Thursday, April 28, 2011
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
my feet have not stumbled."
Psalm 17:5, NIV
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
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
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
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
Friday, April 15, 2011
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
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
Monday, April 11, 2011
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.
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
( *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.
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
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.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
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,
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
Monday, April 4, 2011
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.”
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
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?