Strengthened through Struggle

 

weightliftingI hate it when my kids hurt!

All moms hate it when their kids hurt. And the worst hurts are the ones we can do nothing about. All moms know the deep soul ache of watching a child suffer, desperately wishing we could take the pain on ourselves for them.

In the midst of painful storms, difficult hurts and big disappointments with our children, we find comfort in knowing “this happened for a reason.” There is hope in knowing there must be some purpose for the trials God allows in our lives. But what is the reason? What is that purpose? Especially when what comes is so not what we expected and so terribly difficult that, as Paul says, “we despair even of life itself.” (2 Corinthians 1:8)

“No pain, no gain” is what athletes are told. To get faster and stronger, athletes train through pain, working their muscles to fatigue and even soreness. The not-so-technical explanation for this is that as muscles are strained with greater intensity, small tears are made in the muscle fibers. As those fibers heal, the muscle tissue grows stronger and able to work at higher levels. Over time, as muscles are worked, they grow bigger and stronger, able to do more work than before.

The scriptures tell us that this same principle is true with our hearts- with spiritual training. No pain, no gain. God uses trials to shape and sharpen us. And like a potter working his clay on the potter’s wheel, the pushing and prodding needed to transform the clod of clay into a beautiful vessel does not feel very good to the clay. So trials don’t feel very good to us, but some of the pain is soothed knowing there is a greater reason and purpose for the pain.

It is helpful to cast our struggling feelings against a backdrop of what we already know to be true. I find three things help me hold on through the hard.

  1. He is working all things together FOR US.

And we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

We don’t need to see the good or know what it will be to trust God’s promise that that is what He is doing. He promises to work all things together- for those who love Him- for His purposes. As a weaver is working in different colors, textures and patterns, at times individual rows look quite ugly or out-of-place. But in the completed tapestry, all work together to produce a beautiful piece of art. We cannot see the completed work. We are only looking at this moment. But we can look at the Weaver and trust that He knows what He is doing.

  1. He is working IN US to make us more like His Son.

For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. Romans 8:28

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:8

 The work God is doing in us – and in our children – is molding us into the image of His Son. And He promises to complete that work. He wants us to be like Christ – wise and strong, compassionate and overflowing with unconditional love.

  1. He is readying to work THROUGH US to bring others to His grace.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all Comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 The struggles we face are not just for our good, but also for the good of those we will better serve in the future. We will greater offer grace and compassion when we have experienced them so greatly. Our hearts are softened to others’ struggles, and we more readily give comfort when we’ve been comforted. It may be years before we see this come to pass, but God will surprise us at the heart connections we will make with people facing similar trials.

God, show your mighty hand working for us, in us and through us. Even more, we ask you to show our children your mighty hand working for them, in them and through them in a way they can understand. May our hearts be strengthened through the struggles. Show your grace in the hard place. Write our story – and their story – for your glory.

 

 

 

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Get Back Up On Your Horse

BarrelRacing

The barrel racing competition at the Red Ryder Round-Up Fourth of July Rodeo was thrilling! The beautiful young ladies took command of their faithful horses and guided them smoothly and quickly through the course. Their great challenge on this day was foot-deep mud from the afternoon monsoons. Fighting against the sloshing and slipping of the mud, they still made it through. (You should have seen the bull riders fall into this stuff!) The junior competition followed the adults, and – wow! – these little girls were incredible! Fearless and fast, their times came in in the same range as the adults. The youngest rider was 4 years old!

Brianna was 9 years old. Her horse flew around the barrels and then finished lightning fast. But then suddenly, the front legs of her speeding horse buckled under in the mud as they tried to stop short of the arena gate. Brianna went flying off over the front of their horse. Then a split second later, the entire body of that giant horse flipped up and over itself, looking to us like it would land upside down right on top of the girl. The stunned audience couldn’t process what was happening, but thankfully, as helped rushed to the scene, we could tell that the horse had just missed her.

Both Brianna and the horse were helped back to their feet. And before we could start a supportive (and relieved) cheer, a cowboy – I wonder if it was her daddy – swooped that little girl back up and set her up on top of that horse again! Then came the big cheer as we watched the limping horse walk away with his brave rider back in her place.

The image of that little girl being lifted back up on her horse will be in my mind a long time, even more so then the horse’s body flipping up and over itself.

Everyone agreed that was the best thing they could have done – for Brianna and for the horse. Whereas I’m the mom who would’ve wanted to just hug her and hold her and share a good cry, I appreciate now why getting back up on the horse was the right thing to do. A quick hug is of course warranted, but the wise parent knows to help a hurting child face their fears right away- before they escalate and settle in. Get back up on your horse!

My daughter is on the high school diving team. She was working on a difficult dive when she over-rotated and hit the water very hard face first and hurt her head. The coach helped her up out of the pool, then helped her walk over to the diving board and told her to do the dive again. Then once she had faced that fear and done it again, they tended to her needs. I understand better now why that was important.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.  Isaiah 40:30-31

Our children will stumble and fall, and we as parents can learn to help them face their fears and keep pressing on. We can err on the side of too much hugging and holding, which hinders their ability to overcome the fear and grow stronger through it. And we can err on the side of shame and blame, expressing our disappointment and lowering our expectations for their future. Or, with God’s help, we can give a quick hug of assurance, and help them push through the fears showing them that we believe in them. They need to know we have their best interest in mind, and they need to know without a doubt we are on their side!

Get back up on your horse- I am here for you! You can do this! Keep going!

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:13-14

So then I think about my own falls. And I think I need to learn this lesson for myself as well. How do I need to get back up on my horse- face my fears- and keep riding?

The image of the man lifting that little girl back up on the horse will remind me that my Heavenly Father is right there waiting to do the same for me. He knows what’s best for me and I can face my fears in the strength He provides. My flesh is quick to shame and blame myself, wallowing in the pain of the failure, throwing myself a pity party.

I am quick to get stuck down in the mud, when what I need is to lift my eyes to the One who is strong enough and wise enough to get me back up on my horse.

Get back up on your horse- He is here for you! He will give you strength to do this! Keep going!

I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  Psalm 34:4-5

Lord, help us look to you to get back up on the horse you have given us to ride today. Help us press on to what you have ahead, not stuck in what we’ve left behind. Give us courage to ride- and in that be glorified.

 

 

 

 

Hope Surrenders to God’s Whisper

Stillplace

Over the past two years, we have looked at hope- special hope- as it holds as an anchor for moms of children with many unique needs. We have seen that hope trusts and hope rejoices. And we have seen that hope surrenders- to God’s will, His way and His word. Now here we look at how hope allows us to surrender to His whisper. 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21

 You’ve heard that voice before. In a moment of fear or uncertainty, you heard it. Or in chaos or confusion, it’s been there. In the loud, it has reached you. God’s whisper.

His Spirit comes near in our times of need and gently instructs us on how we should go. He speaks quietly, but clearly, to our souls, and we can choose to listen and obey, or go our own way.  With our hope secure in God, we can surrender to His whisper, even when it seems to go directly against our gut feeling.

The LORD said to Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  1 Kings 19:11-12

 We sometimes look for God to come in the loud thunder of the wind, earthquake, or fire. Send me a sign, Lord! Yet, often He comes in a gentle whisper, speaking softly to our heart and mind to assure us of His presence and direct us in His peace.

Can we listen for that whisper- even in the loud we often find ourselves in? Crying kids, fighting kids, even just laughing kids, can be very loud- bringing on “mommy” headaches that can be excruciating. We know we have to keep our cool even the crazy, or else we will all lose it, right?

Susanna Wesley was the mother of famous preacher John Wesley in the late 1600s and early 1700s. She birthed 19 children of her own, though 9 of them died in childhood. She was responsible for managing the household and all of the children’s education. Talk about crazy!

Susanna is known for her very strong faith and commitment to God. In their small and crowded  home, she would make time to sit in her rocking chair and lift up her apron to cover her face. This was her “prayer closet” time, and all of the children knew to leave her alone for those important moments.

How can we follow this example? We can be committed to our quiet time with God, even in the chaos. We can intentionally listen for God’s whisper even in the noise. That may happen for just a moment in the bathroom (yes, you have the right to go to the bathroom by yourself!), in the shower or in your car once the kids are dropped off (you will be amazed at what you will hear if you’ll turn off the radio!).

My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  John 11:27

 Jesus is the Good Shepherd, laying down His life to protect and provide for His sheep. We can hear His voice if we’ll listen above the noise of the other sheep. We can know His voice, as it is very different from the voice of the world or of Satan who wants to steal, kill and destroy.  He knows us, and we can follow Him.

Susanna Wesley was a woman full of wisdom, and thankfully, much of it has been passed down through the generations. One quote of hers that I find especially encouraging is this one:

“I am content to fill a little space if God be glorified.”

What little space has he placed me in? What small voice is He speaking to me with? Have I tried to make life more grandiose, glamorous and complicated? Have I surrendered to the whisper of His will, His Word, and His ways?

When I surrender, there is serenity.

When I pause, there is peace.

When I believe, I am blessed.

When I stop wrestling, I can rest.

 

Calf Muscles and a Reminder of Who’s in Charge

growing-boy2

Last night my husband was out of town, and my son asked if he could “have a sleepover.” At 5 foot, 5 inches tall and fourteen years old, he still loves sleeping in our bed when one of us is away. I love that!  Around 3:00am, I got up to let the dog out, and as I crawled back in bed, there was a very long, bony leg that had stretched over on to my side of the bed. That thing was hard! And big! As I grabbed ahold of his calf muscle to move the leg back to his side, I had a flashback that brought me to tears.

See, when Zach was about two weeks old, we flew to a family reunion. On that trip, I carried him in my front pack baby carrier (which, by the way, we had not had for baby daughters 1 and 2, but my goodness, did it come in handy for baby #3!). I very clearly remember wrapping my thumb and first finger around his teeny, tiny little calf muscle. My finger went around his leg and nearly as tight as it could get back to my thumb to encircle the calf. I asked God in that moment to help me always remember how little that leg was- and how little my son had begun.

The Lord was faithful to answer that prayer last night as my same thumb and first finger can no longer come even close to touching around that calf muscle. It is bigger and stronger, and runs faster and jumps higher.

And I have had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Now, of course, we have provided our son with food, clothing and shelter needed to grow. But I have not put any effort or resource into growing that calf muscle. God has just done it!

And isn’t it by God’s grace that we have provided the food, clothing and shelter anyway?

It is God who works in you to will and act according to His good pleasure. Philippians 2:19

 God is the Creator- and He is still faithfully working to shape my son into the man He made Him to be. He is working in him to grow him physically and spiritually and intellectually and emotionally. GOD is doing that, not me.

It is God who works in my son to will and act according to His good pleasure.

We as moms are pretty good “control freaks.” We are good at working hard to keep everything in control. We work to control our family’s schedule, our family’s meals, our family’s behavior and our family’s appearance. But we are also pretty good at forgetting who’s really in charge.

Last night as I held that giant leg, once so tiny in my fingers, I was reminded of who’s really in charge. God created my son just as he was born- fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13-14). And God is still the One working in Him to grow Him exactly how He has ordained. He invites me to be a part of this process, but I need to remember that this child is not mine to grow. He is God’s.

Of course, not one of my children is perfect- from a human perspective. Each has their unique challenges and weaknesses, strengths and gifts. Their uniqueness-es serve only to more magnificently glorify the great creative Creator. My power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). They also serve as reminders of who is in control- and who is not.

How can we better remember that God is in charge- working His will in our children’s lives?

Reflect on the past and the progress that has been made. Think back on where you were a year ago, five years ago, or where you were when your child was born. How has he or she made progress- even if only small steps- in the last week, month and year? Look at old pictures and reminisce together. Most importantly, look for God’s touch, His presence, along this journey- and give Him great thanks and praise!

Ponder the possibilities and dream big for what is to come. You know better than anyone else what all is packed inside each of your children. Imagine where God is headed with that! Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Glance ahead to the beautiful unfolding of all God brought this chosen child here to be and do.

And pause to be thankful and content for what is. Still your heart from all the rush and stress daily living can often bring, and be thankful. Make a list of things you’re thankful for today- even the littlest things. Rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:16-18).

I’m so thankful God is in charge- and I am not. There is a deep peace that comes in the surrendering of my way, my control, my plan, to His. His is far better than I can imagine. He has wisdom and power and resources beyond all human knowing. And He is working all on our behalf- for our good and for His glory.

Take this scripture and fill in the name of your child- and remember God is working in him or her. (You can also try plugging in the name of your husband, or your frustrating coworker or family member, or anyone whom you need to remember is in God’s hand too).

It is God who works in ______to will and act according to His good purposes. Philippians 2:19

Let Moms Receive Their King

CrownonGround           

It’s become almost embarrassing. The first three notes of the first Christmas song rolled out as Advent begins never fail to send me straight to tears. Big tears. Sometimes almost to a full-on sob. It’s that time of year again.

It’s those songs again.

It’s the celebration of the arrival of my Savior again. And that’s what makes me cry- and keep on crying. He came for us.

Each year it seems a different lyric will really get to me. Usually it’s in the lines of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”- as that one has so much rich theology in it. But this week, it came to me in “Joy to the World.”

Joy to the World- the Lord is come! Let earth receive her king

Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing

Let earth receive her king.

In that, I seemed to hear, let Lori receive her king.  What would it look like for me to truly receive my king? There are several dictionary definitions for “receive”- all which seem to apply.

  1. To assimilate through the mind or senses
  2. To permit to enter- to admit
  3. To accept as authoritative, true or accurate- to believe
  4. To welcome, to greet

How can I assimilate through my mind the King of kings? Will I give Him permission to enter my heart and have admittance into my life? Will I accept Him as authoritative and true- will I believe? Is my heart open to welcome and greet Him upon His arrival?

As busy moms, so often caught in the urgency of daily living, struggling just to get by, we can take these next few weeks to prepare to receive the King again into our lives. Reflect afresh on the radical coming of this Great King- His quiet invasion to redeem our broken world.

Receive His peace. Isaiah’s prophecy called Him “Prince of Peace.” And it went on to say, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7). With His reign, Jesus offers His people peace. Under His rule, we can find rest. He longs for us to cease struggling and battling on our own, and instead, receive His peace, letting Him wage the wars for us. As Mary held her infant Son, she knew His peace. The world in turmoil surrounded them, but she knew peace. We too can know that peace as we behold our Prince of Peace.

Receive His freedom. “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) Jesus came to bring freedom, yet so many of us live in bondage. We live shackled to our fears and failures, our issues and insecurities. We hang out in the prison cells whose locks Christ opened long ago. Twila Paris sings the line “Even we who call His name so often miss the treasure.” Yes, we who call His name often miss the treasure of the freedom He was sent to proclaim. When we receive Him as King, we must also receive the fullness of the freedom He provides for His children. Daughters of the King, our shackles have been released.

Receive His reign. If He is the King of me, I have to consciously choose to place Him on the throne of my life every day. I have to choose to live under His authority, and give Him charge of my daily decisions and circumstances. As the dictionary definition says, it is a decision to “accept as authoritative, true and accurate, and to believe.” It is a decision that begins with believing that He is a capable King, and that He is a good King. We know He is capable because He is the Creator of all. He has the authority to protect and to provide for that which He made. And we know He is a good King. His purposes are always for His glory and my good (and my good is always to draw back to His glory). We know He is good because He sent His Only Son- “He so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” (John 3:16).

The line that follows after “Let earth receive her king” is a challenging one.

Let every heart prepare Him room.

How can I make room in my heart to receive the King? I think it starts with a good clearing out of pride- “I can do it by myself” and “I don’t need anyone to help me.” We need to clear out fear and trust this King with everything. And we need to clear out bitterness that often grows over time and settles into stay.

Will you receive your King this Christmas? Will you receive His peace and freedom? Will you give Him full reign over your life and the lives of your children?

To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.  John 1:12

As we receive Him, we are given the right to become His children.

We are daughters of the King.  Let heaven and nature sing!

Not What I Expected

pregnant-woman-outsideParenting has not been what I expected.

I expected that I would roll smoothly into this new role as a mother, and begin to flourish in my new life of caring for this precious newborn child. What I didn’t expect was to learn how self-centered I was, and to become aware of how much of my motivation was to make me, myself and I look good. I had to completely switch gears, and turn my focus onto this little one who needed constant care. She began to draw me away from thinking only of myself, and that has been harder on some days than on others.

I expected to be able to implement ideas from our multiple positive parenting classes and produce perfectly-behaved children. I naively expected these discipline formulas to work flawlessly as the children began to assert their own wills contrary to mine. What I didn’t expect is that each personality and each behavior challenge and each situation would be different, and would require a different set of words and actions in response from me. What I didn’t expect is that some times that would go well, and other times it would be a complete disaster. I had to learn to give my children and myself a lot more grace to grow, and I had to rely more fully on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (My favorite parenting verse is John 14:26, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things.)

I expected to bring a child into this world who would be healthy physically. What I didn’t expect is that she would be critically-ill and need major surgery just 8 days in. Or that her younger sister would have ongoing health and growth challenges. Or that their younger brother would need two sets of stitches in one week when he was only 2 years old. Or that their younger sister would need glasses. (And of course this list goes on…). No, I didn’t expect all the physical and mental health challenges we have faced. I didn’t anticipate how thankful we would be for health insurance. And as I pause to reflect on this, I guess I was not accounting for the fact that these four that I’ve been entrusted with were born into the same broken world that I was. And as much as I hate watching them hurt or struggle and face these difficulties in their lives, I know as God has been with me, so will He be with them to be the peace in the midst of the hard. As He is my Healer and Helper, I pray He will continue to be that even more for my children.

I expected that my husband, my parents, my friends and neighbors would always be there to support me on my motherhood journey, and that we would all be like-minded and share the same priorities. Since “it takes a village,” I looked forward to teaming up in harmony with the other adults in our world to raise these kids up right. What I didn’t expect was that we wouldn’t always agree on what is best for them, and things that are really important to me may not always be important to others. I can now testify to how much I’ve learned from others’ perspective, and also to how many times I’ve had to press in to hear God’s voice among the others to be faithful to what He has called me to do for my family.

And I also didn’t expect how much of this journey I would walk alone. Many times in raising my children I am the only adult around. And in those times I have to dig deeper to parent in a way that pleases God alone- my audience of One. Yes, wiping dirty bottoms, cleaning up vomit, caring for a sleepless child in the middle of the night, are all times my motivation and integrity are tested. Who will I be when no one is watching me? But, oh yes, there is someone watching me. God Himself is there- but also each of the four sets of eyes in my care are watching me too.

The expectations I had at the front end of motherhood were limited at best, and at times just flat out “off.” While some of those expectations were broken into disappointment, still many others have been surpassed with the surprise blessings that have come along the way. I didn’t expect that watching a child sleep (as newborns, and even now as teenagers) would bring such peace to my heart. I didn’t expect the full joy that would come wearing preschooler-made Mother’s Day jewelry. I didn’t expect the deep warmth of a child’s hug (and sometimes a slobbery kiss!). And I didn’t expect the relief and gratitude that comes with a doctor’s “We’re making progress.”

Watching each one grow, at their own pace, in their own strengths and challenges, physically and emotionally and spiritually, has been a great adventure. And true, it hasn’t been what I expected.

It has been so much more.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.  2 Corinthians 2:9

Thankful for Dads

DadandLori1

I woke up this morning 750 miles away from my Dad. For the last 20 years, I have worked to celebrate him on Father’s Day, usually from my far away adult world, while also celebrating the great dad that my husband is to our family. The more years that pass, the more I realize what a gift I have in my dad. I realize that his faithfulness, kindness and unconditional love are rare. And I realize that his character has helped me better understand the character of God.

I’m thankful for years of special memories- hiking the Colorado mountains, fishing New Mexico streams, cross-country camper trips to my Grammy’s house, and always seeing him in the stands for my volleyball games. My dad was present, and very active in our lives. (And he still is). He took time to pass along wisdom and life tips to my sister and me. (And he still does). He always knew what to do in a crisis, and he always told too many “punny” jokes. For all he gave, and all he shared, and all he taught, I am very thankful.

Years ago I was in a Bible Study that looked at the influence our earthly fathers have on our understanding of our Heavenly Father. We filled out a chart with lots of characteristics, both positive and negative, and checked those that described our earthly dad. Then we turned the page and did the same for how we view God. And then on the third page, we laid the two sets of answers on top of each other. It was so insightful to see how similar the two lists were. People who had angry fathers tended to see God as angry, or people who had strong fathers tended to see God as strong, etc.

I am thankful for my own father, who wasn’t perfect, but had many God-like characteristics for me to experience, and for so many fathers I see that are living out the love, strength, wisdom and closeness of God for their families.

Thankful for dads who play. Dads are usually better than moms at play time- or at least that has been my experience. Dads communicate a lot of love through teasing and wrestling and joking and giggling. Moms tend to be more preoccupied with the “serious” things and taking care of all the details for daily living. Playing dads teach us to be happy and joyful, and not take life or ourselves too seriously.

May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.  Psalm 68:3

Thankful for dads who pray. Dads who set an example and lead out spiritually for their families teach more by their actions, than by their wise words. Guiding their children with wisdom they have sought from God, and extending God-like compassion and grace, set a life-long impression of their Heavenly Father.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Thankful for dads who stay. Several years ago I helped our church start an outreach for parents of children with special needs. I was expecting moms and dads to come, and share an encouraging Bible Study, and support one another on this hard journey. What I didn’t expect though, was that the parents who came would be primarily single mothers. Single moms raising one or more children with special needs on their own. Yes, I had read of the high divorce rates of these families, but I didn’t want to believe dads could actually leave their wives and children with so many challenges. Yet it happens more often than not.

Two things I would like to say in light of this. First, if you are a dad who is staying, thank you. And if you are a wife of a dad who is staying, be thankful. Be very thankful. Press in close to God for strength and cling tightly to each other through the hard. You will display the faithfulness of God as you do.

Second, if you are a mother raising children on your own, you too can press in close to God for strength. He is your perfect Heavenly Father, and He is that for your children. He loves each of them more than you do, and promises to take care of their every need. My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

God is your heavenly husband: For your Maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is His name. Isaiah 54:5 (Read the whole chapter for more promises).

God is their heavenly father: A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows. Psalm 68:8

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  I John 3:1

As we honor fathers on Father’s Day, let’s be thankful for the dads who have been a part of our lives and our children’s lives. And let’s work to  trust our Heavenly Father to heal our hurts and meet our unmet needs with his perfect Fatherly love, compassion and care.

Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?  Deuteronomy 32:6

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Hope Surrenders to God’s Word

OpenBible

(Continuing on with earlier posts- Hope surrenders. Hope surrenders to God’s will. Hope surrenders to God’s Word.)

Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your Word. I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.  Psalm 119:73-77

Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:2

Hope delights in God’s Word, and surrenders to the commands and promises found there. We often run ourselves nearly to the ground, seeking answers and encouragement elsewhere, when all the while God’s Word holds all that we need. The richness of God’s Word and all it has for us await for us to take in. So often, it is a treasure yet undiscovered, waiting to bless and enrich our lives.

I rise before dawn and cry for help. I have put my hope in your Word.  Psalm 119:147

 With two testaments, sixty-six books and 1,189 chapters, the Bible can be overwhelming. Where do we even start? I think we all know we need to read our Bibles more and we all would like to read our Bibles more, but we can get stuck wondering where to begin. Having a plan for when, where and how to study can help get us on our way.

The psalmist here as in other places in scripture tells us to start our day off with prayer and Bible Study in the morning. Whether you are a morning person or not, a few minutes of devotional reading and laying out your praises and prayers for the day can make an incredible difference. For me the few moments I lose in sleep to get up before my children far makes up for itself in peace and direction for the day. My Bible and a cup of coffee in my comfy chair in the quiet before the chaos have become absolutely critical. Find a way to put time with Christ in your morning. “She gets up while it is still dark.” (Proverbs 31:15)

Where to read in your Bible can be a challenge. There are so many verses to take in. I suggest two kinds of reading- devotional reading and in-depth study. Devotional reading may be guided by a devotional book, or maybe a daily reading plan, and usually covers a short part of scripture. Some of the most popular books for devotional reading are Psalms, Proverbs (try reading one chapter a day), the gospel of John, or one of Paul’s letters like Philippians or Colossians.  In-depth Bible study may happen in a longer period of time later in your day. If you are a night person, you may best study at night. In-depth study takes one book or one passage and looks intently into its context, meaning and application. While we should read devotionally every day, we may only study in-depth several times each week. Consider working through a New Testament book, and then alternate with an Old Testament book.

How to read the Bible could fill a year’s worth of seminary classes, but what is helpful for us as we commit to daily Bible study? As we look at a verse, or several verses, we should always look for meaning in its context. Read the verses before and after to get a greater feel for its true meaning. Then see if you can find out who wrote the verses. What you can learn about the author and his purpose for writing will add further understanding. And most important of all, ask the question, “What does this teach me about God?” The Bible is a book about God, not me. I can be quick to jump to the question, “What does this teach me about me?” and look for a personal application, before seeing first all that I can learn about God, His character and His purposes.

Another great way to learn God’s Word is to teach it to our children. As we share the stories of Old Testament heroes and prophets, or the New Testament gospels of Jesus’ life and the early church, we learn them better ourselves. I learned the names of the books of the Bible singing children’s Bible songs. We learn as we teach.

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees, then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the paths of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things, preserve my life according to your Word.  Psalm 119: 33-37

Hope surrenders to God’s Word. Cling to His laws, delight in His decrees, and find freedom in the paths of His commands.

Thick Skin and Tuning Out the World

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You know the feeling.

You know the look of disdain from a person who could be offering help, but instead offers hurt.

You know the whisper that clearly is speaking harm when it is hope that is needed.

You know the directly spoken criticism, and the obvious cold stares. The lack of compassion and care.

People in this world can be downright brutal, especially to those caring for children with special needs. And sadly these people can be total strangers, or they can be those closest to us.

How can we respond to the hurt caused by others in a way that honors God? Is there a way we can respond to make the situation better, not worse, for all of us?

Put on thick skin

Putting on thick skin means not taking ugly stares or words so personally. It means not letting them get to you. Water off a duck’s back. (Or I like- “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”)

I have found the best way to deflect hurtful words is to cling to what I know is true. I can think about the other person- who is usually speaking out of ignorance- and try and offer them grace. Their judgements are usually lies- and according to scripture, lies come from Satan Himself. Our best defense then is to cling to Christ and put forth His truth, His word, over the situation. It also helps me to think that I’m probably not the only person this person is mean to- and that makes it their problem, not mine.

Tune out the world

We are called to be in this world, but not of this world. And this world can be a pretty scary place. The world is filled with pressure to be perfect, pressure to have and be more than we are. If our eyes and ears are tuned in to all of that, we get beat down and discouraged. Discontentment drowns our spirit, and we can’t see past our failures shortcomings. And even more dangerous, we can get to where can’t see past our child’s failures and shortcomings.

Tuning out the “big” world means treasuring the “little world” God has put me in. I like to say, “draw a circle around us” and find contentment again. Find thanksgiving again. Find peace again. When I tune out the world, I find that I love what God has placed in my little world.

You have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundaries have fallen for me in pleasant places.  Psalm 16:5-6

Cling to Christ

Coming through Holy Week, and meditating on the week before Jesus’ crucifixion, I realized how much hate and cruelty Jesus withstood. They were brutal to Jesus too. What can we learn from how he handled pain so much worse than mine?

When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate. He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

I love the words “He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.” The dictionary says that to entrust means “to give someone the responsibility of doing something or caring for something else or someone else.” So if I entrust myself to God, then I am giving Him the responsibility of doing something or caring for me. It means I give over control of my care to Him and trust Him to protect and to provide for all my needs as He has promised.

When babies are scared, they turn and press their face into their mother, clinging to her for protection. I want to do the same- turning away from the scary world, pressing hard into Christ, and clinging to Him for my protection and provision.

Jesus did as He had taught His followers in Matthew 5:39, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He also told His disciples that the world would reject them as they rejected Him. We can expect to get struck, and we can find the strength in Christ to turn our cheek the other way.

Shine!

The way we live out our lives is a constant example for others to see. The way we parent our children is also a constant example. And the way we handle stress- both from within our current circumstances and from the outside hurtful looks and words of others- can be a witness to many.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15

Live such good lives among the pagans that though they may accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.  1 Peter 2:12

So we can put on our thick skin and head out into the world, ready to tune out its hurt, cling to Christ, and shine for Him as we love the precious ones He’s given us.

Resurrection Power

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I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Philippians 3:10

We celebrate Easter this week- a beautiful day! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!

The ultimate expression of Christ’s power was shown in His resurrection- His triumph over death, His victory over sin. And because of His payment for the penalty of our sin, and His Holy Spirit now living in us, we have His resurrection power available to us.

As I head into another full week, I want to be sure my power resources are on full.

With His power, I can follow His will. I can obey. Even before the resurrection had happened, Mary was tapped in to this supernatural power. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1: 35). To follow the specific calling God had placed on her life, Mary needed His Spirit to obey with heart, soul, mind and strength.  So too do we need His power to walk in submission to His perfect will for our lives. “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” I believe our true callings are placed just out of reach of our own skills and experiences, to where we have to rely on His strength alone to live them out.

With His power, I can withstand life’s trials. I can endure. The storms of life come hard, and most often they come harder and last longer than we can withstand on our own. But Christ’s power keeps us standing, helps us see with eternal eyes, and gives that peace that transcends understanding.  We can endure difficult circumstances with His strength, and we can endure difficult people with His patience.  “…Being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”  Colossians 1:11

 

With His power, I can battle my enemies. I can fight. What enemies threaten your peace? Your safety? Your faith? Are you armed with Christ’s resurrection power for the promised victory? He conquered death when He rose from the grave. His is the victory now and forever. If we will fight in His power, He will defeat our enemies and restore His eternal peace. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:10

I am reminded of the familiar story of a great master pianist who had gotten up from the piano to bow before the audience applause. When he did so, a small child wandered up on to the stage, climbed up and sat at the piano and begin plinking on the keys. Finding great humor in this, the master pianist came around behind the child, encircled him with his long arms, and began performing another masterpiece that far outshadowed the child’s continued plinking.

So, too, with us, the Master takes our feeble offering and turns it into a masterpiece. His power overshadows our own, and in the end, He receives the deserved glory for a life played out unto Him.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Christian artist Toby Mac has a hit song “Steal My Show.”

“If you want to steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch you go.

If you’ve got something to say, go on and take it away.

Need you to steal my show, Can’t wait to watch you go

Go on and take it away.”

When I live in resurrection power, my life brings glory to the One who resurrected. I receive needed strength and He receives the glory due His name alone.

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen.  Revelation 7:12