I Believe He Can Fly!

Whirlwind.

That’s all that I can call the last two months of my life.  I have planned, decorated and attended multiple graduation/birthday parties for our oldest son; hosted family & friends; lead Vacation Bible School class which involves singing and dancing; attended an awesome 50th birthday party of a dear friend; cleaned house; cycled through countless loads of laundry; taken the youngest (and friends) swimming numerous times; trekked up to Amish country with my buddy (and her 4 kiddos in tow); and the list goes on and on.

But as I’m living my little life, I’ve been pondering big questions and looking for answers.  The first and foremost is this:  “How do I parent this ‘adult’ that now resides in our house?”

To date, this has been the hardest part of parenting to me.  I mean, I THOUGHT the potty training thing was going to do me in with all three, but this letting go stuff is for the birds!  I now have another adult male sharing our space.  And just like all other adult males I know, he desires to do this “thang” whether I like it (and most of the time, I’m not a fan) or not.

So, what is a parent to do?  I can no longer ground him to his room, or take away his favorite toy (oh wait, there’s still the PS3), or treat him like a child.  But as I see it, he’s still my boy and needs my help.  There’s the trouble…he’s not a boy and I know it.  I also know that some of the things he needs “help” with will only be corrected by learning the lesson himself…and with God‘s help and instruction, not mine.

For any parent, this is hard; letting your child go to make mistakes, “buy” some hard lessons and even on occasion, in the beginning, FLY!  But why has it been so hard for me?  I mean, I am a Christian and have always held to the belief that God is ultimately the one who cares for my children and I have been given to opportunity to teach and nurture them until adulthood.  So, why the struggle?

Could this situation be revealing some issues that I need to deal with?  “Do I really trust God with my child’s well-being?”  I mean, “Will he really take care of him like I will?”  HA!  What a thought…someone smack me!  Did that really just come across my mind?  Yes it did, and I am most certain it crosses the mind of every parent out there that has a relationship with Christ.

I have come to believe that this stage in life is not only a time of growth for our children, but for us as well.  God is calling us to put our “stated faith” into “action faith.”  This is not for the faint hearted and much prayer and study of the Word of God gets us through it.  That’s what I’ve been doing in preparation for our son’s departure to South Africa on a mission trip.

His first time to fly – 22 hours.  His first time to be in a foreign country.  His first time to be on a separate continent from his mama.  His first time to be alone…with God.  And God has told me that it’s good and I can trust HIM with my boy.

I can’t wait to hear of his trip and experience with God without mom or dad and I can’t wait to tell him how God is changing me.

Fly, Isaac, fly!!!!!
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Back row –  L to R:  Matt, Isaac
Front row – L to R:  Amy, Cassie

 

What If?

As I’ve written in my other blog posts, I teach a women’s bible study each week at my church.  We have been reading for 33 weeks and have come to the darkest time in Israel’s history…God’s judgment as the people are exiled to Babylon.

We’ve been reading God’s call to repentance and to follow after Him, but the hearts of the people were hardened and as God says in Scripture, evil.  What was the offense?  The first was that they had begun worshiping other gods and had failed to worship God, His way.  The second was that the people had failed to live out the call of God to treat their fellow man with the love and compassion they had been given.

The leaders were evil and uncaring in regards to the people, especially to the least of them…orphans, widows, foreigners…you know, the very people God had commanded them to take care of when He conveyed the Law to Israel.

Each leader, including the spiritual leaders, seemed to do what was right in their judgment and disregarded all that God had said to them.  Remember, they were called to live differently so that the surrounding nations would KNOW that Yahweh was the ONE, TRUE God.  Sadly, they failed in this calling and God’s mercy was coming to an end…but not for all.

In Jeremiah 24, we read the vision that God gave to Jeremiah regarding good figs and bad figs.  Of course, judgment and destruction was to fall upon the bad figs, those Israelites that refused to repent and follow God.  But to the good figs, mercy endured.  It’s how that mercy endured that has captured my attention today.

God told Jeremiah that it was through captivity that He would plant them and build them up and that He would give them a heart to know Him!  God said that these good figs would be His people and He would be their God because they would give their whole heart to Him!

Now, I don’t know about you, but being taken into captivity doesn’t really sound like a great salvation plan to me!  I know that if I had been one of these people, I would have been afraid and questioning God as to why I had to endure this horrible event.  I am sure that the exiles did question God as to what was going on…and maybe that is exactly what God wanted in the first place.

You see, if we are self reliant and independent, we have no need for God.  If we are holding on to our name, Christian, as the Israelites did to theirs as, God’s chosen people, as if it were a talisman with magical powers to prevent the wrath of God, we have missed the boat at the dock!

Each of us, apart from the grace and mercy of God, deserve the full wrath of God.  Israel did.  They were placing their faith in everything but God and claiming to still be His chosen people.  They desired to do what they wanted to do and still expected God to bless them even though they acted in complete rebellion to Him.  So what about us?  Don’t we do this very thing?  We demand that God allow us to live our lives our way and then cry and complain when we don’t receive His blessing.

We are just as dependent upon God for our redemption as the Israelites were.  The only thing that we have in this life or the life to come is our relationship with Christ!  Just as God wanted His people to acknowledge Him as the only God and to be fully committed and faithful to Him, the Son of God, Jesus, our Savior and Messiah calls us to the same commitment.  And I have realized that it is through trials and struggles that I come to the realization that I need Him.

Yes, it is quite possible that all the heartache, pain and despair we face on this earth is to remind us that this world holds nothing for us. It is our exile until we are finally rescued to live with our Savior forever!  Just like the Israelites, God’s eye is on us and He is planting us and building us and giving us a heart to know Him!  May we surrender…for our good!

As I read this chapter, the song, Blessings by Laura Story began playing on my mental play-list.  It is the perfect example of what God was saying to Jeremiah.  As I listen to this song and read the Words of God, may I never look at pain the same way.  May I always see it as an opportunity to depend more fully upon, to fall more deeply in love with and to have greater faith in my Savior, Jesus!

The Word & Worship

Worship – what is it exactly?  We Christians talk a lot about it, but I am afraid we fail to grasp what it is and what it is not.  When asked, most people would answer the question, “What is worship?” with something like, “it is when we meet on Sunday morning” or “a style of music.”  But, I have learned that we can be involved in a meeting and sing a style of song but fail to enter into true worship.

Through all that God has been teaching me over the past couple of years, the most important thing I’ve learned is that there is a strong bond between the Word of God and the worship of God.  I do not believe that we can worship God for who He is and what He’s done to save us apart from the reading and studying of His Word.  “Why is that?” you ask.  The answer is that the only way we, as humans, can discover and understand who God is, is through what He has chosen to reveal to us about Himself through the Bible.  Not only that, we also learn about ourselves and our great need and dependence upon God for our salvation.

And there you have it – salvationThis is the crux of worship –  the understanding and acknowledgement of the saving acts of God in the lives of man.  You see, when those who have believed that Jesus is the Christ, Messiah…Savior, begin to read about, discuss and meditate on the Words of God something uncontrollable takes place.  This is called WORSHIP!  The awesome thing about true worship is that it takes many shapes and forms but it is all in response to the fact that God has saved us!  We have realized that we cannot save ourselves and our hearts are stirred with gratitude and humility.   This realization permeates our being and we seek to make Christ known to all Peoples!

To those of you believers who feel that you gain nothing from gathering together with the body of Christ each week; I challenge you to seek God and find Him for He longs to be found.  Surround yourselves with His Truth and relish in the lavish love He has poured out upon you and celebrate that with other believers each week!

To those of you who feel that there is nothing to this Christianity thing you’ve heard so much about; begin at the beginning of the Word of God and read the fascinating, incredible story of the love that God has for all mankind and the way of Salvation He has made through His Son, Jesus.

Oh brothers and sisters, seekers and saints, doubters and believers…I urge you, no I implore you to run to the Word of God and know the one, true God.  He loves you with an eternal love and desires a relationship with you.  In doing this, worship will be true, undefiled and everlasting.

“All the people gathered together at the square in front of the Water Gate.  They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that the Lord had given Israel…He read out of it from daybreak until noon before the men, the women, and those who could understand.  All the people listened attentively to the book of the law…Ezra opened the book in full view of all the people, since he was elevated above everyone.  As he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and with their hands uplifted all the people said, “Amen, Amen!”  Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”  Nehemiah 8:1a; 3; 5-6

Free from Fear

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fearful person.  It seems to be my default.  I can remember as a little girl being afraid of all the bugs outside, afraid of learning to ride a bike, afraid of climbing the monkey bars and afraid of doing the wrong thing that would get me in big trouble with my parents.  I was also afraid of being left alone.  I remember needing to ride the bus home one day (By the way, I was also afraid of riding the bus).  It was my turn to exit and when I did, I didn’t see my mom’s car at the house.  Immediately I began to cry.  “I’m all by myself” I thought.  As I got to the door, afraid I would not be able to get in, there was mom!!!!  She quickly noticed that I had been crying and asked what was wrong.  I told her that I was crying because some glitter had fallen off the craft I had made at school.  Now, I was upset about the glitter, but I was more embarrassed to tell her that I was afraid of being alone.  She was gracious to me and gave me lots of hugs and didn’t make it known to me that she knew the reason I was upset.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve outgrown my fears, but that would be a lie.  I still deal with a fearful nature and at times it gets the best of me.  My husband recently delivered a sermon at church called “Choosing Faith over Fear.”  It was a sermon that made me squirm because I live there daily.  Fear is a natural response to adversity, danger or the unknown.  Faith is a choice that each of us makes to believe God’s word and be obedient to Him.

This lesson is one that God has been helping me to think through lately.  I have stepped into a position at church that has caused a twinge of fear.  I love to speak to groups of people.  I enjoy standing before a large crowd and speaking to them or singing to them.  It’s something that I have a passion for and I love to do.  On the other hand, the smaller the group the more uncomfortable I become.  To add to this situation, I am having to study to prepare a small lesson every week.  I have led a small groups in the past but always with a prepared study and where I basically push play on the remote and guide the class in discussion.  But this is very different.  I have nothing but a blank page and a Bible.  If that doesn’t make you afraid, I don’t know what will!  I have had to learn to choose faith and not give in to fear.

There are also new fears that seem to be working their way into my thoughts.  Fears of how to pay for college for our firstborn.  Fears of how to make ends meet as we need to add another car to the fleet.  Fears of failing to figure out where God wants to use me during this season of my life.  You know, normal, universal fear.  But as I have all these fears and more, I also have a peace that God will provide all that I need and much, much more.  He has used the Bible study that I was afraid to teach to build up my faith and strengthen my relationship with Him.  So, for this day and at this time – I am not afraid.  I am totally turning things over to the only person that has control over any of the situations I face.

How about you?  Are you fearful?  Are you facing a situation that seems totally hopeless?  Have you tried to worry your way through all the scenarios that might fix the problem and yet, you have found no answers?  Well, I invite you to do what I have done – read God’s Word and put your faith in His ability and not your own.  I double dog dare ya!

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear…” -1 John 4:18a 

Am I a Temple Builder?

I will have to be honest with you, teaching the Old Testament is not an easy task!  It can become quite difficult to apply verses like, “…don’t boil the baby goat in its mother’s milk.”  What?!?  Thankfully, there are many helps and guides along to the way to bail poor Bible study teachers like me out of that theological quandry.  Recently, it has been much easier now that my class has moved passed the law and the endless begatting that went on there for a while.

We have been studying the life of King David and are moving into the reign of  his son, Solomon.  This week, I read a passage that I’ve never put much thought into before (this is not unusual), but it literally jumped off the page.  It is found in 1 Chronicles 28 and is the charge that David gives Solomon to build the Temple.

David’s heart was after God and desired to build a permanent house in which God would abide.  David didn’t understand why he himself should have such a fine palace while his God dwelt in a tent.  After converstations with God, David understood that he would not be granted the honor of building the Temple because he was a king of war.  God did reveal to David that his son, Solomon, would inherit the throne and build a dwelling place for the Almighty.

I admire the heart of David.  He accepted the decision that God made even though he desperately desired to be the chosen builder.  I also admire the fact that David did all he could to insure that Solomon would not fail in the task of Temple building.  For the rest of David’s life, he gathered supplies, counseled with officials, craftsman, artists and priests so that Solomon would have all that he would need to complete the building campaign.

This story reminded me that God has taken over the building process.  I know what you are thinking, “Wait, Solomon did  build the temple!”  You are right, but when Christ came and died on the Cross, the work began on a New Temple!  A temple not made by human hands and one that will NEVER be destroyed!  “Where is this temple, you say?”  Well, if you are a person that has accepted the gift of forgiveness and grace that is offered to you through Christ Jesus, just look in the mirror and you will see the most magnificent temple ever built!!!  You see, we are now the temple of God.  His Spirit dwells within each soul that has received the salvation that comes through faith is in Son, Jesus.

Realizing this, the story of David stirred my thoughts on the temple being constructed within me.  Do I desire to let God build what He desires to build or do I keep trying to persuade Him to build what I want?  Do I desire to bring glory to God more than glory to this temple?  Do I desire to live life by God’s blueprints rather than my measly, thrown together pencil drawing that I think is so important? Am I one that tears down the temple brick by brick while God is laying the foundation?  These are good questions and ones that I don’t always have good answers for.  But I desire to allow God to complete the work in me that HE has started and that He alone can complete.

David told Solomon that God would never leave or forsake him and that God would complete the work of building the Temple through him.  God held to that promise and makes the same one to each of us.  So on this day I declare:  “I am not a Temple Builder – God is!  I am the Temple…a work in progress!”

Heaven from Betsy

My husband and I are a team.  We have the same views on most subjects in life.  You know, the important things:  we like the same football team, we eat the same foods, we like the same bands and we feel the same way about pets…NO PETS IN THE HOUSE!  We had always been staunch in this belief until our little girl looked at us and said, “Can I have a cat?”  You know that it’s always hard to say no to your children.  But I tell ya, it’s very hard to say no to a blond, curly-headed, big blue-eyed cutie that is the caboose of the family.  So we did what any parent in their right mind would do…we got a cat.

Betsy Lynn Optimus (yes, that part of the name is from our boys) Freeman came to live with us in May of this year.  She was Chloe’s 7th birthday present.  We rescued her from the animal shelter and I have to admit, we’ve enjoyed this new addition to our household.  I grew up with cats and dogs but never had a true house cat that totally depends upon her family.  We have to feed her, supply a place for her to answer the call of nature, clean up after the call is answered and care for her when she’s ill.  Without us, Betsy would be in great need.

Cats in general are moody, finicky, aloof, sassy and think they are in complete control.  Betsy is no different and is also very determined.  She has decided that our kitchen table is HER table upon which she can bask in the sun.  Trying to explain to Betsy the she is not allowed on the table has been quite the challenge.  She doesn’t seem to speak english or irate human!  She does, however, speak BROOM!  You would think after being “spoken” to many times during the day, she would take the hint and stay off the cotton-pickin’ table!  But no, she consistently tries to make that her home.

While noticing her persistence, I started to think about what spiritual lessons I could learn from dealing with a very, hard-headed cat.  Her actions remind me of the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18: 1-8  “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”  And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Jesus made the point that if an unjust judge will give in to the persistence of one woman; surely a righteous, loving and merciful God will hear the prayers of His people and answer!  The story of this woman and the real life illustration of my cat have revealed a chink in my spiritual armor.  I give up too easily!  Yes, I pray and ask God for His will to be done; for wrongs to be made right; for His kingdom to come but when I don’t see an immediate answer, I stop asking.  When the answer is, “not now”, I don’t ask again.  I’m just not willing to keep on praying until God’s heart is moved to show His Glory!  However, in this passage, we’re told that our prayers are powerful and will move God to act on our behalf.

I want to desire God the same way Betsy desires that spot on the table.  I know I am just as dependant on Him as Betsy is on me and I want to be willing to go through whatever it takes to enter into God’s presence and bask in Him. Hopefully, as I study God’s Word and live with this quirky cat, the lesson will go from my head to my heart and persistent prayer in all things will be my life’s theme.  Thanks Betsy Wetsy!

Thanks for Waiting

I love to try a new recipe.  Recently, a good friend of mine posted a recipe for Slow Cooker Ribs on her Facebook profile.  I’ll tell ya, they looked awesome!  So, I decided to give them a try.  I texted her and asked for the recipe and she gladly returned the link.  She also told me that they were on sale to boot!  I hurried over to the supermarket, picked up my baby backs and headed home with the intention of making this recipe in the next few days.

Now, I’m sure I’ve told you that I am the mother of three, the wife of a pastor, the owner of a cat, the green thumb of a patio garden, the Bible study leader, the…well, you get the picture, I’m busy.  While all of the menu planning was going on in my head, I was also getting my middle child ready for camp.  While packing, he must have been thinking about those ribs.  Before heading out the door, he said to me ‘I sure wish I were going to be here when you fix those ribs.”  I told him that I would fix them again and that he would be just fine without them.

Each night, I planned to start the ribs the next morning, and each morning I would forget!  You see, you can’t cook them quickly.  They must be cooked low and slow! The week went on and so did the list of things to do. I was really getting frustrated with this endeavor.  I had never cooked them before and it seemed like now wasn’t going to be the time.  I was actually beginning to worry that they would spoil if I didn’t settle on a time to prepare them.  It was coming down to the wire.  I HAD to get started! Then I had a thought.  Nick will be home tomorrow.  I’ll just wait for him!  Perfect!  I laid out the recipe, gathered the ingredients, set out the crockpot, asked my husband to NOT let me forget this time, and went to sleep thinking about those RIBS!

When the morning came, I did as I had planned and felt pretty good about finally getting this event underway.  All through the day my family was in and out of the kitchen.  Every so often, someone would come in and say “man, that smells good.”  It really did and I was excited too!  I knew that I had finally found a recipe that everyone was looking forward to trying.  And finally it was time for the big event – “COME AND GET IT!”

We all sat down together as excited to be looking at the best plate of ribs you could imagine.  Oh, and I made all the homemade sides too:  corn on the cob, BBQ baked beans and fresh cole slaw.  I could not wait for my family to enjoy what I had prepared for them.  And let me tell you, enjoy we did!  It was GREAT and we had BBQ sauce everywhere!  Every few bites, Nick would comment on how good the meal was.  As he was finishing up he said to me, “Mom, I’m glad you waited for me.”  I was too.  He really took great pleasure in the meal that I prepared just for him.

I went to bed that night thinking about how happy I felt serving my family and that Nick sure enjoyed that meal.  As most hormonally fluctuating 40-something women do, I was having trouble sleeping.  I began to wonder what spiritual truth was in this story of the ribs.  There had to be something – way too much thought, preparation and production over a few slabs of pork.  And then it hit me.

I’ve shared in a previous post that God has been stirring me lately.  For many years now, I’ve been simmering.  I’ve also been frustrated by that fact.  But just like it takes time to properly cook ribs, it also takes time for God to properly prepare me to fulfill His purpose.  He’s given me a specific personality, talents, spiritual gifts and life experiences that make a recipe for success in His Kingdom.  I needed time to simmer; to marinate; to become tender; to become seasoned and ready to be the best that I can be for Him.  And one more thing to consider…the people that I am to impact have to be present for the “meal.”  I pray that I will hear them say, “thanks for waiting.”

Are you like me, frustrated with the simmering process?  Do you wish it was your time to serve?  Are you thinking that God has left you on the stove?  I promise that He hasn’t forgotten you!  He will use you to feed many and all the glory will be His.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1