Friday, June 22, 2012


“Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins.  And God was pleased because the sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.”  Ephesians 5:1,2

            Sacrifice.  If someone were to offer me a penny for my thoughts, I would say that my mind is currently preoccupied with that word.  My husband and I are preparing to send our oldest off to college in a few short months.  We have been looking at the financial aid package he has been offered.  He has received some fine scholarships and grants.  However, we all know that college is an investment, and he will still owe a considerable amount to the institution he has decided to attend.  As parents, we want to provide him with what help we can so he isn’t overwhelmed with the burden of debt after he earns his degree.  We have been talking a lot about sacrifice.  What can we give up?  What expenses can we decrease or eliminate from our budget?  How much of our paychecks can we afford to send to the college?

            As parents, we quickly learn about sacrifice.  We begin the parenting journey learning how to survive without a solid good night’s sleep.   As families grow, we sacrifice cute little sporty cars for mini-vans.  We sacrifice decorator show-room living rooms as they get taken over by toys and other childish clutter.  We sacrifice privacy in the bathroom when the personal needs of small children must be dealt with immediately.  Personal time disappears as we become occupied with driving to team sports, activities, lessons, and play dates.  We sacrifice our sanity when trying to reason with toddlers and adolescents and also when helping with certain homework assignments.  You get the idea.  We sacrifice…endlessly.

            The word sacrifice implies something that is difficult to do.  It is giving up something for a higher purpose – maybe a cause or a person we consider to be of higher value than that which we relinquish.  Sacrifice typically isn’t pleasant, but it is an act that stems from love and honor.  In the context of parenthood, we sacrifice on a daily basis.  We may not always do so perfectly without grumbling and complaint.  It’s not easy to act selflessly, but we put our children’s needs before our own because it is for their benefit. 

            Parenting gives us a wonderful illustration of our relationship with our Creator.  Our Heavenly Father sacrificed his son for the benefit of his dear children.  Out of love for the Father, Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice –his life for our redemption.  We, as children of God, are filled with loving gratitude.  We learn from and try to follow the example of Christ.  This means we give of ourselves, sacrificing for our children.

Dear Father, help us to care for our children, not indulging them, but giving them what they need.  Please provide us with the resources to do so, and help us to give joyfully of what we have been given.  Thank you for giving us the richest of blessings through the sacrifice of your son.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Help - I Need Somebody!

"...and call on me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
-Psalm 50:15

My husband would be the first to tell you that I ask for help way too much, especially when it comes to household appliances.  He would also be the first to tell you that when I ask for help, it means that I really want him to solve the problem/issue at hand so I can move on with my task or television program.  Because the above statement is truth, my husband is not always ready and willing to help when I call.

On the other hand, my daughter Olivia demands help.  Her requests for help are short phrases containing action verbs like, "Open," or "More," or "Up."  If her requests for help are not met, she is persistent and continues to ask until her need is met or mom/dad persistently say no.  

I am currently in a position at work where I am asked to help.  A teacher may need me to run a report or my principal may need certain data analyzed.  There are days when I am bombarded by requests for help, and some days where no help is requested/needed.

How often do you ask for help?  Who do you ask?  Do you get the help you need?

As His dear children, our Heavenly Father invites us to ask for help.  While this verse speaks to calling on God during our times of trouble, we know that God listens to all of our requests and knows our needs and wants.  I know there are times I wait to ask for help.  Sometimes I believe I know better or believe the situation to be under control, only to have it blow up in my face.  There needs to be less of me and more God.  Help - I need you God - not just anybody - only you!

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for encouraging us to turn to you in times of trouble.  Thank you for your promise of deliverance, forgiveness and grace.  Continue to hold our families close to you.  Amen


Friday, June 1, 2012

grow, grow, grow

Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.

It’s the time of year when I love walking around in my yard to see what is growing. I never get tired of seeing the progress through the Summer as things change, bloom, and bear. Amazing. The relationship that I have with my yard is humbling. I do not make things grow, but I can influence the growth. I can plant a tiny seed into the earth and it will emerge as a plant somehow. Our Creator does miraculous things every day in our world.
I’ve been praying lately about my similar role as a mother. I can really neither take credit or blame for my child’s health, progress, or character. I certainly have an influence, but God is their true Gardener. He has been creating them from the very beginning, even before I knew. I want to resist the temptation to think that God’s mercy in their life is somehow my doing. I know I fall into this when things go wrong and I wonder how I failed to protect them, teach them, help them. That is evidence that deep down I believed myself to be their creator, deserving credit for His merciful ways. May our understanding of our place in our kids’ lives be appropriate, always acknowledging the One who ultimately gives the growth.
Creator and Lord, You have shown loving mercy to my children from the start. May my efforts in parenting point to Your great love. Remind me as I pray for my children that they belong to You. Give me the wisdom and strength to tend to their needs while praising You for the miraculous ways they are growing. Amen

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lessons from a Butterfly

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  Ephesians 4:29

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Proverbs 12:18

There our Painted Lady Butterfly sat, delicately perched on the purple blooms of a Mallow plant, shuttering its wings- patterned with the colors of day and night.  The sensors on the bottom of its feet gave the butterfly the "go ahead" signal.  (We had previously wiped honey on the flowers in hopes of witnessing its eating habits.)  What happened next had the comlete attention of my 3 year old daughter, my 5 year old son, his friend, and me- a grown woman.  A black coil developed out from its mouth and slowly stretched out into a straw-like apparatus and sunk into the honey doused flower.  Our Painted Lady held its sucking position for about 7 seconds, and then the straw-like proboscus coiled back into its mouth.

What started out as a lesson on pollination turned into a much deeper lesson that only God could have provided.

Here is a summary of what I discussed with my little explorers:

God created butterflies to have proboscuses long enough to pollinate certain flowers that other insects can not reach.  Butterflies use their parts as God designed them and that is beneficial to the flowers and to people, who use and enjoy flowers.  It is important that we use our "parts" as God, our Master Creator, designed them.  I've noticed that with the looseness of summer vacation, our words and attitudes have gotten looser.  I've heard silly name calling, arguing, talking back, tattling, telling falsehoods, and interrupting more than I can count, and summer has barely started.  And that's not just from the kids.  I confess I've let my tongue be more like an icky, unwanted pest than a helpful, working insect way too often.  God gave us mouths, first and foremost, to praise Him and spread His message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Also, God gave us mouths to edify, or build up, one another.  That is the opposite of tearing down, name calling, tattling, lying, and arguing.  Of course, God gave us mouths to eat, and He wants us to take care of our bodies, so we even need to be mindful of what we consume.  Finally, God gave us mouths to communicate, share stories, and laugh.  With this treasure from God, we have the responsibility to know when to hold our tongues and when to watch our tone.  Just as the butterfly has sensors on its feet, telling it what is safe and good to eat, we have the sense of God's Word telling us when and how to speak, when to laugh, and what tone is appropriate.

Here is the beginnings of a chart we brainstormed- Mouths that Edify:

-Thank you for cooking us this yummy meal!
-You're good at throwing.  Will you show me how to throw like that?
- {I'm choosing not to laugh because they're goofing off while the teacher is teaching us.}

We will continue to add to the chart and review the chart throughout the summer.

As for our suspended lesson on pollination, adaptations, and habitats- well, we've got all summer, and we're excited!  We did release our butterfly back into God's natural world.

Thank you, God, for the depths of your creations and the spontaneous lessons they inspire.  Help us be fruitful this summer and delight in extra family time and extra time out in Your vast, miraculous creation.  AMEN.    

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pie Anyone?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:8-11
My girls love being outside. From riding their bikes, to walking amongst clouds of June bugs. More than anything else, they love planting every type of seed that they find in every piece of fruit that they eat all year long. As a result, we often have very interesting things growing in very interesting places each spring.
This year my flower garden was home to one of the seeds that we, upon seeing it push its way through the soil, were certain was going to give us big beautiful watermelon. We had planted watermelon once a couple of years ago, so of course we considered ourselves experts on the fruit. After seeing the flowers bloom, and watermelons start to form, we shared the news with everyone we knew.  Free watermelon! Juicy, delicious, watermelon. This is the stuff of which great Labor Day picnics are made!
Then one day, our horticultural bubble burst. One of our sowers of the seed shared with us something astonishing.
“Look Mom, your watermelon is a pumpkin!”
Do you ever have moments, days, even months, where you are certain you know what’s been planted, only to find out that something else has grown? I do too. There are times I forget what God’s promise really says. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. The word that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”
More often than not we think we know what we need, what we want, what we can’t live without. But the truth is that God’s ways are higher than our ways absolutely and without question. We may ask for one thing and not like the answer we receive. But God reminds us that he will bring to life what is needful and right. He promises us surprises that only he himself could have planted, and they are the best of the crop.
            I praise the God who plants in me his word. And despite my lack of expertise, and plans that are not in line with his, grows in me a faith that leads to salvation through Jesus. May we always trust in him to bring forth whatever fruit he knows is best. May we come to know well each day’s Thanksgiving harvest. Pie anyone?

Creator of all that is Good,
I want to lead my children by example to trust in your thoughts, ways, and purposes above all else. Forgive me for the times that I am frustrated by your will. Remind me always of your promise to be faithful when I am not. Accomplish through me what you will today, and help me to see you in the fruit of the harvest.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Meditate on it day and night

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. 

Joshua 1:8-9

Starting in Kindergarten, our children at our Lutheran school begin their memory work. That year, they learn Bible verses, in First grade, they begin learning the 10 Commandments. This year my oldest son is in Third grade, and he has begun memorizing Luther's Small Catechism. It never fails when we work on memory work each Sunday that I hear, "WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THIS?????" My default answer is usually, "Because I did it and your dad did it, and our parents did it, and now it's your turn."

But really, that's not the reason. Our Lord has commanded us to meditate on His Word, both in the day and at night. The reason I make memory work such a priority for my children is that I want God's Word to be in their hearts--I want them to approach every situation they meet in life with God's Word on their lips. It's certainly how I approach life.

Think about your own home--I know in my home, we have Bible verses everywhere. I find verses that I like in the Bible, write them down, and post them on my kitchen cabinet. While I'm cooking, I read those verses and meditate on them. We have plaques with Bible verses in various areas of our home, words we can read as we go through the business of life. And every evening, as we put our children to bed, we practice memory work and pray together. We begin and end the day with God's Word.

By equipping our children with God's Word, we are growing their relationship with God. We teach it to our children so they will teach it to their own children. We are equipping them with the love of God, and the knowledge that He is with them always.

Dear Heavenly Father, we praise You for your Word. Thank you for giving us the Bible, so that we may teach our children of Your love. Help us to meditate on that Word, to stay close to you. Remind us that You are with us always, because Your Word is imprinted in our hearts. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Reason to Rejoice

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!  Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Psalm 96:1-2

I wish you could have been in our Ascension Day service last week.  There was the most amazing little girl sitting in front of us.  Her beautiful brown eyes could have in no way prepared us for the joy that her voice would bring.  The opening hymn she was not familiar with, and so as the congregation sang, she colored quietly and every once in a while peeked behind her to see her mother waiting for her turn in the choir loft.  Then came the piece de resistance, The Hymn of Praise, (This is the Feast.) This one she knew, and though she was unsure of the verses, each time we sang the chorus, she could be heard above all of the timid adults sitting in the rows of pews behind her.  She didn’t just sing, she sang and she smiled and she danced.  What a joy she was to watch!

When it comes to singing in church on Sunday morning, or any day of the week for that matter, look to your right, then look to your left.  One of these people can’t carry a tune in a bucket.  Maybe you can’t either.  It’ okay because if you look to your right and left again, two of these people don’t care.  I know it’s hard to believe, but they really don’t.  When the Psalmist said, “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” he knew that a joyful noise was any made to give thanks and praise to God.  There were no qualifiers given.

David was definitely musically inclined, but I wonder if even he had a hard time controlling the pitch of his voice while worrying whether or not Saul was going to be throwing another spear at his head.  Maybe Mary’s voice warbled.  Maybe Moses was tone deaf.  I feel pretty confident in guessing that not everyone who sang in the Bible sang like angels.  Wouldn’t it be funny to get to heaven and discover that angels don’t really sing like angels either?  Regardless, the people of God are noted time and time again as signing praises to Him.

As we read God’s word together in our devotion time at home, the words that get the attention of my children more than any other are the ones they know from songs they have learned in VBS, or Sunday school, or ones that their dad and I have taught them.  It is through song that the word of God really sticks with them.  I would encourage you to impress upon your children the word of God through song no matter what your voice may sound like. 

Sing!  Sing it like you mean it.  Sing like you do in the car when the windows are rolled up.  Sing like all of our lives depend on the message you are proclaiming to your children and those around you.  They do, don’t they?  Sing of the gift of salvation offered through the Savior of the world.  If ever you needed a reason to rejoice, He is it!

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!  Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!  I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!  In Jesus Name, Amen!