Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Immanuel

Matthew 1:22-23 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”which means, God with us. 

Immanuel is my favorite Christmas word, because the idea of "God with us" is mind-blowing -- a Heavenly Father that chooses to be with you.

So I want to share some of the ways that God is truly "with us" in an everyday way. 

God was with us in servant hood. He was totally a servant and didn't seek to be the best and most popular. He had brothers and a family and learned a trade from his dad. In his ministry, he didn't hard-sell how great it would be to follow him and draw people with money or fame. He said, "Come follow me," and they came. Left it all behind. 

Jesus led by love and grace. And put a beatdown on sin every now and then. But he loved people and was a servant, even giving up the opportunity to save himself from terrible death, because he was bent on serving, sacrifice, and following what God had called him to do. 

So now it's our turn. How can you serve someone selflessly today ? Comment on how you plan to serve someone other than yourself. And Merry Christmas!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Jellyfish

Jellyfish.  The little, clear ones that don't really sting too bad. 

That's what I remember the most about staying at Cape May, New Jersey as a child.  We came out at dusk to walk on the beach and there were jellyfish everywhere, making walking kind of like trying to avoid the colored circles in Twister.  

But there was an enormous house a block off the ocean and we stayed there with another family.  It had a huge wooden banister, the kind that begs to be ridden, and lots of white bedrooms with white linens.  It was so unlike our house; we were very avocado and sunshine yellow and lots of other things the 70's are famous for.  Having a totally different environment was refreshing and renewing.

Fast forward roughly thirty years:  I am in a brand new environment that was very different, yet not refreshing and renewing.  Divorce has those ways about it.  But as I learned, I was building new habits that would become my "new normal."  

And now that I have stayed up enough nights and been to enough open houses and proofread enough English assignments, I have two that have graduated high school and both are away to college this fall.  And this is my "new normal."  I'm actually budgeting my income and I'm planning ways to specifically spend time with the younger daughter, which I'm really looking forward to.  I just have to learn how to talk less and listen more, which can be a lot like dodging jellyfish.  

Ecclesiastes 3:14 says, "I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him."  

I am so thrilled that I have seen God work to get my two older children to the college He has for them.  I can only give God the praise for what has transpired over the last year in regards to college decisions.  I am totally in awe, and I look forward to the future, and my new normal.


However, I am hoping for less jellyfish-like problems that leave me totally clueless; but then again, I get to totally rely on God during those times.  So here's to jellyfish for me, and for you!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Beauty of the Here and Now, or My Catharsis from Children Going Away to College

Raising children is not only like a lot like herding cats, but it's also like trying to melt an iceberg with a hairdryer -- it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of effort, and by the time you're finished what you thought you had to begin with is not the end product. 

A child starts out being tiny and cute; they go through these awkward years and they become wonderful young adults.  And THEN, virtually overnight in some cases, this child, who you rocked to sleep countless nights, cleaned up his vomit, looked at the same wiggly tooth a hundred times, and watched their amazing pool handstands over and over,wants to hang out with his friends and do his own thing.  (And I use his as a generic term.)

How does this happen?  What goes on in the synapses of their brains?  I guess I did the same thing, but I was a lot more shallow and self-absorbed than any of my kids, even all my kids put together.  I only went away to college because I was dating someone fairly inappropriate and my parents wanted to put some distance between us.  Somehow they grow up, and this month I send my two oldest to college twelve and six hours away from home (respectively).

I can't lie; I am sad that they are leaving. But at the same time I see how talented and intelligent and charming and funny my kids are, and I wonder how they got this way, because it's easier to remember the mistakes I made than the good things I did -- like how I remember closing Matt's hand in the van door more than I remember making cupcakes for fifteen class birthday parties.

And then, like a ray of parent hope, there's that little flickering, brief, flash-of-a-moment where I see that my child is just like me. Maybe it's a look, or the way they tell a joke. Although each child is definitely going to go his own way, it's that little brief moment that reminds me that wherever they go, whatever they end up doing, they'll always carry a little part of me with them.  And that's good enough for me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A New Name

Don't change your middle initial on just one document. This is a hard lesson learned by a friend of mine who then had to change her passport, driver's license, and reapply for a Social Security card.

Also, don't let any bad nicknames live too long, and when they do die, go into the witness protection program. Or at least make sure people who know your embarrassing nickname have no reason to remember it.

Names can stick. But what also sticks are the names you have in your head, especially if part of your life was not your "best moment." What Satan wants to do is stick you with the names of regret, defeat, and shame. 

But what Jesus Christ came to do, and he lived his life and death to do, is provide new life for you. Abundant life. Forgiven life. Peaceful life that has purpose. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

So take those old names and throw them  away. Because when you have new life in Christ, you have a new name--child of God, whom he loves and adores.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Part one of five

Hey howdy hey, it’s me again.  Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the blogging water, I strike with the fierceness of a shark with marshmallow teeth.  Fear me. 
I am actually going to start a five-part blog based on a breakout session I did for our middle schoolers at camp.  It really does apply to everyone, so I hope you benefit from this in a way that you never thought possible. My breakout session was about denying the lie, and we talked about different media that misrepresents life as we know it.  To help the girls make good media choices, I gave them five guidelines by which they can gauge the purity of a song, movie, TV show, etc.  I’m going to expound on each of these five guidelines, each in their own pretty package of a blog.
The first is this:  Is this something that honors God and shows Him respect?
It’s amazing how far the world we live in has drifted away from God.  God’s original plan for man was wrecked by sin, because Adam and Eve wanted to be in control and be like God, with the knowledge of good and evil.  Control is a huge part of relationships today:  who has it, who wants it, and who doesn’t have any.  The only way that a Christian can live a peaceful and fulfilled life is to submit and live under God’s control.  This is not a popular mindset with people are either unsaved and don’t know this, or people are saved and living in rebellion.  However, God says in His word that we are to take up our cross daily and walk with Him in servanthood and humility.
·         So if we really wanted to honor God and show Him respect, how does this affect our media choices?  First, we are called to purity, so anything that is impure should not be entering our minds by eyes or ears. 
·         We are called to “esteem each other higher than ourselves,” so media that puts groups of people down should not be part of the choices we make. 
·         The Bible tells us that warring, arguing, and strife are not good and should be avoided.  So of all the reality shows that show people arguing over a dance class, a tow truck, arguing just to argue, or anything else that is similarly not important in the big picture that God has for us.
This is a daily battle and a daily struggle for all ages.  What is a tv show, movie, song, or any other media outlet that you have to struggle with?  All of my middle school girls know that “Ms. Brown loves a dancy, cute little song,”  but I really have to watch the lyrics to make sure I am not bringing something into my life that is displeasing to God.  I personally try not to watch too many romantic movies, because I know that romance is not a part of my life right now and I don’t want to become discontent with the life I have, because God has blessed me so richly.
So what’s your struggle?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Walking in the Dark.

Amidst the Honey Boo Boos, storage container auction shows, and the car repossession shows, one would think that there isn't anything worth watching.  As a huge Downton Abbey fan, I of course would be inclined to say, yes, there is TV worth watching. 

The other night, however, I watched a show with younger daughter that made me think. 

A certain game show puts its players in complete darkness and they have to do various things, like identify objects with their tongues/mouths, feel objects and guess their weight, and the funniest, sit in a bathtub filled with water and have a bucket of something poured in and they have to guess what it is.

It is HYSTERICAL to watch grown men scream like girls while sitting in a bathtub and a bucket of artichokes (or sticks of butter, or frogs) are poured in  the tub.  The spiky ends made them think they were some kind of dangerous animal.  Seeing people respond to the unknown in the dark made us literally LOL.

Then I got to thinking about Daniel in the lion's den.  I'm not sure how dark it was down there, but he was definitely dealing with a lot more than pointy artichokes!  He really had to have some faith.  Or maybe he did scream like a girl. There's a lot of stuff the Bible doesn't tell us.

And then I got to thinking about me and one of my biggest prayer requests, a step of faith that will not reveal itself for about three months.  Am I the grown man screaming like a girl because I lack faith in when, how and what God will answer my prayer?  I have.  I have to admit.  I have been figuratively screaming like a girl over the last three weeks because my faith is so wiggly.

Psalm 56:3, one of my favorites, says, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you."  And then I jump in to Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  God doesn't put a beat down on me because I have so little faith.  Instead, He longs for me to draw close to Him and soak up His strength like a big spiritual Sham-wow.

So... I am thinking that when Daniel's accusers came to see how he had perished, he was pretty confident in how God had protected him.  So I am going to think ahead to when we know the answer to this prayer request and walk in the same confidence I'll have then.  Artichoke-free.