Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Value in Learning

Tell the righteous it will be well with them,

for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.

Woe to the wicked!

Disaster is upon them!

They will be paid back

for what their hands have done. (Isa 3:10-11)

Here’s what I am learning today:  What appears to be harsh may not necessarily be so.

It sounded like the Jews of Judah would be utterly destroyed forever.

But the same God who said they would be “paid back,” also said later in Isaiah,

For a brief moment I abandoned you,

but with deep compassion I will bring you back.

In a surge of anger

I hid my face from you for a moment,

but with everlasting kindness

I will have compassion on you,”

says the Lord your Redeemer. (Isa 54:7-8)

God didn’t permanently reject his people.  But he did allow them to experience the consequences of their choices.  They were his beloved children who had strayed away, but he intended for them to come back to him and be gathered into his arms and blessed like never before.

You know, the book of James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

Our trials feel harsh.  But James says to be joyful in them, because they are actually for the good.

I was talking with a friend recently, and she told me how she’s the “fixer” in her family.  But she’s beginning to realize that sometimes it’s better to not fix things for her family members, that there’s value in letting them learn from their mistakes.

And that is what God wants.  He wants us to learn from our mistakes.  More than that, he wants us to realize that there’s learning to be had in any situation.  Our agenda is to pray and ask him to fix our life right away.  But if he did, we would miss the growth.  We would miss the lesson of perseverance.

I really think God wants me to get this in my head.  After I started writing this blog, I was in my life coaching class telling my instructor how I was trying to help one of my clients come to a solution.  My teacher told me that helping the client figure out a solution isn’t always the point.  The point is also to help them see that there is value in learning from their struggles.  Ack!  There it was again!  It’s hard for me because, like my friend, I always want to help people fix things!

But even Jesus learned from his struggles.  “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

And how did Jesus learn?  By wrestling in prayer. The Book of Hebrews explains, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7)

This verse has to refer to the time when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemene, pouring out his heart to God and begging that the “cup” would be taken away. As Jesus did so, he strengthened his conviction that no matter what, he would do God’s will, not his own.

What if Jesus hadn’t gone to the garden to pray?  He wouldn’t have been able to go through with God’s plan.  It seemed like a horrible plan, that he would have to be tortured and executed.  But we all are the beneficiaries of the plan.

Which brings us back to the original point.  What seems harsh may not necessarily be so.  There’s value in the learning we can have from the situation.  And what seems horrible can lead to good . . . IF we wrestle to submit and have a victory in the testing of our faith.

Oh, how we want to be able to have this victory!  And we will, if we remember that the God of Isaiah 3:11 is also the God of Isaiah 54:7-8.

That he’s the God of everlasting kindness.

That he wants to bless us like never before.

That he’s committed to us in love and faithfulness because we are his family.

For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name.  (Isa 54:6a)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (I John 3:1)

 

 

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Filed under Isaiah, Perseverance, Surrender, Things I Am Learning, Uncategorized

Trading Up

Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying his glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves. Isa 3:8-9

The people were defying God’s glorious presence.   Literally, the Hebrew means they defied “the eyes of his glory.”

This reminds me so much of the verse “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts completely belong to him.” (II Chronicles 16:9,)

God’s eyes are always watching.  He sees each person, and each action that is for him or against him.  He sees all the way into each heart, whether it is devoted to him.

His face is perpetually turned towards mankind.

And the Jews of Judah were like, “In your face, God!”  They paraded their sin.  Their expressions were rebellious.

We’ve got to be a people who seek God, instead of turn away.

Because what I love about II Chronicles 16:9 is that God will strengthen those whose who choose to put their eggs in his basket.

And that’s what I want to talk about today, making the choice to put our eggs in his basket.

The thing is, we usually don’t feel like our “eggs” look that impressive.  Our faith can seem, as one friend described it when she texted me this week, to be “smaller than a seed.” How can we come to God with a faith that doesn’t look like we think it should?

But that’s the thing.  We give God what we have.  We choose to put our trust in him, even if it’s not pretty.

My friend Yesenia told me about a book she’s reading, “Love Does,” by Bob Goff and Donald Miller.  In this book, the authors talk about how we “trade up” with God.  They tell the story about a guy who only had a dime, but he traded it for something a little better, and then he traded what he got for something a little better, and so on, until he actually had a truck.

And Goff and Miller say that’s the same way with God.  As my friend Yesenia told me,  “He asks us to give up ourselves (the dime) for something bigger and better (a life with him where we are fully engaged and living.”

We give God our puny little faith, and he gives us much more in return.

I have found this to be so true over the course of my life.  When I was in my late teens, I was adrift and struggling after my mom’s divorce.  I took a step towards God, and he gave me a a Christian husband and a church full of great people.  In my 20’s, I got off track and floundered.  We moved to Atlanta to seek God more wholeheartedly, and the whole course of my life improved.  We joined a church that made a tremendous difference in my life.

This pattern continued.  I had years when things were very hard.  Yet as I held to God, and put my eggs in his basket, he gave me more at just the right time. We had a tough time raising our kids through their teen years, and also felt like we were failing as we tried to lead a church family group.  But we moved to Auburn to help the small church here, and our life has been blessed beyond imagining.  I am so grateful.

God’s glorious presence is all around us.  His eyes are upon us.  Will we take a step towards him, or a step towards what we want instead?

Will we trade up or trade down?  It feels scary to trade up.  We would much rather rely on what we can see and do, especially when the winds of life roar around us.

But as I reflect over my life, I see that sometimes God allowed the wind to roar so that I would learn to surrender and put my life in his hands.  Then he gave me the blessings I really needed.

PC Bayou

From a family trip to Panama City. To me, it illustrates that the path to God leads to good!

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. Luke 9:24

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A Remedy for the Refugee

People will oppress each other— man against man, neighbor against neighbor.

The young will rise up against the old, the nobody against the honored.

A man will seize one of his brothers in his father’s house, and say,

“You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!”

But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy.

I have no food or clothing in my house;

do not make me the leader of the people.”  Is 3:5-7

I’ve been reading beautifully written novel about Syrian refugees.  It really brings home to me what it would be like to lose everything we take for granted — our  home, food, schooling.

It reminds me of this passage above.  Isaiah prophesied about a tumultuous time when people would oppress and destroy one another.  All would be laid waste, like rubble.  If this isn’t a description of a Syria, I don’t know what is.  I’m not saying this prophesy was about Syria, only that Syria gives us a good picture of what this passage is describing.

Here is a picture of Syria right now:

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And here is a video with a view of what it is like to be a Syrian refugee.

Two of the Syrians who were interviewed in the video said, “We used to be comfortable and safe all day.  Now we have to stay here with nothing to do.. . . There is no water, you have to buy it.  Now you can’t get anything you need.  It is difficult to buy bread because we don’t have enough money.”

Over six million Syrians have been displaced.  It is estimated that 10,000 more Syrians become refugees each day.  They struggle for even their basic needs, and families are reported to spend up to twenty percent of their income on clean water.

We can see the hopelessness.  We can see the heartbreak.

It is as the verse in Isaiah 3 says, “I have no remedy.”  Or a more literal translation is, “I will not be a healer. In my house there is neither bread nor cloak.”

I have been thinking a lot lately about people’s souls.  For a long time, my dream has been for our church to grow, for it to be a place where people could come and find shelter from the world, could find wholehearted joy in God, and could worship in spirit and in truth.

But lately I haven’t been doing anything to help the church grow.  I haven’t been reaching out to people and inviting them.

And as I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that my goal needs to be more than growing the church.  It needs much more be to reach out to people’s souls.  I need to long for each soul to be saved.

You know, when Jesus saw the people of his day, his heart went out to them.  He didn’t just condemn them for their poor decisions or their worldliness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

I so need to be more like Jesus!  People are like refugees on the inside, bereft, wandering, needy.  They need healing, and I have a remedy for those who would listen.

But it’s hard to be the worker who reaches out. I told myself this morning when I went to a kids’ consignment sale that I would open my mouth and share my faith.  I talked to two people, but didn’t get any further.  My motivation just wasn’t great enough.

And then I remembered that I have heard many, many people say that they were praying to know God better, or praying for a church, and within a few days someone shared with them.  And I thought, the next person I meet could be one of those people!  They could be the person God put in my path for a reason.

So when I went to pick up my groceries from Kroger ClickList this afternoon, I asked the young woman who loaded up my bags if she would like an invitation to church.  She told me about her church, and how she has a daughter who is 14 who feels called to the ministry, and the daughter has already given a couple of messages to the children in the elementary school ministry.  It was a heart warming story.  I don’t know if me sharing with the woman made a difference in her life, but it enriched me!

Let’s reach out more.

Maybe we will find someone who is searching.

Maybe there’s a little refugee in all of us, and we can touch one another’s souls.

 

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Filed under Compassion, Evangelism, Isaiah, Uncategorized

Hearts That are Bowed

The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty,

for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),

for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty and all the oaks of Bashan,

for all the towering mountains and all the high hills,

for every lofty tower and every fortified wall,

for every trading ship and every stately vessel.

The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled;

the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear. (Is 2:12-18)

This passage talks about a day that is coming when man will be totally humbled, and God alone will be exalted.  Today we call this the “The Day of the Lord.”
On one hand, the Day of the Lord is Judgment Day.  Romans 14 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'” (Romans 14:9b-10)

And Romans 14 refers to Isaiah 45, when God proclaims,  “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.'”

But I think there is more to the Day of the Lord.  This chapter we’re reading in Isaiah starts with, “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

The time of humbling will not just happen at Judgment Day, it is a part of the “Last Days.”  What does it says will happen in the Last Days?  The Lord will be exalted.  It’s the same theme.

And man will find humility.  The beginning of the chapter goes on to read:  “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’”

People will no longer follow their own ways.  They will look to God to be taught how to live.

Today, I believe we are living in the Last Days.  I believe that it is a time when people can see the uselessness of their idols and their empty way of life, and seek God instead.

Why do they seek God more at this time more than they had in the past?  Because of Jesus.  Look at this parallel passage in Philippians:

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11

There’s something incredible in the story of Jesus.  It alone has the power to put us on our knees.

We see his humility.  We see our sinfulness, in comparison to his example.  We see how he took the punishment that should have been ours.  We see how he loved the least, the sinners. We see his power, his miracles.  We see the astounding work of resurrection from the dead.  We see his words, which resonate more with us than anything else on earth.  We see forgiveness, and salvation for our own souls.  We see value, and everything we esteemed pales in comparison.

Under the force of Jesus’s example, we can humble ourselves.

Or we can continue to be caught up in the conceit of our our lives, and be humbled on Judgment Day.

Lately people in our church have been going through some serious stuff!!  So my friend Marisha decided to have a few of us over to pray last Thursday.

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We got on our knees and made fervent petitions to our Father.  It felt good to be on my knees, abject before the All High.  I wanted to kneel lower, and lower still, to be nothing, to put myself completely in God’s hands.

 

Since then, when I find myself awake in the middle of the night, my thoughts racing, I remember and picture myself being yet again on my knees, completely humble before the Lord.

It helps my heart like nothing else.

We are in the Last Days, and the Day of the Lord is coming.  Let us remember to live with hearts that are bowed.

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Filed under Humility, Isaiah, Prayer, Uncategorized

Finding Security in God

For the LORD has abandoned his people, the descendants of Jacob, because they have filled their land with practices from the East and with fortune-tellers like the Philistines. They have made alliances with pagans.  Isa 2:6

It is so scary to think of God leaving his people, even rejecting them, as some translations say in this passage.  I was praying through a bad mood yesterday, and it was so comforting to me to remember that God promised to always be with me.  It would be horrible to not have this.

It was horrible for King Saul.  Our Sunday school lesson for the kids this coming week is going to be how the Lord left King Saul.  As a result, Saul went mad.  He had fits of rage.  They brought David in to play the harp for him and sooth him.

And, I think of Jesus on the cross.  I think one of the hardest things for Jesus wasn’t the physical torment he endured, but that he felt abandoned.  He cried, “My God, My God.  Why have you forsaken me?”  It could be that he felt that way because he was bearing our sins, and was separated from God as a result.

I’m not worried about going in and out of my salvation, having God with me when I think I am doing good, and having God abandon me when I sin.  I do feel space between myself and God when I think I’ve messed up.  Some of that is my own difficulty in forgiving myself.  But I know believe that it is true that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 8:1)

I do think that if I continued to sin over a long period of time, I could fall away.  “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”  Heb 10:26  But I take much comfort in the scripture, “His mercies are new every morning.” (Lam 3:23)  God’s grace is sufficient.  It is an spring that bubbles up day after day, washing me clean.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (II Cor 5:21)

Yet I think this passage teaches me that I must have a great soberness about the polluting effects of the world.  I am surrounded by all kinds of terrible influences, and I’m so used to them, and I don’t even notice them anymore.

What does God condemn his people for?  Filling their land with practices from the east.  When I researched this, I found that it refers to this passage: “Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and saw the altar which was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the pattern of the altar and its model, according to all its workmanship.”  (II Kings 16:10)

The King of Judah built a foreign altar, not worshiping as God prescribed.

I am really convicted that another translation for Is. 2:6  includes the phrasing, “Because they be replenished from the east.”  The word used there does mean “filled,” but when I see the word “replenished,” it reminds me that we can feel empty, and we can find the wrong things to assuage that emptiness.  It’s so easy to do.

Here is what I find myself doing.  I keep surrounding myself with order and perfection.  I want everything to go well.  Then I feel safe and secure.  The other day, I got really grumpy at church because a couple of things went a little wonky.

This desire for perfection is a false altar.  My security and well being can only come from God.  I can’t only be happy when things are going as I think they should.  I need to be able to trust God when things are wonky!  And of course, there is much more to trust God about right now in my life than a couple of worship service items.

I have to remember the thing we stressed in last week’s Sunday School lesson, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”  (I Sam 6:17)  God doesn’t care about things looking perfect.  That is a “practice of the east.”  It is what the world does.  Let me show you this post that I recently saw on Facebook.39811111_10106277147143671_6227426464342474752_n

Poor mothers today don’t know what to do.  They feel the pressure to be perfect, but everyone has a different idea of what perfect is!  We all need to get our security from God, not how we fit in to the world.

Yes, God does want us to give him our best, and serve him with excellent.  But he wants this to come from a place of wholehearted devotion to him.  “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  (II Chron 16:9)

This morning I was having trouble sleeping, and I remembered the words of a song I wrote years ago:

Let me worship you with my whole heart today

All of my mind, strength and soul I pray.

May the distractions leave my mind.

All of the worries left behind.

‘Til in you a peace I find.

So ready, so ready, to worship you.

Let’s shake off the influences of the world and be wholly devoted to God, knowing only he will meet our needs.

It is in our seeking replenishment elsewhere that we begin to leave him.  But he will not abandon us.  Let draw closer to him instead.

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Mom Guilt, and What Will Help

Mom Guilt.  I had my struggles with it when I raised my kids,

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But it seems to have hit today’s generation especially hard.

Yesenia

Celeste's family

When I surveyed my friends on Facebook about their Mom Guilt, the answers poured in.

“Oh man what do I not feel guilty about? There is so much contradicting advice to new mothers.  No matter how I do something it is easy to feel as if it is the wrong way.”

“I feel guilty during sleep training, when my baby cries for more than 5 min. I also feel guilty that I seem to struggle with finding a balance between taking care of her, meeting my family’s needs and school work/career.”

“I feel guilty about talents or strengths that I saw in my children that I did not nurture enough, or weaknesses that I did not discipline and help them overcome.”

“I feel guilty for overreacting, and for not playing with them every time they ask me to.”

Can you identify?  But what to do?  Dealing with Mom Guilt is like trying to get chewing gum off of the bottom of your shoe.  The more you try, the stickier it gets.

Our Mom Guilt is complicated.  But I’ve learned some things that will help, and I want to share them.

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LEGITIMATE GUILT V.S. ILLEGITIMATE GUILT

First of all, we need to figure out is whether our guilt is legitimate guilt or illegitimate guilt.  We’re plagued with remorse, but a lot of times we don’t need to be. I’m telling you, Satan has a field day with moms!  Just like the Bible says in John 8:44, lies are the devil’s native language.  Just like the Hebrew translation of his name, Satan is “the accuser.”  He whispers to us that we’re messing up, that we should do more, that other moms are better moms, that we’re damaging our children.

So how do we tell if our guilt is illegitimate?   We start by being honest with ourselves that we’re feeling guilty, and specify exactly what we’re feeling guilty about.  We have to see clearly what we’re dealing with.

That’s the easy part.  The hard part is seeing clearly whether the thing we did was wrong or not.

To address that, I’m going to recommend that you start praying about your guilt, “Father God, show me if it is true that I should have done better in this situation.” I’m also going to recommend that you ask for input from a trusted friend or family member.  Sometimes they can see more clearly than we can.  Plus, it feels good to talk about it with someone!

We can also tell if our guilt is illegitimate by looking at our motivations.  Does it stem from trying to please others?  From trying to live up to what they do?  Does it stem from trying to please ourselves?    You know, I think some of us are harder on ourselves than God is!

Here’s a verse that has helped me many a time, “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:18)

If we seek anything other than the glory of God, it’s going to trip us up.  But seeking to please God is an absolutely pure motivation.  It feels so good to say, “God, you are completely awesome.  I want my life to be praise for you, and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.  It’s not so others will think I’m a great mom.  It’s not so I can pat myself on the back.   It’s so you will smile at me.  It’s so I can live out my love for you.”

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A huge source of illegitimate guilt is having unrealistic expectations.  One mom told me that she feels guilty anytime she goes against the “norm” of what motherhood says is acceptable, like when she chose formula over breastfeeding.  There are so many norms these days. We’re besieged by images of a mom should be.  In my day, we thought we needed to be supermom.  Now it’s like moms are supposed to have evolved through the increase in information to be the best moms in history!  There’s this constant message, “You should do this.  You should do that.  Should, should, should, should, should….”

Ack!  Here’s the verse that has saved my sanity,  “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3)

We have to quit thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought!  We need to have sober judgement and realize that we don’t have the ability, or the capability, to do everything we think we should do.

Let’s look at this a little more.  First of all, let’s look at our abilities.  Each of us has unique strengths and weaknesses.  Why is it, then, that when we become a mom we think we’re supposed to be good at everything?  I love the reminder of I Corinthians 12, “If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. . . In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”  This passage makes it plain that we each have something that we’re good at, and that is vitally important.  It also reminds us to not feel shame for not being able to excel at what someone else can do well.

Here’s an example.  I have a friend who suffers from mega guilt because she is often late.  Now I’m not saying that she shouldn’t work on being on time.  But I love that she is one of the few people I know who is good at being present.  She’s not always anxious about the next thing she needs to do.  She gives each person her full attention.  You feel important when you’re with her.  This is an awesome strength!

You have awesome strengths too, but they may come with a weakness you don’t like.

But speaking of time management, let’s talk about our capabilities.  We all have our schedule demands, so even if we do have the ability to do something, we may not have the time to do it.  In addition, we each have differing energy levels and health situations.  Some of us do better with nine hours of sleep, and some of us are wide awake after six hours.  Some of us can keep going all day and through the evening, and others of us are completely pooped by lunch time.  Be honest with yourself.  What can you realistically expect out of yourself?  I’m not giving you a license to be lazy.  But don’t allow yourself to feel guilty if you’re not wired to be Miss Energizer Bunny.  Don’t tell God that you should have been created differently, or be in a different situation.

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LEGITIMATE GUILT

Now that we’ve dispelled some of our illegitimate guilt, let’s talk about legitimate guilt.  Legitimate guilt comes from not doing the important things that you have the ability and capability to do.  But what is important?  We can think of twenty things that seem vital and necessary. I mean, this is our children we’re talking about.  How can it not be super important to see to their health, their education, their character development, and their need to be loved?

We have to make time periodically to reevaluate.  We have to prioritize. 

And God has to come first.

Here is one of my favorite verses, because it’s such a good reminder for me,  “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for he grants sleep to those he loves.” (Ps 127:1-2)

Moms, if you’re not putting God first, all of the efforts you are putting into parenting can be in vain.  Putting God first means making time for personal devotion and church attendance.  It means obeying the Bible and teaching your children to do the same.

It’s the same principle as Matthew 6:33.  Seeking the kingdom first helps everything else to work out.  If you feel guilty because you’re letting other things in life crowd out God, this is legitimate.  It’s the important thing you need to address over the urgent demands.

The next priority is your marriage.   You made a covenant with him that is holy in God’s eyes.  You vowed to cherish him.

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So how is it that your husband got moved to the back burner?

I’m going to pass on to you what was stressed over and over to me: your husband comes before your children.  Yes, I know that your children’s needs are more immediate.  But God designated you to be your husband’s helper. (Genesis 2:18) That doesn’t mean to be his little wife slave.  It means you are in a singular position to support him, believe in him and build him up. What you say and do affects him more than the words and actions of anyone else on earth.

That is why God commands us to respect our husbands.  (Eph 5:33) They need our positive reinforcement, even if they don’t ask for it.  They need to feel like they are important to us.  And they’re not going to feel this if we don’t treat them like they are worthy of our time.

So if you feel guilty because you’re not making time for your husband, or not meeting his needs, you have legitimate guilt.  Be intentional.  Schedule them in.  Try to drop what you’re doing when they desire your attention.  I’m telling you, with the strongest conviction of 37 years of marriage, that it’s worth it.

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And THEN, you can decide what you can do for your children.  Top the list with spending time with your them.  In almost every statement about Mom Guilt, women wrote that they wished they spent more time with their children.  One mom lamented, “I think the biggest thing I feel guilty about is lost opportunities. When I realize that the day has slipped away and I didn’t spend my time the way I intended to, or when the months and years slip away and I don’t have as much to show for the time (in terms of relationship building with my children, character training, homeschooling, etc.) as I had hoped.”

So this is something we want to consciously work on.  Again, we need to have realistic expectations.  We often can’t spend as much time as we’d like to.  But knowing that we are making this a priority will go a long way towards assuaging Mom Guilt.

Make a list, in order of priority, of the other things you would like to do for your children (and for your life, that’s a whole other subject).  Decide what you can do, and resist the temptation to try to do more than that.

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ONE MORE THING — IMPATIENCE

The second highest source of guilt for the moms I surveyed was their loss of patience.  One mom shared, “I feel guilty constantly but what makes me feel the most guilty is when I sin in front of my kids (for example yell at them).”

On one hand this is legitimate guilt.  It’s our responsibility to work on our self-control. We can’t place the blame for the lack of it on the behavior of others.  We can’t excuse it by saying we’ve had a bad day, or that our PMS is making us crazy.  Jesus said,  “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.”  (Mark 7:21)  Maybe we don’t have evil thoughts, but we do need to work on our heart.

On the other hand, we need to remember that God is gentle and kind with us, so we need to be gentle and kind with ourselves.  I love that the fruits of the Spirit include goodness, gentleness and kindness. (Gal. 5:20-21) That means those are characteristics of God.  And it’s comforting that Isaiah 40:11 says, “He gently leads those that have young.”

So if you do or say something you regret, apologize (even to your child).  And then let it go.  Don’t let Satan use the guilt to open your ears to his lies. It might be true that you lost your temper.  But it’s probably not true that you are a terrible mother and you are ruining your child.

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CONCLUSION — LEARNING TO BE CONTENT

In conclusion, all of this is easy to say, and sooooo hard to do!  Because Mom Guilt is complicated.

Do you know what one of the biggest things is that I still can struggle with Mom Guilt about?  It’s that I didn’t give my youngest daughter better opportunities in extracurricular activities.

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I had two older children, and their sports travel teams took up most of our time.  So I sometimes put my youngest daughter in activities that were easy on the schedule.  I wish I had put her in the harp lessons across town, like she wanted at one time, or more advanced dance lessons.

As I reflect on this, I realize that it’s kind of an irrational guilt.  On one hand, I know I was trying really hard to juggle a lot of things.  But on the other hand, my daughter means the world to me, and I wanted to give her the best.

And that is why I think we have so much Mom Guilt.  We want to give our children the best, and we feel bad when we don’t, no matter what our abilities or our capabilities are.

When is all said and done, we have to realize that we’re never going to parent perfectly.  Yes, we need to strive to do what is most important.  But if we’re making an effort to do that, we also need to give ourselves a break.  We’re good moms!   We’re loving our children.  We’re making a lot of good parenting choices.

One of the hardest thing about being a mom is having the ability to be content.  This passage speaks to our struggle so well, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Phil 4:12-13

We always hear the last part of this verse about being able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us. But do we remember that it is referring to contentment?

It takes a lot of strength to be able to be content, and we have to fight for it.  Just like we need learn to be content with what we have, instead of wishing for what we can’t have, we need to learn to be content with what we can do, instead of wishing to do more.

In material things, the Bible says that food and drink are all we need to be content.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  (I Timothy 6:8)

In parenting, I’m going to say that putting God first and actively loving our children are all we need to do to be content and free from guilt.  When I started raising my children, I had loads of Mom Guilt.  But over the years, I learned to make these two things a priority.  I came to have much more peace.  I didn’t do them perfectly.  But having the confidence that I was doing what was most important made a huge difference in my sense of well being.

Mom Guilt. We all struggle with it.  But it doesn’t have to dominate, or dictate our lives.  Let’s fight for the joy of motherhood, with which we have been blessed!

Let’s put these into practice:

  1. Ask yourself, “What specifically am I feeling guilty about?”
  2. Pray, “God, should I feel guilty about this?”
  3. Ask someone you trust, “Should I feel guilty about this?”
  4. Look at your motivations. Who are you trying to please?  Seek only to please God.
  5. Ask yourself if you have realistic expectations, according to your abilities and capabilities.
  6. Determine what is most important, and make sure you are taking steps to do it.
  7. Reevaluate and prioritize on a periodic basis.
  8. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
  9. Pray to have the strength to be content with what you can do.

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“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

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Repentance Brings Restoration

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Recently, I had the best time celebrating the graduation of my son and of my daughter in law.  They were both awarded their master’s degree in Nursing Anesthesia.

IMG_1010I am so proud of them, because I know some of what was behind these degrees.  I remember the days when my son was young, and hated schoolwork.  I think of how he had to do extra work to get in to the college he wanted to attend, and how he ultimately made the decision to switch from music to nursing, and rose to the top of his class.  I think of how difficult it was for him to go back to square one of not knowing anything and learn a new specialization, after being a respected ICU nurse.  Then recently, I know it was hard for him and my daughter in law to be newly married and have to be separated for all kinds of clinical rotations in all kinds of locations.

But they pushed through and made it.  And now they have great careers ahead of them.

There’s a life lesson in this.  We want the gain.  But are we willing to go through the pain?

Today’s reading speaks to this question in an amazing way.  Check it out —

And they asked him , “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”  Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?  But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Mark 9:11-13

There are all kinds of cool things to discover about this passage.

First, let’s look at what the teachers of the law were talking about when they said that Elijah had to come before the Messiah would appear. They were referring to Malachi 4:5, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.”   This is the last thing written in the Old Testament.  It places readers on the edge of their seats, anticipating the Lord’s coming.

Second, how would Elijah come?  In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel prophesied about John the Baptist, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah.”  (Luke 1:17)  Elijah came as John the Baptist.   John wasn’t the physical embodiment of Elijah (John 1:21), but he had the spirit and power of Elijah.

Third, looking more deeply at these two verses gives us insight into what the coming of Elijah/John the Baptist would be.  Malachi 4:5 is followed by, “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”  Luke 1:17 goes on to say, “He will change parents’ attitudes toward their children. He will change disobedient people so that they will accept the wisdom of those who have God’s approval. In this way he will prepare the people for their Lord.” (GWT)

The job of John the Baptist was to help people repent.  Then they would be prepared for Jesus to come, and ultimately, be in line for the final judgement.

I totally love how Jesus worded this: “Elijah does come first and restores all things.”

How wonderful it is that John the Baptist came to restore!  Through preaching repentance, he came to get people back the close relationship with God they were created to have.

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  I Peter 2:25 

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We long for this restoration, to be right with the Lord, to be safe and comforted in his arms.  And we can have this now on earth.

But we will have it infinitely more in heaven.  Jesus went on to say, “Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?”  You see, Jesus was talking about a progression of restoration.  First, Elijah would come, and people would repent.  Then, the Messiah would come, and he would suffer, die and be resurrected.  This would open the way for men to have their home with God forever.

Here’s the coolest thing — look how Peter’s words in Acts 3:19-21 sum this all up:  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Acts 3:19-21

Repentance brings restoration.  It’s the path to the achievement of God’s will.  On a personal level, it’s the path to the things we need and want.

The question is, will we go through the pain to get the gain?

repentanceThis is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  Isa 30:15

During the holidays, my heart’s desire was to have a wonderful Christmas with my family.  But I had to constantly work at repentance for this to happen.  I had to keep denying my worry, anxiety, anger, grumpiness, fear, and especially, pride of thinking that things had to go a certain way.  I had to decide, over and over again, to trust God more completely, and find delight in pleasing him.

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Sometimes it was the small stuff.  I remember one morning before Christmas I woke up and saw that Ken had been eating the cookies I had baked the day before.  It had taken a lot of energy to get the cookie making together, and ride herd over my rowdy grandkids to roll and cut out shapes, and then decorate them.  I felt like the cookies had to last all through Christmas.  I was so grumpy!

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I had to wrestle to be righteous.  Isn’t it funny?  It takes work to have a happy life.  And it’s the same thing in other areas.  It takes work to have a good marriage.  It takes work to have a functional family.  Like my son and daughter in law, it takes work to have a good career.

John the Baptist gave us the key.  We need to do the work of repentance.  This will bring us to the things we long for.

Yet we will still have tragedy.  After all, John the Baptist was executed.  Jesus alluded to this in the reading, “Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished.”

That is why the promise of a final restoration is so important.  That is why we continue to repent, even if we don’t see the fruit of it.  Being completely with God will be so incredible.  It will give us everything our heart ever longed for, and even things we didn’t realize we longed for.

“The biblical meaning of the word ‘restoration’ is to receive back more than has been lost to the point where the final state is greater than the original condition.  The main point is that someone or something is improved beyond measure.” (From a church website.)

The gain will be far greater than the pain.  Let’s remember that, and let it motivate us.  May it be our life’s work to help others to be restored as well.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  II Cor 5:20

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