Monday, February 28, 2011

Your Heavenly Father Knows

Matthew 6:25-34

I was sitting in the mother’s room at church trying to get my 6-month-old to eat. He is suppose to be taking a bottle, but he’s not cooperating.

Pastor just started the sermon and I can hear it over the speaker in the room. He’s talking about all the unrest that has been in the news lately. Dictators, violence, a broken economy, jobs, the price of gas shoots up…

“You may worry… will you have a job tomorrow? How will you pay for the things you need?...”

I joke with myself, ‘Well, thanks, Pastor – I wasn’t worried about it, but now that you mention it... :)’

My baby boy continues to fight the bottle. He plays with it, drinks a little, changes his mind and pushes it away. Oh, come on, Eddie… you’re killing me! I’ve been so frustrated with this process of moving from nursing my baby to bottle-feeding. How do I know if he’s getting what he needs?

“The world is an uncertain place,” Pastor continues. “Many of us wonder what tomorrow might hold..”

‘I’m really not that worried about that stuff, for some reason,’ I think to myself. I'm aware of all of it, but I guess I’ve been thinking about other things lately.

Pastor reads from the Gospel, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Eddie is not eating. Argh! What am I going to do? Should I nurse him, despite my intentions to get him to take a bottle regularly? I don’t want him to starve. Surely he’ll just eat when he gets hungry. I don’t know what to do…

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Your heavenly father knows that you need them. Eddie sits in my lap and I turn him towards me. He smiles at me. Peace sweeps over me – My heavenly father knows what he needs. And he will provide for my baby boy. I’ve been consumed lately with this issue, and while things haven’t gone smoothly, it could probably be worse. Eddie seems to be mostly fine – all the signs indicated that he is not, in fact, starving.

“It’s about trust,” Pastor is saying. “It’s about trusting in the Father.”

Oh, that sounds good. That sounds way better than worrying. I’m too tired to worry about this. I look at my healthy boy and realize this too shall pass - this time of uncertainty. I’m going to give this to God. He will handle it much better than me.

Lord, thank you for your reassurance that you will take care of my needs, and the needs of my family. I worry about my kids, but when I trust in you I find peace. Lord, help me remember throughout my day that you know what they need and will take care of us. Amen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Direct My Paths

"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him . . ."

1 Choronicles 28:9

New American Standard Bible

When I was in college, I had all kinds of plans. I was going to get married and have kids. I was going to teach 7th grade English and write a book someday. I always thought I'd be the president of my kids' school's PTA and I was for sure going to teach Sunday School and be active in a Bible study of my own as well. My kids would be involved in all kinds of activities and I'd love to drive them around and have Starbucks with the other moms in my neighborhood. I'd keep a perfect house and probably drive a minivan and get up every morning at the crack of dawn to have my alone time with God and work out--all before my kids got up.

After eleven years, I can say that I still want to do all of those things, but I have figured out that I have to pick and choose what I fill my life with. I have spent my fair share of time agonizing over whether to stay at home full-time with my kids or work outside of the home. I have struggled to find my place in ministry at our church and wondered if I should volunteer at all. I carefully consider each and every activity my kids do and try to find a good balance in our week with family time verses all the other stuff of life.

In the end, it comes down to one thing . . . knowing God and allowing Him to direct my paths. When I feel that strong desire to be back in the classroom, I seek God's counsel through prayer and through His Word (which is where God promises to always meet us). When I am asked to lead a Bible study, I have a little chat with God about whether I am in the position to help fill others up with God's Word or if I need a little filling up myself. When my daughter wants to do dance, gymnastics, swimming, tee ball, and Girl Scouts I think about what God wants for our family and make my decisions based on that.

I believe that God calls us to vocations, roles, and activities in unique ways and in His unique timing. The path that God places before me may not be the path that He sets before anyone else. As women and mothers, we are pulled in so many directions, whether we are pulling ourselves with our own wants or whether we are serving our families and their desires and needs. In order to sort out the craziness of life, we first need to look to God and listen to where He is calling us at that moment, in that place. Knowing God's voice can make all the difference.

Dear God . . . You know me so well and sometimes I make decisions without you because I think I can do it on my own. Please forgive me and help me to always seek You first and allow you to direct my paths.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Light For Our Path

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8:12

I love winter! Ask anyone who knows me well and they will testify to the fact that I enjoy snow and don't usually mind when my family and I get "trapped" at home because the snow has made it unsafe, or impossible, for us to get around. As much as I love winter, though, I do find myself dreaming of warmer weather and the fun things we get to do in the summer months.

One of the things my family enjoys doing in the summer is camping. We enjoy cooking outside, sleeping in a tent, and sitting around the campfire making s'mores. When we go camping there are many things that we pack. Our van is filled so full there is barely enough room for the three of us to fit in with all of our stuff.

While, in my opinion, there are several "must haves" for a camping trip, one of the things we just can't be without is our flashlights. The flashlights are especially important when we are making our way around camp after the sun goes down. The flashlights help us to see our way on the path. Sometimes the campground will have smooth paths that are already lit and making our way to our destination is easy. It is then that we use the flashlight to make sure we stay on that path. However, there are times when the path we are taking has no lights at all and the way is rough and bumpy. Without our flashlights we would stumble and fall.

In our text for today we are told where to find the light to illuminate our paths in life. Jesus tells the people He is speaking to that He is the Light of the world. No light shines brighter or serves as a better guide down the paths we must walk on. Whether smooth or bumpy, we need that Light. When we focus on Jesus, we are promised that we will never be left out in the dark to find our way alone. Jesus will guide us in the way to salvation and life everlasting.

Just like I know I do not want to leave behind the flashlights when my family goes camping, I also know that I don't want to forget to continue putting Christ first in our famiy and in each of our individual lives. Reading Scripture daily, devotions, prayer, worship, and singing God's praises all serve as a way for us to keep the Light of Christ clearly illuminating and leading us on the path of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ our Savior, the Light of the world.

Dear Heavenly Father we thank you for sending Jesus to be our Light in this dark world. Help us Lord to allow the Light of Christ to brightly shine in our lives and help us to teach our children about following the Light, the Light that leads us to salvation. Amen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Invitation for All

John 7:37-38 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'

When my youngest daughter was a toddler she would walk up to babies whenever she spotted a stroller or carrier and try to talk to them. As a toddler her words and sentences weren’t always very clear but one phrase directed to either the baby or his/her mama was always the same “Baby baptized?”

See, we sit at the front of the church. We have ever since a pastor suggested it when our oldest was tiny. I was skeptical but he was right. The little ones can see better and actually are less restless up front. Sitting in the second pew, my kids get a great view of the baptisms. In my daughter’s mind every baby would be baptized, so as we visited the mall or library she would ask them.

My little one, not yet two years old, understood what Jesus was saying in the text above from the gospel according to John. Jesus’ invitation “If anyone thirsts…” is for all people. Theologians label this as objective justification, Christ died for all on the cross. Knowing about objective justification is important, it is the reason we can witness to anyone and everyone that Christ died for them.

The very next sentence starts with “Whoever believes….” This is subjective justification. We need to make no mistake that just because Christ died for all, it does not mean that all will be saved. Subjective justification is the receiving by faith that which Christ has done.

This passage in John occurs in Jerusalem, it is the Feast of Booths. Jesus went privately, he knew that they wanted to kill him but that the time had not yet come. Yet even knowing others felt violently about him, he went to the temple to teach and the crowds were amazed. This was radical talk, some would have thought God only loved the Jews. But here Christ is inviting all to believe in him.

An invitation for all… even the babies who are given the gift of faith when they are carried to the baptism font. Even the toddlers who have rivers of living water flowing out of them witnessing to God’s love for other babies.

Lord God, You desire that all come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Keep us in your baptismal grace, so that I and my family may be continually empowered to share Christ with those around us and those we come into contact with. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Authority Figures

The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.  John 7:18

As parents, we are the authority figures in our homes.  We are the leaders. We are there to make sure the children do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it.  And when they've done something wrong, we're there to correct their actions.  That authority has been given to us by God.  Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  We strive to do this every day.

But how many times have you found yourself losing your temper?  How many times do you let little things slide?  How many times do you feel like you've been a failure as a parent?  I know I've felt like that, many times.  There have been evenings where I've cuddled with one of my kids, tears streaming down my face, praying that they forgive me for my shortcomings as a mom.  

The thing is, we can never been that perfect parent.  It's just not in us.  We're sinful human beings, after all.  That's why this verse from John warns us not to use our authority for our own glory.  It is up to us to give God the glory for our work as parents.  It is He that rescues us from our shortcomings.  God is THE perfect parent.  No matter where we may fail as an authority figure in our home, God is there to pick up the slack.

The greatest thing we can do as authority figures in our homes is to teach our children about God's love and his commandments.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."  In this, we give God the glory.  And God gives us the wonderful gift of raising our children in His love.

Dear Heavenly Father, Help me daily as I parent my children.  Keep me strong in the knowledge that You give me the authority to teach my children.  Grant me patience, and help me to always point them to You.  Help me to always give You the glory.  In your name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Idea Day: Books for kids under 1O

Today we thought we'd share a list with you of some of our favorite Christian books for kids under 1O
Things I see in Church by Julie Stiegemeyer
The Real Story of Creation by Paul Maier
Worshipping with Angels and Archangels: An Introduction to the Divine Service by Scott A. Kinnaman
Arch Books
Book of Bible Stories Tomie dePaola
Celebrate Feelings by Heidi Bratton
3 in 1: A Picture of God  by Joanne Marxhausen
The Hear Me Read Bible by Mary Manz Simon
God Chose You by Julie Dietrich
Sheep Lost and the other sheep books by Anne Catherine Blake
The Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs
The Picture Bible by Andre LeBlanc
Jesus is With Me by Joni Walker
I Know Jesus by Joni Walker
The Great Elephant by Nik Ranieri

Got a favorite that is not on this list...we'd love to hear about it in a comment here or on facebook!

Taking time for yourself

 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip,“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there).  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
  After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
John 6:1-15

This is a familiar Bible story, isn't it?  We often focus on the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 plus more people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  It was, indeed, a miracle.

But the part of this story that I'd like to focus on today is the very last verse:  "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him a king by force, withdrew AGAIN to a mountain by himself."    This isn't the only instance of Jesus withdrawing himself from the crowds and His disciples.  Here's some more instances:
  • Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone...
  • Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
As mothers, we spend our days tending to a lot of things.  We make sure the children are fed and clothed, and off to school.  We do the laundry.  We cook the meals.  We clean the house.  We drive here and there, picking up and dropping off.  We are busy, all the time.  And it can get exhausting, can't it?  

This is where we can all take a lesson from Jesus himself.  He took time, even though He was insanely busy, to withdraw himself from everything and take time to pray.  It was key to not only his physical life, but his spiritual life as well that he took time to himself to be with His Father.

How many of us take that time?  As a mom, it's so easy to take care of everyone around us, and forget about ourselves.  After a long time of doing this, though, it can be detrimental to our own well-being.  It's important for us, no matter what time of day, to step away from the day-to-day and take some time for ourselves.  We are no good as mothers if we don't take care of ourselves.  I'm sure, too, that Jesus knew He was no good to anyone around Him if he didn't take that time by Himself to pray.  

I encourage you, whether it's 5 minutes or 50 minutes, to take some time for yourself each day.  Use that time to read the Bible, to pray, to just sit down and think for a few minutes.  Take a lesson from our Lord--it is good for you.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son for us.  Help us to remember, as Jesus did, to take time for ourselves each day.  Keep us connected to you and your love.  Help us to not only take care of our families, but ourselves, too.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Call on His Name

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Romans 10:13
My middle daughter loves her name. I know this because when we are at the store or in a restaurant and someone calls to a friend of the same name, her entire face lights up. I know this also because of the fact that she writes her name on everything. Any cardboard box, several of her siblings’ art projects, and the white bookshelf in her room, all belong to EriN, or NirE depending on how her brain is working that day. And, while writing her name sometimes gets her into trouble, it is the one word she knows for sure how to write, and she does it with great pride.  Now, pride or not, as you can imagine, I am not a big fan of writing on the furniture, so magic erasers have become a must have in our house, but even a magic eraser can’t erase everything. The oak dresser that Erin signed her name on will be hers forever.

God loves his name too. I know this because he writes it on everything. The heavens and the earth bear witness to the joy God takes in creating, not just the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, but us too; especially us. God has written his name on you and on each one of your children. He has called you by name; you are his, (Isaiah 43:1). We rejoice in the promise that there is no magic eraser that can change that. When God writes his name on something, it is his forever.

Through Jesus, the only thing erased is our sin. Because of his death and resurrection, even when we find ourselves getting into trouble over and over again, we find forgiveness over and over again. Jesus’ name is our hope. It is our salvation, and his face lights up every time he hears it. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!

Call on his name today at work or at play, for comfort, in joy, and with confidence. Thanks be to God that his name, and the name of his Son, Jesus, are written on us forever!

Jesus, I call on you today to help me teach my children about the value you placed on them when you called them by name. Forgive me when I try to erase your name from my heart through thought, word, or deed. I praise you for the salvation that my family has received through your death and resurrection. May your name be forever called upon in my home. Amen.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Daily Get-Away

Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. Psalm 86:1-4

After being gone this weekend on a rare get-away with my husband, I returned refreshed and renewed. In the midst of Monday morning’s run-around, I was calm and measured. I was still running late (this weekend didn’t fix all my faults), but for some reason I was a better listener when my 7 year-old explained why she hadn’t yet brushed her teeth. And I was far more tolerant of my 3 year-old’s lack of focus when it was time to put boots on.

It was good to get away.

Last weekend I had a similar experience when I spent the day away from my family, including my nursing 5 month old. It wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to, but I’d decided the seminar I was going to attend would be worth my time. I was right, and glad I went (and they all survived without me!), but had no idea how positive an effect it would have on all of us. I was surprised to find my patience transformed. I knew I had been hard on my oldest lately, but now I could hear my heart guiding my words and gentleness coated my questions.

I didn’t even know I needed to get away.

This transformation is waiting to happen in me everyday. While I can’t deny the power of an entire weekend working on my marriage, or a day of conversations with grown-ups – 15 minutes with my Lord can do wonders for my day. Talk about professional development! You’re halfway there if you’ve searched out a devotional reading for today. A couple of well-placed Bible verses in my house are frequently equivalent to an energy-drink. And thank goodness for prayer. That’s the understatement of the day, right? I mean, how many times a day do I take a deep breath in response to my child/husband/telemarketer and pray to God for the right words.

We need to get away.

The last few weeks have been crazy busy at my house. I have a To-Do List a mile long and I’m sure you do too. I haven’t been taking time for real devotion with my Lord everyday like I could be. Once again I’m reminded of how much I have to gain from a get-away with Christ. How much my kids and my husband have to gain, when I spend a little extra time in prayer and in the Word. I’m so thankful for this escape that can restore my focus and make me the Mom that God is turning me into.

p.s. If you have a minute, read Psalm 86…and check out verse 16. Being a Mom is so important!

Lord, thank you for these children and this family. Thank you for all your gifts and now I ask you to help me manage them, Lord. Help me to love and to listen. Help me to stay focused on You, turning to you time after time in my day. Move my heart to look to you. Amen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Perfect Valentine

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV

Today is Valentine's Day, and on this day millions of people will go out of their way to find the perfect Valentine to let their friends and family know how much they love them. Cards, flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, fancy dinners - the list goes on and on. Many parents have assisted their children in making that very special box and preparing all of those little Valentine's cards that they will share with their friends.

Shouldn't loving others be simpler than all of this fuss? Do we really have to work so hard? While we would like to think that love is always easy and comes so naturally, it may be a little more than that.

Take a look at the Bible reading for today. It lists the many things that love is. When I first read this verse, I get a warm bubbly feeling, like I'm a princess in a fairytale land. Hearts flutter around me, while birds sing a sweet tune. Everyone is patient, kind, understanding, unselfish, honest, and it just seems so simple.
Then, I read it again, and my bubble starts to burst. Yes love is patient, and that is not how I was this morning with my family as we were late heading out the door. Love is kind, but I was not very kind when the juice was spilled on the carpet. Love does not envy, so I should probably stop wishing that I had the energy of my 10 year old. Oh no, I'm 0 for 3 on a list that has only just begun and as I continue reading, I know that it doesn't get any better. So much for me being that perfect Valentine.

Because of sin, love is not so easy. Because of sin, our love is not perfect. However, that doesn't mean a perfect love doesn't exist.
1 John 4:16 tells us "God is love." We many not always show love the way we should, but God does. In fact, God not only shows us His love, He is love. Take a look at our Bible reading again. It is not just describing how we can show others we love them. It is describing who God is. Remember, "God is love." That means that God IS all of those things described in our reading. His love for us never ends. His love for us is perfect. God demonstrated the extent of that never ending, perfect love for us when He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross to be our Savior and His love lives in our hearts. Jesus is the perfect Valentine!

As you spend today celebrating Valentine's Day with your children, remember to share the love in your hearts with them. Share the love of God sent to us through His Son Jesus and praise God for His perfect Valentine!

Dear Father in Heaven, we thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus, to be our perfect Valentine. Help us to share this special Valentine with our children and all those we meet today. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Living Water

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. - John 4:14

Perhaps your family is like ours. We have cherished stories that are told over and over. These anecdotes reflect our faith in more meaningful ways than might be apparent on the surface of a cute tale. One of our family favorites is of a time when a toddler comforted an adult. Mom was overwhelmed with the burden of caring for 2 young daughters. As she sobbed one day, her 2 year old patted her on the shoulder and told her “Love makes you happy” attempting to console her.

Our family stories can share our memories of the times when we ministered to one another. In the verse above from the Gospel of John, we are told that when Christ makes us a part of His family, the body of believers in our baptism, he indwells us and gives us “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” That water wells up, then spills over to others around us… just like that 2 year old consoling her mother.

Maybe our reply is like the woman at the well, to whom Jesus was talking in this passage (John 4:7-26)… where do we get this water. God promises that it is in His Word and in the Sacraments, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

When we corral our children and herd them into church it might feel like all we are doing is getting a headache, or giving a headache to those around us. (Sometimes even bruises or stitches if you are sitting with my kids, but that is another family story for another day). We sometimes say God’s Word is performative. The Bible isn’t just some book with black ink, it is living and active, it makes things happen within us. When we are in the midst of the church pew whispering, the pokes, the scramble for crayons… we are getting the Living Water. Even the littlest ones in their carriers hearing God’s Word, read aloud and spoken in the words of the liturgy, are transformed with the spring of water welling up to eternal life.

God gives to us, keeps giving to us and then overflows from us to others. We can’t even help it, it just happens, it is Christ in us.

Father in heaven, Look upon me with mercy and quench my every thirst with living water. I give you thanks for making me and my children members of the body of believers in baptism. I pray that Your Word and Your Spirit will daily continue to transform my sinful nature so that I may spill over with Your love to all I meet. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heavenly Protection

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.  John 3:35-36

Most of my daily walk as a parent involves me protecting my children from harm.  I make sure they stay healthy by eating good food and taking their vitamins.  I watch how much TV they watch, and make sure they go to school and do their homework to keep their brains working.  I scold them for jumping on beds and furniture, or sliding down the swingset slide on a sled, because I don't want to see them get a broken arm or a cut-open head.  It's my vocation as their mother to look after them.  I want to see them grow.  I want to be around to see them be healthy, happy adults.

No matter what, though, we live in a fallen world.  There are dangers all around us, and no matter how we don't like to admit it, the chances are there that something bad could happen to our children.  We know that no one lives forever.  We've known that ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.  

The love and care and protection that a parent gives to a child is a type of the love, care, and protection that God gives us through Jesus Christ.  While we, as a person, are not perfect in doing these things, Christ is perfect in doing these things.  The most important thing for me as a parent is to make sure that my children are being rooted in the knowledge of Christ and what he has accomplished for us, and the protection he gives us through his death and resurrection.  

Children that are rooted in the knowledge of Christ and have faith in him, have eternal life in Christ.  That knowledge helps them to weather any storm that they have here on earth.  They stay centered in their faith--that Christ is with them for all eternity.

Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for giving me this opportunity to parent my children.  Help me in that vocation while I protect them from the many dangers of this earthly life.  More importantly, help me keep them rooted in their faith, knowing the love, care, and protection that You and Your Son provide for us.  In Your name I pray,  Amen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beautiful on the Inside

And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:17, New King James Version

When I think of the word, beautiful, I often think about outward appearances. As women, we are inundated with images and ideas of what is beautiful and we can easily fall into the trap of agreeing with the world's view of beauty and not give a second thought about what is beautiful according to God. It's hard not to walk through the checkout line at the grocery store without wishing we were as thin as the celebrity who just had a baby two weeks ago or that we owned those pretty clothes that just don't seem to fit into our Target budget.

Lately, my husband and I have been making a conscious effort to redefine beauty in our house. Yes, we tell our kids that they are beautiful. I believe that's important that they hear that from us, but we spend much more time talking about being beautiful on the inside as opposed to beautiful on the outside. We talk about what it means to live as followers of Christ and how that affects our hearts as well as our actions. Being beautiful on the inside means to treat each other with respect, to always tell the truth, to include others, and to serve those in need.

In reality, we aren't born beautiful on the inside and it doesn't take very long for ugliness to find a home in each of us. The only way we can be beautiful on the inside is to embrace God's gift of grace and keep His Word in our hearts at all times. Even then, we fight the ugliness daily, but Christ's version of beautiful always wins and never ages or decays.

Do my kids fight? Yes. Do my kids lie? Unfortunately, yes sometimes they do. Do they speak poorly of a friend from time to time? Yes, but we use these times to talk about a beauty and love that can only come from God and encourage their outward actions to reflect the love that flows from our lives because of what Christ has done for us.

Lord, thank you for loving us enough to send your Son to take my place. As I raise my children, I pray that you would give us hearts that love you and and find our worth in You. Let your beauty rest on us so that we can be a light in a dark world that so badly needs to know who You are. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Lord Provides

Raising children is expensive work.  Think back to when you were expecting your first child.  Think of all the things you needed to compile in the nursery:  crib, changing table, dresser, monitor, diapers, clothes, blankets, sheets.  The list went on and on.  Your friends and family probably threw you a baby shower, helping you with all of those provisions.  Once the baby came along, though, there were still things to take care of.  A newborn goes through multiple diapers a day, sometimes dozens.  As the baby grows, there's food to buy, and of course, clothes and shoes.  At least in our house, it seems like there's always something that the kids need.

There are times when my husband and I sit down with the budget, looking at the amount in his paycheck and the piano lesson money I contribute.  Then we look at the amount of bills--the mortgage, the electricity, the water, the doctor--there are times when we wonder how we'll pay them all, let alone have enough money for groceries, OR the new shoes Ethan needs OR the pants Zach has to have because he's torn the knees in all the other ones OR the asthma medicine Emma has to have.  It seems so very hopeless.

The one thing we always have to remind ourselves is that the Lord provides.  He knows our needs.  He sees them before we even get a chance to figure out the monthly budget.  I love this reminder found in the book of Job:

"But as for me, I would seek God,
         And I would place my cause before God; 
    Who does great and unsearchable things,
         Wonders without number. 
    He gives rain on the earth
         And sends water on the fields, 
    So that He sets on high those who are lowly,
         And those who mourn are lifted to safety." 
Job 5:8-11

The Lord provides.  Every time.  It may not be in the way we expect, but every time we are worried about groceries, we never go hungry.  Every time we are concerned about getting that mortgage paid, we find space in the budget to make the payment.  The Lord is faithful to us.  He never leaves us, never forsakes us.  As a parent, that brings me so much comfort.  I know that my husband and I will be able to provide for our children, because our Heavenly Father is providing for us.  What a blessing!

Dear Father in Heaven, We praise you for caring for us so.  We are so thankful that you are watching over us, making sure our needs are met, every day.  Help us to look to you when we struggle, during those times we don't know how we'll get through.  Grant us patience as you show us your provisions.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Taming the Martha in Me

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:40-42

What do I need to be doing today? I need to be doing another load of laundry. I need to be writing that thank you note. I need to be _______. I could make a list as long as I am tall.   As a mother of four I struggle with finding time to give each of my children the one on one attention they need, while taming the Martha in me. And lately, I know my oldest daughter has gotten the short end of the stick.

So when I heard the words, “The school called. They think Abby might need stitches.” I should have been anxious to rush to her side. I have to admit though; my first thought was, really? Today of all days?   The tap on my shoulder came while I was standing at the committal service of a beloved man from our church. I can’t go now. I am needed here. There was serious grieving to be done, stories to be told, and dishes to be washed. A trip to the emergency room was definitely not on my agenda as I was making preparations for the day.
But as I went from the craziness of the morning to a calm emergency room, (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?) I realized Jesus had invited me to sit at the feet of my daughter and, at that moment, be exactly where I was needed. In the E.R. we had time to do what is too often replaced by a list of other distractions.

We had time to talk about her day. I had time to hold just her hand, no one else’s. Time to watch her be nervous, and curious, and brave, all in a matter of minutes. Time to notice again what a remarkable creation of God she is. We had time together that cannot be taken from us.
I, like Martha, get worried and upset about many things. So I am thankful for a Savior who invites me to sit, first and always at His feet, and on this day, at the feet of my little girl, to show me what is truly needed.

Jesus, today help me keep my priorities straight. Guide me as I seek to balance the daily tasks of being a mom with the need to grow in knowledge of you. Give me time at your feet, and remind me of the gifts you have given me in each member of my family. In your name I pray, Amen.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Idea Day: Family Devotions

Every other Friday is going to be an "Idea Day" where we share some different ideas revolving around spiritual growth within our families.  
Our first topic is Family Devotions.

If you aren't already doing family devotions, getting started can seem like a challenge.  Here are a few tips I've gathered from other moms for getting started:
1:  Work family devotions into a time that is already part of your daily routine, for example eating dinner.
2:  Keep the length appropriate to the ages in your family.  As the kids get used to it, you can add more to your devotion time.
3:  Keep your devotion book out in the open, trust me your kids will remind you.  We have a devotion loving 3 year old who has had complete meltdowns waiting for "otion" time.

Here's some ideas of what some of our contributors do:
We use "My Devotions" from Concordia Publishing House and they work great with our 10 year old! They have a journal activity each day at the end of the devotion which is fun! We have always had a song that we sing together, same song, but it is special to us! We also make up a prayer. We take turns, each of us having a responsibility every night and switching them around from night to night in a rotation. For our family of three we have Bible reader, devotion reader, and Prayer leader.

Our devotion time is right before bedtime each night. We use the "Little Visits 365 Family Devotions" series from Concordia Publishing House. Our kids have memory work from Sunday School that we begin with, then we work on learning a "Hymn of the Month." We read the daily devotion from our book, and then end with time for each person to pray. Our one year old is always the last to pray, and we all sing a prayer together for her turn. 

When we first started doing family devotions a few years ago, we were just reading out of Little Visits. If you are just beginning a devotion time with your family don't feel like you have to go all or nothing. Start by reading a short devotion or bible story, or say a bedtime prayer together. "A Child's Book of Prayers," also by Concordia Publishing House, is a good resource for this time too.

We usually do our devotion time at the end of dinner as the bedtimes of our kids are all at different times.  We like devotions that we can work questions into, questions that either our three year old or six year old can answer.  After we read our devotion we have a prayer time where each family member shares "Something they are Thankful to God for" and "Something they want to ask God for."  

Ideas from other moms from facebook:
Cheryl:  We have a little altar area set up that has candles and a cross with the appropriate liturgical color draped on it. We light the candles and follow the service of Evening Prayer in LSB. Caleb enjoys leading the service as we go through it.

Laurie:  We now access the Higher Things daily devotion and my husband reads it to us after dinner. We love it! Age appropriate for Abby, a high schooler, and usually a hymn verse at the end.

Heather: We do Portals of Prayer before breakfast, but then for our prayer we try to mix it up and pray for someone else at the table for the day ahead (sometimes the person across from you, sometimes the person to your left, sometimes for yourself, etc.). At dinner we usually read from one of the kids' Bible Story Books (we like Egermeier's and The Beginner's Bible) and then say a prayer (in the same way as above) for the day just ended.

Now it's your turn...What does your family do for devotion time?    

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Little Reminders

Titus 3:1-7:  Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 
Titus 3:1-7  (ESV)

As parents, we have to do a lot of reminding.  "Remember to wash your hands!"  "Remember to say thank you!"  "Remember to come straight home after school!"  "Remember to say your prayers!"  And how many of our children, in an exasperated tone, say to us, "Ye-ah, Mo-om, I remember!"

No matter how much we remind them, though, there are times that they still forget.  They come to the dinner table with dirty hands.  They leave a party shouting "Goodbye!" instead of saying "Thank you!"  They dawdle after school, playing with their friends.  They go straight to sleep, without a thank-you to God for the day.  And we scold them, saying, "I told you not to forget!"

Thinking back to my own childhood, I can remember my parents saying the very same things to me.  Over and over, they reminded me of tasks I had to do and manners I needed to remember.  Sooner or later, those reminders sunk in.  They taught me how to be a polite, successful adult.  Yet there are still times I forget.  There are still times when I don't do what my mother chided me to do so many times.

Our Heavenly Father, just like our earthly parents, does the very same thing in His Word, where He tells us the Way.  His words tell us right from wrong.  He reminds us, ever gently, how we are supposed to act as Christians.  But as sinful human beings, we tend to forget.

But God doesn't give up on us, just as my parents didn't give up on me.  Instead of giving up, He sent His Son, our Savior, to die for my forgetfulness.  As our Scripture reading today said, "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  What a gift!  What a model of parenting our God gives us!

As parents, we remind our children of many things.  But the most important reminder is the one that God loves us--that He sent His Son to save us from our sins. Even the times that we forget what we have been reminded to do.  We should remind our children that because of this, we shall live forever in the glory of God.  What greater foundation can a parent build their child upon?

Father in Heaven, 
You know how often I have to remind my children of things.  You know how often You, Yourself, have to remind me of Your love.  Help me to instill that love into my own children.  Help them to know that no matter what, their sins are forgiven through you.  Grant me patience and love as I parent each day, through all the reminders I have to give.  I pray this in Your name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Parent Love

There’s nothing like being a parent to teach you about God’s love.

My 3 year old is not sleeping lately. Well, she sleeps ok in my bed. :) But I’d rather she was in her own bed these days. So last night she was bound and determined not to be alone. She sat on the edge of her bed crying and carrying on about her fears for what seemed like hours. Every once in a while one of us would go in and try to reason with her; try to convince her to lie down and calm down.

But it was no use. She wasn’t interested in our plan.

Eventually I was so sad for her. Somehow my compassion for her was stronger than my frustration. I went in and tried to talk to her again. I wanted to wrap her up in my arms and hold her tight and I wanted her to feel safe. She was all worked up about being alone. Something about “mommy and daddy were going to forget to lock the door and a man was going to come into our house” and get her. Where did this come from? (I promise we aren’t watching Criminal Minds with her.) It seemed unfounded, but I’ve been hearing this enough from her that I knew it was a very grave matter to her. Eventually her exhaustion began to take over. I convinced her to lie down and reassured her I’d be back very soon to check on her. She was asleep within minutes.

How often do I resist my Father’s arms? How often do I argue with him about my plan? How often do I put more weight on my fears than on His promises?


My fears ARE very real to me. My plans DO seem like such good ideas. I get carried away, until I’m just exhausted over the whole thing.

Yet, I know His arms are there to wrap me up in security. I know my fears are tiny compared to His Love. I know His compassion is stronger than my stubbornness. And when I finally give in, and fall into the arms of His grace… He gives me Peace. He gives me Comfort. He even gives me direction. And He does not give into my whining. He stands strong, knowing what’s best for me.

Read Psalm 103. It’s such a good description of our Father. I keep coming back to this part starting with verse 8…

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love… he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him… As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…

My kids have taught me a lot. But I am so thankful for the lessons about Love. About second chances. About Grace.

Lord, be with me today as I parent my children. Guide me to bring my fears and plans to you. Fill me up with your Comfort, that I may Comfort my children. Fill me up with your Love, that I can Love my children. Help me be the Mom you want me to be… and the Child you want me to be too. Thank you for your Compassion and the second chance that comes with your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Train Up a Child

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

As we raise our children they are reliant for us on several things. Food is a biggie. They start out on formula or breastmilk, both of which have to be fed to them by us. Then they get to start cereal and other baby foods, both still require our help. As they continue to grow they become more able to feed themselves, but we still control what they are getting. We as mothers know that they need to have balance and what foods are good for them. Throughout their childhood we will continue to help them with their food. Although the responsibilities will ease up, even at 17 we will still be making at least some of those decisions for them.

Even more important is that we are Training up our Children to know our God. It starts as they are new babies and we bring them to baptism, to church, singing songs to them, and praying for them. As they become toddlers it gets more interactive and we are able to see those little brains processing Jesus and what he means in their life. We are given no greater or more important responsibility than to raise up these little ones in Christ.

That is no easy task. Trying to sit thru church with a toddler is often exhausting. Finding tuition money to put our chidlren in a Christian school can be a challenge. Making time for family devotions after a chaotic dinner can seem impossible. Sitting down and holding your child tight while you pray with them, when all you want to do is have your own time, can make you want to rush.

But it also leaves us with great joys! Is there anything better than hearing a little child sing at the top of their lungs at church; or have your child come home and share something faith related that they learned that day? Watching them take in a Bible story and enjoy it. Or hearing them request to go to Church and Sunday School. To see your children soaking up Jesus is amazing!

God works in these little lives just as much as he works in ours! That is the purpose of this new devotional blog: To encourage you as a mother as you go about the most important of all your daily jobs: the Training Up your of Child. Each weekday one of us will share a devotion with you and every once in awhile we'll throw in some ideas for you about how we do things in our families. We look forward to our daily visits as we all strive to Grow HIS Kids!

Heavenly Father,
Through your words and your son you have provided us with examples and guidance to help us as we navigate parenthood. Please lead us as we interact with our children today. Help our words to be ones of encouragement, love, and faithfulness; words that will help our children be drawn closer to you. We thank you for giving us each of these precious children.