Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mama Bear

2 Timothy 4:18 - if we are dedicated to our Lord's kingdom He will take us through every trial so He can continue to use us in building His earthly kingdom, He will bring us through to His eternal kingdom
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom . 2 TIMOTHY 4:18 

 We’ve heard the analogies, seen the cartoons, or even fulfilled the role ourselves: Mama Bear, doing whatever is needed to protect her young, no matter the cost. That protective instinct might lie dormant and unnoticed for much of our lives. Then we become a mom, and it’s as if something inside us shifts. We know without a doubt that we’ll do anything in the world for our child. No questions asked, no excuses given. How reassuring to know that God feels the same way about us.

 Many stories in the Bible tell us how God protected those who loved and followed Him. God kept the Israelites safe in the desert for forty years until they reached their new homeland. He protected armies and gave them victory over more powerful opponents multiple times. God told people how to ensure their safety when their enemies or oppressors were bent on destroying them.

The ways God protects us today might not seem so obvious or far-reaching, but that doesn’t make them less important. We’ll never know how many traffic accidents God has saved us from or how much damage was avoided when a hurricane dissipated while still far off shore. We lock our doors at night, having no idea how many thieves God steers away from our homes.

 Bad things will still happen because we live in a world full of sin. Even in bad times, though, we can thank God for teaching us through those experiences and for protecting us from worse things. We stand ready to protect our children throughout their lives, no matter how old they get. How good to know that God stands as our perfect example and gives us the courage to be Mama Bear when needed.

 Dear God, thank You for loving and protecting me in all the ways I know about, but especially for the unseen ways. I praise You for being my faithful protector. Amen . 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Time to Feast

Portfolio | MM PHOTO & DESIGN Christian verses
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” JOHN 6:35 

 It’s one of the age-old questions posed to moms around the world: What’s for dinner? Whether we’re celebrating with steak and lobster or scraping by with hot dogs or PB&J until the next paycheck, the menus all have something in common. The food staves off hunger and hopefully nourishes and strengthens our bodies.

 What we put on their plates might please our children or disappoint. Regardless, they trust us to think ahead of their needs and give them what we think is best. That’s why it’s important to ask ourselves: Are we filling their spiritual hunger on a regular basis as well? And how are we keeping ourselves filled?

 Finding time to renew ourselves spiritually can be difficult. But just like our bodies can’t survive indefinitely without food and drink, our spiritual selves will wither and fade without regular nourishment. The signs of spiritual malnourishment crop up quickly. Anxiety fills our minds. Surly words pop from our mouths. Negative thoughts control our attitudes.

 Fortunately, the cure for a hungry soul is always within reach. Sometimes it’s best approached in small steps, just like a person who hasn’t eaten for a long time starts with only a few bites of food. We can take five minutes to read a short devotional, or we can listen to Christian music while we run errands or exercise. We can choose a Bible verse to memorize each week or start a list of ways we notice God around us.

 Each little thing will build on the others until we’ve reestablished a two-way connection with God. As long as we keep that foundation in place, our souls will be satisfied. Then we can take what we’ve learned and teach it to our children so they’ll also be filled.

Lord, I usually rush to satisfy my physical hunger at the first rumbling of my stomach. Help me pay just as much attention to my spiritual hunger so I can fill myself with what matters most—You. Amen .

Friday, September 19, 2014

Best Gifts of All

God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him . JOHN 3:17

 Few things make us happier as a parent than being able to give something to our children that we know they’ll love. Whatever sacrifices we make to reach that point are worth it when we see their surprise and joy. God has gifts for us all the time, but they’re not reserved for our birthday, Christmas, or another special occasion. Some gifts are so small that we might not notice them every day, like a bird’s song or wildflowers along the road. Others are so big that we can’t ignore them, like being spared from a hurricane or tornado’s path or having a perfect but unexpected opportunity fall in our laps.

 The biggest and best gift God has given us is through His Son, Jesus. God sent Jesus to live on earth so people could learn about Him and want to follow Him. The culmination of God’s plan was for Jesus to die on the cross in our place so that we can spend eternity in heaven with God instead of being separated forever.

 Sending Jesus to earth wasn’t an easy thing for God to do, and watching Jesus die on the cross was the worst part of all. We cannot even imagine going through that as a parent. But God did it because of what it would mean in the long run—righteous sons and daughters for eternity. The joy we would have at being invited to live forever in heaven mirrored God's pleasure at giving it to us and made everything worthwhile.
 We know how much it warms our hearts to hear a sincere “thank you” from our children when we give them a special gift. Why don’t we do the same for God today?

 Dear Lord, thank You so much for giving me the best gift of all—knowledge of Your Son, Jesus, and the chance to spend eternity with You in heaven. Help me never take it for granted! Amen.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Praying for Prodigals

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” LUKE 15:20

Lauren is in a position she never imagined would be possible: she is the mom of a prodigal child. Her daughter graduated from high school, moved out of state to find a job, and never contacted her family again. There was no big fight, no struggle with rebellion, no reason given for the change. Her daughter simply moved on with her life and out of theirs.

Repeated searches to find her have failed. Attempted communications through people who might know where she is have been dead ends. All Lauren and her husband can do is pray. They continually ask God to protect their daughter and to remind her of their love. They hold on to the hope that she might have a change of heart and return to them one day.

Most of us will never know the extreme pain involved with having a prodigal child. Unfortunately, the same can’t always be said for our relationship with God. Our closeness with God goes through different phases. At times we find ourselves excited about everything connected with our faith. We plan time to read the Bible and pray, we look forward to church each Sunday, we focus on following God’s directions. Then, for whatever reason, we enter a not-so-close phase. Other things fill our days, and we drift away from God. If something extreme happens, we might consciously turn our backs on God and pretend He’s not a part of our lives at all.

Whatever we may think or feel, God is never out of our lives. Just like Lauren and other parents of prodigals are eager to welcome their children back home, God will wait for us however long we’re away. He always says “yes” when we want to come back to Him.

Dear God, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have a prodigal child, yet I do the same thing to You more often than I’d like to admit. Forgive me for when I turn away. Thank You for always waiting for me. Amen .

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A True Reflection

The Lord who is Spirit makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into his glorious image. [2 Corinthians 3:18]
So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord . 2 CORINTHIANS 3:18

Before our children are born, we enjoy imagining how they’ll look. And later, people seem to enjoy sharing whether they think the children favor us or our husband, or are a good blend of both. The truth is, though, that our children’s appearances change as they grow.

The same should be true of our inward appearances—they should change because of our relationship with God. As humans, we’re all made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:27). As Christians, we’re meant to be a reflection of God through our thoughts, actions, and beliefs. We won’t ever be a perfect reflection of God because we make mistakes. Sin tempts us and sometimes traps us just like anyone else. But every time we back up from the wrong place, ask for forgiveness (from God and anyone else involved in the situation), and try again, the image of God within us shines through a little brighter.

 Our children see God in us when we apologize for shortcomings, respect their opinions, or pray with them. Strangers see God in us when we hold our tempers instead of reacting in frustration when our children annoy us in public. Other parents see God in us when we share each other’s burdens and support each other through difficult times.

We don’t need to try so hard to show God in our lives that we nearly blind people with our efforts. Day-to-day authentic attempts to follow God will reflect Him in just the right ways so that others will be drawn to us (and God) over time instead of driven away. Let’s honor our heavenly Father by challenging ourselves to reflect God to others each time we see them.
 Dear Lord, I love You and want others to learn about You through what they see in me. Show me how I can be a true reflection of You in every situation. Amen .

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Who’s Really Listening?

“Listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you.” 2 CHRONICLES 6:19

Some days, it feels like no matter what we say or who we say it to, no one hears us. Our husband and children are caught up in a favorite TV show or have their earbuds locked in place. The boss is focused on sales figures or is anxious about meeting with a prospective client. Our friend is too wrapped up in planning her daughter’s wedding to notice much else. It makes us grateful that we can hear ourselves speaking, so we know at least one person is listening. Even if it’s just us.

Those days can be drive-us-crazy frustrating, but what if we look at it a different way? We’re guaranteed to have at least one listener other than ourselves whenever we speak, and He’s the best listener of all. God never slumbers or sleeps (see Psalm 121:3), which means He’s always there when we’re ready to talk. He hears each prayer about whatever’s on our minds (see Psalm 66:19). Whether we’re talking through options as we try to reach a decision or muttering to ourselves about our shopping list, we’re talking—and God is listening.

 The next time a “no one’s listening to me” day rolls around, it can be a chance to remind ourselves that God is always listening, no matter the day or time or what we’re trying to tell someone. It might even be a good idea to walk away from everyone else and start our conversation with God by venting about our day or how we’re feeling ignored. Once that frustration is off our minds, we can say whatever we tried to tell the people around us. And then, we listen. Because we never know what God might have to share with us when it’s His turn to talk.
Thank You, Lord, for always listening to me whenever I’m ready to talk, even when no one else seems to pay any attention. Help me turn those days into special times to communicate with You. Amen.