Friday, July 29, 2011

New Day

22Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

I am so thankful for each new day.

When I taught high school English full time, one of my favorite parts was that each day was a new opportunity. If things weren’t going so well, I would tell my students that we would try it again tomorrow. And if my lesson plan was a flop, I knew that tomorrow I could try something different. As I got to know my students and my material better, I got to try a variety of approaches and strategies.

As a mom I feel like the same privilege is offered me. Each day brings new challenges, and I try this or that in an attempt to better teach, train, or guide my children. When the candy promised to my 3-year-old-in- poddy-training has clearly backfired (thanks a lot, Grandma), I go back to the drawing board for a new plan. When I count a third day in a row of rushed mornings ending in yelling and tears – I take a deep breath and re-evaluate our morning routine and what needs to be changed.

This week I had made arrangements for my children, so that I could work – alone – on our new house. I was excited about how productive my afternoon/evening would be helping my husband. We are finally getting within a few months of moving and my excitement is growing. But we have to keep moving, really kick it into gear, so that we can make our current goal. Surprise, surprise – my day did not go as planned. At the end of it some things had been accomplished, but it looked nothing like I had hoped. You could barely detect our progress and, of course, the to-do list had lengthened with the day.

I came home frustrated and tired. But as I took a deep breath and a look at my list, I also took solace in the truth – tomorrow is a new day.

Each day the Lord's mercies are new and his compassion never fails. We are not consumed (though it may feel like it sometimes), because he holds us up and gives us second chances – over and over again. My mistakes, my sin, my failed plans can go down with the sun. Tomorrow is a new day. With my faithful Lord, I will learn from yesterday, be renewed and forgiven, and try it again tomorrow.

I am so thankful for each new day.

Lord, thank you for each new day that you faithfully and mercifully give to us. Thank you that we are not consumed in our mistakes and sin; that we can daily surrender ourselves to you and, in turn, live a life free to celebrate your love and share that love with others. Help us to teach our children about the forgiveness and mercy that you bring to us with each new day. Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tut, Tut, Looks Like Rain

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Psalm 119:160

It rained! It was just a little bit, but it was more than we, and our plants had seen in weeks. Yes, we had been watering, but there is nothing like the rain to produce fruit. Now instead of little bitty cantaloupe, and watermelon that kept making an appearance and then shriveling up and dying, we have fruit that just might make it. Our little bit of rain brought life renewed.

The Word of God is like the rain. Though God provides enough for us to swim in, even His little sprinkles have great power. And, simply put, without it we die.

My desire as a mother is to drench my children in His promises, but sometimes days pass with no rain at all. Every day arguments are resolved, scraped knees are bandaged, and my children are taught, but too often with my words, not His. And while my resolutions seem to work for a time, they can be inconsistent, and certainly do not produce any lasting fruit.

Things I see and hear from my children each day remind me that I should be more prepared to answer them using His words instead of my own. So, I look to the One who endures and His life renewing Word. What exactly does the Bible have to say to my children?

When they do things like… God says…

Use unkind speech with one another. – He died for us so that we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up. 1 Thess. 5: 10-11

Play too rough or violent. – Be imitators of God as beloved children. Eph. 5:1

When they say things like… God says…

I’m scared. - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:2-3

She hit me first! – See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thess. 5:15

I always have to… - Do not grow weary in doing good. 2 Thess. 3:13

Am I pretty in this?I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

I don’t have anyone to talk to. - Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

It’s too hard. I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. - But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9

I don’t want to do the dishes. - If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 2 Thess. 3:10

I forgive you. (Said in a manner that makes me question whether or not they know the meaning of the words.) - Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4:32

Why do we have to do devotions? Get up for church? Memorize our Bible verses? – But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in His name. John 20:31

As we speak with our children, may we always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have.

Do you have others that you would like to share? I’d love to hear them. Tut, tut, looks like rain. Get ready for harvest!

Heavenly Father,

May your Word endure in my heart forever. Forgive me when I try to speak for you and get it all wrong. Thank you for making the Bible so available to my family. Empower me to surround my children with your promises of life and salvation each day.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comfort in HIM

Psalm 119:76
May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to the promise to your servant.

Lord, it has been hard to be comfortable here in Texas right now. We are on day 24 of over 100 degree heat. It is beginning to drive everyone crazy. As it type this devotion, my two boys, 9 and 11 are running through the house. They are desperate for physical activity but the temperatures outside make it too dangerous to allow them outside to play after 8 am and before 9 pm at night. This build up aggression has lead to fights, battles and frustrations for not only the boys but also to my husband and I.

Sometimes our lives as adults begin feel like the life my boys have. We feel like we are running through our lives deperate for activities that will provide us with peace and comfort. The reality is that we often feel that way when we are not spending time with God and his word. Just as my boys desire to run and play an let of that extra energy, we are to desire to spend time with God in talking with God and studying his word. When those things are lacking, we begin to feel uncomfortable.

There have been times when I have felt this way. I realize that the change is a result of me being too busy not God. That I have been the one to travel away from God. He is still right here wanting to spend time with me and talking with me. It is during these times that I pray the following prayer:

Dear Lord: I know that I have not bee good about spending time with you. I am so sorry that I have not made you a priority. I want to be better about spending time with you and studying your word. Lord, please give me that determinination. Provide me with the strength to make time for you and feel your comfort and peace. Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15 ESV)

I forgot to write a devotion. It's almost four o'clock in the afternoon, and I just remembered that today was my day to post, which meant I should have written this yesterday.

Last week I went to the grocery store with a shopping list, but I forgot to take the money with me.

We move on Monday, and I'm afraid I'm forgetting to do something hugely important and I'll only discover what it was when we get to St. Louis and something is missing. (Fortunately my husband is in charge of making sure all the utilities are set up!)

Other mothers have told me that babies eat brain cells and that it starts when they're in the womb. I was hoping it wasn't true, but I'm not typically so forgetful.

I'm starting to fear that once my child is born, I'm going to forget about it. After all, I did have a dream several weeks ago that I was taking care of someone's baby and I kept forgetting about it.

How wonderful it is that God never forgets us! He never leaves us or gives up on us. Even when God sent the Israelites into exile and captivity, He didn't leave them or forget about them. He went with them, and then He brought them back to the land He promised them.

"Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands," He says to Israel in Isaiah 49:16. And He does the same for us. We are His children and He never forgets us.

Heavenly Father, I am so forgetful sometimes, and it's not just limited to daily tasks and responsibilities. I forget about you and the wonderful things you have done. I forget to praise and thank you as I should. I forget to tell others about you. But you never forget. You hold me in your hands and you love me and you bring me back to You. Thank you for your great mercy and love and your long memory. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Heaven is my home

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in
is destroyed, we have a building from God,
an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
2 Corinthians 5:1

As mothers, we take pride in our homes.  We try (although it seems impossible with small children) to keep them clean.  We decorate them with care, finding items to beautify our living space.  We choose furniture that makes us comfortable and welcomes guests.  We enjoy having people over, often showing them every room of our home that we've worked so hard on, especially if we've been working on remodeling.

It's easy to forget that these things are not permanent.  Far too many people believe that their homes are, in fact, permanent.  They dig a basement, pour concrete walls, as if they were going to be here forever. When something terrible, like a flood or a fire happens, they panic.  What they thought permanent was only temporary.  And they have no home to go to.

Waiting for us, though, is an eternal house in heaven.  God himself has built it!  John 14:2 says, "In my Father's house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?"   That home is a mansion like we can't even imagine, with building materials God Himself used.  The blood of His Son, His perfect payment for all of our sins, and His complete keeping of all God's commandments are the concrete and lumber for this beautiful home.  That house will stand FOREVER.  It's better than any house we could have here on Earth.

We pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for our homes here on Earth.  Thank you for the opportunity you give us to take care of those homes.  Remind us, though, that these homes are never permanent.  Keep us mindful of the place you have for us in Heaven, our eternal home.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Idea Day: Mealtime Prayers

There's always the "Lutheran Prayer" of Come Lord Jesus - in whatever version you say it.  There is also a singable version available in the Lutheran Service Book.  But today we thought we'd share a few other mealtime prayers that our families do.

We thank the Lord for meat and drink, through Jesus Christ.  Amen

Oh Give Thanks unto the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endures forever.

God is great, God is good, let us thank him for this food.  By his hands we are all fed, give us Oh Lord our daily bread. 

Mealtime prayers that are in the small catechism like this one:  The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord; and Thou givest them their meat in due season; Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest teh desire of every living thing.

We thank you God for the world so sweet, We thank you for the food we eat, We thank you for the birds that sing, We thank you God for everything.

Our hands we fold, our heads we bow.  For food and drink we thank God now.  

God our Father, God our Father
We thank you, We thank you
For our many blessings, For our many blessings
Amen, Amen
(sun to the tune of Where is Thumbkin)

Laura's family likes to take turns saying the prayers including thanks, prayer requests, and thanks for the food.

Do you have a special prayer not included in this list?  We'd love to hear it!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dive in

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

For three summers I've been trying to get my oldest son to swim.  In order to swim he has to put his face in the water.  He has been afraid.  He's always been a pretty easy going child.  I can usually tell him something and he'll trust me at my word.  But not on swimming.  It doesn't matter how many times I tell him:
"I'm right here it will be okay."
"The lifeguards will keep you safe."
"The water isn't going to hurt you - close your mouth and close your eyes and it will be okay."
"In fact it will be fun.  If you will just relax and trust me..."

Over the past two weeks he's had a development.  We did private lessons for one week in June and he made headway in that - but still did not want to put his face in the water.  We decided to give it another whirl and sign up for the group lessons.  By the third day he had decided he wanted to jump off the diving board (into a lifeguards arms).  I didn't think he'd do it.  But he walked right up and jumped in without hesitation.  Today (one week later) we spend almost two hours in the pool with him learning to swim under water for the first time and having me time how long he could stay under water for.  The confidence and peace that came over him was amazing to watch and such a good reminder for me.  I knew all along that if he would just trust me and try it - he would be good at it!

Often there are things that I try to control and don't just trust God on.  We try to go about things in our own way - thinking we know best.  God provides us with so much guidance in his word.  When I do let go and dive in, the situation becomes easier or makes more sense.  Whether we like it or not, God is always in to have the patience to let him be!

Heavenly Father,
You provide us with guidance in your word on how to be a great mother and wife.  Please help me to use that guidance and not try to do it my own way.  Help me to trust you as I raise my children.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Where there is the Word, there is fruit.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,
and a light unto my path.
Psalm 119:105

Being that we are a pastor's family, we have many Bibles in our home.  There's one on my nightstand--it used to be my Grandma's.  There's a few on our bookshelf.  My old Concordia self-study is on a shelf in the kitchen.  My Lutheran Study Bible  is downstairs on my desk.  Emma has a children's Bible in her room, and Ethan's Bible for school is in his desk in his room.  And I'm sure Dan has a couple floating around here somewhere.

With all those Bibles, I should have plenty of opportunity to study God's word.  But I don't.  As I listened to a sermon a couple of weeks ago, I realized I don't study God's word nearly enough.  The pastor, a good friend of ours (Pastor Matthew Ruesch), mentioned that the Word of God is as important as breathing, drinking water, or eating food.  A lightbulb went off in my head!  Would I ever go without doing any of those things?  I think not.  When we're thirsty, we get a drink of water.  Most of us feel hunger coming on and are quick to satisfy it.  And we breathe without even thinking about it.  Yet we continually go without studying God's Word.

Pastor Ruesch continued:  In His word, God is making Himself present with His people.  The word of god has power in the lives of those people.  The center of everything we do as those people of God has to be His word.  Eat His body.  Drink His blood.  Study His word.  Do those things, and YOU WILL GROW.  God's word says so, and it's His promise.  Reading His word daily is not a command, it is an invitation.  Where there is the Word, there is fruit.

Think of it this way:  Remember when you had your baby(ies)?  Remember Grandma Schmidt coming with a beautiful crocheted blanket?  Now imagine that you said to Grandma Schmidt, "Oh, sorry.  I've got ten other blankets.  I just don't need this one.  Here, take it back."   How would Grandma Schmidt feel?  Pretty bad.  It's the same thing with God's word.  Disregarding God's word is the same as refusing a gift someone has made for you.  When you think of it that way, it's pretty hard not to sit down on the spot and start reading, right?

We pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for Your Word.  Thank you for the promises it holds. Thank you for the forgiveness of sins that I receive within its pages.  Help me to stay connected to you by studying Your Word.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2011


“But now, a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:21-24

Today I went to the funeral of a larger-than-life man. A man who commanded the room he stood in. A man whose voice and laugh demanded your attention and your respect. Everyone knew him. When everyone knows you, your accomplishments are well-known too. When everyone knows you, your weaknesses are hard to hide.

Today I read a blog entry of a much younger man who looks back on 30 years of never feeling like he’s done enough, to be good enough. Should have practiced more, should have prepared more, should have…, should have… But he’s tired of that now.

Every day I talk with fellow moms who struggle with an insecurity. My daughter is falling behind... what did I not do? My husband is never home… what can I say to him? My son doesn’t stand up for himself, my bills are too high, my mom is never impressed…!!!!!

We walk around giving the impression that we have it all together, the entire time wondering why it seems like everyone else has it so together and we feel so inadequate. We have our good days. But some of our bad days are so hard.

After being diagnosed with cancer, the man who commanded the room used that command – every opportunity he got - to share his thanks to God for the salvation that was his. Everyone knew him, so everyone heard how thankful he was – how sure he was that “a righteousness from God had been made known.” We have all sinned and fall short. No matter how much we plan. No matter how much we prepare. There will always be something more we could have done.

I stood in church today and grateful tears ran down my cheeks when I thought of the hard days that are so real to us, and the saving grace from Jesus that is so real to us too. Days like today it all makes sense. We can’t get it done. But Jesus can. And he does. Thank you, Lord, for your grace.

Dear Lord, Today I pray that you will awaken me to my true strength – I have been redeemed. I cannot do it all, I cannot be everything. But I can trust in you, when things go right and when things go wrong. I can model this trust to my children and teach them about the grace of our Savior. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where's My Sign?

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Genesis 9:12-13

Now that’s what I’m talking about. That is a sign!

Throughout the past several months, my husband and I have been praying, talking, and praying some more in an effort to make a decision that will impact our children significantly. I specifically have been praying for a sign. I don’t want a faint whisper in my ear, or a hint of a feeling that we are making the right decision. I want the modern day equivalent of Gideon’s dew, of Aaron’s staff, or of the lamb’s blood that saved the Israelites from the angel of death.

I want a drum roll and a large neon arrow pointing to the right choice, and if at all possible I would like to have it recorded to make sure I don’t miss it; so I can replay it when I have doubts. I have told God all this, but I continue to wake in the morning to a quiet, softly lit room, and so far nothing has suddenly appeared in my DVD player.

How can I be certain we will make the right decision? I guess I can’t, at least not yet. There are times when God’s Word is absolutely clear about His will for our children. Times that we can say; I know he wants my children to be baptized. I am certain he wants them in church with other believers. There is no doubt He wants me to discipline them thereby giving them the boundaries they need to learn and grow to His glory.

But what about those instances when multiple choices seem to be God pleasing, and there are so many details to consider. The idea is just mind boggling. I feel like I’m walking in darkness. I need a guide.

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

I praise the Lord that I can be confident in His promises to lead me in this way I do not know. Confident in the power He has to use our decision for the benefit of our family and those in our community, in spite of ourselves; confident that He will not forsake us.

Within the past week we have finally made our decision. No drum roll. No neon sign. Guided by prayer, research, and study of His word we have decided. I will start teaching again, my own children, in our home. And although I am at times filled with doubt, I know that God will continue to bless my children. No matter our choice, our sin filled, non-omnipotent choice. His will, well, it will be done. What an amazing God we serve! Our guide in all the paths we have not known.


Guide us always in the decisions we make for our children. Use our questions and uncertainties to your glory, and bless our family with your promise to light our way. Help us to lead our children in your truth, and make us strong examples, trusting in your faithfulness.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Washing Away Our Sins

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-18a

I have lived a number of different places in my life from East to West, North to South. Literally. I have lived in North Carolina, Southern California, Michigan and Texas. I have seen every major body of water. The Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Often times in my visits I have combed the beaches for shells, starfish, watched the horizon for God’s creatures. Hoping and praying for just a momentary glimpse of his splendor. I have left my mark on those  beaches with my romping in the sand leaving a trail of footprints behind. And I have sat for hours building miniature castles of sand, with passageways and drawbridges and the protective moats. I have always found the sun shining on me and the rhythmic sound of the waves peaceful and soothing to me. They are in fact, calming to me. 

Last week, my family and I headed back to Southern California on our summer vacation. It was the first trip for our boys that are nine and eleven. And, it was the first time my husband and I had returned since we left thirteen years ago. The boys were the most excited, of course, about visiting Disneyland followed closely by the trip to the beach. For me, it was the beach. I loved Disneyland and seeing the excitement on the faces of my family as we hit the roller coasters and the attractions. Space Mountain was a big hit with my family. But the peace that I felt as I placed my feet in the sand of Huntington Beach and Laguna washing over me allowed my cares and worries to flow away with the ocean breeze. I sat for a while one afternoon watching my boys be adventurous climbing on the rocky coast of Laguna determined to climb out to the largest bolder. There were a number of families out on the beach that day that left their mark on the sand. Footprints criss-crossed throughout the sandy beaching and scattered mounds of former sandcastles dotted the horizon. One visitor had taken a few moments and written a message in the sand only to surround it with a ring of seaweed as a barrier to keep it safe from the rising tides.

We spent about an hour on the beach that day. As we crossed back across the sand to the road back, that same message written in the sand was beginning to wash away leaving behind a smooth pristine beach. While many may look upon the half written message with sadness and a sense of disappointment, it struck me as such an amazing metaphor of the washing away of our sins. Our lives, just like that sandy beach, become marred and speckled with sin. We are no longer pristine and untouched and yet just as those waves come in and wash away the maze of footprints and smooth out the mounds of castles God washes away our former marred selves through the gift of His son Jesus Christ. We are new creations unblemished and unmarred. What a reason to thank God and celebrate our new life through Him. With the washing away of our sinful selves we find peace and comfort unlike no other, a peace that only He can provide. 

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for the forgiveness you have given to us, washing away our sins and making us new creations again. Thank you for the beauty of the world around us. Whether it is the blue water and sandy beaches of Southern California, the mountains of Colorado or the plains of the Midwest region may we always see your glory in the creations around us. May we be reminded daily of you grace and Holiness. Amen. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our Plans vs. God's Plans

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts
than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

Before our family moved from Texas to Nebraska almost three years ago, we did a lot of
planning and dreaming. We made lists, saved money, carefully packed boxes and called all of
the necessary service providers to transfer records. We toured home after home to find just the
right space in just the right location. We even created the image of the perfect small town family
by taking possession of the cutest puppy ever. Our first pet!! And for 2 years we struggled
to maintain this image by diligently walking and playing with Mav, taking him to the vet at
appropriate times, boarding him at Camp Bowwow during our vacations and buying him an
ample supply of his favorite chew sticks.

Unfortunately, none of our planning prepared us for the reality that Mav was just born to be
a farm dog. His instinct to chase squirrels was stronger than his obedience to us. His energy
was too big for our house. His protective nature caught any guest to our house by unpleasant
surprise. We knew we would have to find some willing home for him and yet we lacked the
confidence that anyone would welcome this bundle of energy into their home. With heavy
hearts we made inquiries in the hopes that he would land in a loving home.

Then we heard about a local farmer who was looking for just such a dog. His trusted
companion, a rat terrier named Buddy, had recently been killed. He and his wife were
interested in meeting Mav. We brought Mav to the farm, uncertain how he would react. Would
he bark at his would-be owners? We shouldn’t have worried. Mav instantly warmed up to the
farmer and his wife and quickly took ownership of his new surroundings.

These days, Mav spends time riding next to his master in the tractor or the semi truck, freely
running through the yard showing the squirrels who is boss, and curling up at the feet of the
lady of the house, protecting and loving her as he was born to do.

God provided a better home for my dog than I could ever have dreamed of. It seems as if God
paid attention to every detail of Mav’s life. So how could I possibly doubt his plans for my life
or the lives of my loved ones? Yet there are many times that I do just that. I question his ability
to watch and keep my children. I cling to them as if they have no one else who loves them as
I do. I plan and plot and worry over their future as if my meddling might prevent some awful
catastrophe. I would do well to remember God’s love for my pet and realize how infinite that
same love is for me and my family.

Dear Lord: Thank you for your infinite love. We often believe we have to take charge of our own
circumstances or at least meet you somewhere in the middle. Help us to turn all of our lives
over to your perfect control. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Closet Cleaning

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the proclaim the year of the Lord's grant to those who mourn in Zion--to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they might be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:1-3 ESV)

I have a lot of clothes. I like shopping and finding great bargains, and clothes and shoes are some of my favorite things to bargain hunt for. While my budget often forces me to only buy the things I actually need or can use immediately, I sometimes find myself buying something that I will probably need some time in the the sleeveless black dress that wasn't on sale but that I bought anyway last fall when I knew it would be this summer before I could actually wear it. I managed to wear it once before pregnancy made everything in my closet temporarily unwearable. Then there's the blue dress I bought on clearance for a Halloween costume that I justified because it would also be a great dress to wear to one of my brothers' weddings. Never mind that none of my brothers were even thinking about getting married at the time.

In addition to buying things I don't really need, I tend to hang on to clothes I don't really need. There's the floral print skirt that doesn't have a matching shirt (and that's a teensy bit too small), the red shirt with the too-tight sleeves that's way too dressy to wear anywhere I go, and a ton of dress shirts I rarely wear because I have others I like more. And then there's the fact that I'll only be able to wear any of these clothes again if I go back to my pre-pregnancy size after the baby is born....

Needless to say, my closet is rather full, and these days, I'm only wearing a very small percentage of the clothes hanging in it.

This past week at the women's Bible study I go to, we talked about closets and the clothes in them. All of us have those clothes that don't fit right, have stains or tears, or something else wrong with them, that we just can't get rid of. And in this case, we're not talking about our physical closets, but our spiritual closets.

When I look at Isaiah's list of garments in chapter 61, I realize that I don't always have those things hanging in my spiritual closet. Sometimes my beautiful headdress (called a crown of beauty in the NIV) is rather tarnished and my garment of praise looks more like a garment of grumbling. The oil of gladness tends to look more like the oil of worry (and is no doubt the cause of my regular pimple breakouts). In verse 10 of Isaiah 61 we also read of the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness, which are compared to the headdress a bridegroom would wear or the jewels of a bride. My jewels don't always sparkle as they should. And while God's gift of grace, Jesus' death and resurrection, and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life mean that salvation is mine, I often take that beautiful garment for granted. I often turn to the other clothes in my spiritual closet instead of the ones God would have me wear, so I hide these clothes that don't fit under a cloak of shame and guilt.

And even then, God comes and cleans me up. He washes me and makes me new and reclothes me in the beauty, praise, and gladness that He intends for me. He covers me with His garments of salvation and His robe of righteousness and calls me His own and gives me work to bring good news to the hurting, comfort to the mourning, and to bring glory to Him. And as I walk with Him, He helps me clean out from my closet the things that shouldn't be there. It's a beautiful and overwhelming and amazing thing that He does!

Heavenly Father, I'm always amazed at the way you keep cleaning me up and giving me your clothes to wear even when I mess up what you have given me. Thank you for your patience, but mostly, thank you for your grace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Real Housewives of…

Proverbs 31:10-12; 28-30
10 [a]A wife of noble character who can find?
   She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
   and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
   all the days of her life.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
   her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
   but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
   but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

OK, confession time…My name is Liesl and I enjoy watching reality television.  The show, “The Real Housewives of…” happens to be one of my favorites.  Each season, Bravo TV follows a group of women, from various cities around the country, who agree to have their lives filmed as they try to balance the demands of marriage, family, motherhood, friendships and work.  The network would like you to believe that these women are “just like you and me,” but live in bigger houses, drive fancier cars and live privileged lives.  The lives these women lead (at least what is portrayed on camera) involve gossip sessions about one another, family fighting, financial troubles, marriage problems and feelings of self-doubt over their own inadequacies as a wife and a mother.

My first thought after watching the show was that my life was nothing like theirs, and with each fight and episode, I further distanced my own "real life" from theirs.  The reality is, however, I am a “Real Housewife,” (minus the fancy car or big house).  If I was followed by a television crew the ugliness of my sin would be on full display for all to see too.  My gossip sessions with friends, spats with my husband, impatience with others and my own feelings of self-doubt that I struggle with on a daily basis as I try to juggle marriage, motherhood and work would provide viewers with more than enough material to watch. 

Proverbs 31:10-31 is the Biblical description of the virtues for a wife and mother.  I remember the first time I read this Bible passage, I literally sank lower and lower in my chair as each verse was read wondering how I would ever be like this woman.  The truth is, without Jesus, I can’t and I remain a “real housewife.”  Yet, through Him and by His grace and mercy, I am a “really forgiven housewife,” where my sin and shortcomings are made perfect through the forgiveness given to all of us through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.   

Dear Jesus,  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be both a wife and a mother.  Help me to show kindness, compassion and love to the many people you have placed in my life.  In your name I pray, Amen. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Making Impressions

 These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon 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.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

When I became pregnant with our first child, I did quite a bit of reading on the subject of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. About a month before my due date, I realized that maybe I should be doing some reading about what do once the baby actually arrived! There are a great many “parenting manuals” on the market today, and every author leads the reader to believe that his ways are the right ways even though the next book on the shelf may outline a completely different philosophy with just as much authority.

For the Christian parent, there is one parenting manual that far surpasses all others; The Bible. God’s word is full of rich wisdom and instruction for parents. In this passage from Deuteronomy, He tells us that His commandments should not only be something that we know in our heads, but they should be on our hearts. We are to “impress” them on our children. When I looked up the word, impress, some of its synonyms really stood out to me: arouse, awe, enthuse, excite, inspire, move, stimulate, stir. Wow! That’s a whole lot more than God just saying “Tell your children about my commandments.” He even tells us how to go about doing this. We should be talking about them. All. The. Time. 

Now that we have a 2 year old and an 8 month old in our home, our days are often times just about meeting everyone’s needs and surviving until bedtime. In order for us to get from just surviving to thriving, I seek to find more ways to make sure our family’s day to day life is focused on our Heavenly Father. I want these precious gifts from God to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, and I look to the ultimate parenting manual for help in accomplishing that. 

Heavenly Father,
Thank You for sending your Son to die for our sins and rise again so that we might live with you in Heaven forever. As we go about the daily tasks of parenting, help us to find ways to impress this on the children that you have so graciously entrusted to us so that they may know your commands and know Jesus, whom You sent to save us. 

Practical ideas: In addition to prayers and hymns before naps and bedtime, and our nightly Bible story reading, I’ve also gotten into the habit of singing the Matins liturgy aloud every morning as I’m unloading the dishwasher after breakfast. What are some other ways to talk about God when we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up?

Teaching our children

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Psalm 111:10

Have you ever realized how much we teach our children?  From the moment they are born, we start teaching them.  They learn that they can depend on us to meet their needs, from food to sleep to diapers.  We teach them to sit up, to crawl, to walk.  We teach them how to eat with a spoon, to say "Mama" or "Dada."  There's the struggle of teaching them to use the potty, the challenge of teaching them to tie their shoes.  Every moment as a parent is a teachable moment.

Think about our verse for today, though.  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."  The most important thing we can ever teach our children is the fear of the Lord.  What does it mean to fear the Lord?  This website says, "The word for fear here means "reverential fear." It means that one must be serious about their relationship to God. People who "fear" the Lord are not anxious about their relationship to him, or afraid of Him, they take very seriously their responsibility to Him."  From day one, we should be teaching our children about their relationship with Christ.  We bring them to the baptismal fount, cementing that relationship and making them a member of God's family.   

It doesn't stop at the baptismal fount, though.  Every day, every moment, we have the opportunity to help our children grow in their faith.  I think about all the ways we do this in our home: praying at mealtimes and bedtime, doing devotions, going to church and Sunday School.  I try not to let a day go by without telling the kids how much Jesus loves them.  We talk about sin when they misbehave, and the wonderful forgiveness of sins that Jesus gave them on the cross.  It's those teachable moments that are so very important.  Even more important than learning to tie their shoes.  This teaching brings them eternal life.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for our children.  We praise you for the joy they bring into our lives.  Watch over us as we help them grow.  Be with us as we teach them about You and Your love for us.  Help us to grow their faith so that they can someday teach their own children about You.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Free to be Slaves

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:18

A few weeks ago my children celebrated the last day of their school year. This day was highly anticipated for the freedom it represented. After a few days of being home, they soon discovered that their idea of freedom was a little different than that of their parents. Time spent watching television and playing video games has been restricted, and everyone has been assigned a few household chores. Having parents who are both involved in education means they have been, and will be expected to help with various school tasks throughout the summer. After a lot of parental encouragement, our oldest found employment and soon found himself working 40 hr. weeks, leaving very little time for socializing. The reality of the situation has resulted in some grumbling about the fairness of it all.

These circumstances bring to mind the above verse from Romans. Paul talks about having freedom and being slaves all in the same breath. The statement doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. How is it fair that we have been set free from sin, but we are still slaves to righteousness? It doesn’t sound very liberating. Christ lived the perfect life that we, due to our sinfulness, cannot achieve. He fulfilled the letter of the Law that God demands. He then shed His blood on the cross, making atonement for all of mankind. Now we don’t have to worry, right? We can’t do everything that God demands. We know that, and God certainly knows that! That’s why He sent Jesus - to do what we couldn’t, right? We can all breathe a sigh of relief, right? I mean, we all struggle with some sort of temptation. So now, when the struggle is too difficult we can just relax, because we have an excuse, right? Our sin doesn’t condemn us anymore, because we believe in Jesus, and He set us FREE from that sin! We can celebrate that freedom and live our lives without feeling obligated to some archaic set of rules. If we mess up, then, no worries, we can say we’re sorry and know that we’re forgiven….right?

It isn’t quite that easy, though, is it? The Bible tells us that Christians are called to live transformed lives. God’s light and love is supposed to shine through us. Faith without works is dead. True faith bears fruit. Therefore, we become slaves to righteousness. We don’t take advantage of the freedom we’ve been given by living self-absorbed lives. Rather, out of thankfulness for what God has done for us through Christ, we show our appreciation by attempting to live lives that glorify Him. We continue to fight against the ungodly behaviors that entice us.

Does all of this seem difficult? Does it feel like an obligation? Does it feel a bit like worthless freedom? My children may not always appreciate the responsibilities and restrictions they’ve been given during their free months. However, these guidelines are for their benefit. They will learn life skills they will need when they move out of their childhood home. They will gain a healthy work ethic, and learn to be productive citizens who contribute to the common good. In the same way, the precepts found in Scripture are for our benefit, not God’s. God gives us guidelines so we can live healthy lives, lift up and help our fellow man, and lead more people to true peace and the hope of salvation.

I love my children, and I will help them. I will teach them how to load the dishwasher, and I will help them fold the laundry if they become frustrated. Yes, living a righteous life is always a struggle and might even feel restrictive. But God loves us, His children, and gives us the help that we need. The Holy Spirit comes to us through the Word and Sacraments. We are strengthened in our Christian walk by spending time in prayer and in worship with the community of believers.

When I am assigning household tasks, I sometimes teasingly refer to my children as “slave labor.” I do not pay them an allowance. They understand (deep down, maybe) that the things they do around the house are a privilege of being part of a family in which each member contributes for the benefit of all. We are likewise privileged to be part of God’s family and to have the opportunity to bless others by being reflections of Christ.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for freeing us from the death sentence of sin. Help us to be responsible stewards of this gift of freedom. Create and grow in us a desire to live as slaves to righteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.