Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Myth or Message? Special post!!

Hi all! So it's been a couple weeks since I've posted.  This is definitely a busy time of the year for us all ... Christmas is less than a week away!! And just yesterday, my hubby wrote an awesome article that I just have to post! It's very applicable to this time of the year.  And on this topic, I couldn't have said it any better!  So ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... an article from James Rooks.

Myth or Message?  by James Rooks - December 17, 2012

This was the title theme of a church camp that I attended after my 9th grade year of high school with the Oxford Baptist Youth Group.  The camp, called Centrifuge, was in Panama City Beach, FL.  A big part of the week was invested into helping us as youth to discern what was a myth and what was the real message. In a society of mixed messages and motives, sometimes it’s hard to tell, right? Twenty-two years later, the song and theme from that week of camp have resurfaced into my thoughts as we approach the Christmas season. 

I've now been married for 9 1/2 years and have 4 children ages 7, 5, 3, and 7 months.  As parents of four young ones, my wife and I face the challenge of what to do with Santa Claus, Elf on the Shelf, and presents, while trying to instill into our kids the true meaning of Christmas.  There's definitely a push to keep Christmas 'fun' for the kids with the make believe stuff, but I do find it a struggle to carry on a game.  On one hand, the kids will one day find out that it was just a story.  And on the other hand, how do I help them see that the story of God, Creator of the Universe, sending a Savior to come rescue us so that we can be with Him in Heaven forever is real?   How do I know they're not just waiting for me to pull the rug out from under them on this one too?  Some might find it offensive or uncool to mess with Santa, but as a Christian parent, it's something to think about.  I know we want to keep it "fun," but what’s more fun than knowing that Christmas is a time when we get to celebrate the arrival of our Redeemer?  If you have even a little grasp of what you've been saved from and the hope of what we are now headed for, remembering and celebrating Jesus' birth is exciting.  I'm not trying to get on a campaign for parents to quit Santa; I’m just offering a challenge to get you into the thought process from that perspective.  

So back to the myth and message thought … on the myth side: let's talk about Santa, Elf on the Shelf, and all the gifts.  We've got Santa, who spends all year preparing gifts for all the good little boys and girls.  He knows if you've been bad or good.  He's got a running list and checks it twice (maybe more).  Somehow on Christmas Eve, he is able to sneak into everyone's houses, deliver the gifts, and make it back to the North Pole by morning.  Santa seems to be outside of time, he'd have to be in order to make that many stops in one night.  

Secondly, we've got the Elf on the Shelf.  This is new to me.  I think it’s a couple of years old … I'm not sure.  But after reading the book and seeing the Christmas movie about the Elf, I've found out that this Elf watches the kids and reports back to Santa every night while the kids are asleep.  The kids can't touch the Elf.  And for fun, parents get to pose the Elf in different funny scenes, take pictures (and post them on Facebook).  Some of the photos I’ve seen have been pretty funny and creative. 

Lastly, we have the gifts.  Everybody loves getting good gifts.   Every year we hope to out do ourselves from the year before.  Toy catalogs and commercials are designed to leave your kids with three words: "I WANT THAT!"  It’s fun to give the gifts, and it’s fun to get the gifts.  Even as adults, we still look forward to being surprised somehow on Christmas morning.  The problem with gifts, most of the time, is that they never measure up to our hopes and dreams.  Within weeks or even days, our kids are looking forward to an upcoming birthday for the next fix.  

I lay all this out there to begin to make a point.  Where does all this come from?  Santa, Elf on the Shelf, etc. … I know in large part it’s commercialism.  I mean, who'd have thought you could sell a kids book and felt/plastic doll for $30? Yes.  We gave the Elf on the Shelf a try.  It was short lived though, which I may explain some other time.  It’s my opinion that the desire for there to be an all seeing/knowing father figure (like Santa), an elf watching over you, and getting stuff to make us happy isn't just born out of consumerism.  I think it’s something deeper.  The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (NIV)”  Did you catch that?  

Where does the idea of someone watching us, knowing us, and knowing our deeds come from?  Do we know anybody like that?  But wait, there's more. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar … before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."  Psalm 139:2, 4, & 6 (NIV) 
We're not talking Santa here.  We are talking about God.  

Check out this passage about angels in Matthew 18:10: “see that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (NIV – emphasis mine).  This is Jesus talking to the disciples concerning children who had gathered at Jesus' feet.  Jesus says "their angels,” which is used in a possessive manner, indicating that the angels are assigned to individual children, and their job is to report back to the Father.  Interesting, huh?

Lastly, in regards to gifts, there are many scripture references for this, but I want to focus on just a couple.  We know that God gave the best gift in the history of all eternity when, in the dark of night while many were asleep, in a small town, He gave us Jesus.  "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him" Mat 7:11 (NIV).  We know that God gives many gifts, but none are better than the gift of His only Son.  And unlike Santa, who gives gifts based on good and bad behavior, we know that Jesus is a free gift that none of us deserve.  Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) tells us, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."  The awesome part about the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus is it never goes away, and it is all-satisfying.  Jesus says in John 4:14 (NIV), "but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."   

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Cor 9:15 (NIV)

My hope in writing this is not to convince parents to go wake their kids up and tell them that Santa is make belief or anything like that.  I do believe it is our duty to help our kids grow in knowledge of the Lord, and part of that is being able to understand the difference between a myth and a Message.  The good news for us as a family has been that in the midst of talks about Santa and elves, we have had some great talks with our boys.  We haven't tried to shy away from it, but we’ve been able to go to scripture and explain things like Matthew 18 and how God has angels assigned to each one of them … and yes!  It’s real!  With this message, I don't have to worry about them out-growing the fun of belief and wonder.  It is something we can grow in together.  As a Christian dad, I'm still learning every day, probably more now than ever, that I need the Lord and His Word.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tis the season to be thankful

So the month of November is a popular time to state what all we’re thankful for.  And for good reason … it’s nearing year end, and it’s the month of the holiday food extravaganza: Thanksgiving! What better time to reflect on what has made us thankful throughout the year, right!

On the social media sites, folks are telling what they’re thankful for each day.  I could’ve done that too.  Maybe I should have.  Instead, I just decided to write a blog entry to collect my thoughts. 

On one of my previous blog posts, I finished the entry with this statement:

Relationships are far more valuable than any thing I’ll ever possess.  I cherish all of those God has put in my life.  We can’t take our ‘things’ with us when we leave this earth, but those spiritual connections will live on through eternity! I’m a richly blessed girl, and I give all the glory to the Lord. 

This is my heart! Relationships, especially those I call “God bonds,” are what I’m most thankful for. 

First of all, I’m forever thankful for my heavenly Father and His unfailing love for me.  He made a way for me to be with Him forever by sending His one and only son, Jesus Christ, to come into the world as a man and die a cruel and humiliating death, taking on my sins and the sins of the world.  He who knew no sin became sin so I might have eternal life with Him.  I’m thankful for Jesus and all He has done for me! He has saved me and rescued me from eternal separation from God.  I’m thankful for the intimate relationship I have with Him.  I’m thankful that He sent His Holy Spirit to live in me and guide me.  Without Him, I would be dead.  With Him, I’m alive! And I’m a daughter of the Most High!

What’s amazing is that we’re all unworthy of God’s love, yet He loves us.  If being with Him was all I had, it would be more than enough! Yet He has blessed me above and beyond! Every year, I reflect on all my earthly blessings.  And every year, I find myself starting with my relationships, more specifically, my family.  He has given me an incredible family! And this year, we have A LOT to be thankful for. 

Where to begin?!  To express the enormous gratitude to the Lord, it is fitting to explain the depth of it all.  Last year, both my grandfather (Pawpaw) and my Aunt Pam (his oldest daughter) were diagnosed with cancer.  Pawpaw had cancer of the ureter, and my Aunt Pam had colon cancer.  They both had major surgeries to remove the cancer.  Aunt Pam’s treatment involved not only the extensive surgery, but she also had to have radiation and chemotherapy treatments for eight months following her recovery of the surgery.  Along the way, she rejoiced in victories, as she didn’t lose her hair during chemo.  And the surgery went very well, considering all of the possibilities facing her.  During the months of treatment, she had her good days and her bad days.  The latter involved many of the common side effects of the radiation and chemo.  There were many dark moments, days when she couldn’t see how she’d go on … I cannot imagine the desperation and pain.  But through all of it, she drew near to her Savior.  She had faith that her healing was a reality.  And she endured all of the pain and sickness with His strength pulling her through.  Praise the Lord! She is cancer free today! For that, I am so thankful!

And Pawpaw … his surgery was very risky due to his age and other health conditions.  In surgery, the doctors were able to get all of the cancer.  And he didn’t have to have other treatments like Aunt Pam.  Sounds good, right?  Well, some of the risks became reality.  There were at least four times during the touch and go days following his surgery that we almost lost him.  Four different times amidst fervent prayer, we were bracing for the worst.  And every time, God spared his life.  I still pray for him every day, as his recovery is still ongoing.  Yet God has brought him so far! Last year, he spent Thanksgiving in a rehabilitation facility.  We all went to visit and took him a plate of food.  And I cannot fully describe how amazing it will be to see Pawpaw back in his seat at Thanksgiving this year.  God is so good! And I’m so thankful.

During all of the scary and sad news going on, all of the uncertainty with my family, God brought a glimmer of hope.  I remember walking down the hospital hallway with Mom and Mawmaw soon after Pawpaw’s surgery.  We weren’t sure if he would make it.  He was in ICU in a very critical state.  As we walked, I waited for Mom to finish her thought.  I then asked them what they would be doing during the first couple of weeks in May.  They looked confused (as if they had any forethought into the next few hours, much less the next year!!).  I said, “well, I’m going to be having a baby in May!”  They were still a little confused, but excited.  Just so many emotions bundled up inside. 

Then, last Christmas, we found out we were having a girl! That was exciting news for everybody, seeing as I already had three boys.  Pawpaw was still recovering.  Aunt Pam was still enduring treatments.  When I called to tell them, Mawmaw just broke out in laughter! Oh how she was excited! I remember hearing Pawpaw over the phone say “Hallelujah!”  And Aunt Pam, she said that was the best news she had heard all year!

Orion Grace’s arrival into the world is another huge blessing.  The fact that she’s alive and with us is a miracle.  When I went to the hospital that day in May because I was in labor, I was expecting an easy and smooth labor and delivery like I had with the boys.  My midwife broke my water to get labor progressing.  Little did any of us know the whirlwind of events that would take place.  I had an abnormally large amount of fluid that caused the umbilical cord to rush past her body.  There was nothing they could do except get me to the OR for an emergency C-section.  They had to put me completely out because I hadn’t had any medicine yet.  There was no time for an epidural.  James couldn’t be in there with me.  It was traumatizing to say the least.  They broke my water at 2:47, and she was born at 2:54! Fast huh?! And my midwife told me afterward that she could tell my water was bulging before she broke it.  It would have most certainly broken later in the day.  And if it had happened while I was at home without the care of a medical team, I would have lost my precious daughter.  Praise the Lord! He’s in control! He ordered my steps that day (and everyday).  And He allowed my baby girl to be born healthy! I would have chosen an uneventful birth (like with my boys), but I don’t get to choose! And that’s okay! God knows what’s best.  And she was definitely worth it!!

Those are just some of the biggies for which I’m thankful! God shows His power and His glory! I am overflowing with gratitude to Him! Yet, there’s always more! He has blessed me in countless other ways throughout the year.  I can look back through my prayer journal and see all the ways He has come through and steadily upheld me and my dear family, all of them.  And when I thank Him for it all, I always come back to ultimately being thankful for Him and for eternity.  Eternity with Him and relationships He’s given and some yet to give that will last through eternity.  

If you are reading this, I want you to know that I am also thankful for you.  I pray that you know how much God dearly loves you.  I pray that His love would penetrate in you and fill you.  I pray that you know and experience an intimate relationship with Christ Jesus that changes you every day from the inside out.  Abundant blessings to you and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012


This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it! God is so good! Today, I’m reminded of His goodness and His love for me.  It’s refreshing to know that I can find refuge in the shadow of His wings.  No matter what this life brings, I rest in His arms! His grace is sufficient for me. 

How often do you praise Him for ALL He is? I’ve found that coming to Him and offering praises and thanksgiving to Him is the best way to start my prayers and my day! Whether my heart is overflowing with happiness or downcast with discouragement, giving praise to my King and proclaiming His goodness and ALL He is gets the joy flowing! Friends, He is everything we need!

I’ve gotten into a routine when taking my kids to school.  It’s something I’ve done every day since my oldest first started preschool.  On the way to school, as we get to the last 5 minutes of the ride, I turn off the radio.  We all say together Psalm 118:24, “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” And we usually say this prayer from Psalm 90:14, “satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” I love how His word reminds us that God is in control of the day and that because of His love, we have joy and gladness! So after proclaiming these verses, I pray for the kids and for their day.  It has become such a part of our routine that if I get carried away singing worship music in the truck on the way and forget to turn it off at the certain point in our ride, they will remind me that we need to pray now.  That melts my heart. 

Well, just this year when taking my three year old to preschool, after we finish praying I’ve started singing a sweet song that I know he likes to sing.  It’s the simple chorus … I’m sure you’ve heard it, “God is so good.  God is so good.  God is so good.  He’s so good to me.”  Ty loves it so much that some mornings he’ll start singing it on his own and tell me to sing with him.  We’ll finish it, and he tells me to sing it again.  We just keep singing it over and over until we’re at school.  

Just a simple tune proclaims a deep truth: God is so good to us!! He IS good! He is good all the time.  No matter our circumstances.  No matter our struggles.  No matter our sicknesses.  No matter our finances.  No matter our persecutions.  No matter our weaknesses.  No matter our condition.  No matter our worries or fears.   No matter WHAT! Our God is good.  Another song proclaiming His goodness:

You are good.  You are holy.  You are worthy of all praise.  Mighty God.  Wonderful Counselor.  Blessed be Your Sovereign Name.  We see Your Glory.  We rest in Your splendor.  Most High Renown. (lyrics from my song, “Most High Renown”)

And because of God's goodness, I am going to trust Him no matter what.  No matter what the cultural, social or political landscape may be, I choose to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding (Prov. 3:5).  I have such a sweet peace.  I know He is in complete control.  I know how incredibly blessed I am to be a child of the Most High! And I am genuinely FIRED UP! I am excited to see what He has in store for the future.  Knowing that I’m His, I can just rest in His arms (like I’ve already said) and hang on for the ride.  My prayer is that He’ll prepare us for what’s in store.  May He prepare our hearts for His ministry and may we walk in full obedience as HE leads.  Be blessed and encouraged this day as you reflect on His goodness and His unfailing love for each of us!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How do I walk?

For the past few days, God has been speaking to me through Galatians 5.  I’ve read over it and just let it simmer in my spirit.  It’s a passage full of deep truths about walking by the Spirit instead of the flesh.  I’m not going to attempt to break down each verse.  Rather, I’ll discuss what the passage has spoken to me, in light of my daily application of the scriptures. 

So a little overview … In Galatians 5, Paul is speaking to believers (those who have trusted in Christ as their Savior and Lord).  He explains that we have received freedom in Christ.  The yoke of slavery to sin has been broken through Christ’s shed blood on the cross.  Christ washed our sins away through the sacrifice of himself and has given us the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  The Spirit empowers us to live holy lives, set apart for Him. But we still live in this world in a fleshly body.  Here’s the chunk of scripture that has really been speaking to me:

16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:16-25, NASB)

That Word preaches! God is so good.  He has given His expectations for us, but He has also given us exactly what we need to accomplish them! His Spirit guides us.  Oh, how I desire to walk in His Spirit! I pray that my life displays the fruit of the Spirit!

As a wife and mom at home with my babies most of the time, I am given ample opportunity to act and make choices from my flesh.  I assume you can relate.  Some days are better than others as far as the kids’ behavior.  But daily surrendering my day to Him is essential.  If I get up and going and into my daily routine without getting into the Word and praying early on, I pay for it later! And sometimes not so later!

I’m the lifeline for my five month old.  Let’s just say, I’m her “dairy queen.” She lets me know when she needs me, and I can never be too far away.  And it never fails, I just get settled nursing her when another one of my children needs something or starts being mischievous.  I’ll give you an example.  I sit down to nurse baby girl when my three year old says he has to go use the bathroom.  He usually does just fine by himself until he’s done.  Then I hear, “Momma, I’m done! Come wipe me!”  And if the other two boys are home, that can very well be accompanied by wrestling and loud rough housing going on, and I have to referee and make them stop! I’m just one person being pulled in many different directions!  And I’m the only one there at the time to do the job! Some days, just the thought of all I’ve got ahead of me is enough to bring a stress knot on my back.  But this is when I’m acting with my own strength. Or lack of! When I do things in my flesh, I always fall short.  I’m much more prone to be negative, to yell at my kids, to turn into a stressed, crying, emotional mess, to be short or snap at my husband … you know how it goes.  When you feel you’re at the end of your rope, it’s much easier to break.  To me, flesh equals fail. 

But walking in the Spirit equals victory.  God has already won.  And He gives us everything we need to overcome “the deeds of the flesh” and exude “the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  That sure does sound better to me!

So I know that if I “walk by the Spirit, [I} will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” But how do I walk by the Spirit?  Galatians tells me “if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  If Christ has set me free (which He has), then I have His Spirit living in me! I just have to choose to walk in Him, rather than live according to my fleshly desires or in some cases, tendencies (like the tendency to raise my voice when I’m up to here *hand above my head* in stress).  And I’ve found some practical ways that help me walk in Him daily. 

The first is prayer! We underestimate the power of prayer far too often!  I was just talking the other day with my friend, Katie (who is also one who encouraged me to start this blog -- she also has a great blog), about how prayer really makes a difference.  She shared how He has been answering her prayers, big and small, and making her prayer life stronger.  Friends, He wants for us to cry out to Him, thanking Him for His love and goodness.  He wants us to relinquish our control and recognize that without His power in our life, we will fail.  He wants us to express our needs and longings to Him.  We tell our best friends and spouses what we’re going through.  And y’all, he’s the best friend we’re ever going to have!! Think about that.  If that doesn’t get you fired up, I don’t know what will!

Just this week, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time praying for my children throughout the day as I think of them.  Just this one act of obedience has helped me.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the kids act better (although it can, just not in my case yet).  But it does mean that I no longer get impatient and stressed when dealing with them! The prayer changes me.  It aligns my heart and perspective with the Father’s! Prayer makes all the difference in the world! It is walking in the Spirit.  For me, prayer helps me to see things outside of the box, like I’m looking in on the situation.  It’s like I can see myself in the moment on the verge of a choice to do it His way or my way.  And when I’ve prayed, my heart is softened to His way. 

Another huge way I’m able to walk in the Spirit is reading the bible at least a few minutes each morning.  The encouragement and LIFE that I gain from reading His words to me are irreplaceable.  You’d be surprised at how just being obedient in reading His word, He will pinpoint your situation or struggles that you’re going through at that moment and offer His way, His encouragement.  It’s supernatural and amazing the way He works!! 

Friends, I pray that as you read through Galatians 5 and all of the living Word of God, that He speaks to you in a fresh way.  Be encouraged and challenged to walk in His Spirit every day!