Monday, April 28, 2008

God's Strength

This past weekend I had the blessing and privilege to be with the wonderful women of Christ the Rock Church in Wisconsin. We stayed at a beautiful resort called the Osthoff resort at Elkhart Lake, a relaxing and refreshing getaway near Appleton. I was the women’s retreat speaker for the weekend and gave four talks altogether; one on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday morning. I must tell you that physically I was very weak with one of those awful colds coming on, plus I was experiencing a terrible ache in my neck which kept me awake at night. With little sleep and feeling physically depleted I knew I was not up to teaching four times, as well as visiting with and encouraging the ladies.

But where we are weak, God is strong. It was quite apparent I need God to be my source of strength and speak through me. Before each session, I asked God to take over and completely teach the lesson, because I was physically and mentally unable to do it. I was amazed at the work He did in the women’s hearts. He spoke powerfully through my meager mouth, and many of the women told me they needed to hear exactly what I had to say.

How perfect is God’s work! All praise to Him. I left Wisconsin knowing God taught the women, and He used what little I had to offer. When I boarded the plane for my journey home, I opened my One Year Bible to the daily reading for April 28. It took me to the story of Gideon where God paired down Gideon’s army in order for Gideon to know God was the one who would win the battle and not Gideon. Yes, Gideon’s army was made weak, so God could show forth strong. In my weakened state, I too, was able to see it was God who did a great work this weekend and not me.

Perhaps our weaknesses have a purpose. Could it be that God allows us to be weak and inadequate for the task, so we can see His mighty hand at work? All glory to Him who is able to do far more than we ask or imagine!
Family Fun: Read the story of Gideon found in the Bible in book of Judges chapter 7. You may even want to act out the story, making a rams horns out of empty paper towel tubes and use a plastic jar with a flash light in it. Pretend you are sneaking up on the enemy, take away the jar and allow the kids to shine their lights and blow their trumpets. Talk about how the Lord fought the battle for Gideon using only a small army. Remind your kids that when you feel weak or inadequate, you can look to God for strength and ask Him to help you. God is able.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spring Cleaning

This weekend I drove down to Waco in a rented pickup truck filled with things we don’t need and want to get rid of. You see my daughter at Baylor was having a garage sale and I wanted to bring “just a few” items for her to sell as well. We both agreed that it felt good to get rid of all the junk we had accumulated over the years. It’s amazing how much unnecessary stuff we keep, from clothes to furniture and everything in between.

Just as it is a good idea to deliberately and regularly clean out the closets of our unwanted items, it’s also important for us to do a little clean out with some of our unwanted habits. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians talked about a little personal closet clean out and getting rid of a few things in our lives as Christians. He said, “But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander and dirty language (Colossians 3:8).” He also says, “You must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Any thoughts on old habits you may want to clean out of your life? I know I am slightly convicted as I read Paul’s admonishment. But the good news is we don’t have to clean out the closet of our hearts alone. God has given us His Spirit to help us not only recognize some of the things that need to go, but to help us and strengthen us in replacing the old junk with beautiful qualities like kindness, humility and patience.

Time for a little closet clean out of our hearts don’t you think? Consider doing some Spring Cleaning this week asking God to help you get rid of useless unwanted habits and bring in some fresh new lovely ones.

Family Fun: Together as a family, clean out a junk drawer or closet in your home. Trust me, it can be fun when you do it as a family. Use one box for giveaway items and a bag for trash. Rearrange and straighten the place, so it is once again useful and nice. As you sigh and look at your accomplishment talk, about how the Bible says we need to get rid of certain bad habits in our life. Read Colossians 3:8 and talk it. Pray together as a family asking God to help you recognize old junk that needs to go. Ask Him to renew your heart and help you to reflect His love in the home.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Friendships in the Fast Lane

In the busyness of being a mom, often our own friendships can fall by the wayside. Yet as moms, we need those dear relationships which give us encouragement as well as a shoulder to cry on at times. How do you juggle life as a mom, and building relationships? Three principles in friendships come to mind which can ease into any routine and be helpful for both friends and family members. Here they are:

Take a genuine interest in others. Remember that each person you meet is a beautiful creation of God. Listen to them, learn form them, find the treasure in them. As you take a sincere interest in others you will find some “Aha’ moments where you recognize you have something in common. Build on it and help an acquaintance to become a good friend simply by showing them you see their value and honoring them.

Be a giver not a taker. Now don’t get worried here. Being a giver doesn’t need to take a lot of time and energy. In fact it usually is a natural outpouring of taking a genuine interest in others. You can give a smile or a hug. A listening ear or help with the kids. You can give encouraging words or sound advice. Look for simple ways you can bless another person and build them up. Learn to be a gracious receiver when you need to be too.

Forgive. Possibly the greatest gift we can give to others is forgiveness. Overlooking faults and annoyances. Sure we get our feelings hurt sometime. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us. We need to communicate and set up healthy boundaries. But forgiveness means giving up the right to hold something over another person. It is a constant process, and a supernatural one. Ask God to give you the ability to forgive and move on. After all He is pretty good at it! Remember you have been forgiven of all your sins through Jesus, and so we as Christians ought to be the most forgiving people on the planet.

Take a genuine interest in others, be a given not a taker and forgive. If we apply these three principles to our relationships this week we will see them bloom and grow. Take heart fellow mother. Even when you feel all alone, you have the perfect friend with you, Jesus. He loves you, forgives you and will never leave you.

Family Fun: Talk with your kids about their friendships. Learn who they consider to be some of their closest friends and who are some of the acquaintances they want to know better. Then share with them each of the three principles above. Tell them a smile is a gift they give to other people to encourage them. Talk about some good conversation starter questions they can ask their friends. I want to practice giving by sending the first 10 people who contact me my book Table Talk free. It offers conversation starters around the dinner table. Email me at with subject line “Table Talk.”

Monday, April 7, 2008

Are you Sinking?

Float with me back to a boat on the Sea of Galilee, a body of water 680 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills. The topography lends itself to creating violent and unexpected storms as winds blow over the land and intensify close to the sea. As evening approaches, Jesus gets in boat and says to the disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” Shortly into the journey, one of those fierce storms comes upon them. High waves break into the boat, filling it with water.
I’m already relating to this story, how about you? It’s interesting how quickly storms can hit our life. We may be merrily rowing along on our pleasant little journey and without any warning an unexpected storm changes everything, and we feel as though we are sinking fast. Been there? Perhaps you have had several little storms, or maybe you have had a major life-changing storm which will mark your life forever. Whatever your storm, great or small, don’t forget Jesus is in the boat with you.
The gospel of Mark goes on to tell us that Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The desperate and frantic disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” In the middle of your storm you may have prayed that same thing. I suppose it is hard for us to imagine that Jesus allows us to go through the storm. “Don’t you care that this is happening to me? Where are you? Why are you sleeping?” we say to the Lord. Even though it seems like Jesus is sleeping, he does care about your situation, just as he cared for the disciples in the boat.
Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!” Suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Jesus then had a question for the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?” I believe the disciples were filled with anxiety and fear because they still didn’t seem to understand who Jesus was and what He could do. After Jesus calmed the storm, they proclaimed, “Who is this man, that even the wind and waves obey him?” Jesus, the Son of God and creator of all, was in the boat with them. They had a choice to be filled with terror or to trust the power of God. We too have a choice to panic or to pray when we face fearful and unexpected storms. Jesus does care and He is in the boat with us. He may not take away the entire storm, but He can give us a peace and a calm in the midst of it.
In my simplistic way of seeing life, it seems to me that if Jesus is in charge of the weather, couldn’t he have just made it smooth sailing the whole way? Wouldn’t it have been easier on the boat and on the disciple’s nerves to just skip the storm altogether and travel safely to the other side? Yet, how could the disciples’ faith grow unless they experienced God’s miraculous power themselves? Because of the storm, the disciples were able to see the mighty hand of God at work. They learned more about who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing through the storm, not the calm. They also learned that they could depend on Him no matter what happened for they knew He was able to handle it.
Unexpected storms will come in our lives. The question is will we try to ride it out on our own in a state of panic, or will we go to Jesus first seeking his peace and help? Jesus is in the boat with us and will never leave us. As we get to know Jesus better through studying the Bible and abiding in prayer, we begin to recognize and trust His mighty power and His ability to save us.