Tuesday, August 27, 2013

From "So what?" to "Say what?!" and a block party :)

When Noah acted crabby with a friend when he was younger, we told him to tell that friend, "I'm sorry." It was a struggle, because he did not like saying those words. And when forced to say them, they kind of lack sincerity. But other times, when he has done something and felt so bad about it, and his beautiful blue eyes filled with tears, he would offer up an "I'm sorry" and mean every syllable.

The attitude of the heart makes all the difference. 

I joined an online study through Proverbs 31 Ministries on Lysa TerKeurst's book What Happens When Women Say Yes To God, and on one of the posts, the study's leader talked about the difference between "So What?" obedience and "Say What?!" obedience. She said someone could say that God wants them to do six loads of laundry. So what? But if that person took it seriously and committed to doing that laundry, praying over each load for her family, it could be a Say What?! moment. She said, if she decided that as she folded her children's socks, she would pray for their feet, and the places they would be going, and if she folded her husband's t-shirts and prayed for him and his job, and as she folded sheets, she could pray for rest and safety for her family as they slept, and fully believed that these prayers will make a difference, her family's lives could experience an awesome change. And as she tells her friends about this, they too could decide to make this a commitment for their families as well, creating changes in homes everywhere! Say what?! 

That left a big impression on me, because I often look at things without the commitment and enthusiasm they deserve. 

Take nursery duty at church as an example. I kind of dread it when I have it. I love the kids and I end up having a good time with them, but when I realize I'm on the schedule, I'm not excited. 

But rather than looking at it as a babysitting service, I should look at it differently after this study. It's a chance to be with the kids, to pray for them now and for their futures. To pray for the babies who have just recently been born and will be in the nursery soon, and for the ladies I know who desperately want to one day have babies of their own crawling around in the nursery. What an opportunity! 

Our church is having a block party tomorrow evening. Most of us were pretty excited about doing it during the early planning stages, but, typical for me, as the day gets closer, the excitement fades and is replaced by stress and I look forward to it being over. I've been sort of looking at it like a "So What?" kind of project. 

But I'm changing that, starting now. The reason for having it is to let the people in our church's neighborhood, especially the kids, know about the classes and programs our church has. It's to get to know the neighbors of the church and hopefully get people excited to stop by and learn that Jesus loves them.

So, tomorrow morning, as I am making lemonade and sweet tea, I will be praying for the families who will be drinking it. I will pray that they will see Jesus' love poured out in our neighborhood. As I help set up tables and games, I will be praying for the kiddos who will be playing them, that they will have a good time and feel loved and wanted by the church volunteers who are there. I will also be praying for the church volunteers who will be there doing everything from serving free hot dogs to manning the inflatables, that they will see each person they talk to as someone Jesus loves and gave His life for.

Kind of turns it into a "Say What?!" project :)

Nearly anything in our day can be changed, with a change in our attitude. I want my attitude to reflect a girl who is happy to serve Jesus.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Praying for our Kids... the Sequal

Sometimes things we want don't always line up. I might want to lose 20 pounds, but I also want cupcakes and sprinkles. I want to get a bunch of stuff done in the evening, but I also want to sleep. I want to save money, but I also want to buy sparkly things.

If you read my post Praying For Our Kids, you know that Noah started his 7th grade school year this past Thursday. You also know I was committed to praying for him and had peace about it.

I spent the drive to school Thursday morning praying for Noah's day, his teachers, him and his friends. I dropped him off, then walked 2 1/2 miles around the neighborhood surrounding his school, talking to God about this new school year. I prayed more detailed prayers for all of the teachers, counselors, bus drivers, cooks, secretaries, students, their families, and specifically for Noah and his friends, as well as the kids from my church who were starting school that day.

I felt pretty good the rest of the day, trusting it would be an awesome day. But it didn't feel so awesome for Noah.

I'm hesitant to post this. Sometimes it's a fine line between transparency and being a blabber mouth, especially when it involves people other than yourself. Having said that, I'm going to share.

While it could have been much worse, he had several crummy things happen - beginning with  me not remembering he needed $5 for locker rental and him having to carry his stuff, including his lunchbox, all day. Out of respect for him, I'll skip the other details, but ultimately he rated his day, from 0, meaning the worst day ever, to 10, super awesome, at a 2. He had a bad day.

I was so bummed. I was sure with all my praying and confidence, his day would be better than that. And I was kind of frustrated with God. It seemed wrong even to say that, but God knows my heart. After all that praying and believing, I just felt it deserved better than a 2.

So I told God as much on Friday morning after I prayed with Noah again and dropped him off. I cried. I asked God why He didn't give Noah a better first day when that's the very thing I had asked for.

God wasn't silent. He quickly reminded me of another prayer I had prayed.

Last year, I began praying for Noah to have a closer, more personal relationship with God. He has a great relationship with God, but the older he gets, I know it is important for him to continue to develop a faith that is entirely his own, not just what we have taught him. I want that for him.

While what I wanted for Noah was a #10 day with happy teachers and a slew of friends to choose from at lunchtime, those aren't always the kinds of days that produce trust and faith in God.

But #2 days can do that.

In Job 36:15, Elihu, a counselor to Job, shared these words with him...

"But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction."

I've had a few #2 days before, and I can say for sure that those are the times I feel God closest to me. When I'm broken, desperate, and don't know what to do, those are the times I look for Him the most. And the more days I have like that, the more I trust that God will be there for me again and again, because He has shown me all the times He has been before. God definitely speaks to me in my affliction, just like Elihu said. Right in the middle of it, I can hear His words, and that is what gets me through whatever it is.

If these are the kinds of days that will help Noah to be closer to God, to be the person He is creating him to be, bring them on. I will be right there with him, praying for him, loving him, and thanking God for knowing far better than I which prayer to answer.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A cat, some birds, and a roaring lion

Shawn has always liked to build things with wood. When we first married, he would watch The New Yankee Workshop, learning from Norm Abram how to build benches, tables, and desks. He watched this for fun. I couldn't understand any of the tools and ways of doing things, and I couldn't understand how he found this entertaining. But I'm glad he did. He knows a bunch of stuff.

Shawn built lots of things, even as a kid. A wooden reindeer, a tiny rocking chair - just because he felt like it. In passing along this tradition, Shawn and Noah worked together to build a birdhouse a couple of years ago, and hang it on the tree in our front yard. Last year we had a tiny bird family living in it. So cute!

We've been looking for birds in there this year as well, and saw some signs, with bits of straw hanging out of the "doorway." We weren't the only ones aware of the new birds.

A neighborhood cat, who comes to visit our Meatball, (visit meaning the two of them watching each other through the front door and windows) also saw this and assumed position. He stayed at the base of the tree, looking up longingly at the birdhouse for the better part of the day. When the cat would get distracted for a second, the mama bird (or papa bird - not sure about the family dynamics or parts of birds) would sneak in quickly to get to the babies, giving them a bite to eat.

As I watched that cat, and how intent he was on making sure he didn't miss an opportunity to pounce n those birds if they would get close enough, I was reminded of somebody else.

Peter describes Satan this way in 1 Peter 5:8...
     Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

It was a real-life reminder for me to keep my eyes open. I have written along this topic before, but sometimes a reminder is good.

Being self-controlled, according to some random, free dictionary online, means restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires.

How do we become self-controlled?

Pray for God's help. He loves to give it.

Have a friend or two who will keep you on track, asking how you are doing in whatever area you need more self-control in.

And don't give up when you mess up. Ask God for His forgiveness and keep going.

Moving on in the verse...

Being alert, according to another random, free dictionary online, means being quick to notice any unusual and potentially dangerous or difficult circumstances; vigilant.

How do I make myself quick to notice any usual or potentially dangerous circumstances?

An answer to most spiritual questions is to read the Bible, and I think it fits perfectly here as well. That's the best way to know what it is God wants for your life, and the things that He knows aren't good for you.

Pray. A lot. The more we talk to God and get closer to Him, the more we learn His voice.

And always listen to the Holy Spirit. When you get the feeling to not do something, don't dismiss it. When you begin to justify what you are about to do as "probably okay," pray instead. It isn't worth it.

I have dismissed that feeling and justified my actions more times than I care to admit, and I can only imagine the hurt and pain I could have saved myself and others if I had lived out this verse and been alert.

God doesn't want that pain for us. He has these guidelines in the Bible to keep us from it. Trust Him to give you what you need to avoid it. Listen to Him.

You won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Praying for our kids...

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22-23 

I remember Noah's first day of preschool. He was 4 years old. We had already taken him to meet his teacher, see the other kids, and ask any questions we might have. But on the first day, as we pulled into the parking lot, I had a hard time giving him up. I couldn't make myself open my door and get him out.

I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. I asked God to take care of him, knowing I couldn't. 

That prayer helped me get out of the car, walk Noah into his class, and make it back to the car with some composure. That prayer began a habit that has continued even now. 

On the way to school, each day, we pray. The brief time when he took the bus, we prayed for he left. I pray for his safety, for his friends, for him to be an example of Jesus to everyone around him. Sometimes, those prayers are specific. Tests, trouble with his friends, or friends who are in trouble. 

Tomorrow morning, Noah will start 7th grade. It's after 1 a.m. and I'm wide awake. Summer has flown by so quickly. I want more time with him. I want to have more lazy days, more sleeping in, more "What can we do today?" questions. More geocaching, more movies, more Legos, more board games. 

But tomorrow, he will go to school, and on the way there, I will pray with him. And I will have peace. 

If you have a kiddo headed off to school, preschool, college, please join me in praying for them. Whether that kid is your son or daughter, niece or nephew, or maybe a grandchild, or a friend, pray for them. Praying big and praying specific. Here are some of the things I pray about, in case the list can help you get started...

  • His safety
  • His concentration - that God will help him focus and pay attention, and remember what he needs to remember
  • His friends - that they will be kind to each other, appreciate each other, and be good examples for each other
  • His teachers - that they will have the patience they need, and the excitement they need to pass their knowledge along to the kiddos
  • That Noah will be the kid God created him to be
  • That Noah will make the right choices, and that when he doesn't, he will know he is still unconditionally loved - by his parents, and most of all by God

That's just some of them, and they change frequently. I know a lot of you are already praying for and with your kids, and I would love to hear your list of things you pray for your kids. And if you haven't started praying with your kids, why not try it now? The peace that comes with it can't be beat :)