Monday, October 31, 2011


I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)

For today's devotion, a song:

The lyrics:
Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love

And bled for us
Freely You've bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven's will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer's crown
No burden great can hold You down

In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead, He's alive, He's alive

I first heard this song this past summer when my husband and I spent a week at Lutheran Valley Retreat in Colorado. My husband was the "sherpa" for the week and led Bible studies for the summer staff. Before Bible study time every day, they spent several minutes singing, and this seemed to be one of their favorite songs. It became one of my favorites. There was so much joy in their voices and on their faces as they sang it, and that's what I remember most.

Perhaps this song would be more appropriate for tomorrow, All Saints Day, as we remember our loved ones who have died and woken again because of Christ's victory over death. But it's a victory we share in, even now. We have died in our sins, but because Jesus bled and died for us, we are alive in Him, and we can stand in His light.

Today in your prayers, take some time to celebrate His victory and to praise and thank our Father for the victory and the life He has given us.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Running the Race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  - Hebrews 12:1-3

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy 4:7

I remember first learning memory verses about “fighting the good fight,” “running with perseverance,” and "finishing the race."  I thought it was cool that God used something so human to explain life to me.  But rarely when I thought of those verses did I apply them to the mundane, everyday chores that face us daily. 

Until I was cleaning out the van the other day. 

Ok, that probably wasn’t the first time.  But it had been awhile since I had thought about perseverance and the idea that it was a holy move.  I had decided to clean out the van.  My 4 year old and my 1 year old were trying to entertain themselves in the van and the garage while I emptied the vehicle and vacuumed.  This may be a quick job for some of you, but I don’t do this very often so 10 minutes quickly became 30 and before I knew it we were easily approaching an hour of this task.  Little boy was following me around, crying and holding onto my legs.  Big sister was bored and had taken to throwing pretzels at brother, which he would then eat off the dirty garage floor.  I just had a few more things to arrange or sweep up and we would be done.  It was then that the Holy Spirit spoke to me – “Persevere.. just stick with it.  You’re almost done, the kids are fine.  You can finish this task!”  I knew it was the Holy Spirit because my van was such a mess even Jesus wanted me to get it cleaned up.  

But I laughed aloud when I realized I rarely applied these verses to everyday things like cleaning out the van.  I guess I usually think of bigger things – marriage, witnessing to a friend, or building a house.  Those matters are certainly worth seeing thru.  But on a day to day basis, there are plenty of things on which I could use this same encouragement.  Honestly I’m generally just not good at following thru.  A short list of the worst things for me includes: putting the laundry away, washing the last few dishes, and enforcing a full 30 minutes of piano practice.  Interruptions, fussy children, random socks, and frustrated fingers all interrupt my good intentions.  And I give up.

But today I’m going to take God’s Word with me into the trenches.  I’m going to throw off the sin and fix my eyes on the goodness and joy that God has given me.  I’m going to FOCUS and ask the Holy Spirit to help me not grow weary or lose heart.  I’m going to quote scripture to a crying baby if I have to, to keep the faith. 

After all, these dishes aren’t going to wash themselves.  

Lord, sometimes I forget to apply your Word to the simple everyday challenges that face me.  Give me strength and focus today that I can rest in your Word and your Truth; that it would empower me; that you would move my mountains and move me to action and victory.  Lord I earnestly and honestly pray in your Son’s name, Amen.    

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is Sunday Morning Worth It?

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”
1 Corinthians 9:19

“I never get to do what I want to do, it’s not fair!” Again, I am left feeling like the “Loser Mom of the Year” as I am forced to pull the almost 11 year old out of the pool (at a birthday party of all things...) after only a half an hour because her almost 4 year old sister is cold and needs a nap. (It was 1 o’clock afterall, every little kid’s birthday party seems to fall right at nap time. Why is that? Mental note: this year our birthdays will be celebrated over pop-tarts and waffles.)

In reading over the above mentioned Scripture, I am also especially reminded of Sunday morning worship services. Sitting in the pew, ready to sing and be inspired by the divine Word of God; to have my fume-driven emotional “tank” filled.... ahhh. I’ve been waiting for this all week only to look down and notice that my eight year old son is lying on the floor attempting to crawl under the pews during the prayers. Or during the sermon, when I'm distracted by the ripping of paper and desperate pleas to leave church to get a drink of water. Or pee. Or, let’s tell the truth, do anything other than sit there because of the boredom that is certainly doing damage to young, vulnerable minds! I think to myself, “ I JUST WANTED TO ENJOY WORSHIP!”

It’s in the midst of those moments and tenderly afterwards that God’s gentle nudging is felt pulling on my heart. It’s not about me. It’s not about them. It’s only and ever all about HIM. Why do we sacrifice for our children or those we love? Why did He sacrifice for His children and the ones He loves? WOW. Paul told the Corinthians to set themselves aside for the weak among them. God sets aside His power and glory for the weak like us. That SO makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it? His life: given freely for our sins. Our time, conveniences, comforts, preferences: given freely to those we love for the purpose of teaching and edifying them in the Word of God and the ways of Christ.

Remember...God’s gifts are always there! Even when we’re distracted. Even when we feel we’re giving more than we get in return. And, yes, even when we’re wrestling the communion cup out of pudgy little fingers....

Heavenly Father, we praise you for the freedoms we have in You and submit to your will in our lives. Let me be an example of truth and strength to those you put before me today in all that I say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pleasant Words

“ Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

Pleasant words, ah, they are sweet, aren’t they? We all long to hear them and we know the feeling that we receive when pleasant words are directed towards us.

When pleasant words are shared with us, we are filled -up, encouraged, given a boost of energy and enthusiasm for the tasks we face each day, and overall just made to feel better. When you are not feeling well, pleasant words can give you a calm and peace that make you feel just a little less yucky. When you work hard at your job and at home, pleasant words make you want to keep up a job well done and continue doing your best. When your child shares pleasant words with you about being their mom or dad it puts a smile on your face, perhaps a tear in your eye, and fills the love in your heart for that child to overflowing.

If pleasant words make us feel these ways, what do pleasant words do for our children when they hear them? When a teacher praises our child for doing something well at school, they want to work hard and do their best. When a friend shares a kind thought with our child, it makes them feel respected. When we tell our children that we love them and that we are proud of them, it helps them feel loved and cared for.

With all of these pleasant words and thoughts, we have not even touched on the pleasant words that fill our lives the most, give us the greatest feeling of love and care, and lead us to know that nothing else really matters. What words am I talking about? Yes, that’s right, God’s Word. Scripture is filled to overflowing with God’s Words to us. Each and every word is heartfelt, thoughtful, and meaningful. These Words are truly “like honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Let God’s loving Words be poured over you daily as you spend time in His Word. Share them with your family and make sure that your children are hearing pleasant words not just from you, or their teacher, or their friends, but most importantly from their loving Heavenly Father every day.

Prayer: Oh Father God we praise and thank You for Your Word to us. Bless us daily with opportunities to hear and be filled with Your Words. Help us Lord to take those Words and share them with others who need to hear them. Let them Lord be “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Amen

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Eat the good food

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Isaiah 55:2

My kids could eat all day long.  Let me rephrase that:  my kids could eat JUNK all day long.  They seem to be hungry all the time, yet when I offer them nutritious snacks like carrot sticks or fruit, they aren't hungry anymore. Instead, they hunger for chips, cookies or soda.  

You and I both know that they will get nothing but empty calories from junk food like that.  As parents, we know to offer good food to our children, food with vitamins that will help them grow.  We'd rather see them eat food that doesn't have empty calories, and will leave them wanting more.

In this passage, Isaiah was speaking of the same mistake.  People spend their money and their lives filling up with the wrong stuff.  They look for power in their jobs, they desire money for the latest and greatest possessions, just like my kids filling up on junk food.  But what happens when they actually get power, and actually earn money for all the things they want?  They want more.

God's word is the only thing we need.  By listening to His word, God is offering that nutritious food that we so desire.  That food--the Good News--declares to us that he has paid for our sins in Christ, and the assurance that he wants me to be his child.  He promises us that He will take us to live with Him in heaven.  As we read His word, God is at work, filling our soul with the nutritious food we need.  

We'll never be hungry again.

We pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, so often we desire the empty things in life.  As our children crave junk food, we desire things that will never matter to us.  Thank you for giving us Your Word, helping us be satisfied to the fullest and living forever with You.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Shin Guards and Armor

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his
might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6: 10-11

…Frantically, I searched in all of our “hiding places” for my 4 year-old’s soccer cleats and shin guards. Finally after finding them NOT in his closet,I began to go through the ritual of dressing him. “Why do we even have to do this?” he asked, “It’s just practice. I’ll be careful…”I explained to him again that kids are all kicking after the same ball and that the shin guards protect his legs if they accidentally miss the ball. The sideline coach in me told him you can play full force when you don’t have to worry about hurting people’s legs. So, we laced up the cleats over the shin guards, drove him to practice and told him to play hard and strong.

Oh how I desire for my three kids to live their life of faith in full strength. To not worry about the many forms of opposition they will face. To serve the Lord with all their hearts, to be made strong by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are so blessed that we don’t have to search in the random crevices of our lives to find the full equipment needed. God’s word is in our hearts always. We need only rely on His grace.  In soccer games, the referees check all of the players’ legs before allowing them to play. My son and his buddies laugh at the knocking on the shins to ensure the guards are indeed under the long socks. Our referee is God’s Word. Matthew 7:7 tells us “. . . Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” And Ephesians 6 is a great check-point in all of life’s endeavors. When Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, wrote a letter of encouragement to fellow believers in Ephasus, he concluded with the truth that believers are to stand firm in the Lord.

Thank you, God, for your servant Paul and his reminder in Ephesians 6:14-17 to “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Guide us as we suit up in Your full armor every day in every vocation we fill, so we may go forth in our own weaknesses, allowing only Your boldnes and Your heavenly light to shine through us. Help us to turn to your word as a preparation for all that we say, think, and do. Give us the confidence to live our lives of faith in full force, knowing that we are covered by Your grace. Amongst the principalities of this world, we know that we are on the winning team with you, Lord, and you have equipped us to persevere victoriously to the eternal life that awaits us. AMEN.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Becoming a Virtuous Woman

10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life. 

This chapter of Proverbs gives us a lot to live up to doesn't it?!?  And this is just a couple of verses...there's so much more!  This week we're going to start with a couple verses in this chapter and we will pick up a few more next week.

So what does it mean for us when it says that her husband safely trusts her? Our husbands should be able to trust that we aren't talking badly about him to others (a reasonable expectation not just for our husbands but for anyone we encounter).  He also needs to trust that you will keep his private thoughts between you and him.  He can trust us to take care of his household when he is away.  He can trust our faithfulness to him as a partner and confidante.  

13 She seeks wool and flax,
And willingly works with her hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
She brings her food from afar.
15 She also rises while it is yet night,
And provides food for her household,
And a portion for her maidservants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her profits she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength,
And strengthens her arms.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is good,
And her lamp does not go out by night.
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hand holds the spindle. 

The next point in this chapter shows us that a virtuous wife is a hard worker.  She clothes her family - okay we don't have to make our own clothes today...but we do have different clothing challenges.  Fighting with a toddler just to put clothes on them, providing weather appropriate clothing, tying shoes, changing diapers, combing hair, and let's not forget shopping for all of that and getting a good price...the list goes on and on.  She makes sure there is food provided. She uses money wisely.  She exercises.  She works and works and works.    I don't think this is news to any of us.  But take heart, when you are working hard to care for your family you are fulfilling the "virtuous woman" described so beautifully here!

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for providing this chapter to us as a guidelines in being a virtuous woman.  Help us as we strive to be a trustworthy wife and a hard working wife.  

heavy loads

Psalms 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

It has been a week and I am tired. I am physically, emotionally, and mentally spent. My gas tank is hovering at empty. I sit here typing this into the computer yearning for the time when I can crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and allow sleep come. There was only one other time when I can remember being this doggedly tired. It was about 9 years ago when I had a not quite 24 month old and a newborn at home and I was winging it as a stay at home mom running on fumes and praying for nap time to come early that day.

I have spent the last two days complaining, and yes whining, about being tired to just about anybody who will listen. My kids have taken the brunt of some snippy responses. My colleagues have had to bear with a droopy-eyed, caffine addict who can barely remember her own name let alone remember the details of the conversation between staff members from yesterday's meeting. And my amazing husband who has had to, more than once, deal with the stubborn streak of mine that loves to be heard when I am worn out.

My week has been challenging and yet the one place I needed to turn to the most with my burdens and frustrations was not where I went. God can and will and wants to carry our burdens. I should have turned to God, cried out to him and asked him to take the multitude of weight that I have been trying to carry as SuperWoman and allowed the one who can carry them do so with ease. And yet I gave into the faulty thought process that I could only rely on myself, that noone else could possibly understand or be able to handle everything as well as I could. The reality: The foolish man built his house upon the sand and just as his house went splat. My reasoning sent me to the point of exhaustion.

When I started typing this devotion, my heart was heavy with guilt and my shoulders were drooping. And now I am blessed to know that these burdens that were causing my knees to buckle are being carried by someone far wiser, far stronger, and far more able than me.

Thank you Lord for reminding me of just how much I need you in my life. Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart to hearing again just how much you want me to ask for your help and share with you my needs. Lord, I turn over to you now all of the hurt, the hearache, the sadness, the anger and the fear that I have to you. I am tired Lord. I am worn out. Lord may I remember more often to look to you in my times of need. Thank you for being there for me and daily reminding me just how special I am to you and how much you love me. Amen

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

He is Enough!

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
~Psalm 73:26~
Motherhood can be quite a rollercoaster ride~ full of up's and down's.   When our child brings home a report card full of straight A's or scores the winning goal in the soccer game~ we beam with pride, and for that moment feel like we are doing everything right.  As parents, we have expectations for ourselves and for our children.  It's part of who we are as humans--we want to succeed, we want our families to prosper--and that is a great thing!  But, what about those times when our children are disrespectful and disobedient and we "lose our cool" with them because of it?  What about those days, and sometimes weeks, when we feel disappointed and like we are failures?  That is when it is especially important to turn to God's Word for strength, reassurance, and guidance.
The Bible is full of examples of women who are called "heroes of faith."  God blessed a doubting, barren, old-aged Sarah with a son from whom "came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore."  By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient in the battle of Jericho.  Because of "the obedience that comes from faith" Ruth, a Moabite woman, was blessed to become the ancestress of Jesus.   Many times, we make these women out to be superhuman, when in reality they were sinful people just like us--their lives full of up's and down's, great achievements and utter failures. Still, in their sin, God used them to be examples to us.  He blessed them for listening to His Word, walking in faith, and obeying.
It is much the same with "women of faith" in today's world. We expect ourselves to be Super-Mom's, when in reality we will never be able to be all that we want to be as wives, mothers, daughters, and friends.  But, thanks be to God, that He is enough!  He made us His own in baptism and through His Word and Sacrament-- He forgives, renews, and strengthens us to be everything He has called us to be in this day.  He blesses our lives and the lives we touch--many times in ways we don't even see--as we walk with Him in faith.
So, we rejoice in the fact that God has called us to be examples of faith to our children!  Despite the up's and down's of mothering, may we continue to say what Jesus says and do what Jesus does and boldly trust in our loving, Heavenly Father to be "the strength of our heart and portion forever."  What a blessing to know that He is with us each and every step of the way!

Dear Heavenly Father,  We are humbled by the precious gifts of our children that you have  entrusted to our care.  May we love and care for them in faith, knowing that they are ultimately Yours. Forgive us when we lose our way, and help us daily to re-focus our eyes on You--the Perfector of our faith and the perfect example of a parent.   In Christ's name~ Amen.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Am My Father's Daughter

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

My oldest baby turns 11 tomorrow and, as I would imagine most mothers do, I have been reminiscing about the days leading up to meeting him for the first time. I remember trying to decide on a name, feeling him move in response to my voice, being on bed rest, and I remember the silly baby shower games.

I remember specifically a shower given to me by a wonderful group of teachers from my husband’s school. One of the games we played that day challenged each person to take both a picture of me, and one of my husband, and cut and paste to come up with a guess as to what our baby would look like. The results were nothing short of hideous, and I am thrilled to announce that the real life baby was much more beautiful than those crazy pictures.

Waiting for my son to arrive we often wondered who he would look like. After he was born, everyone had an opinion as to whose nose he had, whose feet he had, who he most resembled. I have been watching him grow for over a decade now, and he is absolutely, without a doubt, his father’s son.

I wonder if Jesus looked at all like his mother. Did he have her eyes, her hands, her hair? He was indeed the Son of God, but as Son of Man certainly he resembled Mary in some ways.

Who do you look like? When you look in the mirror, who do you see? I have been told, and am starting to see more each day, that I look a lot like my mother. I wonder though, who do I look like on the inside? Do I resemble my Heavenly Father in any way? Some days I think I do see a reflection of him in how I teach and nurture my children, but other days I doubt anyone would even know we are even related.

We are not given many details about Jesus physical stature, but his inward appearance we are told much about. It’s this inward appearance that is the spitting image of his Father, full of grace and truth.

When God looks at you, what does he see? Does he see your bruised body? Does he see your sinful mind? Does he see your broken heart? The answer; Yes, he knows every part of you. But also; No, he sees you recreated and made whole through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. He sees you as his original and perfect creation through the eyes of his son.

Do I resemble my Heavenly Father in any way? You better believe it! Because of Jesus, I am absolutely, without a doubt, my Father’s daughter.


I am so thankful that when you look at me you see Jesus. Show me your grace and truth each day. Make me a true reflection of you, and forgive me when I fail to be the perfect creation you intended me to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

again I say rejoice

The grass is always greener. There will always be someone within earshot or view that somehow has what you’d like. As a parent, you may notice their kids are brighter, more polite, and well rounded. Then we get a better look.

When talking to a family member who is going through a painful divorce, I had to admit that my parenting struggles are small. When talking with a church friend whose child is recovering from brain surgery, I had to admit my mothering burden is light. When watching footage on the families affected by famine in Somalia, I had to admit that our needs are fully met.

I would like to rejoice over all things in a way that demonstrates to my children that our God is good no matter what. We can rejoice in good health and in plenty because our God has supplied us with these. We can rejoice when things are difficult, when we are challenged, when we are hurting, because Jesus gives us the power to do it. It should not matter how we compare to those around us, we should find ourselves in a posture of worship and thanksgiving in all circumstances. Rejoice today in our Savior and His love. Rejoice without comparing. Rejoice in what He’s done for you. “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say it: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Jesus, You are my Provider and my Savior. I will rejoice in You today. Give me a grateful and generous heart, eager to praise and serve you no matter what. Through your grace, may my children learn to rejoice in You always. Amen

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lessons from a Wedding

"Take our lives, and let them be one in Christ eternally,
take our moments and our days let them flow in ceaseless praise."

Jon and I had the pleasure of attending a wedding last weekend.  The kids came along with us to the ceremony and we got a chance at a date when the reception took place two hours later.  During the wedding, my 5-year old could not tear her eyes away from the breathtaking bride and the happenings at the altar.  She was rivoted to her seat, a silent observer of a beautiful moment in this couple's life.

As the unity candle portion of the service was taking place, she leaned over and quietly asked what they were doing.  I explained about the joining of the families and more importantly how God is the third person in every marriage, the part that holds the two together.  She seemed satisfied with my less than eloquent explanation and went back to her study of the bride.  Two minutes later a tug at my arm drew my attention back to her.  In her whispered voice she said, "Mommy, I wonder who God has for me."

In that fairy tale moment, when my little girl was dreaming of that day when she would be wearing the Cinderella dress, I was reminded of why I pray every day for those people my children will marry.  I was reminded of how each day our children look to us and our marriage as an example they will someday emulate.  Do they see God in our marriage? I hope so!   Do they see him in what we say to one another?  In how we treat one another?  In how we love one another?  I think marriage in today's world has lost the awe, the magic that happens when God joins two people together as one, for eternity. Even in our imperfection, God created us to love.In Matthew 19:4-6 it says "At the beginning the Creator "made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two two will become on flesh' So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  Pray today for your marriage and for all marriages.  As you pray for His presence, thank Him for your prince or princess.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Irresistible food

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

Have you ever made a dessert that you just couldn't stay away from?  The two desserts in my house that I can't stop eating have to be brownies or cheesecake.  There they are, fresh on the counter or in the fridge, waiting.  Just sitting there, tempting me to eat them.  It's horrifying to admit, but there's times when those brownies disappear in one sitting.  There's cheesecakes that have had more gone in one sitting than I'd like to tell you here.  Those sweet desserts are hard to resist.

The Psalmist here describes God's Word as one of those sweet desserts--sweeter than honey, which was one of the sweetest things known to him in at the time of writing this Psalm.  God's Word is something that we should want to devour like fresh brownies--not that we're going to lift it page by page to our mouths, but tasting it as we read, listen or hear God's Word at church or at home.

Not that God's Word always tastes good to us.  Sometimes it is like something that we cannot stand to eat--how I feel about raw celery or cooked lima beans.  The law makes my stomach turn as God's commands point out how often I've done what I shouldn't and haven't done what I should.  But I need those nasty vegetables--the law--or else the gospel wouldn't taste sweet like the brownies I so love.  The gospel with the good news of Jesus' payment for my sins--how sweet it tastes to my hungry soul!  It makes me want to dig in deeper to the Bible, to devour every word of forgiveness and love that it contains.  

We need to think of God's Word more as a favorite dessert--something that we just can't stay away from--than like vegetables--something we have to endure.  The blessings that God's Word contains are the sweetest food that we'll ever have in our lives.  It's dessert that will last until eternity.

We pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, you know my love for all things sweet.  Help me to have that same good appetite for Your Word, so that I can be healthy in my faith in Jesus.  Give me the desire to taste the sweet blessings and forgiveness that Your Word contains.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

His Creation

“Put on the new man which was according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:24
This time of the year always brings about in me a desire to craft. Years ago, my husband and I would spend many hours preparing various hand-made objects to display at craft fairs. The fall was our busiest season, gearing up for the holidays. Now, when the weather cools and the leaves start to turn, the desire to be creative stirs within me.

I love the creative process. I enjoy generating ideas and challenging whatever artistic ability God has given me to ultimately arrive at a form of personal expression. I think what I love most about the creative process is that I feel a closeness to my Creator. When I think about the pleasure I take in one of my humble creations, I think I might have a tiny inkling as to how much our Heavenly Father treasures humanity, the epitome of His creation. We must be pretty special if we were created in the very image of the one who made us.
Sometimes the creative process does not go well, however. Sometimes the ideas do not come easily. Sometimes I do not have the ability to make the image in my mind a tangible reality. Sometimes accidents occur along the way, and the entire project must be scrapped. On one such occasion, my husband was out of town and I was home alone with our oldest, who was just a toddler. I had spent hours intricately painting several Christmas ornaments. Pleased with my progress, I took a small break. When I returned to the work table I discovered that my young son was being creative as well. He had added his personal signature of several bright purple brushstrokes to the ornaments I had just finished. I could not successfully salvage the ornaments for their intended purpose.

Frustration is an inadequate adjective for how I felt at the time. There were tears. There was an angry phone call to my husband. My son was placed in his crib for the sake of his personal safety. However, even instances such as this draw me closer to the Heavenly Father. How disappointing it must be when He sees every aspect of His creation tainted by sin! It must be heart-breaking to Him to look upon humanity, the crown-jewel of His creative work, and see the ugliness of which we are capable. When I look at my own life and the mess that I make daily in my marriage, in my job, as a mother… it amazes me that God hasn’t given up and discarded me.
I am humbly grateful in the knowledge that God’s creative work is tied to His saving work. The God who created us became flesh and shed His blood on the cross, washing away the “purple brushstrokes” of sin that mark us and stain us. Through the Holy Spirit, we are re-created. We are strengthened to shed our old corrupted image and put on the image of Christ. Thanks be to our loving Creator God!

Dear God, Help me to live according to the purpose for which I was created. Though I am but a cracked clay pot, allow me to be your vessel. May your power be revealed through my weakness.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rest for Your Souls

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”     Matthew 11:28-30

Mom self-help books, well-meaning bookmarks , and greeting cards try to console the tired, weary mom.  It starts off good – Look to Christ to comfort you and give you peace.  Jesus knows how you feel – tell Him about it.  He can give you peace that passes all understanding. 

But sometimes I fear we get our messages crossed a little.  Bible verses like Matthew 11:28-30 can be misleading.  Life with Christ doesn’t mean an easy life.  It doesn’t mean we are sheltered from disaster.  It doesn’t mean we get punished when we aren’t good enough, but it doesn’t mean we are rewarded here on earth when we say the right thing either.  

It’s confusing in today’s culture, but it’s not feel-good.  It’s not about what we do.  It’s about Christ.  And what HE does.
I’m tired.  I’m falling asleep reading.  I need to go to bed soon. 
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
I have a very comfortable bed in the other room and will be seeking it out soon.  I love love love sleeping.  I seek it when I am stressed out, and when I feel overwhelmed.  I want nothing more than to shut out the world by pulling the covers over my head.  Sometimes I just feel like I can‘t handle life. 
“all you who are weary and burdened…”
Yes, that's me.  I’m tired of the mistakes I make.  I’m tired of feeling like I’m not good enough.  I’m quite aware of my sin and my inability to follow the law.  I’m ready to put my trust in the freedom of Christ.
“Take MY yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,  and you will find rest for your souls.”
‘Christ’s yoke’ = yielding to the gospel.  The gospel is that faith in Christ saves us from what we deserve.  The gospel is Love is the Answer.  The gospel is Hope and Forgiveness and Grace.  It’s God becoming Man to clean up our mess.  HE is the way out from under this weight.  HE is the answer.  Follow His direction.  Matthew Henry’s commentary points out that the ox carries the weight with the assistance of the yoke.  The load is still a big one, but the yoke helps.  It’s a tool.  Christ’s yoke is a tool we can’t afford to pass by.  We can’t carry this load alone.  Christ's yoke is the best way.  It's the only way. 
“..learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”
Learn from me, as in let’s play school.  Everyday you come to me and seek knowledge.  Everyday you confess, take part of the message, and try to apply it to your life.  Everyday grow in the knowledge and try to imitate Jesus walk.  He is humble and gentle.  If you want to be like someone, be like Him.
“..For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Allow me to borrow from Matthew Henry’s commentary again.  He contends that “God’s presence (Isa. 43:2), Christ’s sympathy (Isa. 63:9; Dan. 3:25), and especially the Spirit’s aids and comforts (2 Cor. 1:5), make suffering for Christ light and easy.”  We have a big job as moms.  We have cared for our babies from the moment we even started dreaming about them.  We want to do everything we can for them.  We feel their pain, we cry over their disappointments, we ache to fix their problems.  We are confused about their perspective, frustrated by their decisions, rooting for their success.  There is a lot here to carry on our backs.  All that Jesus offers makes it easier to carry.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… you will find rest for your souls.”

Lord, thank you for offering me rest.  Thank you for your presence, your guidance, your love and your salvation.  I can take comfort in You.  Continue to mold me and teach me so that I can be the Mom you want me to be.  Amen.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Two vs. Three

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
-Ecclesiastes 4:12

When my husband Curt and I were married, this Bible verse was read at our wedding.  As our pastor explained in his homily, a Christian marriage includes a public commitment to remain faithful to our spouse, but is also a commitment to keep Jesus at the center and core our marriage.

As of late, this commitment of two has been tested numerous times.  Our lives are no different than our neighbors or even yours.  The demands of work, finances, and lack of time combined with the needs of our daughter can be summed up in one word, "exhaustion!"  Of course, this exhaustion and frustration leads to less patience and more arguments.  There are times we get angry with one another and say things we regret later.  There are times we forget to honor each other's feelings and do things we know upset the other person.  Sometimes, we both want to throw our hands in the air and say enough!

When relationships are broken, it is Jesus' grace, His forgiveness and His love that we need to make amends.  A Christian marriage is a blessing, and I am thankful for our Lord's promise to be in the center of it, both strengthening and preserving it. 

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for your promise to always be with us.  Strengthen our marriages, and keep our relationships close to you.  When we feel angry and upset, help us to love and forgive unconditionally.  Amen! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

No Matter What

“We love because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard about “the terrible twos.” During the first few months of our son’s second year, we really felt like this stage should be called the “terrific twos.” Recently, however, boundaries, as well as our patience, have been tested. Dining out in restaurants used to be a pleasant experience; now there are times when we can’t get out of there fast enough! Getting our son into his car seat used to be a breeze; now there are times when it is a battle. The list could go on and on, and I’m sure every parent reading this could add a few things as well. And I hear that age three is harder! Now they tell me!

The amazing thing is that no matter how frustrated or worn out we become, we still love our children beyond anything we could have ever imagined. This is just one of the many ways in which our relationship with our children mirrors our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is so hard to imagine how God could love a miserable sinner like me. How could He still love me when I continue to mess up on a daily basis in thought, word, and deed? His word tells me that He does.The above verse from 1 John is just one part of a bigger discussion about love. Verse 10 states, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (You can read the rest of the chapter HERE.) Even though it’s there in His word, sometimes our human nature needs a more tangible reminder. Enter children. Only now can I begin to understand how this whole love/forgiveness/grace thing works. God doesn’t excuse our sin and tell us “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.” What He tells us is that we are forgiven. Jesus died for us, and our sins are washed away. It’s not okay. It’s not “acceptable.” But we are forgiven, and He still loves us. No matter what.

Thank You, dear Jesus, for loving us, poor sinners that we are. Thank You for blessing us with children, who help to make Your love for us something we can catch a glimpse of here on this earth even though it is so far beyond our human understanding. Fill us with Your love so that we can share it with others, especially with those in our own families. Amen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fear Not - Wait for the Lord!

I try not to let myself think about my fears too often. You see, I have an over-active imagination, and it doesn’t take much for something to be blown completely out of proportion in my mind. When I was growing up, I babysat my little brothers a lot, and if my parents were late getting home, I’d sit waiting for them and imagining all the things that could have happened to them and what I would do if they died and I had to raise my little brothers. Sometimes, I’d follow these fears around in my head so long that I ended up crying as though something had actually happened.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

I still have that habit of letting my imagination run away with itself. It’s something I have to work to control, especially when the fears are unfounded.

But sometimes, I have very real fears. (And I have to work even harder to control my imagination with these fears.) These days, most of my fears have to do with the baby. It's a rather active child... What if it gets tangled up in the umbilical cord and we have to do an emergency c-section? It happened with my goddaughter; she was born eight weeks early and almost six years later still has some serious health issues. Another friend recently had a baby 13 weeks early. We only have six and a half weeks to go, but problems could still show up. And what about after the baby comes? I have loads of fears about motherhood, and like I said, I have an overactive imagination.

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me
yet I will be confident.

I have a very dear friend who, earlier this year, had a seizure in the middle of the night. Scans and tests revealed a lesion or cyst on her brain. They faced a big decision: undergo surgery to remove the cyst or go on medication to manage the seizures. Either decision was and still is scary. And though they've decided against surgery at this point, I know she and her family continue to have a lot of fears. But I also know that they rest secure in the knowledge of God’s love and mercy.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
I believe I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!

Fear is always going to be a part of our lives. It comes from living in a sinful, fallen world. It’s easy to get caught up in our fears, to let our imaginations over-power our trust in God. But fear and sin is not the end of our stories. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have complete confidence that sin and fear are defeated. And even when our fears attempt to overwhelm us, we can rest in the peace that God gives us.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

(Psalm 27: 1-5, 13 ESV)

Father, give me courage and peace when I am afraid or when I face problems that threaten to overwhelm me. Be my strength when I have none. Thank you for being my light and my salvation. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Genesis 50:17 I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and wrongs they have committed in treating you so badly.

So, I teach middle school kids. Yes, you read that correctly. I have devoted the last fifteen years of my ministry to working with, training up and loving on middle school kids. I don't even want to count the total number of days, minutes and seconds of my life that is.

Funny thing is I often find myself telling the kids the following gem: Excuses are like armpits....they stink. That vivid analogy, while one i would prefer to not explore, is so definitely true.

We spend hours and hours coming up with excuses for why the laundry didn't get done. Why the dishes are still in the sink. And yes, why my devotion was not posted at 12:01am this morning as is typical.

The honest to goodness truth was that I was procrastinating about writing it. I remembered on Friday and thought I would have plenty of time on Saturday. Saturday rolled around and I told myself there was Sunday. Sunday came and went and so did Monday morning. Alas, here I am frantically typing away on Monday afternoon a devotion that ought to have been written days ago.

As I sit here typing, the reality is that I am so blessed to have a God, and hopefully and dedicated following of readers, that are so willing to forgive me for my failing and accept my humble apologies for my lack of better judgement.

Lesson learned and notations made God. We cannot rely on excuses that stink to cover up our shortcomings. And how truly blessed we are to have you blessing and forgiving us.

Father, we thank you so much for forgiving us for our failings. We thank you for loving us through our faults and blessing our lives in ways that we truly don't deserve. Lord remind us continually that we need you in our lives. Amen.

My God is so Big!

Let everything that has breath Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!  Psalm 150:5-6

This morning I heard my daughter wake up and come down the hallway.  She was singing at the top of her lungs, this is pretty normal for her.  But when I realized what she was singing I had to stop and smile: "My God is so big, so strong and so mighty..."

I'm not much of a morning person, but I'm a mom so I get up and deal with morning anyway.  I can't remember a day in recent history where I got out of bed and starting singing praises to God.  What a great, gentle reminder her beautiful singing was for me this morning.  Each day is a blessing and even when I don't feel like it - I need to praise God.

Several years ago after suffering a miscarriage I had some friends from church over.  We found this quote and loved it.  I haven't looked at it again until recently and was reminded again how great these words are:

Heavenly Father,
I thank and praise you for all the blessings you bestow on me.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart bless your name.