Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Word | Seek

One Word: SEEK
The verse does not say look, see, or watch.
It says to 'Seek'.
Which means an attempt to find something.
Think of Gold Miners. They do not go to look at gold or to watch gold. They go
to pan it, mine it, to sift it and shake it out.
To collect it for oneself.
Jeremiah says SEEK me.
In fact, it’s said twice in one verse! It must be important.
‘You will SEEK me and find me when you SEEK me with all your heart.’
There is a reward between the occurrences. You will find me.
I challenge you, friend, seek Him. It changes everything.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Beef & the Bread



If you’re looking for fun ways to get your kids to open up, check out this post. It ties right into a great lesson about communion.

What’s your beef?
I recently heard a friend describe an activity that another family used to get their kids talking about hard things. It was dubbed ‘What’s your beef’ night and specifically aimed at the parents.

On this night, everyone in the house picked what they wanted for dinner from any fast food place. If everyone wanted something different, that was okay! Once the meals were all collected, they came back and ate together. While eating the kids would tell the parents about anything in the home, that they ‘had a beef’ with. The parents could only listen. They were not allowed to defend, get mad, or explain. 

The goals of this activity are to help children practice hard conversations while they are young, but also to instill the habit of coming to their parents to talk.

Colin and I have an open door with our kids already, but one of our children, in particular, has a difficult time opening up. I’m always up for new ideas and loved the regularity and the habit behind this one. Especially the deliberateness of asking them and not waiting for them to come to us. 

–And any time the kids get to pick whatever they want, they enjoy it. So, it sounded like a fun thing to try.

I went back and forth about when to start this and how frequently. Quarterly seemed about right, but I am so forgetful; how on earth would I remember or keep it up? I thought about it for a while and then remembered a sermon that I once heard during a communion service.

Many churches do communion on the first Sunday of the month. The more I let those details swirl, the more they stirred my heart. So, the Saturday before that service is our night.

About that communion sermon
So how does this activity line up with communion? I’m totally paraphrasing here but in the sermon that I heard, the Pastor reminded the congregation that our anger is something that should be dealt with. Since we accept communion in remembrance of what Christ has done for each of us, we need to right our relationships with others before accepting it. 

While I can’t remember the exact verses referenced then, the ones below are what I used. They speak to the same tone.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 1 Cor. 11:28-29

In our relationships, sometimes it can be easier to say we’re sorry for something done wrong than to admit or confront someone else who has made us angry. Unity, love, and grace are at the heart of Christianity and how can we accept it for ourselves from God ‘in remembrance of me’ yet not extend that same grace and mercy to someone else when the time arrives.

Even if monthly seemed too much at first, the Saturday before communion has to be the perfect time to have this conversation! The more that we can implement this attitude in our home, the more that it will benefit our relationships, including those outside the home.

Prep
So, I announced to the kids a month in advance. Then reminded them a few times here and there. I expected some funny remarks about discipline but wanted to give them the extra time to think of other things that came up.

I also asked them to think of suggestions for anything that they didn’t like. With each reminder, the boys would giggle, and Sophie would ask me if I was sure that they could say anything.

The night we talked, I reminded them of what was expected of them. (Their frustrations and suggestions.) Also, that Colin and I would only listen. If they wanted us to address something, they'd need to ask us to do so. Then each child had their turn to speak.

The results
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this perfect vision of how some family activity would go, only to have the kids destroy it (and I think secretly laugh in my face. Haha). So, I expected that it would take months for us to get a serious answer from them. To my surprise, if I had of envisioned it, this first go went as good as I possibly could have possibly hoped for. They gave some real answers and didn’t have as many as you might expect (from a child).

  • We went to three different places for dinner.
  • Sophie [age 8] asked me what the word was for not liking to be in small spaces [Claustrophobic]. Then she said that when she was upset about something, she didn’t like it when I tried to hug her to console her. She felt claustrophobic and closed in like she couldn’t breathe. She preferred me to hold her hand. It makes sense; she has never really liked being touched closely or for very long. Haha. And Gosh, that’s a personal space thing. Good for her!
  • Jackson [age 5] listed every form of discipline that he remembered receiving. This I did expect but wish I thought to ask him for his alternatives. I am sure that they would have been amusing.
  • He also asked me not to hit any more squirrels. Which I didn’t mean to do in the first place. Agreed!
  • Ethan [age 11] said that he would like us to give him a few minutes of time when he starts something before asking him to do something else. –What he means is that often I will ask him to do something, like take out the trash and it never fails, he [in another room] just started a show or a game. He’d like five minutes of what he was doing before he has to do whatever it is we’re asking. Sounds fair!
  • He also brought up yelling. While we have all come a long way on this one, it’s still an issue that we’re working on. It bothers all of us.
  • Then he asked if we could bring back a particular chore/consequence for cleaning up the room. (A friend did sweeps of the kid’s rooms and if laundry was found on the floor, it was confiscated, and the offender had to pay .25 to get a piece back.) We didn’t mean to get out of that habit, but summer threw us all off. We agreed to get back on track.
  • They also all like the most recent chore list better than all of our other previous attempts.
When they were finished, we talked about the verses seen earlier in this post. While the first verse mentions anger, we didn’t spend much time there. After all, the goal is to find out what upsets them. You don’t want to shut them down for being upset. Besides, anger happens to all of us. We did talk about how it’s just as important for us to restore unity when we’re the one who has been offended as it is to repent when something was brought to light. We told them that we were proud of them for speaking up!

Then Ethan read the Last Supper and we discussed it. (pick one: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Then we prayed.

Now it’s your turn!
If you’re looking for new ways to talk to your kids or ways to incorporate faith into your conversations. I dare you to try this! Even though this attempt came out of the gate the way that I had hoped, that doesn’t mean it will be the same the next time that either of us tries. There might be many times that there are no answers too! Don’t give up. Do it again and again. Learn from it as you go and tweak it.

Also, if you have some parenting/faith activities that you’ve done that came out well, I’d love to hear them. Let’s swap notes!

You might also be interested in this site:
If you like props, ‘kidsfriendly.org’ has some interesting tools, like a power point that you can edit for a communion hangman activity, a checklist, and more.


Photo credit: stainedglass.com

Saturday, August 5, 2017

How to Be a Godly Woman in Today's Culture: A Study in the Book of Titus





Information about this study


This class is currently at capacity as we are testing new technology. The majority of this class will join from remote locations. The remaining members will meet in my office. We meet every other Friday at 1:00 p.m. The study is based on the book "How to Be a Godly Woman in Today's Culture: A Study in the Book of Titus." The notes shown below reference the same parts of the Book of Titus found in our homework. These notes are my personal verse by verse notes.

I will post them after each session for group members. Feel free to follow along if you are studying on your own. Shoot me a message if you want to talk about parts of it. Maybe we can even meet up. :)


Notes - Each section below is broken down by the verses that correspond to each chapter in the workbook.

Intro                                       

Week 1 | Titus 1:1-7, 7/7

Week 2 | Titus 1:7-16, 8/4 (Class was rescheduled because no one could make the 7/21 date)

Week 3 | Titus 2:1-4, 8/18

Week 4 - 9/1                                  

Week 5 - 9/15

Week 6 - 9/29                              

Week 7 - 10/13

Week 8 if needed


Resources
These are the links and materials that I am using while in the study. I may not cite every comment but the ones that I use will come from here:

 - How to Be a Godly Woman in Today's Culture: A Study in the Book of Titus
 - Life Application Bible
 - Matthews Henry Commentary
 - The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition by William Barclay. The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

You will need the zoom app if you're joining remotely. Please install it and test it before the class. (You can coordinate testing with me.) 




Thursday, August 3, 2017

One Word | This

THIS is the day

That the Lord has made

(not tomorrow after the work gets done, or when something returns)

Let's rejoice and be glad in it! ❤️



Messes



It's so easy to look at pictures and captions and then [compare] tell yourself stories about what something else looks like. You don't even realize that you do it. Yet, it changes your mood, how you feel, your response, everything!

This picture behind me is my living room. Most of what you see on EVERY surface is what we unloaded from vacation over the weekend. We haven't managed to get it all put away yet. 🤷‍♀️(But it looks like we got back from vacation a lot- with dust- so, tell yourself that if you ever come over. Haha).🤦‍♀️😂

And trust that this is not the only place that needs some tidying.

NONE of us have it all together. And sometimes learning something new, practicing a new habit, or even life, brings changes that come at the expense of something that you used to do and know well. 

It's ALL only for a season. (Ecclesiastes 3) and most of what we worry about doesn't even matter (Ecclesiastes 1).

CELEBRATE even your tiniest accomplishments, especially in the chaos. Try to enjoy the things you don't like because there are many other scenarios that are much worse. Prayerfully, prioritize your messes and choose one or two that you're willing to live with. If you want perfection, seek Jesus. He's the only thing that is! Heck seek him anyway, because he changes you, and can even change your circumstance or carry you through it. Now be BOLD AND COURAGEOUS and post a picture of your 'mess' in my comments. Tell me about it if you don't have a picture! #BandTogether #RealitySocialMedia#PerfectionismAnotherSilentKiller #ComparisonIsAThief #EndTheSilence 🙌👍



Friday, July 28, 2017

In the Potter's Hands


Recently, I've been praying about ways that I can be more intentional about sharing Bible stories, Faith, and activities with the kids. Of course, the kids have Bibles and we read devotions but trying to talk specifically with the kids about it is still occasionally awkward for me. I'm a little all over the place about it and I'd really like to be more in a natural habit. I know that we can do more things together as a family too while weaving scripture right into the moment. -Making it more fun and memorable. I probably do this more than I think I do but being more intentional and maybe deeper, is my goal. 

So, as we planned for vacation I prayed about opportunities. Since we were going to the beach, I thought about sand castles and how it could be a great activity for the Potter's Clay

Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8.

The first day on the beach we laid out our belongings. As the kids ran off to the water, I stretched out on a sheet and looked to my right only to discover that the family next to us had a giant pile of sand. I chuckled a little because I have no idea how to build a sand castle, aside from the blob that comes out of a store-bought castle container. Even then, the contents never resemble the mold. This pile had to be a result of a family that knew what they were doing! -And the good Lord planted us right next to them! 


So, I enjoyed watching them work with their material. I was touched because occasionally as the Father carved and smoothed his design, pride for his creation would seep out into faint curls in the corners of his lips-- turning upward into an, oh so tiny, smile. You could tell that he enjoyed his time spent with his family but also in the making.

In fact, hours were spent doing so before anything was even recognizable. I couldn't help but imagine that God probably had a similar joy when we offer up our lives to His molding.

Deuteronomy 32:10 even calls us the apple of his eye and Proverbs 3:12 says that the Lord corrects those he loves and in whom he delights in. 

-->Delights in<--

And delight was exactly what could be seen on that man's face from time to time, even if I couldn't grab it in a photo. 





Unfortunately, we couldn't stay until the family was finished but I spoke to them about where they might post their work. Later, I looked them up on Instagram (@HeddenTheSand) and located this picture of the finished piece.



WOW, Right???  It turns out they've been doing this for many years and have participated in several competitions. Too cool!
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The above information alone is probably enough for the story with the kids but a few days later we decided to try a little something too. While we worked, I continued meditating on the similarities of faith and being molded. It jumps around a little but maybe something will speak to you and encourage you on your journey.
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In the beginning, God formed man from dust in the ground. - Genesis 2:7
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At first, the kids wanted to make a square sand castle. We made three layers and joked about how it looked more like a cake. We even talked about icing it with seashells. Rachel teased us that we'd been working for an hour and it didn't even look different because we had to keep straightening up the sides. But sometimes evidence and even the fruit of our faith is like that too because the foundation is being made right. It can take time. 

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of what we hope for, things unseen2 Corinthians tells us to keep our eyes fixed there.

We knew that we were making something. So, don't lose heart, if what you're working on isn't obvious yet either.
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Unsure of what to do next, I started making stairs on one side, while the kids tried to tidy up their end and figure out where to put the moat.

As it turns out there were many small components to our plan. It was pretty challenging to have that kind of detail, in this medium, on such a small scale. So we switched our plan to a sea turtle and it was so much easier to mold when we simply lopped off big sections.

In the same way, Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and active. It's able to separate soul and spirit, joints and marrow. This world might offer us a lot of 'canned molds' that often frustrate us as we try to fit our lives into them. But offering our life directly to our Father's hands often molds us 'free of form' and sometimes just as considerably.
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Contrary to what you might think, water was our biggest helper here! You might think that it would mess up your design, or 'change things too much,' but with a little practice, we learned how to apply it.

It actually made it easier to mold the sand as it filtered through and packed things together. Just the same, Isaiah 12:3 says that with joy, we will draw waters from wells of salvation.  JOY because we've learned of its power, its usefulness, its necessity. It changes everything.
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Every now and then we had to get up and stand back to look at what we had, to see if the proportions were even close enough. --What needed tweaking?



I can't really think of a specific verse here but in Ecclesiastes, King Solomon is looking back on his life. He recounts things that he got fixated on during his life that never brought him much joy, even though he thought he wanted them. -And he had everything!

In many ways, we're like that too. -Stuck on details and things that make us weary or frustrated when there is another way that we can live.  Why wait until the end and look back with regret-- step out of the traffic, take a view from God's angle, then adjust where necessary while you still can?!
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As it turns out, the place where I put those stairs seemed strange at first but later they were easily converted to the Turtle's head. You might call that intuition but 1 Kings tells us that the Lord's voice is similarly in a gentle whisper. Sometimes following his leading won't make sense or we can even write it off because it is spoken so softly.

But learning the heart of God, helps us recognize his voice. Meditating on his Word guides us and brings us peace, instead of the distraction and frustration that we mentioned earlier.
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And can we just admit that sometimes those 'distractions' are simply our trying to keep life neat and tidy? -Either by perfectionism or not dealing with something at all?!

While we were making the turtle, we were IN the sand. My legs were covered, arms were covered. I may have even had to bend in angles that I'd prefer not to in a crowd.  Our aunt said, "I have no idea how you can handle all of that sand on you."  -But when your vision and your faith are in line with your heart, it's easy to see the value of jumping in.

--And not only that, personal faith IS messy!
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You know we found a picture later on that Instagram page that had instructions to make a sand castle.

It said for the best result, you needed to bring real tools and dig deep down to the water table. You'll have to do some hard work and not care what people think, or what you look like, and deal with some things that you might not ordinarily prefer to.

But remember that alignment that I mentioned earlier? Well, Hebrews 6:19 calls it hope and tells us that it is an anchor for the soul.

You see, when we can see God's hand in our life, it gives us assurance and strength. Not only does it keep us grounded when things get hairy but 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 says that 'this hope' keeps us from getting crushed and perplexed when things get hard.

And all I can think of us how sometimes we're as fragile as sand. -So easily destroyed and moved but letting that water in, is what gives us strength. It holds us together. While we might be different, it's not really about the chemical of the sand or our physical makeup that has changed; it is really the power of the Lord at work in our life.

And Nehemiah 8:10 tells us just that when he says 'the Joy of the Lord is our strength.'
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Friend, I don't know how any of our lives will shape out but I can assure you of this- Where ever you are struggling in life, apply some of the living water to it. Don't be afraid to get your hands or heart dirty. Don't be afraid to make a mess and let others see. --Heck invite them to join you in the making and figure it out as you go.


Little ladies joined us from the next tent over.

Heck, it's kind of like this message thing with the kids. I tried to talk while we were molding the turtle but I never had all of the kids at the same time.

I tried to talk about it at the dinner table but every time I've tried that it was hard to have a conversation. I just wasn't sure if I should ask questions or tell a story.  The questions seemed too forced and difficult. (Probably because our mouths are full and we were starving.) So, we stopped and now that this is finished, I will try it as a bedtime story as I've done before from other trips. I trust with a little practice, we'll find a flow for sharing and inviting; building out from there. Feel free to use any parts of this for your own. :)

Until then, take a note from Paul-- wherever you are, continue in the goal of faith and getting to know the Lord in a new way. He too will continue His work in us. -Isaiah says he's already got us in the palm of his hand. Surrendering-- now that is up to us.




We had to go and couldn't finish the face.






Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Exchange with the Lord





Sitting here reading verses about the House of the Lord this morning (Psalm 84, 2 Samuel 7, Haggai 1-2). It’s funny how many times we get hung up on the details, the songs, the food, the people, the things...  Heck, even verses 5 & 6 (of Haggai 1) speak to that-

“Consider your ways! You get ‘x’ and it’s never right/enough.” 

But really- at the end of the day, it’s the LORD’S house. The Lord’s earth (ps24:1). The Lord’s day (ps118:24).
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Throughout the rest of Haggai (2 chapters), he reminds us that “‘The Lord is still with us.’ –and says ‘Continue the work for the Lord. Do not fear.’

For some of us that ‘work’ might simply be attending church for the first time again after many years. It might actually be a service of some sort or even something else like forgiveness.

But whatever it is, let’s continue it.

His spirit remains among us (Haggai 2:5).

Let’s not get distracted by the details, our personal desires, internal dialogs, or even the quantity/quality of what we receive from anything AROUND Him. Let our decisions be based on our exchanges with the Lord alone.

BLESSED are those who keep their eyes on Him. (Jer 17:7-8)