Where is God When we Fall?

goal

Soccer season is in full swing. Early morning games on the weekends make us yearn for the off season until we arrive on the open field moistened with dew. The air is chilled and there is an underlying hope that this game will be epic. It wasn’t any different this weekend. Parents stood there with coffee as the girls began their warm-up routine. They had to win or tie to make the finals. After an hour, the team came away with another win. Oh it wasn’t an easy win, they had to fight for it making the victory that much sweeter. In the end, it moved them into a tie for first place. Their only reward was facing the aggressive and sometimes dirty team again. Regardless, they marched to the next battle.

Four games in two days will wear out even the most physically fit person. But these girls didn’t show any signs of exhaustion. They went to the field determined to win. They knew the championship was within reach because they had tied this team the day before. It was a tough game. The girls were aggressive, insulting and obnoxious but our team charged on. Every girl on that field fought hard and when their opponent scored, they fought even harder.

The score was 1-0 with the opposing team ahead. The clock was running out when our striker got the ball and headed for the goal. She outran their defenders but only by a few steps. We held our breath. This was it. When she made this goal she would tie the game pushing the deciding factor to penalty kicks. She planned her attack glancing toward the defenders when all of the sudden she tripped. She fell to her knees sitting on the ball. Her moment was over. The hope of a tie score had diminished as the ref blew his whistle giving the other team a free kick. Our striker was devastated. Those of us cheering her on fell silent.

My girl’s team lost. They finished in second place even though they played well. The coach worked hard to encourage them but their disappointment was obvious. Our striker hung her head refusing to be consoled. Her Dad, knowing her regret, made his way to her. Lifting her head, she looked at her father. Immediately her eyes flooded with tears. That tough young lady stood there and cried as her father held her.

Life is a battle. It’s hard to balance all we have to do. We have demands placed on us. There are things we are required to do. We struggle day in and day out to do the right thing, to have the right attitude and to honor Christ with our lives. Some days are victorious. Others we want to forget. But always, and I mean always, whether in joy or in pain, our Father is there. He celebrates with us and He comforts us when we fall down. There is nothing that can keep Him from coming to us because His deepest desire is to be with us.

As you walk through this week, know He walks with you. He is cheering you on. He is for you. He will guide you and show you the way. And when you trip and fall, He will offer you a hand up and a shoulder to cry on. He’s that kind of Father.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;  though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

(Psalm 37:23-24 NIV)

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Parenting ~ Pointing out Selfishness

speck

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 ESV)

“I’m still kind of mad at him for going on all of the rides without me,” Jonah admitted. His friend had invited us to an evening at a water park. Jonah’s cast was still on and he knew he might not be able to go on the rides. We wrapped it up, making it waterproof and he wore a shirt to cover. He was allowed to ride some of the rides but others required him to go shirtless. This was a bit disappointing, but a little is better than nothing, right?

Jonah rode the rides he was allowed and after a couple of hours was ready to go home. But he had this nagging resentment toward his friend. His friend rode all of the rides leaving Jonah behind. He reasoned, “If it were me, I would have stayed with him.” I know he probably would have. He’s thoughtful like that. Although a couple of weeks had passed, Jonah still struggled to forgive.

Jonah and I had a long talk. We talked about friendship, forgiveness and selfishness. We talked about what he expected from his friend and how unreasonable it was. And I pointed out he was being selfish. You see, Jonah considered his friend the selfish one. Jonah wanted his friend to forgo his desires and only think of him. After I explained it, Jonah got the picture. He was so consumed with his hurt feelings, he didn’t think of his friend.

No matter how old you get, the same feelings rise up in us. It goes against our grain to think of others before ourselves. It’s natural to want what we want and become angry when we don’t get it. It can turn into a pity party if we’re not careful. Self examination is important. The only one we should be comparing ourselves to is Jesus. He proved to be the ultimate Unselfish Servant. That’s what we should be striving for. If we focus on Him, we won’t have time to reach for the specks in another’s eye.

Parenting~Letting Go

Angels Unseen by: Ron DiCianni

Angels Unseen by: Ron DiCianni

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:44 ESV)

Today is the last day of school for two of my children. My son that attends public school will be finished next week. It’s a time of celebration and a time to look back over the last year. As always, we have had our ups and downs and we have survived another year.

This week in particular has been a busy week. One child had an awards ceremony and concert. Another had orientation because he’s taking college classes next semester. And the third had tryouts for soccer. We have been running all week and I am exhausted. But it’s a good kind of exhaustion. This year in particular, my kids have thrived where they were. Oh don’t get me wrong, they have had their struggles. We have had our conflicts. I have had to be the “mean mom” and push them but I have to admit, I’m proud of their accomplishments.

Parenting kids at this age can be tricky. You want them to become more independent, but are afraid they will make poor choices. Let’s be honest here, they will make stupid decisions. But that isn’t the end of the world. You see, God takes those bad choices and teaches them. We don’t like to see our kids suffer the consequences. We take it as a reflection of our parenting skills. Our greatest fear is for our children to fail miserably for the whole world to see. This fear propels us to control every situation that touches their lives. We are afraid, so we hold them back.

I was reminded this week of God’s love for my children. We walked through difficult circumstances but God led us. He didn’t leave us hanging. He offered wisdom, guidance and a whole lot of grace. I am letting go of control a little at a time. Sure, I still have to push them. Yes, I hold them accountable. But mostly, I work to encourage them. They are going to fail but I don’t want them to quit. I want them to endure. I want them to pick themselves up when they fall and move on with their new found wisdom.

Keep praying for your children and let them go into God’s hands. He will take good care of them.

Parenting ~ Sin and Grace

jonah & Karoline

My favorite picture of them!

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:4 NIV)

Parenting teens and preteens is not an easy task. You have to be on your toes, understand your children and pray for the patience of Job. It can be filled with hormonal driven drama. As much as I hate to admit it, this is reluctantly becoming my favorite time in parenting. All of my kids are at the point where we can have deep discussions about things and they actually understand. They are beginning to connect the dots between God and their lives and circumstances around them. This is a time in their lives when they don’t just talk about God, they experience Him.

A few weeks ago, the twins committed the same sin in the same week. My daughter first, then my son cheated. For some, this is no big deal, but for me it’s not acceptable. Cheating, as with any sin, becomes easier and easier to commit if left unresolved. So, in both cases, I made them own up to their mistake. I made them both write apology letters to their teachers explaining their actions, why they were wrong and ask for forgiveness. I wanted them to understand that sin can have far-reaching effects.

In both cases, their teachers responded with grace. My daughter’s teacher (she attends a private Christian school) took her aside and talked about what happened. She didn’t have to, but she used the opportunity to minister to my daughter. Karoline still had to accept the consequences, but her relationship with her teacher is different. The act of asking for forgiveness and offering it changes our perspective. Although Jonah’s experience was not the same, his teacher was thankful for the apology and offered forgiveness as well. My hope was for Jonah and Karoline to become sensitive to their sin and confess it rather than let it fester. In the end, they learned a priceless lesson on grace.

The scripture this week talked about the persecuted church which scattered and shared the gospel “wherever they went”. This story about my children, sin and forgiveness is the gospel. We are all sinners, Jesus forgives and we are reconciled. Preparing preteens and teens for the world is challenging. My desire is not for them to be perfectly behaved individuals; rather godly young adults. I am learning this takes a tremendous amount of patience, forgiveness and grace. I am thankful for the people God placed in our lives to help us instill these values in our children.

They Lost Hope

 

Officer German killed in the line of duty

Officer German killed in the line of duty

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.(1 Cor. 13:7 NASB)

I had heard the story on the news all week long. An officer was killed by two runaway teenagers. They had left behind suicide notes and were on a mission to end their lives. They came in contact with an officer, who no doubt was trying to help them but instead lost his life. Although I had seen the story on the news, seeing our church parking lot full of police cars made the story real.

I was dropping my son off for youth group when the scene caught my attention. I drove away in tears. So many lives have been altered by this event. In a split second, three lives were ended and numerous others were impacted. My heart grieves for the officer and the family left behind. I am also saddened that two young people felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore. They felt compelled to end their very young lives. They had no hope.

I don’t personally know any of the people involved in this tragedy. All I know is the end result. One died a hero. The others died as criminals. And it makes me sad. It hurts my heart because two young people had lost hope. They couldn’t find any reason whatsoever to continue living. They saw no future. They were not excited for things to come. Their only plan was to end their lives. Their hopelessness breaks my heart.

 I wonder how many people we come in contact with each and every day that have lost hope. And I wonder what to do about it. I just don’t know. I know there will always be those who reject the hope of Christ but we can’t quit trying. We have to continue to be a light wherever we go. It’s important to be kind and loving and considerate. But more importantly, we need to share the gospel. I’m not sure what this means in my life but I am going to pray about it. I feel like I’m not making enough of an impact. It doesn’t matter how many people we influence, there are always more who need to know the love of the SAVIOR.

Father, with so many things distracting us, help us to come back to our first love. Show us how to share your love with others. Open our eyes to those around us who need you and give us love in our hearts for those who feel hopeless.

Brandon Goode  Alex Hollinghurst

Brandon Goode
Alex Hollinghurst

 

What’s it Worth?

howrudeCast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

This morning while he was getting ready for school, Jonah commented on the rudeness of his peers. He told me what they say when he says, “Excuse me” as he tries to move past them. They call him names and show him disrespect while refusing to let him through. But he said he chooses to be polite anyway. He’s much nicer than this Mom, who probably would have given them a piece of her mind for being so unkind.

I know Jonah is where the Lord wants him. Listening to his stories can be hard but there is no doubt in my mind the Lord is sustaining him. However, I don’t think God simply wants Jonah to endure each day. I don’t think He wants that for any of us. I believe He wants him to thrive. God put Jonah there for a reason. He has a purpose for that twelve-year-old. If God is sustaining him, it’s because He wants to use him. I think God wants to show Jonah how to love the unlovable. Sound familiar?

I’m envious of Jonah and his self-control. He has much more than I would in that situation. But I think the lesson isn’t about Jonah. I think it’s about God showing His unconditional love. I think it’s about the Lord using Jonah to honor those who are disrespectful and be kind to those who are rude. I am sure his acts of politeness go unnoticed most days, but you never know. I believe, if there is even one kid who receives a kind word instead of an insult, it’s worth it.

Parenting ~ Casting Cares

fishing

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22 NIV)

This has been my verse for the week. Although I’ve not had as much time to write, I have thought about these words all week. I have especially thought about the words, “Cast your cares”. They remind me of fishing (my kids say I’m obsessed). You put your bait on the hook, throw back your pole and cast as far as you can. The bait is suspended in the water hoping to attract a fish.

The thing about fishing that’s so appealing is with every single cast there is hope. There is hope that this cast will achieve a positive outcome. Each time I throw that bait in, my hope is renewed even if I’ve been standing in the same spot for an hour. I think that’s why I have come to love this verse. No matter how many times you cast the same burden on the Lord, it always brings feelings of expectation.

There are certain prayers I pray over and over for my children. The thing I most desire for them is for them to have God rule in their hearts. I want them to run to God when they make decisions, when they are hurt and when they don’t know how to handle things. The best way I know to teach this is to remind them to “cast” their cares. Rather than always giving the answer, sometimes it’s best to offer to pray with them and for them. Let them listen for His voice. And let them make decisions based on what they believe God is leading them to do.

It is very easy for me to make all of the decisions because I don’t want them to fail. By allowing them to make choices for themselves, they will learn to rely on God. Yes, they will stumble and fall on their faces, but the goal is learning, not perfection. And no matter how many times they fail, rest assured, there will be another opportunity to cast a care upon God. Eventually, it will become natural to them.