Thursday, April 28, 2011

Show Me

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

I grew up in the state of Missouri, which is popularly known as “The Show Me State”. The idea is that unless you “show me” what you are saying is true, I will not believe it.

I don’t know if it is because I grew up in the “Show-Me” state, but I am a planner and I like to be able to see how everything is going to work out. Show me that you are a good baby-sitter and then I will consider having you watch my child. Show me that your room is clean and then I will know it is ok for you to go play. Show me this activity is worth the time and effort that my family will need to put into it and then I will consider being a part of it. Show me that this budget will work and then I will be on board with the plan. Show me, show me, show me.

While I do think that it is important for us to think through important decisions in life and there is certainly a useful purpose for planning, this “show me” mentality is not what God wants from us when it comes to our faith. God calls each and every one of us to daily follow Him in faith even if we cannot always see it, or touch it, or have a detailed plan for it.

We can be “certain of what we do not see,” each time we remember Jesus on the cross dying for our sins and then the empty tomb as Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil on our behalf. We didn’t actually see Jesus’ death and resurrection, but, through what God revealed to us in His Word, we are certain that it happened. That is faith!

We can be “sure of what we hope for,” each time that we celebrate the life of a fellow believer who has been called home to heaven. We cannot see heaven or our friends and loved ones who have gone there before us, but we can be sure that heaven is real and that we will one day be reunited with all the believers that have arrived there before us. That is faith!

I may want to have everyone “show me” that everything in this life will work out the way it is supposed to, but this can’t happen. Sin messes up even the best laid out plans that we make. However, God does “show me” through His Word the path that He wants us to follow. Through God’s Commandments we are shown what God would have us to do and what not to do. Through the Gospel we are shown the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus alone.

We can pray each day: “Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths, guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” (Psalm 25:4-5) Amen!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

God First In My Day

"My steps have held to your paths:
my feet have not stumbled."
Psalm 17:5, NIV

This is a typical day for me. I wake up tired because my 9 month old son has not quite mastered sleeping through the night. I go through my morning trying to get myself and three kids ready for the day. Halfway through, I realize that it feels more like a marathon than a morning. I nag the kids to get their clothes on, brush their teeth, do their hair, eat their breakfast, get their socks on, get their shoes on all while trying to feed a baby, make lunches, put makeup on, get dressed, and eat breakfast.

I clean up the dishes and feel good about the house being clean only to find it a wreck two hours later as I'm doing the mountain of laundry that awaits me day after day. Just when I get a few minutes to talk on the phone, the baby cries or needs to be changed and that phone conversation is done. I run kids here and there to activities and play dates and try to sneak in some time with my own girlfriends when our kids are asleep and our husbands are home. I think about all the painting that I want to do in the house, but can't even fathom the idea, because if I can't keep current on the laundry, why would I think painting would be a good idea?

Sound a little nuts? It is. Being a mom is hard. It makes me crazy some days and I often feel like I am drowning in a sea of tasks that can never be done in time. There may be some of you out there who never feel like this. You might never have a full laundry basket or can whip through the morning routine without wanting to pull your hair out, but in all honesty, that's not me. Not everyday is like the one I described, but being a full-time mother to three kids and a wife to my husband is hard work. For me, it's a lot harder than going to work outside of the home everyday.

I feel like I stumble a lot. And when I stumble, I know that I need more of God and less of me. I get caught up in the busyness of life. I spend so much time trying to keep a home and family running that sometimes I end up pushing God into the background of my life. And when I do that, it is so much harder to find God. I can't see through the laundry and the birthday gifts and the piano lessons because I have not put God first in my day, let alone my life.

I am so thankful that even though I may have pushed Him so far away, that He never does that to me. He is always seeking me and loving me, even when I have sadly put other things in front of Him.

God has called us on a path with Him that leads to a deep joy. On that path, we are meant to spend time with Him . . . in His Word, knowing Him, communicating with Him, and experiencing that joy that can only come from Him.

When I put God first in my day, I find the busyness of my life fade away. I am better equipped to handle all the things that sometimes leave me feeling so inadequate. God gives me just what I need to handle each situation and each new day. And when I take the time to walk with God every single day, I can be a blessing to others . . . most importantly, my husband and my children.

Dear God, Thank you for loving me and for always being there even when I have pushed You away. Please help me to make you a priority in my day and to seek you as I head into the busyness of life. Help me not to stumble and to always follow right behind you as I follow You and serve my family. Amen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's not goodbye

"Heaven and earth will pass away, 
but my words will not pass away."
Matthew 24:35

Every year at our school's Fun Fair, there's a big tank of goldfish.  The kids throw ping pong balls into small fish tanks, and if they get on in, they get to take a fish home.  You can imagine the excitement, right?  We brought one home ourselves one year.  The boys put their new fish into the fish bowl, added rocks and decorations, and fed the fish diligently.  Every day they watched their new pet.  And they were so proud.

And then the day came.  The boys woke up, and the poor goldfish was floating on top of the water.  I gently explained to them that the fish died, and among tears, we said a prayer and flushed the fish down the toilet.  It's something that has to be a part of parenting.  Flowers that were lovingly picked have to be thrown out.  Pets die.  Even grandparents and close relatives pass away.  

Unfortunately, death is a part of life.  It's been a part of our lives ever since the day Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.  It can be very difficult, especially when someone we love passes away.  It seems like the end.  There's nothing harder than facing tomorrow without the person you love.

Read our scripture verse for today again, though:  "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."  This verse should bring us so much comfort, as should these words:  "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)  How wonderful is that?  Jesus came down to earth to die for our sins.  He came to die, so that we would live forever with Him in Heaven.  As much death and decay we see on this earth, it's never forever.

Think of it like this:  Death is never "Goodbye."  It's just "See you later!"

Dear Heavenly Father, We see so much death in our daily lives.  So many things--and people--pass away.  Help us remember that this life is not the end.  Thank you for sending Your Son to take on death for us, so that we may live forever.  Keep us strong in that knowledge, until the day that we live with You in Heaven.  Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Be Loud

Make a Joyful noise unto the Lord.
Psalm 98:4 

The Good Friday Tenebrae service has always been one of my favorite services in the church year.  Approaching it with small children doesn't quite have the same feeling as my child-free days.  For me, small children and evening services are always stressful and my children are noisier than I would like.  That combined with the fact that they have the "I can't stop moving because if I do I'll fall asleep" syndrome is a lot to gear up for.

Last year I was excited about the Tenebrae service knowing that my 5 year old would really enjoy it and get something out of it this year for the first time.  As the service progressed and the church got progressively darker, we were both into it.  My little 3 year old was also pretty interested.  At the end the slamming noise occured, indicating Jesus death, and it made little 3 year old Lucy jump.  I whispered to her it was okay and to be quiet.  To which she yelled out (or so it felt in the quiet darkness) "Be Loud Be Loud Be Loud."  She was loud enough that even though we were in the back of the church, daddy could hear her up front.

Once I got over my embarrassment, I thought about how great it actually was that she was excited.  Jesus died, that was the bad part and it was done.  Now came the part to be excited about, he rose and won the victory for us.  Good Friday to is a time for silent reflection and many of us will leave church in that state.  But isn't it great that the silence of death doesn't last?  The quiet of death is broken by the resurrection on Easter!  And we can "be loud" with rejoicing!

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of your son.  Please help us to remember today the greatest gift ever given and to be loud in sharing that gift with those around us.

I Know He's True

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

John 17:1-3

I can’t explain why a ten year old with a bicep muscle the size of a golf ball can throw a basketball from the three point line into a hoop 20+ feet away, but I’ve seen it done. I can’t explain why my girls can pick a thousand dandelions one day, and the next morning when they wake up there will be more dandelions for them to pick, but I’ve filled the waiting vases. I can’t explain how after months of being hospitalized, a baby boy can be healed, grow, and live to have a family of his own, but I’ve held his children. Yes, there are scientific explanations for each of these things, but they are still nothing short of acts of God.

The hour has come for us to experience yet another act of God, but this time, no amount of science can explain it. This one is completely and totally His. Tonight we will walk with our church families to the altar of our Lord and receive the body and blood of our Savior for the forgiveness of all of our sins. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s true.

This is the same body that was nailed to the cross to die, not because of anything Jesus had done, but because of what I have done and continue to do. I can’t explain to my children precisely how all the miraculous events of holy week happened, or why God would want to give His Son for such sinful people, but I can’t wait to tell them again anyway.

I can’t wait to take them up for a blessing from their Heavenly Father, given through the voice and hands of their earthly one. I can’t wait to watch their expressions as the altar is stripped, and they hear again how Christ died for them. I can’t wait to walk with them, flowers in hand, to decorate the sanctuary for the celebration of life eternal, and to wake them up at five in the morning to see the Son rise!

We have faith in a God who requires nothing of us, but cherishes us so much that He lived, died and rose, so that we too might rise. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24. What better news is there to share with our children than this ultimate, selfless, and loving act of God? I can’t explain it, but thanks be to God, I know He’s true!

Crucified, Died, and Risen Lord,

Do I even understand the depth of those words? As I walk through the next several days with my family may our faith be strengthened through the story told once again of your sacrifice. I can't wait to show my children the magnificence of their Savior. Jesus, the hour has indeed come, and I am so grateful!

In the name of Him who is life eternal, Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

True Confession

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16a

This week I found myself in the position of needing to make amends for having hurt a friend. My intentions were based in love and meant to be beneficial, but my approach was not a biblical one and exposed some of the ugly parts of my heart in the process.

Have you ever had one of those "open mouth, insert foot" moments?

I tried to explain myself, but that made things worse. Eventually, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit to take responsibility for my actions and confess my sin. That started a cascade of confessions that I realized I also needed to take responsibility for to about a half dozen other individuals who were exposed to what I had said and may have also been hurt by it.

Before the confession phone calls, I was a mess. I couldn't sleep, I was crying, I was scared of how people would react and that confronting my sin with each individual would cause our relationships to change forever.

After the confession calls, I realized that with each one, God was lifting a burden from my heart and healing me. I had a good night's slept for the first time in a long while. While the scars of what I've done may continue to exist, God's healing work on the cross has covered my sin and his forgiveness is providing such incredible healing and new growth for me in this particular area of temptation.

Although my child is only 2, I do try to incorporate this habit into our dealings with him as well. When I have erred in my parenting and it has caused him hurt or diminished the trust in our relationship, I take a moment to apologize to him and ask for forgiveness. Although he is at a point in his development where I have to guide him to say the words "I forgive you, Mommy" (as they are difficult for him to pronounce), my hope is that by practicing this now, he will grow to have those words come easily off his tongue as he grows up and experiences the hurt of the world throughout his life.

As we approach the cross especially during this Holy Week, take some time to experience the healing power of what God promises when we step out in obedience to His Word and make a true confession of our sin to one another.

Heavenly Father,
Please help me to trust you and obey your Holy Spirit's promptings when I have sinned against a friend or family member. Give me courage to confess. Thank you for your healing power, which covers my sin and makes me white as snow. Please help me to live in your grace as I move forward in my relationships as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, or friend.
In Jesus' name,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, 
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
Psalm 85:11

I love to have beautiful flowers around my house.  There's nothing better than seeing them blooming beautifully during the summer, brightening up our yard.  The worst part, though, is taking care of them.  I don't like having to  plant and replant every year.  I don't like to have to constantly water them.  So my answer is to plant lots of perennials.

I plant the bulbs in the fall, then cover them up with lots of leaves and grass that Dan has picked up with the lawn mower.  They're there in the ground, waiting under a warm blanket all winter long.  Spring arrives, and I can hardly wait to get outside and uncover my plants.

I pull the leaves off the plants, and there they are.  Tender, green shoots, waiting to grow, bloom, and make our house and yard beautiful.  They've been buried under ground all winter long.  The warm sun brings them up out of the ground, bringing them to life. It's amazing, watching the brown, ugly bulbs become something to beautiful.  

It's a lot like Jesus' death and resurrection.  There, on the cross, Jesus endured the hell on earth of God forsaking him.  He took our sins--our ugliness, our wretchedness, all the awful things we do and say--and suffered for them, so we didn't have to.  He hung on that cross, stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and died for our sins.  

After his death, he was put in the grave.  For three days he lay there--what must have seemed like an eternity to his disciples and followers.  What joy they must have felt on Easter morn, upon learning that their Lord had risen from the dead!  Jesus literally sprung out from the grave, much like the flowers that spring out of the ground after a long winters' rest.

And God looked down on His Son, at the wonderful thing He did for all the sinners on Earth.  He looked down, just as the sun shines down on tender bulbs lying in the ground.  Imagine God smiling, with joy that could not be contained.  His joy shone on the earth, at the sight of His Son, risen from the dead.

As we're out in our gardens, tending plants; as we're in church; as we're celebrating Easter with our family and friends; as we take in all that spring has to offer us--may we remember the fulfillment of God's promise through Jesus on the cross.  Praise be to God that he gave us this gift of salvation!

Our Father in Heaven, like spring bulbs that are planted in the ground in the fall, we are dirty.  We are dirty in the sin that we commit every day.  We praise You for sending your Son down to Earth for us--to save us from that sin.  Thank you for his death on the cross.  We share your joy in His resurrection, and the fact that we will live forever too.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Heart that Loves God

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,

all your soul, and all your mind."

Matthew 22:37

As parents, we get to help shape the lives of our children. While I understand that God has given them traits and gifts and circumstances that we cannot change, I know that we have the greatest influence on our children. The decisions we make, the priorities we set, and the goals that we work toward all have a say in who our children become once they leave our home.

I have a 7 year old daughter, a 5 year old daughter, and a 9 month old son. I think a lot about my influence on them. I work hard to teach them to be kind and compassionate, have good manners, and to always do their best. I have a laundry list of things that I want them to know when they leave my home. For example, I want them to love learning. I want them to know how to manage money and know how to do their laundry. I'd love for them to know a musical instrument and really, really love it if they cleaned their rooms without me asking them. I want them to want to serve others and I want them to make choices that are healthy and good. I want them to know how to change a tire and how to tag up in baseball.

But when I truly think about it, none of these things really matters unless they have a heart that loves God. I want them to know God . . . not just of God. I want them to have a relationship with Him and want to serve others because they are overflowing with His love and grace. I hope that they will seek Him and really, really know His face. At the end of the day, after the homework and piano lessons are done, I fall asleep praying that all three of my children would have hearts that love God. I can't give that to them, only God can. I pray that the Holy Spirit would fill them and sustain them because no matter what I do, I cannot give them that faith. Only God can. So I pray wholeheartedly that their little hearts love Him now and continue to love Him even when they grow up and make decisions for themselves. Because in the end, that's all that matters.

Dear God, Thank you, thank you for loving us. Thank you for doing for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. Thank you for your love and grace and for sending your Son take our place on the cross. You have given us such wonderful gifts in our children. Please give them hearts that love you. Amen.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Helping those suffering a Miscarriage

 And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
1 Samuel 1:11

Miscarriage or baby loss is an uncomfortable topic for many Christians.  I would be lying if I said I didn't feel the same way.  Many families go through it privately and you may not even know it has ever happened.  For those who do share the information it is almost impossible to know the right thing to say to a family going through that loss and it is easy to feel helpless.  It is even harder to be a comfort when you haven't been through it yourself.

Two years ago today we were enjoying a vacation with family and I was days shy of 12 weeks pregnant.  I began to lose that baby and my life changed dramatically.  I've never experienced anything so emotionally painful.  I also had not known too many people close to me who had miscarried.  As we returned home and came back to our ministry, I found great solace in my congregation and the friends within it. 

Since that time, three other members in our congregation have also lost babies.  I never would have imagined in that moment two years ago how God would take that awful time and make it so that I could offer support to my friends.

How can you help someone who is going through a miscarriage?  Every person is different and all the ladies around me have had a different reaction...but here are some ideas for reaching out to them.
-First and foremost pray a lot
-Offer them help with their other children (if they have them) but know that they also may want them around for a distraction.  I needed a break at times but at others just wanted to hold my kids close.
-Offer to make a meal for them.  Even a simple lunch of mac n cheese and chicken nuggets made my day brighter.
-Encouraging them in remembering that baby...don't make light of it.  We planted a tree in our yard and gave our baby a name.  These were my ideas, but my friends supported me and didn't make light of my desires to remember this child.
-Help them if they are sad in public.  I know I lost it on mothers day in church and started crying right in the middle of communion.  It was a blessing to me that a friend was standing there next to me.  She linked arms with me and led me back to my seat.
-Some people just need time and space.  Know that that is okay too!  If you have offered support and help and it has been rejected, know that is your friend is hurting in ways you may not comprehend.  Give them the space they need and in time she will be ready to get back to "normal."

As Christians we have hope for a reunion with these children we never got to hold on earth.  That doesn't erase the pain, but it does help ease it in time.  
Praise God for your healthy babies today!

Heavenly Father,
What precious gifts our children are!  Help us to reach out to women who so desperately want a baby and can't have one.  Help us to be of comfort and help to those suffering loss.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Do I Have To?

“Moses threw it (the staff) on the ground and it became a snake and he ran from it.” Exodus 4:3

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Exodus 4:13

Please read Exodus 3:10-4:17

As I was reading through the verses set aside for today in the daily lectionary I started to laugh as soon as I began reading Exodus 4. I knew right away that my devotion for today would be based on this reading. Let me share a story so that you know why.

As the weather has begun to warm up, so have all of the creatures that hide out during the cold months of winter. With this awakening we have begun to find that we have a problem at our home. Snakes!! In our front porch and bushes there appears to be a large nest of snakes. I dislike snakes very much and I am pretty sure I would rather deal with anything else.

The other day when I came home from work, I was relaxing in my living room and noticed the dog checking something out on the other side of the room. As I went to check it out, I realized that one of these many snakes was now IN my living room. My husband was gone at the time so I called him quickly in a panic, not knowing what to do. He told me to find a box and put it on top of the snake to secure it until he got home and could take care of it. ME??? I am not good around snakes, Do I have to??!! Well, nobody else was home and I was the one that had to do it.

I said a quick prayer, found a shoe box, slowly and nervously approached the snake, got the box over the snake and grabbed the Bible laying next to me on the table to put on top of the box so that there would be no way the snake would sneak away. Then I left the house until my husband returned! I share this story now and it makes me laugh, but believe me, at the time it was anything but funny.

In our text Moses is in the presence of God and being asked to go to Egypt and help to deliver God’s people from their slavery. Similar to how I felt about having to take care of that snake, Moses is coming up with many reasons why he thinks this is just not a good idea. First, he does not think that he is worthy of such a task. Second, he says that he can’t talk to the people if he does not know what to call God. Third, he doesn’t think that the Israelites will listen to him and believe that God spoke to him. Fourth, he tells God that he is not good at speaking. Finally, he begs God to please send someone else to do it.

How many times do we find ourselves in a situation of having to do something that we just don’t want to do? As parents, I would venture to say that it can be daily at times. I know that many of us hear our children saying the same thing, “Do I have to? Can’t someone else do it?” Often the answer is no, you have to do this task.

Well, God did not let Moses out of the task that he was being asked to do either. Instead, he promised to help Moses. He assured him that his brother Aaron would be with him and that He would give them both the words to say and teach them what to do. He gave Moses the ability to use his staff to perform miraculous signs.

Somehow through my little prayer, God gave me just enough courage to do what I had to do and cover the snake in my living room. God gives each of us what we need to do the tasks that He has asks us to accomplish. True, we may find ourselves wishing that someone else could do it and surely there are others who would be better at it than me. But, we always have the assurance that God will get us through and teach us what to do.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Please help us through those tasks that we face, both those that we don’t mind having to do and those that we would rather not have to do. Help us to look to You for strength and guidance for all of those difficult tasks knowing with confidence that you will direct us. Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Worship the Lord with joy

Worship the LORD with gladness; 
   come before him with joyful songs.
Psalm 100:2

My daughter Emma is a musical child.  Most days she can be heard around the house, singing her way through her day.  It can be any song, from Old McDonald to Twinkle Twinkle to even a song she's making up as she goes.  Some of her favorite songs are the Bible songs she's learned in school or Sunday School, especially Jesus Loves Me and I Am Jesus' Little Lamb.  I love hearing her little voice around the house.

Emma brings this love of music right into our church worship services.  She absolutely ADORES the music in church, and has started singing along with the liturgy, mimicking our "And also with you" and "Amen."  Even if she doesn't know the words, she's singing along.  Many times, as she's singing with gusto, there's been turned heads towards our direction.  

But I don't mind that one bit.

I think Emma is bringing a wonderful aspect into worship services.  She's there, joyfully sending her songs to the Lord.  She doesn't care if she's out of tune or doesn't know the words.  She knows that we're there to praise God, and by golly, she's going to praise Him well.

I love seeing this joy in children at church.  I often smile when I watch children coming back from communion with their parents, skipping and smiling down the aisle.  Yet how many of us have those smiles on our faces?  Most of us are very somber in church.  (Being somber is the Lutheran way, after all.)  But think about it.  God wants us to make a JOYFUL noise for him.  He wants us to feel that joy in our worship.  There is, after all, much to be joyful for!

So the next time Emma is singing away in church and I get the urge to shush her, I'm going to stop myself, and start making a joyful noise right along side her. I hope you, too, can worship the Lord with gladness.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to worship you in church.  I have so many praises to send up for you, for all You have done for me.  Thank you for my children, Lord, who remind me what it is to worship you with joy.  Help me to show that joy in my worship.  In your name I pray, Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Heard- Remembered…Saw-Knew

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel--and God knew.

Exodus 2:23-25

This year brings a milestone birthday for me. I don’t know if it’s the number of years God has granted me, or perhaps the number of children He has given us, but much as I hate to admit it my memory is not what it used to be.

Our memories are fascinating things. An incredible blessing from God, we cherish remembered moments with loved ones. But also memories can become clouded with perceptions, or fail altogether (all those husband jokes about forgetting birthdays or anniversaries).

If we are not careful we could make an inaccurate assumption about God’s memory by putting a human construction on the word “remembered” in Exodus 2: 24. We dare not think that God forgot the Israelites. He was in a covenantal relationship with them, bound together with the people as in a marriage. He knows them and is faithful.

The Lutheran Study Bible on page 843, says this “ ‘Remember’…Hebrew zakar ‘to recall’ or ‘keep in mind’. God could not forget his covenant with His people. When He ‘remembers’ them, He actively works to keep His promise to protect and save them.”

This is not just the Old Testament and past tense. We are new covenantal people. Baptized into the relationship with the triune God and brought into the covenant through Christ’s blood shed on the cross and received in the Lord’s Supper. God hears us, remembers us and is bound with us. He sees us, knows us and is faithful.

Heavenly Father, you hear us, remember us, see us and know us. Thank you for the covenant you have made and your faithfulness to us miserable sinners. Continue to bind us to yourself and strengthen us through your Word, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in faithfulness to you. Amen

Friday, April 8, 2011

"True Love"

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have Love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have Love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have Love, I gain nothing.
1Corinthians 13:1-7
It seems to me that we are all looking to love and be loved. To fill the void within ourselves. From the time we are conceived, we are innately designed by our Creator to crave and thrive on Love. As adults, we want to teach our children how to digest, fully swallow and understand, the meaning of true Love so it’s not misinterpreted or misunderstood. It is quite literally one of the biggest challenges we face as human beings and especially, as Christians.
( *Note: Did you catch the intentional emphasis on “Love” with a capital “L”... GOD, Himself! 1 John 4:16)

It is impossible to have healthy relationships without first understanding the relationship we are freely given by our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The key ingredient to the proper perspective and understanding of this is the relationship. Building relationships that begin with you, the parents, and then are facilitated throughout your child’s everyday life. We all need to see the value in another life. God's value of all life! To respect those around us and to look past the surface into the souls of others. I’m talking about a true and honest concern for those around you. An honest understanding of Love for one another. Being able to discern the love that God has for each of us and then acting that forth into the life of someone else. The beautiful thing is that most of us are yearning for someone to be concerned about us! We want to know that someone cares about and values what’s happening in our lives. It starts when we’re young and refines as we age.
How do we understand a Love that’s beyond understanding? There are times when we can’t understand how one person could love someone else who seems so unlovable.... you know, Belle and the Beast? The Hunchback of Notre Dame... the fairy tales go on and on! My honest assessment, and the knowledge that I’ve gained from reading my Bible and spending time with the Lord each day, (no, not from Disney movies...) is that we have to enjoy and savor the Love of Christ ourselves, each day, in order to teach our children the true meaning of Love. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Quite simply put, teach your children the unyielding action of God’s love in His forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. Through that, they in turn, will act that true Love towards others in a healthy, God pleasing way that only brings glory to God Himself.
Dear Lord,
You are Love. You are patient, You are kind. You do not envy, You do not boast. You are not proud. You do not dishonor others, You are not self-seeking, You are not easily angered, You keep no record of wrongs. You do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. You always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. You never fail.”
Thank you Jesus!

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.

Frequently throughout my adult life, I have prayed for humility. I have seen the divisiveness of pride – of my own pride – and I want it gone.

But I’ve come to cringe when I pray for this, knowing the work the Lord will do tends to be...well, humiliating.

This past week I’ve been helping my parents move out of the home I grew up in. While my mom has cleaned the closets on occasion over the course of these past 30+ years, there is still a lot to go through. As we’ve filled boxes, we’ve laughed and paused at some of the memories we have un-earthed.

It’s been a walk thru my childhood. Today we discovered an old purse of my moms. I remembered the eighties hairstyle that went with that purse and the lipstick we found inside it. We came across my brothers’ old Batman blankets, and I could picture them wrapped up in them sound asleep when I passed by their bedroom door. The family centennial picture that hung in our dining room, the material from an Easter dress I wore, the dolls who kept me company, and the books I loved as well. The people, the lessons, the emotions of those years all came rushing back as I associated memories with things. Today I found a box from high school that reminded me of a bitter-sweet time of success, and destructive pride.

I constantly struggle with pride. The second I feel like things “are going well,” I get carried away with my ‘achievement,’ and my pride takes on a life of its own. When I’m shown the error of my ways and my pride is knocked out of me, it’s a painful process to get back up and feel good again.

What will my kids remember if, God willing, we are reminiscing in their childhood-home someday when they are grown? Will they laugh at their primitive drawings and smile when they find an old devotional we’d read together? Will they feel comfort and security as we share daily struggles and lift each other up? Will they remember a mom who walked next to her God, trusting Him as a “child with its mother?” Or will they remember a mom distracted by her own pride and ego? Critically and anxiously trying to produce a family that ‘looks’ good and appears to have it together?

Today the Lord has quieted my soul and I am calm and at peace. He has given me a Faith that Trusts, and my Hope is in Him. It’s not about me. I am thankful for this gift in this moment, but I know it takes little for me to turn inward, instead of to Him.

Lord, I pray that these moments of reflection can help to steer me in the right direction – for my kids and my family. It’s not about how we look to the world. It’s about my heart, and the hearts of my children. Lord, help us to put our hope in you, both now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Separation Without Damage? Impossible!

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,

Titus 3:3-6

I have a small plaque at home that has a wonderful and comforting Bible verse written on it. And, while I like the verse, it was not the reason I bought the plaque. On the back of it is a bright orange sticker that says CAUTION! The warning explains that the plaque is made with materials such that if you stack two of them together, you won’t be able to get them apart. They will be, “Impossible to separate without damage to both.”

This is our relationship with Christ. We were created to be attached to him. God has placed him in our lives as Savior, Teacher, Friend, and so much more. Our lives are intertwined with his, and that means when we are led astray, the separation hurts.

Is it because we know what a tremendous healer he is that we often take our relationship with him for granted? We don’t give it a second thought, because after all, he can repair the damage. Is it because we know that he will always be available for us? That is, just as soon as we find the time for him. Whatever the reason, it grieves Jesus you when you pull away from him, and separation causes us loneliness, confusion, and even pain.

What has caused you to separate yourself from him already this week? Too many television shows to get caught up on? Too many practices to attend? Too much gossip to share? (Fill in your own excuse here.) Can you feel the damage?

Unfortunately, as moms, when we separate ourselves from time with our Savior, the damage is not only ours; it is our children’s as well. How can we teach them his Word without being in it ourselves? How can we ensure that our children are surrounded by friends who know Jesus, if we never take them to Sunday school? How can we expect them to talk to their Heavenly Father if we never do?

Jesus can indeed repair any damage done by our sinful condition. Let him do this for you today.

God My Savior,

I come to you today for regeneration and renewal. Forgive me of my sins, and repair the damage I have done by putting my passion for the world above my passion for you. I thank you for the salvation I have through your death and resurrection!

In Your Merciful Name, Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

He will never leave you

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deuteronomy 31:8

When my son Zach started Kindergarten this fall, his teacher gave me a questionnaire to fill out about him.  It listed things like his siblings, his favorite foods and toys, and what chores he does at home.  It also asked what his fears are.  Now Zach is one of the most fearless people in our house.  Ethan knows that he can get his little brother to try anything.  But Zach does have one big fear.

Being left alone.

He's always hated being alone, from the very beginning of his life.  He'd be in his infant bouncy seat, happy as a clam, and if we'd all go into another room, he'd cry and cry until we brought him in with us.  If he's looking at a toy at a store and won't leave to come with me, all I have to say is, "Bye, Zach."  Immediately he's plastered by my side, begging me not to leave him.  He even frets when Ethan is at a sleepover, because he's so used to sharing a room with Ethan.  He doesn't like to be alone.

I really can't blame him.  I don't like to be alone either.  It's during hard times in my life when I feel the most alone.  Do you feel that way too?  It just seems like there's no one to help--and God Himself seems so very far away.  There are times when it feels like He doesn't even hear my prayers, let alone listen to them.

Thanks be to Jesus that is never true for us, though.  God will never leave us, even if we aren't deserving of that attention.  While Jesus hung on the cross, God did leave him.  God took His presence away from Jesus, so we'd never have to be separated from Him.  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we are forever connected to God.

So the reality of the situation is that Zach--and all of us, of course--are never alone.  Even when life is at it's darkest, God will not leave us.  He is always there.

Dear Heavenly Father, No one likes to be alone.  It's easy to feel like You've left us, especially when life is handing us hard times.  We thank You for sending Your Son, so that we're never separated from you.  Thank you, Lord, for always being with us.  Amen.

Monday, April 4, 2011


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for
you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4

My ten year old is a thinker. He is also a worrier. I believe he thinks about things so hard that
they actually become real to him. For example, I am certain that he fully believes that he will
one day be a professional baseball player. This is real to him. So how does this tie into worry?
He is worried that the small town high school that he will probably attend is not big enough to
attract the attention of the scouts that will need to notice him.

Now I’m not 100% certain that Joseph will attend our small town high school. I can come up
with about 3 scenarios that could alter my imagined future for him. But chances are pretty good
that he will play on our small town team. If God intends for him to play professional baseball,
He will make that happen in spite of where we live.

Another issue that he spends a lot of time thinking about is heaven. He just can’t imagine what
it will be like and no amount of explanation on my part seems to comfort his unease. I have
to admit my own uncertainty about what heaven is like. Perhaps this is why I fall short in my
reassurances. But really, all we need to know is that heaven is the place where Jesus will be
with us. What the gates are made of, whether or not my voice will blend perfectly with the angel
choirs, if there are trees and flowers and grass, what age I will be, or even if our pet dog will be
with us are the things I might spend time wondering about. However, I never need to worry
about the very deepest longings of my soul being met. The creator of the universe Himself will
take me to be with Him in the place He has prepared for me. That thought is better than any
human ideas of the perfect eternity.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you know us and understand our worries. Help us to realize that your
plans for us and our future far exceed human expectations. Comfort us with your presence and
reassure us with your promises. Amen

Friday, April 1, 2011

Idea Day: Things to Help You Survive, and Even Thrive in Worship

Asking small children to sit still and listen for five minutes is difficult, so sitting through an entire worship service can be especially challenging. Here are some thoughts from our writers.

Heather M - My older children are at the point now that they can sit and color the children's bulletin, and look at books, or follow along with the service. But for my youngest, (14 months) I usually try to pack a few things for church that she doesn't see everyday. Touch and Feel books work well, foam puzzles with larger pieces, and stickers each provide a few minutes of entertainment. I do pack a snack for her, usually a trail mix with a variety of things to choose from. The older ones got a snack until the age of four or five, and when they got to about 2 1/2, I wouldn't give them their snacks until right before the sermon.
I have to be honest, I find that many times I end up taking my little one out of the sanctuary, but I don't ever put her down to play. We will stand in the back, and watch from there. There are some days when I don't get to participate in very much of the service, if any, but I know from experience that things do get better.
Your children will benefit greatly from being in worship regularly. Some days they will be well behaved, and some days they won't, and at times the good days will seem few and far between. Keep going! They will learn how to worship their Savior without making you blush, really, they will.

Esther - We have a bag of coloring books/crayons/drawing paper that we only bring on Sundays. Once the kids are in kindergarten they are expected to hold a hymnal, stand when we stand, etc. Now that Ethan is in 2nd grade and participating in chapel, he can follow along quite well, but I do allow them to draw during the sermon. When they were really small, we had quiet church toys. I've always had the same policy as Heather--if we need to exit church for a "corrective interview" we go to the restroom, NEVER to the nursery. Otherwise they just act up to go play. When Emma and Zach were smaller suckers were my saving grace--I'd pull them out during the sermon. I think having your kids in worship is so, so important. They pick up on more than you realize. I've heard Zach singing the liturgy around the house! I've had other people apologize to me for their own kids being "naughty" during church, and usually, they're not naughty, they're just "active." We all have our bad times, I've had my share of leaving church in tears. But they get so much from the service!!!

Share your thoughts with us. What tricks do you have up your sleeve when it comes to enjoying church with your family?