Strong muscles don't come easy...

This summer Clay has decided to "get strong".  He is millimeters away from 6'2" and weighs in around 155ish.  Playing defense on the Lacrosse field for two years now has taught him that he needs to beef up a bit to hold his position.

And, so it begins...  He has joined a local gym, paired up with a willing coach, and made the commitment.  Being thin has given him some quick results because he just isn't carrying much 'fat' to trim down; he is simply just building up... muscle.  Even though he was plagued with soreness, the first week was quite successful - he was consistent, he saw some beginning results, and he loved the thought of what was coming.  The second week was positive - still consistent - schedule was a bit more challenging, still saw results - a little less sore, still feeling good about the future strength and resulting change on the Lacrosse field.  Week 3 just finished -  schedule became difficult with work and other activities, results have been a bit less noticeable, still committed - well, of course, sort of?!

Spiritual "muscles" work the same way, don't they?  How often have I drawn the line in the sand, saying, "today is the day, I will commit to that daily quiet time... no matter what!"  Then life, circumstances, activities, sleep.... things just get in the way.  After that first week, the excitement wanes.. just a bit, the commitment is challenged with schedule... just a bit,  the "feeling" may diminish... just a bit.

We all know the right answers.... How many times have you heard the age old questions -   

If you didn't talk to your husband or children for days at a time,
 would you really have a relationship with them?
If you didn't listen to the person you trust your life with, 
would you know where that person is leading you?
If you didn't read what the person you say you are following wrote to you,
would you know HIS heart?

Can I just challenge you (and me) for a moment?  With much desire and some trial and error, I have found that the commitment is made when the time is set and protected - doesn't that apply to all commitments we make?  It does make sense.  So, give me the time!  I mean, seriously, what time will you meet with the Lord for the next seven days?  Having some time off work, the past few weeks has offered me the gift of time, but I can tell you that time has not automatically given me this desired time with my Savior...  For me, it is still early morning.... 6:30 am - Here we go - I'll be there with my cup of coffee and my Bible - at my kitchen table...  

I'm starting with a couple of my favorite verses:

"The steadfast love the Lord lever ceases; his mercies never come to an end; the new every MORNING; great is Your faithfulness."  Lamentations 3:22-23

"O Lord, in the MORNING You hear my voice; in the MORNING, I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch...[and listen]..."  Psalm 5:3

"Let me hear in the MORNING of your steadfast love, for in You - I trust.  Make me know the way I should go, for to You - I lift my soul."  Psalm 143:8

Good MORNING!!!  Flex with me!!

He is able...

I love Vacation Bible School.  I loved it as a kid when we knew our snack each day would be the vanilla cookies with the frosting in the middle and a small dixie cup of kool-aid, usually red.  I remember we met outside the Sanctuary for lining up.  We would process in a line right behind the chosen 6th grade students - one carrying the American flag, one carrying the Christian flag, and one carrying the Bible.  Once we filed into our designated pew, we began with the recitation of each pledge, then continued with songs and an introduction to the day's story and activities.

Honestly, the basics are still the same.  The themes of VBS are now larger than life.... the decorations are more intentional and elaborate, the snacks are scrumptious, the songs offer catchier tunes with great motions to follow, but the bottom line is still the bottom line!  The week's decorations, themes and songs are built around the Bible story.

This past week, teaching the Wednesday Bible story to all classes was my privilege.  The story was familiar - straight from Daniel chapter 3.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were rightly charged with breaking the law that King Nebuchadnezzar had enacted - they had refused to bow down and worship the gold statue the King had built.  Punishment for the refusal to bow had already been decreed - those who refused would be thrown into a blazing furnace.  The King offered them a second chance with these taunting words, "What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"

The words returned from these young men were piercing, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from Your hand.  but even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image..."  

I have no doubt that God is able to accomplish any and every thing.  He is Almighty... All powerful... All knowing!   As easy as that is to type, is it as easy to live out... every day... in this world where we so frantically "need" God to act and respond... NOW?   We have all prayed diligently and even desperately for 'something' or even 'someone', only to receive an answer at that time that seemed to us to be no.  In simplest terms, does that mean HE isn't able?  I guess as I think through this "theological" dilemma, the answer really is simple.  God is faithful and gracious to us, but honestly, friends, it doesn't matter what we think, does it?  He says it - we either believe and trust Him or we don't.  Everything else is determined by that statement of faith.  That determines not just the big things we encounter, but all things - it is how we live - it is who we are!

The rest of the story for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is famous - not only did God save them, He sent an angel into the fire with them to protect them.  I love the end of verse 27 of the chapter, "Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched.  They didn't even smell of smoke."  Our powerful Father addressed even the way their clothes smelled for His purpose at that time.

HE IS certainly ABLE!


Whattttt..eva!  If you've raised a teenager, you've heard that word with a certain unmistakable tone and even possibly an accompanying roll of the eyes!  I can assure you as the parents of three former teenage daughters and one current teenage son, we experienced the word and the identified action once or twice...

The Number 10 definition listed on the site matches my thinking:

(used to indicate indifference to a state of affairs, situation, previous statement)

Used in that way, the word, "whatever", is used most often in a negative, somewhat apathetic, context.  I was reminded  this morning in worship of Paul's words to us about this very word.  It's from Colossians 3:17,
"And whatever you do ,whether in word or deed, 
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
 giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Our dear friend, Andy, was preaching, and his words that followed challenged us to think about the "what" we do... including what we say, how we say it, and our actions.  "If we are doing or saying things that we can't give thanks for, then we shouldn't be saying or doing those things."  You might need to read those words a second time like I did!

Some of you have heard me share the story of Katie's friend from the summer they joined with Campus Outreach ministry.  Each college student was required to have a job in the area while deepening their own faith through Bible study, personal devotion time and intentional evangelism opportunities.  Many of the students found jobs life guarding, working in the snack bar at the local Water Park, bell hopping at several of the local hotels, etc.  This particular friend had applied at all these places, but much to her dismay, the only job offer that she received was from McDonald's.  She really didn't want to work inside, flip burgers and drop fries in the fryer at the beach!  Without another option, she accepted the position and went to work.  She laughingly reported later something to the effect of, "While I was 'slaving' over the grill, I would silently breathe... I deserve hell, I can gladly flip burgers."  I'm not thinking she was exactly quoting Colossians 3:17, but I believe she had the idea.

I remember a young mom literally being consumed and completely overwhelmed by one challenging 2 1/2 year-old who understood and had complete control, but simply refused to potty on the potty.  This little momma's words and deeds became anything but "thankful" - words like frustrated, exasperated, defeated... surrounded her.  Thankfully, her wise mother reminded her that her life goal for this precious daughter was NOT potty training, and she promised her that Katie would not enroll in Kindergarten in a diaper.  Thanks, Mom - I could have never survived without you!!!  :)   I sure needed a change in my perspective.

Like me, I assume you have found yourself at similiar moments in life... consumed by the task - an overwhelming job, a stage of parenting that was exhausting, a season of discontent, an unexpected challenge, an unwanted change... whatever the circumstance, our response is still to be determined.  This verse gives us a clear directive... the circumstance... the thing... doesn't matter, but our response is  directed... do "it" well with thanks, in the name of Jesus... now, THAT is a perspective we all need!

So... say it with me... WHATEVER!  Yes, Lord!

I blinked...

Our oldest daughter, Katie, began her high school career in the fall of 2000.... our youngest and only son, Clay, was a three-year-old bundle of energy.  Sometime during that first week of school, I shared with Frank that I had figured out... this year (2000) marked the first of what would be sixteen straight years of high school (4 children, 4 years apart in school = 16 years).

This fall, 2015 marks the beginning of that 16th year - Clay will be a senior in high school.  I really did just type that reality.  Many years ago Frank and I attended a weekend marriage retreat - the Christian comedian said something that still pierces my heart.  It went something like this..

"When our daughter was born, I was so enthralled with her.  I couldn't wait to hold her, to watch her sleep, just to be present with her... and then... I did the worst thing possible... I blinked, and she was graduating from high school."

I understand the blink!  Time truly does march on.  Frank and I are on the downhill side of our parenting "children" mountain , so I guess it is a natural, expected time of reflection for us.  As I think about the memories we have of raising our children, I am a bit surprised at the "freeze-frame moments" that surface so quickly.  Most of those memories are simply bits of specific events, but interestingly, they are not the big events like graduations and weddings although those are sweet.

 The memories that flood my mind are evening dinner time as we sat as our table... all six of us.  Somehow my thoughts don't focus on the fact that one child didn't want to set the table or another didn't like carrots, just the picture of conversation and silliness and laughter.  The thought of playing Aggravation on the coffee table in the den, where inevitably, some unnamed child would turn over the board in frustration.  What stands in my mind is the picture of all of us at that table - some on the floor, one or two on the couch, maybe one sitting in Frank's lap being his "partner" because that little one didn't fully understand the game just yet.  Family softball games that often brought shouts of victory and agony of defeat!  Riding to church realizing that someone had forgotten a Bible.. or maybe a shoe. Making up games in the backyard like "broom-ball", watching a family movie in the basement on a Friday night with a mammoth bowl of buttered popcorn.

Hours and hours and hours of softball pitching, volleyball spiking, kickball rolling, basketball dribbling, swing flying, playhouse building, bicycle "trick" judging, popsicle distributing, tears wiping, scraped knee bandaging, story sharing, Bible reading...

and many many days... early morning, late nights, midday, dinner table  - PRAYING... with our children, for our children, because of our children, in spite of our children.

Oh sweet friends... parents or those who have influence in someone's life... PRAY for them.  Teach them about Jesus, share your life lessons with them, play with them, eat with them...

We did so many things wrong as parents, we failed at many moments, but thankfully our Father continued to encourage us through His word and His love, grace and forgiveness for us as parents and as His children.

If you read carefully, the memories that flood my mind cost nothing... but our intentional time.  Time really is the best gift we have to give, and I believe, the most valuable investment we have!
Below I have listed some the verses of scripture that have guided and continue to guide our parenting.  Thankfully our God is gracious and patient with us as parents!!

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.   Proverbs 22:6

 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  3 John 3

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,  these commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them upon your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up...  Deuteronomy 6:5-7

I thank my God every time, I remember you.  In ALL my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy... being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on the completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:3-6

And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.  Philippians 1:9-11

and so many more...

Just don't blink!