Sabbath Submission

Mark 2:27-28 “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

As a child I was raised to honor the “day of rest”.  This was taken literally in my home.  I was forced to nap on Sunday for many years.  Although this enforcement is a far cry from the detailed law-keeping regarding Sabbath, I have seen how people easily become burdened by the law’s requirements.

The Sabbath was instituted by God during creation because, in all His wisdom, He knew the earth and its inhabitants would benefit from the practice.  Rest is essential to wholeness and health.  The Creator designed us to rely on it.

What is Sabbath for Christians today?  In these verses, I can be assured that His directive trumps the Sabbath law.  The Spirit of Christ will lead me to do what is needed for that season.  I must have my spirit tuned to His to follow His lead for the moment–whether it is prayer for healing, down time with family, enjoying the sunset, preparing a meal for someone in need or maybe a nap.  It’s in following His lead that I keep the Sabbath holy (Gen. 20:8).

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What is it about teens?

rachel grad

 

Common questions I’m hearing lately:  “What is it about my teen that makes me want to pull my hair out?!”

“Is it normal to be ready for them to move on to the next stage in life – anywhere but my house?!”

 

I’ve always pushed against the idea of stereotypical “rebellious teen years”.  I guess I believe if that’s what you expect and what you speak into them as they grow, that’s certainly what you will encounter.

But if you take the time to emphasize “relationship” when they are young over the priority of “rules” then when they are teens the groundwork is laid for a smoother transition into independence.

My husband quotes Josh McDowell frequently, “Rules without relationship brings rebellion.”  We’ve parented our teens with that motto in mind.

 

While that is all true, there is still an element of co-existing with teens that threatens premature baldness in any parent.

 

I’m now on the other side of experience with a young adult son fast approaching 22; my first daughter about to be 19; still in the trenches with my 16 year old darling daughter!  How can it be true?  (Yes, I am avoiding the fact that I have to face all of this again in 8 years.)

 

I’ve concluded that teenagers are toddlers in bigger bodies. (Did I just hear you say “Amen”?)  This is not my own genius conclusion.  I’ve read it somewhere along my years written by a child development expert who is much smarter than I am.  I have found hard evidence to back up the concept.  Instead of trying to make my evidence relatable to yours, I can generalize pretty easily.

 

If you’ve ever said to your teen, “What were you thinking?!” then you’ve probably just experienced a teen-toddler moment.

If you find yourself confused thinking, “I know I’ve taught him better than that.  Where did I go wrong?” then you are probably experiencing a teen-toddler moment.

Maybe you have decided the best way to navigate the next few years is to lock your teen in a closet and shove food under the door daily until they develop into rational human beings – that’s a result of teen-toddler moments.

 

Don’t feel guilty.  Parents of teens UNITE!  We’ve all been there.

 

Here are some thoughts that might help you survive the next few years.  I want to share them with you today to save the life of your teenager (and spare you some hair).

Just like toddlers, teens need:

1.  Unconditional love – You have to remind him of your love frequently with words, hugs, eye-contact in conversation and time spent together.  He needs to know without a doubt that no matter how badly he messes up, you will love him.

2.  Clear boundaries – Even though you think she should know what you expect, don’t assume anything.  Clearly state your expectations for her outings with friends, grades at school, how she treat others, social network standards, etc.  You may feel like you’ve taught her this already.  But she needs the assurance of your standards stated in LOVE frequently.  It helps prevent miscommunication that leads to conflict.

3.  Individuality – Avoid comparing him to others.  Your teen wants to know what makes him unique.  Many teens want to embrace it even though it appears they are trying to “fit in”.  Encourage him to stand out in how God has created him.  This will take courage on his part, and lots of love from you.

4.  Independence – As a small child, this is called “individuation” in the developmental process.  We all learn how to function on our own, apart from someone else in life. This really should happen on increasing levels all throughout childhood.  As a parent of a teenager, your role is to prepare her to leave your home and become a productive, godly influence on her world.   Keeping that in mind will shape your intentionality with her through those years that seem to push everyone’s panic button.

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I’m no expert.   But I can speak from experience.  Deal with your teen in LOVE.   Ask the Holy Spirit to daily show you how to love your child in a way that speaks to her.  I’m convinced more than ever that we were not meant to do this alone.  We need the community of other parents and the help of the Spirit!

 

1 Corinthians 13:7 (MSG)

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”

 

Good Reads:   The Five Love Languages for Teens by Gary Chapman

How to Really Love Your Teen by D. Ross Campbell

 

 

Sheep Island

I recently read this article that has impacted me forever!  The metaphors are so profound, that it’s left an indelible mark on my heart.

Why now?  I’m not sure.

Where do I go from here?  I think I’m getting the picture.

How many will help me?  Only time will tell.

I’d like to share the story with you as it was related to me.  This came to an author as a dream.

Here is a paraphrase of what he wrote:

In a dream I found myself on an island–Sheep Island.  Across the island sheep were scattered and lost.  Soon I learned that a forest fire was sweeping across from the opposite side.  All were doomed to destruction unless there were some way of escape.  Although there were many unofficial maps, I had a copy of the official map and there discovered that indeed there was a bridge to the mainland, a narrow bridge, built, it was said, at incredible cost.

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My job, I was told, would be to get the sheep across that bridge.  I discovered many shepherds herding the sheep which were found and seeking to corral those which were within easy access to the bridge.  But most of the sheep were far off and the shepherds seeking them few.  The sheep near the fire knew they were in trouble and were frightened; those at a distance were peacefully grazing, enjoying life.

I noticed two shepherds near the bridge whispering to one another and laughing.  I moved near them to hear the cause of joy in such a dismal setting.  “Perhaps the chasm is narrow somewhere, and at least the strong sheep have opportunity to save themselves,” said one.  “Maybe the current is gentle and the stream shallow.  Then at least the courageous can make it across.”  The other responded, “That may well be.  In fact, wouldn’t it be great if this proves to be no island at all?  Perhaps it is just a peninsula and great multitudes of sheep are already safe.  Surely the owner would have provided some alternative route.”  And so they relaxed and went about other business.

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In my mind I began to ponder their theories:  Why would the owner have gone to such great expense to build a bridge, especially since it is a narrow bridge, and many of the sheep refuse to cross it even when they find it?  In fact, if there is a better way by which many will be saved more easily, building the bridge is a terrible blunder.  And if this isn’t an island, after all, what is to keep the fire from sweeping across into the mainland and destroying everything?

As I pondered these things I heard a quiet voice behind me saying, There is a better reason than the logic of it, my friend.  Logic alone could lead you either way.  Look at your map.”

There on the map, by the bridge, I saw a quotation from the first undershepherd, Peter: “For neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other way from the island to the mainland whereby a sheep may be saved.”

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And then I discerned, carved on the old rugged bridge itself, “I am the bridge.  No sheep escapes to safety but by me.”¹

In a world in which nine of every ten people are lost, three of four have never heard the way out, and one of every two cannot hear, we who have the map to safety sleep on.

“Why?”  Could it be we think there must be some other way?  Or perhaps we don’t really care that much.

Do you care?

Do you know how to go and find the lost sheep and direct them to safety?

Let’s stop wasting time and figure this thing out together.

Hebrews 12:1-3  “It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

¹Synopsis of a chapter of Robertson McQuilkin’s book dealing with many issues on missions, The Great Omission, Baker Book House, 1984.

John Denver and My Dad

This month has been one of challenge to find the grace in all things.

To seek joy where it seems like God would be least likely to be found.

Looking up in thanksgiving instead of looking around me in comparison.

We are all disciples of someone.  We live life together.  We learn how to respond to life-circumstances by watching others.  And we make choices based on the outcome of choices others have made … when we like the results.

I have been the one to begin the daily discipline of journaling in my family.  It started as a way to record thoughts of my own and has become a reference for me of answered prayer and thoughts from the Lord in days past.  There are pages that hold my most desperate cries for help in my darkest times of doubt.  There have been times I questioned God’s nearness; his concern.

And there are pages filled with scribbles from a pen that just couldn’t keep up with the testimonies of God’s faithfulness.

Journaling thanksgiving may be a fresh discipline for me, but I’ve realized this week, living a habit of gratitude has been modeled for me in recent months and years most vividly by one person…

My Dad.

He’s had a blessed life.  But it has not been a life free of pain, sacrifice or his own coming-to-terms with who God is.

I’ve had a front row seat for three years as he’s maintained a heart of praise in the valley of weeping.  He’s quick to thank God in every circumstance.  I experienced it again this week.  And the joy in the suffering jumped out and grabbed me.

My Dad lost his “sweetheart” of 60 years a few months ago.  He easily admits the void she’s left in his life.  But before he can take a quick breath in the sentence he is thanking God that she is no longer suffering.  There’s genuine praise on his lips for her release from this earth, though it has caused him great sorrow.

I called him on Valentine’s Day.  Those conversations are hard.  There’s no side-stepping the pain in his voice.  No carrying on a light-hearted conversation.  So I do the hard thing.  I ask, “How are you, Dad?  I know you miss her.  Are you doing ok?”

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His reply is something like this:   “I got up this morning and read an old Valentine’s card she’d written to me.  I looked out her favorite window at the sun finally shining after days of damp cold.  And I sang that old John Denver song, ‘Sunshine … on my shoulder looks so lovely.  Sunshine … almost always makes me smile.'”  If only you could hear him sing it as I have over the decades.

And it occurred to me, “This is ‘eucharisteo‘! This is the life of freely saying yes to what God gives – good and bad – with open hands to His grace and thanksgiving on our lips.”

Journaling gifts may be something I’ve started, but the practice of joy that comes from gratitude is living and breathing in front of me.

And I’m so grateful!

Who is living “eucharisteo” in front of you?  Have you thanked them?  Have you thanked God for them?

Maybe more importantly … Are you living (really living) with the joy and grace that come from a heart of gratitude?

Philippians 4:7-8 gives the DIY instructions.  Try it out.

For more on a life of “eucharisteo” read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp or visit her website http://www.aholyexperience.com.

Worship songs you should be listening to this year

There are so many songs to consider when looking at significant worship songs. For me, the Spirit uses melodies and lyrics to minister to my heart in daily struggles and victories. I can confidently say worship music is the soundtrack to my life.

It’s playing in my head constantly.

The past year has been just down right hard for me. I have closed a few chapters of life.  There is a paradox of the sorrow of saying goodbye to seasons of life.  That sorrow is almost always mixed with the joy and anticipation of something new.  In all of this, worship set to music is can make the transitions deeply meaningful.

Songs are kind of like mile markers for me.  They conjure up memories of significant places along the journey.

Thanks to modern technology, I have playlists and albums that are portable and accessible wherever I go. I have found that worship is a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare, and I am most certainly engaged in a battle!   I am serious about having my tools at arms length.  I would encourage you to consider the same.

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I have compiled a list of songs that you should be listening to this year. Some have been around for a while. Others may be new to you. I’ve limited the list to ten. I could easily provide twenty.  But we’ll start with these:

10.  10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman ♥  With cues from the Psalmist of the Old Testament, this song commands the soul to bless the Lord through every season. We actually have that power over our own souls!  There are innumerable reasons to give all the praise to Him alone.  This one holds causes me to count my blessings. It holds special place for me and will always remind me of my Mom’s faithful life and transition to her eternal home.

9.  Victor’s Crown by Darlene Zschech ♥  Sometimes when we’re in the thick of the bloody battle, we need to see the banner of our cause waving ahead.  The crown Christ wears as the Victor over all, reminds us that we are fighting from a place of victory that has already been sealed by him.

8.  Alabaster by Rend Collective ♥  Pouring our lives out as an offering of love on Jesus is a precious gift to him.  He deserves all that and more.  When we are in a broken place before him, we have the opportunity to honor him with every drop of our trust.  This is such a great prayer/quiet time song!

7.  Great are you Lord by All Sons and Daughters ♥ Pouring out praise attracts his attention and draws his Presence to us.  “These bones will sing” and have life.  This reflects a very personal prophetic prayer from Ezekiel Chapter 37.  So easy to sing corporately.  Ask your worship pastor to look it up.

6.  Safe in Your Arms by Martin Smith ♥ A simple reminder of the beautiful promises of Psalm 23.  When I feel completely surrounded by the enemy, this truth wraps me in overwhelming peace.

5.  Holy Spirit by Jesus Culture ♥ This is an invitational prayer asking the Holy Spirit to be at home in us.  I need that every minute of every day.  Praying (singing) this can transform the atmosphere wherever you are!

4.  Love Came Down by Bethel (I like Kari Jobe’s version, too) ♥ Again, a reminder of where my faith belongs during the ups and downs of life.  Worship is all about reminding ourselves who He is when the tendency is to look at the problem.  And, it’s about what he’s accomplished for us when we get tempted to think we’re “all that”.

3.  Alive by Hillsong ♥ Need a pick me up?  Forego the caffeine and put on this song.  He breathes life into dead dreams and broken hearts.  Jesus has done the work for our freedom.  Now we get to do the dance! (If you like this one, you’ll like Wake from the same album).

2.  Be Still by Bethel ♥ Another great prayer/quiet time song.  There’s something about accepting his invitation to come away and just be still that clears my head and puts everything in perspective.

1.  Oceans by Hillsong United ♥ You knew I was leading up to this one, right?  This song has won our hearts.  Besides being so musically engaging, it calls us to sing out what every believer should be praying.  This place of intimate faith and complete trust hits at the heart of where we should live – tightly holding his hand, eyes locked on his, walking on water too deep for us – a life filled with heart racing adventure.  It’s all about trust.  It’s all about practicing Presence.  It’s about all out devotion to him.

Surrender

And that is true worship.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”  John 4:23-24

Holding On … and Letting Go

Some people might say I don’t love my kids.

Especially in this modern culture where parents seem to bear the responsibility for everything their kids are – from their grades, to their clothes, to their career choices.  I’m not placing blame on any parents in particular.  I am, however, keenly aware of the fine line we’ve created for ourselves between being parents who equip their children for life and parents who enable their children to believe they are entitled to have what it took their grandparents a lifetime to earn. All by the time they get to college.

This has been brewing for a while.  I’ve read several blogs and articles lately by writers who are doing their best to wake this generation of parents to the consequences of too much intervention.

I had a fresh, face to face encounter with the high stakes of this difficult parenting issue just this week.

When children are small, it feels like the most trying of times.  Eating a hot meal with both hands is unheard of, and sleeping through the night is more valuable than….Well, I really can’t put an appropriate price tag on it. (I can tell you from experience that there were times recently when I’d give all the chocolate in my private stash for a good night’s sleep!)

There are those days – no, a whole season of life – when you have to be on your toes, constantly on alert to where they are, what they are doing and why it’s suddenly so quiet. It is a realm of exhaustion all its own.  Let’s not forget the well-known adage:

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It takes a toll.

I’ve heard well-meaning encouragers say that once you get past pre-school age with your kids the hardest part is over.   I bite my tongue and hold back the laughter. I can say with certainty now more than ever, that is not true. My apologies to all of you who thought you were just about to coast downhill.

As children grow up it becomes more important that we as parents understand our role.  It’s comparable to chasing a shadow, but I hold on to the hope that it’s possible to get it right. I’m still chasing.

When do we hold on?

When do we let go?

When do we step in to help, and when do we let the chips fall where they may?

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This week I had to make the gut wrenching choice to step back and let go.  And I do mean gut wrenching.

It hurts to watch your child struggle. I know I’m not the only mother who would much rather endure the heartache and pain of life than to watch her child as she fights to have faith in a God who seems to always be faithful to everyone else.

Oh, how I wish I could take care of it for her. Make it easier. Take away the pain.

But as I fought the fight on my knees, I felt God’s peace take over. I surrendered to his promises for my kids. He has a plan that is for their good, not for their harm. He will come through when we call on him in prayer. (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

I choose to believe that God loves my kids more than I ever could.

I choose to trust His promises.

          “Joyful are those who fear the LORD, and delight in obeying his commands.  

Their children will be successful everywhere.  

An entire generation of godly people will be blessed.”  Psalm 112:1-2

I know that when I move out of the way, the Spirit has a chance to move my kids in the way designed for them before the worlds were made.

Just having that knowledge doesn’t make it much easier.  Parenting is hard!  It’s the most complicated, disturbing, prayer-invoking responsibility I have had.  And there’s more to come.

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If you have little munchkins now, practice daily letting your kids make small decisions all on their own. If there are consequences, let them feel the pain of them. If there are rewards, celebrate with them wildly!

For those with pre-teens and teens, it’s so important that they sense you are available for guidance in the safety of your love. Our homes should be a place where mistakes are stepping-stones for success. It’s time to start loosening the grip.

Parents of adult children who are reading this probably have a deeper well of wisdom and insight than I do. I welcome your advice!

I love my children more than these words can express. I love them enough to place them in the hands of the One who takes care of them best. I love them so much, that I must step out of the way… and let go.

All of us can benefit from this advice:

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” James 1:5

Wisdom for 2014

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The New Year always brings excitement for me.  The opportunity for a fresh start is enticing because I often feel the need for a do-over.  When I stop and think about it, I look for multiple fresh starts throughout the year.  Spring brings the anticipation of new life springing up from the cold dead winter.  Fall and the start of a new school year always signifies a clean slate for me too, even when I’m NOT in school.   The thought of putting the former days behind and looking to the future with fresh vision feels like freedom on the horizon.  And I am embracing it this year with wholehearted gusto!

Last year held many sorrows.  I embraced the season and God’s grace carried me through.

I’m ready to move on.

I’ve been challenged to find a verse from the Scriptures that will be my theme for 2014.  For three days now, I’ve been asking the Lord which one is for me.  Just like everything else in my life, I got bogged down in the details and let it become a burden instead of a joy.  There are three passages that have deeply impacted me over the last months and even years.  They have shaped the way I pray and do life.  Then there are newer passages that I have come to love and meditate on.  Let’s just face it.  I love the written Word of God.  I cherish the still small voice of God just as much!

How am I supposed to choose just ONE verse?

 

This morning, it hit me.  It all boils down to this:

The one thing I long for above all else this year is WISDOM!  A “God-listening” heart. (1 Kings 3:9)

 

When I’m faced with tough decisions regarding my future…..I need wisdom.

When my girls are in the throws of a screaming match….I need wisdom.

When trusting God is all I can do for our finances….I need wisdom.

When I am investing in relationship with my husband, my children, my friends….I need wisdom.

When the freshly mopped kitchen floor is littered with crumbs and muddy paw prints….I need wisdom.

When the motivation to move forward with the vision & calling He’s given me is gone….I need wisdom.

When my two year old is repeating the same request for the ten-thousandth time….I need wisdom.

When I don’t know what to pray….I need wisdom.

 

So for 2014, my verse (and my daily prayer) will be that of Solomon.  He could have asked for a myriad of blessings, but he chose wisdom.    “Here’s what I want:  Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.  For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”

 

Ok, so I am not a king like Solomon was, and I may not have the huge responsibility of leading a nation of people, but I do have the high calling of leading my children and walking this path with friends and fellow followers of Jesus with integrity and love.

That’s enough.

 

The kicker to this passage for me is that this whole conversation Solomon had with God was while he was sleeping! He was so tuned to God’s voice that this request and blessing were signed and sealed in his sleep!  God was pleased with Solomon’s request and blessed him with even more than he asked for. (1 Kings 3:10)

 

God speaks – and listens – even when we are sleeping!

Yay!  Sleep is productive time too!

 

Learning to listen….

Developing a God-listening heart….

Having wisdom as my daily companion….(Proverbs 2:2-11)

This is what I want for the New Year!

 

More passages on wisdom:

Proverbs 3:13-20

Proverbs 8 (the whole thing is fabulous)

James 3:17-18