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Archive for August, 2012

The heckler hurled insults at anyone within range–the coach, ref, and players.  Consumed by the moment, he lost sight of a parent’s role as supporter.  He arrogantly assumed a position of superiority–negating the expertise and value of others.

At times, I’ve been the heckler in the crowd.  “What kind of call was that?”  “Wait a minute…does that guy know what He’s doing?”  “I could do the job better myself!”  In a myopic approach to the playing field, I begin focusing on the player I know best–me–and disregard the influence of the One who has the end in mind.  In my foolishness, I usurp His position.

And what happens?  The opponent gains the advantage.  But when I return to the sidelines–exhausted from my futility –the One I’ve treated with such disregard provides insight and direction.  “I know the plans I have for you,  Tammy.  Trust me.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Suddenly, the playing field seems different.  Obstacles are less daunting, the score loses its importance, and my stamina returns.  Have you, too, resorted to being a heckler?  Do you throw rash statements God’s direction because you don’t understand the game plan for your life?  Are the opponents of negative relationships, poor health, or finances stealing your allegiance to the sovereign God?

I encourage you, dear friend, to humbly step down from a position of false authority.  Things will come into focus.  As Phillipians 3: 14 reminds us, ”

Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Can you see the goal?  It’s right there…just ahead.

 

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“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.”  (John 7:38 MSG)

The demands, doubts, and disturbances continued to punctuate my day and I’m exhausted.  Weary.  Worn down like a rock immersed in a stream for too long.  Have you been there, dear friend?  Are you the go-to-girl at home, work, or with your friends?  Do you desperately need refreshment?

Then drink deeply from the Living Water.  Unlike either of us, Christ is an unlimited resource.  He’s available when you’ve been up until 3 a.m. with a feverish child or consoled a friend grieving a dream unrealized.  He’ll parch your thirsty soul when others have taken everything from your reserves.

Filled to overflowing by His inexhaustible promises, you’ll be prepared to pour your life into others once again.

This Week’s Challenge  Take a walk to the Water’s edge.  Spend 15 minutes each morning with Him praying and reading Scripture.  Never read the Bible?  A great place to start is the Gospel of John.

Suggested Books/Authors

Life Lessons:  Gospel of John by Max Lucado

And He Dwelt Among Us by A.W. Tozer

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 A friend recently told me I was trying too hard to be the perfect Christian mother.  We REALLY need to get to know each other on a deeper level.  She would never have made such a misguided comment if she had witnessed some of my more recent failings and faux pas.  Consider the challenge of spiritual growth.

As a mother of four children it can be difficult to establish a regular devotional time.  First, there is the concentration issue.  All mothers know a nursing baby can be demanding.  In fact, I’m awake so much at night I could hold my own candlelight service!  Unfortunately, because my eyes cross at any attempt to read Psalm 23 (you know, the one that soothes frayed nerves with the verse “He market me to lie down in green pastures”) and drool leaves a permanent wet spot on the Bopp pillow during our nightly nursing sessions—not from the baby, but her mother—I have recognized that 3 a.m. is not the best time for me to memorize Old Testament genealogies.

Another problem is that reading the Baby Bible Book to my two-year old after bath time probably doesn’t qualify as an in-depth Bible study.  It’s true I can deftly perform a perky finger play about most of the major Bible heroes, but I haven’t yet learned about the transfiguration or the implications of free-will versus predestination.

One of the greatest challenges is finding a few solitary moments to thoughtfully meditate on God’s word.  Many times, I will have managed to tuck the two little ones snuggly in their cribs for naps.  I surreptitiously grab my Bible and sneak off to a quiet spot (usually the bathtub where I slink down and draw the curtain in hopes I won’t be discovered) when I hear the tell-tale sounds of my two older boys scuffling and rolling about the living room floor.  I vault from the confines of my hide-away to discover that Ben, my first-born, has his younger brother in a scissors lock rivaled only by the best of the best in WWF wrestling.  Yes, I may have just read about “a gentle and quiet spirit”, but surely God didn’t expect for me to exemplify that sweet demeanor when my children have turned the sofa over on its side as their ring-side boundary.

At face value, this glimpse into my family life may not seem to offer much.    Like many other women, I am just a busy mom who loves her Lord.  But, there are three spiritual survival skills imbedded within this story.

 Matters of the Heart

God commanded Israel in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”   This passage sets a pattern that helps believers relate the Word of God to our daily lives.  We are to love God, think constantly about his commandments, teach his commandments to our children, and live each day by the guidelines in His Word.  God emphasized the importance of parents’ teaching the Bible to their children because eternal truths are most effectively learned in the loving environment of a God-fearing home.’ Life Application Bible, 291

 Hide and Seek

              While it is possible other women don’t resort to hiding in the bathtub in order to study the scripture, the concept of hiding away is an important one.  It can be a challenge to make time for God when your day is full of diapering, disinfecting, and various other pressing duties.    But, in order to develop the heart relationship just mentioned, it’s a necessity.  As one fellow Christian put it, “Every believer may and must have his time when he is indeed alone with God.  Oh, the thought to have God all alone to myself and to know that God has me all alone to Himself!”

Super steward vs. Supermom

Society promotes the idea that a mom should have it all together.  She should, in fact, be Supermom.   Assuming such a role is prideful because it removes Christ from the position He should maintain in our lives. He is to be a mother’s strength.   Children belong to Christ while a parent is only a steward—meant to tend and guard God’s precious treasure.  There will be times in mothering that we are overwhelmed, unsure, or even frightened. But, remember the Lord is the Abba Father. He will calm our hearts as we claim the verses from Philippians that counsel with the words, “The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

So find your quiet place, friends—bathtub, closet, or coffee shop.  Your Strength and Wisdom waits for you there.

Recommended Books for Busy Moms

http://www.amazon.com/Real-Moms-Real-Jesus-Friend-Understands/dp/0802483615/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775204&sr=1-3&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

http://www.amazon.com/Mom-After-Gods-Heart-Devotional/dp/0736947590/ref=sr_1_21?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775347&sr=1-21&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Care-Me-Mommy-Becoming/dp/B000O3S39S/ref=sr_1_35?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345775395&sr=1-35&keywords=devotionals+for+moms

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Lystra, a small boomtown perched alongside a bustling Grecian highway, was known for its wild living and wilder religious practices.   It was also the boyhood home of Timothy, an early church leader.

What do we know of Timothy’s childhood years?  We know his father paid his taxes and regularly worshiped Zeus—and even the Unnamed God—whose temples were near the entrance to the city.  In this way, Timothy’s father would  please god—whoever he was–and lead a successful life.  Based on this description I imagine “dad” as a well-to-do business man; a stand-up sort-of-guy consumed by the lure of cosmopolitan living and providing for his family.

The Bible mentions Timothy’s father, but focuses a bit more on his mother and grandmother in 2 Timothy 1:5— “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”

There may not seem to be much of a story tucked in this one sentence and even less application.  But consider ancient Turkey at the time.  It holds several parallels to modern America.    Citizens were well-educated, the nation was an established center of commerce, and the famed city of Ephesus boasted a one-of-a-kind library along with renowned pieces of art.  At the same time, wild living was considered acceptable and temples dedicated to its many gods and goddesses thrived throughout the land.

Given his father’s apparent lack of influence and the culture in which he grew up, Timothy might have become a statistic—another child never introduced to Christ or a young man more interested in today’s address than tomorrows final destination .  Instead, Timothy went on to serve as a pastor and missionary in Ephesus.  Why?

I’m convinced God worked through the faith of his mother and grandmother!  What is the lesson then?  There are two things I want us to notice.  First, when we parent alone—even if it’s just parenting alone spiritually, fear and worry can become our closest companions.  The what if’s can overwhelm us.  Don’t allow it!

Instead, begin planting those seeds of faith in your child’s little heart now.  Your influence matters.

Then, align yourself with a mentor—someone who can encourage you, come alongside you, and support you.  Every Eunice needs a Lois.

So..our final two steps toward relying on God when parenting alone (or anytime) are to remain faithful to the task of planting seeds in the lives of our children and link arms with at least one other Christian woman.

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She grew up in a small town on the wrong side of the tracks, got pregnant before she was married, faced the possibility of a divorce, and endured the disdain of all who knew her—and later, all who knew her son.  Yes-I’m referring to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

During Mary’s time and according to Jewish custom, little girls were betrothed to be married at about twelve or thirteen years of age.  This was the first “stage” of marriage.  At the end of the year, the young woman moved from her parent’s home to that of her fiancé and they fulfilled their wedding vows.

Roll back the clock for just a moment.  Imagine your middle-school-self in Mary’s sandals.  Life is a little confusing.  You’re wearing braces, have a lot of bad hair days, and the cute boy you have a crush on likes your best friend.  Besides, your parents are always in your business!  But, Mary had a much different perspective than I would have.  She wasn’t worried about fitting in or what everyone thought of her.   How do I know?  Just take a look at Luke 1 (NLT):

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![d]

 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[e] forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.[f]

And what was this little girl’s reply?

38 And Mary said, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  (American Standard Version)

Now, the Biblical translation of the word “handmaid” is doulos—slave.  Mary was giving up her own will to that of her Master and declaring her allegiance to him unto death.   She might have died because at the time women were stoned for having sex outside of marriage.  Who would believe Mary’s crazy story?  This young lady was pregnant with the Christ?  Right—as if God would ever bless a pregnant teenager and a baby  conceived out-of-wedlock.

But guess what?  He did.  God grew something beautiful out of Mary’s submissiveness.  He gave her a son—and not just any son, but His son.

What, then, do we learn from Mary?   My friends, when God allows the unexpected in our lives; when we are parenting our children and can’t imagine how things will work out for the best; that is when we need to be like Mary and take the second step by submitting our hearts to Him for “nothing is impossible with God”.

So, our first two steps toward relying on God when parenting alone—and anytime– are to:

  1.  Call out to him in our distressWhen we face the wilderness…when we are wandering…when we are alone in the desert with our children… then we call out to him for he is El Roi the Father to our little ones.  (See previous post)
  2. Submit our hearts to HimGod will and does use the unexpected for His glory when we are willing to live our lives for Him.

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“Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were six of you — your mother, your father and four children. What percentage of the pie would you get?” a teacher asked her students.

“One-fifth,” said one boy.

The teacher responded, “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions. Remember, there are six of you.”

“I know,” said the boy, “but you don’t know my mother. She would say she didn’t want any pie so we could have more.”  (Author Unknown)

As mother’s, aren’t we about giving, sharing, and encouraging?  There are times, though, when a mother has nothing left to give, little to share, and few words of encouragement for the children in her life–especially when she’s parenting alone and is both mother and father.

I’ve been there several times.  With a husband in the Navy, I’ve survived three long deployments.  One with a newborn and toddler, the next with two preschoolers, and another with a 6-year-old, 7-year-old, and two teenaged boys (need I say more?).

I would guess some of you have been there, too…military wives, single moms, women with husbands who travel frequently, or those with guys who–for whatever reason–disengage from family life.

The great news is that regardless of the situation, every mother can rely on God by taking four simple steps–like my friend Jen.

The first time Jen and I met, I was struck by her honesty and haunted eyes.  She had only just arrived in Colorado after having travelled across the country in a beat-up van with several children.  At night, when her eyes could no longer focus, Jen would pull to the side of the road where she and the family slept for a few hours.  But, as miles of unfamiliar scenery unfolded in front of her, hope began growing in Jen’s chest—hope for her children and herself.  Why?  Because Jen had escaped from a life of abuse to a life of promise– much like Hagar, the woman whose name meant “stranger”.

Hagar.  We don’t know much about her, but some Rabbinical texts suggest she may have been pharaoh’s daughter—a gift to Sarai during her time in the king’s harem.   Or, like so many others, perhaps Hagar was a poor girl whose family wanted to assure she would be given food and shelter.  Princess or pauper, Hagar was a young Egyptian woman who had been a servant for 10 years in a foreign land.

She was alone, destitute, and given to an old man out of her mistresses desperation.  The goal?  Surrogate motherhood.

Fast forward a few months—an 85 year-old man and a beautiful slave-girl in her mid-20’s have conceived a child together.  For the first time in years, Hagar felt pride.  A child!  Someone she could love and who would love her in return.

But, Hagar’s pride got in the way.  She flaunted her growing belly and offended Sarai.  Hard work and maltreatment followed.  Finally, after enduring another beating, Hagar ran away.  She wept—tears of shame, tears of loneliness, tears of hopelessness.  Hagar was a stranger once again—except to God.

Look over the following account from Genesis 16.

The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. 8 The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.

9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” 10 Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”

Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.”[a]

Hagar had been wandering aimlessly; now she worshipped El Roi (El Raw-ee)—the God who sees.

Notice that God didn’t remove her from her current situation.  Instead, he responded to her cries of distress, sought her out, and comforted her with his presence and his promises.  Hagar’s story doesn’t end there.  In Genesis 21, we find Hagar in another situation—that of single parent.

…and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

 11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

 14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[c] began to sob.

 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

And, ladies, listen to this!! 20 God was with the boy as he grew up.

Did you notice the word “wandered”?  Hagar “wandered in the dessert”.   The Hebrew word used to describe her “wandering” means to go astray.  Here she is…in the desert a second time…without a GPS and in need of direction.  Don’t you think she would call out to God, El Roi, the One who Sees?  But Hagar forgot to look for Him.  Instead, the Lord responded to the cries of the boy.  His words?  “What is the matter, Hagar?  Do not be afraid?”

Isn’t this a beautiful picture of God’s love for us?  When we find ourselves in the midst of the desert, unsure of which way to turn, and fearing the worst our first step is to call out in  our distress, our weakness, and our wandering to The God Who Sees.

Today’s Prayer

Lord, thank you for sharing the gift of motherhood with me.  My desire is to glorify you in my parenting and to bless these children as I seek to point them toward you.  Father, show me how to rely on you in all I do today.  Amen

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One mid-September evening is etched indelibly in my mind.  My two preschool aged sons and I were hunched under the stairs in a closet made to accommodate nothing more than a vacuum cleaner and a few jackets.  Trying to forget the swaying of the house, Ben, Connor and I imagined we were pirates tossed about by the fiercest of storms.  “Lower the main sail!” one shouted.  “Aye, aye, cap’n.”  The children, delighted by our game, were momentarily distracted from the real danger screaming outside our front door.  Hurricane Floyd had crossed the threshold from sea to land, poised to lay waste to all of Hampton Roads, Virginia.  “Will these walls protect us tonight?” I wondered.  “Is the foundation solid enough ?”  Only time would tell.

As Christ taught, a house built on shifting sand can’t stand because it lacks a foundation.  In other words, my faith is only as strong as my spiritual foundation.  Without the stability of a solid foundation, I tend to suffer damage and, occasionally, even crumble when surrounded by life’s storms.    Such inattention usually results in my faith requiring a major overhaul.  The foundation needs to be stabilized or renovated.  But, where to begin when my relationships, finances or health are lying in a shambles?

Simply on my knees.

I have to choose to take my eyes off the storm and direct them heavenward.  Otherwise, I begin to doubt God’s love or his reasons for allowing a tempest to crash into my life.  I feel my spiritual foundation begin to crumble and then, like the disciples, my preoccupation with self and fear results in a desperate plea, “Lord, don’t you care if I drown?”  (Mark 4:38 NIV)  But, when I turn the focus away from myself and toward Him, I can look beyond the storm knowing that at his command, the wind and waves will be quieted.

When I meet alone with God and lay my burdens down, I discover a place of shelter and calm—a respite from the tumult.  Doesn’t the promise of such a place encourage your heart?

Scripture for Reflection

“Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!”   Psalm 116:2

Lord, help me to entrust all of my life to you today knowing that you can quiet my heart even if you don’t quiet the storm.

 

 

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