MOTHERING

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.  Isaiah 66:13

 

Can you imagine anything better than a mother’s love?  I admit, I could never have competed with either my daughter or daughter-in-law in discerning the unique gifts and personalities they nurture on a daily basis.  And then there’s the topic of energy…

Today marked the mid-point of Camp Curry.  I’ve often remarked that the miracle of Sarah and Abraham was not their producing Isaac, but it was their ability to keep up with him.  Or perhaps that’s what their household staff did.

Today’s parents, and especially the mothers who nurture the children while running the household and managing a career, are amazing.  They are routinely dealing with higher expectations than my generation experienced, and their children have greater temptations, information, and challenges than ours ever did.

As the crust of the earth was cooling, I remember my grandmother talking about doing the laundry one day, ironing another, baking took another whole day (Does anyone do that anymore?), mending was part of the schedule, and then there were grocery shopping and cleaning.  Between my daughter and daughter-in-law, each week they do most of the above PLUS gardening, chauffeuring children to school and extracurricular events, running a successful home business besides a full-time job, and participating in a lively social calendar.  They are not unlike other mothers today.

So what’s my point?  Having been with my precious grandchildren this week and getting ready to let them go back home, I am more strongly reminded of the need for prayer for our young family members and particularly the young mothers:  that the joy of the Lord will be their strength (Neh. 8:10); that they will look to him for encouragement (Isa. 41:10); that they will always experience God’s presence (Deut. 31:6); that they will know they are greatly loved by God (Romans 8:37-39); and that he will supply every need they have (Phil. 4:19).  AND that they will delight in being stewards of the precious treasures with which God has entrusted them.

I will miss the sweet grands, but they will be returning to the place where they belong and where they will be loved and shaped into the image God planned from the beginning of time.  And I will be here praying for them all, loving them, and waiting for the next visit.

 

Father, thank you for the special times I have with all my sweet grandbabies.  Be with my friends who spend long seasons apart from their families and give them opportunities to bless those other children you’ve brought into their lives.  Make us your hands and feet as we love and touch those you’ve entrusted to us.  Keep their parents in you, and help us never to cease praying for them.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

SUMMER CAMP

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deuteronomy 11:18, 19 (NIV)

 

Tomorrow begins my 25th year (more or less) of Camp Curry with my grandchildren.  Two sets of grandchildren have already grown up and will hopefully someday have their own version of summer camp with their children and grandchildren.  Camp Curry has two objectives:  First, I get to have my grandchildren all to myself and secondly, most importantly, I get to demonstrate godly principles set in an atmosphere of creative fun.

It seems appropriate during this political season to focus on our country:  its symbols, its patriotic music, the branches and functions of government, and our rights and responsibilities as citizens.  What better time will I have for emphasizing the need to pray for our country and invoke God’s protection (Psalm 127:1)?  What a great time to teach the grands that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).  And, with all the disrespect characterizing national discourse, I will remind the children that God sets up governments for his own purposes (Romans 13:1).  It is our responsibility as citizens to be obedient and to pray and work for change, when needed.

Of course, we will talk about our nation’s history and how we were birthed by many people seeking religious freedom.  So many of those early settlers and explorers were Christians and missionaries.  We’ll talk about the sacrifices that people made to give us the freedoms we enjoy today and what we must do to preserve those.

There will be videos and books and art and field trips to reinforce our learning times.  Actually, I shall use subversive means so that the children don’t even know they are being taught.  I’m hoping they go home just thinking they had a great time at Mimi’s while these little seeds continue to be watered and fed at home by Mom and Dad who are also subversive teachers.

We’ll have a trip for flag-spotting, a visit to the White House (yes, someone built a replica here in South Texas), and other surprises throughout the week. Did I mention we’ll have chicken, red/white/blue ice cream, hotdogs, French fries, red/white/blue cupcakes (with sprinkles), and lots of other goodies?  You get the idea.  Mom and Dad can do the organic healthy foods when they go home.

Jesus told us we should first be witnesses in Jerusalem (home), Judea (neighborhood),  Samaria (outreach), and the ends of the world—in that order (Acts 1:8).  Sometimes we skip right over Jerusalem thinking the ends of the world are more needful, but that’s not what Jesus said.  I’m taking off work this week to be in Jerusalem.

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Father, prepare our hearts for what you want to do in us this week.  May you be glorified.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

WHAT TO DO?

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Matthew 5:14

 

 

Like me, have you experienced frustration over events and institutions that seem to be spinning out of control?  Have you gotten to the point of wanting to unplug so you don’t hear anymore about the chaos?  Perhaps.  But we can’t disengage.

I’m certain that world events and those things that are happening all around us are no surprise to God.  Hebrews 4:13 assures us that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

In that case, “how then shall we live?”  As Christians, we can’t bury our heads in the sand denying the disintegration around us nor can we become angry at the secular world’s behavior.  Instead, we are called to be lights—a city on a hill.

With the Light of the World living in us, all we need to do is to shine.  We stop avoiding those uncomfortable conversations and stop hiding the glory of God that wants to permeate the darkness around us.

I recently read that a Barna study revealed that less than one-fourth of non-Christians viewed their Christian neighbors with respect.  Is the light being hidden or is difficult to even perceive the light from the darkness in those instances?

The Japanese have a saying:  If everyone swept his own front yard, soon the world would be clean.  Jesus tells us that if we let his light shine through us, it will eradicate the darkness.  All we need to do is shine.

It’s really not overwhelming.  We can shine with good deeds that glorify our Father in heaven; by helping those God has brought into our circle of influence; by writing (or emailing) our Congresspersons encouraging them to vote or act in God-honoring ways; we can join or form prayer groups that pray specifically for leaders here and abroad; we can volunteer with organizations that positively impact our communities; and we can clean up our own front yard.  All we need to do is shine.

Ben Franklin famously said, Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.”  It’s so much easier to criticize and denigrate than to get busy shining and lighting candles.

What to do?

 

Lord, what an opportunity you’ve given us to show forth your glory and to invite others into your Kingdom of righteousness, joy, and peace.  Turn us on, Lord.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

DESPERATION

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3  (NIV)

 

How blessed we are in the United States to have access to fine education, outstanding healthcare, comfortable housing (including indoor plumbing and electricity), adequate to excellent infrastructure, and blessings many other people only dream about.  Of course, these things are not free, but our fathers taught us that hard work and a good attitude would take us a long way.

And so that’s the mindset most of us grow up with in our country.  Try hard enough, work hard enough, and you’ll succeed at getting what you want.  Until we don’t.  When our circumstances become difficult beyond our abilities to solve (or beyond our ability to buy solutions), we become desperate.  And I’m talking about Christians.  In many instances, we behave just like pagans when we’re pushed to the wall.

I watch while desperation pushes us to every imaginable answer available and even beyond.  We try this and then that.  We read this author and that one.  We pray this prayer and then that one.  I used to (pridefully) be confident of God’s answers to my prayers (emphasis on my will).  It took years before I sincerely embraced “thy will be done” (the prayer that is always answered).  I believed that doing all the right things—tithing,  sacrificial giving, good deeds, right living, going to church and Bible studies, even the extremes of fasting and self denial—was like making deposits in a heavenly account. These were all enriching my standing in heaven so that when I prayed, my will was done.

Desperation, our friend, eventually depletes that “account” and brings us right to the foot of the cross where we say, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to the cross I cling.”  The stark reality of our total dependence on God’s grace and mercy becomes true for us.  As we sink into the stormy waves, we are ready to abandon all pretense and cry out to Jesus, “Lord save me,” and we discover that he is waiting for us.  Jesus lifts us up to himself, and nothing else matters.

It’s in him that we find his security, his healing, his peace, his comfort, everything we will ever want or need.  When at the very central heart of our lives we begin abiding in him, everything else comes into perspective.  Everything is measured by eternity, and God is enough.

Are we willing to be stripped of everything but Jesus?  Desperation can do that.

 

Father, thank you for gently and patiently moving us along in our journey so that the excess baggage no longer matters—we can discard its unnecessary weight.  Thank you that you allow us to become desperate as we weigh temporal things against your Kingdom.  Please keep up the process.  The results are heavenly.  AMEN.

UNPARDONABLE

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  Matthew 6:15

 

K. Chesterton writes a provocative story in his Father Brown series about an occurrence among a small clique of close friends. One has challenged another to a duel, and when a death results, the killer flees into exile. After many years, the friends learn that the runaway has returned but refuses to reenter society.  There is great talk about forgiveness and the justification of the duel (which was legal in those days).

The well-intended friends discuss how best to coerce their friend to leave his isolation even as Fr. Brown cautions against it.  Finally, they force the recluse’s hand only to discover that the living person is actually the one thought to have been killed while the dead friend was essentially murdered by the living.

The little group is incensed.  Brown chastises them saying that they forgive only those sins that they think aren’t really sins (such as a duel) while tolerating “conventional” wrongs.  Someone protests that what was done was vile, and Brown counters with, “…leave [me] to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon.  Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came.”  By twos and threes the others left in silence.  In the story Chesterton is not pardoning the killer; he is forgiving him—while pointing out the hypocrisy of his “friends.”

Do you ever quantify sin?  This sin is worse than that—this is nothing while that is heinous and unforgivable.  If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand  (Psalm 130:3)?  And yet, it’s so easy to slip onto the judge’s bench and point fingers.  Let us leave the judging to God and become the best forgivers in the Kingdom.  After all, he forgave us.

 

 

Father, pull me up short whenever I am tempted to withhold your forgiveness from any one.  Love through me and forgive through me.  Heal through me.  Restore through me.  For your Kingdom’s sake and for your glory.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

MAKING PEACE

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9

 

 

My mother was full of homespun wisdom.  She was an avid student of Christian literature, and she put into practice what she learned.

Momo told me about a little tiff she was having with my father.  Apparently, neither of them wanted to concede a point, and neither wanted to surrender.   To this impasse, the Holy Spirit spoke, “Share with him some of the mints you’re eating,” was the simple directive, which implied reaching out across the firing line.  At first she resisted, but the sweet Voice continued to nudge.  Finally, Momo obeyed, and the battle was ended.  Just like that.

Momo said that pride and the insistence on always being right can bring and maintain grief to any relationship.  Humbling oneself can be as easy as extending an olive branch (or mint) to our opponent and then watching God bring down the barriers.  Yes, we often have to be First Responders.

How many battles do we win and lose by refusing to make peace?  How often do we miss golden opportunities for moving from the Self Life to Kingdom Living because winning is everything, and Self is very much in control?

I am learning that the more I listen and obey, the more consistently I experience God’s joy.  And God’s joy is one of those fruits of the Spirit that grows in a heart that lives and moves and has its being in him.

 

Lord, thank you for nurturing me through family members who loved you and willingly followed even when it meant losing—for the time being.  Help me to be a peacemaker.  I want to be called a child of God.  AMEN.

REAL LIFE

 

Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord:  whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.  Romans 14:8

 

I’ve just returned from northern Kenya and a Marriage and Ministry conference that we were asked to conduct for pastors and their wives.  Having worked with this group of believers in the past, I looked forward to renewing acquaintances.

Sure enough, Moses was there.  I first met him years ago just as he was coming in from an evangelistic outreach.  I had heard about the persecution coming from animists and other religious groups.  To my astonishment, Moses and his friends were laughing and actually rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to be shot at and to suffer for Jesus, just as the early Church rejoiced in their hardships.  This trip, I asked Moses if he’d ever had the bullets removed from his leg.  With a big smile, he said they were too close to some nerves to risk removal.

And then I met Matthew, one of the praise musicians who comes from another African country.  As a security officer, he was ordered to shoot peaceful protesters and refused.  Government officers shot Matthew in the head, and he was taken to the hospital.  He lost sight in one eye but was on the way to recovery when he was warned that some men were en route to the hospital to finish him off.  Meanwhile, the military went to Matthew’s house and killed his wife.  Matthew escaped and took three of his children with him to Kenya.  Since coming to Kenya, two of Matthew’s children have been kidnapped by his country’s government, but Matthew continues to praise and trust God.

My friend Toch, director of the ministry, has been stoned and ambushed numbers of times—three times the pistol placed to his head didn’t fire.  Toch lives to talk about Jesus and to witness to his saving grace.  He and his band of merry disciples work throughout the north of Kenya bringing hope where there is despair and demonstrating Christ’s love and life through their words and deeds.

I see the Church as Christ meant it to be when I am with these Christian brothers and sisters—joyous and counting each day precious.  They understand the Kingdom of God and life in the Kingdom.  I watch members of warring tribes embrace and support one another when they share the same Father.  I follow these disciples into slum areas to share food and Bible stories with prostitutes as they walk together bringing new life.

I stand humbly listening to their stories and cannot help comparing them with my own privileged, secure, comfortable life.  And I am overwhelmed that they find something in me that they ask me to share with them.  You see, our circumstances may be different, but we are children of the same Father having different mothers.

I always return knowing that real life is Christ, and real living is in him.

 

Father, be with my Kenyan friends who count their lives as nothing for the sake of the Gospel.  Keep them safe as they go.  Keep me faithful in my circumstances knowing always that I, too, bear your name.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.