Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love - Strong As Death

A recent conversation with my 15 year old son struck a chord in my heart. We were discussing what the Bible says about love in Song of Solomon. It says more than once to not awaken or arouse love before it’s time. Although we didn’t discuss it at the time, I went back and read through that book of the Bible and discovered in 8:6 that it says: For love is as strong as death. When I read that, I thought to myself, this is the key to teaching my children about relationships! You see, we can tell our children that love should not be awakened or aroused before its time but when they ask why, what will our answer be?

My children are getting to that age when interest in the opposite sex is starting. Going back to the conversation I was having with my 15 year old, he said the sweetest thing I can remember ever hearing him say. I was explaining to him why you don’t want to put yourself in a position of believing that you love someone before it’s time. He responded with, “I know” (typical teenager response…but then followed it up with): “I only love you and dad and Jesus.” Yes, my mommy heart did melt!

Now lest you think I have it easy, that coming from a 15 year old, I have to say that I also have a 10 year old who declared to me during a drive we were taking together to pick up a pizza that when he turns 15 he is going to have a girlfriend. He couldn’t seem to understand why his big brother doesn’t and isn’t allowed to have a girlfriend right now. At the time, my only answer was what my 15 year old and I had been talking about, how you don’t awaken love before it’s time. Now we need to have a second conversation and I need to provide him with the reason why. Simply telling my children you can’t do something because I said so isn’t really enough. But now I have a clear-cut reason…love is as strong as death.

Think about that. Love can feel so strong that you can literally feel like you will die without the one you love. Do you remember that feeling the first time you had it? I was in middle school when I felt that. I was absolutely convinced that I was in love with “C.” He was convinced of the same and I will never forget my first Valentine’s Day gift. He came to school and presented me with two gifts. One was a necklace where the trinket is half a heart. He wears the other half of the heart. The other gift was in the shape of a plastic fan. You know those fans you open to fan yourself when you’re feeling hot? Well it was red, in the shape of a fan and when you opened it, there was this waxy perfume inside. My parents made me give the gifts back to him and I remember feeling hatred toward them. Then they decided we could no longer have anything to do with each other so our phone calls stopped.

I was absolutely devastated and like I said, convinced that we were in love and would be together forever. Of course, now I can chuckle about that but I have never forgotten the power of that feeling and so I don’t take it lightly when my children indicate any type of interest in another. I understand very well what that feeling can do to you and what it can bring out.

The Bible tells us that we need to guard our hearts. Well, I also believe that we need to help guard the hearts of our children. There will come a point in time when we will have absolutely no control over our children’s lives. In fact, even now, I cannot control what my children do when I am not around. I cannot control what happens when they are at school or hanging out with friends. I can only pray that what I instill in them will make a different that impacts their lives.

Maybe it’s time you had a conversation with your son or daughter about love. Not just about the fact that we shouldn’t awaken or arouse love before it’s time but also to explain the powerful emotions involved in love. Death is a blow to anyone and love can be a blow just as strong. It can be unquenchable as we also read in 8:7: Many waters cannot quench love

May the first love, the very first love of our children be the unquenchable love of Jesus Christ!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bring on the Discipline!

Woo hoo! Bring it on! Bring on the discipline! Can you imagine thinking that way? Who asks to be disciplined? Well as believers, we really should be thankful when we are disciplined!

I don’t know about you but my children have never asked for punishment. In fact, they have run from it or in other ways tried their best to avoid it. I do have a friend with little ones and she recently told me that every so often they will give themselves a time-out. Couldn’t we learn from that?

I was thinking about my beginning relationship with the Lord, when it was fresh and new and how everything just seemed to come together. My prayers were answered; I could see God moving in my life. Then as I became comfortable in my walk with God, I began to see something else happen. He began to discipline me. I found it very uncomfortable and unwanted. I fought against it at times. I used to think that because He was disciplining me, I had done something really wrong and made Him so frustrated that I had stepped out of His grace. I didn’t see His discipline as something to welcome.

Looking back now, I recall those times He was disciplining me and can now understand that it was all about refining me. Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character, as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary. It is a process that we must go through in order to grow in Christ.

I like the Message version of Hebrews 12:11: At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

Let’s pick this verse apart. First, At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. During the moments of discipline, it is certainly NOT fun! Think of the times you have had to discipline your child. Did they whoop it up as they received that spanking, reprimand, or loss of a privilege? Did they thank you and ask for more? I seriously doubt it. No, they probably either cried or became angry. When God is disciplining us, we don’t look at it as a fun part of our life. We don’t ask for more of it. We don’t say, “God, that was so much fun that I would like to ask for more!” Instead, we may do the same thing as our child…we cry or we may even become angry at the moment. “God, why are You doing this to me?” is a question we may ask.

Then it says It always feels like it’s going against the grain. When you go against the grain, you are facing some resistance. I’m not into carpentry but the best example I can give is when I am using my Steam Shark Mop. To get rid of scuffs or dirt, it takes less effort when I am going with the grain. If I try to use it against the grain, I have to put a lot more effort into it.

So there is resistance involved in discipline. Have you ever had to spank a child that resisted so much you had to practically wrestle them down? Resistance is a common reaction to any form of discipline. We do the same with God. It feels like His discipline is going against the grain and so we try to resist it.

Now we get into some good stuff. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. LATER! Later is the first thing I want us to focus on. At the moment, at that very instant of discipline we don’t see anything good in it but later, at another time, sometimes not much later and other times it is years later, we see the good in what God has done.

It pays off! Discipline pays off! As my children get older, I can see how some of my earlier disciplining has been paying off. It is worth the effort and whether or not they realize it, the discipline has brought about some good. I can look back on the many times that God has disciplined me in the past and I see the payoff. I see the good it has all brought about in my life.

Let’s remember again what discipline is, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary: training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. This is what produces a well-trained person. If you are into sports, you know that disciplining your body is what prepares a well-trained athlete. If you don’t discipline yourself to practice, to study or whatever it is, you won’t be well-trained for the task that is before you.

We cannot be “well-trained believers” unless we first go through discipline. Think of someone you may know who was never disciplined as a child. What type of adult do they usually grow up to be? Selfish, demanding, out-of-control and without any moral fiber in their beings…this is what is produced. So if we are not disciplined in our relationship with the Lord, we will not grow in the character and fruit that God has called us to.

So to bring it home, what are we being well-trained for? We are being trained for maturity in our relationship with God. Let’s recap that last sentence: Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

If you have ever thought that your relationship with the Lord is stagnant, not going anywhere, not what you would like it to be…then you’ve missed out on something in the discipline process. Perhaps you have fought against it. Or you may have gone through the discipline but then went right back to doing wrong. As you resist God’s refining in your life, you are preventing yourself from receiving a “handsome” payoff.

Is it fun to be disciplined? No! We don’t have to pretend that it is. We don’t have to whoop it up. But we do have to embrace it and realize that while the process may hurt, the end result will be worth it. Here are some verses to help you out during those times of discipline:

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you (Deuteronomy 8:5)

Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty (Job 5:17)

Blessed is the man You discipline, O Lord, the man You teach from your law (Psalm 94:12)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7)

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke (Proverbs 3:11)

Because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:12)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Want What I Want!

I want what I want, when I want it!

Although we could easily say this sounds like most other people, the truth is, I believe that we all battle with this at one point or another. In fact, for some people this could be a constant daily battle. Discontentment and selfishness can rear its ugly head within the best of us. I know that this past week I was struggling a lot with it.

How does this happen? Although the easiest answer would be that it’s because we are just unthankful people, I think there is more to it. It always starts with a desire. You want something. That something doesn’t even necessarily have to be something bad. You could want something that is very good. You could have the very best intentions. Yet something that is good or has good intentions doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing.

I Corinthians 10:23 talks about the freedom we have as believers. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. These are words to live by! They can apply to every single area of our life. Although you can feel free to want whatever you want, it does not mean it is what God has for you. That can be a hard truth to swallow.

So it starts with wanting something. Well, on the other hand it could be that we very well do want something that is not good for us. I Timothy 6:9 talks specifically about money, the whole idea of wanting to “get rich” and how that causes many to fall into temptation and into a trap, having harmful desires. Harmful desires are lurking at every corner—a desire to covet; to want someone else’s spouse, job, or children; to gain power or to get control over someone. We need to put checks in our life besides those things that we clearly know are harmful desires.

Now here is where confusion can sometimes come in. So if we want something that we know is good, how can we be sure it’s not our own fleshly desire or if it’s really what God has in mind for us? We have to be tuned into His voice. We have to be willing to hear His voice. We have to sometimes not jump into things…instead; we need to wait on Him. Unfortunately, there is not a model we can follow, a formula that will work to figure this all out. Most often it requires patience and learning how to be content where you are at.

Discontentment creeps in when things aren’t happening the way we would like or as fast as we would like. I think we put up a blockade with God’s plans when we try to speed things up or make them happen in our way. Remember the story of Abraham? Instead of waiting for his promised son, he and Sarah went another path that created a huge mess that still exists to this day! We can get our way, sure, but at what price?

Remember, In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Changes have been made! Yes, I made some changes to my blog. It has been stirring in my heart for a time to go somewhat in a different direction. My heart and passion is to share the heart and passion of Christ and I want to make that available to many others, not just those who are moms.

Of course, you can expect that many of my blogs will still contain bits of my life as a mom but I want the freedom to also share beyond that. I am so thankful for those who have been encouraging and supporting me in this. It means so much to me.

So I have changed the look of my blog page and added some elements that help you to understand what this blog is really all about. I agonized over a title for the blog but could not come up with anything, so I decided that a title wasn't really necessary. However, it did require changing my web address so you will no longer be able to find this blog at my old web address. The new address is: I invite you to subscribe to my blog or you can visit the blog page itself.

The heart of my blog is the new headline that runs across my blog page: PRAYER IS THE MEANS OF SENDING A MESSAGE BUT FAITH IS THE SUBSTANCE OF THE MESSAGE. This came to me one day when I was journaling in my "Streams in the Desert" Journal. That day's message was about Luke 22:32 I have prayed that your own faith may not fail. I read the small devotional and began to write and that is what came out. I realized that when we pray, we are sending a message to God. But it's really just an empty message unless it is also accompanied with faith. Faith is the substance of that message. In fact, when I looked up the word substance online, I read something powerful. In the definition it read: ultimate reality that underlies all outward manifestations and change. Faith is the ultimate reality underlying all outward manifestations of not only prayer but the way we choose to live each day.

With that, I look forward to continuing this blog and hope that you will enjoy the changes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beauty for Ashes

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 61:3: …to give them beauty for ashes. The entire verse describes how God can take something that is ugly, painful, troublesome and difficult and turn it into something truly wonderful. Not only can we exchange an ugly pile of ashes for something beautiful but we can also experience joy in place of mourning and praise instead of heaviness (liken that to depression).

I recently shared my testimony with someone that was a reminder of what God has done in my life. Over the years I have shared many different parts to my story, however, the very beginning…that moment in time where I experienced salvation; it has been a while since I shared that. There is something powerful about hearing the story of redemption and even recounting my own story was faith building for myself, let alone for the person who I told it to.

Now my past…that part of my life that was so messed up, a big pile of dirty, sooty ashes has become something very beautiful. Not that my life is trouble-free or that I have been perfected in character—far from it! The beauty is found in my relationship with the Lord. My life was a pile of ashes…one day I was living for myself, living for the next drink, the next party…the next day I was living for the Lord. Now that is what makes my life beautiful!

This seems as good a time as any to also share with you that beginning experience of salvation. I don’t have to tell you all that my past was…I can simply say it was just that, a pile of ashes. But then my next-door-neighbor was invited to church by her friend. She was afraid to go alone and asked if I wanted to come with. My attitude was, “What the heck? I might as well try it...” I figured I couldn’t lose out trying to find something else to fill the hole in my life. After all, I had tried virtually everything else. I was a new mom, my oldest son Daniel was only a year old and my marriage was on the brink of disaster. I figured it was worth a shot.

Now let me tell you that I have NO religious upbringing. I might have been to a church maybe two times and that was with my grandma. So I didn’t really have any expectations—which I think can be a good thing. But the first time I stepped through the doors of Oak Creek Assembly of God and experienced the joy of others around me, my guard went up. I didn’t see it as joy; instead I saw it as fakeness. All the smiles, hugs and shaking of the hands, it didn’t sit well with me. I don’t remember what the sermon was about because I spent the entire service wanting to disappear. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and was so relieved when it was finally over with. I declared to my friend, who lived next door—who by the way had been touched by God and was all teary-eyed—to never ask me to go again. I would never, I said, step through those doors again.

I remember going home and telling my husband about the service and how these people were brainwashed. I didn’t know it at the time but God was doing a work that was so deep within me, I couldn’t see it. So I stop right here in the story to ask you about someone in your life that maybe God is doing a work so deep inside them, that you can’t see. How many times do we get frustrated with loves ones, friends or co-workers because we don’t see anything coming of our prayers for them? We think they are a hopeless case. We don’t see how it’s possible for them to ever surrender their lives to Christ. Don’t give up! We only see what is happening on the outside…but God knows what is going on within.

Now granted, for many people who reject God, it usually takes time for them to realize their need for a Savior. Sometimes it can take years and that may sound very frustrating for you to hear. We don’t know what someone has to go through before they get to experience that surrendering of their lives to Him. But every moment in time is not a loss, it all counts for something and even the years I spent running, God was still doing a work. I can look back on the time without Him (not that He wasn’t there but I just didn’t see it) and see how He is able to use all that to help others.

So back to my story…I had absolutely no intentions of going back to that church. My friend, however, wanted to go back. I told her to have fun. Now it’s hard to explain how this happened but I will just tell you how it unfolded. The following Sunday, without any real thought being given to it—and by that, I mean, I don’t remember consciously making the decision to do this—I got up, got dressed, called my friend and asked if she was going to church. She said yes and I said I was coming with.

What happened? I can’t explain it. I can only say that the Holy Spirit was drawing me to that place. It wasn’t me. My flesh had no intentions of going. But something so deep within me knew it needed to go.

This time, when I walked through the doors of Oak Creek Assembly of God I didn’t see fakeness. I saw joy and it was something I wanted. I knew I didn’t have it. I wanted to be able to smile like that, to feel such joy within. As I sat through the sermon, I thought to myself, “Who in the world told this pastor about me?” My pastor, Pastor Brooks, preached a message that I was convinced was for me alone. I was also convinced he had somehow found out personal things about me.

About a month ago those same thoughts were conveyed to me when the foster kids’ mom came to church and after sitting through a sermon about the prodigal son, she asked, “Did you tell your pastor about me?” She was experiencing exactly what I had experienced--God speaking through a man. Sometimes it won’t be our words that make the difference. We can get wrapped up in thinking that we have to be the one. If you are trying to reach someone for Christ and your words haven’t done the “convincing” then maybe it’s time to release them into the hands of someone else. You can begin to pray that the Lord would bring someone into their life that can minister to them.

So when the sermon ended, the one thing that stood out to me was that I had been on a path of destruction—not just in the sense of living a party life but that I truly was on the path to destruction, in that my destination was not heaven, it was hell. The reality of that, the reality of the emptiness of my life hit me like a cannonball. I went to the altar and cried like I had never done before. It was a releasing of all the pain, all the hurts, all the wrongs in my life. It was an emptying of me, my past was being poured out and the Lord would begin to fill me with new things.

Some people experience a radical conversion. Mine was pretty radical. I lost all desire for that party life. I began to walk a new path and here I am now, 15 years later, living a beautiful life. The ash pile is gone. Now don’t get me wrong, there may be remnants of my past…little pieces of dust particles floating around that still need to be dealt with but the progress is going forth.

Because of my past, because of the pile of ashes that was once my life…I have a very deep desire to see very single woman released from that type of life. I absolutely hate seeing the devil have his mangy hands all over the life of a woman who is meant to experience so much more. God has recently put two women into my life that I am ministering to and even in the past week, a co-worker has begun to seek me out for answers to why my life is so different. You see, that is the key to living a life for Christ. You don’t want others around you to see nothing more than a pile of ashes…you want others to see beauty. If you have been saved, you have a beautiful story to tell. No two stories will be alike but they are all powerful and are meant to encourage and inspire others. My challenge is for you to get out there and share with others what God has done.

I also want to end this blog with this…please, please, please, allow yourself to see past the pile of ashes that so many women are living. It’s almost in our nature, as a woman, to size a woman up. Many women feel threatened or inclined to compete with other women. Sometimes it’s all about the outer beauty of a woman. Sometimes it’s the house she lives in, the type of job she has. We almost instinctively start comparing ourselves to other women and then judgment sets in.

I have a friend that a couple of years ago, I confessed to her how when she first started attending our church, I was very judgmental. I was appalled by her dress, her mannerisms and thought she had no place at that altar when she was looking and acting that way. I can bet that many of you reading this now have felt the same way. You have seen nothing but a pile of ashes. So in turn you chose to look away, to walk away. You didn’t see the opportunity that was before you.

If someone had told me back then that I would one day become friends with this woman, I would have laughed in their face. But God took a pile of ashes and created a beautiful woman of God. It’s too bad I missed out on seeing the transformation take place…but no more. I will not allow that opportunity to pass me by any longer. Now when I see a woman whose life is a pile of ashes, I see the potential beauty within.

It is time that we declare to others what God has in store for them: to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 NKJV)