Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Most Important Place to Take Our Kids

Sorry, I haven't blogged in a few days. I suppose I could say I've been "busy". But actually I've had some technical difficulties with my computer. I've spent several hours working on my blog with nothing to show for it except my realization that I really know nothing about computers! Anyway, I'll get on with it:

We take our kids to lots of places: the dentist, the doctor, soccer practice, school, church, boy scouts, and piano lessons - just to name a few! But how often do we take them to the throne of grace, the most important appointment by far?

Why is it so hard to spend time praying for our kids? And even when I do pray for them I find myself praying things like: help them to have a good day, protect them and help them on their test or heal their ear infection. Those are good things to pray about - we should take everything to God. However, I desire to pray on a much deeper level for them - their hearts, sin, salvation and character. I feel kind of at a loss on how to dive into a deeper prayer life on their behalf.

I've tried to read some books on the subject, but they are still on the shelf half read. Then I found these little prayer cards from Pray! Magazine. They are called 31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children and Spiritual Blessings to Pray for Your Children. I can keep them in my bible and pray one or two virtues or blessings a day. I've been doing that this summer and it's been really helpful to me. It's simple and that's what I need. It just gets me right to the heart of the types of things I want to pray for and they all have scripture references. I am not sure if it is kind of a fast food approach to prayer, but I know that it is getting me started on the road I want to be on. I hope that they will be a means to my goal of a deeper prayer life for my kids.

When I met my mother-in-law 12 years ago, she told me she had been praying for me for 20 years. Each day she prayed for her children's future spouses. What an amazing ministry and testimony (I've added that one to my list). It's very humbling for me to think about that and the lack of dedication I've had. Our kids are God's and praying for them is like releasing them back to Him so He can fulfill his plans and purposes for their lives. Is there any better place for them to be?

Mike and I don't pray together as often as we'd like. Yesterday, it was our goal to spend some time in prayer for our kids and some other issues. He got tied up at the office and didn't get home until the kids were hungry for lunch. Annie was cranky and ready for a nap. Even with our good intentions it didn't seem like it was going to happen. After we took care of a few needs, we had a great prayer time together. Could it be that just like going to church on Sundays, there is someone who wants to stand in the way of our prayer time?

I'm trying to use some of the time I would ordinarily spend watching T.V. to pray. It's a discipline and I'm sure it will be a process to get where I want to be. But I desperately want to be there.

I ordered a bunch of the prayer cards and would be happy to send a set to you. Just email me your snail mail address at I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me!

1 Samuel 12:23
"As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you."

Romans 12:12
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Second Chance

I like Michael W. Smith. I've been a fan for probably 17 years. Go West Young Man was the album I listened to on my first CD player. I went to one of his concerts and his piano came up through the floor on a platform that spun around! So when someone handed us his movie, "The Second Chance" I felt as if I'd fallen off the Smitty bandwagon because I had never heard of it.

So, we popped it in one night for family movie night. (It is PG-13 but they are portraying and inner-city mission so it is part of the reality. There are a few mild swear words and some gang violence.) I'd tell you it was good because I cried at the end, but then you would have to believe that Cheaper by the Dozen and Homeward Bound deserve Oscars too. But it was good and I think it's worth seeing if you can get your hands on a copy.

It really contrasts the suburban mega-church with an inner city mission. The glitz and glamour of the big church with pastor (Smith) who wears gucci shoes and drives a fancy car. As opposed to the inner city pastor who is painting bridges and helping ex-gang members find jobs.

It is an interesting commentary on churches in America and it really made me think. I tend to long for the big fancy suburban church full of well dressed people with a program for everything because that's how I grew up. Mike grew up in a little church in Nebraska 30 miles from a paved road. He had a totally different experience and he loved it there. So, which is better? I think the answer is neither. God is bigger than all that. He can't be boxed in by the way we do church. He used both of these extremes to disciple us.

The other issue that hit me was materialism, which is something I'm realizing is a huge struggle living and raising kids in this culture. Michael W. Smith's character has all this nice stuff: car, house, clothes. But as he is forced to work in the inner city he starts to see the emptiness in all of it especially in contrast to the devastation and poverty of the people at the mission. I'm being challenged to think through what we have, what we buy, what we need. I don't think I've given my heart completely over to God in this area.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Ouch - That Hurts!

Don't you just hate being hurt? I'm not talking about a physical injury like my poor little foot that can be dealt with by a little antibiotic ointment and a band aid. I'm talking about heart hurt. And I think it stings more than any physical injury I've had. That is also why I think as parents we want so desperately to protect our kids from having to deal with the pain and sorrow of heart hurt.

I can remember the first time one of my friends didn't want to play with me or mean words from another child all the way back to grade school. It's a double whammy because I've got a long memory and I'm sensitive. Mike thinks it's crazy that I can remember all that stuff. Maybe more often for women they live with those memories and scars all their lives. People say kids can be cruel, but have they hung around any grown ups lately? News Flash: They can be mean too!

A parent of a little girl shared me this winter that there were boys calling her daugher "fat". My first reaction was anger! My second reaction was devastating sadness for her because she will never forget those words. They will echo in her mind for years to come.

But the reality is, we're going to be hurt and so are our kids. Sometimes it will be a direct result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is as simple as not getting invited to a birthday party.

I was licking my wounds today over a few recent things and it stinks! But do you know what it did? It drove me straight into God's loving arms: the only place that I know will truly provide refuge, comfort and healing. I shed a few tears, read the Bible and started to give it all over to Him.

And THAT is what I want to teach my kids. Not to avoid hurt, not to harden their hearts and hurt back, not that Mommy will go clean house on the playground, but to take it to God. And then, through His power, to turn around and love those people back. What an unbelievable lesson! It's one I'm still learning.

Psalm 18:2
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

Matthew 5:10
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 5:44
"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mission: My Kids' Friends

My sister works in the children's ministry department at her church. She had this on her blog:

Top Ten Issues Facing Families

Monday Morning Insight quoted a study by Lifeway, identifying the top ten issues facing families.

1. Anti-Christian culture;
2. Divorce;
3. Busyness;
4. Absent father figure;
5. Lack of discipline;
6. Financial pressures;
7. Lack of communication;
8. Negative media influences;
9. Balance of work and family;
10. Materialism.

It makes me think of the kids that my kids are making friends with at school, at church, in the neighborhood and the community and what is going on at home for a lot of them. Here's another great opportunity for us to get our missionary capes on! Just having them over to our house and spending time with them is a great outreach.

And it's sad because usually I just think about all the extra work involved in having extra kids over. But I'm realizing that some of these kids, although they may have every material thing they want, don't have a close, personal connection with their parents. They are lonely and hurting.

I'm also envisioning friends that are in need of material things their parents either can't, won't or don't care enough to provide. Either way it is a huge opportunity to share the love of Christ.

I need to adjust my attitude! I want our home to be a place where friends want to come and hang out - a place of peace and refuge. May there be lots of cookies eaten, paintings made(messes made), bikes riden and joy shared!

What are your thoughts - how do you make your home a place of refuge - not only for your family, but for friends as well?

And a scary thought: how many of the things on the list apply to my family? Not all of them, but there are a few that hit home!

Matthew 25:34-39
"Then the King will say to those on his right,
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous man will answer him,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in,
or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"
"The King will reply,'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."


Why is it so hard to relax? On the crazy days of life I always find myself longing for a quiet day at home with our family. However when those days come, like Sunday afternoon when we purposely plan nothing and there's nowhere to go and nothing to do and the phone isn't ringing; I find myself getting antsy instead of enjoying the peace!

Is it that I am so addicted to busyness and frantic activity? Do I need to have the radio, computer and phone going at all times? I think I might be because I hardly know what to do with myself when it's quiet. Plus, sometimes playing with the kids is really exhausting and downright boring. I think I almost prefer to say I have to fold laundry or do whatever household task has my attention at the moment.

So, I tried really hard to let go. And guess what? I had a tea party, looked at books, admired my kids playing, went for a bike ride in the rain, took a nap, watched a movie, and played tackle football in the yard (I have the grass stains to prove it)! All of us together. Why am I too wound up to enjoy that? Maybe I really have gone crazy.

I learned I've got to let go and enjoy these times. Soon enough another busy week will start. In a few weeks the fall routine will be in full swing. And I guess I need to realize that those quiet days can be the most precious and fulfilling days of all.

Psalm 90:12
"Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What A Difference A Week Makes!

Today, I was able to truly worship! The praise and worship time was meaningful and God used the sermon to convict my heart of some of that stubborn hurt and bitterness that I need to deal with. The kids were like totally different kids than they were last week! Annie sat through the whole service looking at a book and the other kids did pretty well. There were a few bumps in the road, but I am grateful that I was able to worship today.

So my experience today and last Sunday taught me a few things. Even though there are going to be bad weeks, like last week, they aren't the norm. On average I'd say we have more good days than bad ones. If I would have given up after last week, and believe me it was tempting, I would have missed the joy of worshipping today.

Secondly, I need to have some grace in regards to my kids. They are kids, not robots. They are learning and will be a little wiggly and loud at times. Sometimes I think my expectations are too high and I over correct. When I get too obsessed about every little thing (like a marker on the floor) then I am unable to worship at all. Then who is standing in the way of sitting through church? It's not them, it's me! If my expectations are too high, we're all miserable.

And sometimes I wonder why it is that I am so worried about how they act in church. Sure, part of it is because I want to worship. But sometimes I think it is a lot more about how we look to others than I want to admit. We must all sit nice and still in church so we will look like a "good little christian family". I hate having to admit to those attitudes.

Here are some of the things we've tried with our family. We sit in the front row. There are a few reasons for this. One is I want Mike to be able to sit with us when he's not directly involved in the service. Also, the kids can see what is going on and hopefully feel more involved. And I want to leave the back open for visitors. We visited a church once where the only open seats were in the front. Most people don't want to march right up to the front when they are in a new place.

We have special "church bags" that have a notebook and some colored pencils in them. Each kid has one. They can use them after the singing time.

I try to talk to them in advance about what I expect and get them to use the bathroom before church starts. I'm trying to remember that I'm teaching them not just to sit still and quiet, but to participate in worship themselves.

I'm grateful that God gave us a good worship experience today. Hopefully bad ones like last week will be few and far between. Does anyone have any comments or ideas on what works for them?

Psalm 95:6-7
"Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care."