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Faith is Better than Fear

Published October 19, 2017 by Dawn

It’s three o’clock in the morning and instead of sleeping, I’m thinking about the first time I conscientiously told a lie. I was in fifth grade. I even remember where I was standing when I made the decision to lie, against my better judgment. I was right outside the gym in my middle school. I don’t remember who I was talking to, but I do remember the struggle. Angel on one side, demon on the other. I bit my lip and told a lie knowing in my heart it was wrong and I shouldn’t have done it. That’s not quite the same as all the lies I might have told before, when my conscience had not yet been awakened. This lie was pivotal: I realized how beneficial lying could be to me, and the first seed of suspicion was sown into my heart.

I’ve always been a little naïve. Apt to trust others’ words more than their actions. Imagine my surprise when, at 13, someone told me that everything my dad had ever told me about his life growing up was a lie. I thought the world of my dad. He was the bravest, most daring man I knew and I loved the adventurous stories he shared of his life. Then I found out they were all lies. It crushed me profoundly. But perhaps not as badly as the lies my first “real” boyfriend told. All the time. I wanted everything he said to be true so badly, I lied to myself in defense of him until I was 20! I can’t imagine how gullible you must think me, but then again, it’s probably accurate because … I was 20 when I finally stopped believing what everyone else knew wasn’t true YEARS before.

The problem became, not my believing everything, but suddenly, I believed nothing. My naturally trusting nature became naturally suspicious of everything and everyone.

The Lord confronted me about this a few weeks ago at church. A little background here: God has given me promises. Not just me, but all of us. I take them very personal. I believe my children are His children, and when God said in His word, “I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save,” I wrote down the date He spoke this into my spirit because it was a rhema word to me. Boy, did I need it!

My son has embarked on a treacherous climb up his own mountain without me. God is training him to be a warrior and moms aren’t invited on that adventurous trip. There’s no way I could ever help my son become a man because princes fight dragons and princesses fear them. There’s a valiance that needs to be awakened in a boy that moms, in fear, can really impede. You couldn’t convince me otherwise because I’m living this truth. It’s not mere words to me.

Anyway, back to the believing thing: my faith has wavered for a while. I took my suspicion into the throne room in prayer and waved it in God’s face. He’d say something and I would get all defensive because I have learned to trust my sight much more than the words I hear – so antithetical to faith, but the world works opposite from God. He has spoken promises to me, and I have looked at the floor and angrily shaken my fist, refusing to believe. “But what is the truth here?!”

The Lord said to me while I was praying, shaking my fist, “You have been filled with suspicion, and you have questioned everything I have spoken to you. But God is not a man, that he should lie to you.”

That’s in Numbers 23:19, but it’s also been engraved on my heart since then, and this powerful truth has literally changed the battle in my prayer time. Whereas before, I would grovel at the Lord’s feet in utter turmoil because what is happening is so vastly different than what I expected things would look like (in my weakness, this does still happen sometimes), I am learning to pray boldly, speaking the promises of God into the atmosphere, reminding myself of scripture and the promises of God concerning my kids. Instead of allowing the devil to destroy my heart and mind with fear, I am pronouncing faithfully those things God has spoken. His words have become a weapon in my home, bringing peace and security into what has otherwise been the worst time of my life. I haven’t slept all week, but I have prayed powerful prayers in a place of real pain and heartache.

I might not be able to accompany my son on this long, scary trek. As his mother, I would have forbidden it. God knew that, so he took the matter out of my hands. He is raising a warrior. I would have raised a tall boy still clutching to his momma’s apron strings. However, although he’s in the hands of his Father, my prayers are with him, and I am speaking light into the darkness on his behalf:

God is not a man that He can lie (Numbers 23:19).

My children, He has promised to save (Isaiah 49:25).

No weapon formed against us will prosper, and this is not just my promise, but my son’s promise too (Isaiah 54:17).

When my son walks through the water, God will be with him. The rivers will not sweep over him. When he walks through the fire, he will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2-4)

If I raise up my children in the way they should go (which I have), when they are older they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

There are so many other precious promises in the Bible that I have begun to declare in faith because God cannot lie to me. And He will not, because it is not in His nature to do so. We do not need to regard the things He says to us with suspicion because if God spoke it, it is true. Although our feelings and our sight might disagree, we can bank on it. We may not know how, or when, God’s truth will come to pass. The timing thing is still something I am getting used to. God is working on a completely different timeframe than me and I don’t really understand it, but again, He told me I wouldn’t. God has never lied to us. His ways are higher, and His thoughts as well (Isaiah 55:8). We won’t always understand what He is doing. I promise you, though, if you begin to believe His word over your experiences, you will have peace and I believe Satan will tremble as you speak the promises of God over your circumstances.

If, on the other hand, you struggle to believe because of your experiences, I encourage you to read your Bible more. It is a record of God’s faithfulness in the lives of many other people, just in case you can’t overcome your suspicion that easily. Take your heart to God and read of His faithfulness. See if you do not experience a mighty change of opinion toward Him. Faith is so much better than fear, friend. God bless!

 

 

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Yes, You Can Know God

Published October 11, 2017 by Dawn

It is amazing that across the eons of time, God has remained enshrouded in mystery and so incalculable to the human race. We dare not attempt to explain or define Him, because our finite understanding can never do justice to the God of the universe. There is so much about Him that doesn’t make sense in our limited understanding and so many facets of His nature and personality that we have yet to see even a glimpse of. The only thing we can say with absolute surety is that we will never understand God in all of His fullness, and even the things we do know about Him, we know pensively without absolution. God is so much more than we can ever imagine.

I found myself in speechless awe the other day as I was reading the book of John because a scripture I have read so many times finally came to light upon me with a clarity that stunned and enraptured me. Jesus said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” I read it and went on to the next verse and the next until I read again in John 12:45, “The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” Jesus continued further on, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well” (John 14:7) … anyone who has seen me has seen the Father … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:9-10).

Suddenly, I realized what it was Christ was getting at: we can begin to understand the nature of God by knowing the nature of Christ.

Y’all!

There are many religions that acquiesce to believe that Jesus was a great man, a prophet and a prolific teacher. But not Christianity. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the son of God, the incarnation of God in the flesh. I have professed this faith so many times, but it JUST NOW dawned on me: God is not unlike Christ. He is no better or worse than Christ. He is Christ. All the attributes that humanity witnessed in Christ belong to God, our Heavenly Father. He came to us to show us something of Himself, and although we know we do not comprehend even the smallest smidge of who God is in His fullness, we can know what He chose to reveal to us through our fellowship with the Word of God made flesh among us.

I know … you’re probably wondering how I could have read the Bible so many times and missed this truth. I have no idea. I just know that for the first time in my life, I finally see how God can be merciful and just, brutally honest but still loving, forgiving but confrontational too. Jesus was all of these things, and he told us, “For I do not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say” (John 12:49-50).

When Jesus drove money-changers out of the temple, we see that within God’s character is an element of righteous indignation. His house was being used flippantly for petty, worldly things. He had a standard for His temple and guarded it jealously. Scripture calls it “zeal.” God is full of zeal for His righteous standards, then.

When Jesus showed kindness to a woman caught in adultery, we can clearly see that God is kind toward the humiliated, weary soul. Christ did not affirm her in her sin, but He did not condemn and chastise either. His holiness alone was enough to convince her of her wickedness. Likewise, we know that God will defend the weak and miserable against the proud outrage of merciless humanity, but He will never stand in defense of sin, even when he stands in defense of a sinner. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

When we read of Jesus waiting after knowing Lazarus was sick, we find that God is patient when proving something of Himself to stubborn unbelievers. We also see a brokenness in Christ over having to use such a drastic tragedy to illuminate people’s minds and hearts with truth. Jesus did not enjoy waiting and did not rejoice in the pain it brought to Lazarus’ family and friends. On the contrary, he cried with them. God loves us through the trying times, and even empathizes with us when His purposes momentarily cause us grief and pain.

When Jesus slept soundly in the bottom of a boat while men and women around him gawked in fear at the raging sea, we find our God is never troubled by the storms of life, no matter how fierce they seem. He does not stir in anticipation, but responds only to the heart-cry of His fearful sheep. Peter yelled, “Master, carest not thou that we perish?” Jesus immediately woke and calmed the storm. He didn’t pay attention to the wind and waves, but he couldn’t ignore the turbulence in Peter’s chilling cries. Our God also does not waver when chaos comes. He remains steadfast and immovable. He is only ever moved by one thing: the cries of His children. When we scream out in agony, fear or disbelief, God immediately responds because we have touched His heartstrings with the faith of a child. We don’t know what we expect of Him, we just know that He is where our hope lies.

I could go on, friend, talking about all the miracles and acts of love wherein Jesus showed us the Great Liberator, Provider, Healer, and Friend, but you can read for yourself and find more about the character of God. One event urges me forward to the most pivotal moment in all humanity: Christ died for us.

Can you even imagine the love of God? Can you imagine the seriousness of sin? Can you imagine the desperation of our Creator to be with us? Christ died for us.

Our God, full of repugnance at the thought of sin destroying His Beloved, came down and lived this life. Can you imagine? Who doesn’t, at some point, feel the anguish of living? The destitution, suffering, pain and rejection? God faced it all because in His wisdom, He knew we wouldn’t bring ourselves to His feet if we thought He couldn’t relate. He faced it because He wanted to fully understand our humanity under the spell of Satan. He faced it because He wanted the devil to know defeat at every angle. God, full of love and compassion for our fallen state, determined to have us again for all time and began just where we begin: born into a broken world. He came with no majesty, no physical appeal. He was cloaked in the most ordinary and unattractive way. He was true to Himself and therefore despised and rejected. And then, He did it. He allowed Himself, the Creator of all things, to be spit upon, beaten, shattered and torn – nailed to a cross in the utmost of human agony – God created the plan and submitted to all that Hell’s fury could aim at Him. All because He loved us.

His friends, tormented for days, felt the anguish of loss and were not comforted. Three days. Then, in unknown limitless power, Jesus rose. God Incarnate rose up from under the crushing weight of death that no man can defeat. God prevailed! For us!

Do you see it? How much God hates sin? How much He adores us? Oh, what Love! While there are many facets of God – many attributes of His character and nature – we finally must admit, Beloved, that in all that God is, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In His justice, He is love. In His discipline, He is love. In His mercy, Love. In His grace, Love. In His righteousness, Love. In His fullness, God is love. In every way that God operates, He continually shows us the many ways He loves us. Too much to give up on us, too much to leave us in our sin, too much to abandon us. Everything He says and everything He does communicates His love for us. Sometimes, it’s tough love and sometimes, it’s a sweet, sweet salve. Always, it’s God’s love.

Saving a Pastor Time and Money

Published October 2, 2017 by Dawn

My old job kept me in captivity most of the time. Captive to monotonous conversations I couldn’t get out of even for a phone call. I was a receptionist. I do recall, however, one of the shortest and most meaningful conversations of my life. I made an enemy in less than two minutes.

I didn’t mean to. It was really just a case of not thinking before I spoke, but it did two things: it freed me up to get back to work and delivered a gut-punch of truth I wouldn’t have muttered if I would have thought about it. After years of cultivating the precious habit, I now think before I speak (sometimes, rather than never) and usually give truth more tactfully, but this lady didn’t even see it coming.

A coworker of mine had sidled up to the counter and peered down at me while I ended a phone call. Poor lady. She was just trying to put some distance between herself and her own nightmarish conversation. But she picked me to talk to and that might not have been the best decision …

I’m not sure how the conversation started, but she was telling me about her second job. She was a social worker by day and a public speaker by … another day. Her topic: building the church. She traveled on the weekends delivering conferences on how to build the church through best business practice. My first question was pure curiosity: “People pay for that?” She bragged, “Yeah!” Then I did it. Engrossed by the idea and in the spirit of conversation, I mused, “That’s so weird! I mean, Jesus said in the Bible, ‘I will build the church.’ I can’t believe pastors pay for that!”

I kid you not.

She gave me a hurt look and without saying another word, she turned and walked to the farthest corner of the room and sat down. She gave me pitiful glances for the next half an hour and I just smiled dimwittedly at her because I had no idea how much I had hurt her ego.

I’ve been thinking about this for over a week now because for once, I finally understand why people pay for things like that. Someone told me a few Sundays past that they are seeking another church because as much as they love the one I attend, they preferred to be in a church where the youth are on fire for God. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, as that’s so important. Inside, though, it stung. I’m the youth leader…

When the Lord called me into youth ministry, I committed to God that I would never rely on gimmicks to build up a youth group. I told the Lord that day that I would simply teach the Word of God and let the chips fall where they may. I ministered for years to groups of three or four … sometimes two, and on some occasions, one. Every once in a while, the group would swell to eight, ten or twelve. Inevitably, though, I’d lose some and the numbers would go down again. Remembering that it’s important to be faithful in the little things, I have always just pressed on, teaching a message each week to whomever showed up that I had faithfully studied and prayed over all week prior. God was faithful to give me a word in due season and I was faithful to feed His sheep. I knew what she meant, though. We’re not, per se, “on fire.”

This friend’s comment, as honest and admirable as it was, hurt my pride. I went home and prayed in my closet, “God, if there’s someone else you want to move in here, please send them! I am not so proud that I won’t sit down and let someone else rock this for your glory. I wouldn’t mind being done.” I’ve been doing youth ministry for nine years.

I felt the desperation. I felt what many pastors must feel after faithfully ministering for so long to a congregation that is either dying or dead. And I finally realized that we’re all like the woman in the Gospels with the issue of blood. We’re dealing with a sickness that’s been persisting for so long, we’re desperate. We’re willing to throw money at anything that seems promising, even if it means paying someone to strategize about the carpet, the seating arrangements, the music and the length of the sermon. We’ll even trust a carnal businessman if he’s promising a positive change to the depressing state of our churches.

But, like her, perhaps our hope will not be found there. Jesus said in John 6:44 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” Unfortunately, that means we’ve wasted a lot of time and money, and fruitless effort, trying to do something no man (or woman) on earth can do. And I think we’re a little confused about what it means to be on fire, too. We can purchase the amazing theatre lights, go for broke on our musical instruments and shout the roof down, but that’s all just hype if people don’t leave services changed. As a teacher, I have seen many students go from Wednesday night youth to Friday night dances wearing the shortest and most revealing dresses and cussing like a sailor. Undulating with the sway of human depravity and hiding behind their sheepish grins when our eyes meet. These young people are not on fire, even if they raise their hands and worship or give the most eloquent testimonies.

Dear pastors and youth pastors, please don’t waste another penny on conferences that promise to make a difference. Trust me, they won’t. I’ll save you time and money by shortening the truth to this: touching Jesus in prayer and intercession is the only thing that’s going to work. Holiness doesn’t always look like a loud, boisterous service. God spoke to Elijah on the mount in a still small voice, not in the earthquake, wind or fire. You can’t replicate the work of the Holy Spirit and get the same results Jesus got. Be faithful in prayer, teach what God speaks to you and leave the burden to God. If you are desperate, good! That just means you’ve read and understand James 3:1, which says, “not many of you should become teachers, brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

If you are afraid you aren’t doing something right as a minister, it’s okay. It’s humbling when you think about it: God chose jars of clay with hearts of stone to use to minister to the world. On our own, we are rather pitiful. We need God to infuse us. Infuse the worship and message we bring with His power and set people on fire because we can’t do that on our own. No matter how much we water down the gospel to fill the pews, we will not see people on fire for God in our own strength.

I hope this takes a load off. It does for me, at least. If you find this piece offending, I think it’s probably because you think too much of yourself. Jars of clay. Remember that. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this extraordinary power does not come from us, but from God” (2 Cor. 4:7). God bless, friends!

 

Small-scale ministry, HUGE impact

Published September 19, 2017 by Dawn

This weekend provided a wonderful opportunity. Well, two actually. Firstly, I had the opportunity to be involved in a youth ministry event. I am always eager to be involved in such things, because I love ministry opportunities and I have been doing youth ministry for almost a decade, so I was very willing, except … the other opportunity was at the same time and it was equally exciting and important. I had a rare Saturday with just me and my son, and I sensed a need in him that some “guy time” always fixes.

I mulled it over for a while, wondering how my son would feel about sitting around in a youth leader training all day. Thinking about what an opportunity it would be and how it might steer him in a positive direction. I had high hopes! My final debate, though, happened in the prayer closet. I asked the Lord which choice was the good, and which was the best. His answer surprised me.

I spent Saturday with my son. I really felt led to put aside the world, and even the ministry opportunity, to minister to my son in his time of need. We went fishing. I even bought chicken livers for the first time in my life because he’s always wanted to fish with them. And even though he left them in my car overnight and I am still trying to get the smell out of my car two days later, I know that this decision was the best one, even though I was tempted to tend to the other ministry in my life.

Dear reader, I share this with you because I know that sometimes, we lose sight of the significant ministry opportunities we have on a daily basis to the people around us, waiting around for something bigger and better. We often chase the spotlight while neglecting to minister in the small things because we’ve been taught that bigger ministries equal greater impact. I don’t think this is true, though.

Jesus spent the bulk of his time ministering to a handful of men and women. He often broke away from the thousands to teach his disciples. After his death, it wasn’t the thousands who spread the gospel and gave birth to modern Christianity. It was just a small group of men and women who knew Christ intimately and loved him more than life itself.

Having been a youth minister for nearly ten years, I can honestly say that the crowd grows up and out, and some of them still take a trip out into the world to taste its fare. There are those who are rare gems, who stay true to the faith you teach, and they do it because they have grown into a personal relationship with God because of their close personal relationship with their parents and youth leaders. They grow to love the intimacy they knew and noticed through their personal closeness with the people who spent time with them. And probably most of that time didn’t feel like ministry or look like ministry. It just felt like quality time.

Don’t neglect the small arenas of ministry waiting for God to open big doors in your life. Be faithful in the little things. You will eventually find such great satisfaction and fulfillment in the little things, that the wait becomes irrelevant. God is always at work, friend, and if you let Him, He will use you every day. It may not always feel magnanimous, but it will always be exactly His will if you walk in obedience to Him. You will not fail to make an impact, you just may not see it immediately. Stay faithful!

Maybe God Misses You

Published September 6, 2017 by Dawn

James Dobson said something to my mother heart when my kids were very young that haunted me since. He said, “At some point, a boy begins to push away from his mother.” He was talking about bringing up boys, and I was mostly resentful (then) of his wisdom because I faced the daunting task of raising a son on my own, and Dr. Dobson made it sound all but impossible. I have slowly conceded to his points, one after the other, as my son has shown how very much Dr. Dobson knows on the topic (in contrast to how very little I know). This past summer, this particular nugget of truth became revealed. My son wanted to be home as little as possible.

I have always, ever since becoming a mother, wanted my children’s happiness more than my next breath. I have lived for their delight. I have read all the psych books, poured over the scriptures, and done all that I could within my power to secure the perpetual joy and bliss of my kids. I will not sing my praises more than this, because perhaps I have failed … I don’t know. All I know is that this past summer, while my daughter clutched the apron strings just a little tighter in anticipation of high school (which we are ALWAYS reminded is really just a blur in the rearview mirror before you know it), my son pushed us away like we were a plague. The end of summer brought him back home long enough to find out his new boundaries for the school year, then he was off every evening after chores and spending the weekends with his friends again.

Last weekend, he asked me if he could go to his friend’s house and I told him no.

“But WHY?” The badgering began.

Can I admit something to you? I didn’t have much of a real reason. I told him it was because I wanted him to do his chores, which was partly true. He came home and did them, then asked again.

“No.” I just wanted to cry. Why do you want to leave me?

He was getting a little heated. “But I did my chores and I always go to my friends’ on the weekends. Why can’t I go?”

I stumbled through a list of excuses, all of which he had a great rebuttal for. He protested like a legal expert and I had to concede one after the other until I was left with nothing but the truth.

“I miss you!”

He just gaped at me. “Are you serious?”

Tears welled up in my eyes.

“I want you to stay home. I miss you being here.”

I wish I could say he melted then and there into my arms and told me he’d never go anywhere ever again. He didn’t. He actually continued to argue with me, and even though all I had was the truth of my heart’s cry, I used it to combat his defenses until he sulked to his room. I hugged myself and went to make dinner.

Then it happened.

“Mom, come in here.”

He was in his bedroom. I stepped into the doorway.

“I cleaned it up in here. Want to sit with me?”

Did. I. Ever!

To be invited into the sanctuary of my thirteen-year-old son … YES! I went in and sat on his futon. He laid down on his bed, pulled out his phone and ignored me for the next twenty minutes, but my heart was satisfied just being in his presence. When I finally got up to leave (because let’s face it, I can only be ignored for so long before I have to get up and actually accomplish something with the daylight left), he implored, “No, Mom, don’t leave me. Sit here with me.”

I excused myself to finish dinner and he trailed me into the kitchen and helped cook. Every time I turned around, he was leaning into me for a hug. For the first time in months, my son wanted to be around me. I was in heaven.

Do you ever wonder if God keeps us isolated from our friends so He can be with us? Do you think it’s because He misses us? Maybe it’s because He knows that if our attention were on other things, we wouldn’t turn to Him for companionship. Maybe all the times relationships have fallen through, friends have seemingly abandoned us, and family has forgotten we exist … maybe all of the times we felt society shun us was God’s way of giving us a gentle “no” that redirected our attention to Him. Maybe He has a longing for us that hasn’t been articulated so much as shown by a cold shoulder from the world around us. Maybe God just wants to be near us again.

Perhaps, too, we are like my son: pulling out everything we can to distract ourselves, even when God is sitting in the room, and not interacting with Him even though we want Him near. Is it enough to be in His presence? Of course! But we must admit … there’s so much more to God than nearness and silence. Oftentimes, we get this far and we feel like we’ve experienced all there is in our relationship with God, but if we venture out of our sanctuary into His world, and we follow Him as He does His thing, we will inevitably find that God is working on things and we can partner with Him. So often, we invite God to be a part of what we are doing. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking God to make something of us and use us, and instead, we come alongside Him while He works and help in what He is doing. There’s a huge difference, after all.

Yes, I believe God misses us more than we miss Him sometimes. I encourage you to turn your eyes to Him in your loneliness and allow His presence to bring you peace. Furthermore, allow Him to lead you out into the things that He is doing and graciously agree to be a part of His work, whatever He may ask of you. God bless!

Just Do It!

Published August 30, 2017 by Dawn

My friend, Jordan, is an inspiring runner. He recently told me the story of his first run. He said, “I was horrible at it … but I went home and told my mom, ‘This is what I was made to do!” He said it with what I can only assume was the same ecstatic expression his mom saw that day. He’s been running ever since. He knew the second he tried it out in middle school that he had found the one thing he was created for.

I was not born to run. I had no such epiphany. My first run, I fought back vomit as I cycled through the first step of a couch-to-5k program, trying to maintain a steady pace for thirty seconds before slowing to a crawl for two minutes. I was mostly sedentary and I’m not even sure why I started running. Oh, wait, I remember! My sister was taking some class in college that required her to run and I joined her out of sympathy. I didn’t want her suffering alone.

She quit on me before her course was even over. I quit when winter hit. At that point, I was up to running six minutes at a time, still fighting vomit because I only got to walk thirty seconds in between. It was awful.

The next spring, or five months later – I’m not sure which is a more accurate statement – I started back at square one with the couch-to-5k program because I realized that of all forms of exercise (you might call it “self-inflicted torment), I preferred the one that got me out of the house and had a constant change of scenery. A year and a half later, I am a runner. I can run miles at a time without feeling the need to vomit, and I feel stronger with each run. I take a day off here and there to give my muscles time to heal, but I run most days of the week. I haven’t lost much weight, but I have trimmed down. My eating habits have improved a ton, and I can stay awake for an entire day without gluing my eyelids to my forehead. I am no longer battling depression and sometimes, I can even laugh at a lame joke.

I was not born for running. I had no intention of becoming a runner. I just wanted to be healthy and this was the way that worked best for me. It took a lot of grit (and gritting my teeth). I have had to run through rain, run through pain and run in defiance of what I otherwise felt compelled to do (which is sit on the couch and take the rest I felt entitled to). But I am better for it. I am happy, healthy and capable of so much more than I previously allowed myself to dream.

On the flip side, the first time I read a bible story, I fell in love. I knew in my heart that they were written for me. I was eight and I read the entire, ten-volume “The Bible Story” series before I turned nine. Then I started with volume one all over again. Our collection was missing volume four, so I missed all the stories about King David until I picked up my own Bible and read it through. I was fascinated. Curious. In love. And when I talked about them with others, I had the same feeling Jordan did. I was made for this.

Some people, though, don’t feel this way. The Bible is hard to comprehend. Dull. Dry. Lifeless. Reading it is a challenge. So much so that they turn away from it altogether. They would rather read a short devo, with one scripture to ponder and a page of man’s wisdom to go with it. It’s easier. It takes just a little bit of time, and an equal amount of effort.

I’m not condemning anyone, I simply want to be an encourager. Jordan will say to someone who is not a runner, “Try it anyway.”  And so I say: read it anyway. Press in. Do the hard thing. There are treasures in the Word of God I would have never found if I didn’t read it for myself. I have read many devos and they mostly center around a selection of well-known verses. There is so much more to be found! So much more that God can reveal to us if we faithfully immerse ourselves in His Word. It will take discipline. It will make us hurt, sweat, cry, vomit (maybe not that extreme, but stay with me). Anything worth doing is going to take some effort, and sometimes, a lot of effort. Do it! The Bible is full of rewards for the faithful person who sticks with it. In the end, we come out stronger, healthier, happier … we are able to withstand the fullness of a day and even endure things we weren’t able to before. The Word of God imparts wisdom and strength. It’s vital to our spiritual health. It enables us.

As Nike famously coined, “Just do it!” Pick up your Bible and read. Don’t set a chapter limit, just sit down with it every day and read it until the Holy Spirit gives you something you have to chew on for a while before it digests. Meditate on it day and night. Pick it up again the next day. Read more. Don’t quit. Create a habit of reading the Word of God and you will find it becomes easier until one day, you will crave it. A day won’t be complete without it. You’ll plan your day around your time with God. It’s amazing what a little determination and discipline will do. “Just do it!”

 

Fight The Good Fight for Your Teen

Published August 28, 2017 by Dawn

I’m a little scared. I’ve been a mom for fourteen years now, almost fifteen, and I have never been so scared of motherhood before. I don’t mean to freak any of you newbies out, but teenagers are whack.

I’m sure you hear all the time, “Cherish this time. It only gets worse.” You probably silently assure yourself that while their kids may have gone crazy with the onset of hormones, there’s just no way your darling little angels could ever be anything more than your sweet little lambkin.

I just want to cry for you.

I thought the same thing when my babies were little. How could these amazing, funny, adorable little bundles of joy ever be anything more than sunshine and smiles in my heart? I did not see this coming, and now I’m literally terrified. After all, no one ever tells you how bad it can get. They see the look of pity in your eyes and laugh, leaving you to your new-mom delusion.

It happened this summer. Don’t ask me what it is – my head’s still spinning. I didn’t see it coming. It just hit like a ton of bricks and left me dazed and confused, scared out of my mind. Teenage-hood. That’s a word, right?

I don’t think my prayer life has been this solid since the Holy Spirit began to woo me in my early twenties. I have not sought so desperately for God as I have begun to since this season of my life – this hurricane season, if you will – came on. I’m suddenly living in hostile territory, unsure of what I can or can’t say. Heaven forbid I breathe in my own home! I’m in a house under siege and my hands went up in surrender pretty quickly.

God, these are your children too, remember? Do something!

One thing has become abundantly clear: teenagers have to come into their own. They have to understand the world on their own terms, come into their own faith, have their own relationships and all the while, they push you away and reject your wisdom. It’s the scariest thing ever! To know that at any moment, your kid might make a decision that forever alters the course of their life. You might have to watch them walk into a bear trap without being able to save them. You might hear them questioning the faith they were brought up in. Who’s idea was this?! I think it stinks.

I mentioned my prayer life. My Heavenly Husband and I have gotten very close lately. I have become acquainted with a new level of parental fear and He’s my stronghold. My Rock. I am clinging to God.

Yesterday, I was reading my Bible and came across this amazing scripture that quenched my fears. “Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in His sight” (1Chron. 19:13). Immediately, I remembered a similar scripture in Nehemiah and flipped the pages to find it. In chapter 4:14, Nehemiah says, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Don’t be afraid of them! Not your kids – I mean, of course, don’t be afraid of them either. No, don’t fear the devil in this. The hardest part about being a parent is having to step back and let your kids walk on their own. You don’t just experience it once, though. That lesson is physical first, then spiritual. It’s just as terrifying watching your kids stumble spiritually as it is when you watched their chubby little hands slip off the edge of the coffee table as their top-heavy body falls right into the corner of the table. You rush to their screaming, bleeding little bodies, scoop them up and sooth them. When they are teenagers, you watch your kids try to walk on their own and when they stumble, you rush in only to find them hardened against your compassion and you have to hold yourself together while they hurt at a distance. It’s horrific!

But we cannot fear Satan. We cannot give any room to the devil. We have to fight for our babies the only way that’s left: in our prayer closets. We have authority over our families. We were given authority when Jesus ascended. We can stand up for our children in prayer. We can demand the enemy cease and desist in their lives. We can pray in the spirit that the Holy Spirit convict them, steer them, fill them with discernment. This is battling when we feel our hands are tied and I know that this is sometimes the only thing we have left. BUT, friend, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty! We can use them to pull down strongholds, cast down all imaginations and everything in our children’s minds and hearts that are set against God (2 Cor. 10:4).

These wonderful verses encourage us to be brave and courageous. We must believe that God is hearing our prayers and we should be thanking Him even if we don’t see anything with our eyes. We must believe that God is doing what is good in His sight. More than that, we must believe that God is fighting for us. We must believe that just like Daniel, the moment we pray, the angels are dispatched to fight a war in the heavenlies on behalf of our prayers. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and we must believe that He not only hears us, He delivers our children in response to our prayers. Scriptures declare that angels guard them wherever they go (when they become teenagers, they tend to go a lot).

Most importantly, we need to remember our blessed promise in Proverbs 22. Verse six promises that if we ”train up a child in the way they should go, when they are old, they will not depart from it.” Satan, no matter what he tries, can never defeat the promises of God. They are yes and amen! This is a promise we parents can stand on when their walk takes them into scary, foreign places.

Be strong and fight for your families! God bless.