Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Listening And Learning

Today's Proverbs 31 Devotion, Altercation to Altar Call, talked about the importance of listening to God, and then obeying His voice. But all too often, life gets so distracting, we not only forget to listen, but we may even forget how to listen!

Let's do a little exercise to refresh our memory. If your radio, television or IPOD are on, turn them off.  Now sit up straight in your chair, close your eyes, and be as still as possible for 60 seconds.  Listen intently to anything you hear, making note of each sound. Then open your eyes.

What did you hear? The sounds of conversation around you... a busy office... cars passing by outside your window... dogs barking... birds singing... children playing... the ticking of a clock... crickets chirping... the sound of your breath?

Seldom do I stop, sit still, and just listen. But when my body is calling for rest, and I actually give in to a few moments of silence, I hear things that I would have otherwise ignored or tuned out,  and maybe you realize you often do the same thing after doing this little exercise.  Listening to God takes the same concentration and silence, as does pausing to listen for background noise in our lives. 

Since I work from home, I usually have the TV running even though I rarely actually watch it. It's just background noise to break up the silence. Yet, when I need to spend time with God, the TV gets turned off immediately, so I can concentrate in the silence and listen for God's whispers. If I am in the car, I turn off the radio if I want to pray, so that my thoughts are not subconsciously tuned into the music, instead of focusing on God.

Noise can become one of the biggest barriers to hearing God's voice when we fail to pause and listen in silence. Not only noise from external things, but also from our internal thoughts.  God is ready to pull us into conversation with Him the second we are ready to talk, but it's easy to do all the talking, and none of the listening! 

Listening to God requires a deliberate choice to not only shut off the TV, radio or other outside noise, but to shut out the chaos swirling in our hearts and minds. Although listening seems like a passive activity, it is actually one that requires effort, attention and a conscious choice to listen, whether talking with a person, or with God.

My twelve year old son Michael exhibited these listening skills at church in the story I shared in today's P31 devotion, and then he moved towards God. His small act of obedience to hearing God's voice in His spirit reminded me of the importance of keeping faith simple, like a child - even when it comes to listening.

Michael felt bad about something he had done, he felt God nudging his heart to seek forgiveness, and He moved to the One who could offer not only that, but also help for the future.

His prayer was probably simple, sounding something like this, "Here I am Lord. At the altar. I'm sorry for what I did. Please forgive me. And help me with this issue. Amen." Simple, yet sufficient. Brief, yet based on solid belief. Plain, yet powerful.

He believed that he heard God speak through His Word. He believed that God held the power to settle his heart. And he felt a desire to seek after God - even if it meant standing up in front of an entire congregation and getting on his knees.

Listening.      Believing.      Moving.      Seeking.

Four incredible lessons we can learn about listening with the faith of a child.

Imagine the life changing lessons we can learn if we listen to God consistently, habitually, and silently. How might our lives be different if we allowed His Words to override our own, even when we feel like doing all the talking? How would our faith increase if we obeyed His nudges, even if it simply meant moving towards Him for forgiveness, love, mercy and help?

Have you been trying to hear God's voice as you pray about a situation in your life?  If He seems silent, have you considered that maybe He is speaking, but there is too much "noise" in your life or in your heart? If so, consider setting aside some time today to spend true silent time with God, and focus your ears to be in tune to His voice alone.

John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (NLT)

Luke 11:28   Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word 
                                                     of God and put it into practice.” (NLT)

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Monday, April 9, 2012

When Mom Gets Weary

My devotion running over at Proverbs 31 today is called Getting Through Another One Of Those Days. 

Unfortunately, it seems I have been having a lot of "those days" recently, because living in a house filled with two teenage daughters and a pre-teen son means there is never a dull moment around here! In fact some times I find myself praying for dull moments, because I have had more opportunities to preach, teach, feel discouraged, tolerate teenage hormonal drama, and dole out punishments than seems fair for one mom. The happy days certainly outweigh the trying days, but nonetheless, those trying days can still be exhausting.

So when another one of "those days" hits, I can often find myself fighting off a severe case of maternal weariness, and maybe you can relate.

I used to think that sleepless nights with infants, daycare issues and nursing sick kids for months was the epitome of exhaustion.... but now I understand that the weight of emotional exhaustion far exceeds even the worst case of physical exhaustion. Being a parent can be down right tiring, and no matter how we treasure our little bundles of joy, we can still experience those days when we are ready to throw in the towel, or at least succumb to temporary defeat.

Whether we are struggling with toddler tantrums and diaper changes, or teenage social plans, peer pressures and busy schedules, being a mom can zap our energy physically and emotionally.

I have to be honest, there have been "those days", when I felt like just saying "yes' to every request that rolled off the lips of my children, merely because it would make life simpler.  If there were less "no's" and more "yes's", then everybody would be happy with mom all the time, and oh what a wonderful world it would be.... right?

Even though the thought of a magical paradise - where all off spring were perpetually happy and thought mom was the greatest thing since sliced bread - seems tempting at first, that is the worst place we could find ourselves in - and more importantly, our children would suffer in the long run.

When God made mothers, He had a plan. A plan to use moms to raise up every generation to love and honor their Creator. And I'm convinced that motherhood is the hardest job in the universe.

God did not just give mothers some little people who needed to be cared for, He gave them a job. A job that is in essence, a divine calling.  A calling to be the guardian of not only our children's lives, but also their hearts. A calling to raise them with values, character, integrity and boundaries, even when doing so makes us tired in more ways than one.

A calling to not only be a mother, but to be a Godly parent to the best of our ability.

Nobody will argue, that parenting can be tough, and it takes a tough heart to keep giving it your all, when your all is just about spent. It takes a lot of commitment to keep loving our children through those hard days, especially when they are not being lovable, and we are not feeling loved in return.

Yet taking a back seat in our children's lives in order to try to maintain peace and harmony in our households, is not at all what God has called us to do. His Word instructs us to seek His face and His strength, when we are feeling discouraged and weak.

We can never be perfect parents, but we can trust in the One who is. As long as we are giving it our best, and devoting our energies, or even our lack of energies, to raising healthy, happy kids in a way that would be pleasing to God, I believe with all my heart that God will one day honor that devotion and commitment.


As mentioned in today's Proverbs 31 devotion, I am offering you the opportunity to listen to my one-hour interview with Tara McClanahan from MommyMissions.com, on the subject of Godly parenting.  If you are interested in tuning in or downloading the audio file, please click on the link below which will redirect you to the Mommy Missions website, where you can access your free download: 

If you would like to download the listening guide for this online session, it is also available on the site, and includes some practical tips for Godly parenting and links to additional posts to encourage you in your quest to be a Godly parent,

So do you struggle with the challenge of Christian parenting? What helps you get through another one of "those days"? Share your insight with about how you persevere in your parenting challenges so that all of us moms can be encouraged! I would also be honored to pray for you in you are having "one of those days".

If you are not currently a subscriber to my blog, get subscribed today so you don't miss out on any of the follow up posts where I will share a great idea about how to start a parenting support group in your area, including free extras such as a mission statement, strategies for getting started, sample topics, marketing materials, etc.

To subscribe, simply enter your email address in the blue box to the right and confirm your subscription upon receipt of the confirmation email. 

 (pssst... I have a secret..... I have some super exciting news to share very soon, and I want you to have the opportunity to be a part of it! So get subscribed today!)

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Makes Our "What if's" Nothing But History

As soon as I answered the phone, I heard the panic in her voice.

My daughter, who was in the 7th grade at the time, had received permission from her teacher to call and ask if she had possibly left her brand new IPOD Touch in the car that morning. Although I knew I hadn't noticed it, I checked the car thoroughly, yet it was nowhere to be seen.  Her worst fears became a reality - the IPOD was missing.

I immediately went to the school and met with the principal to file a report about the missing IPOD, where I learned that there had been a rash of thefts since school resumed after Christmas break.  When Kaitlyn came into the office, I could see the sadness in her eyes, hear the loss in her voice, and sense the overwhelming regret pouring out of her little heart.

As she scooted into the chair beside me, trying to hold back the wails of sobs that wanted to burst out of her, I knew she was beating herself up inside. Even though an IPOD is just a material thing, it had been a special Christmas gift she had anxiously waited for. She had been so excited to receive it, but now, it was history.

Immediately upon leaving the Principal's office, the tears she had been holding back could no longer be restrained, and she expressed through her sobs how desperately she wished she could go back in time that morning. What if  she would have just left it at home or in the car.  If only she hadn't left her purse at her desk when the class went to the library for a brief time. How she wished she had held onto it safely and been more responsible.

Her mind was flooded with "what if's", "if only's", and "I wish's".....but nothing would change the outcome. The IPOD was gone forever.

I have been in her shoes before, but over more serious issues than an IPOD. I spent years living with a desperate longing to go back in time and do some things differently. To be given a second chance to make good decisions and better choices.  I remember the weight of trying to juggle all the "what if's", "if only's", and "I wish's" of my life, all the while, beating myself up inside.

But all that came to a close when God got hold of my heart, and helped me embrace His promises of unconditional forgiveness and love. When I asked God to make me whole, and allowed His compassionate love to become a reality in my life, I realized that just like the IPOD, my past was history - but in my case, it was a good thing to lose.

After concluding my meeting with the school principal that day, I bent down to hug Kaitlyn and send her back to class. As she turned to walk away, with a tear stained face, slumped shoulders which carried the weight of regret and sorrow, I remember feeling a sudden surge of maternal emotion overcome me.

I found myself wanting to sprint down the hall like a mom on a mission, scoop her up into my arms, and whisk her home where we could snuggle up in a blanket, drink hot chocolate, and  watch silly cartoons. I felt such an overwhelming compassion building up inside of me that I thought I might explode. I wanted to make it all better, and take away her hurt. I wanted to fix the problem, but I couldn't.
When I consider God's compassion for us, His children, I can only imagine that it exceeds anything we can fathom as an earthly parent. When He sees that we are hurting, or struggling with our own set of  "what if's", "if onlys", and "I wish's", He wants to make it all better, but unlike us, He has the sovereign power to do so. He can make it all better, and He will, if we acknowledge that Easter is celebrating the gift of His life to save ours, and open the door for Him to enter into our heart.
Psalm 78:38-39 says "Yet He was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath."  (ESV)  
I could have been mad at Kaitlyn for not listening to my instruction about leaving her IPOD at home, but my love and compassion for her took precedence over anger or judgement. In the same way, as this verse describes, God's compassion outweighs His judgement, when we repent and turn from our sin.

This weekend, on Easter Sunday, we will come face to face with the depth of His compassion, as we celebrate the resurrection of His Son. There is no need for us to beat ourselves up for past mistakes, or waste time fretting over "what if's",  because Christ already took the beating for us.

He was a Man on a mission, with overwhelming compassion and willing to do whatever it took to scoop us up into His arms and atone for our mistakes, making them nothing more than forgotten history.

Happy Easter Friends!!

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Monday, April 2, 2012

The Most Special Thing

It started out as a simple assignment, but turned into a life lesson.

Three years ago when my son Michael was nine years old, he showed me a picture he had drawn in Sunday School. I gazed at his artwork and told him how wonderful it was, even though I was secretly  unsure what he was trying to portray. Considering the fact that the drawing had immersed out of a little boy's mind, I just assumed it was an ordinary picture of a villain who had been slain, and a person with fire around them because they were too close to the sun. 

But when I asked him to tell me about it, my heart swelled with joy. (see his picture below)

Michael began to explain that his Sunday School teacher had asked them to draw a picture of something special that God had done for them. After he explained his picture, it made perfect sense.

You see, the person laying horizontally at the bottom of the page (with x's on their eyes and their tongue sticking out because he said that is how everyone looks on cartoons whey they die) was a person who had died. The figure floating in the air represented that person's soul, who had turned into an angel. The angel was happily rising into heaven, because Jesus had died on the cross for his sins so that he could have eternal life.

I sat there stunned at his simple explanation of the death and resurrection of our Savior, and his understanding that Christ had died for our sins. Needless to say I gave him a big mamma bear hug with tears in my eyes until he began to squirm his way out of my arms.

I began to think about what I would have drawn if I had been given the same assignment by my Sunday School teacher. I can only imagine that  I would have probably tried to make it all complicated -  like we adults often tend to do. 

I probably would have pondered all kinds of " special things", such as my health, house, husband, children, family, financial security, car, food, job, and any other blessings I felt God had bestowed upon me. Then after compiling my list, I might have weighed the importance of each in an attempt to figure out which blessing was most special, and then map out how I could portray that special gift in an artistic way.

But in the mind of a child, the most special thing quickly came to mind in a simple format:  Jesus died. And rose again. So we could live.

Salvation. Resurrection. Eternal life. All because of love. Simple as that.

In Mark 10:15, Jesus tells His disciples "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  

God longs for us to embrace the faith of a child, even when we are grown because a child does not need to research the Internet, read books, weigh all the facts, consider scientific theories, and compare various religions - to believe in the One true Savior. A child has not been influenced by the world's opinions, or poisoned with prejudice or judgement. A child is teachable. A child is humble. A child is trusting. A child thrives on being loved, and is always willing to give love to others, unconditionally. A child is thankful. And a child keeps things simple, including faith.

How easily we tend to forget that out of all the great things Jesus has done for us - His death on the cross is the most special thing of all, and even the greatest earthly blessings pale in comparison to the gift of life itself.

Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? Do you believe that He died for your sins, because of His unconditional love for you, and that in Him your eternal life is secure? If you are unsure, or you want to learn more about getting to know your heavenly Father, click here: Do You Know Jesus?

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