In My Alarm I Cried for Help

My daughter announced that she hates ‘drills.’

All kinds of drills, she says.

Fire drills, tornado drills, lock-down drills, bus evacuation drills.

 

My oldest daughter chimes in about ‘lock-down drills,’ and how her teacher last year was so funny but the one thing she is super serious about is anyone who dares to giggle, laugh or even squeak out a hint of noise during a lock-down drill.

“She’ll send you to the principal,” my daughter lowers her voice for added drama.

These older girls of mine try to reassure the youngest sister that drills are essential and meant to help and not really a big deal.

But the baby girl is testing out fear here.  I can see it on her face and I hear it in the way she keeps bringing these drills up.  When she gets home from school.  Over dinner.  In the minivan.  As she climbs into my lap for bedtime prayers.

“The drills…the drills….the drills…”

She’s been talking about these drills all week.

Clearly, they are on her mind.  And we older and wiser ones keep jumping in with confidence that everything is fine so she needn’t be afraid, but she’s just not convinced.

The fear is kind of leaking out of her heart and into our conversations.

Oh, I don’t blame the drills, of course.   I let her tell me about them all over again and then I look right into her two blue eyes and I even brush away her wild bangs so she can’t miss this reassurance:

Those drills are there to keep you safe.  So that if anything ever happens, you’re not too scared to do the right thing.  We drill now so we don’t have to be afraid later.

She nods knowingly, but I’m her mom and I know we’ll probably have this conversation again in a month when the alarm goes off at school and all the kids file outside for yet another fire drill. So we pray about it, every time it comes up, I pray peace for her.

It’d be nice, it’d be great, it’d be heaven really if we didn’t need drills, if we didn’t have to practice for fire or intruders or tornadoes or a world of harm and hurt.

But we live here, on a broken earth with sin and natural disasters and trouble.

And how we react in the crisis makes a difference.

I know this because haven’t I been alarmed and sent into a dizzying whirlpool of fear at the slightest provocation?

A phone call.

An email.

A Facebook post, for goodness’ sake.

Maybe you, too?  The doctor’s report, the bill in the mail, the late night call, the hurtful remark, the broken car (again), the sobbing friend?

Trouble storms into our lives and how we react in the crisis matters.

We’re tempted to freak out and run around like a wild woman with her hands flailing hysterically in the air.

We’re in crisis mode.  Making phone calls.  Feeling hopeless.  Crying desperately.  Feeling helpless.  Rallying the troops and sending out an SOS signal and doing anything possible to keep from drowning.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t even take a crisis, it just takes one tiny bump into my plans for the day for me to settle into a funk of frantic activity and aggravated grumpiness.

The Psalmist said it just right:

In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help (Psalm 31:22 NIV).

In our alarm, when the bad news comes and we haven’t had time for faith to kick in, we snap to the judgment that God has abandoned us.

He can’t see us.

We’re cut off from Him, alone, dependent on our own strength to get us out of this mess.

Our natural reaction to an alarm is haste and hysteria, foolishness and fear.

It’s unnatural to choose peace under pressure.

but THE HOLY SPIRIT OFFERS US JUST SUCH UNNATURAL, SUPERNATURAL PEACE.

When everything settled and the crisis passed, the Psalmist recognized the truth: “Yet you heard my cry….”

In the haste of the moment, he had rushed into fear.  But then he saw what was true, God had indeed heard His cry for help.

What about us?

Over time, after alarm and alarm and alarm have passed and the dust settles and we see Jesus right there with us, surely we’d know by now what to do in case of crisis:

Cry to God for help.

Trust Him to hear your call.

Rest in the assurance of His presence.

CHOOSE PEACE.

Not flaky peace, vague peace, warm-and-fuzzy-feeling peace, or the peace of blindness to our circumstances.

The peace that is the confident assurance of Christ’s presence right where we are.

Originally published 9/30/2015

Book Review | Kingdom Family Devotional

Kingdom Family Devotional
by Tony Evans and Jonathan Evans

Dr. Tony Evans and his son, Jonathan, have partnered to bring families the Kingdom Family Devotional, a year-long study of themes about spiritual growth.  The lessons are broken up into 52 topics (one topic for each week) with five readings per week.  This format offers a lot of flexibility so that families can either read together Monday through Friday or have two nights off each week on evenings when the schedule is especially crazy.

Topics in the devotional include Love, Faith, Self-Control, Family, Church, Worship, Money, Maturity, Fear, and Perseverance.  The lessons include a Bible verse to read, a fairly brief devotional thought, and sometimes some discussion points or object lessons/activities  that can be done with easily accessible items from around the house.  This is really important to  me as a busy mom with four kids.  I don’t want to have whole  lessons to prepare before nighttime devotions.  But if I can grab a simple object or two (like a glass of water, for  instance) than that works for me!

In reading through these devotions, I liked the wide range of ages who could participate.   It’s not a devotional  focused just on older teens or just  on younger kids.  It’s truly a devotional for families and even includes discussion questions that help improve the strength of your own family relationships.

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer: Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Seeing the world from God’s shoulders

After having three girls, when I found out I was having a son, other moms chimed in with tons of wisdom.

They told me to be quick with the diaper changes or I’m bound to get peed on.  (I did.  At least twice.)

They told me to prepare for climbing, running, growling, and dirt (lots of it).

They told me no one would love me like a son, not ever.   “It’s different than with a girl,” they said.

One mom told me how her son would cradle her face in his tiny palms and say, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.”

And another mom told me her son announced he was going to marry Mommy when he grew up.   When she explained that Daddy had already married her, the little boy scowled and said “Dad is lucky.”

Mom after mom told me that no one treasured her as unconditionally or completely as her son had when he was little.

And then.

Then older moms started warning me.  They still occasionally offer forebodings of doom.

“When you have a daughter, you have a friend for life,” they say, “but a son ditches you as soon as he finds a wife.”

I get it.  “Leave and cleave.” I don’t want my son to be a stunted mama’s boy.  I don’t want to break up his marriage by pitting myself against his wife or refusing to let go.

But I wouldn’t mind if he chooses a wife I could get along with or if he calls me once in a while.  I wouldn’t mind a visit here and there and I’d hate it if he only hung out with ‘her’ family instead of sitting around our holiday table sometimes, too.

I’ve been enjoying this season with my son, loving and loving it.

I love train shirts and train toys and train books and conversations about trains.

I love airplanes and bulldozers and how we have to point out the fire trucks every time we walk past the fire station on Main Street.

I love making faces at him in the mirror and growling out funny voices.

I love toting along a few trucks everywhere we go.

I love superheroes.

This is my great joy.

But when other moms tell me to enjoy it now because I might as well kiss my son goodbye in a few years, I get more than a little sentimental and emotional.

 

Fearful even.

And then I read Jacob’s blessing for his son, Benjamin:

‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12 NIV

I don’t know what may have your heart turning somersaults of fear instead of clinging to hope this week, but worries over my kids’ future surely does that to me.

But this verse offers me security and peace.

This isn’t the season for me of farewells or parenting adult children and worrying over their not-so-adult decisions at times.

This is my season of early morning snuggles on the sofa before everyone else awakes and making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

It’s my season of listening to all of their news about their day at school, laughing at funny lunch escapades and wiping away tears when another girl gets mean.

It’s my season of bedtime hugs and bedtime stories.

And it’s my season of lifting children up….up into my arms, snuggled into my chest….up onto my shoulders, high so they can see, high so they can be carried and so they can rest.

That’s what God does for His beloved.

He lifts us right up out of the mess and the weariness and sets us between His shoulders and tells us to ‘rest.’

Don’t strive.  Don’t fight.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep moving forward on your own.

Let Him carry you.

High up there on the shoulders of our God, our perspective shifts.

STOP FRETTING ABOUT THE FUTURE.

LIFE DOESN’T DEPEND ON US TO FIX IT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN; OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ONLY ON HIM AND HE IS SO DEPENDABLE.

When we’re on God’s shoulders, we are safe from danger.

We can cease striving.

We see the big picture.  All that trouble we were in below looks so small when He is lifting us up high.

So I choose to rest here with the Lord, enjoying safety, enjoying this season, enjoying His presence, enjoying being His beloved–handing over fear and holding on to hope.

Originally published October 28, 2015

Bible Verses about Spring

  • Job 29:23 ESV
    They waited for me as for the rain,
        and they opened their mouths as for the spring rain.  (Job is speaking)
  • Proverbs 16:15 ESV
    In the light of a king’s face there is life,
        and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV

    For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

    a time to be born, and a time to die;
    a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
    a time to kill, and a time to heal;
    a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
    a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
    a time to seek, and a time to lose;
    a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    a time to tear, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    a time to love, and a time to hate;
    a time for war, and a time for peace.

  • Song of Solomon 2:11-13 ESV
    for behold, the winter is past;
        the rain is over and gone.
    12 The flowers appear on the earth,
        the time of singing[d] has come,
    and the voice of the turtledove
        is heard in our land.
    13 The fig tree ripens its figs,
        and the vines are in blossom;
        they give forth fragrance.
    Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
        and come away.
  • Hosea 6:3 ESV
    Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
        his going out is sure as the dawn;
    he will come to us as the showers,
        as the spring rains that water the earth.”
  • Joel  2:23 ESV
    “Be glad, O children of Zion,
        and rejoice in the Lord your God,
    for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
        he has poured down for you abundant rain,
        the early and the latter rain, as before
  • Zechariah 10:1 ESV
    Ask rain from the Lord
        in the season of the spring rain,
    from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
        and he will give them showers of rain,
        to everyone the vegetation in the field.
  • James 5:7 ESV
    Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

Devotionals and Storybook Bibles for Families

Easter is a great time to evaluate and refresh your family devotional time.  If you’re looking for the perfect devotional or storybook Bible to read with your kids, I have some ideas for you!

We’ve had our share of duds—devotionals that were too superficial and lacked any spiritual depth.  Some of the ones listed below our our favorite finds that stand out as digging deeper and providing a solid biblical foundation for our kids.  Other items on the list are ones that are on my “I want to do this next list” because they look so good!

Don’t worry about starting a 365-day devotional in the spring.  Either begin at the beginning and just keep going to the end.  Or, start on the actual date and wrap around through the new year until you’ve finished.

Feel free to browse and find the book that might be the best for your family. Any of these could make a great Easter gift for children or grandchildren, as well.

  • Our Daily Bread for Kids by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinleyThis is my favorite elementary age devotional so far.  It covers so much more than the basic Sunday School stories.  Even my older children listen in and say, “I didn’t know that was in the Bible!”  Very attractive pictures.  Devotions are exactly the right length. My daughter loves the “Fun Facts” at the bottom of each entry.  I love the solid biblical content.ourdailybread
  • 90 Devotions for Kids (Adventures in Odyssey) by AIO TeamWe love Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) and every one of the AIO devotions makes my top 5 list of favorite family devotionals.  These especially work well for families who are familiar with Adventures in Odyssey, but really any family could read them and be blessed.  Great lessons and content!  Perfect for about second or third grade on up through at least 5th grade and perhaps even into the tween years (depending on your child).aio 90 devos
  • 90 Devotions for Kids in Matthew (Adventures in Odyssey) by AIO Teammatthew aio
  • Whit’s End Meal-Time Devotions (Adventures in Odyssey) by Crystal Bowman and Tricia Goyermealtime devos
  • Grace for the Moment: 365 Devotions for Kids by Max Lucado

Here’s one I want to do in the future!

grace for the moment kids

  • Experiencing God at Home by Richard and Tom Blackabyexperiencing god
  • Kingdom Family Devotional by Tony Evans and Jonathan Evans
    I love the format of this one with a theme for each week to go over as a family.  The readings are short and occasionally have very simple-to-prep object lessons to accompany the devotional.  It’s also accessible for a fairly wide range of kids, which is great for  a large family like mine
  • Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young
    We haven’t done this one (it’s just not my preference to read devotionals written from God’s perspective as if He is the one speaking), but others have recommended it to us several times.  She also just released Jesus Today Devotions for Kids.jesus calling

FOR TODDLERS AND EARLY PRESCHOOLERS

  • My Good Night Bible by Susan LingoThese are the very first devotion books we used with my kids starting at late two-years-old and on through the early preschool years.  They are short and sweet and, unfortunately out of print.  But you can still buy used copies from sellers on Amazon!good night bible
  • My Good Night Prayers by Susan Lingogood night prayers

DEVOTIONAL FOR FAMILIES WITH OLDER CHILDREN (TWEENS AND TEENS):

one year

STORYBOOK BIBLES

  • The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-JonesEvery story in The Jesus Storybook Bible points to Jesus, creating one overarching message of salvation.  I read this to my youngest daughter when she was finishing up preschool.  I think that’s really too soon to fully appreciate the message of the book and think it’d be a good fit for younger elementary years instead.
    jesus storybook bible
  • My First Message by Eugene Petersonmy first message
  • The Beginner’s Bible
    beginners bible
  • The Action Bible 

    The Action Bible was a huge hit with one of my daughters who loves graphic novels.  She devoured this during her reading time.  It has solid biblical content with artwork and a style she loved.  She first received the Action Bible when she was 8 and that seemed like a good age, but it would likely appeal to any of the upper elementary grades.action bible

  • The Story for Children, a Storybook Bible 

    The Story is at times a good storybook Bible, although my kids weren’t always happy with the details or stories that were left out. I think my own children were just getting too old and were ready to read the Bible itself instead of the abbreviated version.story for children

EASTER DEVOTIONAL:

As our children get older, we’re moving away from storybook Bibles and devotionals and spending most of our time reading Scripture itself  as a family.  If you’d like to being reading the Bible aloud with your kids, here is a plan that takes you through the book of Mark in 30 days:

30 DAYS IN THE BOOK OF MARK

Originally published March 21, 2016

The Legend of the Missing Pizza Slice

It was a few summers ago when the legend of the missing pizza slice began.

On one of those summer nights when we arrived home late from an all-day activity, my husband stopped for pizza and brought it home for us.

But when he opened up the pizza box, he gasped in mock-horror and surprise.

“Hey,” he said, “there’s a missing slice!”

My girls jumped right in with theories and finally settled on this:  Someone at the Papa John’s had eaten a slice of our pizza.

We played along.  My husband said maybe they were just testing it to see how it tasted or maybe we should get our pizza elsewhere.

The girls all nodded as we happily ate the remaining pizza slices.

So then, we just kept up the tradition and the joke.  Every time my husband brought pizza home that summer, he ate one slice in the car before he brought it to us for  dinner.

And the girls marveled that every single time there was this missing  piece.

What was wrong with the people making our pizzas?

After a year or so of this, my husband really pushed the limits.  Instead of Papa John’s, we got Pizza Hut…..and he ate a slice before bringing it home to see what our kids would say.

One of my kids announced that maybe the Papa John’s worker had quit and gone over to Pizza Hut and was now sampling our pizzas there, too!!!

It’s my youngest daughter who eyed her dad suspiciously and then started interrogating him to see if maybe, just maybe, he was the culprit.

Really, I think she knows the truth.  She knows that her dad has been secretly eating one slice out of each of our pizzas before bringing them home for at least two years now.

But she doesn’t want to let the joke go.  Or maybe she doesn’t want to accuse her dad of pizza slice-sneaking.  So she pushes right up to the point where she almost announces the truth and then backs off and lets everyone keep the mystery going.

She dismisses what’s true because she’s distracted by the noise around her.

And that can be me. That can be us.

 

I’ve been feeling this longing lately, this deep desire to believe, really and truly believe God and His love for me, to grip hard onto this truth.

But then I get distracted.  I get worn down.  I get forgetful.  I get weary.   Life is noisy, after all.

And then I let go, slipping right down into the waters of unbelief and nigh-on drowning in all the stress I carry around when I don’t trust God to care for me instead of doing everything on my own.

I don’t  want to wrestle with my puny faith or trample down my nagging worries all the time.

When Jesus says, “I Am,” I want to rest in that.

When He says, “I Will,” I want to trust Him.

Instead, even though He’s always been faithful, I foolishly fret that  maybe this one time, maybe in this one situation, maybe in this one seemingly impossible instance, He’ll fail me.

Maybe He provides for others, but not for me.

Maybe He came through in the past, but not this time.

So I’ve been praying the same thing as the father in Mark 9:24

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

The moment that worry creeps in, the moment I hear that first nagging cynicism, the moment I start running through possible scenarios in my mind and I feel the crushing weight of “what if,” I go back to Jesus.

Help me believe.

This week, I once again read in Romans what it says about Abraham:

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21 ESV).

No unbelief?  No wavering?  He was fully convinced that God was able.

Not only that he grew strong in his faith.

Waiting wears me down.  I grow doubtful over time.  But Abraham grew stronger instead.

So, what’s the secret?

Maybe it’s that he was giving glory to God (verse 20).  Maybe if I just keep  returning to praise, I’ll become less forgetful, less prone to wander, question, and doubt.

This is where the faith-building happens, with our hands raised in worship, with our mouths singing His praise, giving Him glory for who He is and all that He’s done, tuning our hearts to trust Him with our future and believe He is able to care for us through it all.

You can click here to listen to Audrey Assad sing, “Help My Unbelief.”  This is a song I’ve been singing often lately.

I am for you and not against you

“I am for you.”

That’s what I tell my 12-year-old daughter after a long day and after we’ve flopped down onto the overstuffed blue couches to pray and to  chat  before bed.

It’s probably what I’ll be saying often for the next few years as she steps into the teen years.

Maybe it seems like some days I’m against her.

I tell her what she can’t have or what she can’t do.  She carries home yet another flyer advertising yet another activity and I remind her that her calendar is already dripping with ink from her doing so much.

She talks about movies, books, songs, apps, and sometimes she’s the one left out.  She doesn’t know that band.  She hasn’t read that book.  Maybe we won’t let her see that movie.

This is hard.  This is her coming to grips with what it means not to fit in, what it means to miss out, what it means to let things go even when others around her indulge like it’s no big deal.

Of course, she’s a good girl.  She’s not asking to attend wild parties or drink or do drugs or even watch a PG-13 movie.  That’s not her.

Still I explain it that night to her as we relax on the sofa in a moment of quiet, and I hope what I say sinks deeply down to the needy parts of her heart:

I am not against you.  Even when it feels like I’m against you because I’m not giving you what you want or what even feels reasonable or what other people get.  I’m never your enemy and I’m never out to hurt you or deprive you of what is good. 

No.  I am for you.  Always.  Because I love you.  And it’s because I want the very best for you that sometimes I have to keep you from the second-best, or even what seems “good,” or perhaps what we both know isn’t right or true.

She nods her head in understanding for  now.

I hope the understanding lasts.  It probably won’t, not all the time.  I’m sure I’ll be echoing these words again and again, if not to her, then to her siblings.

It makes me marvel at God really, because He knows how I feel.  He knows what it’s like to be the parent having the hard conversations, building the unpopular boundaries, saying the “no” that a child doesn’t want to hear.

In Romans it says:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31 ESV)

And the Psalmist wrote:

Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me (Psalm 56:9 ESV).

God isn’t for me because He gives me everything I want.

 

To says God is for me means  His heart, His passion, His desire is for my ultimate blessing and my ultimate good.  He wants the best for me, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time because it’s not what I wanted or what seemed easy or appealing.

He knows what’s truly good and what I truly need, and that’s what He’s going to be doing in my life, directing, guiding, pausing, saying “no,” and saying “yes.”

So, as my daughter shuffles off to her room for bed, I sit for a moment with God. It’s as if He nudges me with His elbow to say, “See?  See what I’ve been trying to tell you?”

God isn’t against me when I don’t like His timing.

God isn’t against me when I long for the blessing He doesn’t choose to give (or when He gives it to someone else and not to me).  Even if we feel sometimes like everyone else His favorite because He so readily gives to them the things He withholds from us (and what’s that all about, anyway?).

God isn’t against me when my plans go awry or His plans don’t seem to make sense.

God isn’t against me when I experience injustice or hurtfulness.

God is for me.

He is for you.

It’s a matter of trusting His love for us, trusting Him enough to love us well and love us completely and to believe it when we read, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”  (Psalm 84:11 ESV).

Bible Verses about Being Wholehearted

verses-about-being-wholehearted

  • Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV
    But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV
    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV
    And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
  • Deuteronomy 13:3 ESV
    you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV
    And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
  • Joshua 22:5 ESV
    Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
  • 1 Samuel 12:20 ESV
     And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.
  • 1 Samuel 12:24 ESV
    Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
  • 1 Kings 8:61 ESV
    Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”
  • 1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV
    “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
  • Psalm 86:11 ESV
    Teach me your way, O Lord,
        that I may walk in your truth;
        unite my heart to fear your name.
  • Psalm 119:10 ESV
    With my whole heart I seek you;
        let me not wander from your commandments!
  • Psalm 119:34 ESV
    Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
        and observe it with my whole heart.
  • Psalm 119:58 ESV
    I entreat your favor with all my heart;
        be gracious to me according to your promise.
  • Psalm 138:1 ESV
    I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
        before the gods I sing your praise;
  • Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
     You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
  • Joel 2:12 ESV
    “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
        “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
  • Matthew 22:37 ESV  (also Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27)
    And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

prayer-to-be-wholehearted

Spring Cleaning is what I need in my heart

Declutter my heart, Lord.

That’s what I pray as I sort through papers and throw out broken toys and rummage through the board games in the closet to find the ones we no longer play.

There’s so much stuff.  So much build-up over time.

We can start to feel bogged down.

Worried.  Tired.  Weary.  Disappointed.   Uncertain.  Lacking direction.

Lacking perspective.

Every single day we can get up and go through all the motions but not have purpose or passion for any of it.

After I finish decluttering inside the house, I clean out the garage and haul all the trash away and I marvel at how the finished product looks with all the muck cleared out.

This is what I want.

Clear out the cobwebs and the mold and the trash in the corners and the piles of junk, Lord.

We’ve been working on projects all over our home.  Besides the organizing and cleaning, we’ve powerwashed the deck and the house.

This little machine is  like  a magic wand, wave it over a surface and it changes colors.  Our gray deck turns a honey golden brown wood again and our house shines white instead of being splotched with the green of pollen build-up from nearby trees.

I love the instant feedback of this, shoot the water in the direction of the dirt and it comes clean.  It’s washed away in an instant and shines like new.

Make me new, Lord.

Here’s the build-up again, how dirt collects over time and I don’t even realize it.  Slowly, slowly, slowly it covers over the surface.

Until one day, it’s grimy and dull and it needs a water jet to show the difference.

Yesterday, I was on my hands and knees painting the newly washed deck with a stain to help protect it from water and dirt.

And this is also what I need:  to clear away the dirt first before painting on any fancy finish or coating of shiny color.

I can try all I want to shine myself up on the outside, to look perfect and put-together.

But what I need is a deep cleansing.  A de-cluttering and a washing down that only Christ can do…..and then I can put on the new person God plans for me to be.

I need a spring cleaning in my life and in my heart.

Declutter my heart.  Clear out the distractions.  Make me new.

Paul described this to the Ephesians:

 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).

He used the same idea in Colossians:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. .  Colossians 3:5, 12-14 ESV).

Put off.

And then put on.

Maybe sometimes we forget the process,.  We layer on new coats of varnish hoping we’ll look cleaner, brighter, shinier, and new, but it never works.

 

Before we can put on the new self…

Before we can put on compassion and kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love….

We need to put off the old self.  We need to put to death all the earthly muck that builds up over time.

The Holy Spirit can do this work, but it takes us yielding.

We can ask Him to throw open the windows and let the fresh breeze blow through.  Sweep out our corners.  Throw out the broken and unnecessary.  Use lemon-scented cleaners that mingle with the breeze and let us start fresh.

Give us a fresh perspective.

Reveal to us a fresh vision.

May we have a fresh start.

Re-fresh us with your Holy Spirit, Lord

Slow to Criticize and Quick to Pray

Years ago, my friend was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I love my friend and I got it. Truly, I did.  I nodded my head and encouraged her while other shoppers pushed their carts past us in the grocery story.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t complete.  It was a hollow, pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship that feels bad, but doesn’t really offer the full covering of grace.

The truth was, deep down, I was judging her as much as she judged herself.  And it was ugly.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It sounded like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Maybe a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was sobbing at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and DMV paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been devastatingly humbling.

Then, I felt the deeper challenge.

God never lets me get away with passing silent judgment or criticism on another.  Never.

Nor should He.

The very moment I start internally critiquing another mom or putting another friend in a labeled box based on her mistakes and weaknesses, I know God will be at work in my life, bringing me to my knees to ask for forgiveness.

Because I need a Savior.

Because I’m a mess, too!

I’M NOT PERFECT AND MY LIFE ISN’T PERFECT AND THE THING WE ALL NEED AS MOMS AND AS WOMEN AND AS FLAW-FILLED HUMANS IS HEAPING LOADS OF GRACE AND COMPASSION, NOT QUIET JUDGMENT OR SILENT CRITICISM.

We stumble into the judge’s seat so easily, thinking we know the people around us:

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)

As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.

Maybe it spills over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes with like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd.

They watched four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  They watched as Jesus healed him, saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

While the man and his friends rejoiced and the crowd marveled, others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

They were just “thinking to themselves.”  They weren’t gossiping or heckling Jesus.  They didn’t hop up then and there to condemn Him.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.  

Would He also be disappointed about what I’m thinking in my heart?

After all, judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds is still judgment and it still hurts.

INSTEAD OF CRITICIZING OR LABELING OTHERS WHEN I SEE THEM STRUGGLING OR HURTING, I SHOULD BE DRAWN TO INTENSE AND CONSISTENT INTERCESSION, PRAYING FOR THEM RATHER THAN PICKING AT THEM.

As Oswald Chambers wrote:

‘God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.’

I SHOULD BE SLOW TO CONDEMN AND QUICK TO PRAY FOR OTHERS.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.

Just grace.

Beautiful, pure, deep down honest grace.

(Author’s note: Of course, this doesn’t mean we can’t discern or judge right from wrong, sin from not-sin, etc.)

Originally published 3/9/2016