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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Raising kids who are strong

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

As a parent, this is surely one of my most loved verses. I want my children (and myself!) to be bold, confident, resilient, brave.  And I know that God wants that, too.  He spoke this directive to Joshua as he prepared to take over command of the Israelites from Moses.  Moses earlier had exhorted the people with these same words, repeated them to Joshua, and then the Lord Himself said it twice in 9 short verses.  I think we are supposed to heed this - be strong and have courage.

I cling to this verse in parenting on at least two levels  - one, to address my own fears and inadequacies (of which there are many!) and two, to encourage my children to be strong.  Not strength as the world offers (which is usually false bravado and an attempt to mask insecurities).  Not a foolhardy ignorance of danger or reality. But strong in the Lord.  Mighty in spirit.  Not afraid. Not fragile.  Able to withstand difficulties and persecution and disappointment.  And to withstand it well.

What does it mean to be strong, to be mighty in spirit?  And how can we develop this in our children? And in ourselves!  Let's unpack that verse and see...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I get by with a little help from my friends...a lot, actually!

It's wedding week at our house.  Contrary to popular myth, it's not crazy and stressful and tense.  Instead, it is sweet and exciting and blessedly anticipatory.  If I am crazy, it's "crazy thankful".  God continues to show Himself strong on our behalf, to display His favor and generosity and lovingkindness. 

Especially via our friends.

I have had frequent opportunities to sit back and weep with joy over the goodness He has sent through our friends. Not just for this wedding, but for the past two years.

This verse stands out to me - A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17)  Oh, how I have seen that be so true for me and my family!  We have had joys of new babies and weddings and awards.  We have had sorrows of disappointments and dying and rejection.  And we have walked through difficulties that are too painful to make public. 
Through the journey, friends have been there.  Notes.  Calls.  Texts.  Assuring us of love and prayers.
Flowers.  Food.  Tears to mingle with my own.  Rejoicing when we have had joy.  Remembering our needs and moving to meet them.
Friends have thrown parties, made bows and tent cards, transported kids, housed guests, arranged flowers, and been kind enough to have my needs on their radar. To think that my friends, in the midst of their very full lives, would even be thinking about the fact that it is "wedding week for the Chambers crew" is mind-blowing to me!  Maybe it seems "little" to you but when you ask me how my Mom is doing or how you can help for this weekend, or let me know that you are praying, well,  it's anything but insignificant to me. I feel most unworthy and that I must have exceeded my allowance of blessings, surely.

My heart is full.  I want to flood my friends with blessings in return.  I want to shower them with thankfulness and kindness.  But I know I cannot repay the love I am given so consistently.  Because it is given so freely, with no thought of recompense. 
So I turn my heart towards Heaven, praising the Giver of all good gifts.  Thanking Him for His generous supply to me through His people.  Asking HIM to bless my friends, as only He can do.

In the midst of my joy, He reminds me that, though my life is characterized by the presence and profusion of friends, He orchestrates times for every life - mine included - where the journey is single file.  There are places He takes us where no friends can go...except Jesus.  Caverns so dark that no light can penetrate...except for the Light of the World.  Waters so deep that we are overcome to the point of drowning...until we find the Everlasting Arms underneath us.

Situations where we know the psalmist is reading our mail when he penned this verse:
 Reproach has broken my heart, and I am so sick.  And I looked for sympathy but there was none.  And for comforters but I found none.   Psalm 69:20

In those times, we find Psalm 18:24 to be abundantly true - There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. 

Friends are among the absolute greatest of God's blessings to us...but He does not intend for them to be to us what only Jesus can be.  (And when we expect (demand??) that of them, we are in for the greatest of disappointments, the deepest of hurts, and the most painful of sorrows)

Only Jesus alone is THE FRIEND.  The friend of sinners.  The friend who lays down His life.  The friend who always hears and always understands and always knows what is best for His own.

May Thy salvation, O God, set me securely on high.  I will praise the name of God with song and shall magnify Him with thanksgiving.   (Psalm 69:29,30)

What a friend we have in Jesus.  Amen. And how I praise Him for providing so sweetly to me through His hands and friends!  Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, friends!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What is the most important thing?

And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind’ .This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it – ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

Let’s read this passage again today, now that we know the background.  The Pharisees wanted to know which commandment was most important, which one should they concentrate on primarily.  Perhaps they had looked inside their own hearts enough to know they couldn’t keep them all and hoped to justify  themselves by at least keeping the most important one.

Jesus dashed those hopes.

He told them…and us…that all the commandments are rooted in one thing – Love.  Our most important task in life is not establishing a career or having a great marriage or raising responsible kids.  It’s not writing books or being famous or having laudable talent.  It’s not even faithful church service or self-sacrifice for others.

It’s love.

Loving God and loving others.

I Corinthians 13:1-3 demonstrates the preeminence of love and the futility of all else - If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Let’s ask the Lord to teach us what LOVE is this week….


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What do I have to do to please God?

When the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadduccees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind’ .This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it – ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

The Pharisees and Saduccees were the elite religious and political leaders of the day in New Testament times.  The Sadducees were aristocrats, tending to be wealthy and holding powerful positions, including that of chief priests and high priest, and the majority of the 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. They seemed to be more concerned with politics than religion. Because they were accommodating to Roman leaders and were the wealthy upper class, they did not relate well to the common man, and vice versa. The common man tended to prefer those who belonged to the party of the Pharisees who were mostly middle-class businessmen. This group believed that the written Word (Old Testament) was inspired by God, but they also gave equal authority to oral tradition which is forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Pharisees sought to not only strictly obey these traditions themselves but also to hold such obedience as the standard for righteousness for everyone. This was their ticket to acceptance by God.

The two groups were largely opposed to one another…except in their desire to discredit and eventually destroy Jesus.  Scripture shows us time and again how these people tried to trap Jesus by asking religious questions that would inflame Roman leaders or give them grounds to humiliate Him before the people.

The above passage is one of those attempts.

Instead of holding out one command or law as priority above all others, Jesus boils them all down to two principles.  He says that everything Scripture teaches us is based on the preeminence of these commands.  Therefore it will serve us well to see what He says…and to evaluate ourselves against His standard.  His standard is  LOVE… For today, ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light into your heart.  And to speak to us about LOVE.

How are we doing in the most important thing, the thing upon which all of Scripture rests?  Loving God and loving others. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Marriage letter to my kids - 15 things to help you stay married ....happily

With one of you already married and another just days away, my heart is full with things that I want to say.

You know that means another blog post. 

Be thankful - I could endlessly lecture you in person instead!

You have heard it said (a lot, it seems) that marriage is hard. That you have to work at it.  And that it's difficult.  Hard. Heavy. 
  Don't believe that.

Marriage is fun and sweet and wonderful.  Marriage is sacred and rewarding and tender. Marriage is God's beautiful blessing to help us grasp the relationship of Jesus and His Church.    No, my dear children, marriage is not hard.

But staying married can be.

You didn't have to live very long to be touched by the heartbreak of somebody not staying married.  People very close to you have scars from such shipwreck. You know all too well the pain that Dad and I wanted to shield you from forever.  But the hard truth is that some folks we know and love haven't stayed married.  Even though they never thought that would happen to them.

So, I write.  From where you are now, marriage displays its beauty.  And that's what I want you to see.  That's what I pray would be all you ever see.  But I've watched too much life, counseled too many hurting wives, and cried with too many broken friends to disbelieve that "not staying married" can happen to anyone.  I know I cannot inoculate you against this malady, my most treasured ones, but  I sure intend to fight for you to win at this thing called marriage, and to teach you to do the same.

Here's some things I want to share, some tips on how to help you stay married...