Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Out Of The Box Date Night"

Matt and I did not date very much during the courting phase of our relationship. Dating however has become a very important priority in our marriage. We love to spend time together. We have fun together, so date nights are very exciting and we look forward to them. Matt is usually the Date Night planner in our house. He arranges the childcare and plans the date. Yes, I know how blessed I am. This weekend we had a friend offer to keep our children and pay for our date. How exciting is that? I decided that I would design 4 date night packages for Matt to choose from. 

Package 1 - Dinner at Julianna Toyko and OHS production of Oliver.
Package 2 - Dinner at Mandarin House and A Movie
Package 3 - Dinner at Amsterdam and Lakeview's Presentation of "Jesus Saves"
Package 4 - Dinner at Ariccia and Live Jazz Band Concert

When Matt came home yesterday I presented these packages to him. Secretly I was hoping for package # 3. I had a few reasons for this. 1. We never eat at Amsterdam. 2. I love to worship. 3. I enjoy worshipping with my husband and I do not get to do that very often. I was determined NOT to persuade Matt in any way. He gave careful consideration to these packages and he said, "I have an idea. What if we go to Amsterdam, Go to Lakeview's Worship Service and then try to catch a movie afterwards." Sounded like a good idea to me, but movies can be so questionable. We did some research and found a movie that we thought would be ok. We had an amazing dinner, precious conversation and laughed a lot. We arrived at Lakeview and decided to take our old seats from years ago right on the front row. We were not quite prepared for the blessing we were about to receive. We stood there together singing praises to our King. We worshipped together. I stood there with my husband thanking God for oneness and for a husband that I can worship with. About halfway through the presentation I took a potty break and prayed "Lord Jesus, we have worshipped you in spirit and in truth and the desire of my heart is to continue this spirit of worship through this evening and I don't have a peace about going to a movie. If this is your desire please place Matt on the same page." I returned just in time to celebrate our Victory In Jesus. We left this incredible time for worship and headed to the movie, but still within my heart I did not have a peace. I prayed as we walked to the ticket counter, "Lord if it is not your will for us to see this movie then let it be sold out." I prayed this all the while thinking how impossible this would be since this movie had been out for a while. I could have spoken up, but it was possible that I was just not in the mood for a movie and Matt was excited about it so I wanted it to be God's decision not mine. We walked to the ticket counter and guess what? SOLD OUT!!! I shared with Matt my conversations with the Lord that night and it was settled. No movie. Instead we went for ice cream and had some wonderful conversation about worship and Psalms. This was a precious evening. God desires for us to worship Him in spirit and in truth and in doing so as a couple we are encouraging oneness in our marriages. When was the last time you surprised your spouse with a date? Make it a priority. Make it creative. Build that oneness within your marriage. Spend time together. Honor God with your marriages. It's FUN!

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Tug of War and I'm the Rope."

I was washing dishes yesterday when I heard a loud scream coming from a small voice. It was Jacob. Now to be quite honest when Jacob screams I do not go running. It can mean many things. It can mean "leave me alone," "I am hurt'" "I don't like you anymore," "there is a bug," "I can't get my pants down to use the bathroom..." The list goes on and on. I figure if there is blood or something is broken I will soon find out. This scream was loud, followed by what every mommy knows as the "hurt cry." I walked out to see what the trouble was. Jacob was holding his arm. "Oh No" I thought, "Not another broken arm." And that is exactly what he said, "Caleb braked my other arm again." As I researched the situation further I found out that Matthew and Caleb were playing tug of war and Jacob's arms were the ropes. You know the game, "He's my brother." "No, he's my brother." POP. Jacob was convinced his arm was broken and had already picked out the color for his next cast. We took him to the Dr. and discovered that it was "just" popped out of joint. I watched as he sat nervously and waited for the Dr. to do his thing. Our Dr. was wonderful. He was very gentle and kind and held that tiny elbow. He asked Jacob to hold his fingers and squeeze and POP! He popped that sucker right back in place. Yes, Jacob cried and yes it did hurt to return things back to the way God created them to be and that's when it hit me. Tug of war can hurt when you are the rope. Many days in my life I feel like the rope. So many things are tugging and pulling at me from different directions. So many people, activities, responsibilities and temptations tug and tug at me until POP. Something is pulled out of joint in my spiritual life. Maybe it is the way I respond to a situation, maybe it is my careless words, maybe it is my sinful thoughts or attitudes, but they are out of joint. And I want to tell you that it hurts to make them right again. Just like Jacob's poor little elbow hurt to pop back into place and just as he favored it for the rest of the day and nursed that soreness, we too must face the consequences and the ache of a life that has been out of joint. I was thinking about how we could have prevented this injury in the first place. We couldn't! Not with Jacob and his brothers. They were just being brothers and they didn't know Jacob would get hurt, but how can I prevent it from happening in my own life. Don't be the rope, don't allow the tug. When I am walking so close with my Savior that I do only that which He calls me to do then I don't POP. So many things beg and scream for our attention, but what do we do? Only that which He has called us to. For this reason I place everything before Him. I never allow myself to be the rope. I make very few decisions on my own. "Father, show me if you want me to go on this field trip. Lord Jesus, give me a peace if it is ok to allow this child to spend the night away from home. God, lay on my heart what I should cook for supper to bless my family and to accommodate our schedule. Jesus, lead me to the grocery store you would have me shop in today to get the best deals and to open doors for ministry. And on and on it goes as each decision is made each day." Let me just say that this is so freeing. I AM FREE! I do only what He tells me to do. Then, I let the rest go! It is those days that I do not communicate with my Savior and I make the decisions that somewhere along the way I pop out of joint and then I suffer the consequences as I go through apologies, repentance, reconciliation and grieve and hurt over my sin and those I have wronged. As a mom, it is so easy to feel like a rope in the midst of a tug of war game. Let it go my friends. Wake up each morning and ask the Lord what His lesson plan is for your day and then walk in constant communication with Him. Listen for His voice and obey. You can walk in freedom and keep all your joints in place.
  • Isaiah 30:21 NIV
    Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the waywalk in it."
  • Jeremiah 6:16 NIV
    This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

    "pray continually"

    "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"I Like You Daddy and I Like Mommy"

Jacob always says, "I love you mommy!" "I love you daddy!" Sometimes we say, "Jacob who loves you?" To which he responds "Daddy loves me, Mommy loves me." Then we ask, "Jacob who loves you the most?" To which he replies, "JESUS." "That's right Jacob, Mommy and Daddy love you but Jesus loves the most." We want our children to understand that as much as we love them, care about them and have their best interest in mind, Jesus loves them so much more than we ever could. We want them to go through life with that assurance. This morning the story went a little different. After an escapade with our alarm, our fearless neighbors and the police, Matt came home and we were all 3 sitting on the couch "chillin" as we like to say. I hugged Matt and said "Jacob I love your daddy!" I also want my children to have complete confidence that I love their daddy so much. Jacob hugged us both yelling "Group Hug" and then said something he had never said before. He said, "I like you Daddy!" and "I like you too Mommy." I asked, "Do you love me?" "Yeah! I like you too." Jacob said. I loved that he knew the difference. I have felt his love since he was seconds old and laying in my arms, but I haven't always gotten the sense that he liked me. It can be hard to like someone who is always giving instruction and disciplining you, but Jacob likes us. He doesn't just love us but he enjoys spending time with us. He likes us! I make it a point to let me children know this on a regular basis. I love you is important and we say it all the time, but it can almost become cliche. Love should be felt and known and I will ALWAYS tell my children I love them, but they need to know I like them. Sometimes I will say "Caleb, I like you. You are a cool kid and really fun to be around. You make me laugh. I love how you are so interested in the lives of others. You are awesome and I like you." Caleb knows I love him, but aren't Moms suppose to love their children. I want him to know that "he rocks" in my world. I want him to know that their are some very specific things in his life that I really, really like. I don't just love him because he is my son, but I like spending time with him. I feel this way about all of my children. I love them all, but there are very specific things I like about each one of them. I know Jacob loves me, but it was so awesome to hear that he "likes" me too. Make a list of all the specific things you like about your children and start praising them. Tell them you love them and more importantly show it, but tell them you like them and tell them why. Those little spirits need to be encouraged and uplifted. What could be more encouraging than to hear..."I like you!"

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Teach or Train A Child?"

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  This verse has always given me great hope that if I "train up" my children to love the Lord then they will not depart from that truth when they are older. We have talked with many families who have children who were raised to love the Lord, but who are currently living to please the desires of the flesh. Understanding this "proverb" is a great hope and comfort to parents who are diligently praying for that prodigal son to return. For years I claimed this as a promise instead of a proverb, but recently the Lord has shown me something very special about this proverb. It says "train" a child. I began to think about the difference in "teaching" a child and "training" a child.  "Teach - to impart knowledge and give instruction." "Train - to develop or form the habits, thoughts and behavior by discipline and instruction." I posses the knowledge to be a runner. I have been instructed in what it takes to run. I could tell you and teach you how to run, but I have not developed or formed the habits of running. I do not think and behave like a runner. I do not have the discipline to run. Do you see the difference. We can "teach" our children about Jesus. They can posses so much knowledge about God's word and the person of Jesus Christ that they could pass it along to others, but that is all it is "knowledge". We must "train" our children in righteousness. As we "train" them in righteousness then they develop their own convictions, their own habits and they can think and behave as a follower of Jesus Christ. Teaching involves giving instruction, but training encompasses instruction along with discipline. I have the knowledge to run, but no one has ever helped me develop the discipline to run. Instruction without discipline is simply knowledge, but it does not develop a life-changing habit. I cannot simply tell my children this is wrong and this is right. I have to train them. Training is not for the weary. Deuteronomy 6:5-8  "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
Training involves as we see in Deuteronomy, when we rise up, when we lie down, when we walk along the road, when we sit at home...Training is ALL the time. Training involves discipline. We don't just instruct our children but we train them through discipline, we train them by leading them in the correct actions, by encouraging the attitudes of their heart. Teaching involves our words and knowledge, training involves our full attention mentally, physically and emotionally. Training requires that we ourselves stay in shape and continue in the disciplines of our faith. A teacher tells you what you need to know. A trainer runs alongside you and continues their own personal disciplines as they spur you own and encourage you. As parents we must stay in shape spiritually. We cannot grow lazy and we cannot just spout out instructions. You have heard the old adage "Do as I say, not as I do." WRONG!  This does not hold much credibility with our children. As they see us living out our faith in our responses to each situation, our attitude being the same as that of Christ Jesus, our patience with them and our encouraging words it becomes an attainable goal for them. When they see "Hey this is not just talk, but Mommy and Daddy live this way too." It gives them hope that they too can posses this life-changing faith. It is attainable. I don't know about you but I do not remember much history, science and math from my years of being "taught." Knowledge was imparted to me and I did nothing with it and thus it is forgotten. My parents trained me in scripture, in praise, in my prayer life, in obedience to Christ and in my love for Him and for my neighbors. This is not simply a knowledge, but it has become a discipline. It is the very heart of my existence. It has become not only a habit, but it is the discipline of my thought life and the discipline behind my behavior. It is not simply a head knowledge, but it has taken root within my heart and it has become a heart knowledge as well. Head knowledge can make you prideful and pious, heart knowledge transforms you from the inside out and develops your character and becomes the core of who you are. I want my children to have hearts that posses that all consuming fire. I want their desire and their love for Jesus Christ to consume every part of their being. This will not happen if I simply impart knowledge to them. I must train them daily. "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Raining down Manna or Chicken?"

"Mommy isn't it cool that God just dropped down the manna when the children of Israel needed it? I wish God would rain down chicken. I would love to walk out my front door every morning and find that God had rained down chicken. Especially if it were fried chicken legs." I love six year olds. They are so literal. They take God at His word. Joshua had heard the story before about God's provision of manna for the children of Israel. Joshua believes that God is the same God today that He was then. He really believes that if he asked God to rain down fried chicken that He would do it. What an encouragement to me to remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If He so desired He could rain down fried chicken. I was able to explain to Joshua that this was a matter of God's provision. He had called the Israelites to live lives of obedience and total dependence on Him and His provision. I was able to share with Joshua that God is still the same God and that He provides for us with the same provision. I have recently struggled with this. A few months back Matt and I were having a financial discussion. I was sharing my heart with my husband and asking Him that if God is Jehovah Jireh our provider and since we trust Him to do all things then why does Matt have to work so hard. I was not questioning God's provision in our lives, but just experiencing a moment of fleshly thinking and maybe a little pity party. My husband had the best reply..."He is Jehovah Jireh our provider, but you are looking at His provision all wrong. He is providing, but right now He is providing strength and energy and the rest I need to accomplish all the things in my life that He has called me to. He is providing, but just not in the way you are thinking. People often think Jehovah Jireh our provider means He will provide financially, but that is not always His plan for accomplishing His purpose. Continue to thank Him for being our provider, but trust His hand of provision in our life." I had never thought about it that way. The children of Israel needed nourishment and God sent them manna. He could have conquered the city by tearing down the walls Himself and He could have done it quickly, but would that have accomplished His purposes in their lives? God was using that time in their lives to build their character, to increase their trust in Him, to encourage hearts of contentment and to conform them into His image. He provided what they needed when they needed it. And now who receives the Glory? We remember that God provided the manna. Joshua stands in awe of the fact that God rained down manna. How cool is that?...You walk out your front door and dinner is waiting. God was glorified. He was their all sufficient King, He was their provider!! And He is the same yesterday, today and forever!!! To God Be The Glory!!! My friends, trust His provision in your life. Trust that He is God and He knows what we need more than we do. Joshua's final reply to our discussion was, "We always do things God's way, because God's way ALWAYS works." Amen

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"I Can't Go Another Easter Without Jesus In My Heart."

As a mother it is so fun to watch the Spirit of God drawing these precious children unto himself. Our oldest, Matthew had a full understanding of Jesus, His death, His burial, His resurrection and his own personal sin and need for a Savior at the age of 5. He asked Jesus into his heart on Easter Sunday when he turned 5. Caleb wanted to be like his brother and talked about asking Jesus into his heart for years, but footballs and subway sandwiches seemed to be more pressing than his need for a Savior until he was 8 and nothing else in this world was as important to him as having a personal relationship with Jesus. Joshua has been wanting to ask Jesus into his heart for a while, but Matt and I both felt that his understanding of sin and salvation was not complete. Easter Sunday morning I woke up my children and said, "Happy Easter Joshua!" He immediately began to sob. I will be honest, I thought he was crying because he did not get the "real" bunny that he wanted for Easter. I asked him what was wrong and he said, "Mommy, I can't go another Easter without Jesus in my heart." I asked him if he wanted to pray with me and he said, no I want to pray with you and daddy both so we waited until we got to church. He went and talked to his daddy about it during worship, but still he wanted to wait. I began to wonder if this was not to be the day of his salvation. I told him we would wait until he was ready. And then he said something that was so precious. "Mommy, I have dreamed of this day and practiced this day in my head for a long time and I know how I want it to happen. I want me and you and daddy to walk to the front and kneel at the cross at the end of the service and pray then." I was not about to take this dream away from him. At the end of the service we all three walk down front and Matt told Joshua to share his heart with Jesus and tell him what was on his heart and mind. This is what he prayed, "Jesus, you are so mighty and powerful and we praise you. We thank you that you died on the cross to take away our sins. I am sorry I have sinned and lied to my daddy and disobeyed my parents and told Caleb I never wanted to see him again. Forgive me Jesus. I want you in my life. In Jesus name Amen." After hearing the heart of this 6 year old there was no question in my mind as to whether he understood or grasped what he was doing. He got it. God had been drawing Joshua unto Himself and today was the day of his salvation. He gave it all up that day. He answered the call of His savior that day. As we stood there worshipping the Lord together I could not contain the tears. Oh the joy that flooded my soul was now pouring down my face. This is what I have prayed for since the day they were conceived. I have prayed that at an early age my children would come to know Christ and walk with Him all the days of their life. Joshua told me yesterday that since he has asked Jesus into his heart that everything seems different. He said he can see God's love for him in everything he looks at. He said, "Mommy, it is as if God is whispering in my ear all day long, "Joshua, I love you." Oh what rejoicing!!! He is whispering that in his ear all day long and He is shouting it from the roof tops and He is shouting it in all of creation. "JOSHUA, I LOVE YOU!" Easter (and everyday) we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. Easter will also have another special place in my heart as will August 5. These are the days that 3 of my children went from death to a New life. I was able to deliver them into this world, but by the power of Jesus Christ and His resurrection HE alone is the one who can give them ETERNAL life! PRAISE YOU JESUS! "Oh praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"He is Alive and He is in Prison."

Last year on Easter Sunday we were riding home from church and I could hear my 2 year old Jacob saying..."He is Awive (alive)." And Joshua would say..."And He is in prison." I was puzzled for a few moments, but I listened and again and again they continued to complete the others sentences as they celebrated the resurrection of our Savior. After processing what Joshua was saying, I had to ask. "Joshua, why do you keep saying He is in prison." "You know mommy, that's what we say at church... "He is not dead, no He is alive and He is in prison." "Oh no buddy, we are saying..."He is not dead, no He is alive and He is RISEN." "Oh ok, that makes more sense." I tried hard not to laugh, but that was adorable. I was able to explain to Joshua that day that Jesus is RISEN and because of His resurrection we have actually been freed from the chains of sin that held us captive so actually Jesus conquered our personal prison. How amazing!! Because of His death, burial and resurrection our debt has been paid, our chains are gone, the shackles have been taken off so we can dance in the presence of our Savior. How many of us just like Joshua have heard for years the "Easter phrases." He is risen! He is not dead, no He is Alive! Resurrection power! The stone was rolled away! We say all of these true and powerful phrases because that is what you say at Easter, but do we live according to these truths everyday. Think about it for a minute. Our Savior, Jesus was DEAD, he was not breathing, his heart was not beating and God RAISED him from the GRAVE! He was no longer dead, but he was ALIVE. The big, huge, colossal bolder had move, it was rolled away and the tomb could not hold our Jesus. WHY? Because our God possesses resurrection power. The power to breathe LIFE back into his body. Do we live like we believe this? Do we trust Him to work and act in our lives with that same power that raised Jesus from the dead? Have we given him our finances? Have we given Him our marriages, our children, our health, our jobs, our loneliness, our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our worries or do we keep them tucked away behind the tomb of our flesh? If we believe God raised Jesus to a new life then we need to claim that resurrection power not just on Easter, but everyday. God is not a god that He should change his mind. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Celebrate the life of our Jesus not just with eggs, peeps, ham and bunnies, but celebrate His resurrection everyday as you walk rejoicing in the fact that we serve a RISEN Savior. The grave could not hold Him and death could not contain Him! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies."

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to thetomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance."