March 5, 2015

A New Question to Ask Kids

You have heard it before; the conversation goes something like this:
Adult:  And what would you like to be when you grow up?
Kid: Maybe a fireman or policeman or doctor or ... superman.

It is not uncommon to invite kids to dream about what they will be when they grow up.  It is fun to imagine being someone who saves people, helps people, owns a shop, designs new products, makes people laugh, or creates/performs amazing works of art.  The endless possibilities of childhood are wonderful!



Out of the blue one evening as I was preparing dinner, I thought to myself that as a parent, I couldn't really care less what my children grow up and do as a career, as long as they are people of integrity, with strong character and a devotion to loving God and loving others.

As a result of that, I pose a new question to ask our kids when we invite them to think about their future:


What do you want to be like when you grow up?


Adding one little word changes the whole feel of the question!


Often when our kids express what they desire to be when they grow up, they are already thinking about what they want to be like: courageous, helpful, kind, creative, entertaining, etc.   We can invite our children into conversations focused not only on the skill development, education, and training required to be something, but also on how they can, right now as young ones, strengthen those character traits that they want to have to be the kind of person they want to be in the future.

Character is transferable!  An honest man will be honest no matter his career. Trying to catch up and develop character as an adult is difficult - old habits die hard!  Learning new skills, on the other hand, is comparatively easy.


Here are some follow-up questions you can ask your kids to get them thinking:
  • Who do you know right now who lives and is the way you would like to be when you grow up? Maybe they could talk with this person or people about how they came to be who they are.
  • What can you be doing now to develop those qualities in yourself?  This is a great chance to talk about how God grows the fruit of the Spirit in us as we seek to be obedient to Him.

I do believe kids need to dream about what they will be when they grow up, it give them a chance to think about what they love to do, what they are good at, what they can learn, and how they might serve the world!  However, what we do for a living does not define us and can also change a lot throughout one's lifetime.  Those two reasons make me want to invite my kids to think even broader than occupation, to consider who they want to be and, then, how those qualities will assist them in whatever career path they take.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:1-2

Now I wonder for myself, what do I want to be like when I grow up?



March 3, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 8}

For those of you just joining in, on Tuesdays this year I am writing about being OPEN because that is the word I felt the Lord lay on my heart to focus on in 2015.  OPEN has so many meanings and I have so many ways in which I need to grow, change, and be stretched in OPENness.  Writing about the theme is a way I'm using to keep myself accountable to thinking about being OPEN this year.

This weekend I got really hot and bothered at my husband about some things.  I must confess that most of my anger stemmed from plain, old fashioned selfishness and jealousy.  I wanted something I was not getting and placed all the blame on him.

How can I be so cruel to such a good guy?

What you need to know about me is that I am terrible at communicating when I am upset.  What I want to do is lash out and get it all off my chest.  Because I know that wouldn't be good and I would say things I didn't really mean, I go the slam doors and grumble under my breath route.  Not much better, I know.

Usually, once I get calmed down I figure that I was mostly the problem and don't say anything.  I figure it's my pride or selfishness that's mostly to blame.  But some of my feelings are legitimate, even if my reactions are less than mature.

So this weekend, after having a very rocky Saturday and a much calmer Sunday, I decided I would talk with my husband about the situation.  It may sound really silly, but I needed to be OPEN to talking and following through even though it made me terribly uncomfortable.

My husband is a kind and gracious man.  He listened to me and mercifully did not bring up accusations he probably could have against me.  The Lord also enabled me to speak words that were true, but not harsh, communicating my feelings without making him feel bad.  (When I'm mad I really want to say things that make the other person feel bad.  True story.)

My dream is to be able to take a deep breath and talk when I am upset, to get it over and done with, without so much drama.  But, baby steps!  Being OPEN for me this week meant being courageous enough to speak, even if it meant some moments of discomfort.  Come to think of it, there is one thing I neglected to say to my husband last night, apologizing for clinging to my anger too long.  Ugh, that kind makes me squirm, too.  Have I mentioned lately how proud I am?


Time to take action:  What makes you uncomfortable or nervous, but that you feel like you need to do both to do what is right and to grow?  My example might seem super-duper silly to you, because you don't have any trouble communicating your needs and emotions.  But I reckon there are other areas where the Lord is nudging you to be strong and courageous, and He will be with you when you go there.  Will you join me in being OPEN and taking action?


My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 
James 1:19-22


February 26, 2015

The Love Dare

Many months ago I printed out something called The Love Dare.  If you have seen the movie Fireproof, you know what I am talking about.  In the movie a marriage is falling apart and one spouse takes action to restore the relationship, part of the process is the Love Dare, 40 days of doing things for your spouse and your marriage.  (It has been a long time since I watched the movie, so sorry I'm not being more specific; I'm bad with details, but that is the general idea.)


So, like I said, many months ago, I printed out The Love Dare, a forty-day schedule of things to do each day to love one's spouse better.  Since Lent is 40 days and it is all about giving up sin, one of my main sins being thinking about myself too much and about my husband not enough, it seemed like the perfect time to smooth out those tri-folded pages I have been keeping in my Bible and take the dare!

In book club we just finished a book called Severe Mercy, a very moving and beautiful true story about a couple, their love, God's love for them, sickness, death, and newness of life.  Early in their relationship they determined that nothing would come between them and destroy their love.  Divorce was becoming more common and they tried hard to determine what the cause was.  They concluded that the killer of love was creeping separateness. ... Taking love for granted, especially after marriage.  (p. 29)

They were on to something!

Of course the initial "inloveness" fades with time, because of physiological reasons that I don't know how to explain.  Once married, the honeymoon period does finally end, and life falls into routines.  Then maybe some children are added to the scene.  Work might pick up and there may be some moves to new places.  Activities take up time, too.  The details of the story of each marriage are different.  What is the same, however, is that all of these changes and distractions, responsibilities and cares can either draw us together or lead to "creeping separateness."

The Love Dare is an opportunity to fight the "creeping separateness" and defend your marriage against all that would keep it from growing.  Marital intimacy, next to a relationship with God, is the most deep and profound relationship we can know on this earth.  The evil one will do all he can do to keep your marriage from being great.  Mediocre marriages are his cup of tea.  The kingdom of God doesn't advance much from those.  But God-loving, kingdom-focused, strong marriages?  Yeah, he hates those!

So, the Love Dare.  If you would like to give it a go, to set yourself aside for the sake of your mate and your Lord, you can find it here.

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  John 15:12-13

**Please let me know how I can pray for you and your marriage; I would count it a privilege.**


My friend, Sally, wrote this week about hedging in our marriages.  I encourage you to read her wise words by clicking here!


February 24, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 7}

As I expected, with the weeks marching by, I am thinking less about this year's theme word, OPEN.  I am thankful for the huge sign in the kitchen to remind me, and more thankful to the Spirit for His kindness in reminding me now and then.  Sometimes it is so frustrating, living in a finite body with a finite mind and a sinful nature so close at hand, isn't it?  I look forward to the timelessness of heaven and the beauty of a heart focused only on my Lord, no longer constantly at battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

But for now, here we dwell.  Here, we are in the crucible of transformation, learning to live by faith in joy and sorrow, ease and trial, in preparation for an eternity of bliss.

Sheep herding trials in Scotland, 2011

One great trial and challenge is the number of voices we hear every day in our heads, luring us in different directions, whispering to us about our worthlessness and how unlovable we are, chiding us with guilt and insecurity, leaving us hopeless, afraid, and defeated.

Do you hear this cacophony of voices day-in and day-out like I do?


For our book study this week, we read and discussed chapter three of Sally Clarkson's book, Own Your Life.  The chapter is titled, Listening to New Voices, Owning Your True Identity.  It was such a relief to sit in a room with a bunch of other ladies and hear how damaging, lying voices have and do effect the way we think about ourselves and how we make decisions.  We are not alone!  But, even better, it was balm for our souls to be reminded of the ONE VOICE we should be listening to and how gentle, loving, kind, and patient He is compared to the demanding, condemning, shaming voices that constantly ring in our ears.

Sally shared several verses in the reflection section at the end of the chapter: Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 8:1, and 2 Corinthians 5:17, which I've posted below.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

And she issued this challenge, which I am trying to be OPEN to: at the beginning of each day, spend at least a couple of minutes acknowledging the newness of life that [God] provides for you.  Every morning, regardless of what has happened the day before or way back in the past, in Christ you walk, (I walk, all God's people walk), in newness of life.  Every day!  The old has gone, the new has come.

That is true truth about your identity.  Doesn't it make you want to walk with your head held high, loving God and your neighbor with greater passion and devotion?

Man, I want to be OPEN to listening to the sweet voice of my loving Shepherd, and OPEN to boldly telling the other voices to be gone!  It is going to take a lot of practice....


Time to take action:  What voices are you listening to and letting define you or, worse, defeat you?  The worst voices are the ones with a little bit of truth in them, but that are still big fat lies!  Are you tossed and beaten down by the voices?  Listen, dear friend,

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

None.

If you belong to God, you are a new creation!  His voice does not condemn.  His Spirit may convict us of sin, but will not shame us.

Will you join me in meditating on Romans 8:1 and 2 Corinthians 5:17?  Stop right now and rejoice in the Lord, saying The old has gone, the new is here, right now!  I have been made new.  Thank you, Jesus!  Confess your sin of listening to the voices rather than to God's sweet, still voice.  Be assured He forgives you.  And walk today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, in newness of life.

I wonder how OPENNESS to true truth will transform us, our families, and our neighborhoods!  Oh, let's find out by listening to the Shepherd's voice, rather than the thieves and the robbers.

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”  John 10:1-5




February 19, 2015

You're Invited: Resources for Lent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  Depending on your Christian tradition, you may have left a solemn service with a cross of ashes on you head or the day slipped by without a thought about it.  Many denominations join the church from throughout the ages to observe this holy day and kick-start forty days of self-examination and repentance in preparation for joyous celebration on Easter morning.

I don't remember attending services in my youth or hearing many folks talk about Lent, except for my Catholic friends who mostly gave up chocolate for the duration.  I was glad I didn't have to do that!

As I have learned more about Lent in my grown-er-up years, the more I love when the season arrives.  Such an invitation is offered to us!  We are beckoned in to be brave, look at our characteristic sins, take seriously the depth of the damage they cause, confess them, and move toward God through His healing and transformation.  His healing and transformation!



Last night at our service, there was an insert in the bulletin that began with these words:

Ash Wednesday and Lent offer us an opportunity to 'go subterranean.'  That is, these times in the Church Calendar bring to our attention the monstrous things that often lurk in the dark basements of our lives -- things we'd rather bury than confess.
Ash Wednesday and Lent help us to excavate these crippling sources of harm and then bring them into the light of God's mercy and healing.  I invite you to accept the rather heavy Lenten invitation to 'go subterranean' with us. ... (emphasis mine)

I want to pass on to you the invitation to 'go subterranean,' too!  Scriptures says that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If you are in Christ, already your place is secure before the throne of God.  You are His kid!  (John 1:12-13)  But Lent offers us the opportunity to GROW!  As our pastor outlined in his sermon last night, we remember, we return, we obey, and we draw near to God.

Strange, isn't it, that examining the darkest places of our hearts can strengthen our relationship with the God we offend?  And yet, only doing so in His presence and with His Spirit at work in us, can we find any freedom or hope!

Here are some resources you might find helpful in this season:

  • Your Bible  I think this is your first and best option for drawing near to God! Each of the Gospels is around 20 chapters.  You can read a chapter every two days during lent, or read through the Gospel twice during lent.  The Word of God is living and active, it is one huge way we get to know God.  Perhaps rather than giving up, you can add daily Scripture reading to your days this Lent.
  • On Keeping a Holy Lent  This is a pamphlet by a fellow named Craig R. Higgins.  You can find it here, and you will not be disappointed.  Learn more about the history of Lent and a series of questions to challenge you in the exercise of repentance in this season.  I also wrote about the pamphlet once, and you can read that here.
  • Respectable Sins  That is the title of a book by Jerry Bridges that will rock your world.  If you like books and you feel like you're not that big a sinner, this is a book for you!  (And me!!)  I might dust it off and give it a re-read this Lent.  The subtitle is Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.  Perfect for Lent, right?  I think so to.   You can pick it up from amazon.  Looks like there's also a small group companion for it.  Hey, you could start a small group during Lent, too!  Just sayin'.

I know some of you probably have other Lenten resources to suggest; many local churches offer daily devotions.  Feel free to suggest your favorites them in the comments.

Lent is not a season to become a "better Christian," to give up a vice for its own sake or to prove the strength of your will power, or to completely ignore because it's just some old ritual.  Lent, as Higgins says, "isn't about giving up chocolate, it's about giving up sin!"  And it "is the spiritual equivalent of an annual physical exam; it's a time to take stock of our lives, our hearts."

I pray that these days leading up to Easter, that glorious day, will be a time of God's blessing you in new and wonderful ways as you draw away from sin and near to Him!  He is the one who heals and transforms!!


PS  Sundays in Lent are days of feasting, not of fasting; they are not included in the 40 count.  So if you are fasting from something for Lent, remember that Sundays are not included.  Sundays are always the Lord's day, for celebration and feasting!


February 17, 2015

Open for 2015 {Week 6}

Every summer our church organizes and hosts Summer's Best Two Weeks  (SB2W), a two week camp for kids from Kindergarten to 8th grade.  Kindergarten through second graders attend a Junior Camp that is similar to a two week Vacation Bible School.  The older children go to Day Camp to be thoroughly worn out with more activity that I would ever be able to handle in one day!  The kids hear the Gospel, learn Bible, and do crafts, play games, and learn songs together.  For some children and young people, it is the time in their life when they remember becoming Christians.

Since last year was our first full summer at the church, it was our first year participating.  Elizabeth went to Day Camp, Brian attended Junior Camp, and Katherine was in the pre-school room for staff helpers, while I taught the Kindergarten class.  What a fun and exhausting two weeks!  This was my favorite moment:

I taught the kids the bridge diagram and the girls redrew it one morning!

So, you might wonder why I am giving you all of this introduction to SB2W.  Well, it has everything to do with being OPEN.  Everything.  I still don't believe the story myself, though I am a part of it and very confident God is at work in it.

Camp registration forms go out at the beginning of February.  Yep, you read that right, February, for a camp that starts at the end of June.  The kids were so excited to get their registrations and I quickly announced to Ashley, the current Jr. Camp Director, and Shari, the Children's Ministry Director, that I was "in" to teach the Kindergarten class again.  Everyone was excited!

Then I had this little voice in the back of my head, Heather, you know this is Ashley's last year to direct camp.  Maybe you should say you'd be willing to consider taking her position in 2016.

Hm.

Was it the Spirit or was it me?  I was not sure, but I could not shake the thought.  I let it simmer.

It kept coming back.

I needed to say something.

One morning last week we were in a local coffee shop (Commonplace coffee!) and ran into one of the college ministers, Linda.  I love talking with Linda; she is often a great counselor and encourager for me.  I decided to mention this thought to her.  And she immediately said something, "Oh, Heather, you should tell Shari.  I think it would really encourage her."

I have to confess that I was a little nervous to say it out loud to anyone, because then I might actually have to do the job.  And friends, let me tell you, it is no small potatoes.  I was in awe of Ashley all last year!

But the time had come, I needed to.  I sent Shari this note:

Hey Shari,
So I have this out-there idea that came to mind when I started thinking about SB2W again.  Since this is Ashley's last year directing Jr. Camp, should I consider taking it on next year?  Not sure if this is my crazy brain or God's idea, but wanted to let you know that the idea is in my head.  What do you think about this?
Almost immediately I received a response that began like this:

Heather,
Whoa that was a huge Holy Spirit at work moment.  Ashley and I have been discussing that exact scenario!!!

Okaaaay, so maybe it was the Spirit.  Maybe I needed to be OPEN to pursuing this because God prepared me for something out of nowhere that Shari and Ashley had been planning to ask me about.  I would not have been surprised, because God was already shaping the idea in my mind and heart.

But the story got even better last night when Ashley's mother said to me after a Youth Ministry meeting, "Heather, I have to tell you that Ashley and I have been praying for you specifically for the position, since last August!  I didn't really know you then, but as I've gotten to know you recently, I know you would be perfect for the job."



Okay, okay, now I'm really taking this seriously.  As I said to Shari in a text, I don't  know whether to be excited or terrified.  I'm feeling both in equal measure, full of awe and wonder at God's kindness and an awareness of my need for His help to ever do this job.  It is incredible to be right smack dab in the middle of God at work.  So much confirmation convinces me that this is good and right.

And so, being OPEN in 2015 has led to thinking about being OPEN in 2016.  Crazy!  God has a way of surprising us, doesn't He?


Time to Take Action:  Have you had any nagging feelings lately, ideas or thoughts you just can't shake, but that you think might be a little nuts to say out loud?  Maybe today is the day to step out in faith and see what the Lord does!


Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:25



February 12, 2015

People, Get Ready, 'Cause "That Story" is Taking Us Somewhere!

Our son has latched on to the concept of eternal life.  He often thanks God for eternal life when he prays.  I credit his Sunday school teachers for talking about it, because I believe that is where he has heard the message the most.  As a mama, it brings me great joy and I pray for him that he will never lose his excitement about seeing Jesus and spending forever's forever with God.

You know who else was excited about eternal life?  Most hymn writers!  Yep. that's right.  Over the last several weeks, I have noticed that most old well-know hymns end with a verse about eternity.  The lyrics remind me, and whoever might sing them, that one day our struggle and toil will end and if we lay down to die in Christ, we will live with Him forever.


Here are few examples:

Amazing Grace
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

It Is Well with My Soul
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken
Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heav’n’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.


"That Story" that I wrote about last week is the beginning of something eternal and so wonderful no words can properly describe it.  Christian, you are going somewhere that will be forever, that will be right, whose light is God Himself, and where YOU will be made new, whole, and glorified!!



You know were the hymn writers got all their crazy ideas?  The Bible!  Yep, that's right. I don't know how many times eternal life is mentioned specifically, but surely you know John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Frequently when the Scriptures talk about saving grace, the reward of eternal life is mentioned.  And oh, dear friend, the reward comes not from an earthy life perfectly lived, but from an earthy life dependent on faith in the saving work of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  How often I need to be reminded!  How hopeful is "that story"!!

We used to sing a song in youth group called, People Get Ready for the Train to Jordan.  People, get ready, the train is coming!  You might already be on board.  In that case, praise the Lord and keep your little self on that train!  If you have not embraced this faith and hope of eternal life, why not get on board today?  Please let me know if you want to talk and pray more about this.  I would love that very much.