Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

There are many ways we express love to one another. We share these words with our spouse and our children daily if not more often. We send little texts or emails to our spouses each day sharing with them that we are thinking about them or that we are thinking of them.
In the book of 1 John, John reminds us as children of God that we are to do more than love just with our words but with our actions.

As mothers we have the important role as one of the first caregivers of our children. As an expectant mother I could never have fathomed the amount of love that developed for my children as I carried them within me. Yet each doctor's visit, each little flitter, the sound of their beating hearts all added to the great love developing within my heart and in my soul for these amazing beings.
We yearned for the day they would be born to be able to hold them, kiss them and care for them. To count their tiny toes and teeny fingers.
As I matured in my faith life the one thing that has spoken to me, hit me right in the heart, is that just as we as mothers desired to have in our relationship with our children is a direct reflection as God's creation.
God, our heavenly Father, wants desperately to have that same type of relationship with us as we do to our own children. He put his words of love into action by sending his Son Jesus to be His walking, talking, teaching, nurturing, correcting and rebuking representation in this physical world. Just as we are loved completely by God we are to show that same complete type of love not only to our children, spouse or family members but to the entire world around us. Wow, thank goodness that we have the perfect example to follow.
Christ loved the people of the day that were considered outcasts, he shared meals with the people in the community that others avoided. He was there in word and in action to all of those in need.
Each day as I grab my bags, my lunch, gather my two boys and head out to start the day I stop to tell my husband that I love them and give him a hug and a kiss. Just as I take a moment to stop and share with my husband that I love him, I need to be reminded to stop and take a moment to share with others to reflect God's love.
Let's face it, as parents it is often challenging to love the attitude, the fighting, the pushing the envelope and the increasing hormonal changes that growing up brings. I am reminded daily that it is these challenges in which our actions of love are most needed. Thank goodness God loved us through all of our most challenging times.

Dear God, Thank you for loving us so completely. As we go about our day today as a mother sacrificing sleep, time, and energy may we be reminded that each interaction, each sacrifice, each hug, kiss, kind word and minute spent patiently waiting are all ways that we share your love to the world. Amen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Use Me

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I have mentioned in other posts that we recently moved into a new house… that my husband built… with his own hands… over the course of 2 ½ years.  J  And while the time of building was very stressful and difficult on our marriage, I also spent a lot of time wondering why I was so blessed to have a new house… the role of a stay-at-home mom… and a healthy family.  We have had our ups and downs, but let’s face it: I’m one lucky girl.  And I feel guilty about that. 

What am I to do?  I’ve prayed about this a lot.  My guilt is not nearly as strong now as it was.  God has shown me that sitting around feeling guilty is not his will for me.  Obviously he put me in this spot, with these children and this family, my needs met – for a reason.  And I have to figure it out.

It’s not a game.  God isn’t playing CLUE with me.  But I’m human and I like making things harder than they need to be.  How ‘bout I just look it up?

Joshua 24:14 – Now, therefore fear the Lord (respect Him), and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away other gods…and serve the Lord.  Choose this day whom you will serve.

Who are you going to serve?  I ask myself.  My checkbook?  My children?  My indulgences? 

Count the number of sentences in this passage and the number of times a form of the word “serve” is used.  That’s a clue.  It’s an important concept. 

I have, in this time of excess, seen that God wants me to SERVE others with the blessings he has showered upon me.  He wants me to love, and listen, and be compassionate, and offer hope, and prayer, and open up my new home as a place where people can come together to serve and be uplifted. 

It’s so important that we feel like we have a purpose.  What in the world has God put me here for?  What will I be when I am done raising small children?  How can I be of use to others? 

As a writer I love the idea that moms should have a mission statement.  As a believer, I love the idea that we would seek out God’s role for us in the big picture.  Choose today whom you will serve.

God’s Blessings.

Lord, show us in our daily, regular lives, how we can serve you.  Help us to recognize the purpose you have for us and empower us to fulfill this purpose.  Make it clear that your strength and power are what enable us, Lord.  Help us to teach our children to serve you.  Amen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rise Up and Go, Free from Bondage

And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"- he then said to the paralytic- "Rise, pick up your bed and go home." When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8
Imagine a basketball player who loses the use of his knee. With his career at stake, he seeks out physical therapy in hopes of getting back out on the courts. Depending on the tear, this healing and strengthening process could take months or years. The therapy begins with a thick bandage to protect the wounded area from worsening. He is prescribed sequential exercises to gradually build up his strength. Baby steps. Progressive baby steps until hopefully he can once again put his weight on it. Now, let's imagine that he is indeed fortunate enough to regain the necessary strength. He's back out on the court in a practice session with his team, and his game is sloppy, his balance is off, and his shift is slow. Now begins the practice of rewiring his muscle memory, so that the neurological transmitters of the brain can efficiently send signals to all of the right muscles in a coordinated fashion that makes this player move with smooth confidence. Now, imagine a paralytic who has no memory of using certain muscles. The intensity of this patient's therapy would increase astronomically. Patience and determination would have to be at the core of the treatment, as the baby steps may be so minute that they are undetectable.
Now, turn your focus to the healing of the paralytic in Matthew, chapter 9. Jesus says, "Rise, pick up your bed and go home." All use of the parlytic's faculties are immediately in tact. The neurological system required for such movement is suddenly in operation. The muscles go from a deep sleep to a coordinated movement. In fact, in all of Jesus' healings recorded in the Bible, there is a complete newness, and the brokenness of the past remains in the past.
In Matthew 9, Jesus commands the attention of the scribes. All of their focus was on the man's ailment, but what are Jesus' first words? "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." Jesus knew it was important that the people understood His authority over sin and our need for that healing forgiveness because that is how we are made alive in Him for eternity. In both Biblical times and modern times, there are numerous accounts of miraculous healings. To God be the glory for all of these miracles. Some have witnessed such miracles personally; others have not. Well, guess what, my friends in Christ? We have all received a miraculous healing. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved"
How many times have I held on to the guilt or shame or pain of a sin? Only to be bogged down in life and in my dealings with God's people? We too, should rise up and go forth in our God-given lives, free from the bondage of sin. The sins of the past have been absolved. We are made new with Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

They Need a Healthy Mom

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Rest sounds delightful right now. It’s finally the end of the school week, but between the early rising two year old, the laundry, and the 8:30 basketball games tomorrow morning, rest feels like just a figment of my imagination. I would love a good two hour nap.

Physical rest is not exactly what Matthew speaks of here though. His rest is an all encompassing; throw every worry, every doubt, every piece of sin laden guilt out the window, kind of rest.

The devotion this morning is a plea from me to you. I sometimes think that the line, “She is always taking care of everyone else; she never takes time for herself,” can seem a bit cliché. This may be a reality for you though. As a mom, wife, and teacher, there are days when I am so out of patience and energy that self-destructive behaviors are not only easier, but preferred. But I do still see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I know that is not the case for many moms.

For those of you who don’t see the light and have burdens that are overwhelming you, I beg you to begin the healing process today. Your children need a healthy mom.

*Seek Godly counseling if you need it. If you’re unsure, seek it anyway.

*Talk frankly with your spouse or a trusted friend. Find someone who you can be completely honest with and who will lift you up in prayer.

*Be intentional about setting aside time each week for rest, or for time away, or for healing.

Don’t believe the lies that you are alone. "For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me." Psalm 31:3

Don’t believe the lies that you can’t forgive and be forgiven. "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from EVERYTHING from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." Acts 13:38-39

Don’t believe the lies that you aren’t loved. "God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:9-10

Luther says this in his Morning Prayer (My prayer for you is specifically the last line.)

I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul and all things. Let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hard Learning

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:2-4

This past week I have found myself to be a bit emotional. I’m a mom of small children. I’m a 30-something woman. It’s part of the job description.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I ended up in tears by the end of church on Sunday. Pastor’s sermon was painfully honest with me. About how even Paul recognized his inability to do what he ‘wants’ to do – Romans 7:15 “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” We are miserable sinners. Ouch. And I sat there and thought about other people who seem to think they CAN DO good and how they need to hear this. Then I realized what I was doing and took a painful look in the mirror. And Pastor talked about how the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ are within us, constantly struggling for control. While I knew everything he was saying was true and right, I found myself really having a hard time trying to figure out how I can live the life God wants me to live.

It was hard.

Then at the end of the service my oldest baby -already 7! – got up to perform in public for the first time ever. She and her piano teacher were to do a duet during the postlude. Normally this would be background music, but today some special guests were to present after the service… and so please direct your attention to our short piano piece first! My heart tightened. I was so nervous for her. She does not like everyone looking at her!!

She started out strong. It sounded great. Then something happened and the two of them were trying to figure out who was doing what… and my girl tried really hard to salvage things.. and then they finished. She quickly walked back, careful to avoid any eye-contact, and started playing with her little brother as if she had been sitting with us the whole while.

I smiled at her and told her how proud I was. She wouldn’t look at me, just kept smiling and talking to her brother. A wave of emotions swept over me - especially the tsunami of insecurity, fear, and can-we-just-pretend-that-didn’t-happen. But they weren’t my own. They were the feelings I could see in my daughter’s face.

It was hard.

Moments later I couldn’t handle it anymore. I made it into the stall before the flood of tears came – my own insecurity, self-disgust, and fears bubbling to the surface as I desperately prayed to be a good mom. "I know I say the wrong thing frequently, Lord..” I pleaded. “But give me the right words today for my baby. I want her to know she did a great job and I don’t want her to hear any criticism in my voice…” It’s an area I am very familiar with. I was taught it well and so criticism comes easier. Much easier than pure, fabulous approval.

It’s hard to learn.

And it’s hard to watch our babies learn. I want to take it away – all the painful moments, all the insecurities, the confusion about self - the suffering! But I know I can’t. I know that God is molding my babies into incredible children of Christ – heirs to the greatest gift. I know that it is thru these moments that my children learn the most about themselves and the grace of God and the love of people and their Maker. What would I do without these Truths? How could I be a mother in this moment without them? I don’t even want to think about that. I’d rather hold on to the Hope of Christ.

Lord God, Father of all – lift me up as a parent. Help me to understand the truths about myself, so that I can better teach my children. Help me to understand the Truths about You, so that I can better teach my children. Hold on to me when the suffering sweeps past and threatens to knock me down. Fill me up with your spirit and make me the mother you have asked me to be. Amen.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:1

Today in our churches we observe Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of the season of Lent, which is a time of penitence, as we focus on the journey to the cross that our Savior walked for each of us.

As we leave our worship services today, many of us will do so with a cross made out of black ashes on our foreheads. The pastor will remind us, as these ashes are imposed on our foreheads, that “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19. God has created us from the dust of the ground, provides our food and nourishment from the dust of the ground, and one day our bodies will die and once again become dust of the ground.

We are sinful, mortal human beings. God is our Redeemer, who through temptation, suffering, pain, heartache, death, and then His victorious resurrection, won an eternity for all believers in heaven that reaches beyond our earthly bodies that will one day return to dust.

As we enter this season of Lent, it can be difficult as a parent to know just how to share with our children the trials that Jesus suffered on our behalf. It is through prayer, patience, and God’s Word that we can be open with our children, helping them to understand our Lord’s passion. Through that understanding, we pray for them, and for us, that faith is increased. Our hearts are heavy with the burden of our sin and yet Christ takes that burden for us.

We also have the privilege of sharing with our children the joy that is to come on Easter morning which, praise be to God, we still celebrate every Sunday morning in our worship services, even as we spend this time of reflection and repentance during Lent.

May God bless each of you and your children this Lenten season as you focus on our repentance, our need for a Savior, and the joy of knowing that our Savior Jesus has washed away our iniquity and cleansed us from our sin.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to you today with hearts of repentance asking your forgiveness for our sinful lives. Lord we thank you that you sent your only Son Jesus to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins and that through faith in Him and what He has done for us, we are made whole and have been redeemed. We praise and thank you today for that amazing gift. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sharing our Lives

***Today's devotion is written by Pastor Benjamin Meyer, husband to contributor, Christine***
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8)

As Christine and I were planning our wedding, we were considering what hymns and Scripture readings we would like to include in the service (a Christian wedding after all is a worship service).  We read through many passages and talked about music that we liked.  I was the pre-seminary student, but she is the one who brought up this verse from 1 Thessalonians.

At the time, the idea of sharing our lives with others meant, at least in my mind, that we were glad to have the opportunity in our wedding to have the Gospel of Jesus shared and to share our lives with those who came.

Little did I know how true this verse would be for us and our marriage.

In the years since we've been married we have been sharing our lives with others constantly.  At seminary, we shared our lives with my brother and his family as well as others who were also going through seminary at the time.  On vicarage, we began to learn what it was to share our lives, perhaps most directly through the birth of our first child.  When Timmy was born, we chose to have him baptized on a Wednesday night (since we had services every Wednesday) rather than on Sunday (when there were three separate services) so that we could share this wonderful event with the entire congregation.

Since I became a pastor, Christine and I have continued to learn the truth of these words.  As a pastor and pastor's family, there is little choice but to share our lives with those whom God has given us to serve.  You cannot be detached, rather your lives become integrated with the lives of those around you.  I share the Gospel with my congregation, but we also share our lives; the hurts, the joys, the hard times, and the good times.

St. Paul shared his life with those whom he served, I seek to do the same, but this is something that is for all Christians.  We are called by God to share our lives with each other; we are given to care for each other, to support each other, to hold each other accountable, to be there for each other.  This really isn't an optional thing that we can choose to be a part of or not the be a part of.  Rather, this is the reality of the church, the reality of the "life together" that God has given to us.

As Christ gave His life in service to us, as Paul was pleased to share his life in addition to the Gospel, so we too are called to share the Gospel and our lives with one another.  For in Christ there isn't separation and isolation, but unity and community.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whose Story is it Anyway?

"'Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?'"

Job 2:10b

Christine’s post about Job last week reminded me of a post I started but never finished back in October. Thank you for the motivation to finish it, Christine!

We recently celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. It’s such a joy to look back over a child’s first year of life and see how much they’ve grown and changed, and we always marvel at how quickly the time seems to go. This year as we celebrated our daughter’s birth, we had several people in our life who were mourning the loss of a child. It reminded us of how truly blessed we are. It made us thankful for every sleepless night and for every other parenting challenge we face because it means our children are still with us.

It’s not always easy to understand why tragedies occur; in fact it’s rarely easy to even begin to understand why these things happen. An article I read keeps coming to mind as I ponder this, and I think it applies here. In our human nature, we see ourselves as the main character of God’s story. For example, when we look at the story of Job, it’s very easy to feel like he was treated pretty unfairly. But Job isn’t the main character in that story. God is. God is the main character of every story, including ours. When we look at life from that perspective, it most certainly doesn’t make tragedies easier to deal with, but we can begin to see that we are just a tiny part of a much bigger story.

Sometimes God has to use evil for good to make Himself known. Other times He uses our darkest and most difficult times to draw us closer to Him and to bring others into a saving faith. When Job stood firm in his faith, he proved to Satan that he wasn’t faithful simply because his life was good. He was faithful because God is good even when nothing else is. We have much to learn from Job’s story, as you can read here. Job lost everything, but he didn’t lose the one thing needful. We always have God’s promises to cling to, and as we approach the season of Lent where we reflect on the suffering and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we can rejoice in the kept promise of His resurrection and victory over sin, death, and the devil. No matter what we face here on earth, we can find comfort knowing that God is the main character in this story, and we know the ending; the victory has already been won!

Jesus, It seems strange to thank you for the struggles that we face in our earthly life, but we are thankful that you can use us in this way to help tell Your story. We thank you most of all for taking all of our sins and burdens upon Yourself and carrying them to the cross in our place. Give us the faith of your servant, Job, in our times of trial, and help us to hold fast to the promises of Your Word. Amen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

God's Workmanship

For by grace you have been saved by faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Decisions. Forks in the road. Endeavors. Turning points. There was a time I considered myself a snappy decision maker. Go with it and deal with it was my philosophy. Now, as a mother, the decisions with which I am faced linger in my mind. They traverse through all my brain's synapses. They try on and play out different scenarios. They tease me, for as soon as I am ready to grasp onto a solid choice, the alternative pops up out of nowhere forcing me to reconsider. They sometimes have a late night party in my head, hindering my sweet slumber.

Our son is starting kindergarten next year, and I, the mommy, have been bestowed with the task of figuring out his placement. Public school, private school, classical curriculum, homeschool, buy some hogs and sew some seeds and start a commune? Okay, maybe I'm getting carried away here.

I have prayed, meditated on scripture, and prayed about which school is the best fit for our family. I have tried to feel the Holy Spirit's guidance on the direction we should take. The above verses in Ephesians have provided me with clarity but not a direct answer. Yes, I realize these scriptures have nothing to do with decision making. That's what I needed- a break from focusing too much on this decision. I needed perspective. What matters most in life is that Christ died and rose for us. You see, there are certain moral choices in life about which God is very clear. When faced with these decisions, I can pick up His Holy Word and know with all certainty what He desires. Then there are decisions that are simply ours to make in this life He has given us. If I remember that my son is God's "workmanship" no matter where he goes to school; if I teach him to walk in confidence, knowing that God lovingly gave him the "gift" of salvation; if we pray together that God would lead us to the "good works he prepared for us", then we can go forth in assurance. Well, I still don't know where my son is going to kindergarten next year, but the turmoil in my mind has been put to rest. I've decided to replace my obsessive pondering with a renewed focus on Christ in every part of our life.

Dear God, thank you for blessing us with choices in life. Help us to remain ever so focused on You and Your Son, Jesus Christ, that we may "walk in the good works You have prepared for us." Amen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lessons from Job

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21b
This is not a topic that I expected to be writing a devotion on...but God put this is my path and I wanted to share it.  I recently read thru the book of Job with several friends.  It was a group of women reading it and several of them have been through immense pain in recent years.  I knew it would open up some interesting discussion, I had no idea how much.  As we discussed and reflected on the entire book we were able to pull out several major points from it, I thought some of them may jump out at you too.
-Reading through the word and being immersed in it is so important before the struggles hit.  We all felt that the book of Job is probably easier to reflect on when you are not knee deep yourself. 

-Jobs friends were one of the greatest lessons for us.  When going thru a struggle sometimes it is better to just be there for a friend (quietly) than to try and explain the mind of God.

-Sometimes the younger people around us have great advice, we should be open to their wisdom too!

-Bad things happen to everyone, we live in a sinful world and it is part of that.  God has a big plan, much bigger than us!

-When we are suffering, it's okay to express what we are feeling to God.

As we headed into our study we were all a little nervous about if we'd get much out of it.  It was so nice to walk away from it amazed by what the Lord had just laid before us.  Have you checked out Job lately?  You won't be sorry you did!

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of your word and the pure, relevant examples you provide us from it.  Help us to never neglect this gift and to be constantly growing in it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


“I will bless you”
Genesis 12:2

This weekend Pastor held a marriage Bible Study that my husband and I attended. It was really interesting. We talked candidly about how hard it is to be married, the various issues that challenge a marriage, and what God has to say about it. Of course at some point we ran into the passages about divorce and we got to talking about what our role should be as people who would like to encourage and support marriage. “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” When God joins together, it’s the real deal.

I’m quite sure I’ve heard people question God’s will – like, is it God’s will for us to have a baby? Should we take steps to make that happen? Is it God’s will for me to take this job? And I’m sure I’ve heard people wonder if it is God’s will to keep a marriage going.

I’ve asked my own fair share of questions about God’s will, so you would have thought I’d have figured this out by now. But suddenly, with Pastor’s guidance, I realized that if God joined two people together of course He wants them to work through their issues to sustain and grow their marriage.

Sometimes we have a hard time trusting that God is in control.

Take Abram for example.  Read Genesis 12.  God JUST told him that he would make a “great nation.” He just told him, “I will make you into a great nation;.. and I will bless you; I will make your name great , and you will be a blessing.” A couple paragraphs down the road, Abram and Sarai are heading down to Egypt for survival during the famine. Abram looks around and sees that he could be in danger because of the beauty of his wife. He basically overlooks the promises God JUST made to Him. He would rather skip the advice and counsel and do his own thing.  He would hate to mess up the future he has, after all.  So he lies, and in the process his marriage surely must suffer.  He can't trust God to the details of keeping his marriage and his life safe.  And of course, God is not impressed.

God JUST told you that you were in good hands, Abram! He just said you will be a blessing – not a speedbump for a king! When God says it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.

I guess that’s something Abram and I have in common. We both forget God has a really amazing plan. And if he says it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.

Very thankful.

Lord, help us to remember that you are in control.  You have made certain promises to us and entered into covenants with us that are sacred.  Guide us to remember and understand that you do not do things the way we do them.  But you stand by your word and do not abandon your promises.  Enable us to trust you, Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Perfect Valentine

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Today is Valentine’s Day, and on this day millions of people will go out of their way to find the perfect Valentine to let their friends and family know how much they love them. Cards, flowers, chocolates, stuffed animals, fancy dinners - the list goes on and on. Many parents have assisted their children in making that very special box and preparing all of those little valentine’s cards that they will share with their friends.

Shouldn’t loving others be simpler than all of this fuss? Do we really have to work so hard? While we would like to think that love is always easy and comes so naturally, it may be a little more than that.

Take a look at the Bible reading for today. It lists the many things that love is. When I first read this verse, I get a warm bubbly feeling, like I’m a princess in a fairytale land. Hearts flutter around me, while birds sing a sweet tune. Everyone is patient, kind, understanding, unselfish, honest, and it just seems so simple.

Then, I read it again, and my bubble starts to burst. Yes love is patient, and that is not how I was this morning with my family as we were late heading out the door. Love is kind, but I was not very kind when the juice was spilled on the carpet. Love does not envy, so I should probably stop wishing that I had the energy of my 11 year old. Oh no, I’m 0 for 3 on a list that has only just begun and as I continue reading, I know that it doesn’t get any better. So much for me being that perfect Valentine.

Because of sin, love is not so easy. Because of sin, our love is not perfect. However, that doesn’t mean a perfect love doesn’t exist.

1 John 4:16 tells us “God is love.” We may not always show love the way we should, but God does. In fact, God not only shows us His love, He is love. Take a look at our Bible reading again. It is not just describing how we can show others we love them. It is describing who God is. Remember, “God is love.” That means that God IS all of those things described in our reading. His love for us never ends. His love for us is perfect. God demonstrated the extent of that never ending, perfect love for us when He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross to be our Savior and His love lives in our hearts. Jesus is the perfect Valentine!

As you spend today celebrating Valentine’s Day with your children, remember to share the love in your heart with them. Share the love of God sent to us through His Son Jesus and praise God for His perfect Valentine!

Dear Father in Heaven, we thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus, to be our perfect Valentine. Help us to share this special Valentine with our children and all those we meet today. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

(This devotion is a re-post of the devotion that I wrote for this blog on Valentine's Day last year. I pray that you find it worth my re-posting this year. Happy Valentine's Day!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

“This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” 1John 4:10

Last week one of the ladies at work brought in a “Love Is…” comic. Have you ever seen this comic strip? It usually features just two characters, a male and female couple. The caption always begins with, “Love is…”, and then attempts to complete the sentence. For example, it might say something humorous, such as, “Love is…not asking her how much her new dress cost.” Or it might be something sweet. “Love is…hurrying home – knowing he’ll be there.” Or it might be something thought provoking. “Love is...the reason we’re here on earth.”

This week, as we celebrate a holiday centered around love, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we explain love to our children. Love is not easily summed up and defined. Our society likes to equate love with warm-fuzzy feelings and physical attraction. Television and movies either turn love into a “swept-off-our- feet” experience or a casual act focused on personal gratification. As my teenagers begin to navigate male/female relationships, I want them to understand that love is something much deeper. Love involves respect and commitment and selflessness.

When talking about love with my younger children, I struggle to put something so broad and abstract into simple terms. The best way I know how to make it applicable in their lives is to explain that love is how Jesus would like us to treat each other. However, these words children typically react according to how they are feeling at the time.

While genuine concern, empathy, and romantic attraction are associated with love, the truth is that love is not a feeling, but an action. “Loving” isn’t a lesson that can be taught on a special holiday or in a weekly thematic unit. We have to repeatedly teach children about love, sometimes several times a day. I know that the best way to teach love is to model it. This is where I fall short. If I take an honest look at myself lately, I know that I am tired, stressed, and restless with Spring Fever. I certainly don’t feel very loving or lovable, and my attitude sometimes reflects the way I feel through ambivalence and lack of patience. I don’t love my neighbor as myself, and loving my enemies seems impossible. In my sinfulness, I react much like an impulsive child. I fail to fulfill my calling as a mother and a teacher.

Thankfully, I can point to God’s word to perfectly define love when I can’t. Not only does scripture give us beautiful descriptions of love, but we also find the perfect example of love in action. Jesus Christ loved us to the point of death. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” I pray that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we all can begin to comprehend and trust in this limitless love and reflect it in our earthly relationships.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I have been singing the words to this hymn in my head over and over recently. It speaks of words of comfort and hope when I don’t know what else to say.

I know that my Redeemer lives;

What comfort this sweet sentence gives!

He lives, He lives, who once was dead;

He lives, my ever living head.

We got word two weeks ago that a Pastor’s family in our circuit had been in a terrible accident. His wife and two of his three children had been killed.

He lives triumphant from the grave;

He lives eternally to save;

He lives all glorious in the sky;

He lives exalted there on high.

There are no words to express such heart-breaking grief. I don’t understand any of it. How can I possibly explain it to my own children? A man loses his wife and two of his children, and a little boy loses his brother, sister, and his mommy all in one moment. This simply should not be!

He lives to bless me with His love;

He lives to plead for me above;

He lives my hungry soul to feed;

He lives to help in time of need.

By the next morning word had spread throughout the country and to other corners of the world. Messages announcing prayers said in worship, and personal petitions flooded in.

He lives to grant me rich supply;

He lives to guide me with His eye;

He lives to comfort me when faint;

He lives to hear my soul’s complaint.

Words of comfort have been shared by so many, but reading through the messages, it’s not their own words that people are using to lift up the family. Instead it is the Word of God they speak. Yes, God’s Word.

It’s the only salve that brings relief. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

He lives to silence all my fears;

He lives to wipe away my tears;

He lives to calm my troubled heart;

He lives all blessings to impart.

God’s Word promises a new life to come, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Job 19:25-27

He lives, my kind, wise, heav’nly friend;

He lives and loves me to the end;

He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing;

He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

In this Word, our Savior reminds us, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” John 14:1-4,6

He lives and grants me daily breath;

He lives, and I shall conquer death;

He lives my mansion to prepare;

He lives to bring me safely there.

And He proclaims triumphantly, “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

These are the words; this is the assurance we can share with our children. “We do not grieve as others do that have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16. We look forward to the promised resurrection!

Heavenly Father,

Comfort all who mourn with your Word. Continue to be with Pastor Geske, with his son Jacob, with (fill in others you know that are grieving), and all who need your healing hand. Sustain us until that day when the trumpet sounds and in our flesh we will see you! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Beauty in Simplicity

Occassionally my office colleagues and I will order chinese food from a local restaurant near work. As is typical the order comes with fortune cookies. While I do not often put a lot of validity in these entertainment driven delicacies, Our most recent order presented me with a slip of paper that prompted me to really think about how things were going in my life.

The slip of paper read: There is beauty in simplicity.

Immediately I began thinking about how non-simple my life has become. The mother of two boys ages 11 and 9, being a dual-income family, working as a school administrator and a loyal wife often has me running in multiple directions throughout the course of the day. Adding in being an active role in monitoring, evaluating and following up on managing my son's medications and I often feel most of my day is gone before I even realize it. My life is far from simple.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the to do list, the expectations and the desires of our spouses and kids. It is easy to allow our daily time with God to be swallowed up by the demands of our active lives.

The thing that struck me the most is that the most simple component of life is indeed the most beautiful. Our time with God does not need bells and whistles. It does not need to be full of big words of adoration. It needs simply to be time that we focus on God. Time where we share our joys, our challenges, our desires and our needs. While God knows our hearts, it is in these times with him that we can connect with his word. He guides our actions, corrects our wrongs, and encourages us. It is simply beautiful.

When life gets crazy I find myself turning to God in prayer. When life gets uncertain I find myself turning to God for direction. When life gets overwhelming I find myself turning to God for sustaining strength. When the day has gone well I find myself turning to God to thank him. What a peace and beauty I find in simply talking with my Heavenly Father.

Lord, Thank you so much for loving us. Thank you for the gentle reminders that you give to us that challenge us to evaluate our lives and thank you Lord for talking with us and wanting to have an ongoing conversation with us. Thank you for being there and loving us through all of the challenges and joys that motherhood provides. Amen

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For the sake of the gospel

"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, 
that I may share with them in its blessings."
1 Corinthians 9:23

Last Sunday our dryer broke.  Thankfully, I work at an in-home childcare center, so I was able to bring all my laundry there to be dried.  I don't think I ever realized how much laundry I really do!  Every day there was wet laundry to be loaded into the car.  And then that laundry, now dry, had to be brought into the house.  To be put into drawers and closets, to be worn and washed again.  And until Wednesday, the cycle will repeat.

Tasks we do every day, like laundry, can seem thankless.  The clothes are washed and dried and put away.  Same with the dishes, the vacuuming, the making of beds.  There are days that we moms clean up mess after mess and no one notices, let alone thank us for it!  We have to be all for everyone, and that can take a lot out of us!

Paul was in the same position.  In 1 Corinthians 9:19 he says, "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them."  We may feel like maids and chauffeurs and chefs, but think of what else we are to our children--we are there to bring them to the waters of Holy Baptism.  We are there to teach them the gospel, about our Lord sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  We have the privilege of bringing them the gospel every day.

Thinking of this puts a spring in my step.  I may have to be everything to everyone at home.  I may do the laundry over and over, only to have more dirty clothes greet me in the morning.  As Paul said, "I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."  (1 Corinthians 9:23)  

We pray:  Dear Heavenly Father, I'm a busy mom.  Sometimes I feel like no one notices the work I do around the house.  It's easy to get discouraged.  Remind me, Lord, that I am not doing this work for nothing--I'm also there to bring the gospel to my children.  Help me know that through my work, my children are sharing in Your blessings.  In Your name I pray, Amen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sisters in Christ

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up."
(Ecclesiastes 4: 9 & 10)
We live in a culture where individualism is seen as the key to success and power.  As mothers in today's  world, we are encouraged to teach our children to be independent--to strive to "get first place" and to "be number one."  We live in a society in which everyone is self-consumed, and always concerned with "getting ahead."  The interesting contradiction here is that nothing is seen as more devastating in life than to be alone and unloved.  The truth is God created us for companionship--it goes back to the Garden of Eden.  All of us desire deep, meaningful friendships.  And, when we feel truly valued and respected by our friends, it seems to inspire us to "be our best."  Perhaps that is why wise King Solomon wrote in the above-mentioned verses: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can pick him up."
God has given us many gifts in this life.  As Christian wives and mothers, I think we agree that the friendship and support of other Christian women is one of the great gifts that God has given to all of us.  Although the female friendships in Scripture are not explained in great detail, several women of the Bible display qualities that we can be inspired to cultivate and exhibit in our own lives. The loyalty of Ruth; the devotion of Hannah; the wisdom of Deborah; the trust and love of Mary Magdalene.  All of these women possessed traits that, on their own, were ordinary.  Yet, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God used these women to do extraordinary things in the lives of their neighbor.  Much like He uses us to be a friend to those in need, and blesses us with friends when we need them the most.   
We live in a world that is self-seeking, but may we seek to do God's will and share His love and grace in the lives of those we call friends.  Our loving, Heavenly Father promises that His "grace is sufficient" for us.  Part of His grace is given to us through the special friends He has placed in our lives to help us get through past pains, current struggles, and the uncertainty of the future.  May all of us strive to be more like the inspirational examples God has provided for us in His Word.  Continue to rejoice and take comfort in the wonderful godly women our Savior has placed in our lives--whether it be family, women from church, or lovely ladies who share their faith through blogs such as "Growing His Kids!"  
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for surrounding us with the "sisters in Christ" we need to support us in the work you have called us to do.  Forgive us when we fail You and those we love.  May we daily look to Your Word for guidance and comfort in all we do.  In Christ's name~Amen.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Welcome Home

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
-John 14:2-3

One of my favorite things associated with the birth of a baby are the numerous pictures of the baby's room.  The meticulous planning and preparation that expectant parents put into the room is incredible.  Parents will comment throughout the album about the amount of time it took to draw and paint the lines on the wall, or will mention the artist who drew the mural or will say how the furniture was a family heirloom, and oftentimes the last caption of the album says something to the effect that mom and dad can't wait for (insert baby name) to be here and finally home with them.

Our Heavenly Father has prepared a place for us too.  Through the waters of Holy Baptism, a room has been reserved and prepared for us in heaven, and as Jesus shared with His disciples, there will come a day when He returns to take us home again.  

This past Saturday, February 4th, my grandpa passed away.  There is no more pain. There is no more suffering. There is only wholeness and healing.  The promises made at Grandpa Johnny's baptism are now fulfilled and he rests with those who have gone before and awaits the second coming.    My grandpa has been welcomed home to heaven, and the room prepared for him by his Heavenly Father was ready and waiting for him. 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Grant peace and comfort to all those who mourn the lives of a loved one.  Thank you for the promise of eternal life given to us as we gain new life through the waters of baptism.  Continue to bless and keep us all close to you.  Amen.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

God Loves Imperfect Families

I asked my husband for ideas on what to write for this devotion, and he asked me what I've been reading.

Genesis. You know, the book with all the stories about how Abraham tried to pass Sarah off as his sister, how Lot's daughters tricked him into sleeping with them, how Sarah was jealous of Hagar and sent her away, how Isaac tried to pass Rebekah off as his sister (like father,like son), how Rebekah helped Jacob deceive Isaac, how Laban deceived Jacob and Jacob married two sisters and played favorites, how Rebekah deceived Laban, how...well, you get the gist--lots of deception. Not very pretty stories, huh?

Kind of makes you wonder why God chose these people, doesn't it? They make my family look like saints.

But chose them is exactly what He did...over and over again. "The Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'" (Genesis 12:1-3, ESV). And He reminds them of this choosing in chapters 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 26, 28, and many other times that I haven't gotten to yet in my reading.

Out of all the people in the world, God chose this crazy, messed up, messing up family to be His, set apart to belong to Him and do His work, to be a blessing to the rest of the world. And through the waters of Baptism, we are adopted into this family. Galatians 3:29 tells us, "And if you are Christ's then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

My husband's take on all this: God loves us and uses us even when our families aren't perfect.

Heavenly Father, my family isn't perfect, and you know that better than anyone. Thank you for loving us and using us anyway. Lead us to be faithful to you that we might be a blessing to others. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Confessions of a Middle Child

But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:18-20; 26-27

I am certain that my three sisters and I could have served well as an experimental test group for personality quizzes. My mind wanders back 15 years when we rated ourselves on such a quiz. The oldest sis was strongest in loyalty and responsibility. I, the middle child, rated high in sensitivity and compassion. The other middle sister tipped the scale heavily on charming and adventurous. Our youngest sis had the most marks in the inquisitive and self-sufficient department. We chuckled as we recalled personal stories that matched our traits. I actually remember Big Sis drawing up a chore chart all on her own accord. I could use her help this very instant. I am in awe of how Little Sis can keep any conversation going with her natural inquiries and her sincere desire to learn from others. And well, my adventurous middle sister can go from a long day at work to a competitive volleyball game to a laughter-filled visit with friends without stopping for a breath. She brightens up any situation. Then there's Little Miss Soft Skin over here. When we plan parties at our house, I'll invite enough people to create a fire hazard because I couldn't dare hurt anyone's feelings. Unfortunately, half-way through the festivities, I'll be overwhelmed and ready for a nap.

The sins of jealousy and coveting have overtaken me in the past... Oh that my life would be so much richer if I could multi-task like Christie, the eldest, or if I could compete like my fellow middle sis, Michelle, or if I could be as graceful in life as Stephanie, the youngest. Upon repenting of my jealousy and receiving God's forgiveness, I waited for God to change me. I thought that change would make me realize the value of my gifts and talents. In God's infinite and perfect wisdom, so much more was revealed. Are you ready?
It's not about me. God cares for me as His own individual child and has called me into His kingdom of fellow believers. My sisters and I are different; however, we were created by the same loving God. Chapter 12, verses 4-6 of 1 Corinthians reminds us that "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." The more I seek after God through prayer, scripture reading, and worship- the more I serve Him in my vocation as a wife and mother- the more I work in His church and serve by loving others, the less I worry about what traits I'm lacking in. To begin seeing one's personal qualities as an intricate part of God's plan is a joyous blessing that energizes one to persevere in love, faith, and work. The diverse gifts given to God's people were meant for the common good of God's people as is mentioned in verse 7 of chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians. We all have weaknesses. Christ is perfection. He fills our weaknesses. What is more loyal than a man who obeyed His father while being tempted in the desert? What is more compassionate than Jesus washing the feet of the disciples? What shows more connectedness to people than Jesus' parables? Finally, what is bolder than His death and resurrection on the cross?

The multitude of personality quizzes floating around out there are fun. By the way, in the dog quiz, my husband was a Golden Retriever and I was a Pug. Some of the inventories are well researched and accurate, as depicted with my siblings. Many leadership groups put personality quizzes to efficient, team-building use. These quizzes are limiting, though. God is the Author of our Lives and the Perfector of our Faith! God knew us before we were born. He knows our idiosyncracies. He knows how we fit beautifully together according to His plan. Thus, it is His wisdom upon which we lean.

Thank you Lord for my shortcomings, that I might know Christ Jesus, the Great Rabbi, the Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, my Redeemer. Amen.