Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hollow and Deceptive Philosophies

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
Colossians 2:8

What philosophy do you follow?

It is so incredibly easy to be taken captive by the philosophies of the world, of human tradition.  They are there EVERY where we turn and before we even realize it they are so much a part of us that we don't recognize them for what they are hollow and deceptive.  
I fall for them too!!!

We have a lovely home.  It is more than adequate to fit our needs.  But our boys share a room and they don't like that.  They share a room because my husband needs a home office space.  When he is in town, he offices from home, so the 4th bedroom is his office, and the boys share a room.  My "office" (where I do my school work, my writing, my quiet time) is in the kitchen, the heart of our home, the loudest part of our home.  I would like a space all my own too.  But there simply isn't room for all these wants.  

It would be easy to convince ourselves that we should consider getting a bigger home.  It would be easy to justify "needing" a bigger home.  We "deserve" a bigger home.  Honestly, we could probably even afford a bigger home.  But those wants and desires stem from human tradition, especially the American tradition.  Those are very much worldly thoughts. 

The idea that our family would be "happier" or "better off" in a bigger home is deceptive.  It is not true.  It is a hollow philosophy the world in general believes.  But happiness, true happiness, the kind of happiness I pray for my family, will never come from stuff.  Though I hope this kind of happiness is found in our home, it does not stem from the size of our home.  

Our home is more than adequate to meet our needs.  It is plenty big.  Perhaps we will need to learn to share some space.  Perhaps we will need to learn to be respectful of each other when one person needs some quiet (something that can be extremely difficult to come by in our house).  But the truth is we do not need a bigger home.  God has provided more than enough for us.  

My children will try to convince me that fairness is of extreme importance.  In all things we must treat each of our children fairly, the same as we treat the other two.  They must each have the exact same number of snacks, sweet treats, hugs, activities, one on one time, or any other thing you might think of, or else it is "unfair".  This fairness even stretches to the infamous "getting even" with their siblings when they have been teased, picked on or supposedly abused in some manner.  In JT's terminology, he "gets kicked around!"  They have to get even, otherwise it wouldn't be "fair".  This is definitely a philosophy of human tradition, and it too is hollow and deceptive.   

The truth is, life is unfair.  Praise the Lord.  Because if it wasn't, none of us would have eternal life with Christ.  It is unfair that my perfect Jesus had to die because I can't get my act together.  It is unfair that HE took the punishment for MY sin.  Yes, life is unfair, I couldn't be more thankful that it is.  

The world will tell you that revenge, litigation, retribution are fair and just, but that is hollow and deceptive.  Forgive.  Turn the other cheek.  Live your life differently.  

"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."
Colossians 2:8

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


It happened.

I knew it would.

I could feel it coming over the last couple of days.

Today, it finally happened.

I lost it.

Erik left for another trip yesterday, but I spent all day on a field trip with Isabella so I wasn't at home.  Alone.

But today, as soon as I dropped the kids off at school, I knew it was going to happen.  I could feel it.

You would have thought it was the first day of school the way I sniffled all the way home, fighting back the tears.  

As I got closer to the house, my steps got slower.  I stood outside not wanting to go in, but knowing I had to, knowing there would be no other living creature inside the house but me.  There would be no Hank, there would be no Hercules.

And that is when I lost it.

With no kids to be strong for.  No husband to pull it together for.  I let myself cry, big, sobbing tears, and I let my heart hurt.

Then I opened my bible looking for comfort.

Today's reading was from 1 Chronicles so I didn't hold out a lot of hope for that comfort.  But guess what?  It was still there.  

Nope, Chronicles doesn't say anything about losing a precious pet or letting go of a part of your heart.  It doesn't tell you what to do when you hurt so bad it makes you cry.  It doesn't reassure you that redemption is for all of creation, or promise you the happiest of life ever afters.  

But it does list out God's promises to the people of Israel.  Promises that he kept time and time again.  The same promises that he makes to me, and to you.  Promises that he still keeps today.

They aren't promises of an easy life, or no sadness if you follow him.  He doesn't promise that you will never hurt or never cry.  But he does promise to never leave you or forsake you.  He promises to be there with you in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the tears.  He promises to love you no matter what, forgive you no matter what, and be there no matter what.

Today is a sad day for me.  It is a lonely day.  But I am not all alone.  And I take comfort in that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

They say, "All Dogs Go To Heaven."

That's hard to argue with given the innate love, loyalty and acceptance that is found in dogs.  A love very similar to that of Jesus himself.  

Some will tell you that it is simply not possible, that salvation is for humans, and humans alone.  That humans have been set apart, we are different than angels, or demons, or any other creation, and the only ones to whom salvation is offered.  

I believe it is God's intention to redeem all of creation.  I believe this is biblical.  And I believe dogs are a very, very special part of God's creation.

I believe that we are called to live a life like Jesus did.  To follow his commands and to love like he did.  And I believe that my sweet, sweet dog Hank did this better than any human I know.  

He was my baby before I had babies and from the get-go he stole the heart of all he met.  He was as playful as playful could be, yet somehow sensed exactly what was needed from him.  He met you where you were and loved you unconditionally no matter who you were or what you may have done. 

I can remember taking him to the park when he was just a puppy (a 100 pound puppy, but a puppy non the less).  He would run and run and run, it was a beautiful thing to watch him in a full out run across the park, chasing whatever poor thing was running for his life.  Hank never caught anything of course but he sure had fun trying.  

He would tug on his leash for all he was worth when we went for a walk, but as soon as a child asked to hold his leash he would stand stock still and only take a step if thechild took a step.  He did the same thing once we had babies.  He would tug, tug, tug on that leash unless it was attached to the stroller than he would stand right by it walking at the pace of the stroller.  When my older two were in half day kindergarten Hank insisted on walking them to school each day he would sit outside attached to JT's flimsy little umbrella strolled all by himself while the kids and I went into school and waited.  If we dared to leave him behind he he would take matters into his own paws and walk himself down to school! Sitting right outside the doors until we came out.  That happened more than once!  

Hank was loyal to the entire family.  He accepted each of the kids unconditionally from day 1.  As they grew so did his responsibilities, if they headed over to a neighbors house to play, Hank would walk them there, wait outside until the left, then walk them home.  It got trickier once they started riding bikes, but he still wouldn't tolerate anyone being left behind!  

Hank brought immense joy, unconditional love and fierce protection to our family and he will be dearly, dearly missed.  In the early morning hours this morning Hank had a stroke.  He died peacefully in the arms of my husband around 8:00 this morning.

Do all dogs go to heaven?  I honestly don't know.  I only know that mine did.  

I can't wait to see you running through the fields of Heaven sweet Hank.  Rest peacefully until then.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Temper Tantrums

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  

Do you feel like perhaps you have more on your plate than you could possibly handle?  From the moms, dads, grandparents, kids, single people and just about everyone I talk to these days, you are not alone.  We live in a time and society where more is expected of us than ever before. 

Everything you do takes more than you have to give, and there are very few people, jobs, or activities that are willing to settle for anything less than 110%. Everything seems to take more time, more money and more commitment than any one person, (or 3 people honestly) can possibly give.  

If you are one of the minority who have carefully and intentionally attempted to balance the chaos of job, family, activities, etc., you can still be unexpectedly caught in the overwhelmed category by life events that are out of your control.  Health issues, job loss, cutbacks, and aging parents can cut into our carefully arranged and controlled lives and send it into chaos in the blink of an eye.  Surely this is just a sign of our times and our culture right?  I mean, surely we have it so much worse than any other era before us right?  

Moses might disagree.  

He was a man who knew what it was to be overwhelmed.  Moses was pretty content living his life out in Midian, when God called him to do something he did not ask to do, he did not want to do, nor was he trained to do.  But he did it none the less.  He saved the people of Israel, led them out of slavery, and to the Promise Land.  But it wasn't exactly a life of ease.  At one point along the way, honestly I am guessing there were several points along the way, Moses just about lost it.  I read about it today in Numbers 11:10-15.

The Israelites have left Egypt and slavery behind them.  They are wondering through the desert heading to the Promise Land.  God has already proven Himself to them numerous times, there was of course the infamous parting of the Red Sea.  He has sent down manna from heaven for food,  produced water from a rock, not to mention the 10 plagues on Egypt that somehow missed the Israelites all together.  Yes, God has proven himself over and over and over again.  But yet again, the Israelites are not happy, they spend their days complaining to Moses.  I know how draining it can be to listen to 3 kids wine and complain, I can only take it for a short amount of time, before they all get sent to their rooms! Moses got to listen to people of every family (this would be thousands and thousands of people) each at the entrance of their tent, wailing.  Let me just tell you that this would have resulted in the worlds biggest time-out had I been in charge, but I am guessing that is why God chose Moses and not me, and why I have 3 kids and not 4 (forget the thousands!)

All their wailing of course angered God, who had graciously provided for them, and now Moses is stuck in the middle.  And as all good parents can relate too, Moses had a moment.  Admit it, you know what I am talking about...we have all had "moments"! 

Moses cries out to God, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms...I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.  If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now..."

Okay, you know how toddlers will get upset and start throwing their very best temper tantrum right in front of you and you have to bite your lip to keep from laughing at them because it is just too funny.  That is kind of my image of Moses here.  Not because it is laughable and not because he isn't fully justified in feeling this way, just because, well it's a little over dramatic, don't you think?

Don't get me wrong!  I ABSOLUTELY understand how frustrated, overwhelmed and just plain DONE Moses is right now.  I have been there, not with thousand of wailing Israelites but you know 3 crabby kids can feel like thousands of wailing Israelites!  

Honestly, this rant from Moses, gives me unexplainable peace.  Moses was overwhelmed.  Not by a position he put himself into, but by a position God put him in.  And Moses is ticked, and he gets mad at God and he tells God about it.  And do you know what God does?  He loves Moses.  He loves Moses right through his tantrum.  He lets Moses get it all out and then God tells him what he needs to do next.  God shows him how to divide up his labor and his burden, God provides 70 elders to walk beside Moses, to help him with this overwhelming job.

I love that my God is so big that I can get mad, throw a temper tantrum right in his face and he will love me through it.  And then, if I let him, he will even help me solve my problem.  I can't tell you the number of people he has put in my life that help me carry my burdens.  

I don't know what is overwhelming you right now.  But I'm guessing something is.  All I can tell you is to take it to God.  Even if you are just done, ticked off and DONE!  Especially then.  Take it to God.  Get it all out.  Trust me he can take your temper tantrum (and I promise He won't laugh).  And when your tantrum is done, listen to God and he will help you.  He will put people in your life that will help you carry your burden if you let them.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do You Want to Get Well? (John 5:6)

"Do you want to get well?"

It seems like an odd question.  I mean, who wouldn't want to get well, right?  Regardless of whatever may be "wrong" wouldn't everyone want to get well?

"Do you want to get well?" 

I have been pondering this question for days now.  It stuck in my head and it won't go away.  

Jesus is the one who asked this question.  

In John 5:6, he is in Jerusalem at a pool that is known for healing and by the pool lies a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.  38 years is a long time.  A lifetime some might say.  In fact, purely by coincidence I am sure, it is my exact lifetime (a fact you won't often hear me admit). Though the invalid has been lying by this pool of healing for years, he has never gotten in.  He has never received the healing his body so desperately needs.  So Christ simply asks him, "Do you want to get well?"  And as odd as it may sound, it's a fair question given the circumstances.  For years healing has been right there, just with in reach, and the invalid has never done what is needed in order to receive it.

Of course the invalid has his excuses.  He lists all the reasons that he has never been made well, there is no one to help him, other's always get in before he is able to.  But honestly, those are just excuses.  The question remains, "Do you want to get well?"  Jesus asks the question, and just like that the man is healed.  He gets up, takes his mat and begins to walk.  It turns out the invalid DID want to get well.  And Jesus healed him.  

The end.  Or so I thought.

Turns out the question, "Do you want to get well?" has stuck with me.  And I am forced to ask myself, "Do I want to get well?"  It's not that I am sick, I am perfectly healthy.  I have full mobility, little sickness and generally good physical health.  

But what about spiritual health.  Am I as healthy spiritually as I need to I could be... as I should be?  And if I'm not, then do I want to get well?

The truth of the matter is no.  I am not as spiritually healthy as I need to be...could be...or should be.  I still have big sin in my life that I battle with on a daily basis.  I am inherently selfish, I am impatient and too quick to anger.  I am prideful and at times materialistic.  And the worst part is, the very worst part, is that many of these things are crutches to me.  They are so much a part of who I am that I don't WANT to give them up.  And if being spiritually healthy MEANS giving them up, than honestly, I'm not sure I want to get well.

There are parts of my life, parts of me that keep me from being as spiritually healthy as I could be.  And getting well would mean giving these things up.  Things that I love, things that have been part of me for 38 years.  Things that make me the person that I am, that are part of my identity.  Am I willing to give them up?  Do I REALLY want to get well?
 I can justify why I these things are so important to me, I can list the reason I feel validated concerning them, but honestly those are just excuses.  The question remains, do I want to be spiritually well?  And if so, am I willing to give up pieces of me that are not pleasing to God.  

"Do I want to get well?" 

Yes, I do!  More than anything I want to be the person Christ is calling me to be, even if that means giving up things I love.  Even if it means changing a big part of me.  Heal me Christ in a way that only you can.  

My question to you today is, "Do you want to get well?"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Here's To a Great School Year!

Today I sent my two oldest kids to school.  

One is in the 5th grade, the other in 4th.  

Tomorrow my baby starts kindergarten.  I really think I am okay with that.  I don't expect to cry.  That being said, my eyes just filled up with tears.

This kids growing up thing is harder than I remember it being when I was the kid.  This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart, that is for sure!

Last night I wrote each of my older kids a letter, it's the first time I have ever done that.  I told them a little bit about when I was a kid and then I told them that I wanted them to do 3 things this year.

1.  I want them to be kind.  This seems kind of obvious I know, but it is harder than it sounds.  Being kind is not always easy.  Sometimes being kind means being different, it means going against the crowd, it means loving the unlovables.  And that can be really hard when you are in the 5th or 4th grade.

2.  I want them to be brave.  Because sometime being kind takes bravery.  I told them not to wait to feel brave, because that feeling might not come.  Bravery is an action, it is a decision to do something that is hard, something that might be scary.  And going against the crowd, doing something you know is different, opening yourself up to teasing, can be really scary when you are in the 5th or 4th grade.  I told my kids it's not brave if your not scared.

3.  I told them not to worry about being the smartest, prettiest, funniest, coolest kid in class.  Just be the kid God wants you to be.  Because it doesn't matter how big or small, how old or young you are, there is something/someone God wants you to be.  He expects BIG things even out of little people. 

That is what I pray for them this school year.  The academic thing, that will happen.  What I really pray for them is that they start living out their faith, that they start intentionally being the people they were created to be.  And I couldn't ask for a better school year than that!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Solid Rock

"When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace..."

As the sanctuary echoed with these words yesterday, I felt my heart begin to swell.  

There have been times in my life, too many times lately, when I have struggled to see Christ's face.  Too many times when the self-induced darkness is so overwhelming all I can do is trust in the knowledge that He is still there.  In my head I know that Christ will neither leave me nor forsake me.  This is a promise from God and I KNOW that it is true.

Still, there are times when my choices, my thoughts, my actions or words have drawn me so far away from Christ that I struggle to see Him.  I struggle to feel Him or His prompting in my life.  Not because He has pulled away from me, not because He has left me or abandoned me, but because I have chosen something other than Him in that moment.  And so He has quietly stepped aside.  And I am left in the darkness.  I know He is there still, full of grace, waiting for me to open my eyes to Him and step back into the light. 

The words that we sang on Sunday came from the song "Cornerstone" by Hillsong.  But the verses to this song come from the old hymn "On Christ, the Solid Rock I Stand".  In the original hymn the chorus goes like this...

"On Christ the solid rock I stand
all other ground is sinking sand  
all other ground in sinking sand"

I must say, that in my 30+ years of life I found this to be true.  Those times I am standing in the darkness, those times I cannot see His face, those are the times I start to sink.  I want you to know today, that if you are standing on ANYTHING except the solid rock of Christ, you are standing on sinking ground.  

Security, peace, comfort will never come from your bank account.  Acceptance, unconditional love, belonging will never come from the people you are working so hard to please.  Your identity is not found in what you look like, who you spend your time with or what talent you have.  Christ is the solid rock, all other ground is sinking sand.  When you put your faith, your time and attention, your desires into money, popularity, sports or activities, your kids, your spouse, or your job, when these things become EVERYTHING to you, you will find yourself in darkness, you will be unable to to see his face and you will start to sink.

It is in this moment that you need to call on the name of Jesus.  He is the solid rock and He is there. Full of mercy and grace.  Ready to forgive.  Ready to take you in His arms and carry you through.

If you are surrounded in darkness right now, rest in the unchanging grace of Christ.  Call on his name, and step onto solid rock.

Friday, August 9, 2013

This Mom Thing is Hard you here that?  It's the sound of quiet.

I am really enjoying the quiet right now.  

My kids aren't at school, they are just outside playing.  And inside, it's quiet.

I should probably go outside and watch over them.  Let them see me seeing them.  Smile at all their silly tricks, ooh and ahh where appropriate.  But I just can't.  Not right now.

I am enjoying the quiet.  

I feel guilty saying this, really REALLY guilty.  But I am SO ready for school to start.  It just can't come soon enough.  I know I know, I should be treasuring these moments.  Holding on just as tight as I can.  And usually I do, but I'm kind of done with the 12-15 hour days, 7 days a week, demands of summer.  

I feel horrible saying this.  It's not that I don't love my children.  I DO.  I am fully devoted to them.  I adore being a mom, being THEIR mom.  I just need a little, consistent, non-mom time.  

There are lots of things I could blame this on.  Erik's travel schedule, the kids energy levels, my energy levels, stress, school.  But those are just excuses.  The bottom line is this mom thing gets hard sometimes.  And I have found myself in a hard spot lately.  Can anyone relate?

I read blogs from other moms about how they are dreading the start of school.  My friends facebook posts all declare how great summer is and how they just want time to stand still, and I feel guilty.  Really, really guilty.  Does no one else struggle with this?  Am I the only one having a hard time with the mom thing?  Does that make me the world's worst mom?  

In my heart I know I'm not.  I know it's just a rough time.  I love my kids.  They KNOW I love them.  They know I would do anything for them.  And I know they will grow up to fast.  And soon I will be lamenting at how I could have ever wished they were back in school.  So right now I will take a big, deep breath of quiet and I will go outside and play with my kids.  Because that is what moms do.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rack, Shack, and Benny

Yesterday I had the sweet joy of reading one of my favorite Bible stories. 

I know, technically I can read it any time I want to.  But yesterday it was my scheduled reading for the day.  So with a grin on my face, I re-read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace (or Rack, Shack and Benny if you are a Veggie Tales fan).  I'm not exactly sure why this is one of my favorite stories, I just know that it is.  Perhaps it's because it is a reminder of my childhood, growing up in a Christian family.  Perhaps it's because my children and I watched the Veggie Tales version until the tape wore out.  I'm not really sure what draws me to the story but let me tell you my favorite part.  

The background of the story real quick is this.  God's chosen people, the Jews, have sinned greatly against him and as a result the countries of Israel and Judah have both fallen.  Israel falls to the country of Assyria and Judah later falls to Babylon.  The King of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, has taken the Jewish people and their nobility back to Babylon to serve him.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are members of the Jewish nobility, and after a time of training they are made administrators over the province of Babylon.

King Nebuchadnezzar builds a huge image of gold, over 90 feet high and he wants everyone in Babylon to bow down and worship this image.  A big no-no for the people of God.  Ironically though, most of the Jewish people are OK with this plan.  The only hold-outs are Rack, Shack and Benny.  They refuse.  This infuriates the King and he orders them to be thrown into a fiery furnace where they will be burned to death.  The fire is so hot that the guards who throw the three into the fire are killed by the heat.  But miraculously Rack, Shack and Benny are not.  In fact when the King looks into the furnace he sees not three but four figures in the fire. He orders to have the 3 come out of the fire and they emerge without a hair on their head singed.  A true miracle.  It is a great story.  But I left out my favorite part.

Here it is, in verse 17, the King has told Rack, Shack and Benny to bow down or be thrown into the fire and they reply with this, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king..."  Wait, here it is, my VERY favorite part, and THEN they say, "...But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Did you hear that???

"But even if he does not"- even if God doesn't save us, even if God doesn't answer our prayer, even if he doesn't do what we desperately want him to do, what we know he CAN do, we will still bow only to Him.  

This story ALWAYS makes he wonder if I pray like that.  I hope I do.  There are so many things I ask God for every day, safety for my family, protection, peace, health.  The real question is not, "Will God grant me these things?", but rather, "Will I love Him just as much if He choses not to?".  Will I love God just as much, honor him as much and bow only to him when I am facing a fiery furnace? Or will I do these things only when life is easy?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew God was capable of saving them, but they didn't know if he was going to save them.  But that didn't change their devotion to Him. "Even if he does not...we will not serve your gods".  These are such inspirational words to me, this is my favorite part of the story.

My prayer today is this, "God, no matter what, even if you do not grant me what I so desperately want, I will bow only to you."

If you would like to read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace you can find it in the book of Daniel, chapter 3.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Two Different Views

Did you know that it is possible for two people to see the exact same thing in two very different ways?

This is one of the realizations I have recently made.

Erik travels for his job.  Sometimes it's a little, sometimes it's a lot.  This summer it has been A LOT!!!  This is the 5th week in a row he has been gone.

When I look at the calendar I see all the days he has been gone.  When he looks at the calendar he sees all the days he has been home.

When I look at the week I see all the activities, conversations, and things he has missed.  When he looks at the week he sees all the things he made it too.

When I look back on the day I see the hours he was gone, the meals he missed.  When he looks back on the day he sees the 15 minutes he spent with the family, the quick phone call or even quicker text.

We are looking at the same thing but we see it very differently.

I keep telling him this wouldn't be a problem if I didn't like him so much.  As it turns out, I absolutely adore the man, so I miss him when he is gone.  And the kids miss him.  And the family is incomplete.  

It's not as obvious during the school year.  When the kids spend the majority of their day at school and activities and I treasure the few hours we get together.  But it is harder in the summer when the kids and I get 12-15 hours together every day, 7 days a week.  Please don't get me wrong, I love my kids!!!  We just really notice when Dad isn't here. 

There are other times in life when two people might see the exact same thing in two very different ways.  

One person might see a beautiful new car as the ultimate joy, something to be desired, coveted and longed for, something worth going deeply into debt for.  Others might see it as a burden, monthly payments that must be met, a material possessions that quickly loses value.

One person might see the big beautiful new house as a symbol of success, proof that they have made it.  Others see it as more rooms to clean and more expense to take care of.

One person might see Christianity as a list of rules that need to be followed.  A way of living that takes away all forms of joy and relaxation.  Others see it as the only way to eternal life, a life of joy and relaxation for all eternity.  

One person might see Jesus as a wise man, a prophet or possibly even the Christ, but not someone who will impact THEIR life.  Other see Jesus as the way, the truth and the life.  A man who gave up everything to ensure THEIR forgiveness, and because of that, they will gladly give up their life here on earth and devote it fully to him.

It is amazing to  me how two people can see the exact same thing in two very different ways.