Monday, August 30, 2010

"In My Weakness..."

Just as the band plays "that old familiar song" I too am singing a song today that I'm sure you have heard me sing before. Once again I have decided to "deny myself" by giving up something. This time Matt and I are doing it together. Two weeks ago God began to stir within our hearts that we needed to really seek His face concerning an upcoming event within our church. The last time this event was before us God called us to 40 days of corporate prayer as a church body. This time Matt and I felt that God was asking us to step it up a notch and give not only of our time, but to sacrifice in a way that required more from our flesh. He has called us to do the Daniel Fast for 40 days as we pray and prepare for this event. Before you begin to pat us on the back, make wagers as to if we can complete this or start condemning us for openly discussing this "fast" when the Bible says not to advertise it, let me share a few things with you. For us this is not so much a fast as it is bringing our bodies under the control of the Holy Spirit and learning to honor God with what we put in our mouth. Now, don't think for a minute that a medium rare ribeye properly seasoned cannot honor God if prepared properly and eaten in moderation, but for a time Matt and I have felt led to limit what we partake of. For the record I would also like for it to be known that this is ALL God and none of me because you don't get to be this curvy just eating fruits and vegetables, 'so obviously' this was not my idea. Today is day 12 and already I have had 2 days of total and complete weakness. I have even threatened to cancel the upcoming event if it means I can't have a Coke. But guess what, "In our weakness, He is strong." Even though my heart and flesh may fail and I desire to partake of the worldly fare, my Heavenly Father has been my strength and allowed me to stand steadfast in my commitment to Him. I am finding once again that the greatest lessons are not always learned in the answer, but in the wait that comes before. It seems that many times in my life God has placed me in the "Wait." We often see those times of "wait" as a punishment, a cruel joke or wasted time, but in reality the "wait" can be the greatest lesson of them all. I can think back on many times of waiting. I waited for God to bring me a mate, all the while He was preparing me and Matt for that destiny. Oh, how thankful I am for those days of waiting that brought us both to His feet and allowed us to first love Him intimately. I waited and waited to become pregnant, learning more lessons during that wait than I could have thought possible only to be blessed with 4 precious boys. Sometime layering the "waits" God was teaching me multiple lessons as over the years I have awaited test results from Cat-scans, MRI's Blood tests, Biopsies, not only on me but sometimes my husband and once my small child. Thinking that God would receive the greatest glory when the answers came and then realizing that the greatest lessons came in the time He called me to wait because sometimes the answers did not seem so great. We miss so many teachable moments by worrying away the days of waiting, when God desires for us to embrace the wait and sit at His feet. He is always teaching us. I believe that sometimes He allows the wait to remain until we become pliable and learn the lesson He had planned out for us. So today, once again I find myself in the wait. I am excited to see what God is going to do through our upcoming event, but I am even more excited to learn from Him each day as I rely on His strength. That is where I am today. I am weak, but He is strong. I want a coke, but because of His strength I am drinking water. My prayer this morning was "God show me your lesson plan for today. I don't want to miss anything you have for me." I don't want to check the "days of duty" off and miss the abundant blessings of obedience as I wait on Him. What is your wait today? Has God called you to a new discipline in your life? Are you waiting on a mate? Do you long to hold a child in your arms? Are you awaiting test results from your doctor? Maybe it is a financial need that you are trusting God to take care of? Whatever the weakness, allow Him to be your strength. Whatever the "wait," ask Him to teach you, mold you , shape you and allow you to remain until His will has been accomplished in your life. Sometimes the "wait" can be the most precious time you ever spend. "In our weakness, He is strong."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Señor Chatterbox"

Allow me to introduce you to the sweetest sound I hear ALL day long. This is my precious Jacob. He has been known by other names throughout his 3 1/2 years. For a short while he was affectionately known as Taz. I think he got that name shortly after the vaseline and baby powder incident. For his entire 3 years he has been known to his brothers as "my baby." He is also stinker, little stinker, buddy, little man and this week he is Señor Chatterbox. Jacob has always been loud and no one in our house ever seems to be at a loss for words, but recently I have discovered how much Jacob loves to talk. I think it is because there is no one left at the house to talk to but Mommy. We have some amazing conversation. Well, actually it is more like ONE amazing conversation from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed. Don't get me wrong, I love the sound of that precious voice. There could not be a cuter voice in the whole world. I love that he wants to share every detail of all that he sees, hears, feels and thinks with me. I love that when he doesn't have the answer he says, "I can't know." One day all too soon, I am afraid that little voice will grow into the voice of a man and that little boy that pours out his heart to his mommy will share his deepest thoughts with someone else, but for now I will cherish and enjoy it. It makes me think that when Jesus said, "Pray Continually" he too enjoys hearing the voice of His children. Have you ever thought that we are the sweetest voice He has ever heard? He delights in the praises of His children. He wants to have an amazing continuous conversation with us ALL day EVERYday. My fear though, is that much like Jacob we only talk His ears off when there is no one else to talk to, no one or nothing else to distract us. We talk to everyone that is around, we exhaust the list of people on our cell phone list and when there is nothing on TV and our ipod is dead, then we talk to HIM. I love to hear Jacob say, "Hey Mommy..." And I know that my Father loves to hear me say, "Hey Father, Papa, Abba, Daddy..." followed by whatever is on my heart. He already knows, but He loves to communicate with His children. He never tires or grows weary of hearing the sound of my voice. So often we think of "prayer" as such a formal, churchy word. It becomes something we do or we say. Prayer is defined as simply "a form of communication." Talking is a form of communication. Jesus desires for us to "talk" to Him all the time. It is not something to be crossed off our list of things to do, but rather a means of knowing and being known by our Savior intimately. We learn every detail and every inmost thought and feeling by communicating with someone. That is the relationship we desire with the one who gave His life for us and that is the relationship He desires from us as well. Just as Jacob has affectionately become my little Señor Chatterbox we too need to desire that nickname from our heavenly Father as we continually pour our heart out to Him All day Everyday!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We Don't Serve A Sugar Coated Jesus!

Have you ever noticed that things covered in sugar just seem to be better? It is obvious they are sweeter, but given the option most of the time children will choose the sugar coated choice. I must confess that yesterday I indulged in a cupcake from a local bakery. It was a yellow cake with lime icing with sprinkles of sugar on top. Oh my goodness is all I can say. I also love those sugar coated sour jelly beans and sour patch kids that are in fact covered with sugar. Sugar coated things just seem to make us happy. Mary Poppins even said that a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down. I will be honest, if my children need medicine I am not going to chase it down with a spoonful of straight sugar. HELLO! What kind of mother am I? Instead we have a glass of coke after taking medicine. It does in fact help the medicine go down. As I was enjoying my sugar coated cupcake yesterday I began to think that as believers we have become very much like the sugary goodness we indulge in. We have come to a place where we sugar-coat everything and we call it grace. Now don't get me wrong, I am all for grace. After all didn't Jesus say that is what He came to bring and that we too should offer grace to one another. We need grace, I need grace and we need to offer grace to others, but what is grace exactly. Is grace standing by and allowing others to live in sin all the while seeing, knowing and recognizing and saying nothing? Scripture is clear that we are to offer a gentle rebuke to our fellow believers. Grace is actually being given something that you do not deserve. So does that mean loving someone who has hurt us? Could that be considered grace? Could it be biting our tongue and not giving the other the person the tongue lashing they deserve for what they just said to us? I think often times as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we mistake offering grace for the absence of truth. We do not serve a sugar coated Jesus. Jesus did not mince words. Jesus did not use feel good phrases and give pats on the back and call it grace. Jesus spoke the truth and said that the truth is our key to freedom. Jesus turned over tables, cast out demons and recognized sin as such. He spoke with boldness and clarity never holding back for fear of where it would take Him. He knew from the beginning what the end for Him would look like and with reckless abandonment He proclaimed truth and as a result He is the only person throughout history to have changed millions upon millions of lives every day. He never sugar coated anything. How would it have sounded had Jesus decided to sugar coat the very words that He came to give His life to proclaim. Matthew 5:29 sugar coated version - "I have trouble sometimes too with my eyes causing me to sin. Sometimes I wish I didn't even have eyes and then I wouldn't be so tempted." Matthew 5:29 as Jesus spoke, "If your right eye causes you to sin GOUGE it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." My friend there "ain't" nothing sugary about that. As believers we want to help our brothers and sisters in Christ make justification for what they are doing and I am often guilty of doing this by saying, "I have struggled with that too." Struggled??? What does that even mean? I AM A SINNER JUST LIKE YOU. That is the truth of the matter. We both need to gouge our eyes out! We are called to be His disciples. We are called to follow Him and proclaim the message of truth that He delivered and that He died for. God is convicting me that we don't have time to teach, preach and share a sugar coated gospel. We don't serve a sugar coated Jesus. We must proclaim His word with boldness. Yes, we continue to offer grace, but we are not equipped to offer eternal grace. We can only point them to the one who can. We can offer circumstantial grace as we give to others what they don't deserve. Eternal grace is only His to give, but we are the matchmaker, the arrow, the neon sign introducing them to Jesus. I confess that I sugar coat things way too often. I am praying that God will give me clarity of speech and a boldness to proclaim His truth without the fear of man. His word is sweet enough like honey from the comb, proclaim it just as it is. There is no need to sugar coat it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Are You Existing or Living?"

I heard my pastor (who is also my husband) ask this question last week. "Are you existing or are you living?" He also ask us to think about the difference between the two. Since the question was posed, I have thought about little else. I don't want to exist. I don't want to go through the motions of life. I want to LIVE!! There are so many days when I feel like I do good to just exist. Life is so busy and there is way more to do than any one person can get done. As I have prayed through this and searched for my own personal answers of "Am I existing or living? And how do you know the difference?" The Lord has brought me to a place of understanding that existing and living is the difference of seeing things from our own perspective versus seeing things from His perspective. From where I stand so often life and circumstances do not make sense. However, when we view our life through the eyes of Jesus it does not have to make sense to us because we know that it does to Him. Our finite minds will not understand this side of heaven all the ways and things that our God has planned and laid out for our lives. It is all for His good and His glory. I once heard Steven Curtis Chapman say after the loss of his daughter that our life is like a tapestry that God has woven for us, but if you look at one small part of the tapestry it does not make sense. You have to stand back and look at the whole creation to understand and appreciate the beauty of the master creator's hand. There have been many things in our lives that if I allowed myself to look at the situation alone it would have caused great discouragement and heart ache. We have walked through cancer twice, being told our 3 year old had lymphoma, having trusted friends turn their back on you and try to destroy the work God was doing in our lives. We have faced hurts and circumstances that you just don't think you will have to walk through by the time you are 35, but through the power of the Holy Spirit we were able to not simply exist during those times, but were able to live and live life abundantly. Jesus says "I have come so that you may have life and have it abundantly." It is not his desire for us just to exist. He want us to live and live abundantly. How is that possible when you are told you have cancer? How is it possible when you are facing the loss of a loved one? How is that possible when you have lost your job and don't know where the next pay check will come from? It is only possible when we cling to the hem of the garment of the one who can take that which seems impossible and make it possible. It seemed impossible that Jesus could be crucified, buried in a tomb and raised to a new life and yet because of that reality we can all live with the assurance of heaven. How can we face the impossible? By understanding what David did in Psalm 34 I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. 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. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good;blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him." Wow, there are so many things to take note of here. Praise Him, exalt Him, boast in the Lord, glorify Him, taste and see that He is good, take refuge in Him, seek Him, listen to Him, keep your tongue from evil and don't lie, seek peace and pursue peace. When all that we are is crying out to all that He is the only perspective we can have is His and His perspective is LIFE. As we seek Him and know Him, as we taste and see that He is good we begin to live. The everyday things that we think we exist to do become the things we live to do for Him. Do you live to do laundry or do you exist to do laundry? You exist to do laundry when you dread it, get it done and complain through the whole process. You live to do laundry when you wash with a thankfulness of heart as you place each article in the washer and thank God for your wonderful husband and for the blessings of these precious children. You live to do laundry as you fold each item and pray for the person that will soon be wearing it. Even laundry can be done as an act of our living for Him. Do you exist in your job so that you can have a check at the end of the month or do you show life in your job as you do it all for the glory of God seeking to make a difference for His kingdom. My children often ask me what I want them to be when they grow up. My answer is "In love with Jesus." When they push for a more specific job title I tell them that I don't care if they are the president, a missionary, a banker, a teacher, or s garbage collector as long as they have sought the heart of God and they know that they are in the center of His will and they are bringing Him glory with all that they are doing. Existing is no fun. It is just one letter away from exiting this world. But LIFE, living and living abundantly is something worth getting up for. He came that we might have LIFE ABUNDANTLY!!! That excites me. Take a bite of His Word. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Seek Him while He may be found and experience what REAL LIFE is all about. Decide today that to exist is not enough. Seek Jesus, be filled to overflowing with Him and His perspective and you will find LIFE and you will begin to LIVE.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"For Such A Time As This"

I absolutely dread the start of school each year. I love being with my children and to be quite honest it is very hard for me to share them with others and to let go of them and let them grow up. As I was wrestling with these very issues before the Lord the other day, He spoke to me in that still small (LOUD) whisper and said, "Haven't you raised them and prepared them 'For such a time as this?' Let them go! They are mine!" God reminded me of a prayer I prayed years ago before we were blessed with children that if He gave me children I would raise them to love Him, to serve Him and to serve others and I would impart within them His vision for the kingdom of God. 'For such a time as this.' Isn't that why we were told to multiply? Malachi 2:15 says "Has not the Lord God made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking Godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." God was seeking Godly offspring. We could go on and on with scripture that teaches us that these precious children have the ability to make a difference for the kingdom of God. "The things you have heard me say, entrust to reliable men." "The faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice now lives in you also." "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young." "Teach your children and your children's children." Through the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of my children they can make a difference. My children bless me more than words can express and now they have an opportunity to bless others. I have to share with you what my children prayed during our prayer time on the way to school yesterday. I love their precious hearts. Matthew prayed for Caleb and prayed that "He would have the desire of his heart and be the class clown this year, but he would have the wisdom to know how and when to be funny." Caleb prayed for Joshua. "Lord, help Joshua not to be nervous at a new school, help him to make new friends and if he wants to be the class clown help him to be funny, but not as funny as me." Joshua prayed for Matthew. "Dear Lord God, we love you so much. Lord, help Matthew to have a good year and make new friends and help him to find a mature friend that thinks like he does." My first thought was (Lord, help us all.) But, I was so blessed! Not because the resounding theme seemed to be that the Hawkins boys want to be class clowns, but because my children know each other so well and know how to pray for the desire of their brother's heart. 'For such a time as this.' I am "learning" to let go in so many ways. Hearing them pray for one another let me know that Matt and I are not the only ones who know them and can meet their needs. They know each other and are there to encourage and lift one another up. God has equipped them with gifts and personalities and quirks just like He has each of us. Early this summer I was asking Matthew if there was anyone he would like to have in his class to make his year easier and more fun. His reply was beyond MY years. "Mom, I don't go to school to have friends. I go to school to learn and school is my mission field. It is not about me. I make friends at home, at church, in the neighborhood and at soccer, but I go to school to learn and tell others about Jesus." Well, shut my mouth!! He knows his calling and he is focused and sure. Hearing his heart on this matter, how could I not let go and allow him to fulfill the mission God has set before him? Don't get me wrong, my children are still children. They are sinful children who get spankings and get grounded. They argue, they roll their eyes, they fight with each other and they struggle with their attitude. But, guess what...if you asked my Heavenly Father about me He would tell you the same thing. It does not disqualify me from serving Him. It makes me cling to Him and His forgiveness, love, mercy and grace even tighter and experience the Holy Spirit working in my life as He convicts and corrects me daily. 'For such a time as this.' I didn't want my children to go back to school. I don't want them going anywhere, but where I am, but I heard His voice clearly. 'For such a time as this.' Let them go. THEY ARE MINE.' He speaks and He speaks clearly. My daily prayer for my children is that God would hem them in. I pray that he would go before them and prepare their way and I pray that He would come behind them and have His way for the glory of His kingdom. Letting go is hard for me, but I remember what Corrie Ten Boom said so long ago. "I have learned to hold the things of this world loosely because it hurts so bad when God pries them away." I don't ever want to hold my children so tightly that I forget they are His. He may one day call them to serve Him in another country. He may one day send 4 young ladies who will marry my children and whose words and opinions will become more important in their eyes than mine. One day all too soon, they will drive in a car without me. Today they went to school with dozens and dozens of other children and dozens of teachers who are not their mommy. Today God called me to let go. There are so many ways that we have to learn to let go, but it is so much easier when I remember that they are not mine, they are His and He has entrusted them to me to prepare and to train 'For such a time as this.'

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Mommy, Hold My Face"

"Hold my face" is something that we have said to all four of our boys since they were very little. When they hold my face, I know they are paying attention and it draws them into a place of submission versus me holding their face and forcing them to look at me. I have said "hold my face" probably a half a dozen times each day for the past 10 years. Today was the first time anyone has ever asked me to hold their face. Jacob and I were on the floor talking and playing and he said, "Mommy, hold my face." I placed my hands on those adorable, soft, chubby cheeks and looked into those dark chocolate eyes. "Mommy, I want to watch Dora and I want to watch it right now." I burst into roaring laughter. Apart from being bossy and demanding, it was one of the most adorable things he has ever done. He wanted my undivided attention. It saddened my heart for a moment to think that he does not always have my undivided attention. He also wanted me to understand that he was serious about his request. I find myself answering questions this way a lot..."Mommy, may I have a drink?" "In a minute." "Mommy, will you help me with this?" "Give me just a second. " "I'll be there in a little while." "Not right now." Do any of these sound familiar to you? I know that children have to learn delayed gratification and patience, but I'm sure there are other ways for them to discover these character traits without the lesson ALWAYS coming from mommy. I want my children to know that they are important to me and I am always here for them anytime and all the time. I'm so glad my Heavenly Father hears me and is always there for me. He is always holding my face when I pour my heart out to Him. He is attentive and I always have His undivided attention. There are times when He asks me to practice patience or experience delayed gratification, but He always answers and His answers are always on time and they are never wrong. Our Heavenly Father is always waiting and longing to hear from us. I treasure these precious days with my children. Jacob is by far my most "touchy" child. He is always sitting with me, climbing on me, cuddling with me, leaning on me, crawling over me and "nuggling" as he calls it. There are not many hours in the day when he and I are not touching. There are days I feel like I have a leech or a growth and then I remember that all too soon he will grow up and he will not longer be by my side all the time. These moments are precious and fleeting. I treasure the moments that I get to look in my children's eyes and hear from their hearts. I know my Heavenly Father treasures and longs for those moments as well. I pray that I will always be found "holding His face," resting in His presence and abiding in His word.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"It Only Takes A Little"

Saturday morning we were having a baby shower for my sweet friend Whitnie to welcome her second little girl into the world. It was a breakfast shower and I was making gorilla bread. Since the shower was a morning shower I knew there was NO way I could make the gorilla bread that morning. I'm a night owl so after I had finished all my Friday evening chores it was time to make the gorilla bread. I pulled the biscuits that I had bought on Thursday out of the frig, opened the package and this is what I found. After a little gagging and lots of yucky noises, I realized I had to think. How was I going to make gorillas bread at 12:30 at night with these biscuits. I inspected the packages and realized that none of the seals were broken on my biscuit packages. I decided to open them and just maybe use them anyway. (Don't judge me!) I opened the first package and the biscuits looked fine, but they were very wet. I just couldn't do it. I was reminded of the scripture that says just a little bit of yeast can run through the whole batch. Just a little bit of mold can effect the whole package of biscuits. Just a little bit of sin can effect the whole person, the whole family, the whole body of Christ. I could have made the gorilla bread from these biscuits and no one would have ever known, until they got sick or were diagnosed with some awful worm or fungus. The same is true with the sin in our lives. Some sins are so secret that no one else will ever know. Right? They may not know the secret sin, but they will reap the hurt, the pain and grossness of that sin as it spreads through the whole batch. As the universal body of Christ our sins affect one another whether we realize it or not. As we allow sin to spread throughout our hearts and lives we become complacent, we become disconnected to the heart of our Savior. When we are not hearing from our Savior we cannot be obedient, we cannot meet the needs of others, we cannot serve others and we become a hindrance rather than an encouragement. Maybe your sin is secret and you think no one knows. ONE knows and that is the most important knowledge there is. You may think it does not affect anyone but you, but it does. A little yeast spreads through the whole batch. A little mold can ruin a whole baby shower menu. A "little" sin hung our Savior on the cross. A "little" sin affects our spouse. A "little" sin affects our children. A "little" sin affects our friends. A "little" sin affects the whole body of Christ. It spreads, it affects, it contaminates and it hurts. Sin ultimately results in death. Death of a friendship, death of a marriage, death of a testimony lived out before our children, but ultimately it led to the death of Jesus. I want to be as repulsed by sin as I was by that green, fuzzy, smelly mold that infected my whole batch of biscuits. I want to be able to fully grasp the concept that a small amount of yeast can effect the whole batch of dough. I don't want to live so narrow minded and self absorbed that I only think about the way my sin affects me and not how if affects others. Just only takes a little.