Fit to Give a King

GivingGift

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, as an adult, the songs I’ve sung since childhood take on a whole new “grown up” meaning.  And this week “The Little Drummer Boy” has been one of them.  I find myself relating to the little drummer boy in several ways.

Come, they told me. A newborn King to see.

Our finest gifts we bring, to lay before the King.

So to honor him, when we come.

This child was invited to come honor the King. I too was invited to join a procession of praise when Christ called me to follow Him. Like him, I wasn’t really sure where the procession would take me, but I knew I didn’t want to miss out.

 Little baby, I am a poor boy too.

I have no gift to bring, that’s fit to give a king.

This child recognized His shortcomings and felt his offering would be inadequate. So too do I feel an inadequacy with the responsibilities God has called me to. I don’t feel like what I offer could be fit to honor a holy King. My offerings seem broken and stained.

Shall I play for you?

Mary nodded. The ox and lamb kept time.

I played my drum for him.

This child loved the King enough to offer all he had. So I want to serve motivated by love for my Savior and King. May I offer all I am to give Him thanks and praise.

I played my best for Him. 

He took what He had- what he had been given- and gave His all to serve the King. I want to serve in this way, taking what God has given me- maybe a skill, a gift, a talent, a blessing- and offering it back to Him with all the strength I have.

Then He smiled at me.

He watched for the approval of the King. As a recovering people-pleaser, I so long to live only for the approval of the King. I think of the “audience of one” that I want to focus on, leaving the approval of man behind.

Several scriptures come to mind as I ponder the truths in this song:

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of man? Or of God?  Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Romans 12:1 “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship.”

I am also reminded of the widow told of in Luke 21 who gave two very small copper coins as an offering for the temple treasury. Jesus commended her, saying she had given more than all the others. “All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Lord, I come as the poor little drummer boy to offer all you’ve given me back to your service. I come as the poor widow with all I have to live on. May I serve you with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. Take all that I am for Your Glory. May my offering please the King.

To Be Like Mary

Mary

I woke this morning on a pillowtop mattress under the warmth of my down comforter. She woke that morning on a bed of scratchy hay, covered loosely in dirty stable blankets.

My first born was delivered under medical care in a sterile hospital room. Hers came in a crude barn into the rough hands of her frightened husband.

My marriage followed a lovely ceremony with family and friends. Hers began in private surrounded by confusion and controversy.

In many ways, Mary’s story and mine are incomparable, yet I have seen several ways they are alike.

She was given a task greater than herself, and I too am unqualified for the work God has called me to do.

She delivered the Messiah to a dark hurting world. God asks me to bring light with my words and deeds.

She knew mercy would be given to those who would receive it. “His mercy extends to those who fear Him.”

She knew her greatest peace would come in surrendering to God’s will. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Her soul found strength in glorifying God. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

And she knew only God could understand all of her emotions. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

These are all truths I long to be written on my heart as well.

Her journey was long with many challenges along the way. So, too, mine often feels overwhelming.

Her heart was fragile, yet fully trusting of God’s good will for her life.

Her faith was beyond her years, and her strength was from deep within.

I find in the Christmas story that I continually look to Mary. I want to be like her. I want my heart to trust like hers. I want my soul to be as strong as hers. I want my purpose, like hers, to be bringing Christ to a world in need.

May we share her humility and her simplicity.

May we have her faith.

May we follow her submissive heart.

May we find strength in rest and trust.

May we resign our will to God’s alone.

“For the Mighty One has done great things for me- Holy is His name.” Luke 1:49

Hope Rejoices in Trying

volleyball-pic

Seventh grade volleyball tryouts are brutal. The stress of 80 middle school girls trying out for a team with only 30 spots is almost unbearable- for the girls trying out, and for their mothers. I remember this from my own middle school experience, and I have recently relived it with my daughter. I remember my father cheering me on by saying “all you can do is do your best,” words I spoke to my daughter as well. Go out and give it your best shot, and whether you make it or not, you will know you gave it all you had.

Unfortunately, this time around, my daughter’s best wasn’t enough to make the team, and she was devastated.  (So was I). Both our hearts were broken, but we could begin to find peace in looking back knowing she had done her best. She had tried her hardest, and she could wrestle back to accepting the outcome knowing she had given her all. Thankfully her young faith could begin to see that God must have had another good plan in mind. She could rest knowing she had learned from the experience, trusting God to bring her to a better place.

There is a line in the song “I Will Be Here” by Steven Curtis Chapman that says, “I will be here when the laughter turns to crying, through the winning, losing and trying.”  Winning, losing and trying. A simple view of our lives, but yes, sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, all the while we just keep on trying.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3:23-24

Scripture clearly calls us to work, to try, to give our best shot at honoring Christ with our lives. As we are faithful to put forth our heart, soul, mind and strength to love and obey Him, He is faithful to carry us through.

On this parenting journey, I have definitely seen some wins, and I have definitely seen some losses.  I can look back and rest knowing I learned from those experiences, and grew in faith to trust God to bring me to a better place.  Even on days of defeat, there is peace in faithful trying.

We can sometimes look back and get discouraged by those days of defeat. We can be tempted to blame and doubt and heap guilt on ourselves wishing we had done something different. But we have to remember that we did all we knew to do at the time. When it comes to our children, of course we gave it our best shot at the time.  We have to trust the outcome to God, knowing He had another good plan in mind.

Our walk with the Lord is just that- a walk. Not a sprint. We have to settle in for the long haul of walking through life in His grace. Along the journey we will encounter many ups and downs. We can find greater joy as we see glimpses of His glory in small victories along the way.

Finally, brothers, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.  2 Corinthians 13:11

The NIV translates “be made complete” with “aim for perfection.”  We are called to set our sights on following the holiness of God, while knowing that only He is holy. We can rejoice on the journey of striving to do our best, while accepting His grace that covers our sins and shortcomings.

I want to settle in to the long haul of walking with Christ through this temporary life. I want to be faithful to what He has for me here. I want to find joy in the journey of trying.

In Everything Give Thanks

cornucopia

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18

This week we are giving thanks. Thanks for family. Thanks for food. Thanks for faith.

For many of us the holidays are truly a time of thanksgiving. And yet at the same time, the stress and tension of family relationships or circumstantial difficulties can make this time a great challenge. Paul makes quite clear to us in this scripture that it is God’s will for us to give thanks in everything.

This is hard.

I’ve found on this parenting journey a great blessing comes in framing life’s challenges in thankfulness. I am learning to thank God in the struggle, even if I can’t yet thank Him for the struggle. Trials are easier to endure and find peace in if I can keep a close gaze on God. He is above and beyond the trial, yet chooses to come walk with me through the trial.

I will give thanks to God because of His righteousness. Psalm 7:17

In difficulty, there is always something worth giving thanks for. And we can start with the very character of God Himself. He is God no matter what we are facing. And He is still on His throne. He is still “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” (Psalm 145:8). He is still light, and He is still love. When we focus on His righteousness, we see our circumstances through very different lenses.

With this new perspective, then, I find three reasons we can give thanks in everything.

Glimpses of His presence and glory– Even in the midst of the most difficult times, God will reveal Himself and make His presence known. Our first born daughter was born with a blocked intestine and had to have emergency surgery on her 8th day of life. All of our family spent Thanksgiving Day that year in the hospital with her. One of those nights we left to get good rest in our own beds, and as we got in the car, the Christian radio station there announced a prayer for “a new born little girl Katelyn having surgery on her intestines tomorrow.”  God gave us a glimpse of His presence that night- a glimpse we needed to keep clinging to Him and to each other to get through the hardest time of our lives. Look around and see the beautiful sunset, a friend’s encouraging phone call, a Bible verse hung on the wall, a caring doctor as glimpses of His presence and glory to keep you going. And be thankful.

Gifts of His love and strength- In moments of fear, frustration, helplessness and loss of hope, listen for the whisper of God’s love over your life. Remember again His perfect heavenly Father love that completely and unconditionally loves you, His beloved daughter. Remember His Fatherly protection and provision. The Christian group Plumb sings the lyric “How many times have you given me strength to just keep breathing?”  Clinging to His love we can find strength to keep breathing and to keep walking even just one small step at a time. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). And we can be thankful.

Grace for today and hope for tomorrow- I’ve found on my hardest days that God’s grace comes in different ways. It is grace that brings comfort, wisdom and strength to the present, and gives peace in the midst of the raging storm. It is grace that reminds me who I am and whose I am. It reminds me that God has authored each day I face before time began. But it is also grace that gives me hope for a better tomorrow. Hope is holding on to the truth that this is not our home. Our eternal home is on high in the presence of God, and there with Him there is no weeping, no broken bodies, and no more sin. And we can be thankful- for the now and for the coming.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. Psalm 100:4

Of all the things we can give thanks for this week, we can give thanks for Him and to Him- for He created everything, He is over everything, He is in everything.

In everything, give thanks.

Hope Rejoices in Trials

girlwithbrokenarm

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed.   1 Peter 1:6-7

Can we find a joy in knowing there is a purpose to our trials? Is there a hope in knowing God has a greater goal in allowing these trials into our lives? Does a peace come in the midst of the refining fire of life’s challenges?

There are two phrases of this scripture that can give us a better perspective for facing trials:

“Now for a little while”- The translation literally means “now for just a few minutes.” Elsewhere in scripture (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8), we learn that “a thousand years are like a day” in God’s sight. If we work the math on that (which would be easier done on a white board), and say that 1,000 years in our time is like 24 hours to God, then we can work back and say 500 years to us is like 12 hours to God, and 250 years is like 6 hours, etc.  If we live an average of about 80 years, then we will only live about 1.9 hours in God’s eternal perspective. 1.9 hours. Then if we estimate how long a season of trial may be, we can see the perspective of “now for just a few minutes.” Even our greatest difficulties last just “a little while” in light of the eternal time we will spend worshipping God in heaven- free from all pain and suffering.  Seasons of struggle can seem endless, but in light of eternity, their time is short. We can hold on through the hard, knowing the hard lasts only a little while.

“Praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed”- I see two meanings for the end of this passage. First, we can rejoice in knowing that in the end, when Jesus is fully revealed and reclaims His Kingdom reign here on earth, we will overflow with praise, glory, and honor that will overshadow all of this life’s temporary sufferings.  Paul writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) When the glory of Jesus Christ is fully revealed, we can be assured our sufferings will pale in light of Him.

A second meaning for this passage that I see is the revealing of Christ that happens not only in the future, but in our present circumstance. The word “revealed” here literally means “to be laid bare, to uncover, to lay open what has been veiled or covered up.”  In the midst of great trial, Christ can seem hidden. We can struggle to find Him in the hard. But if we hold on, He is faithful to unveil Himself to us, and bring in peace and joy. His light can penetrate even our darkest moments, and the revelation that He is with us restores hope. His presence can bring us to a place of praise, glory and honor even as we “suffer grief in all kinds of trial.”

My soul will boast in the LORD, let the afflicted hear and rejoice. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:2, 18

We can rejoice in our afflictions because of God’s nearness. He does not leave us to suffer on our own, but rushes in close with His great strength and comfort. I can look back on my most challenging seasons as a parent, and can testify that those were the times when God was closest. He was there growing my faith, leading my steps, working in my life as He worked in my child’s life as well. And for that awareness of Him, and the work that He did deep in my soul, I would not trade those times. He really can bring us to a place of rejoicing, a place of thanking Him for the trials.

Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Psalm 51:8

Bones that are broken heal up stronger than they were before. So too are our hearts made stronger by God’s healing hands when we have been through grief, disappointment, loss and hurt. Our faith is refined, our peace is restored, and our hope is renewed.

Because They’re His, Not Mine

BoyRockClimb

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him.  For his whole life, He will be given over to the LORD.  I Samuel 1:27-28

Because my children belong to God, and not to me, I can find freedom, peace and rest as I trust them to His strong hands and perfect love. If I live in this faith and keep this perspective, my parenting journey is changed for His glory and for my good.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I know He loves them even more than I do. The great love and endless grace of their Heavenly Father are poured over each child as He protects and provides for their every need.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can trust them to His care. Whether they are sitting close at my side, or travelling far across the world, our omnipresent God is with them. His eyes are always on them, even when my own are not.

Because they’re His, and not mine, my own worth is not based on their choices. Whether they are shining in righteousness or struggling with sin, I resist taking the credit or the blame. I choose rather to set my own worth on who I am in Christ, which has not changed since my children were born.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I’m free to serve them with unconditional love. Each one is a gift placed in my care by their Creator. May I love them as He would have me. May I serve them with His patience, His grace, His discipline and His wisdom.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can be their parent and not their best friend. Seeking to please God, and not to please my child, I can keep my place as parent in their lives. I can parent with purpose training their hearts and minds for Christ.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can see past who they are today to who He is shaping them to be. He has begun a good work in each one of them, and I can rest knowing He will be faithful to complete it. I see His hand working even in the hard. Each glimpse of His presence gives me more patience and grace.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can live with healthy boundaries, respecting their emerging independence. As they grow, may they take on more responsibility for their own decisions. May I model that responsibility as I live my life before them.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can keep myself healthy to best serve Him in this role. I can seek to be healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. In doing so, I am best fit to honor God in this role. I can live with balance and an eternal perspective.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can parent for His glory rather than for my own accolade. I can resist the temptation to compare and compete with others. I can seek the contentment that comes in living for the Lord, and not for myself.

Because they’re His, and not mine, I can stand in awe of who He has made them to be- today. When I set aside pressures to perform and pretend and be perfect, I see each child as an amazing creation shaped not by my will, but by the will of God. Each heart, mind, body and soul is a treasure who is worthy of great care.

Lord, forgive me for where my parenting has been centered on me, or centered on my child, and not centered on You. Make me a faithful servant of the children you have placed in my care. Give me your heart to love them as you would. Renew in me the wonder of who you have made them to be. I want to be faithful to you.

 

Hope Rejoices

happygirl

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Philippians 4:4

Let all who take refuge in you be glad. Let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Psalm 5:11

When we rejoice in the Lord, we raise our hearts above our current circumstances to praise the goodness of who He is. Rejoicing is lifting our souls to see God’s unchanging faithfulness and goodness. As we rejoice, we reach out to hold on to the hope we have in Christ.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.   Psalm 42:5

The Psalmist articulates transferring his soul’s hope from the despair of his circumstances to praise for his God. Though I can’t find dictionary or root word proof of this, I have always seen the word rejoice as having the prefix “re-“ which means again. Add that with the “joy”- and I see it meaning to find joy again. Rejoicing is taking our soul back to that place of joy with the Lord again.

Shout for joy, O heavens, rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains. For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.  Isaiah 49:13

Isaiah commands all of creation to rejoice because God comforts and has compassion on His people. So even in affliction, we can rejoice. Why? Because God is near with comfort and compassion. We are not commanded to rejoice because of the affliction, but to rejoice because God is near in the affliction.

Joy comes second in the list of the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians chapter 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When we are filled with Jesus, we are filled with joy. And it is Christ’s joy within us that enables us to endure through life’s hardest challenges.

Children very often have an incredible ability to hold onto joy. Their world may be filled with great pain and difficulty, yet their spirit holds onto a joy that overrules. As mothers, we can set aside our own pain to take in the joy of our children and hold on through the hard. We can rejoice because our children rejoice. Their simple, trusting faith and hope can encourage us to do the same.

The joy of the Lord is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

An acronym for JOY is Jesus, Others, and You. We can find JOY in seeking Jesus first, then serving others, then thinking of ourselves last. In our difficulties, we often turn those around. We look first to ourselves and our own strength, then possibly to others for help, and lastly to Jesus. The problem with looking first to ourselves is that self-pity often overtakes us, and robs all joy.

My college roommate had a note on her mirror that said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Looking around at all the good others seem to be experiencing keeps us from trusting God with where He’s placed us and how He’s blessed us. We can easily look at mothers of “normal” children and get caught in self-pity, losing sight of the goodness of God in our lives. We focus on what we do not have, rather than rejoicing in all that we do have.

As beloved children of God, we can rejoice in God’s presence and His peace, His care and compassion, and His help and hope. Let’s learn to lift our souls to Him and rejoice in Him- even in the hard.

Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.  Psalm 51:12