Holding Hamsters, "Onions", and Grudges- Part Deux

So most of this is a reblog from my Easter post from last year. I was going to write a new one… until my beloved middle son (the same one as below!) pulled another ‘easter surprise’ for me a few days ago- and the feelings were so similar to this time last year that I figured I’d just add the story to this one (feel free to check out the original post here!). That boy sure knows how to show me Jesus… lol. But let’s start with what happened last year…

(April 2018) Over the Easter weekend a tremendous and long-awaiting event occurred at the Douglas house. Jake came to visit us for the weekend! My sons in particular had been looking forward to this time together since last fall when we heard that there was a chance he might come visit. Since then almost every weekend came the expected, "Is Jake coming this week?" So, after many months, the special visit arrived. We picked Jake up after school on Thursday, settled him in his cozy little room at the house while both boys busily made plans for the long, 4-day weekend. Before long, all 96 hours of the Easter weekend were lovingly and thoroughly planned for Jake and our family. Quite frankly the first 20 hours were spectacular. Jake fit in with the family wonderfully, participating in all the kid's activities, eating what we gave him, and generally being quite pleasant. Our visit was going swimmingly.

Until he disappeared.

Or rather, I should say, until my 4-year Jonah old let him out of his cage....

And just like that, Jake the hamster was gone. The class pet, the children's Kindergarten mascot, who I was ultimately in charge of keeping, well... alive.... was MIA.

Before I knew it, my generally low-key, tidy world (I write this with the caveat that I have 3 children under 6, a dog, and a cat <who's role in this story will soon become apparent>, so take "low-key" and "tidy" for what you will...) was turned upside down. Instead of making dinner, I made non-lethal hamster traps (Google it, it's a thing). Instead of cleaning my house, I searched my house. And quite frankly I was irate. I was furious. Not that the hamster was lost necessarily, I was angry that my son (who we had already caught messing with the cage multiple times) had disobeyed me once again. I was 1003% O.V.E.R. him!

Me, who is used to high energy, high adrenaline, high trauma work... was seeing RED at my son's defiance. I was fuming. I called my husband, telling him to prepare himself for my mood and <his> child when he got home. I prepared for a long night, praying for a miracle; reasoning that it was Good Friday after all and surely if Christ could take the sins of the world upon Himself than certainly He could find and restore a rodent back into his cage. (Yes, my prayer was actually and literally that I would wake up and find little Jake happily and safely back inside his quarters... I know, I know... one can never accuse me of thinking or praying small!)

Fast forward to Saturday morning and Jake was found. Actually our cat Fievel was the one who discovered him and brought him to me like a good cat should. I, rather, found more specifically pieces of him. All over my bathroom floor. #goodmorningtome

I would have been mad except I literally don't think my anger from the previous night could have gotten any higher. I was legitimately perhaps the angriest I'd ever been at one of my children. The fallout from his decision to defy me continued on and it was not lost on me how much of a headache this visit was turning out to be. It was totally lost on Jonah though- he seemed to not even remember how or when he had opened the cage, only that he had. And though very sorry to see the bits of Jake all over my tile floor, he clearly hadn't made the connection that it was his disobedience that caused the hamster's untimely death. It was infuriating that I couldn't make him understand, and though he is only 4, I found myself resenting the ensuing expense and time to find another flippin' rodent, the embarrassing text to the teacher about the situation, and generally living down what, for anyone else that's not in the situation, is a hysterical story (the humor was not lost on me.) I resented him for it. Jonah could do nothing to fix the situation or even help it... an acknowledgment of guilt would have been nice at least. I was still angry.

Until my husband told me what had happened the previous night at church.

While I was busy (read: frantically) searching the house, christian-cussing under my breath about spending Friday night looking for a missing hamster who wasn't even ours... my husband had taken Jonah to a Good Friday walk-through at our church. I'm pretty sure it was more to ensure the tot's safety from my wrath than for his spiritual sake, but nevertheless at the end of the walk-through, having learned all about what happened to Jesus before and during his crucifixion, there was an opportunity to nail sins or burdens on a life-sized cross. When Gabe ask Jonah if there were any sins he needed to tell Jesus about he apparently replied, "I lost Jake." And taking a way-too-big hammer with a fresh nail, he nailed that black piece of paper his daddy had written his little sin on to the cross.

Que: massive mom-regret and a wee bit of self-loathing...

I was hit with a tidal wave of conviction. 24 hours later and I hadn't forgiven him yet, I was still dealing with the fall-out of his sins and disobedience and I desperately wanted him to understand what he had done.

It doesn't matter Bethany.

He doesn't understand anymore than you do of what sins you've committed. He and you don't need to... that's for Me to deal with, just as you are for him.

He asked for forgiveness. I have forgiven him.

You need to as well.

Fast-forward to several days ago and Jonah hit again. I was out in the yard, bemoaning how much yard-work there was to do before the mowing could commence, when I discovered a random flower bulb laying in the yard. Hmm… that’s interesting I thought, wonder where that came from. I continued cleaning up sticks when another wayward bulb appeared in front of me… another.. and then another. I looked up from my work towards my flower bed to discover that every. single. bulb. had been yanked out. ALL of them. I mean the entirety of my beautiful spring bulbs had been unceremoniously dumped onto the ground. In this garden, around that tree, in the front beds…. A.L.L. of them.

I flipped. I didn’t yell, I didn’t scream, I simply fell to the ground crying hot angry tears. I was done. Capitol D O N E done.

Now let me take a step back. I love to garden. I’d do it a lot more often if I got the chance. But it’s not like a live and breathe flowers. But we had just taken in a new, medically-complex foster kid, a backlog of work and appointments had been piling up in the interim of our transitioning her to our house. My mom-schedule (as all are) is tighter than a toddler’s mouth trying to feed him green beans. I had no extra time to replant dozens and dozens and DOZENS of bulbs. (Did I mention he pulled every.single.one?? Cue that christian cussing again.) Something inside broke a little bit. The recent days of my life had been those kind where nothing comes easily and everything takes 15 times longer than it should.

This day had just reached the “you have GOT to be kidding me!” phase.

Somewhere in the blur I ascertained that Jonah and a friend had pulled them all thinking they were onions. Knowing that onions ‘would make the flower garden smelly’ they took it upon themselves to correct the impending oderous problem.. In the moment, somewhere in my mind’s eye I acknowledged that to be a relatively fair deal. They weren’t being malicious… just curious and impulsive little boys (also in my minds-eye… curiosity killed the cat… but I digress.) I didn’t have the strength to deal with it- so I did what all professional moms do- I left the situation to dad.

I didn’t go to bed mad that night. I went to bed down. I went to bed sorrowful that I couldn’t seem to catch up and now (like it matters) all my beautiful flowers that I was so looking forward to enjoying would miss this season (they may even miss next spring and the next… because let’s be honest, it’s not like i’m going to make the 5-year-old replant them and I certainly have no time to right now.) It wasn’t a big deal. In the grand spectrum of eternity it didn’t matter at all. But it was the proverbial straw for me that day. And I wept bitter tears of exhaustion, sorrow, and not a little bit of discouragement.

The next morning, my blue boy knew I was still depressed. So, he did what this child does best- he picked me a flower. A big, beautiful, yellow tulip plucked out of the yard as his peace offering. It soothed my soul to see his little eyes peering up at me and that huge smile on his face as he told me that “this will make you feel better mommy!”

God is good to us. Even when we’re behind and running to catch up. He’s sees our shortcomings, our sorrow, our mourning of even the smallest things like pulled up “onions”. I think He must smile down lovingly, perhaps with a slight Fatherly smirk now and again as His children try so desperately to ‘help'.

And for those times when we royally but innocently mess up, His arms and smile open wide. Much like mine were when I found out that my tulip was the only one in the entire yard that (had) remained….

The Four Most Important Things Every Foster Family Needs To Know- Lessons From The Fostering Front

We recently took in and subsequently gave up two foster sons, all in the space of about 5 weeks. We loved a lot, we cried a lot, we prayed a lot, and boy did we learn a lot! Despite all the trainings and certifications, I wished that a few of these hard-won lessons had been told to us beforehand. As Gabe and I have reflected on everything over the last few weeks, as we’ve slowly brought our family back to normalcy (if there is such a thing), it occurred to me that getting what we learned out to the masses may not be a terrible idea. At the risk of being redundant, repetitive, too obvious, and re-inventing the wheel I’m going to assume that (like us) others may not have had these lessons taught to them anywhere in the vast fostering-world. So, without further ado, in no particular order, I give you my top four things you need to know but never have been told….

(To get a full-explanation of the entire situation, please read first blog of this set which sets the stage (and all the GodStuff that happened) for you.

It’s okay to say ‘no’.

Let me put it another way for those who don’t like to be negative- sometimes your best ‘yes’… is to say ‘no’. As most foster parents have no doubt discovered, there is no lack of calls to take kids. And despite the fact that we’d all take them all if possible- you need to hear from me (as I <clearly> speak for all authorities in this) that it is okay to say ‘no’ to some of these calls. I hate saying ‘no’, I know you do too. But I’ve come to find out that if my saying ‘yes’ robs someone else the opportunity to say ‘yes’ instead, if it disrupts my marriage, our family dynamic, my ongoing other ministries… then I’ve made the wrong call. Now don’t get me wrong, fostering at best will always be a <bit> of a disruption- children, whether bio or not, all tend to do that. Don’t misunderstand me… there will always be some stretching and adjustment that comes with each new placement. But if you’re already maxed- in time, energy, resources, bedrooms, carseats, finances, patience, etc. then ‘no’ may be a better and healthier Call. Kids need parents who have the time and energy to pour into them, love on them, lead and disciple them… an already stressed out mom or dad is not helping anyone. I’m giving you permission, here and now, to say ‘no’ if needed… and not feel terrible.

Discernment and prayer is key here as you seek God in who He wants in your house. Prayer is our go-to always for new placements. Sometimes He says ‘no’ to what would seem obvious great fits, other times He says ‘yes’ to the proverbial square-peg-in-a-round-hole placements. But let Him lead your decision-making, He won’t lead you astray.

You.Are.Not.Superman. It’s okay to ask for help.

I’m totally doing to pot and kettle thing here because I am the WORST at asking for help. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious pride thing or that it doesn’t even occur to me that I need it or maybe I’m just too freakishly busy to even have time to stop and ask… whatever the case may be- I’m sure some of you can relate. But I’m telling you right here and now that you not only will want help but you will have times when you need it (whether you want it or not.) Put away the cape and red undies and don’t try to be Superman- you’re not. Neither am I (hard as it is to admit!) So ASK .FOR. HELP. when necessary. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing assistance in this fostering world. No one on the planet, especially those who love you, are expecting you to do all of it on your own. That’s an impossible task and one that no one is up for. So plan on needing, wanting, begging for help at times.

For those of you who still need a push- think of it this way. There are many people who are not called to foster but still want to support those who do (by the way, send them this blog on ways to best help you) By ‘never needing help’ (insert eyeroll..) you’ve robbed them of an opportunity to serve you and the Lord. Throw these poor people a bone… and maybe some laundry or yardwork to do….

Sometimes your part to play is short and temporary- and that’s okay.

Some placements are long, some are short. The average length in care here in Missouri runs around 18 months. We’ve had our current for 10 months, the last two were about five weeks, the previous before that was less than 24 hours, and somewhere in there we were placed with one that after four days of preparation we never did get. It varies- and that’s okay. I used to get super frustrated with unpredictable length of time. I’m a planner and organizer and not knowing is generally irritating and at times downright infuriating (can I get an amen?) but I’ve learned that there is purpose and a plan in all of it. Don’t ever feel that your time with a child is not without value. You are an important link in their chain, no matter how small, and each second you spend loving on that kiddo will echo in their hearts and in eternity (for more on that, read part one of this blog here). Spend what precious moments you have in the best quality ways you can, and leave the quantity to the Lord. You just never know what He’s cooking up for these little ones!

If it’s not working out, it’s okay to make the call and give them up.

If you’ve read the sister post to this one, you know that our last placement was short and not-terribly sweet. I struggled with coming to my limits and desperately needing to give them back. I felt like a failure, a horrible foster mom, and an utter fraud. I figured if we couldn’t keep these kids, who seemed on paper a perfect fit for us and us for them, then surely no one else could either. I was simultaneously prideful and completely ashamed of myself- a very weird place indeed to be.

I think I had unwittingly fallen into the slightly martyr-like mindset that many foster families do. We are doing great work. We have a worthy and admirable ministry going on. It’s usually rough, it’s always hard. And I fell into a trap of pride within the struggle. Once that decision to take them was made, we put our heads down, our noses to the grindstone, and we were gonna keep them until the end… come hell or high water. We were committed. In it for the long run. Ready to bear these little burdens until someone took them off our backs.

I just never thought I’d be the one to ask to have them taken off.

The best piece of advice a fellow foster-mom told me was that it’s okay to say ‘uncle.’ For my sanity, the sake of my marriage, the health and welfare of the other children we had… I needed to see the situation for what it was- which was not working or at least not working well- and make the call.

It wasn’t failure- it was honest. I wasn’t a fraud- I was human.

I really, really needed to hear that. Maybe you will too someday. If it’s not working, for whatever reason, it’s okay to make that call.

I hope these thoughts are ones that help release you (if needed) from so much of the emotional gravity that fostering holds. I needed to learn them for my heart and head and I’m so happy that we had people who had gone before to lead us down these paths. If you are a foster parent, I’d love to hear your comments on these or others you’d suggest- be sure to comment below!

Be blessed!

Flowers Among the Snow - The Untimeliness of a Timely God

For Those Who Live In Southwest Missouri, We Get To Enjoy Truly All Four Seasons Of The Year... Sometimes In One Day. I Kid You Not, This Weather In This Part Of The Country Is Downright Bipolar At Times. Case In Point, it’s March and it snowed last night yet it was in the 60s last week. It's Kind Of A Thing Around These Parts. Being March and with (supposed) warmer weather right around the corner All Our Bulbs And Flowering Trees have started sprouting.  It's A Welcome Sign Of Spring And Refreshment For Those Of Us Yearning For Warmer Days. Church was cancelled this morning due to the snowy weather and between our family’s pancake breakfast, a rousing game of hide-and-seek with the older three kids, and some school-work I stealthily slipped in (go me!), I was able to spend a few quiet moments looking at the snow on the new sprouts and flowers. It Was Beautiful To See The Juxtaposition Of The Snow Over The Flowers- And Striking Because We Don't See The Clash Of Seasons Like This Very Often.

THE BEAUTY OF THE VISUAL IS IN THE UNIQUE AND RARE PRIVILEGE IT IS TO WITNESS

SOMETHING THAT OCCURS 'OUT OF SEASON'.

THE PICTURE IS NOTHING SHORT OF MIRACULOUS AND CARRIES A CERTAIN SENSE OF

SUPERNATURAL TOUCH WITH IT.

Those of you who know me or have followed me for any length of time, know that I've Felt Quite ‘Out Of Season’ for going on 3 years now. God Has Me Planted In A Very Odd Place At A Very Odd Time In My Personal Life And Professional Career. In My Limited Capacity, It Makes No Sense, it’s generally uncomfortable, and I don’t particularly <love> the spot He’s got me in. And Yet I Know Without A Doubt That I'm Being Obedient. In Fact, The Doors That He's Had Me Walk Through Have Been Slowly Coming, Bit By Bit.. He Even Gave The Extra Grace To Spur My Spirit Very Early On That These Changes Would Be Happening. So It Is Not A Surprise... And Yet The Timing Is Still Utterly Confounding. The ministries He’s placed in my lap and other’s He’s taken out of it seem to make no sense.

I feel very much like those new, lovely little flowers… full of promise of beauty and purpose, yet bewildered by the temperature and scenery of my current spot. Ministries, especially my writing and speaking (which is so very, very my heart and desire) has needs-be been put on the back-burner to make way for another ministry that I <like> but is certainly not my heart. (Feel free to read more about our fostering and that whole situation here.) A second mission and heart I had and was doing as the medical director for Camp Barnabas God also asked me to put down and quit. I did willingly, but again, not without some questions about His timing.

Yes, I am very, VERY out of season right now. My head and heart’s desires have been put away and I’m doing my darnedest to be obedient to what God would ask of me instead.

Some days I’m pretty good, others I question. As I’m sure many of you do as well.

From the beginning of this season, with God moving me away from flight nursing on the very week that my first book Helicopter Mom was launching (believe me, the irony was not lost on me- read this original blog about that particular week…) There Is A Ton That Doesn't Make Any Sense About It, Especially At This Particular Time, But God Could Not Have Opened More Doors More Fully Than He Did. Being Obedient Was Easy Because He Made The Path So Clear... Even When The Instructions Were A Bit On The "Whaaaat?!?" Side Of Things.

I'd Like To Think That The Snow We Have Was Sent Just For Me As A Reminder Of His Sovereignty. The Flowers Don't Question When And Where To Grow, They Just Obey Their Instructions. The Snow Doesn't Argue With God That It's Too Late In The Season To Fall, It Just Obeys His Command. All Of Creation, Nature, The Weather, The Seasons... They Grow And Thrive, Come And Go... At His Command. Without Questions, Without Raised Eyebrows Of The Timing, Without Arguing That Something Is 'Out Of Season' Or Makes No Sense. As A Result, A Rare And Beautiful Clash Of Seasons Occurs- One That Stops People In Their Tracks To Enjoy The Scenery And Marvel At The Supernatural Hand That Brought Together Such Unlikely Events. I need to remember and use their example. It always astounds me how much of an example in obedience nature can be to us.

Today I Want To Encourage You Dear Ones, For Those Of You Who May Be Feeling Like You've Been Planted In A Bizarre Or Untimely Season. Search Your Path, If You Know You're Walking In Obedience Then Take Heart That God Is Using This Unique Planting For Something Greater... Something More Beautiful... Something Striking That The World Will Stop And Take Note Of. God’s timing is always perfect, even when it seems untimely. His path for you is always straight, even if it feels like a roller-coaster. His instructions to you always have a plan and a purpose and we would do well to obey, even in the face of incredulity.

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11

When Ringpops Stand Between Heaven and Hell

I Was Teaching A <Rather> Competitive Class Of 4th Thru 6th Graders In Our Wednesday Night Church Program a few years back. When I Was Met Head-On With The Very Real Phenomenon Of This Current 'Everybody Wins' Culture. We Had Been Playing What Amounted To An Elementary Version Of The $10,000 Pyramid (An Oldie But A Goodie) With 2 Teams; And, As All Competitions Tend To Have... There Was A Winning Team And A Losing Team. You Know? Like Has Been For Thousands Of Years... WINNERS And LOSERS.

Before We Started I Had Promised The Class That The Winning Team Would Get Ring Pops When The Game Was Over. Obviously With Such A Prize On The Line This Was Serious Business. Holy Moly These Kids Were Ruthless! In An Attempt To Enable The Teams The Ability To Give Grace, There Were Multiple Instances Where The Answer To The Question Was Not <Quite> Right But Was Pretty Close- In These Circumstances I Made The Team Unanimously Decided Whether To Bestow A Point To The Other Team Or Not.

In One Instance Team 1 Decided To Give Team 2 The Point.

Later Team 1 Lost.

And Just A Bit Of Chaos Ensued. The Vast Majority Of The Team 1 Members Were Mad They Lost, And Even More Furious That They Had Given That Extra Point To The Opposing Team... A Point, That In The End Caused Them To Lose. I Had Every. Single. Teammate. Come Up To Me Within The Next 20 Mins And Ask For A Ring Pop Too. Down to the last member, they all fully expected a prize.

"Can't We All Just Have A Ring Pop?"

It Became Somewhat Comical (and alarming!) chorus Of 'Broken Hearts' That Followed Me Around.

Because I'm Mean, I Told Every Single One Of Them "No." No, Children, You CAN'T All Have A Ring Pop. The Rules Were Set At The Beginning, You Knew What They Were, You Played The Game, You Lost. You Don't Get A Ring Pop. They Were Scandalized That I Would Deny Them The Prize (And I'm Not Entirely Sure There Aren't A Couple Still Mad At Me...)

But, As I Stated, I'm Mean. I Laid Out The Rules And I Kept My Promise In Upholding Them.

As A Mom Of Four young kids I Am Increasingly Alarmed By Our Culture Of 'Everybody Wins', 'Everybody Gets A Prize', 'Participation Awards For Everyone!' I see the culture, even within the Christian community becoming more and more willing to bend rules (or in some cases break them altogether)- however macro or micro. But more than anything, I Fear That We Are Setting Our Kids, Our Teams, All The Next Generations For Absolute Spiritual Failure. ETERNAL FAILURE PEOPLE! I'm Talking HELL Here....

This Is Not Simply that We're Raising Generations Of Soft People, Or That They're Weak, Or That No One Has A Back-Bone Or Knows The Meaning Of Hard Work. I do not necessarily think that and it’s missing the point. No, This Is MUCH Deeper And The Root Of WHY We Can't Allow This Culture Of Prizes To Continue.

Because The Cold, Hard Truth Is That from an eternal perspective God Doesn't Give Out Participation Awards, He Doesn't Give Second Place, He's Not Planning On Changing The Rules Of Heaven And Hell.

We Either Play By The Rules He's Set And Go To Heaven Or We Go To Hell.

It's That Simple.

We Can't “All Get A Ring Pop” If We're On The Losing Team.

I Know It Sounds Harsh, It's Sounds Judgmental, I'm Sure I'll Get Some Flack For Writing About This. But Scripture Is Clear Dear Ones! There Are Rules, A Way To 'Win' And A Way To 'Lose'. There Is No In-Between. There Is Heaven And There Is Hell.

Romans 3:23 ...For All Have Sinned And Fallen Short Of The Glory Of God.

Romans 6:23 ...For The Wages Of Sin Is Death, But The Gift Of God Is Eternal Life.

The most confounding thing about this for many of these youths, and honestly much of the modern-day church in general is that God set it up like this because He loves us. His perfect love is also perfectly just- and regardless of how we like to define ‘love’, His particular brand of love (the only one that matters) will win out in the end. And it will most definitely have eternal consequences for everyone.

The rather alarming theology that is sweeping the American church of “Love Wins” and “everybody will get to heaven in the end” (of which this idea of “everyone gets a ringpop” supports in practice if not in theology) belies a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of the very nature of God. His perfect love IS perfect because it is also completely just. His love needs be absolute in it’s adherence to rules, to the guidelines He’s set in place, to the very Scriptures He’s put before us. To change such rules would contradict Himself with Himself- which of course is not gonna happen. Real love doesn’t have no boundaries, real love doesn’t bend or break rules, real love disciplines for the sake of the greater (i.e. eternal) lesson, real love sacrifices pleasure for integrity, being liked for being Biblical.

Romans 5:8 But God Demonstrates His Own Love For Us In This, While We Were Still Sinners, Christ Died For Us. 

Romans 10:9-10 If You Declare With Your Mouth, “Jesus Is Lord,” And Believe In Your Heart That God Raised Him From The Dead, You Will Be Saved. For It Is With Your Heart That You Believe And Are Justified, And It Is With Your Mouth That You Profess Your Faith And Are Saved.

Romans 10:13 ...For Everyone Who Calls On The Name Of The Lord Will Be Saved.

For those who may bemoan the seeming unfairness of this all, please take a look again at those verses. You See What The Bible Is Doing Here? It's Laying Out The Rules Of The 'Game' The Rules Of Our Eternal Life. It Tells Us How To Win. The Really Nice Thing Here Is That EVERYONE Can Be On The Winning Team. It's Simply A CHOICE To Be On It!

But Stay With Me Here, I Want To Speak To Why It's So Dangerous If Our Children And These Generations Of 'Everybody's A Winner' Don't Get A Clear Message From Us. Be Perpetuating This Fallacy, We Encourage The Idea That People Will Eventually Get The Reward, Even Just For Showing Up Or For Simply Participating in The Game; That At The Very Least There's A Door Prize At The End. That's Simply Not True When Eternal Consequences Are At Stake.

God Doesn't Give Participation Points at the doorsteps of heaven- at least not where spending eternity is concerned. Sitting In Church, Doing Good Deeds, Volunteering To Worthy Causes, Living A 'Good' Life, Giving That Extra Point To The Other Team To Be Nice- They Don't Count Towards Getting Into Heaven. They Just Don't.

Showing Up Doesn't Count.

Participation Doesn't Count.

Not everyone will be getting their eternal ringpops.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter Through The Narrow Gate. For Wide Is The Gate And Broad Is The Road That Leads To Destruction, And Many Enter Through It. But Small Is The Gate And Narrow The Road That Leads To Life, And Only A Few Find It.

We Have To Show Our Children That Playing By The Rules And Making The Decision To Choose The Right Team (Eternally) Is Of Utmost Importance, That Losing Will Have Some Fallout, That Not Everyone Can Be A Winner All The Time Necessarily. These Lessons Can Have Eternal Ramifications! We Have To Exemplify And Model That There Are Consequences To Losing (We Can Only Hope It's As Minor As Losing Out On A Ring Pop!) (And Also Keep In Mind That On This Side Of Heaven There Are Some GREAT Lessons To Be Learned In The Face Of Loss!) There Are Times When We Don't Get The Prize- No Matter How Hard We Worked For It Or Practiced Or Played. There Is Always Fallout From Losing- Whether We Choose To Acknowledge It Or Not.

There Will Be A Time When God Will Judge Us And Either See Christ, His Son, In Us Or Not. He's Made It Easy, He's Told Us Which Side To Choose, He's Laid Out The Rules Crystal-Clearly, There's (Thankfully) No Practice-Makes-Perfect Involved. It's Simply A Gift And There's NO Losing On God's Side!

And THAT, Dear Ones, Is The Ultimate Win. The Ultimate Prize. The Ultimate Ring-Pop!

BUT We Had To Have Played By The Rules And Picked The Winning Side.

So Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Friends, And Neighbors- Don't Give Out The Ring Pops To Everyone. Let Your Children Fail And Feel The Consequences (No Matter How Light Or Harsh) Because In The End, Their Eternities Will Be Molded By Letting Them Feel And See The Results Of The Games They Play- The Winning And The Losing. Each Has It's Own Lesson To Learn; And Those Lesson Will Follow Them Into Eternity.

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:5-11 NIV

This is a timely reblog from several years ago. Read the original one here!

Counting Joy

Joy is an odd thing. It’s hard to get my head around this feeling at times because, as we all know, feelings are fickle. As humans are feelings are almost wholly dictated by circumstances- by what is happening to or around us. We are happy when things go well, proud of accomplishments, sad with loss, frustrated with adversity, angry with injustice. Our feelings, for better or worse, usually depend on our surroundings.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And yet, in this passage, Janes tells us to take joy in trials. It’s an odd encouragement, and not a little contrary to our natural instincts.

“Count it joy”.... choose joy, find joy; our brother is telling us to determine our feelings through resolution in our minds.... not BECAUSE of our circumstances but in SPITE of them. We have to look around, take in the atmosphere and decide how we’re going to feel about it. We can stop feeling recklessly and start choosing how we feel. We don’t need to be victims of uncontrolled emotions.

Yes, we can count hard trials as unfair, be offended, angry, frustrated- that’s certainly the natural tendency of our flesh. God has set us apart for something better however; we can count it joy that God has chosen to place us within a situation where He has plans to grow us.

Dear ones, every situation that is less than ideal is an opportunity to choose joy. To determine in our minds, intentionally, to FEEL joyful- regardless of what is happening. Better yet... BECAUSE of the trial. If we are to believe in the truth that in our weakness He is made strong, then we must also acknowledge that during these hardships His purposes are to magnify Himself through us.

We can’t do that mad. We can’t do that upset. We can’t do that bitter or resentful. We can’t do that with unforgiveness.

We can’t do that if we’re not counting these trials as joy.

The best part about this is that our Heavenly Father meets us within the storm. “...do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And just like that, we have supernatural strength in the midst of the mess. Joy of our Lord glorifies Him and strengthens us as well. We only need to determine in our hearts to feel it- to know it. And by knowing Him, we can always know joy... no matter what.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear ones may I leave you today with the dictionary’s definition of joy. Meditate on its wonderful implications when viewed through the lens of the Joy of the Lord.

1a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight. b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety. 
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss. 
3 : a source or cause of delight. joy.

The Naked Truth

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Truth and Lie meet one day. Lie says to the Truth, "It's a glorious day today!" Truth looks up to the skies suspicious of Lie's comment, but ultimately sighs... for the day was really beautiful.

They spend a lot of time together, Lie mimicking Truth's behavior and mannerisms. Lie was very much taken with Truth's garments, her countenance and grace. The two ultimately arrive beside a well. Lie tells Truth, "The water is very nice, let's take a bath!" Truth, once again suspicious, tests the water and discovers that it, indeed, is very nice. They undress and start bathing.

Suddenly Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of Truth, and runs away. Alarmed and stunned, Truth comes out of the well and runs everywhere to find Lie and get her clothes back. Yet she cannot recover them, nor can she catch up with Lie- for Lie is quite fleeting and rapidly moves. Truth cannot stand the feel of Lie's clothing, they are old and rotted, unfit for the World's eyes. So Truth is left naked.

The World, seeing Truth naked, turns its gaze away with contempt and rage, rejecting her outright. No one comes to her aid because they don't like the discomfort of viewing her stark appearance or the irritation she brings by her presence. Truth is uncomfortable to the World. Poor Truth returns to the well and disappears from view, ashamed of her nakedness, cold and alone.

Since that long ago time, Lie travels around the world dressed as Truth, masquerading as light and rightness, morality, and integrity. And the world blindly accepts Lie as Truth. The World sees the outer appearance, dressed finely and attractively, unaware and careless of what actually lies beneath the clothing.

To this day Truth can be hard to find, she must be sought with intention, found with discretion, and recognized by her appearance. She is most often alone, sometimes afraid, but always in the Right. Her nakedness can be jarring for those who aren't prepared for it, but the beauty and quiet strength of naked Truth will always overcome the darkest of Lies. (Adapted from the legend of Truth and Falsehood.)

Dear ones, today I challenge you to look hard at your hearts and discern the lies that you have bought into. I pray that God would shine His light of Truth, uncomfortable is it may be to look at, on the facades that the Evil One would have you believe. Seek the Holy One through the appearances of mankind and look upon the face of what Truths are in your life. Look for Truth with intention and reject whatever facade of false ideas have taken root.

Today I want you all to step out in boldness and comment below with a lie that has entangled you and then replace that with Truth. Be bold and fearless!

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:6-8 ESV

Jean_Léon_Gerome_1896_La_Vérité_sortant_du_puits.jpeg

Truth Coming Out Of Her Well

1896 painting by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme.

Praying God's Names- A Prayer of Commitment

To finish off our Praying God's Names series... let us end with a renewed focus on all that our great Father is. We have learned and praised Him, begged Him, honored Him over this summer. Now let us commit to Him as never before!  

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Praying God's Names- Jehovah Shammah

Jehovah Shammah The Lord is There

You, my Jehovah Shammah, are the I Am is There – but where is there? As I look to your word, You are revealed. The answer comes.

You are there in creation as you make everything from nothing. You are there in the garden with Adam & Eve. You are there in the Ark with Noah. You are there with Abraham in the Covenant you make with him. You are there with Sarah as she delivers Isaac, the child of promise. You are there with Moses as he leads the people from Egypt. You are there in the tabernacle in the desert. Your glory is visible to all. You are there with the judges who govern & guide. You are there with David, a man after your heart. You are there with the prophets as they warn of judgment. You treasure your people and the pain of their idolatry tears at your heart. You promise forgiveness if the people repent of their wickedness & idolatry and return to worship you. You are there in your temple in Jerusalem – and then you withdraw your presence from the earth. You keep silent for over 400 years.

But, you return!

You are there in Jesus as he walks among us, as he sacrifices himself for us, as he rises from the dead & ascends to heaven. You are there in the disciples and apostles as they spread the good news of life in Christ. You are there in me. Because I have faith and repent, you redeem me and I am yours. Your Holy Spirit lives within me. You are there at the last battle when Satan & all evil are defeated. You are there in the new heaven & new earth when we fellowship & worship face to face for all eternity.

Yes, you are Jehovah Shammah and you are Here.

By Karen Guthrie January 14, 2009

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Tsidkenu

Jehovah TsidkenuThe Lord Our Righteousness

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. But you, oh Lord, have kept your covenant with us. Sacrifices offered cannot change the heart or make us acceptable to you, only you can do that.

You saw our failure and sent judgment. You are Jehovah Tsidkenu and in you there is hope. In your name are righteousness and the promise of grace.

In your grace we receive a new heart. We can be right with you. We can be more than good. We can be made straight. We can be what you say is right and good. We can live according to your standard.

You write your law in our heart, our innermost being. You forgive our wickedness and forget our sin. You remove our heart of stone and turn us to you. You give us a new heart and your Spirit to live within us. You enable us to walk with you, to follow your statutes and obey your laws.

You, Our Righteousness, gather us to you. You attend to us. You give us wise and able spiritual leaders. You take away all fear. You give us Jesus, who is the Righteous Branch, our Messiah. He is wisdom and justice. He will reign on the throne of David as King forever.

Though Jesus was made sin for us, by believing in Him we are made righteous in your sight. We are given a heart not made of stone. We have a new master. We are cleansed by believing in Him. By receiving Jesus, we are made right with you.

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked but you are our Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord Our Righteousness.

By Karen Guthrie January 7, 2009

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Raah

He feeds me the bread of life. He gives me rest in Him. He leads me to quiet water so I may drink of Him until I thirst no more. He restores my soul. He guides me in righteousness. I follow His safe paths. His sheep am I.

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