A Call to Prayer

Tomorrow morning at 8am Eastern Time join me in praying for America.

I mean at 8am, stop what you are doing and get on your face.

Pray for the family and friends of George Floyd.

Pray for Derek Chauvin, his family and his friends.

Pray for the other officers who were present when Mr. Floyd was murdered – their family and friends

Pray for the police officers and their families across the nation

Pray for the government officials local and national

Pray for the protestors

Pray for the rioters

Pray for the business owners who have lost or damaged business.

Pray for our children and our future.

Pray for change.

Pray for a heart like God’s. Pray to love like He loves.

I’m not asking you to sign up for anything. I am not asking you to prove that you did it. You know we need to do it just as well as I do. I’m not going to go Live because I’ll be on my face crying out to God.

Will you join me in pray for our country? Tomorrow morning at 8am. Set a reminder on your phone.

When I Sin and Blame it on My Kids

Ethan’s upstairs doing school work on the desktop. Calling me because he needs help. Emery’s downstairs doing school work on the laptop. Calling me because she needs help. I’m in the dining room reading scripture for this week’s Bible study lesson.

I advise them to work as far as they can on their own or try to figure it out and keep going.  I promise I’ll help in a little while.  

But I keep working.  I want to get done with this lesson.  I want to move on to the next thing on my check list – laundry, dinner prep, vacuuming…heck, I may even get to take a shower today!  

But they keep calling me.  I go upstairs to help Ethan.  I go back downstairs to help Emery.

Repeat all day, 4 days a week since their school began assigning new virtual learning after spring break.  

The tipping point comes.  

{Wasn’t it inevitable?}  

I lose my temper.  I raise my voice.  I go on a rant.  My heartbeat accelerates.  I feel my face getting hot.  I knit my brow together and glare at whoever is unlucky enough to be closest to me at the time…

Then, God reminds me that my quiet time with Him is supposed to be earlier in the day…before the kids get up and start their day and need me to be their mommy.  

We’ve already settled this, He whispers.  

And I know He’s right.  We settled this.  I submitted to His will: Give God my time early in the morning, and the daytime when my family is at home belongs to them.

But, I’ve gotten slack.  I’ve been lazy.  I wanted to sleep in.  I can do my Bible study while they’re doing school work, I rationalized.  I’ll have free time when they have screen time.

Then, God called me out, and I realized – How dare I get angry with my children for needing and wanting my attention when I’m trying to do my Bible study that I should have gotten up early and done while the house was calm and quiet and no one needed me.

I’m actually being selfish when I ignore my children under the guise of studying the Bible.  Should I even go so far as to say I’m being sinful?

Daytime, when they are awake and home with me, is their time.  They deserve my attention and affection during that time.  After all, I wanted to be a mom.  Taking on this responsibility was my choice.  Giving them attention and affection when they need it is part of that responsibility.

Quiet time, when I fill up with the fullness of God, is in the early morning.  Darkness outside.  Silent house.  Just me at the table with my Bible and my journal.

So, where’s the balance? After all, I’m always preaching about how important it is to find balance.

Honestly, they don’t need or deserve every bit of my undivided attention or direction.  That wouldn’t be good parenting either.

They need their own time – to learn to occupy themselves, to be bored and learn what to do about it…

And of course there’s housework for…

My point?

When I neglect my quiet time with Jesus, when I refuse the time he has already appointed for me and convicted me of…

AND I try to force it into the time and space where I am supposed to be mommy…

I am at fault.

This is my sin, not my children’s.

On a practical note, this will look different for you depending on your situation:

  • Moms who work full time outside the home
  • Moms of infants
  • Moms who work full time at home
  • Moms of older kids or teenagers
  • Single moms
  • Moms who are caregivers (or an elderly parent or sick partner or child, etc)
  • Moms who stay at home with small children
  • Moms who home-school

The list of different situations you can find yourself in as a mom are infinite.  But, I don’t think this changes the issue.  It is our responsibility to give them the attention and affection they are supposed to have from us as their mothers.

Why We Have to Suffer

It’s 1 in the afternoon.  My husband won’t be home for at least 3 more hours.  And the baby won’t.stop.crying.

He’s had a nap.  Been fed and had a diaper change.

I’ve held him.  Bounced him.  Sung to him.  Put him down.  Picked him up again.  Everything I can think of.

But he won’t.stop.crying.

I remember a DVD the OBGYN gave me at a prenatal visit.  Something about purple crying.  That sometimes babies cry for no good reason.  The DVD said if you’ve done everything you know to do, and the baby is still crying, put the baby down in a safe place and walk away for a little while.

So, I lay him in his crib and go outside.  I slowly circle the outside of the house a few times to try and clear my head.

Each time I walk by his window, I hear him.  Still crying.

That day is tattooed in my memory, but that baby is now a rising 6th grader about to start middle school.

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Sleeping like a baby – January 2009

When I think of that day, I laugh.  Usually.  But it wasn’t humorous then.

What I didn’t understand as a new mama is that crying is the only way a baby is able to communicate.  To tell us there’s something wrong.

Why is that the only way, though?

And do they have to be so loud?  How is it that they change so quickly from content, cooing angels with their feet in their hands to irate, screaming banshees with their fists in tight balls?

Is there no other way to signal that they’re hungry or need a diaper change?  Surely God, in His wisdom, would have devised another way if there were one.  But, He didn’t.  So, there must not have been.

I mean, would I have kept the baby on a regular feeding schedule if he simply lay there sleeping peacefully or gazing contently at the ceiling fan?  Sure, I’d probably stare at him a lot, marveling at how cute he was.  But would it occur to me to feed him if he wasn’t causing a scene?  Possibly not.

The baby must do something to get someone’s attention.  To snap a caregiver out of her self-absorbed-ness.  To encourage a parent to…well, parent.

Hear me out…

This scene with my son came to mind recently when I read commentary on 1 Samuel chapters 16 and 17 from the English Standard Version Study Bible.  One sentence got my attention: “God trains David, through suffering, to lead his people”.

My immediate reaction: Wait? What?  Why use suffering?  Wouldn’t something else work?

To suffer is to undergo pain or distress.  To sustain injury.  It might involve anguish.  Suffering is…negative!

How does suffering  – which sounds negative – produce someone who will make a good king, parent, teacher, CEO, writer, leader…

Well, if I didn’t suffer, would I learn as much?  Would I pay attention as closely?  Would I even realize I was supposed to learn anything?

If David hadn’t suffered, would he have become a great king?  Would he have been prepared to lead God’s people?

Maybe it is necessary to suffer because it drives us TO God.  As David suffered, he wrote songs that we still use today to call out to God in our despair or to lift His name in praise.  David’s words have become prayers for millions.

When I struggled as a stay-at-home mom with an infant I couldn’t figure out, I cried.  A LOT.  And in my suffering, I turned back to GodWhom I had been ignoring for nearly a decade.

Would I have done that if everything had been all cute baby giggles?  It’s less likely.  If everything were going well, I wouldn’t have seen a need for God.  I would have thought, “I’m doing awesome at this mother stuff!” and gone about my business.

But people aren’t usually compelled to move or change if life is a bed of roses.

The opposite of “suffer” is calm, soothe, please, comfort, relieve…

When I read these words, I’m not inspired to move.  Are you?

I have found that God uses suffering to move me.  To prompt me.  To inspire me.  To change me.  To point me back to Himself.  To cause me to seek Him.

When I think of it this way, I’m not as bothered by the fact that I will suffer in this life.  If that is the way God, in His sovereignty and providence, has designed life to be, then I will meet it head on and see what He teaches me.

*Crossway Books. (2011). Holy Bible: english standard version, study bible. Wheaton, IL.

How to Survive the New Normal

The New Normal.  That’s what we’re calling what’s happening right now.

It started March 11, the last day of school in our district.  It became “real” March 31, the first day the stay-at-home order was in effect in our state.

Everyone talks about the new normal.  We know what it means: the way we’re living during the pandemic with churches, schools, libraries, restaurants, and parks closed.  With people wearing masks and plastic gloves to the grocery store.  With people having virtual visits with their doctors.  With people working from home and having staff meetings on Zoom.

What’s your new normal look like?

For me, it’s been about finding balance.  I can’t lean too far to the left or to the right or the boat will flip over.  I gotta keep it in the center.

At our house, our attempts at finding balance during the new normal have looked like this:

1. We try to keep our lives and our schedule as close to what they used to be as possible.

2.  We try to embrace the changes we’ve experienced – things being added to and taken from our lives.

You could try to keep your life and schedule as close to the same by…

  • waking up in the morning around the same time you used to; going to bed at night around the same time.
  • washing your face every morning and every afternoon; taking a shower every day.
  • eating like you normally eat; don’t go crazy with a lot of junk food and sweets.
  • having meals at normal times.
  • emphasizing more time playing outside, building with LEGO (my kids love LEGO), drawing, reading, or writing, and less time on screens or social media.

You could embrace new things and changes by…

  • taking a walk, riding bikes, playing a board or card game, or watching movies together everyday (hey, we have a lot more free time now, right?)
  • eating a picnic lunch outside.
  • wearing pajamas all day.
  • tackling that home improvement project you’ve been putting off.

Like many people, I’ve chosen to keep some parts of my old, daily routine the same in the new normal even though I don’t have to do so.  I change out of my pajamas and wash my face in the morning and at night.  Continuing to do these things makes me feel better.

I have a friend who puts on her make-up every day although she isn’t leaving the house for work anymore.

Some people still drive to Starbucks for their morning coffee even though they no longer have a commute to work.

A few friends still wake up at their regular time for Bible study or their morning job even though they could do it later in the day since they’re currently at home with their children.

Honestly, the new normal isn’t like the life we were used to.  Lots of plans have changed.  We can’t do a lot of things we used to be able to do.  But I think we can figure our how to keep our wits about us and push through until this thing is over.  And I have faith that it will be over.

 

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Image Credit: PhDmind Blog

 

What To Do When God Changes Your Plans

I wiped the slate clean on April.

Alright, it was a dry-erase board rather than a slate, but I wiped off what little plans we had in April and rewrote the calendar for May.

Our April calendar was just about blank anyway.  Was yours?

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April had some dates marked, but they were mostly Zoom meetings the kids or I had scheduled for school.

Our March calendar was another story though. The month of March was completely planned out before the world shut down.

When I wiped the March calendar clean to replace it with April, I wiped away events that never happened.

Events were planned alright…

A date night for my birthday.

A weekend beach trip.

Class pictures with my students.

My kids’ first school dance.

Field trips to the zoo and Carowinds.

But when those days in March came and went, I drew black slashes through those boxes to cross them off.

I cross off each day on my calendar, but I’ve never crossed off so many dates with scheduled events that didn’t happen.

And never will.

All those plans we made!  All that effort spent!

I hear God saying, “You can make your plans, but I am in control.”

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Image Credit: By The Spirit Band

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make plans for our lives.

It means that any plans we make are under God’s sovereign control.  If He purposes to change the plans we’ve made, we have to go with it.

It may take prayer and time to get our hearts to a place of acceptance, and that’s ok. Prayer is time spent with our Father, the one in control, and that is never wasted time or effort.

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Image Credit: Bible Verses To Go

Pray to accept His will.

Pray to understand His will.

Pray to obey His will.

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Image Credit: Happy Wonderer Blog

 

 

Waiting on God

God should have answered me by now.  I’d been waiting on His input for…how long?  A few weeks? And it wasn’t a life-changing decision.  Just something small.

But He was silent.

And I wanted to know what to do.   Do I say yes, or do I say no?

Read the rest of my very first guest post and find out how God answered me.

Thank you to Misty Oerther for the opportunity to write a post for her Waiting for Sticky Notes series.

 

When the Fullness of Time Had Come

We are in the season of Advent now. You may have lighted the first candle on your advent wreath at church or at home last Sunday. You may be doing an advent study this month.

Advent means the coming or arrival of something important. It is a time of anticipation. Eagerness. Excitement.  Waiting.

Followers of Christ are waiting for Him to come again. We know He will. We have His Word to read; we can study and learn while we wait.

We have the Old Testament with the Mosaic law. The history of God’s chosen people. Prophecies pointing to Jesus.

Then, we have the New Testament detailing Jesus’ birth, life and ministry, His death, and His resurrection. The early church and the spread of the gospel.

Stop reading for a moment and do something for me. Grab your Bible and sit it on the table or on your lap. Now flip to the end of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament.

Hold the entire Old Testament in your hands, from Genesis to Malachi. Look at that group of pages in your hands.

Now flip all that over to the left side. What remains on the right is Matthew to Revelation – The New Testament.

Hold that group of pages in your hand for a moment.

Now lay the pages of the New Testament over to the right side.

Your Bible should be lying open now. You’re looking at the end of the Old Testament on the left and the start of the New Testament on the right.

Did you know there were roughly 400 years between the recorded history of Malachi and the recorded history of Matthew? Imagine that as the gap you’re looking at in your Bible right now with the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right.

Some refer to this as “silent years” because God was silent during this time. He gave no inspired messages to His prophets.

Why? What was happening? What was God doing? Why wasn’t He talking to His people?

One thing is clear as we look back on that period from our current standpoint: God was preparing events in history to get the world ready for the birth of His Son.

Galatians 4:4 says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,”

When the fullness of time had come.

Many Israelites had been faithfully waiting.

God had been working.

At the time of the writing of Malachi, the Jews were under the rule of the Persian empire.

When Matthew opens, Rome is the dominate power having conquered most of the civilized and known world at the time.

What does that matter?

When the fullness of time had come.

With the Roman Empire came a common language – many of the people could understand the stories told about Jesus.  The Empire built a vast and well-maintained road system – the apostles could travel from place to place to share the Good News.  There was also common form of money in use and an established and far-reaching government and laws.

The world was ready for Jesus because of the influence of the Roman Empire – enemy of the Jews. Dominant over Jewish life.  In His providence, God allowed Rome to prosper and spread, and then He used its infrastructure to tell about His son.

When the fullness of time had come.

God always does what He says He will do. He keeps His promises. He is working.

When the fullness of time had come.

All I Have To Do Is…

When I stumble, it is because I chose it. When I lose my temper, get angry, become overwhelmed, get upset, I have chosen to do so.

It isn’t what God wants for me or offers me.

He offers me great peace.

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Image Credit: pinimg.com

He offers to make my feet sure.

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Image Credit: Routine Bible

He wants me to rejoice.

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Image Credit: pinimg.com

When I don’t live every second of my life according to this promise of peace, it is because I have chosen to look away from Him.

I have chosen to focus on my desires. My problems. My fears.

Instead, He wants me to focus on Him. He has given me His word so I can read and learn how to live the way He directs. He has made it clear and easy to understand what to do.

When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus answered, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

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Image Credit: pinimg.com

This is all I have to do.

My heart, soul, mind, and strength are all of me. They make up everything that I am. If all of me is looking at God, I will not stumble. I won’t get angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, or upset.

I have to pray that God keeps me from stumbling. It is my responsibility to read the Word and treasure it in my heart. It is my privilege to meet with God in prayer so He can write His word on my heart.

If I take advantage of the opportunity for a relationship with God that He has promised, I can begin to focus all that I am on the Lord my God, the one who is my Master and who has authority over my life.

Prayer – Privilege or Chore?

Ask God to settle in your heart what a privilege it is to pray.  Ask Him to move you past the duty (“I have to pray”) to the privilege (“I have the freedom to pray.”)  He is Emanuel, God with us, and He wants to talk with us.

Because He is Emanuel and wants to spend time with His children, our prayer times should be seen as an advantage, a benefit, an opportunity.

We are at liberty to pray to our Creator.  He has given us favor to do so.  Even more, He has assured us that He hears our prayers.  In Jeremiah 29:12-13, for example, the Lord says, “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.”  (MSG)

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Image Credit: Julie K. Gillies

A line in the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” sums up my point: What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

We are afforded the opportunity to talk with God.  To listen to God.  To be close to God.

When we talk to God, we have the privilege of knowing who we are talking with.  We know His name.  We are able to call Him friend.  We are able to call Him Father.

We have the freedom to make requests of Him:  Seek me.  Save me.  Teach me.  Heal me. 

We have the benefit of knowing He is always near, never far.

We have the advantage of time in quiet and stillness with Him.

Honestly, we can talk with Him anytime or anywhere because He is ever-present.

He desires us to talk with Him.  Sit with Him.  Cry to Him.  Lay our cares on Him.  Listen to Him.  Know Him.

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Image Credit: Shelbie-mae.com

Let us come to a place in our lives where we genuinely acknowledge the privilege = we are able to pray to God and have the confidence that He hears us.

Ask God to reveal your heart to you.  Do you see time with Him as a duty?  Something to be accomplished every day?  Checked off your list of tasks?  Is your time with God calculated?  Something you feel you must do to gain a desired outcome or response?

If this is where you are, don’t be discouraged.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

Or maybe you thought you already moved past this point and can’t figure out how you got back here.

Don’t let this get you down.  We go through seasons.  Life circumstances change.

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Image Credit:  Miracle Channel

The important thing to do is to realize when you find yourself in that place so you can pray and ask God for help.

Ask God to move you past the view that you have a duty to fulfill.  Ask Him to show you that you have been given freedom to enjoy something of a higher value: a relationship with God.  This plea for a deeper more genuine relationship is pleasing to God, and He will surely change your heart.

 

 

I’ve Found Your Next Bible Study

Deep. Challenging. Introspective.  Quiet.  Calming.

These are words I would use to describe Psalm 119: Walking in the Light – A Flourish Bible Study Journal.

This study is an in-depth look at scripture from Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible and the longest Psalm.  And I cannot recommend it highly enough to you for your next Bible study – either as an individual or with a small group.

One of the things that I love most about this study is that it challenges me to dig deeper into the Bible.  It focuses on a few verses of the Psalm and fosters thorough exploration of those verses.

The authors, Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert, co-creators of Flourish Writers, encourage the use of alternate translations, Bible commentaries, word studies, exploration of the context, an application to investigate and understand the scriptures.

There is not an excess of narrative in this study.  Instead, readers are directed to use the methods mentioned above to study and then to record our own thoughts, discoveries, journeys, and experiences with God as we explore the verses.  Journaling is a technique I enjoy using in my own study of the Bible, so the openness of this study appeals to me and encourages me to flex my writing muscles.

The writers realize that different people have varying amounts of time to devote to the study, so they’ve built in multiple options for investigations; you can complete as much as you can based on your available time.  The self-paced study is organized into 4 weeks with 5 days of work each week, but you can go through at your own speed.  If you end up spending two or three days on one section because of how God is speaking to you, there is room for that.  If you push through a couple of lessons in one sitting because you have the free time, that is ok, too.

I enthusiastically recommend this study.  God has already spoken to me so clearly about a current struggle in my life.  I am gaining understanding and confidence to walk through this time with the assurance that God’s word is and will continue to illuminate my path so that I do not stumble.

Based on the structure and organization of the study and how it has already challenged me to investigate in greater depth, I am confident this will not be my last Flourish Bible study.  I will definitely be on the look out for more materials from Mindy Kiker and Jenny Kochert.