I need multiple lessons to make a lasting change. Thankfully, our God is faithful, patient, merciful and full of grace with His children. I am not sure when or why it started, but I have lived much of my life in defeat. I would start something, get tired and quit or settle for good, but not best. The list is long and at times comical. Some years ago, a certain discipline was presented and I took up the challenge. The habit became so transformational that I could not stop. Spending time in the Word of God has that affect on a person. As only the Lord can do, He has not left any area of my life untouched. Scripture after scripture has healed, encouraged, convicted, strengthened, corrected and increased my love and dependence on our Savior. I know I will spend a lifetime pouring over my opened Bible, written words from my first love.
One of the areas He has recently been highlighting is this habit of defeat or settling. I see now that the root has been fear all along. Amazing how that also leaves nothing untouched, isn’t it? I feel like a healed soldier, declared able to fight again. I stand ready, praying for His will to be done. For He is God and I am not.
“Then, for a second time, they made David’s son Solomon king; they anointed him as the LORD’s ruler…”. (1 Chronicles 29:22)
Sitting beside our oldest daughter in church on Sunday, this thought seemed to whisper inside, “You have raised a worshiper.” To take credit would be to deny grace and an attempt to steal His glory, so none will be taken. It is because she knows she is loved unconditionally, trusted and is lead by God who leads us all, that she is who she is. When I read this verse today, Sundays memory came to mind. As I dug a little deeper, it appears that this second anointing was done more publicly and the first was not. So it seems with parenting. What we sow daily in our hearts and the hearts of our children can often feel very private, just between you and the Lord and maybe a few that know you. Then as they grow up and you do too, the overflow of all those years of sowing privately becomes more public, especially when they head off to college. We do not deny that there are plenty of bumps in the road, making us that much more grateful for grace, but we keep sowing. Day in and day out we do the heart work, trusting the Lord to bring about a mighty harvest that will outlive us. When the days get long I pray I remember Sunday.
I’ve mentioned it before, but there is a picture my mom chose for my room growing up that I still have. It is of a gardener removing a thorn from a small girls hand. It is tender and loving in every way, such a picture of Jesus. (Remember Mary thought Jesus was the gardener when she went to his tomb.) Studying the scripture this week, where Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish from his disciples hands, made me think of this picture. It reminded me that Jesus is able to take what we give him from our hands too. Like a thorn, He took fear from my outstretched hand. It often hurt me and would act as a weapon I used to unknowingly hurt others too. And just like the Savior He is, He allowed me to have a real scar on my hand that serves as a reminder not to pick up that thorn of fear again. Circumstances and words tempt me daily, but the scar reminds me of the cost Jesus paid for my healing. His perfect love casts out my fear again and again when my eyes are focused on Him. What a Savior! I pray that He multiplies the healing only He can give to feed many who remain in fear.
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.” Matthew 2:13
We are studying the book of Matthew as a church. Yesterday, our pastor said something I will never forget. He said that “God gave Joseph the dream because he could do something about it”. Joseph’s obedience sent their family into the night and to Egypt. Do you ever feel like you have been given a dream and it sends you into the dark and unfamiliar? Your hearts desire is to be obedient. You begin to move forward with the dream, planting a seed so to speak. It appears to be the start of something, but quickly withers. Discouragement can quickly follow.
Could it be that it was not the seed, but the soil or the condition of our heart? Further in Matthew we read a story Jesus shared about sowing seeds. Some fall into rocky soil, others into weeds of worry and others into good soil. For me, my heart needed some weeds removed that were pretty well rooted. Tears make the soil softer, repentance follows and for that I am thankful. Nothing is wasted with our God. So, a small seed is planted, an obedient step has been taken. I pray it grows and bears much fruit.
There is this incredible warrior in scripture whose name is Benaiah. He does many courageous exploits, yet he was not one of King David’s top three warriors. Instead, he was highly honored and put in charge of the king’s bodyguard. How trusted this warrior must have been. You want someone who is trustworthy and courageous training those who protect life.
As is often the case, this made me think of fathers. Their role is so vital to our families, cities, states and nation. Perhaps that is one of the reasons we are where we are as a country. Not to let us women off the hook, could it be that we have not let men take the role they were created to be in our homes? We are quite capable of running the show, so to speak, but how much more effective would our training be of the next generation if we let fathers be the guide? What if we honored, trusted and encouraged them? I have a feeling we would be raising up a generation who know they are loved, protected and worth fighting for.
At just eight years old, our daughter has believed a lie. I have no doubt where it came from, the enemy does not seem to be a respecter of age or innocence. She told me she thinks she is ugly and hates the color of her hair, wishing it was different. I asked who told her these lies, planted the seed, and her response was shocking. She said nobody did, she told herself. Evidence of his whispers. This completely contradicts what is so obvious to anyone and the truth written in scripture. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14). And there in lies the key, her soul does not know. Her soul does not know that she is one of God’s works. Another thing, if this lie is allowed to take root and grow, her entire life will be impacted. So what do we do? We pray, we tell her the truth, remind her of the gift she is and we do not give up until her soul knows it very well. I am thankful to get watch this happen!
“…and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.” Matthew 2:9-10
The trees may have been taken down and the lights outlining the house turned off, but I am not quite ready to leave the Christmas story. I keep thinking about the star that led the wise men to Jesus. It collides in my mind with the verse, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. Light led the wise men to Jesus and they rejoiced. Could it be that if we walk in the light, telling the truth about our sin, because we know He has cleansed us from each one, then maybe we too could lead others to Him like the star? The choice is theirs, but we could make the introductions, if the Holy Spirit so allows. Perhaps our lives could shine so bright that people wonder about us and start asking questions. It is not the kind of light that comes from self glory, but a life that lives to glorify our King. A heart that has Jesus as its first love cannot help but shine.
Sometimes there is a word that keeps coming up and you claim it as your word for the year. Fear comes and you wonder if that is the very thing the enemy will attack the most. Then you look around and know he is already got that covered; has in fact since the whole incident in the garden with Adam and Eve. We see how he works, this separating that creates division inside of us and moves to those we are closest in relationship. It keeps moving and before you know it, we live in a society divided into fearful teams. Nobody is winning. So what do we do? How do we come back together? We start with ourselves.
So much to say about this, more questions than answers actually, but it is time to make dinner and gather around the table. A great picture of unity that will make me smile.
*Picture is from the explanation of the game of “Spoons”.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, becausethe Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor…” Isaiah 61:1-2
This verse stood out this morning, as I read about the foretelling of Jesus, after having just celebrated his birth. It reminded me of the relatable and relational side of our Lord. He knows from personal experience what it is like to be poor, broken-hearted, captive and bound. And who do you want beside you when you walk through these same things? Someone who has been there and can now shine the light of presence and love. Maybe because He has allowed us to walk through these trials, we can go back and sit with others too. Sometimes it does not require words, but presence when all feels dark and alone. Then we become thankful for the trials because they have been used to shape us into more of His image, relatable and relational. We know He is too good to waste our pain and we shine a bit brighter. We join Isaiah in proclaiming that it truly has been a year of the Lord’s favor, even if we did not recognize the training at the time.
Our family attended my dad’s church on Christmas Eve. Someone mentioned photo opportunities. One of the kids leaned over, asking to take a picture. I gave my standard “we will see” answer, already deciding it would be much too crowded. When the service ended, he reminded me again, I voiced my doubts and he told me he had prayed about it. As we walked out, we both saw an empty space and took time to capture a memory. I wanted to mark time where a child asked, prayed and received.
It may not seem like much, but childlike faith is precious and teaches me often. It also makes me thankful for a boy who is an excellent teacher to this mama.