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Rest

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

After a busy Thanksgiving, taking relatives to the airport, and doing some holiday shopping, my husband, older daughter and I took a day off from all the busyness and played golf.  I suppose you could call what I played “golf” even though it didn’t go so well!  But it was nice to get out with them and enjoy a relaxing, beautiful day.  

For a long time, I struggled with resting.  With just doing something fun that had no goal.  Before kids, my husband and I would spend Saturday running around doing errands.  Come Sunday I would start stressing out about Monday’s workload!  When my kids were younger, we always had sports on the weekends with tournaments lasting from Thursday until Sunday afternoon.  These last couple of years I’ve finally taken to heart the idea of resting.  Resting and enjoying all the blessings that God has gifted us.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

Toiling and striving and anxiously lying awake thinking about how we can toil some more the next day!  It’s not good for our health and it’s not the life God intended for us.  It’s so sad that two major companies in the United States who made the choice to stay closed on Sundays have received so much grief for that decision.  But the leaders of those companies are Christians who take the message and gift of the Sabbath to heart.

I still catch myself feeling guilty for resting.  I have to remind myself that it’s not a luxury.  It’s a requirement by God.  Whether we are rich or poor, with children or not, retired or still working, God wants us to be rested, ready to do His good works when needed.  

I’m so thankful for this gift of rest.  It shows how much God loves us and wants the best for us.  He wants us to be recharged and energized followers of Jesus.  Not burned out, overworked, stressed and therefore unable to see how beautiful this world is He created.  Unable to stop and help someone in need.  So today on this Sabbath day take this gift of rest freely.  Take time for yourself and enjoy.

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Family

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” Genesis 21:6-7

As I write this we are about four weeks away from the Thanksgiving holiday celebrated in the United States.  And already I’ve heard from a few anxious friends concerned about gathering with family. To be fair, they are all worried about their spouse’s family!  But what makes holidays potentially stressful – dealing with the various personalities and their idiosyncrasies – is also what brings us such joy.  Our families.

When Sarah was gifted a child in her advanced age the Bible doesn’t talk about all her worries.  Although I could imagine there might have been a few.  Instead, what the focus is on is laughter and joy.  God’s creation of man included the eventual creation of family.  And there’s something about family that always feels so different than friendships.  We are bonded by some mysterious force from the heavens.  The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly in our families stays with us forever unlike a forgotten friend.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

The command to honor our parents is the first command telling us to do something for another human being. It stands to reason that God puts family pretty high up on his list.  And while there are those whose parents have made honoring them difficult due terrible sin and lack of repentance, for so many of us we must remember God’s love for family and how He wants us to love them.

I love my whole family, those of blood and those my rolling stone has picked up along the way.  Some I must work harder to obey the command, while others it comes easily.  I thank God for all of them — because I have benefitted from them all while in this crazy, mysterious union. 

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A Plan for Us

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

I’ll be honest, I never thought I’d get married.  Partially because I just wasn’t raised thinking about marriage and partially because I was the product of a marriage based on very little respect for each other.  For many years, God allowed me to live my life in sexual sin.  I went from one man to another, sometimes only passing through in the night.  But God always has a plan for each and every one of us.  For me, that plan included being given the gift of a wonderful husband. 

In our early years, my husband and I weren’t faithful followers of Jesus.  But he, at least, had a Christian background from which to draw.  When I look back over our first 10 years of marriage I can see where I am grateful for that tension of knowing some of what God expected from us as a couple.  I say “tension” because whenever we live outside of God’s narrow path we can either 1) live like we don’t have a clue that what we are doing is ungodly or 2) have some concept of ungodliness which can then pull us into learning more.  We will be judged in the end so I’d rather not be oblivious to my sins and take the opportunity to work on them!

In our marriage we struggled for control.  Control of who would be the head of our household.  Control of our finances.  Control over long term decisions for our family.  Over discipline of our kids.  Over our time management.    Looking back, I was only doing what I had learned in my family home.  A weak father figure gives way to a power vacuum.  On the other hand, my husband came from a strong, godly father-led family.  And so the back and forth went on and on.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  Genesis 3:2-3

There’s a lot of talk in feminist circles and the media about the “patriarchy” and how men shouldn’t “keep women down.”  But from the beginning God had a very clear plan for women and men.  Women were to be the “helpers,” assisting their Adams to be the best men they could be.  Like a good golf caddy, this is no job to take lightly.  Yet we arrive at Genesis 3 and Eve immediately forgoes her heavenly role.  Instead of seeking wisdom from her husband she is drawn to the words of the serpent.  The fleshly desires pull her farther and farther away from God’s plan. 

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12

And the result?  As you can read above the entire plan is turned upside down.  Eve takes the lead and Adam falls into a weak position of blame.  Eve is punished by God for her role in the Great Fall with painful childbirth and the knowledge that men will rule over her.  But when you read the punishment of Adam, he receives a harsh future that effects every area of his life.  

I have to be honest and say that every marriage I have been around that was in serious trouble was a direct result of this upside down relationship.  That’s not to say there aren’t men who disobey God’s command to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25).  But so often in our modern world and as a result of the feminist movement which started in the 70s, women have jostled or demanded control in their relationships. Like all actions that go against God’s holy plan we see the results with weak husbands and overbearing wives.  And wives who underneath it all desire a man to stand up for them, to take charge, to love them to the point of sacrifice.  

Women of God, the idea of submitting to our husbands or future husbands does not mean we are second class citizens.  You’ll notice in Genesis 3:16 Eve’s punishment was to have men rule over her.  Therefore, it wasn’t God’s plan for men to “rule” over her in the first place.  Thankfully Jesus came to give us a new covenant, reminding us that although there is still a hierarchy of responsibility, every person is of equal value. A helper doesn’t mean you are less than the one being helped.  It’s taken me awhile to truly understand this.  What it means is we trust God’s plan.  And if we have chosen wisely, we trust our husbands who also trust God.  We trust them to take care of the family business.  We trust they will have our best interest in mind.  We trust they love us so much they want us to be content. 

If our husbands are not trustworthy in those areas or men of faith, who are we to blame?

He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 1 Kings 11:3

King Solomon was considered one of the wisest men of all time.  Yet it was his wives that managed to turn him away from God, to lead him astray.  Our role as our husband’s life caddy is so important that we can’t let what the world says about feminism and submission sway us from following God’s plan.  A good and godly wife holds so much sway over her husband.  And the world laughs at us thinking a bigger paycheck or fancy job title is what’s most important.  Our work in helping our husbands will take us a lifetime — much of the time simply modeling godly behavior, control over our emotions, showing love, showing faith in the Almighty and our men.

Eve’s veering from God’s plan, leading her husband to a great sin, can make me so angry at times.  But then I think about the times I placed myself above my husband and ask for mercy.  It took a lot of intentional work on my part to step back and encourage and teach my husband how to place himself at the head of our family.  He didn’t think I needed him, ever.  

Friends, whether you are a husband, wife, or not yet married we must stand resolutely against how the world wants to define marriage.  We can’t let the world define what “submission” looks like in God’s world.  His great plan for man and woman, joined together in harmony is just the example for what is the final plan.  The ultimate marriage between Jesus and His bride will be full of love, joy, beauty and compassion.  Let’s start today with making those fruits part of our earthly marriages.

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The Purposeful Path

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.  Anyone who does what is good is from God.  3 John 11

When I was first researching the word “resolute” I came across the tiny village of Resolute in the province of Nunavut, Canada. Back in 1999, Canada created a new province from the original Northern Territories specifically for its native citizens.  And Resolute was one of the northernmost inhabited spots in that province.  Its most famous resident, who put Resolute firmly on the map, was Joseph Idlout, the subject of two documentaries, Land of the Long Day in 1952 and Between Two Worlds in 1990. He was for a time one of the most well-known Inuit and was shown on the back of the Canadian two-dollar bill.

I decided to watch the Land of the Long Day and was treated to some childhood memories of old fashioned documentary film styles.  This little film about a tiny family eking out an existence in the Arctic held my fascination for over an hour.  You see, Mr. Idlout purposefully chose to keep his family close to the old ways of living.  They hunted and gathered what was available each season, storing up for long, dark winters.  They used every available resource to keep their family alive and thriving.   Everyone in the family had a job to do for their survival.  And to maintain this way of life he petitioned the Canadian government to move to a tiny weather station called Resolute and create a home for themselves.  Rather than uprooting their lives and becoming more “modern” they chose to remain true to their culture.  And they flourished. 

It’s perfect that this “most famous Inuit” moved to a tiny town called Resolute because that’s what it took to make his decision for his family.  And I wonder, how many decisions us modern parents make are based on what God really wants for our children? 

As a grandma and parent of two, now grown women, I can easily recall times when I had to make decisions that would set my children and family apart from others.  So many times, when I would go against the norm, others would say to me,  “I hadn’t even thought about that.”  In other words, they were just going along to get along without consulting any moral code whatsoever.

“When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, “No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It seems so natural to automatically sign a permission slip for your child to go on the 4th grade overnight trip that every single 4th grader in your school has gone on for the last 10 years.  There’ll be chaperones and it’s just down the street.  Everyone is going.  And then you find out boys and girls will be sleeping together in small rooms.  Chaperones include moms and dads – many whom you don’t know.  So your daughter will be spending the night with boys and a dad.   No problem, everyone is going.  Everyone has gone.  No one has ever brought up any issue.   So what’s your problem?  Are you going to set your child apart?  Will you be resolute in what you know is the God-directed answer?

In the verse today it says “imitate evil.”  And I think so often when we read things like that in the Bible we give ourselves little passes to make immoral decisions, especially when we feel it might harm our kids’ social lives.  I mean, it’s not “evil” to let our kids go on a boy/girl sleepover.  It’s not “evil” to allow our daughters to wear the latest fashions that might be a bit revealing.  It’s not  “evil” to let our sons play violent video games.  It’s also not “evil” for all the parents at the birthday party to get drunk. Right?

In a world where parents are pressured into allowing their elementary and middle school children to start dangerous hormones and go under the knife in order to try and change their gender, letting your kids watch R rated movies and TV shows seems tame in comparison. And we let it slide.

“Perfect behavior may be as unattainable as perfect gear changing when we drive; but it is a necessary ideal. Prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars…it would be idiotic not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on.”  

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It’s interesting that this quote from Mere Christianity involves using a stick shift in a car.  For just about every one of us that process has changed to be an automatic.  But the question I ask is your automatic response to making decisions for yourself and your family set to the world of the flesh or the Word of God? 

For Joseph Idlout, he drew on his people’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history and made the conscious decision to not go the modern route of the world.  And I have to say they seemed to live a pretty content and peaceful life.  Not an easy one by any means.  The harsh Arctic conditions probably led many to scoff at their decision.  They might even have been called any manner of names from savages to crazy to ignorant.  But his children didn’t grow up with drug addictions, suicidal tendencies, endless debt, and more that our world offers.

We can’t all put our families on an island away from the world’s influences.  But we can stop pretending things aren’t “evil” when they go against what God wants of us.  We must be resolute and purposeful in following God’s will for our families.  To be His humble servants, to know His Word inside and out so that it becomes automatic, and to live like the chosen people we are.  Our children’s lives depend on it.

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Walking The Talk

The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19

I have a confession to make.  I wasn’t an intentional Christian parent.  Church was often relegated to the backseat during softball season (which pretty much lasts 9 months).  I didn’t make sure my kids were involved in Christian youth groups.  When we did pray at dinner we prayed the same prayer each time until it became almost meaningless.  We didn’t talk about the Bible, we didn’t talk about our faith.  I don’t think I’m alone in this confession.  And I’m sure I’m not alone in saying there was a price paid for our “Christian-lite” stance.

I am thankful that, when my younger daughter went off to college, she was drawn to a Christian athlete organization and then a local church.  Through that program she learned what we had failed to teach – the truth about our Savior and how much God loves us.   My older daughter?  She’s probably like a lot of our twenty-somethings.  She believes in God but beyond that it gets murky.  

“The single most important factor of shaping children’s religious lives is their parents – not society, not youth leaders, but their parents.”

Christian Smith, Handing Down the Faith

In other words, if you model faithfulness, if you live out what you say you believe on Sunday, the chances of your child being a devoted follower of Christ is increased exponentially.  And if, like I did, you lead a lukewarm faith life you’ll most likely create the same fruit. Even worse, if you act or speak hypocritically you may get no fruit at all.

A few weeks ago, our pastor taught on Genesis 18:16-19:29.  An overarching theme in these verses is the concept of being or having an advocate.  Someone who will hold us up and speak for us to God.  Abraham wrangled with God to save just a few people from the sin-filled cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In the end, his pleas saved his nephew, Lot, and Lot’s daughters.  It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of the ultimate Advocate – Jesus.  As you can see in these two verses.

Then he (Abraham) said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”  He (God) answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  Genesis 18:32
Jesus: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15

How many of us, as parents or grandparents or even aunts and uncles, see ourselves as “advocates” for our children?  See being in that role as possibly one of the most important ones we will ever have?  How many of us have prioritized our faith over the sparkling lights of “after school activities?” Their very souls are what we are talking about here.  I’ve heard so many parents grieve their adult children’s faith.  And so we pray as their advocate.  How about we also live as one too?

Abraham was able to plead directly with God.  A back and forth conversation.  How?  From the beginning of his relationship with God, Abraham obeyed and worked to be a faithful servant – with a few hiccups along the way.  What does that look like as modern parents today?  How can we be resolute in not compromising our children’s eternity?

In my next post I’ll talk about opening our eyes as parents to our everyday decisions.  Are they of the world of the flesh or of God’s will?  I recently listened to author Christian Smith about the research he has done in the area of youth and faith.  His current book is titled, Handing Down the Faith.  Here’s few great nuggets from the book.

  1. Teens are actually paying attention to you.  That might come as a shock to many.  He found that even into their 20s our kids are actively noticing how we live and what we “preach.”
  2. Just saying you are a Christian (Buddhist, Jew, etc) isn’t enough.  Kids are learning both positive and negative faith examples.
  3. We aren’t just counteracting world views but some church ones as well.  Many Christian youth programs teach what he termed, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – act morally, be a nice person, and don’t judge.   That’s great when life is easy.  But as our kids age and the world comes crashing down it causes them to fall away.
  4. Be authoritative – demand expectations, standards, with an abundance of warmth and support.  Note: not “authoritarian.”
  5. Talk routinely about religion.  While your faith doesn’t need to be the subject of each discussion your faith should be woven in and used for handling conflict and decision making.
  6. Walk the talk.  If you live a life of service, humility, forgiveness and worship your kids will have the best example they will ever need.
  7. Channel “internalization.”  Or in other words place your child in situations where they will be influenced positively in your faith by others such as youth groups, religious schools, etc.
  8. Know the Word.  A good teacher is only as good as how well they know their topic!
  9. Play the long game.  None of us are wholly responsible for anyone’s faith and salvation.  But the building blocks you instill are certainly a great cornerstone!
  10. Pray.  And pray some more.  Pray for knowledge, pray for discernment, pray for your children and your spouse. Pray for doors to open for conversations and then walk through them!

I may have missed the opportunity when my kids were younger to instill Jesus into their lives.  But to be fair, He wasn’t deeply rooted in mine either.  Thankfully, how I’ve allowed Jesus to change me and use me is also a great lesson for my adult children.  Until this Age of Grace is over, it is never too late for God to work in our familys’ lives.  As a changed follower I’m asking for His help, so that I can stand resolutely and faithfully in being my kids’ advocate.  

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We Belong

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:6-7

For a long time, I just didn’t feel like I “belonged.”  As a child, I didn’t have a group of friends to hang out with.  My one friend, a neighbor around the corner, frequently left me out of activities with her other friends.  And when I got into high school I felt more like I was on the edge of my friend group.  Fast forward to adulthood and I never quite fit in with the boozy softball coach crowd, the gossipy PTA crowd, or even the Girl Scout leader gang.  

And when I married I was an outsider to a large, wonderful family.  Yes, they welcomed me but I couldn’t share in all the stories from long past because I never lived in the town they were all from.  My own family consists of myself and my parents – who I see and speak with infrequently.  

I spent a lot of time in prayer over the years asking God to work His changes in me so that I could feel like I belonged, somewhere, anywhere.  As my faith has progressed I’ve come to realize that I first need to accept being a part of the most important family of all – God’s. I praise Him today that He sees us as His sons and daughters.  We are His beautiful children whom He loves unconditionally.  We belong to Him.

That’s been a hard message for me to soak in and accept.  When I stand in the mirror I’ve asked God to help me see what He sees.  To love myself as He loves me – no matter where else I may have felt rejected. 

And it’s funny how God’s ways work.  When I focus on God’s love, gifts and promises the more I feel that sense of belonging.  He places me with new people and new situations that He has prepared for me.  I slough off the old negative feelings and instead give all glory to Him who loves me and who draws me closer to Him.

I recently heard a lesson about belonging. As Christians we are admonished to “remember our last name.” Like children of our earthly parents we are to go about our lives remembering who we belong to and who we represent. That really hit home. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior I became a part of a special family. One where I’m expected to remember my last name and act like I belong to the Lord Most High.

It’s amazing how God gives us the next steps when He sees we are ready — when we start acting like He expects us to.  He brings in new people to our lives when He knows we can openly accept His new ways.  I find myself so incredibly blessed by, not only the women that have been populated in my sphere, but the men.  Strong Christians who love people.  Faithful Christians who serve others.  Young, old, every race and quirkiness. And I feel like I belong.