Are Questions Okay, God?

6 Dec

Do you ask God questions? Is it okay to ask God questions?

I’m joining Mom’s Toolbox and reading the gospel of Luke for the remainder of December. (Why not join us? If you blog, grab the button from her site and include it on your own blog.)

Yesterday was the first day of reading and focused on Luke 1:1 – 38. I try to never read a passage without praying first and asking the Holy Spirit to teach me something. Here’s what I got after observing the passages yesterday. Luke with MomsToolbox

First the similarities.

Gabriel, the angel, visited both Zechariah and Mary. He brought news of a baby to be born to each of them. (John the Baptist to Zechariah and Jesus to Mary.)

Both were astonished at the news and both had questions.

Now for the differences.

Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure of this.” We are both so OLD!

Mary asked, “How will this be since I’m a  VIRGIN.”

Zechariah had doubt. Mary had wonder.

Gabriel answered both of them, but Zechariah received a consequence for his doubt. He’d be unable to speak until the child (John the Baptist) was born. Zechariah still received the son Gabriel told him about. John the Baptist still did all God had announced he would do.

Mary, on the other hand, received her answer explaining that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and do the work. Then, Mary received a word of encouragement that her relative, Elizabeth (Zechariah’s wife), would also be having a child.

What I see here is a heart difference. God accepts doubt and questions from us, we can see this from Gabriel’s interactions with those questions. But, our heart condition with those questions matters.

God, thank you for knowing we don’t understand everything You do and say. Thank you for your loving patience, forgiveness, and faithfulness. Grow us up in faith and salvation so we can believe and stay eager to be your servant through any of the hard questions in our lives.

Nothing is impossible with God  Luke 1:37 (NIV)

What’s something that seemed impossible, which God’s accomplished in your life?

Where’d You Get That Line? – Choosing Meaningful and Real Words

2 Dec

“I wish I had a hundred fingers to count how much I missed you.” My nine-year-old shared what he planned to say to his grandma after school.

You see, their grandma, my mom-in-law, lives with us. But, she’s been away for 6 weeks after fighting off some major illness and building back strength.

Yesterday, she came home. (Welcome home, G’Ma!) As my sons left for school, I reminded them she’d be here when they returned.

So, I thought this 100 finger line was way too cute, quick, and clever to be his own saying. Plus, my boys like to quote such things as Phineas and Ferb. There’s a track record here for one-liners.

“That’s a sweet line, where are you quoting it from?” I asked.

He claimed it as his own. (Okay, actually he said, “From me, from my face.” Charming, huh?)

My ten-year-old then stepped in for some back up. “I can verify. I have never heard that anywhere.”

In that instant, the sweetness of the statement magnified about a kajillion times.

And it got me thinking. Thinking about how many churchy words and repeated phrases I sometimes use.

I know God doesn’t judge my prayers and loves to hear from me. But I sense His presence so much more when my words are fresh and specific to that day’s situation, voiced in my personality.

This is something I encourage with my kids, reminding them not to say the same thing to God every day. You wouldn’t do that to a friend at school. You talk about what’s happening today.

It also reminded me of one of my favorite King of Queen’s episodes. The one where Carrie finds out Doug quoted a movie with BJ McKay and a monkey–or something equally as flattering– when he proposed to her. If you ever watched the show, you know how Carrie responded.

I don’t want to treat my King in a way that’s any less than my most sincere. It’s about constantly checking my heart.

I also don’t want to use churchy language to convey to my children how fabulous and real Jesus is. I’m not putting down church, love church. And I want my kids to know Biblical language and truth.

But I also carefully choose everyday language they have comparison and understanding for to convey how present and active Christ  is in our lives. After all, Jesus taught this way, right? Common day comparisons the people understood such as wine skins, seeds, sheep.)

I’ll still use my favorite scripture and words. But, I’ll also be watchful that I don’t just use routine words, trying every time to keep my heart personal to Him.

When do you experience the most genuine conversations with God?

How do you model and encourage it with your children?

Candy, Cash or Christ – How can we build spiritual appetites?

29 Nov

If you stood in a room full of kids and announced you had a prize for anyone who could hop on one foot for 30 seconds, what do you picture happening next?

Probably a room with shaking walls from all the bouncing, and children falling over one another.

Undoubtedly, some kid would scream out, “Is it candy?”

Thank goodness we outgrow this behavior. Well, at least some of you probably have.

Now picture standing in an auditorium of adults and calling out, “Loads of cash and buffet tables, just down the hall. First come, first serve. No limits.”

Perhaps everyone would look around like, “Yeah, right. Too good to be true….What’s the catch?”

Cynicysm, or let’s call it realism, does seem to come with age.

But if a few bold folks decided to go check it out, a stampede would ensue. What if it is true? What if they get it all?

Psalm 19:9-11 (NIV)

9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
   enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
   and all of them are righteous.

 10 They are more precious than gold,
   than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
   than honey from the honeycomb.

11 By them your servant is warned;
   in keeping them there is great reward.

Respect of God.  Knowledge of His word. These are more desireable than gold.

His decrees bring more sweetness to life than honey.

Not that God’s Word should be more desireable, but that it is; whether we realize it or not. 

Verse 11 says His word illuminates His servant, and brings a great reward.

As adults, we try to curb our natural desire for foods that are unhealthy.

But, money? Another story. It’s a necessity after all.

Yet the temptation to crave more than we need has us acting much like children with a sack full of halloween candy. I’m as guilty as anyone.

How can we invite more of God’s illuminating word into our lives?  Are we as willing to do it as a kid hopping on one foot for candy?

How can we foster our children viewing God’s Word as desireable?

For me, praying for desire for God’s Word has transformed my life. And having my kids walk in on me in the midst of Bible reading or prayer has taught them more than any direct instruction I’ve ever given.

Leave a comment. What are you doing to grow your own appetite, or encourage that of your children?

Keeping Christ in Christmas – Practical Family Ideas

25 Nov
I’ve got a plan for keeping Christ in Christmas this year. And as I watch the news this morning, I’m convinced I need one. Just hours ago reporters shared touching stories of thankfulness. The clock struck midnight and poof! The footage morphed into crazed shoppers using pepper spray. Welcome to Black Friday.
So today, I’m thinking of ways to keep the attitude of gratitude going, way of being intentional to make our home’s Christmas about God’s lavish love that sent Christ to this world as a babe.
Here’s a beginning list of what I’m doing.
1. Making an advent calendar. This is my first time, here’s a great link  with instructions. I’m not following all the daily activities suggested (life is busy enough at our house). But, I’m thinking of every weekend putting a fun thing on a date card. And, I’m using the calendar in conjunction with the next item on my list. So I think I’ll put a family member’s name on each date to signify they’re in charge of reading the scripture from that day’s devotion.)
2. Reading a family devotional each day. We’re starting on Dec 1st . I’m using the free download by Ann Voskamp and Nancy Rodden (click here to read a sample and get your copy). 
3. Creating “Gifts of Gratitude.”  I’m putting a large, decorated jar out in the kitchen and challenging my family to write on provided strips of green and red paper any specific thing about a family member they appreciate. Something like, “Quinn, I love reading with you at night, taking turns reading a page at a time.” Or, “Randy, watching you toss the football out back with the boys makes me smile.”  You get the idea. We’ll do this from December 1 – December 24. The evening of Christmas Eve, we’ll read them together over cocoa and festive treats.
Let’s help each other make it a joyful Christmas that stands apart. 
It’s not gonna be easy folks. Everywhere we go, we’re pulled into other versions of the season. Things I’m not against by any means, but I don’t want them to engulf the joy the angels first came and sang about to the shepherds. I don’t want the shine of lights from our decor to compete with the bright star pointing to the Messiah.
What are you’re doing?  Post a comment with an idea. Or, if you have a blog entry that details a way to keep Christmas, include a shortlink for us. 

Thankful for Beautiful Things

22 Nov
Hair dryers, cosmetics, exercise equipment. . . or at least those great suck-you-in undergarments (sometimes I’m extra grateful for those).  Since November began, I’ve enjoyed reading many wonderful lists of things friends are thankful for. And though most of us use them every day, I’ve not seen a list including things to make us beautiful.
I guess in all practicality, I am thankful for such things. Or maybe it’s a love/hate relationship. They certainly get a lot of attention from me. 
But, today, I’ve listed some truly beautiful things–favorite things–to share with you.
1. The sound of crunching leaves on a brisk morning walk
2. Smiles of a baby when sleeping
3. Belly laughter…you know that real deep kind
4. An elderly couple holding hands
5. The sound and feel of a pencil writing smoothly and quickly on the page 
6. A breeze on your face with sunshine beaming down
7. Knowing God is talking to you and you can hear Him
8. Helping someone just because you can
9. Knowing you are loved with no fear of losing it
10. Your loyal dog following you around just to be close to you
11. Snow falling
12. The silver of ice on bare tree limbs
13. Rocks in the mountain stream and the rippling sound the water makes
14. Fireflies in the night air
15. New friendships
16. An unexpected letter from a friend
17. Forgiveness – both to give and to receive
18.  Bright blue sky
19. Belonging
20. Tall pine trees, red dirt, and blue sky
21. The waterfall at the end of a long hike
22. The anticipation of the waterfall at the end of a long hike
23. The beginning of a trail you’ve never taken
24.  Certainty
25.  Discovery
26. Freedom
27. A singing child when he doesn’t know you’re listening
28. Vastness of the ocean
29. The night sky lit up with the moon and stars
30. Seeing something for the first time with someone you love
31.  Knowing you made a difference
32. Holding a loved one’s hand as they slip into eternity
33. Fall weather after a hot summer
34.  A listening friend
35.  Seeing your child gain confidence
36.  A life lived on purpose 
As I reflect on the list, almost every one of them involves a relationship or part of creation; something I can’t experience without God providing it.
At my house, we have loads of things to be thankful for which are just that: “things.” But the truly beautiful things aren’t “things” at all. 
And here’s the most beautiful thing I’m thankful for:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJM0hFvz_64&feature=related
How many beautiful things can you see? I’d love to read some in the comments.

Same Thing, Just Different

15 Nov

There’s a saying in my family, created by my Daddy. Okay, so he invented many sayings in our home, but the one I’m thinking of today is, “Same thing, just different.” It’s one of my personal favorites. Both my husband and I have used it in our own household on many occasions over the years, particularly when the kids were splitting hairs on an issue. Now, they, too, pipe in with the phrase sometimes. I’m thinking of making some t-shirts to sell.  

Earlier this week on the blog for girls, we began a study on the names/descriptions of Jesus found in the gospel of John. The first name is Word. (See John 1:1-2, John 1:14 and Rev 19:13). In these verses, the original Greek is “logos” which can be described as the entirety of God’s declaration. I think of it as all encompassing.

But, the Greeks had lots of words which we often translate into the same English word.  One example is the “word” Jesus quoted  (originally from Deuteronomy) during his temptation by the devil in the desert.

“…Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”  (Matthew 4:4 NIV).

The original Greek for “word” Jesus spoke in the desert is not logos but “rhema.” Vines defines it as an utterance, a speech, a discourse. I think of it as a specific utterance rather than the entirety of God’s word.

Obviously, God’s word is his word, whether it be a smaller passage or the scriptures as a whole.  

So why are the original words different in the Greek?

Have you ever been in a desperate place, with a terrific need for a specific word of encouragement or hope from God? Something that would keep you going?

You had faith. You knew Christ as your Saviour, yet you needed something specific to get through a storm?

That’s rhema. We live on the very word of God. We need it daily, in digestible pieces. It sustains us, grows us. We don’t need only the knowledge of the gospel and the salvation Christ offers for the end of our lives, we need the Word to live — day by day. 

So, my favorite Daddy phrase applies. “Same thing, just different” — and all good!

How many wars get ignored?

11 Nov

How many of us are affected daily by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Does it change our routine? Our spending habits? Are the number of settings at the dinner table different? Does the war show up in our prayers?

With so many years of war-time and so many families with a loved one serving, the number of people saying “yes” to those questions is increasing. But the majority of us do not have such a personal connection. We’re not constantly attuned to what service men and women are doing every second of every day on behalf of their nation’s citizens. Nor do we experience the turmoil of the family members serving at home without their spouse, son or daughter, mom or dad.  And we don’t see the family members whose roles are transformed into caretakers of the ones who come home wounded and changed. We aren’t confronted daily with the ongoing grief of those who mourn the lost.

One day a year is not enough to acknowledge the service, the sacrifice, the realities of war.

Yet, we are all in a war of our own every day and few acknowledge its existence.

The Word of God tells us clearly that spiritual war surrounds us. The battle for your eternity and how you impact it is constant.

Rev 12:7 – 9 tells us there are evil spirits in the world.

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

The eye-witness accounts of the four gospels tell of numerous encounters between Jesus and evil spirits. Demons were repeatedly confronted and defeated by Jesus as He walked this earth. These demons are Satan’s angels and their mission is to take over humans  — to steal, kill and destroy anyone they can.

Yet, these evil spirits cannot stand against Jesus. Any person who confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord, the Holy Spirit seals, protecting the final victory forevermore.

But what about the meantime?

We are in battle. Let’s not just wait for the final victory and show up trampled and wounded. Let’s acknowledge the war and change our daily approach to life.

How? Here are two scripture passages to show us.

1 John 4:1-6

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit[a] of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

And we are equipped by our Lord with all that is needed to conquer. Take hold of it daily.

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Be aware. Be ready for daily battle. Be prayerful for all the saints in the spiritual war.

The national battles and the spiritual battles are both real, even though we do not see them right before us. They are real whether we acknowledge them or not.

%d bloggers like this: