Wednesday, August 20, 2014

4 Life-Saving Lessons when Adversity Strikes


The story of Daniel in the lion's den is not just a childhood tale for Sunday school classrooms.  It's a story that applies to adults like you and me.  If we look past its intrigue and simple exhortation to trust in God, we begin to ask the right questions.  Namely, who are our lions and what do our own dens look like?  And more importantly, how does our God save?

There are times in our lives when we are simply brought to our knees.  The circumstances are too dangerous for us to live through alone - too emotionally taxing, too physically draining, too spiritually challenging.  Sometimes these circumstances are the result of unfair actions on the part of others, as was the case with Daniel, but they are always the result of living in a broken and fallen world.

We have no choice but to stand naked before God in scary vulnerability.  We want to believe that faith can move mountains, but the physical facts are undeniable and bleak.  After all, Daniel was in a den with hungry lions all night.  The only exit was protected by a huge boulder and the king's decree that it remain in place.  Hopelessness was certain.

In situations of hopelessness, we can discover the true nature of God.  The greatest gift God provided Daniel was a protective presence that never left him.  Daniel spoke of an angel who shut the lion's mouths.  There is a promise embedded in his story for us.  For what God has done once, he will do again.  God continues to shut lions' mouths today - your lions' mouths - so they will not consume you.

Deliverance looks different from person to person.  Sometimes the immediate circumstances change as a result of prayer, and sometimes they do not.  But here are four lessons I've learned:

1.  God gives us a perspective that allows us to rise above our circumstances.  Our time in the lion's den is not an isolated incident, but one incident on a journey with God.  When we look at adversity within the context of a faith relationship, we can experience the freedom of a new perspective and better recognize the footprint of our Creator's love.

2.    God will always bring deliverance when we remain faithful.  As I examine my journeys through adversity, I recognize "lifelines" that I often did not recognize as such at the time.  I marvel at God's gracious provision in retrospect.  So if you are currently in the lion's den, keep moving forward.  God is working.

3.  Sometimes deliverance is best evidenced by a change in our hearts.  The lions may prowl, our circumstances may or may not change on the outside, but make no mistake that there will be changes on the inside.  If we remain dependent on him, God will honor our humility by grafting more of himself into us.  And that new part is stronger.  Much stronger.

4.  Deliverance comes with reward.  An earthly king rewards Daniel after his survival in the lion's den. There is an earthly king in Daniel's story so that we do not forget a far more powerful king.  The King of Kings is with us and watching.  Who knows what blessings our faithfulness will unlock?

We can't forget these lessons.  Write them down.  Pass them on.  Remember God's unfailing presence, and trust.  Psalm 91:11 says, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."  Angels still protect.  Romans 8:31 reminds us, "...If God is for us, who can be against us?"  God still fights on behalf of the faithful.  When you are shut up in the lion's den, feeling the cold and darkness of fear, remember:

"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark."  ~Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore

Sing, dear friends, sing.

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If you want to read more encouragement, I love this article on the value of our suffering entitled A Field Guide for Suffering Well, which was posted on Her.meneutics.  Also, check out my other posts entitled Truth in Suffering and Warning: Peaks Ahead.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What Anorexia Taught Me about Self-Worth

This week, I'm sharing a personal story from my past.  Thank you to iBelieve.com for featuring this article in the hopes that it can affect many women and families for Christ.  I'd love to hear from you either by commenting or showing some Facebook love!

What Anorexia Taught Me about Self-Worth

My struggle with anorexia in middle school might be closer to your own story than you’d think.

I still remember sitting at that table in art class in the sixth grade.  I was sitting with my best friend, and across the table was the new boy at school whom we both liked.  We had talked about him in hushed voices under our blankets at slumber parties.  We had recounted interactions with him for hours with giddy and hopeful hearts.  And we had wondered what it would be like to kiss him – sixth grade style, of course.

There I was, looking at him across the table and knowing how my friend and I felt.  The three of us talked about a variety of topics, but somehow the conversation turned to how much we weighed.  As an adult you might read this and think, “What?”  But as a middle schooler, you wouldn’t be surprised.  Middle school is wrought with fledging attempts at self-definition, and weight is a hot topic – whether it is verbalized or silently brewing beneath the surface as an eating disorder.  Anorexia is actually the third most common chronic illness in adolescents.

My friend, who was shorter and skinnier than me, was quick to say her weight.  It was a good ten pounds less than what I weighed.  The boy and my friend asked me several times what I weighed.  At first, I refused to answer.  Then I answered with a number that was five pounds less than reality.  And a new conviction was born:  I needed to lose weight.

I was thin to begin with, but I developed anorexia.  With every pound I lost, my sense of self-worth increased.  My friend was a faster runner on our school team.  After losing weight, I told myself that I would be faster too.  My friend was wearing smaller clothes sizes.  After losing weight, I told myself that I would wear them too and be the one the guy liked who had asked me that simple question at the art table.

Fast forward in our lives – the circumstances are different, but the pressures haven’t changed.  We want others’ approval.  We want to be admired and respected.  We want to accomplish our goals, which often involves an appetite for competition.  This is human nature, but if left unchecked, it can result in the same distorted sense of self-worth...

To read the rest of this article, please click here to find it on iBelieve.com. 

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}