second grader has been at for the past three years. I thought we filled out everything that was required for his entrance to kindergarten in the fall. How could this be?
This was our home.
This is where all of our friends were.
I thought this was a sure thing.
While this is a big deal in our little world, it is not the end of the world. Let me tell you what is.
Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Mt. 7:21) Narrow is the gate that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Mt. 7:14). I don’t want anyone to be mistaken about entrance to Heaven, which is a very real place. So is Hell. Just like I thought I was all set for our elementary school, there are many who think they are a shoo-in for Heaven.
You might be a really good person, generous and compassionate, but it is by grace alone that we are saved, not by works (nice things we do), so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8)
You might be a good rule follower, never breaking the law, honest to a fault, but the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) It is these sins that separate us from God, and a price must be paid, that price being death. (Romans 6:23
You might have been baptized as a baby and even have a preacher in your family tree, but choosing to follow Jesus is an individual commitment that must be made by you alone. The Bible says that we will each stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of our lives, one on one, just us and Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Before you start to feel like there is no hope, that there is nothing you can do about this whole “getting into Heaven” business, let me share some good news with you: the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gospel actually translates as good news. If you’ve ever watched a football game, you’ve seen this.
For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son so that all who believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Here’s the thing, God knew we would sin. In the days of the Old Testament, before Jesus, every sin needed to be atoned for, a price paid, through a blood sacrifice. Because of His great love for us, He sent Jesus to be a once and for all sacrifice for our sin. When you come to God and acknowledge yourself a sinner, and  confess with your voice and believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the grave after three days, you will be saved from an eternity in Hell. You will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Now, you may not believe any of this. You may be of a religion or a lifestyle that says none of this matters. But, smokers who don’t know anything about the dangers of tar and nicotine still get lung cancer. People who don’t understand reproduction but have sex still get pregnant. And sinners who don’t believe the word of Almighty God will still go to Hell. It doesn’t really matter if you think differently today. The consequence still applies.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Raising Tyrants?

“You have no idea what nice things I had planned for the rest of the afternoon, but you are ruining any chance of seeing it now,” I told my wailing puddle of a son at Kohl’s department store.

When school starts this year, I will be an empty nester, at least from 8:30-2:30. I had planned a day of taking each child out by themselves with me, to spend a little one on one time while we still can. I enjoy surprising my kids with little things, whether it is a trip to Dairy Queen or a chance to pick out something special while school shopping alone with mom.
However, something special does not include a Wii game.
So there we were: me, with a flagging sense of enthusiasm and my son, having a complete and total meltdown because I wouldn’t change my mind about the video game.  All the whining, pleading, and bargaining this eight year old keeps in his arsenal would not cause me to add a Wii game to the school supply necessities. Instead, I was deciding if I was just going to drop his behind back home and forget about the rest of the day. I felt sad for my son, because he really didn’t know what he was risking losing with his tantrum at the store.
In that moment, I had a glimpse of how God must feel.
We only see what we see. We have no idea the wonderful future God has planned for us, the gifts and opportunities He intends to lavish upon us. We just know that we don’t have what we want RIGHT NOW  and do our best to pray Him into submitting to our plans, using the term pray loosely.  Just because it ends with “In Jesus Name” doesn’t mean we aren’t begging and whining . . .
I just have to wonder if God is up there shaking His head sometimes, knowing what the rest of the plans for the afternoon were supposed to be, but holding back until our tantrum and sense of entitlement has passed. I also wonder if I miss seeing what He has for me because I am still busy telling Him what I really want.  Sometimes I think it would be easier to go through life with no expectations at all, just so I could be grateful for everything that comes my way.
I know that would have made my son’s afternoon a little smoother.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Winding Down and Gearing Up

The clock is ticking louder by the day...September and all that comes with it is three weeks away. Soaking up the last bits of summer fun, then this blog will be smokin'.  So many thoughts to share, but trying to get them in line is like herding kittens. Or kids at the department store.

The tooth fairy will be paying a visit to my eight year old who lost two teeth today. One was knocked out by his skateboard, and the other one was wiggly already. Watching him dig his tongue into the pulpy space brings back memories.

The Lord has been faithful to continue the work He began at She Speaks, work that I didn't know needed to be done. Marianne Williamson said it best: You think you are in a good place with God, then you glance out the window and see a wrecking ball. Or something like that. Anyway, there is a wrecking ball in my front yard and I am doing my best not to belly crawl across the floor, staying out of view. I am kneeling in front of the throne, allowing the work that will fill the dark places to be done, even though....Even though.

Enough said on that. Chlorine-scented days are running low and I will live each day in the fullness that the Lord brings.

Thunder in the desert!
"Prepare for God's arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God's bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said."
Isaiah 40:3-5, The Message

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Imagine 2011 (and a contest!)

October 1, 2010, found me standing in the dark, arms outstretched, singing Revelation Song along with the Women of Faith worship team. God spoke to me in that moment, reminding me that He alone is God, worthy of all praise, regardless of what path He calls me to. He then was gracious to me, reminding me of the dreams He has buried in my heart, dreams that only came once I knew Him. Each speaker, from Marilyn Meberg to Patsy Clairmont, confirmed the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

 Life is hard sometimes; Jesus Himself told us that in this world we would have trouble. But occasionally we get a respite, and the Women of Faith conference provides that. Hearing the victory that Patsy Clairmont and Sandi Patty found in Christ inspires me to find my own victory. Listening to Andy Andrews speak of the connectedness of our world helps me to feel  a part of something bigger, realizing that nothing is random and that I am not alone.
God has a message for each one of us, whether you are just checking Him out, wondering what this Jesus business is all about, or whether you have been a Christian since God was a boy, as the saying goes. Even if you aren’t sure who He is, He is quite familiar with you, and loves you.  Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there with us. Can you imagine the excitement of being with 10,000 gathered in His name?!  
This year at the conference,  I know that as I listen to Angie Smith, Sheila Walsh,  Lisa Harper, and the iconic Luci Swindoll, I will hear the Lord through their words. The music will be led by Mary Mary and Natalie Grant, each bringing a chance to stand in worship to our God.  Attending a Women of Faith event gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself  in the Word, leaving behind the cares and responsibilities of daily life for a little while. Gather up your girlfriends and Imagine what can be!
What dreams has God placed on your heart? What has He whispered to you, deep down, where you are almost afraid to acknowledge it aloud? For being a Women of Faith blogger, I get two tickets to this year’s event in Milwaukee. Leave me a comment and be entered in a drawing to be my companion for the two day conference. The contest closes September 1st. (Not that I am such a prize, lol, but I thought this would be fun!) As for me and my dreams, let’s just say that when I am a Women of Faith speaker, I will wear a turquoise shirt. It never hurts to dream big for God, right?

If you are from Fox River Christian Church, click here to purchase tickets  so that you can be with the rest of the FRCC group.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Washable Tattoos

In a discussion of future tattoos with my eight year old yesterday, he told me he would get "mom" tattooed across his chest someday. Ah, the swell of pride in this mama's heart...was short-lived. This morning, he asked for some clarification: "You mean they never, ever come off? I don't think I'm going to get your name on me then."

Now, in the practical application of this, I am fine. I didn't really want to see Mom in giant Romanesque letters on my son's chest. But I was a little sad to see I had lost status with him. The conversation made me consider the way I accept Jesus into my heart and my life.

I have been a practicing Christian, following hard after Jesus, for about seven years now, even though I've been a believer for 20 years. There are days when I'm ready to tattoo His name in big letters across my head for all the world to see, and other days when I'm feeling a little less committed. Times come when I want to whine and say "But God, didn't you see..." and I feel justified in being ugly towards someone. Following Jesus means that sometimes I deny what I feel like I deserve for the sole reason that He did the same for me. He didn't hold back for me on the cross, and in return, I take up my own cross, even when it's heavy and painful and slows me down.

The world is watching to see how we carry our crosses. A few weeks ago, a certain copy-center goofed up my order three times in a row, but since it was my speaker bio sheet, I felt a certain standard of behavior was extra called for. And, in retrospect, that "goof" put the words of how God changed my life in front of someone three more times...maybe someday I will meet that person in Heaven and find that those mistakes changed the course of their life. Who knows?

Tattoos are forever, unless you get them lasered off of course, but here's the thing: we can accept Christ as Savior, ask Him into our hearts, then willingly and consciously turn our backs on Him. He cannot do the same. When He sends His spirit to us, we are His forever, even if we don't act like it. If you have distanced yourself from Him and wonder if it's too late, the answer is no. He cannot deny Himself, cannot un-tattoo you from His hands, and is waiting for you to come back. If you are reading this, it is not too late. Your tattoo and commitment may have been washable, but His never was.

"Our faith may fail, his never wanes- That's who he is, he cannot change!"
2 Timothy 2: 13 (ISV)