Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Small Steps

Just Do it OK: Pockets of Hope for Oklahoma

Deadline extended to June 30th!!

OK.  So here's another dose of honesty from me.  You know, I posted last time encouraging everyone to jump in and give a little to the people in Oklahoma following the devastating weather they experienced last week.  I was moved by the stories I saw unfold on the news, and my heart was aching just thinking about the destruction and loss they now face.  As a former teacher, I was especially drawn to the images of the two elementary schools that were completely torn apart.  I thought I had a pretty decent idea going.  Create an online fundraiser for the United Way of Central Oklahoma and their OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.  It seemed so simple, a no brainer really.  I just knew that as soon as I wrote some inspirational words and posted direct links to the fundraiser, it was a win-win.  Help others and act in faith.  The money would go straight to the source that could make a difference in people's lives.  Show what God can do when we are willing, right?  With Facebook and lots of people sharing my post, word should travel fast for sure.  A thousand dollars wouldn't be that hard to raise this way.  Man...was I wrong!

This is another case where my intentions are good but things just didn't happen like I thought they would.  Lots of people looked at my blog post and shared it, but only two people, donated to the cause.  It turns out, that was a good thing, just one of the ways God was telling me something about my approach to the fundraiser, full of heart and faith, wasn't complete.  Come to find out (and I should have known), CrowdRise, takes 5% of all donations to keep their website running.  That's understandable, but not what I am going for here.  Time to rethink things and make sure ALL money from this point forward gets where it needs to go, the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund established by the governor of Oklahoma.  And so, I have kept talking to God about the situation.  "God, help me help the people of Oklahoma." 

I listened and listened, and God kept talking back in several ways.  He has a bigger story to tell here.  He does that a lot with me; I am learning.  After all, isn't that the whole point of my blog, to share about a faith that is real, honest, doable and usable, possible on a daily basis no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you have?  Jesus' words kept coming into my head,

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Something tells me I am supposed to keep circling these words.  So far A Mind Maker Upper's fundraiser has donated $75 to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund for Oklahoma tornado victims.  I will personally make a donation to make up for the 5% CrowdRise commission, so to speak, on these donations, and I apologize for not realizing the 5% deduction sooner.  Regardless, I am so thankful for this $75 because that is a great start, but I really don't think we are supposed to stop here.  My goal is, still, to raise $1000 through the influence of this blog.  That seems a little overwhelming and scary right now, though.  Thoughts of this thing being a flop have crossed my mind, but I know nothing with God is a flop.  So, I am not going to give up on this cause, and I pray you won't either.
I am thinking we need to get more everyday about this thing.  I realized in the course of trying to orchestrate a fundraiser, I have not given to my own cause.  And it wasn't because I didn't want to give.  To be perfectly frank, I was waiting to see how it would go, AND I was thinking we are broke right now in our family budget, so I am not sure how much money I can give at this very moment.  Well, if I am feeling this way as the originator of the fundraiser, how many other people are feeling this way too? 
So back to Jesus' words about the mustard seed.  These words make me think about pennies and our pockets of loose change.  I don't have the means to give a huge monetary donation right now, but money is not the point of the fundraiser.  God's point is that if we act in faith with just a few small steps, He moves the mountains.  All of us who are able to get on a computer and read a blog, have a pocket or purse of change.  If you don't have pockets or purses of change, maybe you have a drawer, a piggy bank, a pile of loose change somewhere.  Even if it's pennies, we can ask God to use our pennies for His purposes. 
I invite you to join me in using our pockets of change (mustard seeds of money) for "Pockets of Hope" for the tornado victims in Oklahoma.  I am going to make this a family affair in my house, and I will let you know how it goes.  I think the ideas are limitless, and I would love to hear other ideas and experiences from your own families.  What better lesson can we teach our children than finding our own ways to help others in need?  Our kids can make a connection to other kids, kids who have lost their schools and homes in a terrible storm. 

It doesn't matter to me how we decide to help, I just think we need to come together and see what God can do.  "Pockets of Hope" is what we came up with in our house.  If our idea works for you, we'd love for you to join us.  It's simple and stress free.  It can be done anywhere by people big and small, in schools and classrooms, at work, in our neighborhoods, Sunday school classes, sporting events...  Everyone has pockets of change somewhere! 
{Pockets of Hope for Oklahoma}
1.  Grab some empty plastic bottles or containers.
Gatorade bottles are great because they have a large enough opening for change.  Water bottles will work, too.  Just cut a slit in the side since the opening at the top is too small for change.  So for my family of five, I am rounding up 5 bottles.

2.  Put a label on each bottle so people will know where the money is going.
We are turning each bottle into our own personal change collectors.  We will tape a "Pockets of Hope" label on it and start taking it with us wherever we go (pictured below).  Email me at amindmakerupper@comcast.net, and I am happy to send you the labels we are using, or you can make your own if you want to join us in collecting "Pockets of Hope."

3.  Spread the word and invite others to join you in collecting change.
I am going to email a few friends to do the same thing and attach the bottle labels to my email so they can easily get started if they want to participate.  I am happy to send you a copy of the email I am going to use.  Again, you can email me at amindmakerupper@comcast.net.  For people who don't want to collect money but still want to give, we are going to leave a container on our front porch in addition to the bottles we carry around.

4.  Set a deadline for collecting all money and turn it in to the right place.
I think it's important for people to know that all money is going to the United Way of Central Oklahoma's OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.  We will collect money from any friends who collect money with us, total our collections, write down how much we collected (see step 5), and turn it in to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.  Their website lists 3 easy ways to get the donations where they need to go (below).  The  direct link is http://www.unitedwayokc.org/.

5.  Tell me about your contributions.
I feel we are empowered and strengthen in our faith when we share our stories and give generously.  If this blog in some way helps you put one foot in front of the other to help the Oklahoma tornado victims, I encourage you to share it.  You can do that by emailing me privately at amindmakerupper@comcast.net or by posting a comment below.  If you raise money, please comment or email your grand total when it's all said and done so we can see God's wonderful works! 

The deadline for A Mind Maker Upper to count donations in our grand total is going to be June 28th.  Let's raise $1000! 

I am reading Mark Batterson's book on prayer, Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge.  His words hit me at just the right time.  No coincidence, I am sure
Pray about everything.  Then pray some more.  But at some point, we have to quit praying and start acting.  One of the greatest mistakes we make is asking God to do for us what God wants us to do for Him.

A prayer for today-
Dear Lord and Savior,
Forgive me when my works fall short of the good works You design for me.  Use me to help others.  Use me to share Your unconditional love.  Use me to comfort those in need.  Use me to make a difference in people's hearts.  Use me to inspire faith in You.  Use me to glorify You in all that I do.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Let's Just Do It OK!

UPDATED and REVISED 5/30*  My heart goes out to all the victims and families affected by the recent storm in Oklahoma on Monday.  I was reading an article from CNN that said the 1.3 mile tornado was as big as "22 football fields lined up end to end."  It will go down as one of strongest storms in U.S. history.  I put myself in the shoes of those parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, children, friends, neighbors, and teachers I see in the news, and I am certain that words, condolences, supplies, and money cannot touch the pain, loss, fear, and uncertainty they are dealing with right now.  Thank goodness the power of prayer can.  In faith, we know God is wrapping His arms around each and every one of the families in need, hearing and answering every prayer in His name, in His perfect way.
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
The little love note about faith you see above was inspired by my six year old.  Not long after he started talking, he started asking me to do things with him and for him.  I love doing things for my son, but sometimes I couldn't honor his requests as immediately as he would have liked.  Children can be demanding little things, you know!  Instead of telling him a flat "no," I would often say, "We'll see."  A typical conversation went like this,
     My son:  "Mommy can we play hide and seek."
      Me: "Honey, I am trying to get dinner cooked.  We'll see.  Let's finish dinner first, okay?"
The truth behind "We'll see," was really, "I am exhausted and I don't feel like doing that right now, and I won't feel like doing it later either, but I love you with all my heart. "  My son eventually figured this out, so he coined the term, "Let's not see, Mommy.  Let's just do it."  That was a lot harder to turn down!  Sometimes kids are wise beyond their years, and they don't even know it! 
That brings me back to nurturing an everyday faith.  Everyday faith, like my love for my son, is more than what we say.  It's what we do.  Faith means God calls us to act.  We see people with hurts so HUGE we have no idea what to do or where to get started.  Our mighty and sovereign God is the only one who can really help, so we pray for them.  We pray for the people in Oklahoma who are facing the devastating aftermath of that terrible storm.  Be ready, though.  When we pray, we set the Holy Spirit, God with us, in motion. 
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
And when God moves and goes to work, He just might call on you and me to do something for him and act on our faith.  The great and amazing thing about God is that he can take small steps of faith and use them for GIANT miracles.  So, in praying for the victims in Oklahoma, "Let's not see.  Let's just do it." 
A prayer for today-
Dear God,
Today, we come together to pray for all the people who have been affected by the storm in Oklahoma.  We pray they will feel the power of our prayers and be comforted and strengthened by Your presence in their lives.  Inspire us and guide us to use the gifts You have given us to serve our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma humbly in love.  Use our small steps of faith for giant miracles.
In the name of Jesus we pray,

Updated on 5/30****Let's take some small steps together in faith and keep praying for giant miracles.  Since I first published this post using CrowdRise to help with an online fundraiser, it came to my attention that they take 5% of donations made to keep their website running.  While I understand their need to make a little money, I have asked them to delete my fundraiser from their site.  I apologize for any confusion, and I plan on donating an extra 5% of the $75 already donated to the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund  to make up the difference. 
I do not want to stop raising money for the Oklahoma tornado victims, though.  I just want to be sure ALL money goes to the source that can help, the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.  That was my original intention.  So, I am revising my original idea and making this a family fundraiser, "Pockets of Hope."  Blogging on this as we speak so stay tuned...
My goal is, still, that that through this blog, we can raise $1000 for tornado victims in Oklahoma and the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.
Simple Steps YOU can take-Revised
1.  Make a personal donation to the United Way of Central Oklahoma by clicking on this link.
2.  Share this blog post in as many ways as you can think up and encourage others to make a donation.  Here's a specific link to the donation page for the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund.


3.  Dream up your own ways to raise money, enlist your families, children, neighbors, and friends.  I would love for you to report your results and totals!  Email me, and I am going to attempt to keep a running total each day and see what we are doing together in faith! 

In Christ's love,



Another Love Note

Monday, May 20, 2013

Church and Soul Food #5

Yesterday was Sunday, and we made it to church!  Yes, it was hectic.  We still have to work on the getting there part (future posts, maybe?).  I am so glad we did, though, and here's 
some more nourishment for the soul and reason #5 to get to church...

{5.  Church Renews Our Purpose}
Church is a place I am encouraged and reminded to let go of my mess-ups from the previous week and look forward to the week ahead.  On a lighter side, parents, we are talking about a free hour of childcare, Christian education, and socializing for your kids!  Even if you don't have kids, church is a place to just take a break from the demands of this world and relax in God's presence.

13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Sure, I can set my own weekly agenda and leave it to chance.  If you want to know what that feels like and looks like just come along for the ride my family takes TO church.  It's a clear illustration of why God has a better agenda for me, and for all of us.  

Church is a regularly scheduled reminder of God's path for my life.  I don't know about you, but I need reminders.  I may fall into my pew feeling like something the cat drug in, but I leave feeling renewed and inspired.  Church helps me hear God's voice so I can act on His amazing love in faith. 

In thinking about who might read my posts on church, I realize that going to church is easier said than done for some.  Being able to go to church and worship God is a blessing and a privilege, sadly, not possible for everyone, for one reason or another.  The good news, though, is that worshiping God on a weekly basis is not about a physical building.

Worshiping God is about giving Him the time and devotion He deserves, being an active part of His family of believers.  Having a church building where everyone can meet is nice, but God is much bigger than any building.  He is in the most likely of places and the most unlikely of places.  He will come to each of us, be with us, and hear us wherever we call on His glorious name! 

A prayer for today-
Dear God,
Thank you for your universal and unconditional love and forgiveness.  Thank you for being with me wherever I am and hearing my prayers.  I pray you will work in me, willing me to act each and every day to fulfill Your good purpose in my life.
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, I pray,

May God wrap His arms around you today and always,

This post is part of a series on going to church.  For related posts, feel free to use the links below.

1. Sundays and My Not So Silent Confession
2. Church and Soul Food #1- honor God and humble myself
3. Church and Soul Food #2- experience God's Holiness
4. Church and Soul Food #3- make the smartest decision
5. Church and Soul Food #4- join in Christ's family

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Church and Soul Food #4

Yes.  I need church because it feeds my soul with food I can't find anywhere else.  Here's reason #4 for getting myself out the door on Sunday morning...
{3.  Church Brings Us Together As Family In Christ}
 As Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, children of God our Father.  Being created by God, means we are all blessed with our own God-given gifts and purposes.  We are family.  When we are together as believers, God uses us to strengthen and encourage each other in the ways He knows we need it most.  He uses us to be His hands and His voice.  Who doesn't need a hug every now and then from God? 

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
I find power in numbers at church.  There is something very uplifting and amazing about praying with so many other believers. 

At the same time, it can be overwhelming to find where you fit within a body of believers.  The thing that worked best for me was taking small steps at a time.  As I have mentioned, even though I have always wanted to be a part of a BIGGER faith, religion sort of intimidated me, and I allowed my mind to lump church into that.  I had to start with the gifts God gave me, and find ways to use them to serve through the church.  God truly takes care of the rest and starts making connections and opening doors, doors that are not limited to the walls of the church buildings.
With the love and support of our church family, a few small steps in faith can cultivate our souls for a faith that is stronger, always growing and thriving, and too big to be confined by space and time.  That's exactly what I am going for every day!        

A prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for making me part of the body of Christ.  Thank you for all of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I pray you will help me find my part in your big family, father.  Help me grow and thrive in my faith, and show me new ways I can serve You.
In the name of Christ I pray,

Love in Christ,

This post is part of a series on going to church.  For related posts, feel free to use the links below.
1. Sundays and My Not So Silent Confession
2. Church and Soul Food #1- honor God and humble myself
3. Church and Soul Food #2- experience God's Holiness
4. Church and Soul Food #3- make the smartest decision
5. Church and Soul Food #5- renew your purpose

Friday, May 17, 2013

Church and Soul Food #3

I certainly can't speak for you, but I know I do some really dumb things every once in a while.  Going to church is never one of them.  Church is a place I can own up to all the dumb things I have done and all the smart things I haven't done.  That brings me to reason #3 for going to church and some more soul food...

{3.  Going to Church Is a SMART Decision}
I don't know it all when it comes to God, and I know I am a mess on my own.  The world is way too big, way too unpredictable, and way too unfair.  Church provides an opportunity to be still and hear what God has to say, and hopefully get a little smarter in my faith.

25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength...
God is much smarter than me.   Thank goodness for that!  My dad used to always tell me as a kid, "Lindsay, pay attention."  It used to drive me crazy because I would think, "Okay, Dad.  Pay attention to what?"  Now, though, I can appreciate what he was saying.  Really, the dumb things I do ALWAYS happen when I have lost focus, when I am in my own little world, when I am not paying attention to God in my life.  The good news is that God forgives us.  We find God's power and wisdom when we are willing to own up to the dumb things we do, and He loves to turn dumb things into glorious examples of all the amazing, limitless things He can do in our lives when we let Him.  The key is placing all areas of our lives in His hands.  That is the smartest decision we could ever make!

A prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please forgive me for not paying attention to You in all that I do.  I am placing my life in your hands, God.  Today, I want to hand over _____________ so You can work it for good and Your glory.  Thank you, Lord, for hearing my weakness(es), forgiving me, and transforming me.
In Christ's Name I pray,
Hugs and thanks,

This post is part of a series on going to church.  For related posts, feel free to use the links below.
1. Sundays and My Not So Silent Confession
2. Church and Soul Food #1- honor God and humble myself
3. Church and Soul Food #2- experience God's Holiness
4. Church and Soul Food #4- join in Christ's family
5. Church and Soul Food #5- renew your purpose

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Church and Soul Food #2

Why church?  Who needs it when my family rolls in feeling like something the cat drug in?  


I need it BECAUSE I roll in feeling like something the cat drug in.  Here's reason #2 for going to church and more on the soul food I find there...

{2. Going to Church Is a Place to Experience God's Holiness}
You know, that day of rest God took for himself on the seventh day?  God not only rested, He made it HOLY (Genesis 2: 1-3).  I am no expert, but I think that means the Sabbath, the day of rest, is extra important for you and for me.  That brings me to another point.  I have to recognize that I am not in the business of holy things, but the ministers at my church have made God and His holiness their business.  They know more about observing HOLY days than I do.  For me, that's a big reason to go to church, to experience the HOLY day God intended for me.
Jesus assures us that when we gather together with Him in mind, He will be there with us (Matt 18:20).  I don't know about you, but I need a definite time and place to be with God to keep me grounded each week, and church is a place where that happens on a guaranteed basis (if that isn't the case, it's time to make a change).  I want God to fill me with His Holy Spirit and go to town in my heart.  He makes me a much better person than I make myself.  I can't go into the world and make a difference sharing God's love if I don't regularly and purposefully allow God to nourish my soul.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I was thinking about this passage on Mother's Day.  As a mom, I find myself weary and burdened all the time!  I am a thankful and blessed woman, but that doesn't mean I don't get tired.  I imagine, I am not alone.  Any of us who choose to take our responsibilities, relationships, and professions to heart, are vulnerable to hitting a wall, feeling overwhelmed, and just wearing ourselves slap out.  And it seems to me, the more heart and soul we pour into what we do, the more vulnerable we become.  God knew this about His people.  That is why He created the Sabbath.  If God, in all of His divine glory, thought it was necessary to take a break from His work creating the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2: 1-3), then who am I to think I don't need to take a break too? 

A prayer for today-
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being my ever-present, LIVING God.  I pray you will work on my heart and soul and in my life, restoring me, energizing me, refreshing me with your Holy Spirit.  Help me bring glory to your Holy name.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,

Have a blessed day,

This post is part of a series on going to church.  For related posts, feel free to use the links below.
1. Sundays and My Not So Silent Confession
2. Church and Soul Food #1- honor God and humble myself
3. Church and Soul Food #3- make the smartest decision
4. Church and Soul Food #4-join in Christ's family
5. Church and Soul Food #5- renew your purpose

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Church and Soul Food #1

Sure I could skip church.  I have.  Sure I could listen to the sermon online.  There are times I need to do that for one legitimate reason or another (more on that in another post).  But, I still haven't really answered my own question.  Do I really need to go to church?  YES.  I NEED church and so does the rest of my family.  Here's food for the soul and reason #1...

{1. Going to Church Honors God and Keeps Me in the Right Place (Humble)}
Having faith in God, means I have to act on it.  When I go to church, I am renewing my commitment to God each week, giving Him priority in my life.  I am taking time to praise Him with love songs and join with other believers in thanksgiving, acknowledging that all I have comes from God.  King David knew how important it was to honor and worship God in community with other believers, too.  As great a leader as he was, King David took the time to humble himself before God.

“Praise be to you, Lord,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,

   and praise your glorious name.
14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

The key word, for me, in reading David's words form 1 Chronicles 29 is HUMBLE.  David, this powerful, accomplished, and well-known king literally encourages the entire group of Israelites to bow down to God. 

20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the Lord your God.” So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the Lord and the king.
The way the entire group of Israelites willingly and physically changes position, lowering themselves, to illustrate and honor God's significance in their lives, really stands out to me in this passage.  The people use a physical action, a change in their own positions at the current moment, letting go of their own importance as established people, to show God they know who is really boss in their lives.  David, himself, ruler that he is, makes deliberate effort to place himself before God to acknowledge God as his sovereign Lord and Savior.  And once David puts himself in the right place, he thanks God for it!  That, friends, is a powerful act of faith.
It gets me to thinking, what change in position, what physical action, do I need to take right now in my life for God?
A prayer for today-
Dear Lord and Savior,
Thank you for being my sovereign Lord and Savior.  I pray you will help me let go of those things that keep me from You and the abundant life you so graciously give those who follow You.  Change the things that need changing.  Help me find strength, through you, in my weaknesses.  Guide me to act on my faith.
In Your Holy Name I pray,
May God bless you,
This post is part of a series on going to church.  For related posts, feel free to use the links below.
1. Sundays and My Not So Silent Confession
2. Church and Soul Food #2-experience God's Holiness
3. Church and Soul Food #3-make the smartest decision
4. Church and Soul Food #4-join in Christ's family
5. Church and Soul Food #5- renew your purpose

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sundays and My Not So Silent Confession

Yesterday was Sunday.  A day for rest.  God himself rested from his works on the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:2-3).  Now comes the confession part.  On any given Sunday, I am pretty sure my house is a far cry from the regularly scheduled Sabbath God intended for us.  I am sure you all are better at Sundays than we are in my house.

Let me (despite my embarrassment) just be honest and give you a look at Sundays for us.  Since yesterday was Mother's Day and an exception to a regular Sunday, let's just take a look at a few Sunday's ago.  My alarm went off at 6:30 AM.  Chip, my husband, had been out of town since Wednesday morning.  I was so exhausted from being a one woman show all week, and I had to practically prop my eyes open with toothpicks to get going.  Ugggh, I thought.  Did I really need to go to church?   Chip wasn't there to help me get the boys ready, and I knew getting them ready on my own was no small task.  Plus, I didn't look forward to sitting by myself for worship.  I was missing my sidekick.

I did my morning devotional, and by the time I finished, all three boys had joined me in bed.  My anxiety about getting it all done was building.  Over breakfast, I made it a point to stress my expectations for the morning.  I made it clear I needed them to help me so we could all get to church and get there on time (at least I thought I had).  I cleaned up from breakfast, ironed everyone's clothes, dressed my toddler, and jumped in for a record breaking, quick shower.  As soon as I cut the water off, I could hear the boys hootin' and hollerin', having a good ol' time down the hall.  Would you believe, they were jamin' to Kidz Bop and pillow fighting with their bean bags?  I was sure a tornado had come through their room.  Both big boys were still in pajamas, beds unmade, freshly ironed clothes piled in the floor, and we needed to walk out the door in 10 minutes.  In keeping it real, I have to tell you, at that point, I wanted to throw in the towel.

So I did one of those things I never wanted to do as a parent.  I started yelling and crying at the same time!  You know, it was a hysterical, desperate, "I am so disappointed.  You better be ready in 10 minutes if you know what's good for you" kind of lecture.  The truth is, those boys hurt my feelings that morning when they decided to completely ignore my pleas and do their own thing instead.  Then, I grabbed the little one and shut my bedroom door to finish getting ready and calm myself down in a forced kind of peace.

The car ride wasn't any better because I was still fuming and the boys still weren't listening or helping.  Plus, now we were all in a confined space so they were arguing to beat the band.  I forced them to silence and blasted the praise and worship music.  I was thinking we could all use a little "come to Jesus" time, and I was hoping a little gospel music would do the trick.  Then, right before we got to church, I cut the music off so I could remind them just one more time (in case I had not been clear) how upset I was with their choices.  And that, friends, is how we rolled into church.  I'd like to tell you that experience was a rare occurrence, but it happens in some way, shape, or form, often.

I am sure you and yours probably pop out of bed with enthusiasm, focus, and determination for worshiping God.  You manage a nice family breakfast together.   Everybody is excited to get ready for church.  You all make it leisurely out the door with all necessary hygiene items done and needed articles of clothing in place.  Next, you probably get to enjoy a peaceful car ride in which everyone gets along.  Then, every family member arrives eager and ready to praise God and grow in his/her faith.  Finally, you continue the day in fellowship together and with others more grounded in your faith and ready to act on God's grace and love in the world.  You, I am sure, cannot relate to my own Sunday morning chaos.

I am determined to change the Sunday morning dreadfulness in my family.  It is really ridiculous.  Otherwise, at the rate we are going, who wants to go to church?  I can find a million excuses (it's raining, I'm tired, the kids may be coming down with a little something, I don't want to go by myself, or even I would rather...) in order to avoid the predictable, unpredictable and unpleasant craziness in getting ready for church.  We just need to reinvent our Sunday morning routines.  I have to realize though, it's the getting there that's the problem.  Once we are there, there's guaranteed food for the mind, body, and soul.  And that "soul food" is well worth the effort.

I/we are clearly the problem, not God, because He delivers every time we show up.  There's a reason there's a deliberate and announced quiet time prior to our Sunday church service to "prepare our hearts and minds for worship."  If you go to church with us, you have probably, at one time or another, seen us flying through the doors after the music has started, feeling like something the cat drug in.  The reality is, though, no matter how ridiculous our morning has been before we walk through our church doors, I always walk away feeling refreshed and thankful I came.  Church has "soul food" you can't find 
anywhere else.  I just have to get there.

More on the "soul food" we find at church in posts this week, but too much good stuff for one post...Come back for more later.  :)

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and comments on Sunday morning routines that ARE working in your house.  Clearly, the way our house gets out the door needs some work.  We are like herding a bunch of wild animals out the door!

A prayer for today-

Dear Lord and Savior,
Forgive me for letting my ways of doing things get in the way of following and serving You.  Help me to acknowledge and change the routines in my life that need work.  Strengthen my faith and my family with Your grace.  Transform our daily habits and words to be a reflection of Your perfect love, Lord.
In the name of Jesus, I pray,
Love of Christ fill you,

This post is part of a series on going to church.  For related posts, feel free to use the links below.

1.  Church and Soul Food #1-honor God and humble myself
2. Church and Soul Food #2-experience God's Holiness
3. Church and Soul Food #3-make the smartest decision
4. Church and Soul Food #4- join in Christ's family
5. Church and Soul Food #5- renew your purpose

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Writing's On the Wall

I am always looking for ways to make faith an everyday part of life, not only for me, but also for my husband and kids.  Some of my favorite scripture in the Bible comes from Deuteronomy,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on our hands and bind them on your foreheads.
These verses are loaded with specific instructions for loving God and making His word a part of our daily routine.  That can be a challenge when we are always on the go in my family.  It's a tall order, figuring out how, exactly, to teach our kids about God so that His love can transform their hearts.  It's a delicate balance.  I want to inspire them with faith, not force it on them and send them running for the hills when I'm not looking.  Highlighting a specific verse each month, though, is one small way God makes a huge impression on us.
This is our Bible verse for this month (above).  I recycled an old dry-erase board from our Goodwill pile.  There are several details to our monthly Bible verse that are worth mentioning in making it work for our family, live and learn kind of details.  Like any good idea, you have to take it and make it work for you.
{1. Location. Location. Location}
A popular, common area of your home works great for a monthly Bible verse.  Our favorite room in our house?  The kitchen, of course.  I have three boys and a growing husband.  So, I put our verse on a prominent wall in our kitchen right beside the refrigerator and in plain view of our kitchen table.  If the people in your house are anything like the people (big and small) in mine, they go to the refrigerator not only when they are hungry and need to eat but when they are bored and don't have anything else to do.  You know, the open the refrigerator door and just stare move?  I figure, we are sure to see the verse morning, noon, and night if it's anywhere close to food!
{2.  Make it Meaningful for Everyone}
I pick a verse that is applicable to our family at the time, and I change it every month.  For example, when we found out my mom was sick, and we were all struggling with it, I used Philippians 4:13.  This month, I picked 1 Peter 4:10 on serving others because my kids have been fighting like cats and dogs.  I wanted to try to shift their focus from hurting each other to helping each other!  We are still working on it... 
{3. Talk it out.}
The monthly Bible verse has become a fantastic conversation starter in our house.  (I think it's important to point out, we do NOT let the Bible verse become an opportunity for lecturing our kids on the do's and don'ts of life.  They create plenty of opportunities for that on their own.)   Because we see the Bible verse several times a day, usually around food, we end up talking about it during meal times.  When I first put it up, we read it together.  This is a great way to reinforce my kids' developing reading skills, along with growing their faith.  We talk about what the verse really means, little bits at a time, and we share our own examples of the verse in our lives throughout the month.  The verse also gives my husband and I (as grown-ups) chances to admit our short-comings to our kids aloud, so they can see areas where we need to change and grow.  Trust me, they are all ears when we start talking about our own mistakes!  I want my kids to know their parents are works in progress, too, so they aren't afraid to face their own weaknesses and mess-ups with God's grace. 
Originally, the monthly Bible verse was directed at our kids.  I wanted to spark their interest in the Bible and help them become familiar with God's word as a resource and comfort in facing the ups, downs, and in-betweens life brings.  It turns out, the monthly Bible verse is ALWAYS invaluable to us,  the grown-ups, too.  It's a great reminder that our faith is grounded in God's word and promises, full of mercy and grace, inspiring us to share God's love in our home and with others when we walk out the front door.
A prayer for today-
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for my friends and family, for new ways to grow my faith, and for opportunities to share your love with others.  I pray for my family today.  Lord, help me to know and love you.  Help (name your family members) to know and love you, too.  Heal and transform us as a family.  May your love for us be our example and our inspiration for offering your mercy and grace to those in need.
In Christ's name I pray,