Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas To Do List

What shall I render to the Lord for all of his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
Psalm 116:12-14
Christmas is a time set aside to observe in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It also serves as a reminder that we are waiting on His return. It's only natural then, that we want to glorify Him in our celebrations. When it comes to our kids, our attempts seem to be overshadowed by ol Saint Nick, wish lists, and bright shiny packages. Did I say kids? I get pretty pumped up over the shiny packages myself.
My husband and I are still working out our approach to the secular traditions of the holiday season. In the past, I fell into the trap of choosing our approach, setting my own laws of what not to do, and fighting to adhere to these additions to the law... Well, that can take the Merry right out of Christmas faster than the twinkling of a light. It is appropriate for Christian families to feel convicted to keep Christ at the center of such a fast-paced season. I became too legalistic in my approach, placing the emphasis on my actions rather than on Christ's redeeming actions. Christian families everywhere will decide what customs are best for their family, and it will look different from household to household. The unifying factor is Christ!
This year's To Do and what Not To Do list will be different. TO DO: As instructed in Psalm 116:13-14, "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people." Does anyone else notice that this to do list has everything to do with what He did for us?
Dear Lord, you have given us the most important gift- eternal life through Christ Jesus. Use us to speak this truth to the children. Heavenly father, You see all and know all, and You have written our names in the Book of Life. Neither our naughtiness nor our niceness earned us a place in heaven. We are heirs of Your heavenly kingdom by Your grace. Our niceness is only possible through You. As we place our hope in You, Lord, we ask that you guide and protect us and our children through worldy distractions that exist all around us. AMEN.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Here!

"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people."
Luke 2:10

The Christmas season has officially begun!  And, if your house is like mine, this is the time of year when your skills as a homemaker are put to the ultimate test--decorating, shopping,  gift wrapping, parties, church and school pageants--the list goes on and on.  And, we still have our regular housekeeping duties to do as well!  Quickly, the joy of the Christmas season can turn into a stress-filled time--especially for us moms.  We can feel burdened by the pressures to make everything "just right" for those around us. But, that is when we realize that we have become much too focused upon the "holiday spirit of this world" and not upon "the true meaning of Christmas."

Yesterday, we celebrated the beginning of a new Church Year and the first Sunday in Advent.  It is always such an exciting time of year~ as it fills us with feelings of anticipation and hope as we wait on the "coming" of our Lord.  The focus of the Advent season is the celebration of the birth of our newborn King, Jesus.  Advent is also the spiritual journey of individuals, families, and the Church as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in His Church today, and that He will come again in glory. That is the importance of being in Church during this Advent season: it keeps us in the Word, and focused upon the baby in the manger--the One who forgives us and fills us with His joy and peace.

May we focus upon the manger as we enjoy all the sounds, smells, and sights of this beautiful season. Because we know that when our Lord comes--whether it is in the manger, in the font, in His Word, or in His Supper--He brings with Him "the good news of great joy," the greatest Christmas gift of all: our salvation. And, that is what Christmas is truly all about. 

Dear Heavenly Father, We are humbled by and so thankful for the perfect Christmas gift you have given to us in your Son,  Jesus Christ. Through the help of Your Spirit, may we focus upon Him during this busy time of year.  Bless us with the joy, peace, and love that can only come from You.  And, may we in turn, share it with all those we encounter during this Advent season.  In Christ's name, Amen.

Friday, November 25, 2011


But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. Ruth 1: 16-19a

I love everything about Ruth.

I admire her faithfulness…

In what must have been a heartbreaking time; all the men in the family had died. Naomi tried to convince her daughter-in-law Ruth to return to her own family, but she refused. Naomi had been right where she was some ten years before when her own husband died. We tend to cling to those who have been through the same life experiences as we have, and so in their shared grief, Ruth clung to Naomi.

I aspire to her humility…

In gathering the leftovers in the wheat field so she could feed her small family. She was honest and hard working, but she couldn't redeem herself. She needed help.

I am amazed by her bravery…

In placing herself at the feet of Boaz she put herself in danger in an attempt to preserve her family. Boaz had been watching her though; watching her care for Naomi. He had in fact given special orders to protect her from the day she set foot on his land. It’s easy to understand why he wanted to marry her and become the redeemer both she and Naomi needed.

I am encouraged by her focus…

In doing what was right, and on the one true God. When Ruth thought about returning to her own mother and the place of her birth, she knew that also meant returning to a people lost in the worship of other gods. She couldn’t go. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” She was a wise woman.

I am going to try to follow her lead…

In this sometimes chaotic season of Advent I tend to find myself losing focus. Whether it is lack of sleep, lack of funds, or lack of motivation, it all can really be blamed on a lack of focus. Beyond all the 3:00 am sales, the cookie baking, and the piles of wrapping paper we find the only gift that really even matters. It’s the gift whose warranty never expires; the one that never wears out; the only gift that is absolutely free.

Heavenly Father,

Keep me focused this season as I confess with my family our faith in you, and in your Son, our Redeemer. Keep me focused as I worship with my children and read the Christmas story again and again. Help me never tire of it. Keep me focused as I nurture their amazement in the true meaning of the most important gift we have ever received.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It Shall Not Return to Me Empty

The other day, after returning from a particularly long day at work (school), I sat down at my computer to check my e-mail. What I found was an e-mail from a parent of one of our more difficult students. The letter informed us that this was Hannah’s last day of school; they would now be homeschooling her. They no longer wanted to waste our time as teachers. The mom then went on to write that what was most upsetting to her was that her daughter would no longer go through confirmation class and get confirmed in the Lutheran faith. Her daughter did not believe in God and did not want to join the church. This is a girl who we as a teaching group have struggled with, but we always reminded each other that she may not be passing her classes, but at least she is hearing the Gospel. After reading this devastating message from the mother, my sinful self immediately thought, “Well, we really did waste our time.” It was followed immediately by a deep sense of grief and sadness. I was crushed, and started crying.
My family was at the table having dinner, so I began to tell my husband why I was upset as my two and four year old children were listening. My four year old asked me, “Mom, why doesn’t she believe in God? Will she go to hell?” Initially, I started kicking myself for not waiting until my kids had gone to bed to talk about the issue, and considered trying to change the subject. But it quickly turned into a learning experience for me! My four year old understood exactly why I was so sad. If Hannah truly doesn’t believe, then she will go to hell, and that makes me sad, and Christ sad as well. There’s no use in hiding it from my kids. The two of them showed me so much love and concern because they didn’t like to see their mommy crying. It was a beautiful moment.
As I continued to grieve and process the information I was reminded of two verses that are especially important to me as a teacher and a mother. There are times when I feel like a complete failure because the kids don’t seem to “get it!” At these times I find comfort in the words of Isaiah 55: 10-11:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
And the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3: 6-7:
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
The pressure is lifted. By being a part in sharing the Gospel with Hannah, I was used as God wanted me to be. But I cannot be Hannah’s savior. Through the Spirit and other people that God will send, I have hope that Heather will one day cling to that Savior, Jesus!

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, Please forgive me when I try to take over the roll of savior. Thank you for your Word and your Spirit that give us the tools we need as your workers. Father, I plead with you to send workers into Hannah’s life and the lives of all students, that they may accept your love and forgiveness. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanking God for Unanswered Prayers

At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words. The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. 
The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to.
Romans 8:26-27 (God's Word Translation)

It's the week of Thanksgiving.  Every year at this time, we always hear tons of people thanking God for the prayers they've had answered in the past year.  You may be one of them.  And that's great--we should always thank God for our blessings.

But have you ever thanked God for the prayers He didn't answer?  I've always loved the words to this Garth Brooks song:

Just the other night at a hometown football game 
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame 
And as I introduced them the past came back to me 
And I couldn't help but think of the way things used to be 

She was the one that I'd wanted for all times 
And each night I'd spend prayin' that God would make her mine 
And if he'd only grant me this wish I wished back then 
I'd never ask for anything again 

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers 
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs 
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care 
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers 

She wasn't quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams 
And I could tell that time had changed me 
In her eyes too it seemed 
We tried to talk about the old days 
There wasn't much we could recall 
I guess the Lord knows what he's doin' after all 

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife 
And then and there I thanked the good Lord 
For the gifts in my life 

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers

It's interesting to think of it that way, isn't it?  I think about all the prayers I've said through the years.  The prayer to marry my high school boyfriend.  If that had been answered, I would never have met Dan, and had our three wonderful children.  There's the prayer to live in Minnesota at our first congregation forever.  If that had been answered, we wouldn't have moved to Wisconsin, where I've met some of the best friends of my life.  So many "unanswered" prayers that, looking back, were answered, just in God's own way.

When we pray, many of us are praying for a "yes" to our requests.  There are times, though, that God isn't ready to answer our requests.  Or maybe He is ready to answer, but the answer is not the one we were looking for.  As our Bible verse says, "The One who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind.  The Spirit intercedes for God's people the way God wants him to."  Sometimes we don't always know what is best for us.  But God always knows what's best for us.  He always knows, and He has a plan for us.  

So I'll be thanking God this Thanksgiving, for ALL of my prayers--both answered, and unanswered.

We pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, we praise You for all You have done for us.  You have given us so many blessings.  Help us to remember to be Thankful for all the answers to prayer You have given us.  Be with us, so that we can remember that it is not our will, but Thy will be done.  In Your name we pray, Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Parent I Want to Be...

Romans 7:19-25

For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I have been struggling lately with a parental identity crisis.  Don't get me wrong, it is my daily desire to be the patient "soccer" mom who reads books each night, who pays 100% attention to their child and one who is not rattled when their child makes a complete mess time and time again.  Each day I wake up praying to be a better, more patient and loving parent, and each night I go to bed praying that tomorrow will be better.  Guilt and an overwhelming sense of failure have been my parental identity as of late (and she's only 16 months old!). 

This verse from Romans has been running through my head, except, with permission from the Apostle Paul, I would substitute the words for verse 19 to read something like this, "For I am not the parent I want to be, but the parent I don't want to be - this I keep being."  I detest myself when my frustration, exhaustion and irritation leave my daughter upset or even in tears, and I hate it when I let my anger get the best of me.

Thankfully, the verse goes on to explain that the good we want to do, we can't because of our sin. It is only through Jesus that we are delivered.  Therefore, the parent I want to be, I can't be on my own.  My sin gets me every time.  Since, however I have been brought to faith through the waters of baptism, and have been given the promise of eternal life through Jesus' death and resurrection, there is daily forgiveness and the hope of tomorrow.  Thank goodness - for both Olivia's sake and mine!

Dear Jesus,
Help me to be the parent you want me to be.  Thank you for your daily forgiveness and promises of tomorrow.  Strengthen and preserve us your dear children and keep us close to you.  Amen

Friday, November 18, 2011

Piercing Words

She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue
Proverbs 31:26

Hannah is such a beautiful example of a virtuous woman on several accounts.  We regularly examine her prayer life and dedication to the Lord despite infertility.  But as I was reading this account again today something jumped out at me.  Hannah was mocked by her husband's other wife: "And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her" 1 Samuel 1:6 and it goes on to say in vs. 7 that it went on "year after year."  Ouch.  Imagine having to live with someone who says mean things to you regularly for years.

We have all experienced pain because of the words of a person around us.  Sometimes the words can dig deep and hurt for days (okay, even years), others we are able to brush off.  What I love about this account with Hannah is that it does not record her retaliating with words, it records her praying and going to the Lord.  There is clear pain, it talks of her not eating and weeping but along with the pain she takes it to the Lord.

I think there are two things on this topic that we can take away from this story
 1)A reminder that our words can be absolutely devastating and we should choose them carefully: Proverbs 31:26 talks of a woman using her mouth for wisdom and kindness - may we always strive to be that woman.  
2)When the words of others hurt us we need to take it to the Lord.  The guidance, wisdom, and peace he will provide us with are exactly what we need.

Heavenly Father,
Please help us to choose our words carefully.  Our children, friends, family, and spouses need to hear words of wisdom and kindness just as they do from you.  And when others words hurt us, remind us to turn to you in that pain and forgive freely.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giving Thanks

Give Thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16: 34

Each Monday I take part in a Leadership Team meeting with the administrators at the school where I work. We are have the entire week of Thanksgiving off of school so the meeting this week we focused on giving Thanks. The week before Thanksgiving is a busy one at my school as we have our annual fall book fair, two full days of celebrating grandparents and a special Thanksgiving Feast for our Middle School kids. Not to mention that it all happens the during one of the longest stretches of time with no school holidays. Everyone is on edge and especially the teachers that are in need of a mental health break before we come back to make the final stretch toward final exams. With all that in mind, I wrote the following devotion for our administrators and thought that it would also apply to us as parents working toward raising our kids.


It is so easy in times of great blessings to turn to you thanking you for being there and for looking out for all of us by providing us with what we need.

It is so easy Lord in difficult times to call out to you questioning where you are in our time of need.

Next week we set aside a day especially for remembering our great blessings and Lord I do not thank you enough for all that you do. So, dear Lord I thank you now. I especially thank you for the unseen blessings that you provide.

Lord, I thank you for illness as it serves as a reminder about your blessings of doctors, medicines and ultimately that you are indeed the great physician who can and will take away those challenges if it is your will.

Lord, I thank you for conflict with my coworkers as it serves as a reminder that hard work pays off usually, that working allows me to share without fear my faith in you as my Savior. It reminds me that I am blessed to have a job where I can talk to you in public without fear of retribution and it reminds me that I am blessed with a job when so many others are without.

Lord, I thank you diagreements with my spouse as they serve as a reminder of the partnership that you placed together to glorify you. It reminds me that I have someone to count on, someone that loves me without demanding in return.

Lord, I thank you for battle of the wills with my children as it serves as a reminder that you have blessed them with special gifts that will be polished over time to show your glory to a world so needing to hear about your unending, unconditional love.

It is hard at times Lord to see your many blessings in the daily challenges that we face as parents, workers and spouses. But, just as we can see your blessings in a beautiful sunrise or in a song your blessings can be seen in all of these experiences.

Thank you Lord for all of your many blessings.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Give Thanks!

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, many of us are especially mindful of the blessings in our lives. I have a friend who is making daily posts on facebook concerning the things for which she is thankful. However, it can be harder for some of us than others to bring those things to mind. You may be going through a difficult time. You may be struggling with grief, loss, sickness, or financial burdens. You may just be one of those people who tend to see their glass as half-empty rather than half-full.

As wives and mothers, we often feel overwhelmed with the many responsibilities that come with these roles. I admit that I have been struggling a lot lately with priorities and meeting all the demands of work and home life. When I come across Scripture, like the above verse from 1 Thessalonians, it can feel more like an impossible mandate than the affirmation I need to give me the strength to keep going. For example, I’ll give you a little view of my personal thought dialog from just yesterday:

“I stayed up until one o’clock this morning writing lesson plans so that Joel and I could go out and spend some time together without the thought of work hanging over my head. What is my reward? My back goes out and I’m searching for a chiropractor who is open on the weekend. Not only is this day, that I’ve been looking forward to for weeks, not going as planned, but how am I supposed to handle the week ahead? I have to come up with a good recipe for chili for the PTL event, and I am certainly not an adept or creative cook. Then I have to find time to make it, figure out how to decorate the table…and what about work? How am I supposed to get up and down off the floor numerous times a day and wrangle preschoolers? How am I supposed to get my house cleaned and ready for Thanksgiving company? And on top of it all, I forgot that I have this devotion to write…really, God? Am I really supposed to give thanks for this?”

Very recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Christian women’s conference meant to uplift and encourage moms. One of the speakers whom I especially enjoyed was Jennifer Rothschild, who went blind at the age of seventeen. As you can imagine, she has had to overcome many challenges throughout her life. One of the audience members in Mrs. Rothschild’s workshop asked her, “Are you thankful for blindness, or are you bitter?” I fully expected her response to be that she was thankful for her blindness. After all, she was there speaking about the lessons she has learned due to her situation. She was there to encourage us. Her answer surprised and struck me. She said that she was neither bitter nor thankful for blindness. However, she was thankful in blindness. Then she quoted 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Wow! What a difference one little preposition makes! I consider myself an educated person with reasonable intelligence, but I have often read this passage and equated the in with a for. I looked it up in five different versions of the Bible, and they all definitely use the two letter word i-n. It is liberating to know that God doesn’t expect me to be thankful for back pain, exhaustion, or disappointment. After all, these things aren’t what God intended for us. They are all consequences of a sinful world. But, I can give thanks in pain, exhaustion, and disappointment because God offers His grace which is sufficient for me. I can be thankful in these circumstances because God works in and through all things for the good of those who love him and have been called according to His purpose.

Dear God, Thank you for the many blessings you pour out on me daily. Allow me to see the unexpected blessings that come through struggle. When I get wrapped up in the circumstances of my here and now, help me to rejoice in the hope and the future you have planned for me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Peace in a Broken World

"The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."
Psalm 29:11

We live in a broken world.  We don't have to look very far to see the pain, sadness, and grief that people are experiencing--parents devastated by the diagnosis of  their cancer-stricken child; a marriage shattered by infidelity; a family torn apart by mental illness or addiction; a church, university, or community destroyed by the abuse of an authority figure.  As humans--and, perhaps, even more so as parents-- we can be left feeling frustrated, burdened, and hopeless about the reality of sin in this world.  It is in these times that we realize what our lives can be apart from God. 

So often we look to ourselves for the strength to get through difficult times; we look to the ways of the world to fix our problems.  Yet, we are reminded that it is Christ alone who can remedy all of our pain.  It is Christ alone who conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil. So, we look to the cross and are given the strength to carry the burdens in our lives.  We look to the empty tomb for the peace of knowing that our hurt is only temporary.  
It is not always easy to be a Christian mom in this broken world.  But, in Christ, we find our strength and true peace.  It is in His church,  that we are filled with His Word and fed with His Body and Blood.  And, in His love and mercy, He has given us each other as "a cloud of witnesses" to lean upon during trials.  May we use the strength and peace we receive from Christ's gifts to live the life He has called us to live on this earth.  And, may we fix our eyes upon the perfect and complete life we will one day have with Him for all eternity.

Dear Almighty Father, 
Help us daily to look to you for encouragement when we become downtrodden with the sinfulness of this world.  Forgive us and renew us through Your gifts. May we  look  to You for guidance, strength, and peace as we share Your love with those around us.
In Christ's name~ Amen.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hired by God

“Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.  She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided.”  Judges 4:4-5

Let me tell you about Deborah. 

Israelites come to her seeking wisdom and guidance, and she considers herself a “mother of Israel.”  One day she summons Barak and shares with him a command from God to “take 10,000 men” and lead the way to defeat the Canaanites.  The King of Canaan (Jabin) is in a good position because he has the military leadership of a powerful commander, Sisera plus 900 iron chariots.  So the Israelites had been under his thumb for a good 20 years and were, apparently, scared out of their minds.  To be fair, 900 chariots was probably a pretty fabulous advantage.  J  But the Lord’s message to Barak, delivered clearly by Deborah, is that He will “lure Sisera…with his chariots and troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.” 

This seems like a good plan, but Barak is not convinced.  “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”  Barak’s lack of trust can probably be explained rationally by whatever life experiences he has had.  But it’s nothing to be proud of.  Deborah is like, ‘fine,’ but know that “the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.” 


So they go and I’m sure it was crazy and somehow they got the 10,000 men they needed together to go and face their foe.  And just as God had said, he leads them (via Deborah) down the mountain to the enemy who is waiting near the Kishon River, which seems like a good idea (for Sisera) until the Lord sends a powerful storm and flood.  Sisera’s men are defeated and Sisera runs off.  He flees “to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite” because Heber’s clan had a good relationship with King Jabin’s clan, so he thinks he can find protection there.  Instead, after allowing him in and giving him a false sense of security, Jael kills him while he sleeps.  When Barak finally gets there, the party is over.  Another woman to the rescue.  Jabin is no longer a threat and Israel gets back “the land of milk and honey.”

Pause to let it sink in.  There’s a lot going on here. 

But here’s what I’d like us to take from Deborah today:  Be confident about the job God has given you. 

Deborah’s courage and trust is so blatant; I am intrigued by it.  I want her unwavering confidence in her role and what actions should be taken.  This is the role the Lord has given her, and she shows no hesitancy in carrying it out.  I get overwhelmed with all the responsibilities of being a mom - all the things our family has going on right now - and I have moments of despair.  I wonder if I can do anything right.  Some days I feel like a failure. 

On the other hand, when I look at the mountains before me, I have to admit the facts facing Deborah were much more daunting.   Still, she knew God had put her in this place and time – as “the mother of Israel” for a reason.  He could use her there.  Likewise, he’s using me and you.  He chose me to be the mother of these children, wife to this man.  He gave me these talents and passions so I could share them with my kids and use them for the good of my family.  He fills me up with His grace and His love so I can share it with the people in my life today. 

Learn from Deborah.  Be confident.  Hold your head up high.  You are the only one who can do the job God is giving you today. 

Lord thank you for the job you have given me.  Give me confidence and make me brave.  Show me how I can do this job to glorify your name.  Thank you for the example of Deborah, and other confident mothers who have taught me so much.  I will lean on you.  Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are We There Yet?

“Your kingdom come.” Matthew 6:10

Many of us have been in the car with our family on our way to a fun destination and heard the words, “are we there yet?” streaming from one of the back seats. The excitement and anticipation of your arrival takes over any patience the child may have. They can hardly wait to get there and enjoy!

When I was a child, I can vividly remember a time when I very much felt this way about heaven. I was so excited to get to heaven and start enjoying all that it had to offer. In anticipation and eagerness, I would pray every night that Jesus would come and that He would take me to heaven to live with Him. Now, I was a very happy and healthy girl, so this was not me seeking to get away from life here on earth. I was just truly and genuinely that excited to spend my eternity in heaven.

As I have gotten older I find that I do not think this way as much as I did then, but shouldn’t we? So often we begin to look at death and the “end times” with fear and dread. In reality there is nothing for us to fear or dread, rather in faith we should look forward to the time when Jesus will come and take us to heaven to live with Him.

In the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for this very thing. “Your kingdom come.” Martin Luther explores what we are praying for in this petition in Luther’s Small Catechism. Luther says this, “We do not pray that God’s kingdom of power would come, because that is already present everywhere, but we ask God to…

A. Give us His Holy Spirit so that we believe His Word and lead godly lives
as members of His kingdom of grace;
B. Bring many others into His kingdom of grace;
C. Use us to extend His kingdom of grace;
D. Hasten the coming of His kingdom of glory.

“Hasten the coming of His kingdom of glory.” Amen! Are we there yet? No, but the time of our arrival in heaven will come. Until then, we can continue to look forward to that day with eagerness and excited anticipation. As we do so, we pray that God will give us His Holy Spirit so we believe His Word, lead godly lives, bring others to Him, and help to extend His kingdom.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You that we have an eternity in Your heavenly kingdom to look forward to. As we eagerly await the time we will arrive there, send us Your Holy Spirit to strengthen our faith and keep us strong and steadfast in the work You give us to do. Amen!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3)

I am waiting. At this point, there's really nothing else I can do. We have just over a week until baby's due date, and everything (as far as I know) is ready. I've learned all I can stand to learn about labor and delivery; baby's room is ready with all the furniture, gear, gadgets, and clothes we can pack into it; and thanks to my mom, we have about two weeks' worth of meals in our freezer. The only thing I can think of to do yet is pack a bag for the hospital, and the only reason I haven't done that is because I need to have something to do.

When I know exactly when something is going to happen, I don't mind the waiting so much. But when something could happen at any time, waiting is mind-numbing. The days seem so long, and the nights...the nights wouldn't be so bad if I could just sleep, but every time I have to get up or every time my aching body wakes me up and I have to change to a (slightly) more comfortable position, all I can do is wonder how much longer until baby comes. So. I'm waiting.

I know Advent is still several weeks away, but at this time of year, my thoughts to another great waiting. Just as the Israelites of the Old Testament waited for their promised Savior, so we today wait for the return of our Savior. I wonder: what do we do to prepare for His coming? In the same way that we prepare a room for a new baby, do we prepare our hearts for Jesus' return? Are we engaged in His Word, growing in our faith, and sharing His good news with others?

Habakkuk reminds us that the time will come, it will not delay. The promise of a Savior was fulfilled in Jesus, and His promise to return to us will also be fulfilled. We can rest assured in this promise, and in another--when we grow impatient or forgetful or self-reliant, we have the promise that God loves us still and forgives us. What an amazing God we have, who keeps His promises to us!

Father, as we wait for your return, keep us mindful that you fulfill your promises. Keep us steadfast in our waiting. Even so, we ask that you come quickly, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pressing On with Discipline

Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, continue to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to act according to His good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

Our middle child, who we refer to as our "sweet and spicy" daughter, is a rule analyzer and debater. I've had visions of her cross-examining me with impressive success, as I sit crouched down in an ominous court room. Did I mention she is only three years of age? Our discipline approach is quite simple. Here are the rules. Here are the consequences. Whining and crying will not change our authority. Our oldest has fallen into place (most days) as if he's in a military camp. Our bright eyed girl has not.

Recently, my husband and I have examined ourselves as well as our discipline approach. Are we perfectly obedient to our Father in heaven? Well, no. Paul writes in Philippians 3:12, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own." There we go. We, the parents, know that true obedience can only be God working in us "according to His good purpose." We get our strength from being in Christ. We pray more fervently than we even realize, not only at meal times and bed time, but with this little inner voice, throughout the day because we know the importance of being controlled by the Spirit rather than our very real and present sinful nature.

How can the above realization shape our discipline? #1- We will not soften in our expectations as we are "pressing on" for our kids to make God's instructions their own. #2- We will encourage our children by linking specific behaviors with specific Biblical principles. #3- We will communicate our forgiveness to our children and model asking for forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. This will help them see that Christ Jesus has made us His own through forgiveness of sins. I must confess that we were doing a lot more of #1 than we were numbers 2 and 3. Praise be to God for His perfect love and disicpline. After all, where would we be without the grace of God?

Dear Lord, daily we sin and fall short of Your glory. Forgive us. Renew us. Help us to "do all things without grumbling or questioning that we may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish..." Philippians 2:14a. Lord, we know it is only because You have made us Your own through the blood of Jesus that we are able to illuminate His goodness that is in us. Help us parents be patient with our kids, remembering we are all "pressing on" as Your children. AMEN.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fitting into Rahab's Family

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. Hebrews 11:31

Most likely, fitting in was not something Rahab was well known for in Jericho. What do you think her family thought of her job? Did they experience any repercussions from the community because she was a prostitute, or did it just mean that she really did fit into this godless city set for destruction? We know the people there worshipped false gods. Had her profession also become the norm?

It is apparent that Rahab’s family loved her. Her father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all who belonged to her; they were with her when the Israelites came to defeat Jericho. But, Rahab must have at times still felt set apart from her own community, if not in her role as a prostitute, then certainly from the time between the visit from the two spies to the day that Joshua came knocking down everyone’s door but hers.

I wonder what she thought when Joshua’s spies showed up at her home. She immediately invited them in and acknowledged their God as the God of the heavens and the earth. God had chosen her to protect his people, and she was more than willing to participate in his plan of salvation. My suspicion is too that secrecy, meeting with strange men, and lying to the authorities were not at all foreign to her.

After the fall of Jericho, she went from life as a prostitute and an outsider, to being set apart in a whole new way. Rahab didn’t know it, but she played another important role in God’s plan of eternal salvation; she was a direct descendent of the Son of God himself. She became Boaz’s mother, Ruth’s mother-in-law, and the great-great grandmother of King David.

We all have times when we aren’t convinced that we fit in, whether within our community, among fellow believers at church, or even in our own families. It is at these times when we can read Rahab’s story again. In Joshua chapter 2, God tells us how he used a vile human to do his victorious work. Throw out that nice pretty picture you have in your head of what a woman of God looks like, and remember that Rahab didn’t fit in because of who she was, she fit in because of whose she was. The same can be said of us.

We belong to a God who uses us in spite of ourselves, and has placed us in the family line of the Savior of the World. With the wicked, with the vile, with the faithful, with the forgiven, we fit right in. God’s plan is at work in us, in the depth of our sin, because of the love of our Savior. Rest assured you fit into Rahab’s family. It’s a good thing. Hers is the family of God, and we too are part of his plan of salvation.

God of the Heavens and the Earth,

There are times when I don’t know where I fit into your plan. Give me the peace and contentment that only you can provide, knowing that although I don’t know where, I do in fact fit. Help me to trust in you as you use me in your plan of salvation for my family.

In Jesus Name, Amen.