The Word Behind You

voice behind

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. Is 30:21

When us Spirit filled Christians think of the word behind us we tend to think of the voice of the Holy Spirit. And this is certainly a valid thought. But remember what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do, he will not only teach us all things but he will also bring to our remembrance all that Jesus has taught us as well. We who do not have the benefit of having walked with Jesus know His word via the written word, the Gospels.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14

I think this applies to the whole of scripture as we know that all scripture is God breathed and that Jesus is God, as he claimed to be on numerous occasions—”Before Abraham was, I am”—and that he was the very embodiment of the word, and he is the word—”In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God”

When we’re walking along, traveling the trails of this life the Holy Spirit is there to guide us, to teach us the way. We have big decisions to make and a verse comes to mind, a story from the Bible, something we just read this morning or something we learned in Sunday school as a kid.

We have small decisions to make, at least what seems small to us, and a bible character comes to mind, something they said or did, and we are inspired to do a certain thing as a result. That is the voice behind you—the scriptures that were written so long ago, way back there between two thousand and four thousand years ago, made alive and brought right up behind us like a GPS unit telling us to ‘take a left here, stop there, turn around.’ It is the scriptures made alive in us by the Holy Spirit in front of us leading us from in front with his words to our hearts and encouraging us from behind with the voices of the past.

In order for that to work, in order for Jesus to remind us of his words, we have to have known them in the first place. You cannot be reminded of something you never knew in the first place.

How can you be inspired to courage in the face of the giants of this life when you never read the story of David and Goliath? How can you know how to pray for God’s will to be done in your life when you never read Jesus’ prayers and his teaching on prayer? How can you trust God to do the impossible when you don’t know the Story of Abraham and Sarah, Elizabeth and Zechariah?

How can you have hope that this life is not all there is and that Jesus will one day return for his church if you have never read the book of Revelation or the myriad other references to heaven and the return of our King scattered throughout his word?

How will you not fear the evil that is rising seemingly unhindered and without end if you have not read those books of the Bible, Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, the words of Jesus in the Gospels that tell us how we win in the end? And on and on and on.

I find my greatest inspirations to continue the fighting in the stories of Jeremiah, Isaiah and of course the Apostles. People who were maligned and even martyred yet never stopped because they were obedient to the truth, they hearkened to the voice of the one who called them. And because they listened and obeyed—he kept leading them.

Their words still speak to us and their stories inspire millions, today. ‘Lord, let my life be a witness of your love and power. Let me have the Spirit of  a Jeremiah, the courage of a David, to be as bold as John the Baptist, as clever as Isaac and as patient as Job. And most of all, let me love like you Lord, laying down my life for my friends and taking up my cross to follow you no matter where you lead—Not my will but yours be done!’

‘My life is yours because you redeemed my life from the pit and there is nothing else in this world that compares to you.’

When you have tasted freedom after having been ensnared by hopelessness and despair, addictions and the sin which do easily entangles, nothing else matters but keeping that freedom and leading others to it.

That is where Jesus is taking you, that is why we need to follow Jesus, because others are watching to see where we’re going and if it indeed leads to freedom—freedom and joy.

Everyone in this life wants to be happy but few are. That leaves us with a lot of desperate people. We know the way. They only way we can show the way is if we are willing to keep following ourselves, every day, every minute.

And obey

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If you want God to continue speaking to you, you have to actually do what he asks. In my kid’s ministry days, in my classroom if a child refused to listen and obey, if he, or she, just became competing noise making it impossible for those who wanted to learn to do so, I would remove them from the classroom. “Go stand in the hallway until I come and get you.” When they are standing  in the hallway, they are not hearing anything, they are not participating and they soon become bored and frustrated.

Then the attitude usually changes; “Can I please come back in? I will listen, I promise!” I wonder how many times the Lord has put us in the hallway to stew but we were too wrapped up in ourselves to realize that the Lord may be trying to teach us something. “Lord, why aren’t you speaking to me?” Well, maybe because we didn’t do, or even bother to listen to, the last things he told us. —Just a thought.

Reminds me of another bit of wisdom I gleaned in my younger days that I have repeated many times to younger people coming up under me in the construction trades.

Do what the foreman tells you to do and you can’t go wrong. Because then, even if it is wrong, it is his fault. And, his way is a lot less likely to be wrong then your way in the first place. That’s why he’s the boss and you’re not.

You mess up enough times because you refused to listen and you will no longer be around to hear anything from the boss. You won’t have to worry about arguing with the boss anymore about how dumb his assignments are. Of course you won’t get paid anymore either.

The Kingdom of God works much the same way. We have to acknowledge; “You are God and I’m not.” That’s a hearkening.

We can have a hearkening today, or a reckoning tomorrow.

35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Mat 12

We are only given so many days in this life, don’t waste today by saying tomorrow you might listen, tomorrow may never come, at least not the one we expected.

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Another Turn of the Wheel

Today I celebrate my 57th birthday, another year, another turn on the wheel of the master potter, and another day to trust and marvel at his work. And best of all, to get to share it with those whom I love—and with you, my unseen but truly appreciated and heart connected brother and sisters. Be blessed, and please don’t be shy about leaving a comment, I would love to hear from you too.

adult arts and crafts clay dirty
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” Jeremiah 18

Turns of the wheel

Moving from the Frozen North to the Southwest, leaving home to go far away into Job Corp, getting hooked on partying in any shape or form only to be radically delivered by an encounter with the Holy Spirit, getting married, becoming a dad and a rancher, leaving a lead man position in a welding shop to become a carpenter at 30. Taking college level theology classes at age 40, becoming a kids pastor in a church started in an old school on the wrong side of the tracks in Billings.

Becoming the pastor of a church that I planted at age 50—and that’s just the highlights—there were a lot of low lights along the way also, impurities that needed worked out, things that I think hindered me from skipping  over some of the more challenging turns of the wheel and fulfilling my call to pastor much earlier in life.

But God is good, God is patient and I had to be broken a few times to be remade along the way. I told you one of those stories last week, falling into the pit a work and blowing out two discs in my back; definitely a breaking that enabled God to retool me and reset some of my thinking. The night I realized just how hopelessly addicted I was to marijuana was certainly a breaking point as I cried out to the Lord, to the Potter—’please have mercy on me and set me free!’ He did, I was restored and his hand of blessing restored.

We have to be broken sometimes to be rid of the impurities that ruin us but we don’t have to be resigned to things being broken that are good, like homes, hearts, promises and lives.

When it comes to those things we often have a choice. It’s being broken of the things that cause the good things to end up broke that I’m talking about.  I remember when we first got married I had this almost crippling fear that Donna was going to leave me at some point, that our marriage would inevitably fail because that’s what I saw all around me and especially growing up.

Growing up in a broken home was hell, I’m sorry but it was, and it deeply affected my perception of life and relationships. It planted an unhealthy fear in me that had to be broken.

It started three weeks after our wedding when our house burned down. My greatest fear as I stood there watching everything we owned go up in smoke was that Donna would now leave me because I had nothing, not even a home to live in.

She didn’t.

We moved into a trailer house literally across the road that just happened to belong to her Dad and her sister and her family had just happened to have moved out of it two weeks earlier. A month or two later we had one of our first real arguments and in the aftermath I kept seeing this picture in my mind of her packing her things, which wouldn’t have taken long at that point after the fire, and walking out the door.

She didn’t

I remember telling her one day in that first year, I wish we could just jump ahead ten years so that we could say we made it, we’re still married. I had heard a statistic that most marriages don’t make it past five years and my own parents had divorced when I was five. She kind of laughed at me and then realized I was serious, she assured me she wasn’t going anywhere.

She didn’t.

During this time I prayed earnestly every day that the Lord would bless our marriage, that we would stay together and never have to suffer the trauma and pain of divorce and I remember very clearly the Lord speaking to me as I was driving home on Blue Creek road and praying as I always did. I still remember where I was on the highway when the Lord told me in no uncertain terms; ‘Your marriage will not fail, it is founded on the rock and nothing will ever come between you.’

“That is my word to you, put that right down there under your feet and stand on it.”

I wept and praised the Lord, something had broken in me at that point, the fear was gone. My marriage was safe in the hands of the Lord, my wife would not leave me, I had made a vow to her and her to me and as long as we were both committed to that vow, to one another, and to the one who gives us the ability to keep those vows, to the only one who can give us that assurance—we would make it.

We did.  And we will- 30 years and counting. . .

We serve a God of miracles, whatever you fear, whatever causes you grief, give it up to Jesus; “In this world you will have trouble, but do not fear, I have overcome the world.”

mountain preacher

 

I love you all, have a blessed week!

 

Restored Dreams

Ruth

Sometimes we give up on dreams, and sometimes they are just stolen from us—no matter what we do.

It is often the unfulfilled expectations of this life that weigh us down; things that happen to us in this life can leave us desperately searching for a reprieve, a redo, especially when it involves our families. I mean, it certainly doesn’t seem to be an overreaching expectation to be loved and surrounded by family—right?

It seems such a simple dream to be a part of a healthy whole family.  Then the drama comes, the unforeseen crisis, the pain of losing one we love—or fearing that we will— and we say “Why God?  “Why have you destroyed my dream, left me without hope and no reason to go on?” 

But we serve a God who can restore even the most hopeless and seemingly out of reach dream. Just ask Naomi.

Naomi lived long ago in Israel and she had a dream. A simple dream really, of passing on  the family farm to her sons and grandchildren.  She dreamed of growing old with her husband and watching her family grow, of getting to be grandma and seeing her sons marry women who loved and respected her and in return she would love them and hand down the wisdom of life’s lessons learned.

But this dream was shattered by one tragedy after another.

First a famine hit the land and the farm stopped making money, no rain, no graindust bowl time! So they walked away from the farm and moved west to the country of Moab.  Then, just as their fortunes seemed to be changing Naomi’s husband died. But Naomi found solace in that her two sons had both found nice Moabite women to marry. Then, tragically, both her sons died.  Within a ten year span Naomi had lost the farm, her husband and both her sons.

So here they are, three widows without much cause for hope, when they heard that the famine in Israel had ended.  With no other recourse Naomi decided to return home and hope for the best, but she still held out very little hope.  She told her daughter in laws:

Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, (for you to marry) 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, (a goodbye kiss) but Ruth clung to her. Ruth 1

Naomi was convinced that the Lord was against her and she was destined to live out her miserable life alone.  But one of her daughter in laws, Ruth, was not about to leave her. Naomi was her family now and she would stay by her no matter what.

Naomi was blessed by the unconditional love of her daughter in Law but still she tried to persuade her to return home to her own mother’s house not wanting her to have to suffer the same hopeless destitute and lonely life she was sure would be her lot.  Ruth responded to her mother in law in no uncertain terms, “You are my family, your people will be my people, your God my God— so stop telling me to leave you, where you die I will die!” Wow, don’t we all need a Ruth in our lives?

Or a better question might be, Who’s Ruth am I? To whom have you said?—  I will never give up on you no matter what.”

Ruth said this to Naomi, so off they went; this tiny family, Ruth and Naomi, back to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem.  They got there just as the Barley harvest was taking place. So, lacking any way to support or feed themselves, Ruth said she would go to one of the nearby farmers and ask if she could pick up the left over grain from behind the reapers.

ruth-gleaning

She chose a field that happened to belong to Boaz who turned out to be a relative of Naomi. Impressed by her willingness to work from sunup to sundown picking up dropped gleanings behind the paid harvesters to provide for her and her mother in law, Boaz told his workers not to harass her and  in fact to look after her and to make sure they left enough behind so that Ruth would get a good bushel or two to take home.  Boaz even told Ruth not to go to any other farms because he was afraid she would not be safe on another place.

When Naomi heard about all this she was filled with hope for the first time in years and exclaimed— ‘Boaz is a relative of mine, obviously he likes you, maybe this is the Lord’s way of providing you with a husband and restoring our family.’ ‘Uhm, I just had an idea.  There’s a harvest party tonight at his place. Wash yourself up girl, put on some nice clothes and some good smelling perfume and get on down there and make yourself known!’

“Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down!” No wait, that’s Reba’s mother, not Ruth’s.

Long story short, Boaz did take notice of Ruth and impressed by her loyalty and virtuousness, he married her. And because he was a relative of Naomi he was even able to redeem the family farm that had been lost to Naomi’s family when all the male heirs had died off.

It wasn’t long before Naomi had a grandson and her long dead dream of being the grandma, of handing down the family farm, and having a daughter in law to share life’s joys with, was restored.  Her dream, her long dead— ‘never gonna happen now’— dream, was restored, as was Ruth’s.

 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;  and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”  Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.  The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:14-18

I love that the Holy Spirit put this story in here, sandwiched between much weightier books,  to remind us that he is a very personal God who cares about the individual. 

He cared about Naomi even though she had given up hope. She had given up hope but she never stopped trying, she just kept pushing on and though she was convinced that for some reason God was against her, she never turned to another God, she never rebelled. God was still her God and he came through for her in spite of her hopelessness and despair.

The Red Tent

Then there’s Ruth, a foreigner who did not even know Ruth’s God. Yet exemplified the purity of simple faith, in her willingness to follow her dead husband’s mother to a land she did not know, and worship the God of that land though she saw no tangible benefits to that worship.  She had a faith and a virtuousness that put to shame many more religious women who never knew the tragedy she had endured.

Because of her astounding character she was restored and blessed, even becoming the great grandmother of King David, the throne of whom the Messiah himself would occupy forever.

Both of these women just kept putting one foot in front of the other and recognized the restoring hand of God when it appeared, and appear it did, when they least expected it in a way they could never have imagined.

What a great reminder of who our God is—the restorer of dreams. 

Never give up, never lose hope, your God loves you and hears you.

 

Barbarians. . . seriously?

Political correctness be d@#%d!Barbarian meme

Barbarians in the Kingdom

The Barbarian in the Kingdom is a man, a simple man with a simple mission- to live victoriously and to never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Barbarian in the Kingdom makes no apologies for who he is as a man or as a soldier for Christ. The barbarian in the Kingdom takes care of his own- the women in their lives- not because they are inferior and weak but because that is his role and he embraces it. The barbarian women in his life appreciate and thrive in the freedom and security that care affords them.

It is the civilized and religious man who subjugates and diminishes his woman- in the barbarian tradition, as in the Kingdom of God, the women always play a key and equal, even if different, role in the societal and family structure. They are not ashamed to be women and the men are not ashamed to be men- this gender neutralism business trying to pervade our society is just as ridiculous and absurd as was the notion that women are inferior.

The barbarian in the kingdom lives by a simple heart cry:

8I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40: 8

The simplicity of the barbarian nature guided by an instinct of justice uncluttered by religious rules or p.c. gamesmanship. This allows he or she to move freely and effectively, advancing and strengthening  the Kingdom while hardly even realizing it. Moving in the three basic tenants that are ingrained in the soul of every person who is wise enough and courageous enough to embrace it, the tenants that reflect the Spirit and life of our Savior:

Simplicity of purpose, Singularity of mission, Determination of spirit

And that’s why we need Barbarians in the Kingdom

Dan Swaningson- the Barbarian pastor

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Twisted Crowns

Who is in control of my life? Who wears the crown? Me, or Jesus. All of us have twisted crowns because we are always wrestling with the Lord to try and take it back.

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Anxiety-

Freedom from anxiety; a lesson I have been struggling with the last few weeks, fear of being a bad superintendent and not getting my multi-million dollar construction project done right, fear of not being a good pastor, a good father, fear of what others may think of me if I fail at any of these. Anxiety is a relentless and merciless task master. —‘Lord—take away my fears and forgive me for doubting you when you tell me to cast all my cares on you, that you will never leave me nor forsake me, that you are my fortress and my strength, an ever present help in times of trouble—restore to me the joy of my salvation and help me to walk in victory!’ Amen?!

The Lord set me free 38 years ago with the words of a psalm—“Out of my distress I called on the Lord, the Lord answered me and set me free. With the Lord on my side I shall not fear, what can man do to me?” – from Psalm 118. And I was suddenly set free—not from addictions to drugs though that would be the end of my partying days, not to my need to drink mass quantities, though that would be the end of my drinking days, the Lord set me free in the moment I read those words from my fear of being alone, from the shame that kept me from him and the pain that drove me to the other things.

In that moment I decided to abide in is word, to live in his word, and be free—and I did. His words were more than just inspiring ink on paper, his words became alive in my heart and I felt his overwhelming presence like I never had before in an undeniable and unexplainable way and I vowed to never turn again to the things that had ensnared me by their false promises of appeasing the flesh and soothing the mind—I no longer need those things—but I still need Jesus, day in and day out because the flesh still tries to drag me down. Lord take my Crown.

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We are a stubborn lot. We want to be free but we don’t know what to do with our freedom and we use it to get right back into bondage—just bondage of a different sort. You can’t tell me what to do! Well. Maybe not, but then we make the wrong choice and we become a slave to ourselves, a slave to the flesh—or as Jesus would put it, “a slave to sin.”

Our own minds are our worst enemy. Our flesh—our own desire, our own thought patterns and motivations. Things that must be tempered by the Lord, by his word.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

The enemy cannot steal your freedom—unless you allow him.

How do we lose our freedom? -one word—sin

It’s really not that hard people, read the word, know the word. At the very least, know and abide by the Ten Commandments, they are very straightforward and succinct and will keep you out of a whole lot of trouble.

Example

—big uncomfortable, I don’t care if you are offended or not, this is gospel truth and I’m tired of having to clean up the messes of people who think it’s not important—example.

Donna and I did not sleep together until we got married.

I was living in my new found freedom from my addictions and in God’s love and grace when Donna and I started dating. We were not kids anymore, we both had a lot of life under our belts when we decided to get married. We were engaged, and we drove ourselves and each other crazy because we were committed to waiting for the Honey Moon to consummate –impatiently waiting

In the weeks leading up to the wedding Donna would sometimes spend the night at my house—on the couch in a different room—I lived out of town a ways and we often just wanted to be together long into the evening and Donna would be too tired to drive home.

A few times, sorry kids but we were passionately in love—and still are—we would get a little carried away with the kissy kissy and, like I said, drive ourselves crazy. ‘Why wait, we’re both adults, we know we’re getting married, everyone else does it,’ and then I would look at the big window in my living room and see my Christian fish sticker placed there for all the world—and myself— to see and remember why not—because the word of God says so.

After coming dangerously close to breaking our commitment to wait a time or two we both did some serious repenting and praying—I’ll tell you what, that prayer, asking the Lord to forgive us for pushing the boundaries and to help us stay strong in his word and his Spirit did more to solidify and bless our relationship than anything else we did to that point and perhaps since.

I am convinced that one of the reasons our marriage has stood the test of time, that we have been blessed by the Lord in our marriage, is because we abided by his word. We did not live together to practice, we did not succumb to the temptations of the flesh and become one outside of our sacred vows and we begged forgiveness and strength to overcome the lies of the enemy—”did God really say?” Yes, he did.

Where do you live in your mind? Confusion or Kingdom, circumstantial slavery or truth.

Because where you live is what you will become.

Stop wrestling the Lord for control and let him be King, he promises freedom, Let go of your twisted crown and lay it at his feet.

Claim your freedom, read- Barbarian’s in the Kingdom

 

Darkophobia

“. . . suddenly I would hear a rustle and the sound of quick footsteps, the creak of the door. . .  “

Light path

They say that the fear of the dark is one of the most common fears there is, right up there with public speaking, claustrophobia, spiders, snakes and mice.

Why do we fear the dark?

We shouldn’t, we mustn’t. Only a heart still in the dark fears the dark.

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4,5

The light that we have, the light that illuminates our hearts, is not the kind of light that can always be seen with the eyes. Rather it is an illumination of the spirit. A light, literally a life, the life of Christ, who resides in us, and does all the things visible light does only better. It guides us, reveals things to us and dispels darkness. With the true light that brings life we no longer have to fear the darkness, in fact the dark now fears us.

Last week I told you about a time when I was five years old and raiding the refrigerator in spite of the fact that I knew Santa was watching me. What I didn’t tell you was that this was a time of darkness for me, in many ways.

The story reminded me of the house we lived in at the time. It was a big old two story house and we lived on the main floor while the top floor was rented out to someone else.

I was living there with my mother and younger sister because my parents had just gotten divorced so we moved out of our nice new house in the country into this rental in town, while my dad moved into an apartment. My world was turned upside down and I didn’t understand any of it—darkness.

During this time I also became deathly afraid of the dark as well. My bedroom had a window next to my bed that looked right into the window of the house next door, which was only about six feet away, and the house was abandoned. Which to me meant that it was surely haunted. So not only did I have to worry about the spooks in my own bedroom who were just waiting for me to go to sleep so they could get me, I had to worry about the ones in the house next door who were also watching me—darkness.

So I would lay in bed afraid to close my eyes, hearing every creek and pop an old house makes, convinced that it was a monster or a skeleton watching me from the closet or patiently waiting under my bed for me to fall asleep so they could come out and get me or do whatever spooks do in your room in the dead of night. Then suddenly I would hear a rustle and the sound of quick footsteps, the creak of the door, and the fearful scream of a little girl fading away down the hall.

It was my 3 year old sister, with whom I shared a room, getting up as she did nearly every night sometime after we were tucked in, to run crying to my mother’s room because she was scared or had had a bad dream. She would then crawl into bed with my mother leaving me all alone in my dark bedroom. I tried the same trick a time or two but was told I was too old; “Go back to bed.” Darkness

I would spend the next several years afraid of the dark. We would move several times and I would end up sharing a room with a stepbrother, but I would still imagine the spooks in the night patiently waiting for me to close my eyes. Thinking about now I see the truth; I had always made the correlation between my fear of the dark being caused by moving into the scary house next to the scarier house because I wasn’t afraid before that. But looking back now with the eyes of the Spirit illuminated  by the true light I think my fear of the dark had more to do with the spiritual darkness that crept into our family and taunted my young heart as my family was ripped apart by divorce and meshed with a family broken by suicide—darkness

 

Darkness is more hiding-1209131_960_720than just a lack of sunlight, it is a spiritual condition. Whether it was caused by an actual dark spirit or simply by the virtue of my Dad not being there to bring light into our home—by the darkness caused by the confusion of the situation, seeing and hearing my parents tear each other apart in a really nasty divorce, or by the new dad whom I was being forced to accept, I don’t know, most likely it was a combination of all those things.

 

Cover

Parents are supposed to be their children’s cover until they are old enough to receive the light on their own behalf. And if that is missing—that cover—God still has a hand of protection on those kid’s souls, but their world will be one of darkness.

 

I was only just understanding this as I was writing it and thinking of no one but my own family as I continue to try to understand the pain of my childhood, so don’t get all bent out of shape here thinking I was out to pick on anyone—just take it as an exhortation to do the best you can in whatever your family situation to keep your kids covered in prayer, to hold the darkness at bay, and do your best to live in the light yourselves.

 

Like I say over and over again and what I tried to stress in my last book, Hope for Families, ‘every decision you make, especially as a parent, affects so many more people than you think.’ And if you have kids it is no longer about you, if you are married it is no longer about you, and if you are a Christian, it never was about you. It is about Jesus—if he is first in all you do, he will take care of you, orchestrate your steps, illuminate your path and keep you in the light, so you don’t have to look out for you, that’s his job, that is why he invited you into his light.

Selfishness is darkness. The world does not want you to know that because it wants to keep you in the dark, keep you hungry so you will strive for and buy more of what it is selling; ‘You deserve this, you deserve that— you deserve to be happy, you deserve a new car, a new phone, a bigger house, time for yourself—a better looking, sweeter, harder working husband or wife who will make you happy. Go find yourself!’

You know what you find when you go find yourself? The enemy waiting for you with open arms saying ‘step into the dark and do what feels good.’

Well, Jesus had something to say about that.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. John 3

You are so much more thaPowerful Bible.n that. You are a child of the living God, a child of the light, the light that shines in the darkness, the light that the darkness cannot overcome, does not understand and cannot stand against—there is absolutely no reason to fear him, to put up with him, no reason why you cannot tell him to take a hike—‘you do not scare me, in fact, you do not even bother me, you just let yourself out, don’y let the door hit you in the ass on the way out and by the way; don’t come back— in the name of Jesus; just be gone! And stay away from my kids as well.’

 

Mom Forever

 

“…eternity isMoments meme a moment that never goes away until we choose to let it.”

You may have noticed that God keeps his own clock, much different from ours. The church of Peter’s day, anxious for the return of the Lord, thought ten years was for—ev—er! Try 2000 years! Still just a couple of days to the Lord, I mean, I’m still trying to figure out how he created a 13 billion year old universe in just 6 days, we can’t explain it but we keep trying don’t we, it’s what we do. We just have to shove eternity into our calendars.

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. 2 Pet 2:8,9

I think kids actually have a much better concept of eternity, they haven’t been bitten in the butt by time near so many times as we adults so they just live in the moment. I think maybe that’s what eternity is, a moment that never goes away until we choose to let it.

That is why the Lord can take care of so many complex issues, be with everyone at—what seems to us like—the same time, and still be in the past and the future as well. He can take what is just a moment to us and make it last just as long as he needs to, until he is fully satisfied that whatever he is doing, creating or fixing is completely finished.

I imagine heaven being a place where I can sit on the front porch of my mountain cabin and visit with someone I love or find interesting for hours, even days, and still have time to visit with the myriad others I would like to spend time with and never miss anyone or anything because I spent too much time with someone else—I know I’m getting into the weeds here, welcome to my brain…

Anyway, what I was trying to get at, is that kids still think eternally, they are eternal souls learning to find their way in a temporal world so they think they do have time to just enjoy whomever or whatever is before them for as long as they wish and still never miss anything important. If you have kids you probably had that fight this morning when trying to get them out the door for school or church—you didn’t know you were fighting against eternity did you.

Kids see life through the “a day is like a thousand years” part of the eternity equation that Peter lays out here. When we are kids a day is like a thousand years; that last week of school just before vacation took forever, ‘I can’t wait!’ And then school is out and it seems like we were able to do such much just in one day, (maybe because when you are a kid your energy level puts you into hyper speed mode and you really can do much more in a day.)

Then we get older and the other side of that equation becomes our reality, ‘I only have one week to get this done, oh my gosh, it’s Thursday already, AHH!’ Our busy weeks go screaming by and then the weekend’s here and what really sounds good is a nap. We are now living in the one thousand years is like a day mode. I can see us all saying that at the end of the millennial reign of Christ; ‘Wow, that thousand years went by quick!’ (I’m already stressing about the end of the millennium and it hasn’t even started yet.)

Maybe that’s the difference, kids don’t stress about the end, the future, they enjoy the present.

Time to Mother?

But, I suppose we ought to get to the subject of mothers, which is really where I am going with all of this, while you are busy trying to get something productive accomplished, like wash your hair or do the laundry, when you really would rather take a nap, your kids are bouncing around in hyper speed, (maybe the theory of relativity comes into play here, they are moving so fast that they really are slowing down time), anyway, they just want to do stuff—“Mom, can we do this, why can’t we do that? Let’s go there, help me build this, take me to the pool, can I have a sleepover, “I’m bored!” this is the worst day ever, this is the best day ever, and all this just in a couple of hours.

And you are exasperated, all your dreams of being the perfect mom, having happy well balanced kids who never argue with each other, or you, who sit politely at the table waiting for you to flit in with your apron on, your hair and makeup done, and a tray full of fresh oatmeal cookies made from organic oats that you grew and rolled yourself, while their father is packing the minivan for a dream trip to Disney land—all those dreams now seem so far away; “Just give me the strength to make it till the end of the day without losing it and emotionally scarring my little monsters—I mean darlings— for life!”

Again, that’s your perspective. Maybe you thought you had the idyllic childhood and your mom made your life so wonderful, or maybe it was the mother of one of your friends, or a TV fantasy mom like June Cleaver or Mrs. Brady who made it all seem so easy and wonderful, but in reality, at least for the real life moms, they were also going through their days thinking; “Lord, give me the strength to not kill one of these kids before I can deposit them in their beds tonight.”Rockwell Mother

You thought it was all wonderful and perfect when you were a kid because that is the part you remember, you remember because you lived fully in the moment, you weren’t worrying about the future and your weren’t pining for, or trying to live up to, a past that can never be recreated, a past that now lives only in your mind.

Or maybe your childhood was full of turmoil and drama and you have vowed that things would never be that way for your own kids, but here you are, fighting off drama using your crabby Mom powers leaving you to beat yourself up at the end of the day, thinking you are failing miserably, letting the regrets of the day or even the regrets of a decade ago, keep you awake at night.

There are no regrets in eternity, only the moment.

Eternity begins today, eternity begins right now. So learn how to live in, make the most of, and treasure the moment.

I heard an interesting and kind of disturbing bit of trivia a while ago. Norman Rockwell, the famous artist who illustrated the cover of The Saturday Evening Post for many years, with what everyone thought of as classic Americana, once told a reporter that he discovered early in his career that he couldn’t sell reality near as well as he could sell the reality people longed for.

People look at Rockwell’s version of a perfect world and believe that somewhere, at some time, this was the way things really were. We all want to live in Mayberry.

I believe, because I have experienced them, that those moments do exist, they are just not as constant or as perfect as we dream of, but they are there, moments worth treasuring, we need to learn to recognize and appreciate them more, they make the rest of this crazy life much more palatable. And the more we grab a hold of and ponder those moments, the more there will be, not because they will magically happen but because we just learn to appreciate things more—less stress, more gratitude for today.

The most famous mother of all had this figured out:

 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Relax and treasure the moments that matter, take mental snapshots and ponder them later—the moment your child gives you that smile that just melts your heart. The moment your child spontaneously says: “I love you Mom.” The moment your little girl hands you a bouquet of wildflowers she just picked with her pudgy little hands, when your child falls asleep snuggled into your lap like it is the safest place the world.

These are the moments to treasure, these are the moments that matter, moments you actively helped create, even if they didn’t go exactly, or even close to, the way you planned, and the moments you create by just being in the right place at the right time.

Every moment spent being a mom, being a parent to your child, is  a moment spent in the right place at the right time. You are building eternity, moment by moment —and that is what makes you the world’s greatest Mom.