“How Much Is Enough?”

” Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:11-13

 

My family is fortunate to have everything we need (and almost everything we want.)  We don’t worry about food, or medicine, or clothing.  If we need something, we just go buy it.  Many times I have heard people in similar situations exclaim, “We are blessed.”  I disagree.

In our society, “being blessed” has become synonymous with a certain level of financial comfort.  This is not biblical.  In fact, if you read the meditations of Job, you see it is the exact opposite.

I am no theologian.  But to me, the state of being blessed has nothing to do with our material comforts.  I am blessed because I live in the presence of the Living God.  I am not blessed because everything goes my way.  I am blessed because my Savior is with me in the good times and the bad.  I am not blessed because my carefully crafted goals and plans are working out.  I am blessed because I can trust that God holds my future in His hands.

How do I teach my children this principle that is so close to my heart?  How, in the environment of entitlement that I see, do I instill in my children the virtue of contentment in all circumstances?  I am still working on that.  But it is the desire of my heart.  I don’t have all the answers.  However, I will trust that God will lead me in that direction.

 

My Lord,

Forgive me when I fall into the sin of gluttony.  Forgive when I continue to try and fulfill my spiritual needs with more things, instead of You.  Lead me, Heavenly Father, to live a life of humility, contentment, and wealth of Spirit.  Show me, Lord, how to create this lifestyle in my home, so my children will grow to value You over material things.

In the name of the Savior I pray,

Amen

“The Most Important Thing…”

“Be still, and know that I am God.”  – Psalm 46:10

Living into the stillness.

Finding my center.

Waiting for God in the silence.

Peace.

My friends,

Grace to you in all its various forms.  I know that the past 24 hours have been hard and stressful for most of you.  Please don’t think me callous or uncaring when I speak of stillness.  I know that is a word that most of us do not want to hear right now.  If anything, we want to be moving, doing and getting on with normal activities.  My prayers are with those that are still stranded because of this storm, and I am asking God to come alone beside each of you and comfort you with His presence.

I am fortunate to be here at the Academy for Spiritual Formation.  I have spent the morning in silence, allowing God access to my heart and mind undivided.  I am thankful for the opportunity to do this because I experience stillness so little in my daily life.  These are truly holy moments for me, times in which I experience the presence of God most fully.

I am coming to the conclusion that, of all the things I can give to my children, the most important is to teach them well the ways of communing with God.  His presence is life-giving, healing, and powerful.  He forms the center of my existence, and in Him I can weather all things.  

It is my prayer that my priorities in raising my kids will always be focused on the eternal, and not the things of this world that will pass away.  May I model for them humility, prayer, and service – that they might find their own path to God and be strengthened in it.

Amen

 

“What Is The Church?…”

For all the things I want to teach my children, this is one of the most important:  The church is God loving people through others.  When asked this question, I hope my kids will be able to say more than “a building.”  There are good things we do inside that building, worship, Sunday School, prayer…  But the heart of the church is outside the building.  I am praying tonight for all those travelers stranded around Birmingham with no way home.  I am also praying for the safety of the four rescue teams from Liberty Crossings who are still out there, looking for people in the dark and transporting them to our “building” for shelter and warmth.  While it is very compelling to stay home, warm and comfortable, we have brothers and sisters being the church in the face of the elements.

May God bless their efforts and keep them safe.  May all those seeking shelter tonight in our “building” be touched by the grace of God and forever changed.  May my children witness these acts, and one day answer the question, “What is the church?” with a resounding, “Just people loving people…”

In the name of the Savior I pray,

Amen

“The Grace of God…”

I find myself again resting in the peace of Sumatanga. The beauty of the falling snow reminds me why I am here. I am here to soak up the grace of God. It is here I bring my brokeness, my hurts and my questions. And His grace covers me like new fallen snow. His presence wraps around me in gentleness and brings me peace. I am made new again. My soul is filled…

“Mom, HELP!!”

I am sure most of us are familiar with this call, coming from a child, with a distinct tone that says something is most definitely very wrong.  I found myself awakened at 2:00 a.m. this morning to this call.  It was one of my children, and in my haze, I found myself running toward their rooms as I was waking up.  It seemed as though my body reacted before my mind even had a chance to register the call.  I am sure all you parents can relate.  As parents we seem to have this built in sense that responds instantaneously when one of our little ones is in danger.  It isn’t choice, it’s instinct.

So I found my little Hope on the bathroom floor, obviously suffering from an acute stomach virus.  We cleaned her up, got her back into bed with the cold cloth on her head.  And what did I do?  What any of you would do of course.  I climbed into that raging cesspool  of bacteria and virus (aka her bed) snuggled up close and held her hand.

The germaphobe in me would have run in the other direction if it had been anyone else but my baby.  But because it was my little sweetie, I braved what I know to be sure infection to bring her some comfort.  It’s ok if I get sick, as long as she is well taken care of.

I know all of you are the same way.  The care of our children is paramount to anything else going on in our lives.  We would do anything to make sure our kids are safe and healthy.  So I am contemplating today, those instances in which I can’t be there.  As my children grow older, I am confronted with the fact that there are so many things outside my control.  As they step out into this world each day, the dangers of sickness, hurt, and injury are all around them.  So what is a parent to do?

I have learned that I can’t always keep my arms wrapped around them, but God can.  He walks with them everywhere they go.  I have learned to release them into His loving arms each day and trust that He cares for them more than I do.  To have any peace of mind, I have to intentionally do this, or else I would go crazy with worry when they are out of my sight.

The way that I remember His constant watchfulness over them is by praying this psalm.  Believe me, I have it memorized by now.  Maybe all you parents out there might find it helpful as well.  But not only do I pray it over my children, I have taught it to them as well.  It is my hope when they are in trouble, and possibly alone, that they can remember to call out, “Father, help!”  And trust that our heavenly Father is there running to answer.

Peace brothers and sisters.

Psalm 91

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.

9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

“Can Someone Get Me Some Oxygen Please?”

My daughter is 7 and plays basketball.  I had the great privilege last night of taking to the court with the team to practice and scrimmage.  My job was to create some friction in the midst of rebounding, i.e. be the punching bag in the middle.  It was a great night, teaching little girls that they are strong and that they can be forceful.

I won’t lie.  As we ran up and down the court, time after time, it was not easy.  I never passed out I am proud to share, but it is definitely obvious that I don’t do this very much (especially when one of the little ones offered to run and get me water!) But again I say, what a privilege.

I was really struck by an immense feeling as I looked each of those precious ones in the eyes.  These are all my girls.  I only have one daughter on the court, but I had 8 pairs of eyes listening and watching.  I had 8 little girls doing their best and lighting up with joy whenever they got a “Good Job” or “That’s right, you got it.”

And God really convicted me of this fact when, out of the blue, one little girl turned to me in the middle of a drill and asked, “Ms. Lana, do you think my hair is pretty?”  Now this is not your normal 7 year old.  She is intense and always focused on the game.  As long as I have known her, she has always been about the business of competing.  So when she stopped to ask me this question, I was stunned.

But it was at that moment that I realized that I was there for a lot more than basketball.  I was there to assure her that she was beautiful and she did have value.  I answered and told her that I thought her hair was beautiful, just like the rest of her.  She smiled from ear-to-ear and ran on down the court.  I don’t know what prompted the question, but I hope that she left with one more stone affixed in the foundation of her self-worth.

In my opinion,  it is totally unchristian to believe that we only have to worry about our own children.  As members of the faith community, our responsibility is to love all children that we come into contact with.  It is our great calling to look into their eyes and tell them they are valuable not only to us, but to Jesus as well.

I am thankful to my daughter’s coach for allowing me to be a part of that process.  He could be the kind of coach that doesn’t want any help.  But we are fortunate to have a dad that loves to have other parents on the court in a collaborative effort.

I am not very good at basketball.  But I believe that just by being there and having meaningful contact with those children, one day I might have the opportunity to help them deepen their relationships with Christ.

If I continue to be a cheerleader, lover, and encourager to all these kids, then maybe I might have earned access to their hearts in times when they need someone other than mom.

It is my hope that I am not just seen by the next generation as “Hope and Daniel’s mom.”  It is my great hope that kids will always be able to know me and say, “That is Hope’s mom, she always loved me.”  What an honor.

Gracious Lord,

Praise be to You, for You alone have the ability to convince us of our great worth.  Thank You for instilling deep in my heart the fact that I am beloved.  Thank You for the people that You have used to accomplish that in my life.  Now please use me to do the same for others – especially the children.  Lord, I am not the best equipped to engage with the small ones.  So I ask that You fill me with Your Holy Spirit, equip me for the task at hand, and shower me with discernment – that I might always recognize the opportunities when they arise.

In the name of the Lamb I pray,

Amen

“I Should Just Get Out of the Way…”

I don’t know about all of you, but I have a serious investment in my children’s futures.  I feel responsible for making sure they become well-educated, productive members of society.  I want to make sure they are happy and fulfilled.  I want to make sure they have vibrant and deep relationships with Christ.

I have found that I am so focused on these things that some times I believe I worry too much about them.

Take church for example.  I want my children to have a lifelong love of the church – for obvious reasons.  So I am acutely aware of their experiences now.  See, because of my job, my kids don’t just get to enjoy the benefits of church; they are servants of the church as well.  Many times I have conscripted my kids to do things that other children don’t have to do:  fold flyers, clean the sanctuary, set up tables and displays, etc.  And they don’t have a choice.  Many times I am there on Saturdays and such preparing for some event, and my children are expected to do whatever is needed.  As well, they spend much time there, just being.  Often I have to take them to work with me because I have no other alternative.

I worry about this because I don’t want them to get weary of church.  How many times have I heard preachers’ kids talk about becoming burned out on church because they were there all the time?  How many clergy children turn away from the church because they resented the time it took from their families?

So I really struggle with trying to control my children’s church experiences and to protect them from “overexposure.”

God really spoke to me about this situation yesterday.  See it was a school holiday.  And, just so they wouldn’t be “forced” to hang out at church all day, I enrolled my kids in a day camp.  It was all fun and games with  movies, swimming, games and crafts.  Just what every kids loves right? I was sure I was doing the right thing and giving my children a balanced approach to investing their time and energies.  I had a plan and it was a good one.

When I arrived to pick them up, the leader handed me a piece of paper.  She wanted to make sure I got it.  It was reflection piece about Hope’s dreams for her life.  And right in the middle, in big letters, perfectly spelled, were the words, “I have a dream to one day be a minister.”

You can imagine what that did for my heart.  So when we got home, I asked her why she wrote that.  She explained that being able to tell people about Jesus was the best job in the world.  She told me that she loved the church, and hoped to work there one day.  Wow, how humbling for me.

How short-sighted am I?  In my quest to control my children’s experiences (so that they find the “right” path,) I fear that I am getting in the way of what God is doing in their minds and hearts.  I spend so much time planning and organizing their lives to make sure they get the right experiences.  I am beginning to realize that I am leaving Him out of the process.

He is speaking very deeply to me that I need to get out of His way and allow Him to do the work He wants with my children.  I need to stop trying to control their paths.  Because His path is the better one.  Now, that is going to be a challenge for this control freak mother. But I am hoping with the King’s help, I will become better each day at it.

Dearest Lord,

Please forgive for my constant need for control.  Help me to have a deep and abiding trust in You and Your plan for my children.  Give me the discernment to see You at work, and to allow You complete access to my children’s hearts and minds.  Help me to do away with the plans and visions I have for them, and instead, fill me with a joy and desire to see them embrace Your plans instead.  Help me to be an encourager and supporter of their prayer lives, so that they might discover for themselves Your divine will.  And Lord, even if I don’t understand or agree with the path You put before them, please help me to have a peace and assurance that they are walking with You.

May my children grow to be warriors in Your army.  May their hearts beat strongly for You.  May they, every day of their lives bring You honor and glory.  And may they be filled and led by Your Holy Spirit every step of the way.

In the name of Christ I pray,

Amen

If you are a controlling parent and need a little laugh today, try this video on for size.  I have found that nothing reflects my mothering style better than this.  I can totally see myself doing this to my child.  (Time:  apps. 1 minute.) Have a great day!