In order to remember.

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The purpose of recognized holidays is to use the day as a time of remembrance.  To think about and talk with one another about something that happened a long time ago.  My kids have had projects in school all week leading up to today.  They have talked about the presidents and colored pictures.  But when my husband asked our daughter why she had the day off of school, she said “I don’t know.  They just knew I was tired!”  He tried again and asked about the color pictures.  She simply said “Oh.  Those were really old men.  I don’t know if they are in Heaven or not.  I don’t remember if they loved Jesus.”  Being honest, there was a little part of me that was proud of that answer.  I am glad that she thinks about eternal things.  But, my point is, she really did not understand the time given to remember.

President’s Day aside, I think we often suffer from amnesia regarding spiritual things as well.  We do not take time to remember what God has done.  We barely acknowledge what He is actively doing today, let alone what He did long before us.  We read the Bible like it is a story, rather than an accurate recounting of events.  Why does that matter?  Why is our awareness supposed to be broader than just today?

Because GOD said so.  He told us to remember.  He told us to talk about it…everyday. 

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9)

We are commanded to talk about the commandments of God in everyday life.  They are supposed to cover our surfaces.  Impact our day.  Penetrate our hearts.  They ways of God should matter to us.  When we incorporate God into our daily life, our children will see what is important and they will remember God’s faithfulness through the ages.  It will change how they view today.

Further into the passage, verses 20-25, it says:

“In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.  But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors.  The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.  And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Catch that? In the future…God knew the children would ask!  Before the situation even came up, God was laying the foundation to lead His children.  He was preparing the parents to be able to explain their way of life.  To remember all that the Lord God had done for them.  They were supposed to recount all that God had done, so there would be deep meaning in their daily activity.  God was commanding them to obey but He was also providing them with a purpose for their lives.

Children can trust GOD today, when they have been taught how He’s been working since time began.

Teach your children how to remember.  Teach them how to recount the deeds of God in normal conversation.  Lay your “memorial stones” so your future has purpose and your children can learn and understand.  Not only will this encourage you to trust God more, it will teach your children how to really know the God they obey.

Ideas to practice remembering:

1.  You can write things down and put them in a special jar or journal.

2.  You can take pictures that you hang on the wall.

3.  Read through the Old Testament with your children.

4.  Write verses on your wall.  Memorize them.

5.  Learn songs.

 

 

 

When you find yourself in a quiet place

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I do not normally post on Sundays, but I have found myself in a quiet place this morning.  Mostly quiet, as I am being serenaded by Daniel Tiger’s theme song…I know most of you are probably craving quiet right now, but mine has come with a sick child.  The quiet I am experiencing has come through canceled plans, quiet chores, and middle of the night laundry.

Because we found ourselves in Psalm 23 on Friday, the passage was still floating around in my head.  The Lord kept bringing verses 1 & 2 to my mind:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters…”

In my current surroundings, these verses make me picture a mom with her child who is in desperate need.  The mom quietly tends to the child’s needs and makes sure every detail is covered.  The sick child may not even be fully aware of their needs or how they are taken care of.  Even when the child wants to get up and play, the mom wisely provides a (surprisingly) comfortable spot and gives relief of any symptoms.

When the Lord provides for my needs, I am often unaware.  Sure, there are things I see firsthand and I am so thankful.  Then, there are the ways He is my Shepherd when I am the sick child.  He takes care of things before they can even become a problem, and I lack nothing.  In being my Shepherd, the Lord also takes care of me when I make poor choices.  He lovingly calls to repentance.

He takes the desert I find myself in, and provides a green pasture.  He shows me where the water is…

Growing up, my momma knew how to make the perfect “bed on the couch,” when we did not feel well.  She would set up our favorite show (or read books) and a little table for our drink and crackers.  She would choose her chores accordingly, as to be in the same room with us.  Momma anticipated the needs we would have.  She made our time of sickness into a time where we could experience her loving faithfulness.  When I was talking to her about my little girl being sick, Momma reminded me that Sophie would always remember the times I sat beside her.  The times when she was in need and I was there.  Times of provision, even when the ways might be surprising or unexpected to her.

It is the same way with the Lord…

When we are in relationship with the Lord, we are given opportunities to see His faithfulness.  His provision.  His loving care of us, so we lack nothing.  It may not always come how we expect, but His provision will always be a green pasture and quiet waters in the midst of our dry desert.  He anticipates our needs and knows the very best way to provide for them.

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)

If you are in a time where quietness has been given to you (maybe you did not expect it) or you are in a time where you are seeing the faithfulness of the Lord firsthand, I encourage you to proclaim His greatness.  Review in your heart and to those around you, the ways that you have seen your needs provided.  Talk about your green pastures and quiet waters.  Acknowledge the ways you love the Lord.

This attitude of thankfulness will encourage you and will train you to be aware of all that the Lord is doing.  Recount the love of the Lord from generation to generation.  By His hand, you will lack nothing.

Though I walk through the valley…

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“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4

When my mind goes to a place of fear, it most often brings up images of a certain season in my life.  It was a short season, but intensely painful.  I was in my senior year of college, and the valley was dark.  I learned firsthand what evil was and I was very uncertain of my place in the valley.  Funny thing about valleys, you often do not know it’s coming until you reach the darkness.  Then it is palpable.

Although I knew that God had been protecting me through my entire life, I had not experienced the calming presence of God in such a tangible way prior to this particular valley.  In order to truly know the value of something, you must also know the cost.  Since the fear was great, I could see how my Rescuer was greater still.  But in order to really see how beautiful the light was, I had to have journeyed through the darkest valley.

Knowing this, started when I was much younger.  I believe that God taught me in a tangible way about how to trust Him, through my daddy.  Daddy’s presence was faithful and his rescues were, in my mind, heroic…

My sister and I had gone out to play in the freshly fallen snow.  We were typical little girls, stomping in the snow and probably just focusing on our silly footprints or what our snow angels looked like.  Meanwhile, some neighborhood boys thought it would be fun to throw snowballs at us.  We quickly saw that we were out of our league and turned to run home…but then we saw Daddy.  What had been feelings of fear or doubt quickly turned into confident knowledge that we would be fine.  Why? Because we knew who was with us!  We were confident in the one who was coming to “rescue” us.  Of course, Daddy caught those snowballs and started launching them back towards their makers.  I don’t really remember the rest, but I do remember how it made me feel.  How it still makes me feel…I knew the “ending” would not just work out, it would be magnificent.  I did not have to fear because I was not alone. 

And that is exactly the feeling the Psalmist is trying to help us understand in Psalm 23.  The presence of God is calming, because we know who is with us.  The knowledge is built over the years as we climb the mountain tops even before we drop into the darkest valleys.  He is with us.  We experience God and we trade in those feelings of fear and doubt for ones of confidence.  We become confident in our Rescuer.

When God instructed Moses to enter the land of Egypt to rescue the Israelites, he was terrified.  He came up with all sorts of excuses and was pretty direct with God.  And to be that direct with God, He must have really been scared about the job that he had just been given…so in a last-ditch effort, Moses asks God who he should even say was the one who sent him.  Here is how God answers:

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, The LORD,the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:14-15)

God declares His name.  He shows us who He is.  This mighty God who was with Moses, is the same one who walks with us through the valleys.  As you read this, if your valleys are oh so dark, declare out loud that you will fear no evil, because I AM is with you!

{Picture is from Google Images}

On being washed.

{The following post is a reposting of what was written for the Sacred Mundane blog on Valentine’s Day.  I wanted you to be able to access the full article in case you missed it on her blog}

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It was a busy day and my emotions were charged, the kids were in bed and I was frustrated. Very loudly, I communicated these things to Josh, as he sat quietly and listened. When I was finished, he carefully asked how I had gotten so upset over the situation. Before I could answer, he then asked if I had taken any time to read my Bible.

One of the reasons why I fell in love with my husband was because he is careful with his words. Being a person who is quick to form an opinion and voice it, I admire his wisdom. But, that day, it felt like an offense. Surly, he was just not listening; I had every right to be angry. But, he was listening. He had heard much more than I was even able to voice.

I was tarnished. The light of my heart was dull and I was trying to live on my own strength. I was clothing myself in rags and I desperately needed to be bathed. Josh loved me enough to gently encourage me towards truth.

Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

When I think about love, I don’t often think about being washed. However, real love is a daily activity stemming from sacrifice. Through washing. It is not loud or flashy; it does not draw attention to itself. Washing is quiet and faithful. The cleansing that comes is deep and refreshing. It renews and purifies.

As my husband, Josh is commanded by God to present me just as a radiant church is going to be presented to Christ, holy and blameless. This does not happen through one conversation or timely word. Josh’s words that day would have been painful to me if they had been said in judgment or detached from his character.

I was able to receive being washed because Josh has been faithfully loving me our whole relationship. It is in his character, because he is pursuing God’s will, to cleanse me.

That does not mean it was easy.

To be washed by your husband is humbling. It is uncomfortable because just as a wound feels sensitive to warm water, sin feels sensitive to the Word of God. Washing is supposed to remove the filth. It takes practice. It becomes more natural with practice and it will become more refreshing. You will desire to be cleansed by the Word.

I wanted to hide my sin and repent only in secret.

In marriage, when one partner is tarnished, the other suffers. My dull heart was defeating to Josh and his heart became grieved. Cleansing with the Word over his bride, also cleanses the husband. Presenting a pure and blameless bride is a blessing that comes from sacrificial love.

I have been cleansed. Once I know that I am pure and blameless, I can conduct myself with radiance. It draws people in and it blesses those in my midst. I can portray the warmth and cheerfulness that comes from knowing I’m cleansed, and go forth in the security it provides.

Is that something you want sister? To be washed and go forth in security? It is a humbling process, but it will change your relationship with your husband. It will transform your relationship with the Lord. Go and be cleansed. Go and become radiant.

{Picture is from Google Images}

Baby Steps

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With a new niece in my family, my kids have been talking about babies.  They want all the details about what they were like when they were babies.  What did they do?  What did they eat?  What did they wear?  When did they walk (this is the major one!)?  Between the two of them, they can pretty much keep this game up all afternoon.  Even at their young ages, there is something ingrained in them that knows they were made for growth and change.

Each person should always be moving towards disciplines like maturity and Christlikeness. 

When we are learning something new, success does not come overnight.  It requires practice.  Faithful study of the discipline or skill.  We must be successful in the baby steps before we can face the big events that test us.

One of my babies took her sweet time to practice those first steps.  She was a plump baby and acted as if her great achievement was sitting up!  We had good laughs over this, but still encouraged her to crawl and walk.  Why?  Because, we knew it would be detrimental to her if she stopped her growth at “sitting up.”  It would eventually be considered a handicap rather than the great accomplishment it was initially.

1 Corinthians 13:11 shows us the process.  It says “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation…”

Putting old practices behind us, in order to grow up, requires discipline.  It is a choice we make so our growth does not become stunted.  Accomplishing small things, with faithfulness, will build the lifestyle we should have in order to move past our childish ways.

Although I have learned to walk and I don’t have to practice it any longer, I have other areas of growth that God shows me.  Other areas where I have been challenged to put my childish ways behind me.  For instance, when I want a clean house, I cannot go to bed with dirtiness around me.  As much as I would like it, I will not wake up to spotless rooms.  I have to go room to room, accomplishing a little at a time.  I have to exhibit faithfulness in each task before I can enjoy the fruits of a clean house.

In the spiritual sense, I will not understand God or His ways, if I do not practice the discipline of learning my Bible.  I must spend time reading it daily, taking baby steps towards growth, before I will have spiritual maturity.  Once again, it is a choice.

2 Peter 1: 5-8 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Baby steps to build upon.  One at a time, until you are walking or running towards mature knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Consistent growth prevents ineffective and unproductive behavior.  Those negative realities will cause you to become lukewarm rather than hot, in your relationship with Christ.  There is no such thing as “just being”.

God commands that if His children love Him, they will obey what He commands.  If you obey, there will be growth.  If you disobey, you will be lukewarm and stuck in childish ways.  God is very clear about this in Revelation 3:15-17.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

It is important to realize what state we are really in.  I want to be spiritually hot!  I want to be a woman who has forsaken all childish ways in order to pursue the things that can be added up and built upon in the heavenly realms.  Through God’s power, I will learn to take steps.  I will pray for faithfulness so my steps can turn into a fluid walking motion.  Walking will turn into running because that is what growth does, it pushes the positive behavior forward.

Whether you are crawling right now or well into your marathon training, there is always room to grow up towards our Heavenly Father.  Let’s build on that together!

 

 

Hands.

I am notorious for coming home with a car full of bags and addressing the situation in one of two different ways.  Either I leave everything in the car and go inside, or I over-commit myself and determine to carry every single bag in with one trip.  Unfortunately, there are flaws with both of my methods.  One choice leaves my hands empty and uses no skill or talent; it is an unwise use of my time and energy.  However, the other choice is just as mislead.  In order to even have a pretense of success, I must overload myself and grip each bag so tightly, my hands hurt in just the short distance to the house and I usually come crashing inside.

Neither way is a good demonstration of what my hands were created for.

I find that my hands behave like this with my circumstances too.  Some days I am tempted to be emotionally loose with my circumstances because if I pretend not to care, I will not be hurt.  My hands are held open, but are limp and helpless.  Or, events will come and I grip them so tightly because I am convinced they are my key happiness.  I form an identity around this new opportunity.  I choose my own way and I refuse to let go.  My hands hurt from squeezing, closed to anything different.

We can usually be confident that when we respond in extremes, either way, it will lead to a negative outcome.  Extreme responses most often come from the flesh; they are a reaction.

We learn a little more about this lesson when we read about our sister Sarah in Genesis 16-18.  She was originally called Sarai, before God changed her name.  And while God promised Abram (soon to be Abraham) that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars, Sarai doubted.  She thought it had taken too long and she was holding the idea of a child too tightly in her hands. 

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:1-2)

When we hold an event or idea in our hands too tightly, it causes us to be impatient and act rashly.  We resort to any measure we can find to fulfill our goal, and we fail to trust God.  Sarai was intent on having a family.  She held it too tightly and made bad choices when she tried to accomplish the task with her own, limited resources.  She sinned, and the consequences followed closely behind.

Following the story, we see a different side of Sarah in chapter 18.  She is told once again that she will have a son.  Filled with doubt, she laughs.  She, in her limited resources, has no idea how this will happen in her old age.

“Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

Okay.  So, she learned not to hold the idea too tightly.  But, now she’s so limp with doubt that she laughs at the Lord.  When we “recover” from one coping mechanism, we are tempted to switch to a new tactic.  A new way to get what we want.  A way that will still lead to destruction.

Praise to the God who does not leave us to ourselves.

Fast forward to chapter 21.  Sarah becomes pregnant.  God fulfills His promise, just like He said He would.

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” (Genesis 21:1-2. Emphasis added)

At the very time.  Not a moment sooner and not a moment later.  Fulfillment came.

If we trust God, we will learn to open our hands.  Not in a limp, useless way.  But rather in an open submission, cupped just enough to carefully hold the things we are entrusted with. 

God made Sarah’s family whole.  He birthed the generations, beginning with a woman who was of old age.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Allow God to open those precious hands, then you will know they are not too tight or too loose.  He will fulfill at the very time He promises.