Category Archives: Bible

Monday Morning Moment – Withholding – When It Goes Way Past Boundaries Into Downright Meanness

Photo Credit: Marshall B. Rosenberg, Quote Fancy

This has been days in the writing. When I saw the quote below just scrolling through Instagram, it stopped me in my tracks. Withholding (as defined here) goes way past “not knowing what to say” or “placing boundaries” or any measure of shyness or introversion. Withholding is actually an act of aggression…a display of power. One in which any of us can find ourselves if we don’t practicing checking our hearts or intentions regarding certain people or situations.

Photo Credit: Covenantal Relationships, Instagram

My Mom was the most significant influence in my life growing up. Now, I didn’t have the vocabulary for a lot of what she taught me, in word and deed, until recent years. Much of what she modeled came through her love of Scripture. She wasn’t a practicing Christian in my early childhood, but still she had made some decisions as a young person (while churched or otherwise influenced) that she practiced throughout her life. She became more mature and even more compassionate in these rules of life as she patterned her life more and more like Jesus.

I said all this to say that she was the opposite of a withholding sort of person. Even as an introvert.

Maybe growing up in a home with an alcoholic father and a timid mother influenced her willingness to show up for people – her brothers, her friends, her children, and strangers she met day-to-day. She did not withhold herself from others – all sorts of others – and it made for a beautiful life. This from a woman who worked full-time, raised four kids, and dealt with a cancer that would take her life too soon. Well, it didn’t take her life. Her life was finished at 75 to the glory of God. Even in her last hours and experiencing pain and increasing weakness, she was encouraging all of us around her. She even woke up from a coma that had silenced her to say “I love you” in response to one of her little grandchildren’s goodbyes to her.

This woman. Now you can understand why this issue of withholding feels so wrong to me. I understand people needing boundaries in toxic relationships, however, the practice of withholding can take boundaries up several notches. This probably isn’t a winsome topic because we don’t think what we’re doing is mean-spirited…it’s just because we are busy, or shy, or can’t do one more thing, or (fill in the reason).

Withholding can have different faces depending on what our intent or inclination is. It can be withholding of:

  • Time, attention, helps, favor.
  • Information, encouragement, welcome.
  • Food, possessions, recreation, experiences.
  • People (children, friends, family members).
  • Finances, job opportunities, training/equipping, inclusion.

We have all experienced withholding – either as the one holding out on others or the one experiencing that neglect (whether intended personally or just in the wake of not being chosen for any of the above).

What do we do with this issue? If you’re reading this, you are already on the path to solutions. Those who don’t read this sort of piece don’t see this as a problem. Certainly, none of us are necessarily entitled to whatever is sensed as being withheld. However, if we don’t want to be on the giving end of withholding, we can note it and practice the opposite – a humility, intentionality, watchfulness, and graciousness can move us toward an openness and willingness to be there, even when others are not.

Parenting is a long season where withholding can become a habit – when we as parents get exasperated with our children’s choices and when we are shaken in our sense of who we are and how we’re doing. An example is well-communicated below by Youth Dynamics of Montana. If we have struggled with parenting or have been harmed by our own parents’ withholding, our temptation is to extend that same experience back, over time, either with our kids or our parents.

Do we really want that to become our practice?

Photo Credit: Youth Dynamics of Montana, Instagram

For me, it’s a daily battle to be like my Mom, but one I want to come out winning, or at least fighting. To be that person who works to catch the eye of people, to engage and encourage, to be courteous and deferent, to include, to give where there is opportunity, to serve when I know I can, to share information that would help, to let people in and to show up for others. All of this models good for our children and is a blessing to those around us. Choosing not to withhold myself, my people, and my resources by tightly circling the wagons.

There’s a great call to action by the Prophet Isaiah on what can happen (if I could interject) when we don’t withhold. When we show up, God shows up in exponentially greater ways. Is that your experience?

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert…
Isaiah 35:3-6

5 Withholding Tactics Malignant Narcissists and Psychopaths Use To Torment You – Shahida Arabi, MA

What Emotional Withholding Looks Like And How To Handle It In Relationships – Row Light

Why Punishing a Child by Withholding Affection is Wrong – W. R. Cummings

Withholding: A Dangerous Saboteur of Love – That Immobilization Some Feel Under Stress Can Become Withholding Behavior. – Randi Gunther Ph.D.

To Say the Least: Where Deceptively Withholding Information Ends and Lying Begins – Marta Dynel – a highly scholarly (but very readable!), totally fascinating article on this topic

Monday Morning Moment – A Place for You – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Considering Others – the Wawa Experience – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Centering Prayer – The Potter’s Gate

“I want to be where my feet are.”

This curious little lyric comes from the album Sanctuary Songs. The song is Centering Prayer featuring Andrew Peterson & Leslie Jordan, a collaboration of The Potter’s Gate.

Centering Prayer calls us away from all our distractions, our plans, our worries, our over-thinking, our busyness…and calls us into a time of rest and focus on God whose presence we are never without.

Last week, I was checking out of our local free clinic with my Afghan grandmother friend. It’s always a stretching experience with trying to understand (even with an interpreter) what her health complaints are. Finally, we were finished with the doctor. As I stepped up to the counter to receive the forms for her bloodwork, specialist referral, and next appointment, I saw the sign (in the image above).

God is always with us. Period. Full-stop. That verse is one that brings to rest everything whirring around in our minds, remembering that God’s got this. Being present with a ever-present God transforms everything.

Another passage that reminds us to be still and stop fighting battles He means to fight Himself…for us…is Psalm 46. Below is the entire psalm. It is so worthy your stopping and reading along (or hear it read for you).

46 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear
,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

“Be still and know that I AM God.”Psalm 46

Psalm 46 is a glorious and victorious psalm to encourage and embolden a people beleaguered by hardship (we don’t have details but given the context it was war, or some sort of calamity or terror). The psalmist was reminding the people that God is with them (with us) and will pierce through the noise of battle, with His powerful and persevering presence. He is here today just as much as He was with His people in the psalmist’s day.

Our part, like theirs, is to turn our ears, and our hearts, our bodies to Him.

Psalm 46 begins, not with a lament or cry for help, but an anthem of praise. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear”. Then he goes on to talk about super fearful things…yet from a place of awe and certainty. Even as the psalmist speaks with great confidence about God’s presence and provision in times of catastrophe, the Lord Himself enters the psalm with the command “Be still!”

Not just “Be quiet” but “Be still”. Stop!

Stop. Come away (from the battle). Quieten yourself. Cease striving.

God calls both His people and our enemies to essentially “put down your weapons!”

Especially to His own people, He urges them (and us today) to ‘snap out of it,’ ‘wake up,’ ‘stop fearing’—acknowledge who God is—be in awe! For us to take His “Be still” and treat it as “be quiet” is not incorrect, it’s just not enough to describe what God is truly saying.

God is about His business in fighting for us and those we love. Fighting also those who would see to do us harm. We don’t know how it will go in the moments ahead of us (whether this battle will “seem” lost or won to us) but we do know His promises that hold us fast, even in battle, for now and forever.

It’s for us to “be where our feet are”. To quieten our hearts and slow our steps. To put down the phone. To find His beauty to focus our eyes on. To “breathe the life around me” and “listen as my heart beats. Right. On. Time.”

What Does “Be Still and Know That I Am God” Really Mean? – Liz Auld

Psalm 46 – Enduring Word Bible Commentary

Centering prayer prompts us to lay down our burden and determine to stop worrying. Not just as a mindfulness exercise but with the God who loves us in full view. To see the anxiety for what it is – a tool used against us to take our peace away. To recognize that the depression we experience can be lightened if we open ourselves to Him and to His people praying with and for us. To remember that all the things that distract us dull our senses to the most real relationship we have in this life and the next.

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness – One Song at a Time – Kathy Powell

“Centering Prayer,” written by Brian Eichelberger, Nicholas Chambers and Kate Bluett — and featuring Andrew Peterson and Leslie Jordan — invites the listener to a sense of groundedness with its calm melody. The lyrics give language to a clinically recommended practice of grounding that invites practitioners to reconnect with themselves in the present. The song, with lyrics asking for God’s help to “be where my feet are,” is itself a tool for calming anxieties and opening a more accessible prayer experience.Kathy Powell

Photo Credit: Corrie Ten Boom Quotes – Facebook

Worship with me…by just listening to this song, preparing to pray, or singing it with lyrics below:

I wanna be where my feet are

I wanna breathe the life around me

I wanna listen as my heart beats, right on time

I wanna be where my feet are

I chase my worries

I flee my sorrows

But what You give me

Is now

So take my burdens

And my tomorrows

I wanna be where my feet are, mmm, mmm

Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm

I wanna be where my feet are

I wanna breathe the life around me

I wanna listen as my heart beats, right on time

I wanna be where my feet are

I run to capture

The next horizon

But what You give me

Is here

I get no farther

And still I find You

I wanna be where my feet are

I wanna be where my feet are (on repeat)

The ground below me

Is how you Hold me

I wanna be where my feet are

The ground below me

Is how You hold me

I wanna be where my feet are

The ground below me

Is how You hold me

I wanna be where my feet are (on repeat)*

*Lyrics to Centering Prayer – Songwriters: Brian Eichelberger, Nicholas Chambers and Kate Bluett

The Porter’s Gate Hopes to Bridge Gap Between Mental Health and Faith With New Album – Kathryn Post

A Saturday Too Quiet…Then Clarity: Room For God…Be Still My Soul – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Corrie Ten Boom Quotes, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Take You at Your Word – Cody Carnes & Benjamin William Hastings

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.Proverbs 30:5

God is not a man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?Numbers 23:19

“My word that proceeds from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and it will prosper where I send it.” Isaiah 55:11

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.Philippians 1:6

How amazing is it that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God!!! [Romans 8:31-39] Or that there is NO condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus! [Romans 8:1] And we don’t have to be afraid. [2 Timothy 1:7] Nor is it for us to do good works to be approved of God. [Ephesians 2:8-10]

The promises of God and the truths of God abound in His Word. It is our choice to take Him at His word.

This can be a battle for us when we find ourselves in the throes of life in a broken world. As I write, folks come to mind – brothers and sisters in Christ facing overwhelming circumstances. The family of a 5-year-old who is in aggressive treatment for a brain tumor. The wife and children who lost their husband/father to a sudden death a year ago, marking this difficult anniversary. A family broken by a deep rift now coming up on four years with no resolution. Way too many friends in floundering marriages.

When we look at these situations, we are tempted to doubt that God sees us, that He loves us, or that His word is trustworthy. He doesn’t promise healing this side of Heaven. He doesn’t promise His children won’t suffer (in fact, just the opposite). He doesn’t promise justice (again, this side of Heaven) when we are wronged.

However….and a big however…He does promise He will always be with us. He does promise that not only does He love us but He is Love itself. He does promise grace, comfort, strength, and mercy.

Last week, at Movement Church, our worship team introduced the song Take You At Your Word. It is written by Cody Carnes, Benjamin William Hastings, and Aodhan King. Although the song has been out for some time now, I’d never heard it. In the lyrics, you’ll hear many of the truths in God’s Word. Powerful!

When I pray for and sit with friends and family in tough situations, one Scripture passage often comes to mind. Jesus had experienced rejection from many who followed Him to serve their own interests. He turned to His disciples and this conversation followed:

Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?”

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-68

This is where I hope to always plant myself. In hard times and easy. In burden and blessing. The world cries out against God when it sees suffering. As believers, we may sometimes cry out as well, especially when we see those we love suffer or those who are lost or languishing under the weight of a circumstance not of their own making.

Peter has given us testimony of the way forward. Jesus, only Jesus, has the words of eternal life. Life itself. He will get us through whatever we are currently facing. He alone gives us power for this life and provision of the next. In Him. In Him. Step by step. Enough light for each step forward as we keep our eyes on Him.

We can take Him at His word.

Worship with me.

Your word is a lamp unto my feet
Your way is the only way for me

It’s a narrow road that leads to life
But I want to be on it
It’s a narrow road but the mercy’s wide
‘Cause You’re good on Your promise

Come on

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

Come on

You spoke and the chaos fell in line
Well, I know ’cause I’ve seen it in my life

It’s a narrow road that leads to life
But I want to be on it
It’s a narrow road and the tide is high
‘Cause You parted the water

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

You’re good on Your promise
Yeah, I know
You’re good on Your promise

You said Your love would never give up
You said Your grace is always enough
You said Your heart would never forget or forsake me

Thank you, Lord

You said I’m saved, You call me Yours
You said my future’s full of Your hope
You’ve never failed so I know that You’ll never fail me

I say sing it again

You said Your love would never give up
You said Your grace is always enough
You said Your heart would never forget or forsake me

Hallelujah

You said I’m saved, You call me Yours
You said my future’s full of Your hope
You’ve never failed so I know that You’ll never fail me

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

I’ll take You at Your word
If You said it I’ll believe it
I’ve seen how good it works
If You start it You’ll complete it
I’ll take You at Your word

‘Cause You’re good on Your promise
Oh, You’re good on Your promise

I’ll take You at Your word

Let’s go

Hallelujah*

“The great enemy of the Christian is the sin of unbelief—the sin of refusing to accept what God says and the sin of refusing to do what God says. The great friend of the Christian is the joy of belief and the joy of obedience. Where is God asking you to simply take him at his word?”Tim Challies

*Lyrics to Take You At Your Word – Songwriters: Cody Carnes, Benjamin William Hastings, and Aodhan King

Take God At His Word – 21 Bible Verses About Taking God At His Word

Where Is God Asking You to Take Him at His Word? – Tim Challies

What It Looks Like to Take God at His Word – Colin Smith

Worship Wednesday – First Things First – with Consumed by Fire

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then the man and his wife [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord called out to the man, “Where are you?Genesis 3:8-9

One day in a place where Jesus had just finished praying, one of His disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” So Jesus told them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come… – Luke 11:1-2

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence [boldness], so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

What is it that keeps us from praying?

Is it shame or fear? Yet God calls for us to show ourselves to Him. He looks on us with deep compassion.

Is it not our practice? The disciples witnessed both Jesus’ pattern of prayer and His power to live a life pleasing to the Father. They didn’t ask what was His secret. They seemed to know it was his dependence on the Father through prayer.

Is it our sin that makes us too shy to talk to God? He is not surprised at our struggle. He knows our weaknesses and loves us still. We have a sinless mediator in Jesus and because of Him we have access to the Father.

Prayer can be hard for me for all the above reasons. Add to those the weight of so much need in the world, and I find myself too quickly distracted by the world’s chatter. Oh to stay in the quiet of His peace!

So I pray a bit then switch to over-thinking and worry, or drop out altogether to some other cheap substitute to prayer. Nevertheless, because of His long-suffering with His children, He draws us back to Himself, and I return often to that throne of grace. As a child running to my dad…the best dad we could ever hope to have. Father God.

Have you read Tyler Staton‘s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools yet? It has been my guidebook (alongside the Bible) in recent months toward a deeper walk with the Lord.

Tyler Staton introduces his readers to writer teacher John Mark Comer. Comer is the founder of Practicing the Way. This is a website with the focus of offering a pathway to becoming like Jesus in community. All of the teaching and resources are free, and I’ve been grateful to God for how He is speaking to me in this space. My hope is to be part of a prayer community in our local church. Pray with me for this. Are you part of such a community?

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

Comer’s series on prayer is also available on YouTube. The first two messages are linked (the other two I will link when they come online).

YouTube Video: Prayer – Talking to God – John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Talking with God – John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Listening to God – John Mark Comer

YouTube Video: Prayer – Being with God – John Mark Comer

Photo Credit: YouTube, John Mark Comer

As often happens, while thinking about the whole practice of prayer in my life, I heard the song below on the car radio. It preached!

Worship with me to the deeply intimate song “First Things First” by the band of brothers Consumed by Fire.

All the things that I have held dear
The vanities that whispered in my ear
What would I do if they all disappeared
Riches and fame and all that they could buy
I’ve come to find they never satisfy
What would I gain if my soul’s the price

I don’t wanna love what the world loves
I don’t wanna chase what the world does
I only want you
I only want you

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first

I give it all
My life an offering
My heart is yours
So have Your way in me
Your kingdom’s all I wanna seek

I don’t wanna love what the world loves
No, I don’t wanna chase what the world does
I only want you
I only want you

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first
To keep the first thing first
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first, oh

First thing’s first
I seek Your will
Not my own
Surrender all my wants to you
Keep the first thing first
To live Your truth
Walk Your ways
Set my eyes
Lord, I fix my face on you
All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first, oh
To keep the first thing first

All my desires reversed
To keep the first thing first*

Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

*Lyrics to First Things First – Songwriters: Jake Hess, Jordan David Ward, Caleb Paul Ward, Grant Timothy Bias

YouTube Video – Consumed by Fire – “First Things First” – (Acoustic + Story Behind)

Photo Credit: YouTube, J. C. Ryle, John Mark Comer

Let’s keep worshiping, y’all!

Worship Wednesday – For the Love of God – Andrew Ripp

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.Psalm 85:7-9

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! For if, when we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!Romans 5:7-10

The love of God is something I know and yet something I cannot comprehend.

From my childhood, He has held me close. In fact, because of Christ, somehow I am carved into “the palm of His hand” (Isaiah 49:15-16). Although these words were written by the prophet Isaiah, centuries before Jesus was born, they remind me of the Cross and the sacrifice of love displayed there.

God’s love is not the smarmy, hands-off, “do whatever we want” kind of love. He fights for us. He is always with us. He sees us at our worst, and yet with the eyes of a perfectly loving Father. Ever drawing us away from what will destroy us and into tender fellowship with Him. Rescued. Redeemed. Restored.

This blog has been a platform for me through the years to share the stuff I’ve learned in life, mostly for my children but you are welcome on the journey.

One thing I’ve known and tested over decades of decision-making and executing, for good and for not-so-good: God loves his children. When we choose to wisely – following Him – and when we choose poorly…serving self or seeking the approval of others. God loves us. He is long-suffering with us, helping us up off the floor and out of the ditch. He is our anchor and our shield. He is the source of everything good in our lives.

When I first heard singer/songwriter Andrew Ripp‘s “For the Love of God”, I was enthralled. It could be the soundtrack of my life. Whatever his story is, it resonates…and beautifully communicates…the love of God.

Photo Credit: Andrew Ripp, KLove

Worship with me.

I saw mercy
Mercy seated where the judge should be
Was guilty
Guilty and getting out of jail free
How could it be I didn’t get the life I deserved
And the only thing that He wanted was my heart in return
Every time I think about every time I thought was the end
I’m caught up wonder again

Where would I be
Where would I be
If it wasn’t for the love of God
This song of victory is
Now mine to sing
Hallelujah for the love of God
Has set me free

(Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God)

I was thirsty
But like a desert turning to a field of green
Started breathing
When heaven’s favor took ahold of me
How could it be I’m living with an infinite worth
Cuz the one I thought I chose had really chosen me first
Every time I think about every time I thought was the end
I’m caught up wonder again

Where would I be
Where would I be
If it wasn’t for the love of God
This song of victory is
Now mine to sing
Hallelujah for the love of God
Has set me free

(Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God)

If it wasn’t for my failures and mistakes
I would never know the depths of this grace
Now my heart is beating for heaven’s sake
And for the love of God
And for the love of God
If it wasn’t for my failures and mistakes
I would never know the depths of this grace
Now my heart is beating for heaven’s sake
And for the love of God

Where would I be
Where would I be
If it wasn’t for the love of God
This song of victory is
Now mine to sing
Hallelujah for the love of God
Has set me free

(Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God
Hallelujah
Hallelujah for the love of God)*

Photo Credit: Heartlight

*Lyrics to For the Love of God – Songwriters: Andrew Ripp, Ethan Hulse

YouTube Video – Jesus Can – Austin French (Official Lyric Video)

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship Wednesday – the Wonder of God – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake

Photo Credit: YouTube, Lyrics X Scripture

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us—none can compare to You—if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count. Psalm 40:5

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.Job 5:9

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.James 1:17

Wonder has been my word for 2023. Some of our days can seem mundane until we shake off the mental fog and clear our eyes to what is most real – that God is ever present and moving in our lives and through our circumstances. Wonder at that!

From “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1) through the cross of Jesus when he prays “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” to his apostle John’s inspired revelation of what is to come – it is all God and He calls us to Himself.

“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just.” Revelation 19:1-2a

If we miss the wonder of God, it is because we have filled our minds with humans as our idols. Frail, faulty humans. We judge God by those persons whom we, at some point, deemed worthy of a pedestal of honor. Should they fall or falter, we then pull away and think they represent a God who fails. Not so!

What is Christianity? If you think Christianity is mainly going to church, believing a certain creed, and living a certain kind of life, then there will be no note of wonder and surprise about the fact that you are a believer. If someone asks you, “Are you a Christian?” you will say, “Of course I am! It’s hard work but I’m doing it. Why do you ask?” Christianity is, in this view, something done by you—and so there’s no astonishment about being a Christian. However, if Christianity is something done for you, and to you, and in you, then there is a constant note of surprise and wonder. John Newton wrote the following hymn: Let us love and sing and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name. He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame. He has washed us with his blood. He has brought us nigh to God. See where the love and wonder comes from—because he has done all this and brought us to himself. He has done it. So if someone asks you if you are a Christian, you should not say, “Of course!” There should be no “of course-ness” about it. It would be more appropriate to say, “Yes, I am, and that’s a miracle. Me! A Christian! Who would have ever thought it? Yet he did it, and I’m his.” Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

The wonder of God is that He is so many things that we are not, and yet He gives us a way forward to be more like Him, through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. How long-suffering He is; how loving!

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows (or has heard of) the old song “Count Your Blessings”. It is a sweet reminder to exercise our gratitude at all the Lord has done in our lives – “raising my Ebenezer” so to speak.

[I’ve written many times in the past on “stones of remembrance” – raising my own Ebenezer to a good and faithful God.]

Just one example of the wonder of God in my own life is portrayed in the picture below – of my beautiful mom, and precious daughter, and me. My mom had such a hard first marriage that I don’t remember her ever praying a husband for me. Until I was 5 or 6, we were unchurched. Mom had to work so hard providing for us in our childhood that weekends were her catch-up time with house, errands, and us. Church just didn’t happen. Then when neighbors drew us in and church became a beautiful thing in our lives, we all came to faith (and Mom back to her childhood faith which fast became a deep adult walk with God). She gave me a long look into the love of God and the difference knowing Jesus made in a person’s life. I did finally marry and remarkably had children, all of which points to God and His kindness. This picture of us three – all three safe and secure in His love and promises speaks to the wonder of God in our lives.

Just one glimpse of His wonder. Just one on a long list and counting.

God is worthy of our awe and wonder. No matter the situation we find ourselves. He is doing something beyond our imagining. Even in the broken nature of relationships in this world, even in the winding down of all that surrounds us…God is present. We can lean on Him and take hope and courage in Him.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, James Houston

Worship with me to singer/songwriter Brandon Lake‘s Count ‘Em. Get ready for some hard-hitting, Scripture-packed joy at the wonders of God!

Oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh

You got thunder in Your vocal, You got flames in Your eyes
You got wonder-working power pouring out of Your side
Checked the tomb all the way through, the grave was empty inside
Ain’t no other pull the greatest miracle of all time

You got power, demons cower when they hear Your name called
You got power that still towers, make Goliath look small
You got power to devour any counterfeit roar
Even Your tongue is a sword, count up the score, You are the Lord

Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy

Hey, hey
All those funerals You ruined when You made the dead rise
Heaven’s healer using spit and mud to open blind eye
You got wonders I can’t number, couldn’t count if I tried
Called the doctor and the doctor said, “I’m giving new life
Tell your enemies the victory is already here
More than sixty thousand angels, just the tip of the spear”
One day every knee will bow and every heart will be Yours
This is the end of a war, count up the score, You are the Lord

Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy

How many enemies ended on bended knees, swallowed up in defeat?
Can’t count ’em
How many raging seas opened in front of me? How many victories?
Can’t count ’em
How many prophecies no one would dare believe? Now it’s reality
Can’t count ’em
How many broken men given a second chance? See all the lifted hands
Can’t count ’em

How many Thomases doubted Your promises standing here, now convinced?
Can’t count ’em
How many hospitals said it’s impossible? How many miracles?
Can’t count ’em
How many paralyzed living a different life? Go on and testify
Can’t count ’em
How many sinners saved? How many bodies raised? How many empty graves?
Can’t count ’em

Oh-oh-oh, oh
Oh-oh-oh, oh

You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy
You are the Lord
Holy*

*Lyrics to Count ‘Em – Songwriters: Brandon Lake, Jacob Sooter, Hank Bentley

YouTube Video – Count ‘Em – Brandon Lake – Lyric Bible Verses

The Wonder of All We Have in Christ: Five Contrasts at the Heart of Hebrews – David Mathis

Death to Deconstruction – a Podcast by Joshua S. Porter – episode “with “Breakdown of the Christian Music Machine with Stephen Christian” – if you have little time, go to minute 54:30 where Stephen gives us rationale of why he did NOT walk away from God as a believer. Powerful!!!

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Phillips Brooks

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving – Revisited

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

In Part 1, we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this. [I’m coming at this as a Christian, but this, by no means, lessens the import for those who don’t believe. The wisdom of raising adults to serve stands.]

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a ‘shining model’ of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we were intentional in creating a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just “easier to do it myself”, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. There were moments, however, bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to come alongside our grown-up children to model and teach serving to the grands. In fact, it is already a reality – seeing our kids, as adults, discovering the deep joy of serving others, pushing through the awkward strain to pull back or be less present, putting others ahead of themselves.

[Nathan helping dear Mrs. Marge…many years ago.]
Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

Saturday Short – Raising Adults – Part 1 – Responsibility Is Two Words

[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference. Part 2 – Raising Adults – Creating a Culture of Serving can be found here.]

Being a parent is a humbling work…one way or other, it takes us to our knees at some point. In thinking about how we shape our little ones and raise them into adulthood, I was driven to prayer…a lot.

“Oh God, You have given us such crucial work in raising our children to adulthood. Help us to be faithful to live in the tension of remembering they are still small/young and yet pointing them to their place in this world and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

In the book of Genesis, we have a beautiful picture of God’s work – His eye for detail, His gift of order – He provided everything that was needful…including work for us.

God has given us all work to do. It was His plan from the beginning… In training up our children, we will always push against the counter-pressure of entitlement in our kids’ lives (and in our own)… but we are not alone. He’s already promised that “His yoke is easy, and His burden’s light”.

The Scripture is full of wisdom pointing us toward teaching our children to become responsible adults…understanding the importance of showing up, working in whatever capacity they can.

So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.Nehemiah 4:6

Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters.Luke 16:10

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.”Colossians 3:23-24

What goes into raising adults? Teaching our children and giving opportunity to see the value of work, to treat people and possessions appropriately, and to see themselves as a responsible part of a larger community. When does it start? Very early.

Author and parenting coach Reggie Joiner talks about the key to raising responsible adults is to give them responsibilities…now.

We are called, by God, to work…from the beginning…to have dominion…and to essentially clean up our own messes. As we learn to do that at home – caring for ourselves and contributing to our family – we can quite naturally expend the effort, and extend that, toward our larger community.

Joiner defines responsibility and counsels parents how to train it:

“Responsibility is an interesting word.
It’s actually two words.
Response and ability.

Do you see the link between the two concepts? If you want to raise kids to become responsible, then lead them toward a life where they develop the right attitude toward work and tasks. Give them chores at every stage.

  • Lead so their response reveals their ability.
  • Lead so their response matches their ability.
  • Lead so their response grows their ability.

Think about it this way:
Home should be the first job every kid ever has. What kind of experiences are you giving your children to prepare them to be responsible adults?”
Reggie Joiner

Raising Adults – Reggie Joiner

Sometime ago, I was listening to a podcast from Liberty University (would have linked it but it is no longer at the original link). The guest was writer, thought leader, and world-shaker-upper Karen Swallow Prior:

Prior talks about this being the anxiety generation. Some of that anxiety revolves around the pressures coming out of social media. “There is an existential anxiety that goes with having so many choices in front of you and being afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice and miss out and go down the wrong path.” – “Everything you do in life [marriage, work, weekends] is supposed to be this huge self-fulfillment…such that you can post it on social media.” Too often, our experiences aren’t fulfilling and then the anxiety comes, “did I make the wrong choice?” – Notes from the podcast with Karen Swallow Prior

Dr. Prior supports education as a help in correcting the “tunnel vision and distorted vision” that can evolve in young people’s thinking. Work throughout our children’s growing up years can also impact thinking as well…restoring perspective.

One of my favorite books on this topic is Escaping the Endless Adolescence by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen. The Allen’s write about the “failure to launch” generation. Teens who are exhausted at what seems required of them to be adults and therefore resist doing more than the minimum, coasting through life.

Instead of asking: “What will keep our teens out of trouble?” “What will make them happy?” or “What will get them into college?”, we need to switch our focus to a different set of queries: “How can we introduce realistic elements of adulthood into their worlds?” What activities best provide real feedback about their effort and skill?” and “Which other adults can we recruit to help pass our values on to them?” In short, we need to switch our focus from activities that reflect living happily as a teenager to activities that let our young people actually use their energy, connect with adults, and make choices that matter in order to begin moving successfully into adulthood.Allen & Allen

In their helps for parents of teens (and younger children), the Allen’s coach how to guide kids to become contributing members of the family, how to give genuine, real-world feedback toward maturity, how to connect their kids with role model adults (including the parents themselves), and how to positively stretch their kids toward skill- and confidence-building.

Writer and stylist Jo-lynne Shane shares a ‘raising adults” system she used with her three children.

[Her] system based on the following principles:

  1. logical consequences vs discipline and anger
  2. choices vs commands
  3. questions vs lectures
  4. no nagging
  5. no idle threats
  6. no yelling

You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders.  Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems.  Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing. 

By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey.  The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through. 

Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning. – Jo-lynne Shane

Raising Responsible Kids – a Series – Jo-lynne Shane

Finally, writer and parent Cara Sue Achterberg offers this exercise:

List the abilities and qualities you hope your children will have by the time they are eighteen.

Back track from that point and begin thinking of chores and responsibilities you can give your children now which will help them attain those abilities and qualities before they leave home.

Instead of thinking in terms of what they can’t do, begin to see them as the capable human beings they are and discover what they can do.Cara Sue Achterberg

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

…and then they were grown.

All our children are, bit by bit, becoming adults. [Like we are often told, it comes faster than we can imagine.] We as parents recognize the adult inside each one and build scaffolding, just enough support, to help each child grow into that adult. At every age, they can see it matters that they show up. It matters.

15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child Dr. Laura Markham

Are You Teaching Your Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges To Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

Practicing What You Preach – Raising Responsible vs. Entitled Children – Marsha B. Sauls

The Goal Is Not to Raise Good Kids, but Great Adults – Dave Ramsey

I Took ‘Adulting Classes” for Millennials – Andrew Zaleski

Worship Wednesday – Sounding Joy – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Hope in the Healing

Let the whole earth shout to the LORD; be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.Psalm 98:4

…the time came for her Child to be born. And she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…!” Luke 2:7-14

Every year since our children were tiny, we put on a family Christmas play. All of us dressing like those who were present (or summoned) for the birth of Christ. A baby doll wrapped in “swaddling clothes” representing newly born Jesus. Acting out the events of that miraculous day, with Scripture as our guide, can draw in even the youngest of children.

Now, that being said, putting on a Christmas play (as we saw in A Charlie Brown Christmas) doesn’t always have us marveling at the mystery of Christ’s birth…A few days ago, our four little grandchildren started “practicing” for this year’s family Christmas play. It was not without drama. The girls jockey for who will be Mary and who will be the angel. The boys use the shepherd’s crooks as swords. The only way we will probably be able to get our youngest grandson into a shepherd’s robe is to make out like he will be a Ninja. Joseph wants to have a knife tucked into his belt. Time travel was mentioned. Somewhere in all of that is found the message of Christmas – Christ came, and, with him, salvation for all who would receive him by faith.

The one thing I wished I had videotaped that day was them singing. Loud. Just loud. With abandon and little people joy.

Many of us are familiar with the traditional Christmas carol, Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts. It’s a glorious hymn that’s been sung around the Christian world since the 18th century. The birth of Christ, the Savior, is a singular and resounding cause for joy. Maverick City Music turns it up a notch. Here it is if you want a listen:

Let’s take a look at the original lyrics for a moment. All four verses. A song of triumph!

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Repeat the Sounding Joy – Diane Klassen

What does the lyric “Repeat the sounding joy” even mean? Isaac Watts didn’t set out to write a hymn for Christmas. Joy to the World is a declaration of the redemptive coming of Christ into a lost and broken world. This changes everything. He changes everything. What is our response? To receive him and to declare his coming to all. Not just Jesus’ birth in a manger, but the moment-by-moment working of God’s providence in all of life. Joy goes much deeper in our hearts and minds than mere happiness. Joy fills us with hope, even on dark days. Joy redirects our gaze to a good and loving God who is ever present with us in this world. Therefore, we sound out our joy…on repeat…for the glory of God, for the encouragement of the church, and for the sake of those not yet His people.

Worship with me, repeating the sounding joy with singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb‘s help:

What does joy sound like?
Is it quiet like snow?
Does joy sound like the laughter of friends that you know?
Is joy like the sound of a kiss on your cheek
Or like holding your breath when you play hide and seek?

Maybe joy sounds real loud like a “Hip Hip Hooray!”
Or a whispered “I love you” at the end of the day?
Well, joy sounds a little like all of these things
But a long time ago joy sounded like wings

Sounding joy, joy, joy!

If you can imagine, on a dark winter’s night
The sky filled with angels all shining with light
And suddenly the shepherds and sheep down below
Were surrounded by songs from that heavenly host

Glad tidings! Great Joy!
We are never alone
God sent His Son to make heaven our home
So every Christmas, each girl, and each boy
Could lift up their voice and repeat sounding joy


Sounding joy, joy, joy!
Sounding joy, joy, joy!

So every Christmas, we string up the lights
To remember the way that those angels shone bright
And we sing all the songs and we bang all the drums
To remember the day that God sent his Son

Glad tidings! Great Joy!
We are never alone
God sent His Son to make heaven our home
So every Christmas, each girl, and each boy
Could lift up their voice and repeat sounding joy

Sounding joy, joy, joy!
Sounding joy, joy, joy!
Sounding joy to the world, the Lord is come*

*Lyrics to Sounding Joy – Songwriters: Ellie Holcomb & Nathan Duggar

Sounding Joy board book – Ellie Holcomb

Repeat the Sounding Joy – Nannette

Monday Morning Moment – Back to School – 12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives]

It’s Back to School days around here. Whether we teach our children at home or contract and cooperate with other teachers, this time of year is both exciting and sobering.

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the serious nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not a better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones, establishing their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – 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 first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey we use in desperation. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action. That is a lesson they will take all the way through adulthood.

Raising our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”). When they heard that, they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) –A thankful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation with joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in unforgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep, loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many parents do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice