Friday, February 28, 2014

Deuteronomy 21-24

Moses seems to be tying up all the possible "loose ends" for the Israelites before they enter the Promise Land in Deuteronomy 21-24.  He covers all the odds and ends of living honest lives for God, including unsolved murders, marriage and divorce, rebellious sons, the neighbors' livestock, interest on loans, and more on sharing God's blessings.  Moses isn't afraid to cover personal business like "nocturnal emission" and "relieving" of one's self.  While it's not at all what I expect to read about in the Bible, it's community, Godly business for the Israelites.  Moses wants to make sure the Israelites are clear on how to keep things clean and holy for God.

Moses keeps stressing the importance of remembering where we come from as God's people.  

For the Israelites, that means remembering that they were slaves in Egypt whom God redeemed from there.  Where the Israelites have been, their past, is obviously important to what God needs them to do next in their journey with Him.  Moses puts it this way...

19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.

Like the Israelites, God needs us to remember that we are all slaves to sin without Christ in our lives.  God wants us to hold tightly to the saving grace we have in Christ.  

Think about your story with God at this point in your life.  From where has God redeemed you through Christ, your Savior?  Where is He calling you to go with Him next?

We are made new in Christ.  We are free from our sins for sure.  Yet, we are called to remember where we've been and use what God has given us to share His saving grace with others.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for redeeming me with Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  Help me to remember where I've been and how Your grace frees me.  

Guide me in sharing Your grace with others.  Use my life story with You to be Your hands in filling others with Your mercy, love, and hope.  Show me how to give to others from all that You have already given me.

I am praying especially for ________________ today who needs the freedom and love only You can give.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,

In Christ's love,

  *This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Deuteronomy 16-20

Deuteronomy 16-20 continues recapping God's commands for His people.  Celebrating the Passover, the Festival of Weeks, giving priestly offerings, appointing judges, worshipping God alone, choosing a king, establishing cities of refuge, avoiding false prophets, and seeking truthful witnesses are many of the topics Moses covers in today's reading.  Moses reminds us that God wants to bless His people, and He has things He needs us to do for Him in order to realize those blessings.  

I couldn't help but think about how blessed we are to have God's love at work in our lives.  Moses knows that with God, the Israelites can do anything and everything God needs them to do.  God has proven what He can do so far, and He tells the Israelites He will continue to fight for them.  

He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.

God fights for us too.  We all have battles God needs us to fight.  With God, we will never lose.  That's one of His awesome promises.  If we will put our hands together, turn to Him, and trust Him, He is waiting to take care of the details and bless us. 

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for being with me and fighting for me.  I am so grateful for all the ways You bless me with Your joy and peace.

Forgive me for my panic-moments.  Help me to remember that You are by my side, always taking care of the details. 

I pray for ______________ who are fighting their own battles.

I love you, Lord, with all my heart, my mind, my soul, and my strength.  You are my rock.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,


 *This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Deuteronomy 13-15

Moses seems to be thinking about the Israelites' future in Deuteronomy 13-15.  He knows life in the Promise Land will be full of prosperity and blessing, making it all too easy to forget their absolute need for God above all else.  Interestingly, we see that there is a scheduled time for freeing people from their indebtedness to others, regardless of what is owed.  It's also clear that God's people, even before Jesus, are to take care of others less fortunate.  Moses reminds the Israelites to give to God out of their abundant blessings with their tithes.   Moses wants to make sure God's people don't lose their focus on Him, and His holiness.  

God's blessings are about to be poured out on the Israelites.  Things are about to get really good.  They don't know their whole life is about to change for the better, but we do, in hindsight.

When things change for us, we know God stays the same.  Whether the change in our lives is for worse or for better, God wants us to remember who we are in Christ.  Moses puts it this way,

for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

What an honor and privilege it is to be a believer!  We belong to Him.  We are God's treasure!  That's worth remembering and holding onto wherever we are in life. 

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for the faith You give me out of Your own perfect faithfulness.  Thank You for making me Your treasured child.  

No matter where I am in this life, Lord, help me to remember that I belong to You.  I want to serve You above all else, no matter what is going on around me.  Forgive me for my missed opportunities.  Continue to open my eyes and guide me through all of my days.  

I give my day to you, Lord.  Guide me with Your Holy Spirit.  Show me where You need me to be Your loving hands and feet in the world.

I pray for all those who cross my path today, those I know and those I don't.  May I be a reflection of Your light and a blessing to those around me.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray,

Love and peace,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Deuteronomy 10-12

In today’s reading, Deuteronomy 10-12, Moses is continuing his pep talk with the Israelites.  He finishes reminding them of their journey with God, and then Moses talks more about loving and obeying God.  He zooms in on how important it is to pass a strong faith on to the children of the community.

The same God who is God of the Israelites is our God today.  He is sovereign and awesome, and He transcends time and space.  

If we stop to think through all Moses is telling the Israelites, we can apply it to our lives today.

He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

I mean, you and I didn’t see God part the Red Sea.  We haven't survived on manna or witnessed Moses bringing water out of a rock.

But, many of us have seen God’s awesome wonders in our lives.  I know I have.  We've gone through life changing circumstances and felt God's mighty hand.  Or, we've seen God's outstretched hand making a difference in someone else's life.

Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God;  His majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm

What bigger story is God telling right now in your life?  How can you share it?

A prayer for today-

Dear God, 

Thank You for all the great and awesome wonders you show me.  Give me the eyes to always see You in everything I do.  Help me to sense Your presence and share my faith with others.  

I praise You, Lord, today and always.  

Please be with __________________ (name those on your heart).

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,

Love of Christ,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more


Monday, February 24, 2014

Everyday Reading Project: February 23 - March 1

I would love for you to jump in and join me in reading!  For more on this Everyday Reading Project click here.

Deuteronomy 7-9

Moses gives the Israelites a pep talk today in Deuteronomy 7-9.  It's different though than talks in the past.  Instead of sticking solely to the history of their journey with God and God's commands, Moses focuses more on God's love for His people.  We know that God does all things with His power and might because He loves us so much.  The Israelites are looking back, thanking God, and facing their future, realizing that their mighty God who demands their attention and obedience is above all else, a loving God whose love has no limits.  It's His love that provides, sustains, and blesses.

I am learning to appreciate the fact that we all have periods in this life of wandering in the wilderness.  God tests us, just like He does the Israelites.  God wants to strengthen our faith and show us His power.  He wants us to see Him and know Him.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

Realizing God's great love at work in us and accepting it is pivotal in our relationship with Him.  The God who calls on us to face what seems impossible at times, who wants us to worship Him and love Him with all of our hearts, is the same God who goes before us making our way, redeeming us, and saving us again and again.  We can love our God because He first loved us.

Moses is telling us today to pay attention, not just to God, but to God's love.  Because we are blessed by God, we run the risk of taking God for granted.  

18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

God defines who we are and is the source of all that we have.  In Christ, through faith and by God's grace, we find abundant and eternal life.

God is good.

A prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank You for Your love that is always at work in me.  Thank You for sending Jesus to save me from my own rebelliousness.  

Forgive me for all the ways I fail to praise You in every circumstance, in plenty and in want.

It is Your hands and Your power that provide, sustain, and bless me, not my own doings and abilities.  Help me, Lord, to remember You and Your will for me in all the seasons of my life. Give me the strength to follow You and glorify You in all the tests of my faith.

Speak to me and guide me with Your Holy Spirit, today and always.  I  also pray for Your Holy Spirit to work on healing the hearts of __________________. 

I pray this prayer in the name of my Lord and Savior, Your Son, Jesus,

In Christ's love,
*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Deuteronomy 4-6

The Israelites are getting ready to cross the Jordan to the Promise Land in Deuteronomy 4-6.  God has been "getting them ready" for this moment for a long time.  It's finally here.  And Moses, being the good leader that he is, gathers the entire community and reminds them of all the powerful and amazing things that God has done for them.  We hear the whole story, again, start to finish.  Moses takes special care to repeat the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20.  His overall message is clear.  Following God's way leads to blessings in our lives.

This part of Deuteronomy contains some of my favorite passages from the Old Testament.  I am reminded that God is good and amazing.  He is faithful.  He is powerful.  He is in control.  He has a plan for me, and He is with me.  When I speak to Him, He hears me.  When He speaks to me, I need to listen.  God wants to bless me and my children and their children.

Look at the story God tells through the Israelites.  

God is telling a story through you and me too.

35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 

What things in your life has God shown you so that you know who He is and how much He loves you?

Jesus tells us in the New Testament that loving God is our number one calling in living our lives.  It's not just about following rules.  Loving God means remembering His story, taking part in it, and sharing it with others from beginning to eternity.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[f] 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 your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. 

In Christ, we each have a beautiful, God-given legacy of love to pass on.

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for Your Spirit that dwells in me.  Thank You for all the ways You show me Your hands at work in my life. 

Help me, Lord, to share Your story of love and redemption with others in all that I do.  May others come to to know You through me.

I love You, Lord, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength.

In the name of Your Son, Jesus, I pray,

In Christ,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more

Friday, February 21, 2014

Relax. Being the World's Best Parent Isn't Good Enough

Let me introduce you to the Hoodie Brothers.  They look cute, right?  The picture doesn't do them justice.  There's much more to these kids than meets the eye.  Sometimes, I call them my three little angels.  Much of the time though, they live up to their nickname, my three hoodlums.  And, I promise, I say that with the most love.  Let me explain.  Maybe you can relate?

I am a mom to these three growing boys, ages ten, seven, and two.  Even before I held them, I loved them.  It was unlike any other love I had ever felt in my lifetime.  And kissing their fresh from Heaven cheeks and holding their sweet tiny fingers in mine for the first time, well, I just knew they were each  perfect gifts, little miracles, from the good Lord.    

I dreamed about being a mommy for most of my life.  I had spent hours playing "house" with my sister.  I LOVE children.  I was THE babysitter everyone wanted as a teenager.  I grew up and got schooled in psychology and kids.  I understood them and how their little minds worked (so I thought).  I became a teacher, and don't you know that makes me extra qualified to be a parent?  If anyone was going to be good at this whole parenting thing, it was going to be me.  I just knew it. 

I think I probably need to go ahead and come clean right now.  Not only was I certain that I would be good; but in my pre-parent years, I would watch other parents and think about all the ways I could and would do it better.  

Yep, I really did that.  I am cringing as I type.  

I actually made mental lists of parenting dos and don'ts---all the things I said I would NEVER do and all the things I said I'd ALWAYS do when it was my turn.  I read all the books.  I was highly motivated, and I was determined to be prepared.  I wanted to make sure I was the WORLD'S BEST mom.

Then, one day my turn came.  I brought one, two, and three little bundles of joy home from the hospital.  And along the way, we even experienced the loss of another bundle of joy who never made it into the world because God needed him/her more than we did.

So ten years later, I am writing as a parent who knows better and DEFINITELY not best.

To all who read this blog post-- parents by blood and parents defined by loving care, first timers and many timers, hope-to-be parents and parents by surprise, maybe one day parents and even those who say the parenting thing isn't for you, this post IS for all of you.

Every child is a gift, a beautiful reward in this crazy life we live.

And like any gift, you have to unwrap it and hold it in your arms to really know what you've been given, right?

The thing about kids (especially boys) I quickly realized, is that from the second you unwrap them, they are likely to pee and even poo all over, reaching places you didn't think was humanly possible.  I mean that, literally and figuratively.

Seriously, parenting is A LOT harder than it looks.  It's much easier SAID than DONE.

I have to admit it.  I have caught myself doing so many of the things I said I would NEVER do as a parent, and I have failed to do just as many of the very things I said I would ALWAYS do.

The hard part is, I have found anyway, it's much easier to mess up as a parent than it is to get it right.  And no matter how much of my heart I put into it, it doesn't keep me from being the "world's worst" parent at times or from having "the world's worst" kid at other times.  Some days are are just full of poo-poo no matter how much I try.

It's my hope that you will be inspired by my own short-sightedness.

I want you to know (if you don't already), it's okay.  When you find yourself in some "world's worst" moments (because we all do), it doesn't mean you are a bad parent.  Being a parent means, not only are we guaranteed to have issues, our kids will have issues too.  Everything we go through (yes, everything) as parents is part of something bigger and more wonderful than anything we could ever ask for or imagine.   

See, I was so focused on being the perfect parent that I was completely unprepared and ill-equipped for the life-long test of my faith that parenting really is. 

I realized along the way that being the WORLD'S BEST parent isn't good enough.  The worldview of parenthood is way too limited, misleading, inconsistent, ever-changing, and lacking in truth.

All of us, whether we like it or not, are just a bad day and a little hoodlum away from being the very parents we never thought we could or would be. 

But before you go and do anything crazy like run away, get fixed, or vow to never have any children of your own, keep reading.  

Here's the parenting truth.   

Parenting isn't about how much you know, how talented or skilled you are, or even how much experience you've had.

No matter how much we try to raise our kids "right," they will always find a new way to catch us off guard, break the rules, and force us to limits beyond what we thought was humanly possible.  And no matter how devoted we are to being the BEST parents, we will continue to mess-up horribly.  

It's part of our imperfect human nature.

When we are determined to go after superhero, perfection status, we fall short every single time.  That's because we are chasing something that doesn't exist in real life.  It's impossible, unhealthy, and self-defeating for us to think like that. 

At some point or many, we reach the end of our parenting ropes.  We find we're all out of tricks.  We've tried all we know to try.  We've given it all we've got.  And we realize, it's not enough.  I think that's the whole, real point of parenting.

That's right.  Parenting isn't about how good and perfect and able we are at the job.


Parenting is about how good God is.

God is the only one who knows BEST.  

That's exactly why He blesses us with the kids we call ours.  Our kids are hand-made, by Him, purposefully for us.  They are a reflection of us.  Like little mirrors, they show us who we really are.  Those buttons our kids know just how to push in us are the very buttons God knows need pushing in order to draw us closer to Christ, our Savior, to strengthen our belief in Him, and to remind us How much we need Him.  

As Christians, we tend to be the worst of the "world's worst" parents.  We put way too much pressure on ourselves trying to be "like Christ" for our children.  We erringly think that's how our kids come to know Christ.

Well, I have to tell you, that's a problem for me.  If my kids come to know Christ in my own fleeting moments of near perfection, they won't ever know Christ well at all.  Without knowing it, they remind me, again and again, situation after situation, how un-Christ-like I am.

See, I had it all wrong.  Good parenting isn't about how I love my children but how God loves me and you.

Kids are our Heavenly Father's way of helping us to know better, the amazing, powerful, divine love He has for each of us.  We are all His Children.

We have to relax.  We can't take ourselves so seriously.  We need to take God seriously instead.

Our children don't come to know Christ and His perfect love in the middle of those rare moments when we are closest to perfect.  Those times don't leave much room for God's grace.

Our children come to know Christ when they can actually see and feel God's grace at work.  Instead of spending so much time trying to be perfect like Christ, we need to spend our time showing our kids how to let Christ work in us, for us, and through us.   

So, the next time you have one of THOSE DAYS; you know the ones I am talking about when your sweet little angel turns into a scary little devil and you become the parent you never thought you'd be...

I had one of those days last Thursday.  My beloved, artistic child painted the carpet blue, flooded the hallway with his dirty paint water while trying to clean it up, and caused so much commotion in the house that my cell phone ended up drowning tragically in the bottom of the bathtub.  Yep, all of that really happened to me in one day, conveniently, while my husband was working late.  It wasn't pretty.  Neither was my response, to say the least. like I was saying, when it's one of THOSE DAYS for you, no matter what, remember the good news and trade in your own powerless and insufficient superhero cape for the full armor of God.

Our worst moments are the very ones in which God has the most room to do what He does best-  work in you, love on you, redeem you, and give you His power.  

In Christ, we all have a chance to let God transform our worst moments into our very best.  We have to quit trying so hard and pray more.

The same child who paints the carpet blue, floods the hallway, and kills my cell phone is the same child who is a reward meant just for me, my perfect little gift from the good Lord above.

When our kids witness God's grace in us, they will come to know that Christ is at work in them too.

All I have to do is look into the eyes of my little God-given miracles, and I know God's point in this whole parenting thing.

I didn't know I could love so much.

And yet, I also know God loves me and my children even more that, so much more in fact

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for children everywhere and especially Your Son, Jesus, my Lord and Savior.  It is so good to be Your child, to grow in Your love, and be made perfect in Christ.   

I pray for my child(ren) today ______________________ .  Help me to draw close to You and show them the power of Your love and grace that is at work in me.  Give me Your peace and Your patience.  Guide me, Lord, with Your Holy Spirit and forgive me for all the ways I mess-up as a parent.  Make me better than I could ever be on my own.

I celebrate my best moments with You, and I ask that You use my worst moments for good and Your glory.  

Be with all who read this post-  parents by blood and parents defined by loving care, first timers and many timers, hope-to-be parents and parents by surprise, maybe one day parents and even those who say the parenting thing isn't for them.  I pray Your blessing upon each and every one of them.  May this post inspire their hearts in some way.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Love of Christ,

 *This post is inspired, partially, by a wonderful book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity: Connect Your Family to a Wider Community by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof.  It's worth reading!

Deuteronomy 1-3

Today we begin a new book in the Bible as we read Deuteronomy 1-3.  This book is known as the "2nd law" because it is largely a recap.  Moses is talking to the new generation of Israelites who are about to enter the Promise Land.  Moses' death is near, and He wants to make sure God's people don't forget all the important stuff in living their lives in their new land.  He reminds them of their history and all God has done for them.

Trust is a big deal with God.  As Christians, our entire relationship with God hinges on trust.  The Israelites in today's reading are proof that we can trust God.  Through their journey, we see how God loves and cares for His people, through our own doubts and fears.

31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God, 33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

We all have trust issues to some degree.  It's human nature.  Our view of things is so limited and temporary, and we are so imperfect in our own abilities to be trustworthy people.

However, God is perfectly trustworthy.  Even when the situation before us does not make sense in our minds, God knows what He is doing.  We can trust Him and His promises to take care of us wholeheartedly, like Caleb and Joshua.  God always has a better plan than we do.

Trusting God means that He goes before us.  He is with us, just like He was with the Israelites on their very long journey.  In Christ, God has Promise Land for all of us.

I am thinking about my own walk with God today and how awesome it is to know that He goes before me, blessing me and keeping me no matter where I am in my life. 

Did you catch Moses' powerful words?  Moses is telling us how it really is with God.  God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, "carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went..."

Wow!  God loves us so much!  

How about you? Can you think of times in your life when God went before you, making the way for you?  What about other times when God has carried you?

How do you know God is with you?  What does that feel like and look like in your life?

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

Thank You for loving me so much that You always go before me, making the way and even carrying me when I need You the most.  You are my Lord, my Savior, and a wonderful Heavenly Father.  Being your child is full of blessings!

Lord, help me trust You with every part of my life.  Help me to recognize your strong hands at work.

I pray that You will wrap ___________________(name all those on your mind) in Your strong, loving arms today.  These people need You to carry them, and I know You have the perfect plan and place for them.

Lord, I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and my Savior, 

May the Lord bless you and keep you today and always,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Numbers 34-36

In Numbers 34-36 God is making the final arrangements with Moses to distribute the Promise Land among the twelve tribes of Israel.  The Levites do not inherit land, but God sets aside 48 towns for them, including pasture land for their animals.  Nine and a half tribes settle on the west side of the Jordan, and the tribes of Reuben Gad, and part of the Manasseh tribe settle east of the Jordan across from Jericho.  God gives very clear boundaries for His people,  

“‘This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’”

Yes!  God is good and His promises are sure!  It has to feel so good to the Israelites to know that their leap of faith with God is paying off.  Through it all, the good (miracles), the bad (lots of traveling and hardships), and the ugly (wilderness for forty years), God is faithful to His people.  He is who He says He is.  He can be trusted.  God will always provide for His people through the ups and downs.  Faith in God leads to so many blessings, for the Israelites and for us.  

And that verse I pulled out (above) from today's readings brings to mind the fact that many of God's biggest blessings in my life do come with clear boundaries, for my own good.

Blessings and boundaries.  Hmmm.

Think through some of the biggest blessings in your own life.  What boundaries do you feel God has given you for those blessings? 

God's boundaries for us define our limits and, at least partially, part of His purpose for us.  God's boundaries put us exactly where He needs us at the moment.

God, on the other hand, does not have any boundaries.  His love, power, mercy, and grace are all limitless!

A prayer for today-

Dear God,

I thank You for all the blessings in my life.  I am especially thankful for ______________.

Lord, help me to appreciate my blessings and the power of Your presence every single day.  Guide me, Lord, to use my blessings to bless others.  Speak to my heart about who You need me to reach.

In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit I pray,

Love and peace,

*This post is part of A Mind-Maker-Upper's Everyday Reading Project.  Click here to read more