Let it rain

“For the land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.” ~ Hebrews 6:7
 
 
God alone takes the dry and waters it. Ps. 114: 7-8 “Tremble, o earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.” He is not hindered by what seems to be; He alone can completely change the very properties of a rock and make it a pool of water. Two different times in the Israelites’ journey God changes a rock into a water source to address the thirst of his people. He asks Moses to strike the rock in Exodus 17:6, “and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” Then in Numbers 20:8 He tells Moses, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them.” Both times the Israelites have been grumbling about thirst to the point of doubting what God has done for them. Complaining so much and longing to be back enslaved again to all they had escaped. God responds with provision of what they need.
With mercy and grace, He gives a physical picture of a spiritual truth – Christ the Rock, struck for us, pours forth his living water that we may drink and be satisfied.(1Cor. 10:1-4; John 4:13-14)
Don’t forget that the Israelites were no different than we are – I grumble… a lot. I have seen the work of the Lord so many times, yet I too forget His faithfulness. And interestingly certain events or happenings almost act as a trigger for me, pushing me headlong into a complete whine fest and panic moment. Just like the Israelites.  They had been in this position before, thirsty, tired, over it. Why someone doesn’t say, “Hey remember the last time, God had Moses hit a rock and we got tons of water. Let’s ask again.” No, they fight, panic, and want to return to Egypt or die.
My triggers may not be physically thirsting in a desert, but I definitely have them. If I’m really transparent, 5pm around here is a great trigger. Life seems to be at its craziest then, so the fight to walk in a trusting, humble way, seeking His patience and grace is just much harder to do than to speak harshly. The unknown is a great trigger. When things don’t look like I want them to, trigger. When I feel threatened by some action of someone else, trigger. And all of a sudden I find myself saying, “why am I here? it would be better if …”
Praise God He provided the Rock, the Living Water. Christ was struck, broken and died for my sin that I may live with Him and for Him. That is the Gospel.
Hebrews 6:7 says, “For the land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God” Am I a land that drinks in his rain?  do I drink in His Word, seek Him in prayer and walk according to what He has declared in scripture? Do I welcome the hard or painful lessons, the stretching? Because there is a promise attached here – that land will produce a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated. Can I really understand that God’s will is that I will produce a crop that is useful for my children?
That I will be such a land that overflows with His grace, whose soil is faith, rich in His fruit, full of His mercy that my children walk safely in my fields knowing and seeing Him more. That they experience eating the fruit of kindness, patience, self control that springs from His work in my life but pours forth for their edification.
There’s a nuance here that I often miss – I desire the fruit to be abundant in my life, but I really believe I miss who its abundance is for. My flesh can hijack any fruit seen in my life and pat me on the back, commending me on a life well lived. Yet my life, my field is being cultivated, not for me and certainly not for my fleshly appreciation. I am being cultivated to be useful in His kingdom. So right now, my cultivation is important to my husband and 8 precious lives. There may be more lives impacted along the way but my land has been designed by the Master Gardener for those 9. Because I want more than anything else for them to see Jesus Christ, let me drink the rains.

The Day in Between

“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” ~Luke 23:56b

The grief of that day. The gripping fear of what just happened to the man they had followed and loved. The women followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with spices and placed him in a tomb designed for Joseph. They watched his burial and then the Bible says, “they rested according to the commandment” in Luke. The burial process that the men had performed on Jesus’ body was shortened by the impending Sabbath. They would not be able to completely treat the body as they ought which is what motivated the women Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph to return early at the dawn of Sunday with spices.  They wanted to complete the burial, to honor Jesus in His death.

Can you imagine how they spent that Sabbath? quiet weeping, shock, discouraged, maybe angry as they saw the Jews in the synagogue who had demanded his death just 2 days earlier, righteously indignant that men could demand the death of their loved one. I can just imagine the pleadings and tears in their prayers to Yahweh that day, questioning everything, replaying everything they knew had happened, looking for the moment where things could have been different. And yet knowing it wasn’t different.

Jesus had died. He was buried in the cave. His body was wrapped, spices applied quickly that first day because every Joseph and Nicodemus needed to honor the Sabbath. But the day following the Sabbath the women hurried to the tomb to apply more spices and finish the treatment of the body that Jesus would be appropriately honored in his death.

No one anticipated his resurrection.

Everyone believed He was gone, or they wouldn’t have treated his body for burial. They were not thinking in terms of his prophecies or aligning His teachings with the prophecies of a risen Savior.

So the Bible shows us that the disciples and the women went back to what they knew – they honored the Sabbath. In their grief and fear, they still remembered the commandments they had been given and walked in light of them.

Sometimes life seems really dark, really sad or really hopeless. We are fearful and questioning – questioning God’s goodness, His plan, demanding answers or hiding in our fears. We desperately want to know that God has another plan or another way coming. That He will DO something that will change all this grief and despair and bring us to a place of joy and peace.

But in those times, do we stay with what we know? Do we return to the truth and the steadiness that only comes from Him?

We live in a different time than the disciples and women. We have the fullness of the Gospel – we know that Jesus defeats sin and death, that he returns victoriously from the grave and will one day return to take his children home. There is a lot of evil and sin, wickedness that leads to innocent sufferings, sickness and death, loss and grief, pain, anger that erupts because of our circumstances, questioning because we don’t know why, wishing that things would be different.

Life here on this earth is broken.

But our day will never be as dark as that day in between. We don’t have to be uncertain. We don’t have to be without hope. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” ~Hebrews 6:19-20

Too often I get stuck in the day in between, full of fear, confusion, anger or discouragement. I need to remember to return to what I have been called – to worship the One who saved my life from the sin that entangled me and to fix my eyes on the Founder and Perfecter of my faith.

I know the end of the story.

As For You

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Paul tells Timothy just before this passage to be content, that “godliness with contentment is great gain” but to desire to be rich is a snare, a trap that can lead you away. Then he commands Timothy to flee these things and pursue traits that represent/exhibit Christ. Flee, Pursue, Fight, Take Hold. All imperative sentences in the present tense – these actions must take place today. And once you wake tomorrow, they must take place tomorrow.
Over and over Paul refers to this fight, race, this ongoing engagement in working out our faith in the day. It is a fight – it is an awareness and an active engagement in walking with Him. My eyes so quickly slip off of Him and onto my circumstances – I am so much like Peter, looking and becoming overwhelmed by the water surrounding my feet, quickly sinking in panic. And what I sink for is really quite pathetic-

I can sink for upset toddlers and preschoolers throwing fits at 5 o’clock;

I can sink for fear of college tuitions;

I can sink for water leaks and renovations gone wrong;

I can sink for sickness;

I can sink for just about anything not going my way.

I look at the list Paul notes of what to pursue and what strikes me the most are steadfastness and gentleness. What a combination! Neither of these characterize me lately. Steadfast – Merriam-Webster defines this as firmly fixed in place, not subject to change; denotes a warrior who stands his ground in a battle context. I struggle with steadfastness in the moments. Oh I can verbalize the knowledge that He is enough, sovereign, in control and trustworthy but truthfully, in the moments, I struggle with being a warrior who stands her ground. Sometimes I almost think I deserve a moment to freak out, panic, lose it, whatever phrase I want to attach to not trusting; but I am to flee those things. Most everything that rocks my world can be rooted back to a love of myself, my comfort, my wealth or ease of life. Hardship is uncomfortable and stretching. It hurts. It will demand from me all that is me, but He wants to exchange me, my flesh with His fruit.
And gentleness – that is often the opposite of my response! I am impatient, rude, self seeking or self protecting, antagonistic when I am stretched. And sometimes I am passive. But to be gentle in these tough moments, to remember Who is in control, Whose I am, what Jesus has done for me at the cross, and to pursue these responses, that becomes my aim. The grace of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power that comes from standing actively with His shield of faith and His sword in this battle – that is my protection and my posture. This is why this is a fight! It’s not easy, natural or automatic.
But to remember the Gospel in the moments, that is faith.

Letters

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything is coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ~2 Corinthians 3:2-6

How often do we hear or read how impressionable our children are? how the impact we have will be for their lifetime? how what we do will or teach or how we parent will influence their life choices as adults? and in Christian circles, it’s followed up with some point about how to raise Christian kids that won’t leave the faith or won’t rebel or some other horrible picture of losing your kids to the world. I think every mother somewhere deep inside battles these thoughts – I know I do.

But what is truth? As a believer walking in the Gospel, I can see that fear has no place & worry should not be cultivated. so how am I to walk as a mom? Because I want more than anything for my children to walk in truth (3 John v4), and like Paul in Gal 4:19 “my little children, for whom I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” I truly can get emotional thinking about how much I want my kids to follow Jesus.

My children are my letters, they will speak to future generations and a legacy will go forth from me. But not written by me, written by the Spirit of the Living God! My confidence in parenting comes from this – verse 4&5: “such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves (nope definitely not, prove that daily around here!) to claim anything is coming from us (not anything good or admirable about my kids/family that people praise, none of their achievements ) but our sufficiency is from God.” He has made me sufficient to be his minister of the new covenant – to be his hands and feet and mouth to tell of the Gospel to my little letters, to write on each of them His great love, His grace, His awesome power and glory, His righteousness.

When I embrace, bank on, rely on my sufficiency coming from Him, the Spirit within me, I can rest in the peace of knowing He Is At Work writing these letters through me.

Who do I know?

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” ~Phil. 3:8
Just a thought from Him — if I seek to know Him and follow Him, I must immediately realize that the intimacy He offers is for RIGHT where I am. So my 8 children and my husband are the areas where God will grow my intimacy with Him the most. So He doesn’t want me just “surviving” even 1 hour. He wants me intimately right here dependent fully on Him. How practically does this play out for me?

~when my children are fussing, He wants me depending on His patience

~when my teen wants to be disrespectful, I am to seek His face before I respond

~when i don’t understand the little one’s potty choices, He has the wisdom for the crisis

~when the infant won’t sleep, He has the answers for sleep and the strength to walk the day out completely exhausted

~when I have more laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands than I can imagine, I am to rest in Him and set my my eyes on Him

~when my husband hurts my feelings or exasperates me, I am to run to the One who always meets my expectations

He alone knows all things, He alone has dealt with all sin, He alone commands respect. So either I survive doing my “best,” or I grasp hold of His righteousness and consider all my efforts loss and rubbish. Paul said it so clearly in Philippians 3:4-11- His Lordship, knowing Him is so great, gaining Him as a mother is true power, true righteousness, and therefore true faith. Can faith really grow apart from this decision that all I do must be nothing?
verse 7- “whatever was to my profit” — what do I attribute to my profit? my intelligence, my skills, my personality, my wallet, my husband, my children — all which I very easily can declare as pointing to my pedigree of goodness or worthiness just like Paul references in verses 4-6. But all of this is loss for Jesus. In fact everything about me is a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. Either I spend my day seeking to summon up whatever skill set is needed or I remember the cross. For at the cross all expectations for my behavior and all that I have to offer was proven insufficient and worthy of destruction. Jesus alone offers everything I need for life and so therefore He alone offers all I need for today.

The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord – Do I get how far above everything else it is to know you Jesus? Do I stop just on the other side of the cross, knowing you for salvation and knowing me for the day to day challenges? For you Lord I want to lose all things. Lord show me how to do this, how to change my perspective that I may gain more of You. I so want to know you more intimately, to follow you and be your light here.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-cross-has-the-final-word/id1207122501?i=1207122505

Call to Me

Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it –the LORD is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”~Jer. 33:3

How many times have I stood in a situation or walked away from some interaction with one of my children and thought, “I have no idea what to do?” I have no idea how to discipline, encourage, love or shepherd that child right now in this moment. And most of the time then my next thoughts will begin to list all the problems that child has, all the ways he or she needs to change or be different that would help me parent them. “He needs to be more kind; she is so focused on herself; he needs to be more organized, more obedient, more helpful, more truthful.” the list can go on and on in my head. Or sometimes I have no idea why that child is behaving – I promise you, there have been many potty trained toddlers who suddenly were no longer trained and many sleeping babies who stopped sleeping for no apparent reason and many moody older kids! But God issues an invitation to pray – To come before Him, seek Him for the truth of my next step.

Praying is not an easy step for me. I just want to have the solution and be done. So often I have scrambled for methods, solutions, steps to take to fix this or help that. Until God showed me His heart in His word.

He issues an invitation to Call unto Him, to cry out before Him about what is going on in my family, my day, my children. And He follows this invitation with a promise – He will answer me and tell me the great and hidden things I don’t know.

And what I have learned through the years is that God is in the potty training! He cares about the sleepless baby (and you!) He knows why your toddler throws such fits, and He understands the depths of turmoil and angst in your preteen or teenager’s hearts. He knows these great and hidden things! He wants to show us how to love our children with His perfect love. He wants to reveal the deepest parts of them to us, so that we may gently with His love shape and shepherd their hearts, and one day they will walk with Him.

Hebrews 4:16 states, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As believers we are welcomed into the throne room of God! I pray that you understand the Gospel: that we were once lost in sin (Rom. 3:9) but Jesus came and took your sin and mine that we could be justified and saved by Him from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9) and set free (Rom 8:1-2). If this is not something you understand or would like more information about, you can contact me.

God has set before you and me a great task – to care for, lead and introduce His children to Him as we walk with them every day. At times it feels daunting. But He invites you and me to seek Him in this. To seek His wisdom, His insight and to receive His grace. I need his grace for myself because I make more mistakes than I ever get things right when it comes to parenting, and I need His grace to flow through me to these precious kids who need to see Him.

He Leads Me

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” ~Is. 40:11

Being a mom is hard work. It really doesn’t matter if you have 1 child, 3 children or 8, in my experience the hard things of parenthood are there. Because the hardest parts aren’t juggling schedules, feeding kids, or putting them to bed at night.
The really hardest part of caring for my children is the battle in my mind that I am really NOT doing this well. The fear that I won’t or don’t know what to do in a given situation, the concern that I didn’t say the right thing to a child or lost my temper when I should have been patient, the replay of different scenes from the day can overwhelm me with thoughts that I messed up. That I fell short. That my children need something more than what I offer. That if I could just do better…

Women all the time want to be impressed with how many children we have and somehow then believe that whatever they are walking through with their 2 shouldn’t be as difficult as they were thinking because in comparison they have it easy and could never imagine life with 8. But I promise you I was thinking all these thoughts with my first little one so many years ago when all he did was nurse, sleep (not much) and cry (a lot!)

God will gently lead you with your young. There have been so many times through the last 18 years of mommyhood that I have cried out to the Lord. And this verse has become a bedrock for me – He cares for me with my young and is gentle towards me. He leads, so I can follow Him. When the way seems unsteady or scary or when I feel like I am royally messing it up, He gathers the lamb and gently leads me.
Context is so important in scripture and Isaiah 40 is one of my favorite places to run to when I am discouraged, weary, questioning, or longing for answers. This verse 11 sits in the midst of the declaration of who God is in his omniscience and omnipotence. Verse 18 asks, “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” He is the great I AM, the mighty Creator, the Mighty King, the Holy One. As you read through this passage you see Isaiah listing off all God has done, everything He holds together, the power He wields, and His declaration that He is beyond comparison.

And I cannot help but realize that my problem teenager, temper tantrum throwing two year old, rowdy preschooler, or moody middle schooler is not a problem for Him. And He promises to gently lead me.
The last part of Isaiah 40 speaks to our discouragement: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” (v.27) How often have I felt this way and believed the lie that I am all alone in this struggle? If I could just convince other moms of this one thing – you are not alone. He is with you. He is committed to you. He is carrying you as you tend the little flock you have been entrusted with. And when you feel weary and at the end of your strength, confused and at a loss, or just wanting to quit, “He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youth (or moms) shall faint and be weary, and young men (mommies with babies!) shall fall exhausted; BUT they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
You can walk out today with your precious little ones because the greatest parent of all gently leads you and gives you strength for the task.