Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Imprinting Holy Moments onto Busy Schedules

I'm walking around the house and I see another one. There it is, resting on the sofa armrest. I can't imagine how it lays there so close to the edge without falling off. It's like one of those quick scooter turns when the angle is sharp and the wheel is skimming the outside edge, yet my toddler makes the turn, happy and oblivious.  Here, on this sofa armrest, he's left a treasure that despite all odds, is safe and sound.

I don't know where he found it.  I've discovered the smaller the treasure, the more unlikely the place he'll find it.  But he knows a treasure when he sees one, and there it lies. It's a Lego micro that looks like a dozen other pieces to me, but to him it's special.

Rachel Balducci has written about the unique collection of oddities little boys are keen on collecting. They turn up in funny places. I find them stealthfully hidden under or resting upon sofa cushions, or proudly displayed like trophies on bedroom tables.  Rachel finds them in play clothes' pockets that she combs through before doing the wash.

What strikes me about these objects of affection is how my sons find their inspiration in such unusual places. Again, to me it looks like just another other Lego micro, for instance, but to them it's distinguishable and special. I quickly find out just how special it is when I try to return it to the toy bin, or when a brother wants to "share" it by taking it away!

I am willing to bet you haven't coveted a Lego micro lately. Regardless, as adults, we have our own treasured objects too. Sometimes these objects have apparent value to others. But sometimes these objects are very ordinary and hold a special value only to us.

I want to collect more of the latter. Particularly, I'm looking for everyday objects that remind me of God's grace.  I'm learning I need to intentionally open myself to grace to avoid feeling empty and burdened.  And one of the ways I can open myself is to search for grace-filled reminders in physical form.

The monotony of daily rhythms can distract us from the holy punctuations in our lives.  When we experience holy punctuations, we need to take hold of them. Maybe we read a powerful scripture verse one morning - why not write it down and tape it to our mirror? It's a simple piece of paper, but it reminds us of a genuine moment of inspiration with God.

Maybe you know a place that's special - God spoke to you there and answered a prayer. Take a reminder of that place and carry it with you. A rock from the ground. A card from the business. Use it to remember God's awesome grace at work in your life for the day you'll need to remember. I'm wearing a necklace from such a place right now.

In the flurry of motherhood, it's easy to try to do everything in our own strength. This only contributes to our weariness.  In our busyness preparing for tomorrow, we can miss the grace-filled moments God designed for us today.  Don't let that be us, Lord. We're hungry for you, no matter how much our schedules distract us.  Help us to humbly remember your grace and become unabashed collectors - for you.

If you liked this post, check out this one about the importance of slowing down called A Peaceful Pause.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Important Additions to Your Summer Reading List

Summer is not only a time to unwind, but it's a time to read to and invest in our children.  I have some book titles to share with you.  I have read them all and can wholeheartedly recommend them!  In fact, I read several of them to over 150 children this week at my church's Vacation Bible School.  Make sure you check out the book One below - it was a favorite!

If you aren't familiar with Max Lucado's children's books yet, these are a great place to start:

The Crippled Lamb - In this tenderhearted classic, we meet a little lamb with a limp who is able to play a special part in the life of Jesus because of it.  This book gives children a platform for understanding the value of every person, including children who physically or mentally struggle.

Because I Love You - Through the tale of a kind carpenter and a wayward boy, we learn about the reality of sin in the world and our Savior's rescue.  It's a great resource to use to explain why we need Jesus and just how much he loves us.

The Oak Inside the Acorn - This is a story about how each of us is created unique and entrusted with a special purpose by our Creator.  It focuses on an acorn's journey to becoming an oak tree, and how that growth mimics the journey each of us takes while coming of age.  This book is for older children; it encourages them to pursue their life purpose.

Here's another Christian book by a different author.  It's a classic that has been in print for over 60 years:

If Jesus Came to My House by Joan G. Thomas - A boy imagines Jesus as a little boy who comes to play at his house.  Your child can watch how he treats Jesus.  The boy knows that this playdate cannot really happen, but that he can serve Jesus by treating others the same way.  It encourages children to serve others in ways that they know and understand!

This next book is not religious, but it demonstrates Christian principles:

One by Kathryn Otoshi - Read how one character inspires others to stand up to bullying. Characters move from colors to numbers, demonstrating that everyone "counts."  It is an abstract but poignant tale that teaches children the power of one voice.

As you talk about One with your children, remember that Jesus was just one man who walked on earth, and yet he forever changed history and eternity by doing so as God!  Our children can shine his light to others in his name and make a different too - no matter how big or small they are!  

Do you want more resource suggestions?  Read my recommendations for a children's Bible and children's devotional.

{Photo from iStock, Edited}

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Steer Clear of Danger

Truth be told, they hadn't seen their friends in a while.  

As their friends came bounding down the hill toward our new backyard swing set, my children's excitement was palpable.  It was then a race to see who would get up the climbing wall first.  Or just how high a swing could go.  Or who could master some new feat that their mothers quickly said "No!" to for fear of life and limb.  They're boys, after all. 

They happily made circles around the swing set moving from one activity to another.  It was a joy to see their amusement.  But there was danger too.  Maybe it was the energy of the moment.  Maybe it was the fact that there was so much going on.  Or maybe it was because it was at the end of a long summer day.  Regardless, they weren't listening.

"Watch out for the swing!"  

My friend and I repetitively reminded the boys to steer clear of the swing path when someone was swinging to little avail.  One by one they would cross the path en route to a new activity.  They remained unscathed due to our efforts to halt the swing or swiftly usher them out of the way.  Parents of little children know that this is a common occurrence. The swings are often the most coveted spot on the playground, but we have to be vigilant watching their path.  

There's a lesson here for us too.

As adults, how often do we hear, sometimes repetitively, that something isn't good or safe for us, yet we persist anyway?  Enter the bad habit, unhealthy relationship pattern, or unwise choices.  When we were younger, maybe an adult took us by the hand and explained what wasn't safe.  When we were older, maybe we listened to our Father's instruction in scripture.  But for whatever reason, we have had trouble acting accordingly.

Make no mistake:  God is your Heavenly Parent watching you on the playground of life.  God wants you to enjoy all of the fun life has to offer - safely.  God whispers instruction in scripture to protect you.  God puts people in your life to take you by the hand and direct you. And God is always there to pick you up if you fall down and show you his love.

Just as I longed for my children to heed my wisdom, God wants the same for each of us. God wants to unlock the power of his instruction in our lives to pave the way for a better tomorrow.  The trick is that we have to listen, and we have to trust him.  God is giving us the opportunity to not have to learn the hard way through that trust.  Maybe you've had some near misses on life's swing.  God is calling you today to steer clear for good - and be blessed.

"For the Lord gives wisdom; From his mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly" (Proverbs 2:6-7, NKJV).

If you liked this post, I also recommend Firm Legs to Stand On.

{Photo by Chris Yarzab at Flickr, Edited}

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Only Antidote to Worry

Have you been feeling overwhelmed with worry?  With the end of another school year, schedules can get hectic and it's easy to feel overloaded.  Whether you're concerned about getting everything done, or you're wrestling with something greater, we need to be reminded of the sanctuary we have in Christ.

Scripture reminds us, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (I Peter 5:6-7).  What do your anxieties consist of?  Maybe you are pregnant and facing complications.  Maybe you or a family member has recently lost a job or is going through a job transition.  Maybe your child has had a health scare, and you've come face to face with the limitations of your control.  Whatever it may be, God knows the burden you've been carrying.

Jesus did not preach platitudes in a vacuum.  He knew firsthand the brokenness and struggle in our world, and he extended an invitation of comfort and peace in the midst of it.  It is not that we will never have a reason to worry.  No.  We will have reason to worry, but that's when we need to cling to the sovereign hand of God.

We worship a God who can order every aspect of our life for good - even the mistakes, even the mishaps, even the sin.  That means that even in the worse case scenario of whatever burden you've been carrying, God already has you covered.  Further, Christ's resurrection promises us that hope is always possible - no matter what the circumstances - with God.

As Christians, there is always a silver lining.  Christ told his disciples, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).  In other words, we shouldn't analyze our problems, but petition our God.  Christ is the gateway to perfect peace.  When we approach him in humility, we will experience the only true antidote to worry: trust in God.

I am quite fond of the daily devotional by Sarah Young entitled Jesus Calling:  Enjoying Peace in His Presence.  Recently, I read a devotion on worry that I wanted to share with you, for she echoes this truth.  She writes as if Jesus is speaking to you:

I am all around you, like a cocoon of Light.  My Presence with you is a promise, independent of your awareness of Me.  Many things can block this awareness, but the major culprit is worry.  My children tend to accept worry as an inescapable fact of life.  However, worry is a form of unbelief; it is an anathema to Me.

Who is in charge of your life?  If it is you, then you have good reason to worry.  But since I am in charge, worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive.  When you start to feel anxious about something, relinquish the situation to Me.  Back off a bit, redirecting your focus to Me.  I will either take care of the problem Myself or show you how to handle it.  In this world you will have problems, but you need not lose sight of Me.

Young's use of cocoon imagery is powerful.  There is no doubt that a cocoon is delicate and indicates a time of trial through life-altering change.  But it is also a place of comfort and safety for new life to begin.  As we bring our worry to God, may he hold you in the cocoon of his peace, so that you might see the situation through together and later marvel at his grace.  Trust him - it's worth it.

If you appreciated this post, you might also like From Worry to Confidence and What to Do in a Storm.

{Photo by Francesco at Flickr, Edited}