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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rear view mirror



How good are you about checking the rear view mirror when you drive? I check it often, but sometimes I get to relying on the side ones too much. A couple weeks ago I almost caused an accident because a car that wasn't in my side view would have shown up in my rear view--but I didn't look back before changing lanes.

Um, what's the spiritual point here?

Tuesday night I sat alone in the prayer room. For various and completely reasonable reasons, none of the other prayer moms could make it that night. I thought about just going outside to watch kids play the ongoing epic saga of capture the flag, but felt instead God tug on my heart to just be alone with Him. So I sat in the prayer room, opened my Bible to read through the chapter for the Bible study that night, and prayed.

As I prayed, I remembered. I remembered praying before there were prayer moms. Before I ever knew there would be prayer moms. Before I ever thought the words "prayer mom." When my oldest son was in jr high and God had me in a 7 year holding pattern of praying for His green light to enter youth ministry, I used to arrive early to pick him up. I didn't know any of the youth kids or the leaders, so I didn't go inside; I just sat in the car, listened as strains of a worship song or the Bible study wafted out through the open doors if it was a warm night, and prayed.

I prayed for those kids and leaders I didn't know. I prayed for the spiritual battle I thought I understood. My heart would pound and sometimes I would cry, though I didn't know why. I just knew God had planted this passion of prayer for youth in my heart, and this was the only thing I could do with it.

It's been 10 years now since God called the prayer mom ministry into existence. And as I remembered those nights in the parking lot, I also remembered many things during the years between then and now. I remembered lots we'd shared together in prayer through the years. I also remembered times we were variously so broke we were putting change in the gas tank to get to meetings, or were really grateful for the leftover food at some event that someone suggested we take home for our families. I remembered times of spiritual oppression so heavy we could barely drag ourselves to meetings. And hard times of fasting that brought powerful spiritual fruit.

See, it's good to remember. This morning I read this in Jeremiah 2:

“‘I remember the devotion of your youth,
    how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the wilderness,
    through a land not sown."


It's good to remember because sometimes we forget. God says remember when you were so broke you couldn't pay attention and I sent you home with those leftovers? Remember when you were crying in the car because the battle was so fierce in your family and I showed you My power in every situation? Looking back, you remember that He led you through the "land not sown"--which would mean it was hard, dry, wasn't producing any crops.

Jeremiah 4:1, 3-4 says,

"Return to Me...break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts." 

There's something about looking back that's good. Because I don't know about you, but sometimes I forget. I take things for granted. Ok, it's Tuesday...hop in the not-jimmy-rigged car, park where I belong now, go inside to talk with kids and leaders I know, pray about the usual things, eat some nachos, head home. Now it's not "wilderness..a land not sown." Now it's "(my) unplowed ground" and I'm being warned not to sow among thorns. I'm being urged to "return" and to cut away the places I've become complacent so that my heart is once again tender like "the devotion of your youth" when "as a bride you loved Me."

This is a transparent post, but hopefully it challenges you to look back on your own "land not sown" that He led you through..and then to readjust your "go forward." God never says go back and live in those years--He says remember them and return to that attitude of heart.

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls." Jeremiah 6:16


Check the rear view mirror. 








That heart-thing: not a crazy daydream



I'm laughing as I finally sit down to write this, because I've tried three other times today to do so, and that very fact highlights the point of this post.

Do you have something you believe God has called you to do? Something that you think about often, that just seems to be a direction your life is supposed to be heading? I do. Over a year and a half ago I felt like God was stirring me to a new thing, and I've been obedient to just surrender it and acknowledge that I don't have a clue how to get from here to there. I'm beginning to think it's all just a crazy daydream rather than a calling from my Creator.

Last night I was thinking about this thing and it just feels so far away given many circumstances of my life (such as, two busy sons who need me every time I sit at the computer). I fell asleep praying Philippians 2:13--"For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good purpose."

This morning He reminded me through Isaiah 55:8 that His thoughts aren't mine, and my ways aren't His. He does not think the way I think. He does not get from here to there the way I would deem plausible. No. In fact, He specializes in the impossible. Excels at the extra-ordinary. He uses the weak to shame those with power-point maps of their career roads (ok, that's a paraphrase, smile--the Word actually says,"to shame the wise" in 1 Corinthians 1:27).

He gave me (and you) that "thing" in our hearts that is His good purpose. And if He gave us the want-to, He will give us the "oomph to" (another paraphrase). It is Him working in us both to will and to do, for whatever reasons He has for us to do this thing down here on earth while we live and breathe.

So what do I do? As my pastor reminds us often: keep it simple, silly. I will surrender each day to Him and ask Him to help me hear His directions for it. I will do the next thing. And I will grab opportunities to do the thing He has called me to do, one small step at a time--this post being one of them.

By the way, it is now 4 days since I first started this post, because the "next thing" in front of me hasn't been this--it's mostly been those two busy sons. But here it is. I hope that encourages you in your purpose-thing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Someday

Who's going through something out there?

Maybe the better question is: who isn't going through something out there?

If we're honest and real, most of us will admit there is some kind of trial, difficulty, challenge going on in our lives. Maybe more than one. Probably more than one. I'm raising my hand right with you.

In the midst of the whatever-it-is, we can find strength in God's Word--but you probably knew that already. We often encourage each other with verses that speak of God's strength in the midst of our weaknesses, His power to handle our circumstances, His provision for our needs. And we're right to do so. We need those verses. I need those verses.

But today I read a verse that got me thinking about things a bit differently. I read this:

"In that day they will say, 
'Surely this is our God;
we trusted in Him, and He saved us. 
This is the LORD, we trusted in Him; 
let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.'"
Isaiah 25:9

See, someday we'll be on the other side of this thing. Someday, God will have brought an end to it and it will be behind us. Someday we'll get to look back and say, wow that was a rough one--but it's over. We made it through. We hung in there and held on to Jesus and He helped. He's a good and faithful God. Wow, is He good.

Can you go stand in the someday with me for a minute? Put yourself there, on the other side of whatever it is that's facing you right now. The illness. The empty checkbook. The relationship. The regret. Whatever it is...go stand in the someday. Because you are gonna get there--that's a promise that threads through from Genesis to Revelation. And if we can stand there long enough to feel what it's going to be like on the other side of this something, we can go back and face it with new courage and hope.

What's the key? "We trusted in Him, and He saved us." It doesn't say we have to be this or be that or do this or do that. Trust in Him. That's it. Keep it simple, saint.

Hang in there. Hold on. Trust God.

What is your "something"?

Today and every day till it's over, let's remember that there's a "someday." Because there's a Someone. 





Monday, September 1, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Dancing on the Head of a Pen

9781400074358 (125×182)

Dancing on the Head of a Pen, by Robert Benson, is a beautiful book about the process of writing. Written in short chapters--with a warm tone of voice and simple metaphors to illustrate different aspects of the writing process--this book gives heartwarming advice to anyone who seeks to write a book. Because I am (of course!) writing a book, I found myself captivated by this one.

Gently passing through aspects of writing such as self-discipline, the importance of daily writing, and reading others' writing for inspiration, Benson gives kind hope and encouragement to those of us navigating our way through this art called writing. He suggests ways to draw inspiration for writing, and how to choose an audience for whom to write. He even tells how you might know your book is done.

I love the thread that runs through this book of letting life itself show you what and how to write. He encourages writers not to lose touch with the beauty of a neighborhood stroll or the practical lessons gleaned from talks with neighbors. Ultimately, it is recognizing that God knows what you are to write and when you are to write it..and will fill you in on the plan if you'll just listen long enough to hear it.

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah for review purposes. If you would like to learn more about Robert Benson, go here. If you'd like to read the first chapter of this book, go here.

BOOK REVIEW: Revangelical




Warning: don't read this book if you are comfortable in your Christianity.

Challenge: read this book if you are comfortable in your Christianity.

I seriously challenge every Christian who checks "evangelical" on his or her list of what-niche-I-fit-into to read Revangelical. I needed the wake up call, and you might need it too. Evangelism means bringing good news...but too often we don't. Too often people looking at the evangelical movement from afar would instead say, with Gandhi, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Lance Ford draws from his own experience as a mainline evangelical and his progression through a transformation into a revangelical...people who, in his words, "seek to live their lives as Good News people of the Kingdom of Heaven, even if it costs them the American Dream."

Beginning right between the eyes, Ford addresses our political stances and then moves on to our "tweetable gospel"--the one that often starts and ends with the sinner's prayer. We give ourselves pats on the back for leading people to Jesus, but then sometimes walk off and leave them there--without the meaningful investment in their lives that will help them walk in this new life (#prayedtheprayer #savedfromhell #awesome).

He goes on to challenge the way we often get fired up with devotion to right-wing talk show hosts and authors who incite us to develop an "us-them" mentality against our fellow human beings...rather than get our wisdom and direction from the One who died for them. He points a finger at our self-righteousness. He confronts our attempts to hang on to what we deem ours, whether it be a standard of living, a political position, or a border. He even likens us to Pharisees who don't "see" "sinners," forgetting that that's who we are every day. Jesus had much to say about self-righteous religious leaders who tithed meticulously but were unmerciful to those they deemed "unclean."

Yes, sadly, sometimes as evangelicals we deem certain people "unclean."

Revangelicals are those who realize we have become Pharisees, repent, and begin looking at the example of Jesus for how to bring Him to our families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Revangelicals realize we are to be salt and light, people that others are drawn to. Remember that the "common people heard Him gladly"? Revangelicals are heard gladly by others because they are willing to get involved in doing life with them.

Ford gives examples throughout the book of revangelicals who have made a demonstrable difference in the lives of those around them. I liked this because it helped me to put pictures to what he presents.

Here's what I appreciate about this book: it doesn't advocate condoning sin. I've read books in which the pendulum swings so far to the left that we are told to embrace things the Bible says are sin, out of an ooey gooey love shift. Ford makes it clear that what the Bible has always said is sin, is still sin. However, fulfilling Jesus' mission statement in Luke 4 means getting inside people's lives, as He did. Rather than pointing at their sin, point them toward heaven so that, between your example and the truth of the Word, they decide to make life changes. Now that's good news.

I received a copy of this book for free from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for this review.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why pray for our youth?



As I am embarking on my pinterest career, I created a board about praying for youth--since that is one of my primary passions--and looked for pins to build it. Um, I didn't find much. Maybe I'm searching with the wrong keywords, but I don't see much about why it's so critical to pray for our teens.

For the past 10 years, I have led an intercessory prayer team for our youth ministry simply known as the "prayer moms." We are a group of ordinary women who have no special training in prayer, no special qualifications. We are just moms of teenagers who feel that God wants us to stand in the gap and pray for them. We meet weekly to do so together, but also pray individually every day for our youth pastor, youth leaders, and youth kids. How we specifically do that is subject matter for another blog, but the point is that we believe the young people of this generation need consistent intercessory prayer as they begin and grow in relationship with God prior to heading out into the world of college and beyond.

Here are the main reasons we do so:

  1. Kids need truth. Ever since the Bible and prayer were removed from our public schools, secular humanism has crept in. Relative truth has replaced absolute truth and created an atmosphere of confusion for teens who need firm boundaries and parameters for decision-making. Kids need the absolute truth of the Bible to steer their lives.
  2. Kids need salvation. Statistics show most Christians make their decisions for salvation before the age of 18. Kids need to have real encounters with Jesus while they are still in their formative years. 
  3. Kids need sustainable faith. Not only do teens need to have real relationships with Christ, they need to be grounded in active faith. They need to know their Bibles for themselves, and pray for themselves, and apply godly counsel to their own circumstances. 
  4. Kids need spiritual protection. The enemy is real and he never takes a day off. His goal is to steal, kill and destroy--and at all costs prevent our kids from walking out into the world saved, walking in sustainable faith, and knowing absolute truth. He plays dirty and hits below the belt. They need intercessors to step out onto the spiritual battlefield and ask God to help them. 
Encouraging moms to pray for the youth of their churches--or neighborhoods--or whatever--is my passion, because I believe it makes a difference. We have seen many answered prayers during the past 10 years as we have consistently and diligently interceded for the youth of our church. If you want to know more about this, email me at momspray4youth@yahoo.com. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Evergreen

Are you an empty nester? If so, you may relate to the struggle John and Ingrid Christiansen experience during their first Christmas alone in Susan May Warren's Evergreen.

As Ingrid wrestles with her conflicting feelings--sadness at her empty house and gratitude for her children's independent lives--John looks forward to a trip away. When that is thwarted, and they are thrown into the role of temporary parents to Ingrid's nephew, Ingrid's long-simmering bitterness over an issue John didn't even know bothered her is stirred to a flame. Both struggle to reconnect with the love they used to feel for each other, but the Christiansen home is unusually frosty this Christmas.

Told in Warren's characteristic warm style, this novella is yet another reason to love the Christiansen family. As Warren's series on this family continues to expand, readers will find Evergreen a delightful interlude between  longer installments in the family's lives.

For more information on Warren and the Christiansen family series, go here.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my review.