Monday, November 30, 2009

How many days 'til Christmas?

Thanksgiving is over (hope you had a good one) and now we are in an all out sprint toward Christmas. Do you have your shopping done? Are your Christmas cards finished? Surely you have your decorations up by now! As moms, there is never a shortage of activities for the holidays.

For our kids there's just one thing on their minds, “How many more days until Christmas gets here?” All the while we are thinking in our minds, "How many more days do I have to accomplish all I need to do before Christmas arrives?" Honestly it is a simple and precious thing to see our kid’s hearts and minds centered on one thing – the big day! Often I wish I had that same type of simple anticipation, hope and fervor toward the Lord himself and knowing Him more fully.

It is tempting to brush aside spiritual growth during this time of the year, yet seeking the Lord in the quiet place may be just what we need to calm our anxious thoughts and our overwhelmed minds. His word can help us focus on the bigger picture and the beauty of the hope we have in Him. Looking to Him for direction for our day can bring order to our normally chaotic schedule.
Casting our cares on Him can help us realize we are not alone in our struggles.

This past Sunday we celebrated the first week of Advent as we anticipate and look forward to Christmas day. We lit the candle of hope, signifying Christ as the hope of the world. May we find our hope in Christ as we look to Him throughout this holiday season. He lovingly welcomes you with arms open wide. Enjoy His warm embrace.

“You are my portion, O Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to your promise.” Psalm 119:57,58

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No More Replays

“Mommy, mommy can I watch the Princess movie again?”

As you plug in the movie again, you mentally say to yourself,Not again! How can one child watch the same movie so many times? When if comes to favorite videos, it never seems like once is enough. In my house, we must have watched Anne of Green Gables fifty million times. Repetition of a good movie is not necessarily a bad thing, but somethings are not so great to repeat. One thing we do not want to continue to replay in our thought life is our own sin and mistakes. I am glad as believers in Christ, God doesn’t repeatedly glare at our past sins.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 103:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I’m thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning and that he is not holding onto what we did in the past. Now we may experience very real consequences to our sin, but as believers in Christ God has removed the penalty of our sin from us. In I Peter 1:22 we read, “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. “

Since we have been cleansed from our sin through faith in Christ, we must not replay our sin constantly in our minds – God doesn’t do it and neither should we. But let’s take it a step further, we also must be careful not to keep replaying other people’s sin against us. We must forgive, as we have been forgiven. We need to stop replaying in our minds how someone hurt us.

Just as our sin is done, gone, and removed from us through the blood of Christ, we must demonstrate this same type of forgiveness toward others. So this Thanksgiving as you are watching the replays in a football game or reruns of an old movie, remind yourself that God does not replay your sin and neither should you. Don’t replay the sin of others either. Give thanks this week for God’s mercy toward you as a follower of Christ, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Anything and Everything

Worrying and whining seem to be two challenging attitudes moms face on a daily basis. Worrying on the mom’s part and whining on the kid’s part, although to be quite honest both attitudes may apply to both moms and kids! The book of Philippians deals with worrying and whining in an all or nothing type way. Typically, I don’t look at life with an all or nothing attitude, but there are some “anything” and “everything” verses here that I can’t ignore. For instance:

· “Do everything without complaining or arguing (Philippians 2:14).” Well that seems to leave no room for grumbling, bickering or whining in our lives. Why would Paul say such a thing? Perhaps it is because when we complain and argue, we are revealing a lack of faith in a God who cares about our needs and will help us through them. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t thoughtfully take a stand for what is right as times, but I am saying that whining and grumbling should have no place in a faith-filled, thankful person’s life.

· “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6,7).” Hmmmm….. not anxious about anything and pray about everything? The Bible says we will experience an inner peace when we give our cares to God in prayer along with thanksgiving. Now there’s an anything and everything that can change your life!

· “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12,13).” Herein is the key to not complaining, to not being anxious and to being content in every situation; it is Christ who strengthens us. When we are following Him and seeking His help, and desiring His will for our lives; He will strengthen us in every situation.

My fellow mom, are you finding your strength in Him? As you face the challenges in your life right now, and as you move into the holiday season, do not complain or be anxious about anything, but instead pray about everything, with thanksgiving. And most importantly find your strength from Christ to live a life filled with contentment no matter what happens.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:29,31

Monday, November 9, 2009

In the Midst of Difficulties

Several years ago our precious Great Pyrenees dog named Bear died on Christmas day from a flipped stomach. It was terrible and one of my daughters said to me, “Mom, why would God allow Bear to die on Christmas day. Now we are always going to remember this sad day when we celebrate Christmas.” I didn’t know what to say or do, so I said lets pray that God would bring some sort of redeeming factor from this tragedy.

Now of course I had no idea what God may do, and I didn’t think it was in God’s plan to raise Bear from the dead, but we trusted that God could bring something good from this loss. After the holidays we began searching the internet for a dog. We wanted a mastiff this time, since we already had another mastiff. We finally found a dog who had been rescued just a few days before Christmas. The shelter named the dog Angel , and she seemed to be the perfect fit for our family. I quickly filled out all the paperwork to adopt the dog, but received no reply.

Finally I approached them again and they said they need to have someone come down from Oklahoma to do a house visit. Well we were four hours away and they were having trouble finding someone, but I had a solution! Our house was on the market so I just sent the pictures on line of our house, and I included my website (which has a picture of me with my other mastiff). I immediately heard a response! The woman in charge of adoption had just been searching for some books to encourage her as a mom and kept coming across my books on the internet. Now here I was – the author- emailing her personally.

As you can imagine, we were immediately approved for adoption, but what is more important is that I had the opportunity to make a connection with a precious mom who needed to know God cared about her. God cared about the details of her life so much that he had the author of the book contact her. Of course I sent her several books right away! She emailed later that this was a tremendous coincidence. I emailed her back saying this was God’s work and that He loves and cares for her.

God did bring redemption from a sad situation! See picture of Angel below.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I know that for some people it is difficult to celebrate and be thankful. We can’t ignore the fact that many people have lost their jobs and are struggling financial. Others are struggling in difficult relationships or with a wayward child, and some are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

This past week, here in Texas, we had the terrible and senseless loss of 13 lives at Fort Hood. Our hearts go out to the families of those who were slain and our prayers are with those who are still struggling with injuries. At times like these it is easy to think there is nothing to be thankful for, and yet even in the midst of difficulty, tragedy and loss there are some things for which we can give thanks.

In my own life, my dear mother was sadly killed at the young age of 55 during this time of year. Certainly we do not give thanks for the terrible loss, but we can be thankful for God’s comfort and care. The Bible says, “The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:17,18)

In our situation, we thanked God for providing wonderful people to come to our side and comfort us. We thanked God for the blessing that my mother’s life was to all of us, and how she blessed so many people with her godly heart. We thanked God that many people turned back to God as a result of my mother’s sudden death, because they too saw the brevity of life.

God’s Word offers us strength and comfort in times of difficulty. Just this morning I read Psalm 107. I encourage you to read it to your kids:

1 “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say this— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

We may not understand why the Lord has allowed trials in our lives, but we can trust His unfailing love. He is our provider. Look to him and seek His help through your pain and struggles. Like the Psalmist, we can thank the Lord for His unfailing love in our life and thank Him for His care for us each day.
Here's a picture of the girls with Angel on the Christmas after we lost Bear.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thankless Job - Thankful People

As a mom you may feel as though you have a pretty thankless job at times. Caring for others needs and getting whining in return. Cooking dinner and receiving grumbles and complaints. Shopping for groceries and yet getting repaid with screams or temper tantrums. Typically there’s not a thank you in the mix. It’s tough being a mom, and I for one want to tell you thank you for investing in the next generation. Your job is a highly valuable role and you are a hero. I’m thankful for what you do day in and day out. Keep up the great work.

In a small way we can imagine how God must feel when His people go day in day out and fail to thank Him for His care and blessings through the day. Out of His kindness and love He cares for us and blesses us each day. He answers prayers, He meets our needs, He comforts us, He strengthens us, and He forgives us even when we don’t deserve it. Yet how often do we take the time to sincerely thank Him? It’s interesting how we may be busy doing all sorts of good things for Him, but one thing He desires more than our sacrifice is our gratitude.

Listen to what He says in Psalm 50:7-15
7 “O my people, listen as I speak. Here are my charges against you, O Israel: I am God, your God! 8 I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. 9 But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. 13 Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? 14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”And later in verse 23 He says again, “Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”

Why is thankfulness so important? Gratitude keeps us humble as we continue to recognize all we have is from Him. Gratitude makes us more joyful as we focus on the good things in our lives. Most importantly gratitude builds a deeper love relationship between us and God. It points our eyes toward Him and helps us reflect on His presence with us and care for us.

May I encourage you each day in the month of November to spend some quiet time alone with the Lord, and as you do begin by praising God for who he is and thanking him for what he has done in your life. I like to keep a prayer journal and write down my requests to the Lord each day, but before I write any requests, I take time to write out my thanks to God for how he took care of me the day before. Let’s honor God this month by allowing our daily prayers to be filled with gratitude for our loving God.

Each night as you say prayers with the kids, encourage them to thank the Lord for His care during the day. Let’s encourage our little ones to be great in the area of gratitude!