Fight for Community

Today I had a conversation with a friend. My heart hasn’t been right, it was hurt. Our relationship  had been affected. I had let insecurities and other people speak their own insecurities and lies into my heart.  People's mandala - 12 handsFor weeks I had allowed the hurt to fester and grow. I was dangerously close to allowing the hurt pour out to others in anger and criticism. I was close to writing him off and being “done”.

But God loves His people. He doesn’t not want His children fighting against one another so He convicted my heart. His Spirit convicted me to the point that I had to make things right. I had to talk to my friend. I needed to share my insecurities, the lies I had believed and the things I had began to listen to from others.

To be honest this was not easy. It was very difficult. I was fearful of how he might react. I didn’t want to hurt him, but most of all I hated the thought of his disappointment. But his response was graceful. There was no condemnation or judgment. He listened as I shared my hurt, and my frustration.

He then walked me through three things. He helped me remember…

What he has done in the past. He reminded me of circumstances, and life decisions that spoke of his character. He reminded me of his consistency in his choices and the living out of his life.

His heart. He shared his heart with me. First he shared with me what I already knew about his heart, then he shared the things God was showing him.

Who our enemy is. He reminded me that we fight the same enemy and that enemy would do anything to stop the work that is being done in God’s kingdom. He reminded me that our enemy loves nothing more than to create friction and undercurrents in order to divide the body of Christ. He doesn’t want God’s people getting along.

There are parts of me that could go to the place I so often go and that is shame. I could beat myself up inside for forgetting who I know my friend to be. I have known him for a long time. We have worked along side together in ministry. Our families have broken the bread of fellowship together. I should know better. I could allow shame to cause me to withdraw, but I will choose to rejoice that Christ’s love won and the enemy was defeated in this battle.

As I have thought about this today it became very clear how easy it is for all of us to do this with our relationships (and with God). We let little things grow into big things. We do not confront and we forget.

So going forward I choose to do better.

I choose to go to my friend (or to God) immediately when I have doubts. No matter how small or petty I may think my insecurities or doubts are I will value relationship over looking foolish.

I choose to always remember who I know them to be. I will always choose to believe they want God’s best for me and would never harm me on purpose.

I choose to remember that our enemy seeks to destroy all healthy, godly relationships among God’s children.

I choose to believe that my friends, just like God, we always respond in grace and love not matter how silly my insecurities are.

Let us all remember to guard our relationship with our brothers and sister in Christ. Let us remember that we all fight the same battle…the same enemy.

What about you? Are you willing to go to your friend, your brother or sister in Christ, your pastor, Bible study leader or church leadership and fight for community. Are you willing to humble yourself and die to pride so that the body of God will be guarded? Will you, at all cost, protect the community of Christ against an enemy that seeks to destroy?

Who do you need to talk to today?

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Phil 2:1-4

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

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3 Ways to Help Create an Eternal View in our Children

Ambro, published on 02 November 2011<br />Stock Photo - image ID: 10063272Anytime we look back over our life we often see so much clearer. There are many things I wish I would have done, or not done, as a mother. I wish I would have seen then what I see now as the most important seed to plant in their young hearts. I don’t suppose I did it all wrong, they both are serving the Lord and following Him. But I can’t help but wonder if I could have done a better job cultivating eternity in their hearts. Could I have done better teaching them to live with an eternal perception? Could I have done more to help them live a life pursing eternal rewards instead of the worldly rewards?

Here are a few things that I believe give our children a better start to living with an eternal perspective. These are things I have done, seen modeled and wish I would have done better.

The first two things I see come from Duet 11:18-20 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul ; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall teach them to your sons,talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,”

1. Make time for God. This does not mean take them to church every Sunday or make sure they attend Sunday School, Awana, VBS, and have family devotions, although all of these things are good and valuable. But the problem comes when we separate “religious” training and our everyday life. If all that we do is the above without including God in the everyday moments of life then we begin a pattern of separating the sacred and the secular.

God should be spoke of daily, not in a forced way but in a way that is natural. A parent should look for ways to point their children to God in the everyday ordinary ways. Look for teachable moments. Look for opportunities to teach your children about God’s character and His truth.

For example, during the summer my granddaughter and I were outside when she spotted a bunny. She was so excited and began chasing it. She said to me after she realized she wasn’t going to catch it, “Nana I wish I could catch him and take care of him, he is so cute and cuddly!” My response to her was, “Isn’t it wonderful that God created something so cute and cuddly! God will take care of him because God cares for all the animals he created.” From there she began to ask questions about God and wanted to know others things He created. It was a small thing, and yet it planted truth in her little heart and opened up a conversation about the Creator God.

2. Make time for family. This is so important. Today in the pursuit of the “American Dream” we have lost the importance of the family unit. Quality and quantity time has been replaced with mom and dad pursuing their careers, and children pursuing sports, dance, music and the next top video game.

Today more than ever I believe the family is being sacrificed. Family no longer spend much time together. They are busy running to sport games, dance recitals, karate, and so much more that there just isn’t time for the family to sit together at meal time. Our family tried to spend several meals a week eating together around the table. I still cherish those meal times. It was there that we had wonderful conversations, laughed until we hurt and yes we even had some of out biggest arguments. But the point is we were talking, sharing and together.

Another way to build the family up is “unplugging”. Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and go for a hike, a picnic , go to the beach or camping for the weekend. As a family we loved all these things and our boys still speak of them with fond memories. Our boys didn’t have cell phones until they were about sixteen and driving, but even then it was before texting and the ability to get online with your phone. Today I think in order to help with the unplugging I would lock all phones in the car or maybe only carry one in case of emergency. (just a thought)

Be willing to make sacrifices for the family. What I mean is in light of every decision you make as husband and wife make sure you are putting the family first. I remember on one occasion when my husband had the opportunity to take a better paying job, it would have meant a lot more money and more opportunity for moving up. We talked and prayed about it for quite some time. Are boys were older and so we talked to them about it too. I remember one of them saying something about if we have more money they could have more things. THINGS. That wasn’t what we wanted for our children.

My husband ended up not pursuing the job for one reason, the family. This job would mean more traveling and more hours. Instead of being away from the family 40-50 hrs a week it would be 60-70 hrs. They let him know up front that those kind of hours would be expected. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice his family. As a result of that decision when it was our son’s senior year he was able to attend every home and away basketball game. He was also able to be there for every soccer game for our other sons senior year. My husband was able to be an involved father even during those moments that they might not care if dad was there or not.

3. Make time for others. John 13:34 reminds us that we are to “ love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  Galatians 5:13b says “…but through love serve one another.” We had an advantage in teaching our children to serve others since they grew up next to their grandparents. Even when they were quite young they would be over there helping in the garden, cleaning up the yard and collecting eggs from the chickens. As they grew there help increased to chopping wood, mowing, getting snakes out of the house and many other needed chores. They loved helping their Pop-Pop and rarely was it something they were “made to do”. The advantage of this was them learning to serve.

There were other ways we tried to help instill this principle also, like serving in shelters, helping with Angel Tree, mission trips, and serving a summer camp. I remember our youngest son desiring to serve at a youth camp for inner city kids the summer after his senior year of High School. We weren’t thrilled with the idea due to the fact that there would be little to no money saved for college, but we allowed him to go and it was life changing for him. He also had the opportunity when he was 15 to go to Japan on a trip to teach soccer and share Christ, it was another life changing trip. These opportunities should be encouraged even when we as parents may feel they should be pursuing a job or other things. It’s in service to others that our children learn the joy of serving the Lord and making sacrifices to do so.

As I said above, we didn’t do these things perfectly. I wish we would have spent more time in all three areas. I wish we wouldn’t have “bought” into the worlds views when it came to what was important to spend our time on. Our boys were involved in school and outside activities but God, family and others always were most important. We weren’t willing to make sacrifices in these areas, which included our children not being able to play in town sport leagues because they would have to play on Sunday.

Yes I know, I can hear the arguments now! But you know what? Our boys still played school sports in High School, and one even got offered a scholarship to play in college. (Unfortunately he blew his knee out his senior year and the scholarship offer was taken back.)

I am sure there is so much more to this topic of creating an eternal view in the hearts of our children, but I think these three things are a good start.

A Christmas Longing

Christmas has been hard this year for me. Deep inside there is an ache, a longing. I remember childhood Christmas’s past filled with lots of family, laughter and love. While we didn’t really have any particular family traditions my mother always tried to make the day about family no matter what was going on or how hard 2013-12-10 09.36.20the season of life was. It’s been 27 years since my mom, sister and brother have been together for Christmas and over 10 years since I’ve spent Christmas together with my mom and sister. I miss them all.

So while my heart may be sad it is also filled with so much joy of the season.

I am blessed that I can spend time with my boys and their family. I can love on my grandchildren and make precious memories with them. I am filled with a heart of joy for my husbands family whom I love deeply. Who still gather at Christmas time to share, laugh and love. They may be my ‘married into family” but in so many ways they are so much more than that. God blessed me far beyond anything I could dream for when he gave me my husband and a family who cherishes one another and has a deep faith in God our Father.

Most of all I reflect on the true meaning of why we celebrate the season. It’s the celebration of a precious baby boy who came to earth so that I might understand my need for God the Father.

I am grateful for a God who loved me so much that He sent His only Son in the form of a baby to earth so that I might know Him. Jesus came to earth in the form of flesh so that we might know His Father in heaven. Jesus came so that we might understand the love of the Father. He came so that we would see out need of a relationship with our Creator God. He came so that He could pay the cost of my sin. He came so that my sins would be forgiven.

So yes, there is a longing in my heart this Christmas for family, for the ideal Christmas celebrations, for traditions but I am reminded of an even greater longing inside the heart of every man, woman, and child. The longing for purpose, for love, for the God who created them.

I am reminded that there are many who will spend this season alone. There will be many who will find the emptiness to be too much and try to end the pain anyway they can. There will be many who will be hungry, cold and without the warmth of any type of celebration.

All this remembering and thinking makes me wonder if I’ve missed the meaning of Christmas all together. What have I done this season to reach out? How have I helped relieve the pain of aloneness? What have I done to show the love of Christ?

If I have missed the meaning of why Christ came and what my response should be what will I do about it now? What will I do tomorrow? Next week? Next year? It’s never too late to share the story of Christmas. It’s never too late to reach out and tell others about the baby that came to save the world.

It’s never too late to show the love of God who came to die for my sins and yours.

Merry Christmas my friends. May we share the joy of Christ’s birth all year long!

 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid ; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people ; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 1″This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared with the angel multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:10-14

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you,unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Cor 15:1-5

Why Momma is Angry

He stood there telling me he did not want to do what I had asked. He was three, I was angry. I took him by the arm yanked him toward me. He fell into the wall. I yelled. He cried. Then I cried. I then wrapped my arms around him, hugged him and told him how sorry I was. He wasn’t hurt. He was scared. I was scared.

ID-100104411.jpgMy anger had never gotten that bad. It wasn’t his fault. He was three. I cried to Jesus.

Several years later. Another child. He was four. He was angry. He stomped back to his room and slammed the door. He was a lot like me. He had learned what I had model.

It wasn’t his fault. I was the one who was angry. In fact I was angry a lot. It was always there, somewhere deep inside threatening to erupt. Most of the time I could control it. Most of the time it lie hidden just beneath the surface.

Once again I cried to Jesus.

I began counseling. I needed to understand. I didn’t want to be an angry momma. I loved my children deeply. My boys were my life. They were precious gifts. I wanted to be a good momma.

Here is what I learned. This is what took years to fully understand, come to grips with and heal.

My anger was not about them or my circumstances. It was a heart issue. My heart was yucky. There were things I had not dealt with. Things left unsaid. The past had been buried and needed to be dug up.

There were wounds that were oozing with infection. That infection had spread to the point that it could no longer be contained. I could just keep dealing with the oozing that came out but it would effectually become worse. I had to deal with what was causing the infection. I had to deal with the wound. I need to allow Jesus to go deep inside and cleanse the wound. It was deep and it had years to become rancid. It smelled. It was messy.

It did not matter to Jesus. Patiently, loving and with much grace He began to clean out the infection. It would take a long time to fully heal but the there would be growth. I would be less angry. I would understand that my anger wasn’t directed at anyone but the hurt the infection causes.

I had to deal with my issues. I had to take an honest look at what painful circumstances were causing my pain and showed itself in being anger. As I allowed God to work through these things I grew to handle my anger in better ways.

I still got angry, but I didn’t slam doors. I still got angry, but I didn’t “lose it.” Instead I chose to write, pray, remove myself until I calm down, write, and pray.

Momma do you get angry at your children? An anger that can be hard to control? Do you get angrier than is warranted? Then may I encourage you to talk to someone. A friend, pastor, counselor or your husband. Be willing to look inside to see if there are things you have not dealt with. Ask God to reveal the true state of your heart. Ask Him to reveal those things that may be causing the anger.

Then be willing to work hard through these things. Be willing to do it not only for your children but yourself.

Photo courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici, at www.freedigitalphotos.net

When We Must Let Go

I hear her heart breaking. I see the emotions that are swirling inside her. It rips her apart to have to let go. She knows that it is what you want, she knows it is time and yet there is the tearing of the heart that she did not expect. She has put so much time and energy into making sure there was growth and maturity, she put so much of herself into raising them up.

Now it’s time to let go. She knew the day would come, but the pain of it brings great sobs before You. She wonders if she has done enough. The time was so short, it just seems too soon to let go!

free_butterflyWhat about the areas that still need growth, still need maturity? Can she really let go and trust that her God will watch over them? She must, for she knows that it is only with her God that they are safe. She know that God has great plans for them. She knows that the future He has planned will bring much glory to her Father’s name.

Knowing truth doesn’t make it hurt any less to let go. The pain is still there. Her heart still grieves as she lets go of that which she has put so much of her heart, soul and life into.

So now she mourns the loss, the letting go. She knows her God will watch over them. She knows that her time has come to an end. She knows that her God will move her and them on to something more, something greater that will far exceed anyone’s expectations.

She completely accepts this as part of Your plan. She knew they wouldn’t be hers forever.

She will continue to follow her God through to the next place of growth. This will not stop her, she will not be overcome by her pain or grief.

Her heart will still mourn. But her comfort comes as she knows that her God sees the pain of her heart and He understands.