Monday, November 29, 2010

Officially The Holidays!

It is official - the holidays have begun! Thanksgiving was wonderful, but now its Christmas!

It is that time of year when my kids must officially stop teasing me about listening to Christmas music (since I start around Halloween) and join me in the Christmas spirit and fun, and they have!

In fact, like many families did, we spent the weekend doing some shopping, of course, but also doing all of our home decorating. We picked out a great live Christmas tree yesterday afternoon, came home and put on one of our favorite movies, "Christmas With The Cranks", and then decked out the house from top to bottom.

Three Christmas trees, the fireplace mantle, the tables, the banister, the dishes, and the wreaths placed on all the windows - done! (if you are an email subscriber, click over to my blog to see the pictures.)

Since the decorating was all complete, I decided to officially kick off the holidays this morning by making two of my favorite Christmas recipes. Both of these recipes come from a cookbook that my Grandmother made for us many years ago before she passed away.

My Grandmothers name was Josephine, "Jo" for short, and the name of her little cookbook is "At Jo's from Five to Nine" - an appropriate title since she always cooked up delicious goodies from morning til night! Who knew that a little spiral bound, 61-sheet cookbook, could become such a treasured heirloom.

So as I was sitting here writing, savoring a cup of my hot Russian tea and eating warm sausage balls, I thought I should share the recipes with you!

Russian tea:
In large pot, mix the following ingredients and bring to a boil, steeping for five to ten minutes:
- 8 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 5 small tea bags (or 3 family size tea bags)

In another large pot, mix the following ingredients and bring to a boil:
- 8 cups of water
- 1- 12 ounce can of frozen apple juice
- 1- 12 ounce can of frozen orange juice
- 1- 12 ounce can of frozen lemonade
- 6 ounces of frozen pineapple juice (optional)
- 1 3/4 cups of sugar

Once both pots are boiling, pour the mixture from the first pot into the second pot through a strainer. Serve hot!

Sausage Balls
3 cups Bisquick mix
1 lb sausage
1 16 ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of milk

Mix together with hands and knead into dough. Form small balls of mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until brown.

Hope you are enjoying your first official day of the Christmas season!

Officially The Holidays!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two Sides Of A Peppermint Patti

I love the Charlie Brown thanksgiving cartoon. Even though the animation was poor and the scenery and character drawings cannot hold a candle to the computer animated graphics that kids watch today, it is a classic show, with a timeless meaning.

There are lots of morals and values that we could pull out of this cartoon, but I am only going to focus on two, both of which are brought to our attention by Peppermint Patti, Charlie Browns tom-boyish friend.

Peppermint Patti exhibits two character traits, but only one of which we want to copy. She portrays a great lesson, of what TO DO, and what NOT TO DO, at Thanksgiving.

1.DO: Pray and give thanks
2.DONT: Be thankful with our mouth and our words, and not our actions

A character trait that we DO want to copy Peppermint Patti on, is her iniative to pray and give thanks for their blessings, because as she says, "its thanksgiving, you know." But what she means is, "isnt thankfulness an obligation on Thanksgiving?"

Prayer is something we all mean to do every day, but often forget, neglect to find time, or just simply do not feel like it.

In fact, even at thanksgiving - the primary season of the year for giving thanks to God in and through prayer - we can easily dive into the holiday, and delve into the yummy food, and forget to actually give thanks.

Here is a great little clip from the Charlie Brown cartoon that reminds us about the importance of initiating prayer, and some of the things that we can universally be thankful for:

Just like Peppermint Patti reminds us, lets remember to pray this Thanksgiving - not only to give grace before the meal, and not only with our words and actions, but with our hearts.

Also, lets share prayer with those around us - even if the ones around us are unbelievers, or do not care to join you in prayer.

Thanksgiving is really a time to be thankful to God for all that we have, even if others do not know Who to thank. And who knows, those spoken prayers might just speak volumes to those around us, and I believe that God uses our prayers to plant seeds of thankfulness in the hearts of the others.

The second character trait of Peppermint Patti that we DO NOT want to copy, is thanking God with our mouths, but then not posessing that thankfulness as a genuine and heartfelt emotion. Take a look at this next clip from the Charlie Brown cartoon, that happens after Linus's prayer of thankfulness takes place:

Based on Patti's actions, it appears that although her mind thought that praying was the "right" thing to do, her heart did not embrace true thankfulness. She did not really understand the real meaning of being thankful.

When things progressed in such a way that Patti's expectations were not met, she got upset. She got irritated. She began to verbally express her dissatisfaction. She was annoyed at the guest (Snoopy) at her table. She was agitated that the food did not meet her traditional requirements. Her thankfulness dissipated quickly as she focused on her surroundings and her perceived shortcomings in their celebration.

It seems that in most homes across the world, thanksgiving does not always go as planned. The truth is that rarely do real families look like what you see on a Swansons Chicken Broth commercial at Thanksgiving.

Not to say that it doesnt happen in some homes, but lets be honest - rarely do families sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner table.....with perfect white tablecloths and matching lacy napkins.....with turkeys that are perfectly cooked and sweet potato casseroles that look like Martha Stewart made them.

Rarely do families get through Thanksgiving dinner.....with children who exhibit pristine manners.... with babies who do not cry and hold off on bowel movements until after dinner... with siblings who dont argue... with spouses who dont disagree.... with extended family who agree on which ballgame to watch or when to cut the pumpkin pie... with perfection in every way.

Thanksgiving is not only filled with recipes for good food, but also can be a recipe in itself for disappointment or frustration - which is a sure recipe thanklessness.

When emotions are high and expectations are unmet, we can immediately morph into a Peppermint Patti if we are not careful - and it might not be a pretty sight.

Tomorrow morning, as we rise and greet the Thanksgiving holiday, lets commit to begin with prayer. Secondly, lets commit to carry that mindset of prayer thoughout the day and into the dining room, while making sure that our thanks is with our hearts, and not just with our mouths.

I could not have said it better than Peppermint Patti, when at the end of the cartoon, she says, "There is enough problems in the world already, Chuck, without these stupid misunderstandings."

Thankfulness is too important to let a holiday get in the way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Two Sides Of A Peppermint PattiSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankfulness Is A Window Into Heaven

I read the most beautiful thing this morning in the Jesus Calling devotional book by Sarah Young. Since I could not say it any better, I just wanted to share it with you.

"A THANKFUL ATTITUDE opens windows of heaven. Spiritual blessings fall freely onto you through those openings into eternity. Moreover, as you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of Glory through those windows. You cannot live in heaven, but you can experience foretastes of your ultimate home. Such samples of heavenly fare revive your hope. Thankfulness opens you up to these experiences, which then provide further reasons to be grateful. Thus, your path becomes an upward spiral: every increasing in gladness.

Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula: it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me. A thankful mind-set does not entail a denial of reality with its plethora of problems. Instead, it rejoices in Me, your Savior, in the midst of trials and tribulations. I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present and well-proved help in trouble."

My favorite part of this devotion, is the analogy of windows. I have never thought of thankfulness as a window into heaven, giving us glimpses of Gods glory in a new way.

Of course, I realize that Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, and that God calls us to be thankful every day of the year. However, I want to see thankfulness not as a way to simply show gratitude to God, but also as a way to see a little bit of heaven in my life. Glimpses which will result in a deep longing to be more and more grateful, every day, putting me on "an upward spiral of gladness".

Doesnt that sound great.... "an upward spiral of gladness". I just loved that phrase! It spoke volumes to me, because so many times we think of problems in life as being a downward spiral. Things get worse and worse, and problems continue, or new difficult situations present themselves - and we feel as if we are on a downward spiral of despair. We wonder if we can ever get out of the pit that we find ourselves in.

How uplifting to know that having something as simple as a thankful heart, can turn us around completely, help us make an about face turn, and put us on an upward spiral of gladness instead! One simple change of mindset, can change life completely.

This devotion reminded me that Thanksgiving is not only a time to give thanks, but a time to remember that thankfulness leads to a grateful heart.

Thanksgiving is a time to be connected to God in a special way, by embracing the mindset that thankfulness is a life style, not a holiday. It is a great time to embrace the truth that a truly thankful heart gives us a glimpse into the goodness in our lives, from Gods perspective - through His window, instead of our own.

Just because it is the season for Thanksgiving, does not mean that problems or trials or tribulations will cease, even for a day. So every year about this time, we find ourselves faced with an opportunity to make some important choices:

- will we focus on the good instead of the bad?
- will we focus on the disappointments that have happened over the past year, or the blessings that we have received?
- will we choose sadness, or gladness?
- will we be thankful what God has done over the past year, or resentful over the things He has not done?
- will we be thankful for life, despite life?

Life is all about choices, and attitude, and thankfulness. Each of those choices will determine the emotional path that we travel on, and each choice determines the windows that we see life through.

As for me, I much prefer upward spirals, than downward spirals - so I choose to be thankful - what about you?! I am pretty sure the view from Gods window is much more beautiful than my own.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Matter What

Have you ever wanted to take on someone else's pain?

Last night, as my son lay in his bed in pain, I snuggled close to him and tried to comfort him. I asked where the pain was; was it different or worse than usual; and how was he feeling. I offered words of compassion, and even a massage, hoping that something would calm the storm in his body.

My mind was filled with worry and the 'worst case scenario' kept creeping into my consciousness.

I knew there was nothing I could do that would help alleviate his pain, so just as I had done many nights before, I quietly lay beside him, and prayed.

You see, Michael suffers from chronic back pain, which is worsened by sports activities, but sometimes the pain rages in for no reason at all. Episodes of pain and weakness seem to overtake his little body at the most unusual of times, with no warning, and no explanation.

Doctors cannot diagnose his problem. Although he does have a nine degree angle in his spine, the doctor said this should not cause the pain that he experiences each and every day. They have no idea why his legs and arms occasionally feel weak and heavy, and there seems to be no obvious reason why he experiences these symptoms. Thus, he is written off as a patient seen, and his folder filed away.

But even though the medical practice has yet to figure out the problem, a mama just knows.

I do not want anything to be wrong, but I just feel in my heart that there is an underlying issue that has yet to be determined. So I will admit, that this mama's heart is frustrated, and worried.

I have been praying for months for God to miraculously heal his little back. I have prayed fervently and persistently for God to take away his pain. I have prayed for the doctors to determine the problem. I have prayed for a medicine that would help alleviate the pain. But so far, the pain still exists, and the prayers go unanswered.

But last night, I found myself praying a different prayer. I felt like I was at the end of my rope. Frustrated. Anxious. Worried. Sad. Alone. Desperate.

It started out like any normal prayer, as I laid my hands across the aching parts of his spine. I prayed - "Lord, heal him. Take away his pain. Make him all better. Infuse your healing power into me, so that it can pierce my sons back through my fingertips. Fix whatever is wrong. I know one touch from you is all we need."

I wanted his pain.

Without even thinking twice, I asked God to give me his pain. If God would just transfer his pain to me, I would be satisfied. Thrilled. Eternally grateful.

So I found myself asking for his pain. I sincerely wanted it, so I simply asked God to transfer it to my body, instead of his. I would rather suffer than him.

But as I prayed this prayer to my Lord, who I know holds the power to heal, I unexpectedly found myself defending my motives to Him as well - I am not trying to be a martyr; I do not mean to sound righteous; I do not think I know more than You; I am not looking for praise; its not about me, but him.

I simply want healing for my son. I want him to be able to enjoy playing sports, without pain; to be able to lay on the couch, without pain; to be have the ability to walk around a theme park, without pain; to be able to sleep, without pain; to be able to play and do his schoolwork, without trying to hide the pain he feels inside.

His happiness and freedom from suffering trumps everything, and Jesus feels the same way about His children.

Just as His heart broke for His people in biblical times, who lived in a perpetual state of sin and suffering, I believe His heart breaks for those who suffer today, regardless of the reason. I truly believe that He longs for our healing, in more ways than one.

In my Bible readings this week, I came across the verse in Luke 19:41-42a, which says,"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace— ."

Jesus was so filled with sadness over His people, who had fallen so far away from His Word, that He wept. He was overwhelmed with sadness and grief for His children, and even though they were living lives contaminated with sin, He cried for them.

So I know Jesus sees my son....I know He sees his suffering....and I know He has the power to heal, if it is His will. I believe He has the power to transfer my sons pain onto me, if it is His will. I know He has the power to open my eyes to medical options that we have not even thought of yet, if it is His will - but I also know that He calls me to trust Him no matter what. And that IS His will.

No matter what, I know God calls me to have full faith in Him and His goodness.

No matter what, I know that Christ died for our sufferings.

No matter what, I know that Christ has compassion and weeps when we, or our loved ones, are in pain.

No matter what, I believe that our present sufferings can to be turned into His glory eventually, as it says in Romans 8:28.

No matter what, I realize that I need Jesus, and that my son needs Jesus, and that even in times of confusion and despair, I can use this time to develop a stronger dependence on Him.

I would still gladly lay down my life for my son, and gladly take his suffering on myself, but regardless of whether or not my prayers are answered in the way I would like, I will choose to trust in His love and His ways, no matter what.

No Matter WhatSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Will you be an Earth Angel?

I stepped off the bus after a long ride up the mountain, and breathed in the cool, smoky air in the city of Quito, Ecuador.

I watched intently as dozens of Ecuadorian children excitedly lined up to meet their American guests, while standing behind the iron gates with looks of nervous anticipation and inquisitive eyes. They stood there in fancy, hand made outfits - the girls wearing bright colored dresses with hand stitched aprons and headbands; the boys wearing little black pants and white shirts.

Although every child was precious, nothing compares to the first time I laid eyes on my little sponsored child. His name was Marlon, and up until that moment, he had merely been a face on a picture.

As the program began, the leaders began connecting us with our sponsored children.

They called my name out and I walked towards the center of the yard. As they introduced me as Marlons sponsor, I saw a dark haired little boy come out from behind the crowd, and scurry across the gravel yard, puckering up his lips the whole time, and leaned up to shower me with sweet kisses. I got the impression his mommy had prepped him intently on how to greet me, but it was precious, regardless.

He then wrapped his little arms around me, and hugged me tightly, as if he had known me forever. I will never forget the softness of his skin and the look in his eyes; eyes that were barely old enough to really know what was going on, but that had already seen harder times than some of us would ever see.

For the next couple hours, we each had the opportunity to spend time with our sponsored child, and give him or her the special gifts we had brought for them.

Marlon happily played with the matchbox cars I had given him, and scooted the Spiderman action figure up and down the pole of the rusted, broken swing set. Although he wasn’t interested in the new clothes, I knew they were much needed and his mom was thankful.

After a while, the time came when we had to leave. A lot of tears and prayers had already been shed that day, but saying goodbye tore at my heartstrings the most, for I knew that meeting Marlon and his mom was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Before we departed, Marlon’s mother, Mada, grabbed me and an interpreter by the hand, and asked if she could pray for me. I stood there with my head bowed and eyes closed, holding hands with this sweet lady and her child. I intently listening as the interpreter shared Mada’s precious words with me, and tears streamed down my face.

She cried out a heartfelt prayer, but one statement that she said has stuck out in my heart and mind ever since – she graciously thanked God for sending me to her family, and said that I was a beautiful angel who genuinely cared for the well being of her and her little boy.

Wait a – an angel? I think not. Of all the words that I could use to describe myself, “angel” would not be one of them. Although I wear a lot of hats in my every day life, a halo has never been one of them.

This conversation prompted me to look up the official definition of an angel and it read like this: “A typically benevolent celestial being that acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth”.

Obviously no human can be a "celestial being", but I do believe that we can allow God to use us to perform intermediary acts for people that are here on earth – in other words, we can be an earth angel.

God gives us all plenty of opportunities to be earth angels, but we have to choose to wear that hat, and say yes to God.

As I walked through the iron gates to head back towards the bus which would take us back to our Ecuador hotel, I heard Marlon’s soft voice above the crowd. He was sprinting across the yard, excitedly waving at me, yelling “Adios! Adios!”

Tears again filled my eyes, as I suddenly felt as if I was losing a family member. A little boy whom I had never met until that day, and would probably never get to meet again, had become someone that my heart would long for for years to come.

Unfortunately, Marlons family dropped out of the Compassion International program about a year ago, and last year we picked a new child so sponsor - named Joe. We have received so many sweet letters from him, and have enjoyed getting to know him and his family. Maybe God will give us the opportunity to meet him in person one day too, but until then, we will love and pray for him from afar.

I feel so privileged that God has allowed me to be his earth angel, from thousands of miles away, and it is has been such a blessing to my whole family.

This is a wonderful time of year to begin thinking about how you can be an earth angel. You could consider sponsoring a child for $38 per month through Compassion. Just click on the link on the right sidebar of my blog and you will be amazed at the sweet faces peering back at you. Faces that need an angel.

If you are unable to do that right now, or if you already sponsor a child, ask God to show you how you can be an earth angel in your own neighborhood, community, church or school. This earth can never have too many angels.

Matthew 25:40 ..... ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Staying Filled Up

On Monday, I focused on considering how we fill our time. Today, I want to talk about how we are filling ourselves in the time that we spend.

Ephesians 5:18-20 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a common verse, quoted in many churches as justification that Christians should refrain from drinking alcohol according to Gods instruction. However, the truth is that this verse is not only referring to the mere consumption of a certain beverage, but it is also referring to anything that people are filling themselves with, as opposed to the Holy Spirit.

Apparently, some pagan worshipers in Pauls time would intentionally get drunk as part of their worship. They filled themselves with the affects of wine before and during worship, rather than seeking the affects of the Holy Spirit. They sought after the feeling that the wine brought over them, instead of the feelings that the Holy Spirit could fill them with.

Paul is mainly concerned with the fact that their drunkenness not only led to reckless actions, but that they were purposely filling up with wine, instead of filling up with the Holy Spirit.

Most of us would agree that being filled wine does not please God, but is it possible we over-consume in other areas every day, and do not even realize it?

For example, is it possible we fill ourselves up with powerful emotions that fill up our hearts and minds, resulting in little room in our heart for the Holy Spirit?

If we are filled up with negative emotions - such as jealousy, sinful desires, anger, hurt, bitterness, temptation, worry - then there is little room left for the Holy Spirit to squeeze into. Emotions - in good and bad extremes - are powerful, and will eventually determine how we interact with others, and how we carry ourselves on a daily basis.

What is filling our hearts, will in turn, fill our behaviors as well. As we squeeze out the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, even if inadvertently, eventually our hearts will be completely full of feelings that are not so holy.

We are always filled with something - but what are we filled up with?

Every Christians goal is to be filled with the Spirit - but how do we know if we really are? How do we know if we have allowed negative emotions and tempting influences in our lives to have a stronger presence in our heart than God? There are two great indicators of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives:

1) If our lives portray our love for Christ... if we have joy, peace and harmony.... if we worship God with our whole hearts.... if we praise Him in everything, good and bad... if we are grateful... if our conduct pleases God... if we shy away from sin... if we forgive those who hurt us.... if we stop questioning God about fairness in life.... if we trust God... then we are filled with Him.

2) If we live a life that exemplifies the things of God - while knowing that we will fall short of the glory of God over and over and over - we can feel confident in the fact that we are full of the Holy Spirit.

Let's put ourselves to the test.... a heart check, you might say. If you had to describe what was keeping you filled up today, what would you say?

Staying Filled UpSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, November 5, 2010

What is God like to you?

A few years ago, a fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to watch TV commercials for a few days, and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God. Here are some of the ideas that they came up with:

God is like Bayer aspirin ~ He works miracles

God is like a Ford ~ He's got a better idea

God is like Coca Cola ~ He's the real thing

God is like Hallmark Cards ~ He cares enough to send His very best

God is like Tide ~ He gets the stains out that others leave behind.

God is like General Electric ~ He brings the good things to life

God is like Sears ~ He has everything

God is like Alka Seltzer ~ Try Him you will like Him

God is like Scotch tape ~ You can't see Him but you know He's there.

God is like Delta ~ He's ready when you are

God is like Allstate ~ You're in good hands with Him

God is like VO 5 Hair Spray ~ He holds in all kinds of weather

God is like Dial Soap ~ Aren't you glad you have Him and Don't you wish everybody else did

What is God like to you? Just something for us to think about this weekend.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Am I equipped to be a mom?

Have you ever wondered if you were really cut out to be a mom? Maybe during those times of great frustration, exhaustion, exasperation or disappointment?

I always dreamed of being a mommy; having babies, changing diapers, rocking them to sleep, playing peek a boo and watching Disney movies together, and I loved every minute of those days when my children were younger.

I felt perfectly equipped to handle three year old tantrums, planning birthday parties, soothing hurt feelings, having mommy/daughter talks about anything and everything, and snuggling together at night before they fell asleep.

I loved the days of elementary school, doing school projects together, and focusing our time on lazy Saturdays and church activities. Times when every night of the week was spent at home as a family, before sports and social lives became a reality in my daughters lives.

But now that my girls are the ages of fourteen and sixteen - my name has changed from mommy, to MOM - one three letter word that depicts a brand new spin on this whole parenting saga. A word that is a sign of the times, proving that I am getting older, and my children are growing up. We still do some of those little girl things, but they are not quite as often.

Recently, as we sifted through different life situations, I caught myself sighing, and wondering if I was really cut out for this job. In fact, I have to wonder if anyone is cut out for this job as a MOM, because parenting is hard.

You see, it seems I had the mindset for the past sixteen years that if I did all the things that James Dobson from Focus on the Family told me to do, that my life would be stress-free when my children hit the teenage years.

In fact, many years ago when my children were little, I remember getting so annoyed at the number of MOMS who would tell me "just wait until the teenage years!". I recall thinking "well, just because you are having a hard time with your kids, certainly does not mean that I will. Hmmpph."

After all, they were just so adorable running around in their perfectly coordinated pink outfits, bright blue eyes, and bouncy blond pony tails with big fancy ribbons. How could something so beautiful ever bring me anything but joy?

Hee Hee. I have to chuckle now, as I look back about how naive I was, but I doubt there is a mom on the planet who has not shared those same feelings about her adorable offspring.

The truth is, that I think my daughters are wonderful girls. When I look at them, my heart just swells, and I can see their beauty, inside and out.

As I look at them and see the precious, amazing, young women they are becoming, I truly have to give God all the credit.

I will spare you the ist of why I am so proud of them. Smiles. However, I have to admit, that they are not perfect. They are not without flaws. They are make mistakes. They do things that upset me. They do things that disappoint me.

I have come to realize that no amount of perfect parenting is going to result in perfect children. I am not equipped to raise boys or girls on my own, but I am equipped through Christ to try to do so. God does not expect us to be perfect parents, any more than He expects us to be perfect people. Both are unattainable.

Trusting in Christ, and teaching my children to love Him, is not going to result in a life absent of parental struggles and disappointments, but will insure a life full of faith that will walk us through these challenging years.

A life that will hopefully prove true the verse in Proverbs 22:6 which says "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."

God simply calls us to do all we can do through the power that He has poured into us, and to invest in our children's hearts so that they will have a Christian foundation for the rest of their life.

So for all you MOMS (and grandmoms!) out there like me, who are secretly wondering if God really knew what He was doing when He placed children in your care for a lifetime, I want to offer you a word of encouragement today! We are all on this roller coaster together!

Here are just a few tips to tuck into our hearts as we join together in building the next generation for Christ:

* Pray. Pray. Pray some more. Pray for their souls, their spirits, their futures. Pray for their protection, their decisions, their actions. Pray for their friends, their enemies, their future spouses. Pray for their hearts. Pray continuously for every aspect of their lives.

* Never give up. The reward is worth finishing the race. Nobody wins if a parent quits when the going gets tough, no matter how tough it may seem. Be relentless in your quest to help steer them in the right directions, even if they do not appreciate it or acknowledge it.

* Continue building a close relationship with your children, keeping in touch with their lives, participating in their activities and sports, knowing who their friends are, and arranging for one-on-one time with them individually as much as possible.

* Keep the lines of communication open. Focus on listening, instead of leading. Create an expectation in their minds that they can talk about what is going on in their lives. Make a commitment to respond in tenderness regardless of the subject, because a history of harsh, loud, abrasive responses will prevent communication and honesty all together.

* Accept the fact that we cannot control our teens choices. We can guide them in their behaviors and be good examples and role models, however, they have to, and will, make their own choices in the end.

* Do not blame yourself when your children make mistakes, for we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. When our children make mistakes they look to us for forgiveness and mercy, just as God gives to us - daily renewed mercies.

* Choose your battles, or else everything might become a battle.

* Remember that children learn what the live.

In this parenting journey, I need to rely more on God, and less on myself, if I really want to be a good mom, because He is the One that equips me.

My goal used to be to be the best mommy possible, but now my goal is to be more than that - I really want to be a good MOM.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Are we still a Christian nation?

Even though I graduated from college with a degree in Political Science and Organizational Communications, I have to admit that I really do not enjoy politics.

During my college years, I was fascinated and intrigued with learning about the differences in politics in different countries, governmental procedures, the history of our country, the law, and the impact that someone in politics can have on an entire nation of people. I even considered going to law school, until I got married and focused on building a family instead of a career.

But today, I would rather watch another episode of Spongebob Squarepants than to have to endure a political advertisement or a presidential speech.

In fact, I will admit that I am rarely in-the-know about everything going on in politics, unless it is something that has hit major news on every network and someone would have to be in a coma not to know what was going on.

Now that I have children who are becoming young adults and are starting to think about what the future holds for them, my interest in politics has taken on a new twist. I have swayed from simply wondering about politics, to worrying about it with serious concern.

Despite what I see happening in America, I still believe that God is God, and that He holds the future of our country, and its citizens, in His hands.

However, there are questions that keep nagging at my heart, growing stronger every day: What is happening to our country? What kind of world will my children and grandchildren be living in? Has the US become, or is it becoming, nothing more than a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, trapped in a sea of depravity? How can we be hopeful about the future that awaits us all?

In 2009, a CBS online news article stated this quote from a Gallop poll:"..the percentage of Americans who identify with some form of a Christian religion has been dropping in recent decades, and now stands at 77 percent. In 1948, the percentage of Christians was 91 percent."

Another poll done by the American Religious Identification Survey, found that 15 percent of Americans now claim no religious affiliation, nearly double the percentage in 1990.

I cannot help but wonder, and almost assume, that the number of professing Christians has dropped even further since last year, and the number of atheists or non-believers has increased.....and I cant help but blame politics, and many of the leaders in charge of running our country.

Leaders who are have good intentions to do what they think is best, but whose intentions are not always grounded on the Word or God, morals, or family values.

Leaders whose intentions are to grant greater freedoms to all people in all areas of life, while rebuking Gods Word, and tying the hands of Christians who long to hold onto it as the foundation of our existence.

My sweet friend Sharon recently posted a profound statement on my Facebook page in reference to one of my recent blog posts. She wrote, "The world wants us to respect their rights to reject the teaching of Gods word, but in truth they are the ones that do not respect our rights to live out what we believe." A true, but sad statement.

In an effort to reach out to the Muslim world last year, President Obama explicitly rejected the idea that we are still a nation founded on Christianity, when he said in a conference in Turkey, "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

That same CBS article from last year said this:

Ultimately, the question of whether America is a "Christian nation" depends in large part on how you define the phrase. If a "Christian nation" is simply a nation made largely of Christians, then America is undeniably one. Despite the increase in non-religious Americans, they are still outnumbered more than 6-1 by Christians, according to Gallup.

But if a "Christian nation" is something else – a nation on which laws, behavior and policy are fundamentally tied to Christian ideals – then the question is more complex. The legal system has an undeniable basis in the Christian conception of morality, as does our societal conception of right and wrong.

If we long for the United States to once again be a Christian nation in every sense of the word, as it once was, then we need to fight to meet both of these criteria above, not just one or the other.

What good is it, if we are identified as a Christian nation based on statistics, however, the picture the international community has of us is one based on non-Christian laws, behaviors, and policies?

Does it matter what the statistics say about Christianity in America, if our country operates as a nation that not only accepts, but often promotes things that are in complete contrast to how Gods Word instructs us to live?

God has called us each to such a time as this. A time to stand up for what is right.

A time to stop sitting idly and allowing the anti-Christian voices to be heard, while the Christian voices are muted by accusations of intolerance, or an acceptance of defeat.

A time to stop accepting the status quo, and speak boldly in unity and power.

A time to take a leap of faith, and swim against the current in a raging sea.

A time to recognize that tolerance means respecting other peoples beliefs, not accepting them as the right way.

Nobody likes politics, but politics needs Christians. If we fail to recognize the value of our voice, then we will most certainly continue to see the army of Gods people declining more and more, and the consequence is a nation based on the decisions of sinful people, rather than the Words of a Holy GOd.

God calls His people to unify, and to operate as a unified front for Christ.

Tomorrow is voting day. Every vote counts. Your vote counts. Your voice counts.

It is not about parties or views or personal opinions - its about God. It is about voting for leaders according to their worldview as it is shaped by the Holy Spirit, not according to their worldview based on how culture has conditioned their minds.

Our nation is desperate for leaders that will honor God, and not be against Him or ashamed of Him. Let your Christian voice be heard on November 2nd.

Its time to take our nation back.

2 Samuel 23:2-4 “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me;his words are upon my tongue.The God of Israel spoke.The Rock of Israel said to me:‘The one who rules righteously, who rules in the fear of God,is like the light of morning at sunrise, like a morning without clouds, like the gleaming of the sun on new grass after rain. (NLT)

Exodus 18:21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. (NLT)

Proverbs 29:12 If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked. (NIV)

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