Your marching orders have changed.

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??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????With the news coverage of fighting in the Middle East, it doesn’t take much to imagine a battle scene. Perhaps you see soldiers marching behind their leader or the dust and blood carrying weighty stories across a soldier’s face.

As I read through Ephesians recently, I couldn’t help but imagine a battle scene, but not the kind where innocent lives were lost; it was of the supernatural kind.

Ephesians 2, written by Paul, a used-to-be murderer of Christians turned follower of Jesus, wrote these words:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

At one time, we were all soldiers fighting behind the Enemy’s lines. And while now I, and perhaps you too, have given your life to Christ, there was a time when we marched along behind the prince of the power of the air-which is Satan-God’s enemy. It may seem harsh to you, but the truth is, until you bow your knee to Christ, you are on the Enemy’s side.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get over how God calls us out of our mess. In fact, I hope I never do! We were marching along, destined to hell and dead in so many ways and then, our marching orders changed. Because of Christ’s death and blood shed for the payment of our sins, we were summoned out of the darkness, like a soldier receiving new orders. The question is, will you accept?

This is one of the things I most love about the Lord. He takes us from being a soldier who was fighting for the Enemy, to being a part of the tight-knit brotherhood, we would call the “family of God”. And he teaches his new army how to care for one another through the example of his own Son, who laid down his life for yours and mine. Not just so that his army could be bigger, but because he loves and cares for each soldier. By grace you have been saved! Amen?!

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

 

 

 

 

Fight back with Joy!

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GREAT-JOY

When Margaret Feinberg was diagnosed with Cancer, she chose an unconventional plan of attack: She would fight back with joy.

Driven to neither succumb to fear or depression, Margaret, a well-known author and speaker in the Christian community, chose to fill her Cancer-fighting arsenal with joy. This wasn’t just a fluffy emotion or naive decision, joy was found during very difficult and painful days. But with over 400 scripture references to joy, Margaret resolved that suffering doesn’t win. Joy wins.

Along with amazing doctors, who passed her “test” of laughing when she wrote a joke on her body in a place only they would see during physical exam, she attacked Cancer and won! She believes deeply that we are created for joy. This is not just a fleeting emotion, but a supernatural provision of the Lord.

In her own words:

“During the last year and a half, I felt my way through the darkness of despair and stared death in the face. Somewhere along the way God unveiled a spectrum of joy I had never experienced-from the joy expressed as lighthearted laughter in an impossible situation to the joy experienced from hearing the deep voice of God during times of great pain. Through it all, I learned something startling: more than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life’s battles.”

I had the opportunity to read several chapters of Margaret Feinberg’s new book, “Fight back with Joy” as part of her “partymob” of bloggers. I want to recommend it to you today as you begin the New Year. If you’ve ever read any other books of hers, you know that Margaret weaves scripture and Biblical insight together like a fine tapestry. She fills the pages with encouragement and truth all the while leaving you with a desire to return as quickly as possible.

Margaret identifies scriptures which divulge the delights God has bestowed on all people: a cheerful word, a surprise birthday party, a good day’s work, sweet wine, extra virgin olive oil, just-out-of-the-oven artisan bread, sex, the birth of a child, a fiftieth wedding anniversary, the dawn of harvest and more.

In addition, for those who have bowed their knee to Christ, there are further promises of new life and joy including: forgiveness, restoration, salvation, comfort, the law and decrees, God’s presence, and homecoming. Our greatest joy, being in the gift of Jesus Christ himself-our hope and future.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Margaret’s new book and maybe one for a friend. As life’s struggles come your way, add joy to your arsenal and attack doubt and fear in a whole new way.

Watch the promo video here.

See below for ways you can order “Fight back with Joy”.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

6 Session Bible-Study kit

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Sugar cookies and other Merry treats

Merry Christmas friends!! Can you believe it’s only a week away? Some of you just had a mini-heart attack. (I hope not!) Wherever you are today in your Christmas preparations, I want to encourage you to remember what this season is all about. It isn’t the cookies and presents or parties and extra traffic although those will all likely be a part of this season. The real reason we celebrate is because the Savior of the world came to us as a baby. His arrival rocked the world! As a benefactor of the life change that he brings, I try to soak in every (fun) aspect of this season. I drank this little gem yesterday and had a few quiet moments to myself. Boy did that hit the spot!

christmasdrinkI began the Christmas season feeling many of the same stresses that often come with it, but after a “come to Jesus” moment, I turned that around and chose to focus on HIM instead of the other distractions that so easily steal my joy during the “most wonderful time of year”. I’ve been reading through the gospels and that has been especially timely and encouraging.

I am still homeschooling my girls, which is proving to be so much more difficult right now. All we really want to do is play Christmas music, watch Christmas movies, make cookies…decorate Christmas cookies….eat Christmas cookies…you get the picture. While I honestly cringe a little when all of my girls gather in the kitchen and ask to pour in the flour (because I know where it will all go), I am thankful for these moments that I have to share this yearly tradition with them.

20141218_104419My littlest lady was helping me make sugar cookies today and I got thinking, maybe you’d enjoy this tried and true recipe that I’ve been making for about the past 13 years. The Almond extract is delightful and my oldest daughter claims that it just “makes these cookies”. Take her word for it. They are really good.

So, Merry Christmas from me to you! Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies:

1 1/2 c powdered sugar

1 c unsalted butter

1 tsp Almond extract

1 tsp Vanilla extract

1 egg

2 1/2 c Flour

Mix softened butter and sugar until lumps appear. Add almond extract, vanilla, and egg. Blend well with hand mixer until creamy. Stir in flour and blend well.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut shapes and place on a lightly greased pan. Cook 8-9 minutes, but don’t let them brown.

Yields approximately 2 1/2 dozen.

There are many types of frosting that you can use. This is the one I use. It is not terribly smooth, but it tastes soooo good! So, that has to count for something!!

Sugar cookie frosting:

1 c unsalted butter

1 lb powdered sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

(food coloring to color)

Beat softened butter and sugar until smooth. Add salt and vanilla and beat well. Divide into desired bowls and frost cookies.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Psalm 150:6

 

May it be to me…

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???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Our family watched the Nativity Story movie last night. It’s such a telling picture of what Mary and Joseph’s life may have been like before the birth of Jesus. There were so many struggles they must have endured and many that I’ve never thought about as I read the story. The ending of course, was our favorite, as baby Jesus was born in the stillness of that night in Bethlehem. Our girls kept saying, “oh, baby Jesus is just soooo cute!” What a great way to turn my focus on the real reason we celebrate this “busy” season of Christmas.

Probably the most “heart-checking” part to me however, is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel after he comes to tell her that she will bear God’s Son. Imagine being a young teenage girl in a society filled with stoning for sins! Luke outlines the story in great detail for us and shares Mary’s response in a moment when I’m pretty sure I may have wanted to just sit down and cry…or run away: “I am the Lord’s servant. I am willing to accept everything you’ve said. May it be to me as you have said.”

Really, Mary??! No wonder God chose you.

I’m kidding, but only a little. I love her response. And it’s this response of complete surrender that has encouraged women for thousands of years. I hope you’ll be encouraged by her today.

We aren’t being asked to do something this extraordinary, but whatever your situation, it may feel all-encompassing to you. Christmas is a busy time of year, often overwhelming. It’s easy to allow our focus to turn to the next trip to the store or how there isn’t enough money to get all the things you had hoped to get. What about when you lose your job before the holidays or your kids are ruining the fun with their ungrateful attitudes? Are you focused on that trip to your in-laws that is going to be so difficult or how you wish you could (fill in the blank) but aren’t going to be able to this year?

Disappointments are real and they seem magnified at this time of year, when you’re apparently supposed to be “Merry and Bright”. But what if we looked at Mary’s response and chose total surrender to what God has in store for us this Christmas season?

The car died again…May it be to me as you have said.

Is there enough money to buy presents?….. May it be to me as you have said.

I feel lonely and wish I had someone to walk through this season with…I am the Lord’s servant. I am willing to accept everything you’ve said.

I just want a child…I am willing to accept everything…

We have to move AGAIN! ….May it be to me as you have said.

I miss my ______ so much during the holidays… May it be to me as you have said.

If you are one of God’s children, he is faithful and present and he sees you, even when life is not turning out like you had hoped. We don’t always understand why, but I know from personal experience and from Mary’s story that God is always working out his plan and will use your life for his glory. Mary chose to accept God’s plan and it meant ridicule, shame, a difficult journey, near death experiences, and also tremendous blessing! She laid out her life in surrender, as years later her Son would do for all of us in the greatest act of love we’ll ever know. “May it be to me as you have said”, must have been the most life changing words she ever spoke!

So, how will you respond today?

 

There is hope: World AIDS day

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AIDSToday is “World AIDS day”, which doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. I don’t fault anyone for that. But since my life was touched by HIV years ago, this is a day of reflection for me. It’s also a day that I hope to bring encouragement to Christians in “the church”.

You don’t often hear much about AIDS inflicted people, unless you’re talking about orphans in Africa who’ve lost both parents to the disease or about “those” with a lifestyle that would “cause” such things. But AIDS is very real here in America. Did you know that 14,000 Americans die with AIDS every year? There are also about 56,000 Americans who will be infected with HIV this year.

How should the church respond? Because, surely, we SHOULD respond.

Are people with HIV/AIDS welcome at your church? I sure hope so! At our church, I’ll be the first (of many) in line to welcome anyone who wants to disclose that information. It’s important to educate yourself on the real facts about HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted. Often, our fear just comes from a lack of knowledge.

We know children living with this disease who are doing so well! Reducing their viral load by receiving the proper medication has been the most significant factor to their success. Did you know that the pharmaceutical company Glasko-Smith Kline offers anti-retrovirals (ART) to HIV ravaged areas in Africa at cost? They are continually working toward advancement of these medications. If you live here in America, you have countless University hospitals and others who research and provide top-notch care for HIV/AIDS patients.

The mission of our church as well as our own family’s mission is to connect people to Jesus for life change. God has changed ours so graciously, that we can’t help but share him with others. We truly believe that while living with an illness such as HIV or AIDS comes with tremendous obstacles, there is hope in a life lived with Jesus.

I remember holding the hand of a woman who had been diagnosed HIV+ just moments earlier. I still remember the tears streaming down her cheeks as screams and cries echoed against the walls of her hospital room. It was sobering and heartbreaking. But, considering that I would go through that very experience less than a year later, it was gracious of the Lord to give to me. I also remember seeing her a month later when she told me, “Thank you for being there with me. I’m going to be ok.”

Like Jesus, we have the opportunity to be his hands and feet; to touch those who desperately need to be touched.

Within minutes of the call from my doctor who told me I was HIV+ in 2005, I felt like a leper and I feared for the tiny baby growing inside of me. I wonder how many of you would be afraid of me, if God hadn’t changed a Western Blot positive HIV diagnosis into the greatest miracle of my life? Would I be welcome to eat dinner in your home? Could I hold your children?

It’s worth asking yourself those hard questions, because if someone ever walks into your life faced with this disease, I want you to be able to love them as Christ would. Check out these helpful links:

http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/transmission.html

http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/HIV-AIDS-medical-care/

some statistics above from: http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/hiv-infection-rates-rising/Content?oid=2285776

 

 

 

 

My first marathon!!!

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A couple of months ago, I told you that my husband and I were going to run our first full marathon in November. I was so nervous to start this training program, because I knew if I did, I wouldn’t quit…and that it would be hard. I asked the Lord if I should even try something like this (mother of four young children, busy pastor for a husband, and recurrent back issues) and this is the verse he gave me: “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.” I knew He would get me through. So, training began in July. It was a lot of hard work. There were many days that it was just too hot to run and others that I had to run in the pouring down rain. I would come back to the house sloshing in my shoes, or so worn out from the heat that I could hardly do anything else, but every time, I was filled with confidence that this was making me more ready to run my first marathon. God has this amazing way of growing your character and confidence in him-even while running-He doesn’t waste a thing!!!

Well, it’s November and we did it!!! We crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles!! Here’s my story:

We chose to run the Richmond Anthem marathon this past Saturday, because we had heard that it was a fairly flat course, had lots of great fans, and was held on a Saturday.

We arrived in Richmond a day early and pretty quickly went to the Expo. This is where you pick up your bib number and free t-shirt. There are loads of vendors selling everything from chafing creams to jackets, 26.2 stickers for your car and running shorts. There is also information about upcoming races etc.. in case you can think past the race you’re about to run.

This was my favorite shirt on display:

20141114_142208Yes! I have always loved a good wedge or some high heels, but lately, my feet have been craving my Brooks Adrenaline’s!

We went back to our hotel and laid out our race clothes. I was going to be wearing a running jacket I had recently bought, (you’d normally never wear a jacket for a long run) because it was supposed to be 28 degrees at the starting line!! What? It had been so beautiful in NC for weeks, but we have the “Polar Vortex” to blame.

20141114_162845Stomach aches and much anxiety ensued, so my husband and I spent some time reading scripture back and forth to each other. Then, we wrote favorite running verses on a piece of paper and put them in our jackets. Peace rushed over me. The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my victory! We slept pretty well and woke up to race day!!!

It was cold as predicted, but such is life. We wore extra clothes that we could discard at the starting line down to the race. There were thousands of people and almost everyone was standing in line to use the portable bathrooms! Of course, having race jitters, I needed to go. I stood in line while Scott checked a bag for us, which they almost didn’t take, because we were the only ones who brought a rolling suitcase instead of a clear plastic bag to the starting line. Newbies! What can I say? They took pity on him and took the bag after searching it meticulously. I was still standing in line at the bathroom with thousands of others.

The race was about to start and I just had to make the decision to get out of line and “hold it”. We ran to find our “wave”, jumped in with the others and 20 seconds later we heard “Marathoners, are you ready??”

Everyone was cheering and screaming. The gun sounded and we were off. One of us had a full bladder. Ouch!

The first mile raced by. Our legs were rested from the “taper” we had just experienced for the past couple of weeks. It felt amazing. People everywhere cheering, many with hilarious signs like “Don’t poop on yourself” (a real problem for runners) and “Run faster, I’m cold!” There were so many others, but I can’t mention many of them on here. Mile 2 was done. Then 3 and 4…and you get the picture.

My good friend Shannon, who is a multiple time “Ironman”, told me to “take it all in”. To look at the faces, watch the leaves fall, and take in the scenery. This was the best advice! I shared it with my husband and he did the same. Really seeing our surroundings made us feel so present. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more. We threw up our arms and danced along as the bands played at each mile and we cheered with the crowds when they cheered for us.

By mile 8, I was having some hip and achilles pain. It must have been the cold weather, because I don’t usually experience that until many miles later. I just prayed and prayed. My husband could tell I wasn’t my usual chipper self as I ran and he began to pray as well-right out loud, as we ran along the beautiful James River. It was something I’ll never forget. The Lord answered. The pain in both places was gone by about mile 14.

river_350Isn’t that beautiful?? That was our scenery for miles!

We crossed the coldest, windiest bridge at mile 16. It felt like forever and again the signs said things like “Isn’t this the worst bridge ever??!” We laughed as our teeth chattered. But just as we crossed over the bridge, we heard our names being yelled and two of our dear friends were standing there with excited faces to surprise us!!! We couldn’t believe it. It was just what we needed at that point. Amazing how God just knows.

By mile 20, we were thrilled with our time. In our training, we had only ever run up to 20 miles, so from here, it was all NEW. I was starting to get really tight hamstrings. As we ran, I shared that with Scott. He had been the best cheerleader through the entire race. He was having so much fun, I honestly could have slapped him. But, it was also just what I needed much of the time. I’m a pretty focused runner, so his diversions of yelling to the DJ’s as we ran by, were fun. We took a quick stretch break and kept going. We realized that miles 20 to 26.2 separate the “men from the boys”. People were beginning to walk and make noises that were seriously painful. We prayed for people as we ran and encouraged others. It was hard after 21. Our pace slowed slightly, but because we had run so fast our first 16 miles, we were making great time. This was the point where I was saying verses to myself and praying for lots of strength. This is where you just have to push through even though everything hurts.

At one point, Scott yelled out “Shanna! I will mount up with wings like eagles”. I responded with “I will run and not grow weary”. A woman running by us said, “mmmm”, like she knew Isaiah 40:31 like we did. Or maybe she was just encouraged by it. I hope so.

At mile 24, my hamstring felt like it might pop, or maybe I just felt a little dramatic at that point because I was so close to the finish. I stopped for 15 seconds to stretch it and caught back up to my husband. He was so kind to not leave me in the dust! He wanted to cross the finish line together….my power is made perfect in your weakness.

At mile 25, we saw our friends again. They were telling us about a few turns ahead and the down hill finish. It was so encouraging to see them again at that point! The turns came, the crowds cheered, and the finish line was within eye shot. We picked up our pace and ran faster than our legs seemed to ever go! Scott said, “can I hold your hand?” He grabbed mine and we ran together those last 20 yards or so. I was screaming, “We did it!! I can’t believe we did it!!”

Then we heard, “Here come Scott and Shanna Lehr from Raleigh, North Carolina!” the most beautiful words as we crossed the finish line! I began to cry and a lady put a beautiful medal on my neck. It was done. All that work. Four months of hard training. Nine pounds shed. Lost toenails-no really! And we were done! Oh, and I never did get to go to the bathroom!

We killed the time we thought we’d finish in and came across at 3:43:48. I could not be more pleased with the whole experience! Praising the Lord for giving me strength and for allowing our bodies to run!! And for giving us so many friends who have run marathons and were incredible encouragers along the way!!

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I hope you were encouraged by my marathon story. If you’ve ever wanted to do something like this, do it!! Set a goal. Find a friend to keep you accountable and go for it!!! You’ll be so happy you did!!!

 

Dear Mom of little ones,

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Dear Mom of little ones,

I’m writing you as a friend who has been right where you are. In fact, I’m writing as a friend who is still there and has been there for a lot of years. I have four little girls that arrived graciously in this world, one after another after another. It’s pure joy to hold them in your arms, isn’t it? You wonder how such a perfect creation could ever have come from you and you stand in awe of the Creator who would give you such a gift.

But there are days when you feel tired and lonely and insignificant. Days where you’ve watched “Dora the Explorer” so many times that you’re pretty sure you’re going to begin speaking in fragmented sentences while singing about a map! You’ve had days where the walls of your house feel a little more like a jail cell than a home. You’ve wondered if all the butt wiping and bathing and teaching matter to anyone at all.

The answer my friend, is yes-a resounding, from the rooftops, yes!!!! It does matter. It matters to your precious children and it matters to God.

See, God uses those precious gifts to mold us into the women he desires for us to be: women who display the Fruit of the Spirit and women who know that the real secret to their strength is HIM. But friend, this takes time. Life changing character is not cheap. Character is built through long sleepless nights, thousands of selfless acts, and through deep soul-searching. Soul-searching, that turns your heart to the very One who drew you to your knees.

It’s hard today and it may be hard tomorrow too. But there is going to come a day when you wake up a different woman: one who loves greater, cares deeper, and whose soul surrenders regularly to her Creator. And you will realize that God used your children to be the catalyst to some of your greatest life change. At least that’s what I believe God desires for those of us privileged to be called “Mom”.

You might need help along the way and that’s ok. We all need help from time to time. Reach out and find a friend or two who will support you and “do life” with you. Laugh with her. Tell her the good, the bad and the ugly.

Years ago, women simply walked outside their door to find a village of women experiencing what you feel today. Today, you woke wondering if you were the only one who feels this way. Don’t believe it! The village is wide and deep, and beyond those thick suburban walls is another mom who feels just like you.

One day, you’re going to wake up and your children will be in a less “needy” stage. You will be able to have a few interests that don’t include finding the right consistency of baby food or what programs are educational for your kids. You’ll be able to celebrate that you’ve worked hard, though your work will never actually be done. Your life song will be one of intense experience and hope. You’ll be able to encourage others, and even your own, as they continue along in their journey. And you will smile at the future, content that you were obedient to your call.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. Proverbs 31:25

 

 

She’s not always going to ask.

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The other night as my husband and I walked into three different bedrooms to say good night to our little girls, I realized something very important.

In the first bedroom, is a little girl who loves to be read to. The images on the page excite her and the sing-songy voice in which we read lulls her to sleep. She lays down in her bed giggling about toys and kisses and asks to hold our hands when we pray for her. She’s easy to love and adore. The chubby fingers of a toddler and funny ways they pronounce words are some of the purest joys for a parent.

In the second bedroom are two little girls who giggle and jump on beds. Going to bed can be likened to the third world war against their parents because there is just too much fun to be had to go to sleep. They enjoy being read to, but what they really love are stories made up by their parents, where we are usually the star and on some epic childhood adventure that leaves them giggling and screaming for “more!” It’s easy to entertain these giggling girls.

The third bedroom holds a precious girl who is soon to become a young woman. She’s quieter than the others and reads often on her own. She asks deep questions about life and current events. She wants to understand the injustice in the world. She doesn’t ask for much personally, but she still needs it.

My husband was trailing a little behind me the other night after telling another of his epic tales that left the second bedroom screaming for a longer story. I saw him, as he was about to simply say good night to our daughter in the third bedroom and come down the stairs to me. It was one of those moments where you think, “Oh good, we’re all done. Now, we can finally relax for the night.” If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. Just then, I heard a soft voice from the third bedroom say, “Dad, could you tell me a story?”

My heart melted as I stood at the bottom of the steps looking up at him. I hoped he could read my mind, which was screaming, “She’s not always going to ask!”

She’s growing and becoming more private as young ladies often do. But, she still needs stories and laughter with her mom and dad as we lay on her bed. She needs us to hear about the books she’s reading and the thoughts she’s having about her ever-changing self. She needs to be coached through friendships and understanding our difficult world. Sometimes, she just needs a silly bedtime story.

There was a brief hesitation and then I watched him walk in the room and begin another of his animated and hilarious tales. She went to bed laughing about a spy mission in Greece; a story that’s right up her alley. I went to bed with a thankful heart.

Embrace these moments with your children. They aren’t always going to ask.

A Christian’s response to current events

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If you turn on the news or even just read your Facebook news feed these days you’ll find reason after reason to feel uneasy or perhaps downright afraid. We are living in unsettling times with ISIS nearing the border of Bagdad in a mighty attempt to take down another middle-eastern city. A Houston, TX mayor is also attacking church leaders who didn’t like her “non-descrimination ordinance”, which in part allowed trans-gender people to use any bathroom they like…try sending your 12-year-old into a bathroom in that city. No thanks! And, Ebola is ravaging much of West Africa and has entered our beloved U.S. in a city that I love and used to live in.

When does the tragedy end?

I think we all know the real answer, which is that it won’t until the Lord returns and every knee bows to him. I can’t tell you how often I remind myself that one day every ISIS member, every killer, every atheist, and every one else will bow their knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10, Romans 14:11). It doesn’t change today’s crisis, but it screams that one day justice will prevail.

So, what is a Christian to do? How should we respond? As a mother caring for her children at home, what can you do?

First, I think it’s worth saying that we shouldn’t just stick our heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening around the world, because it scares you. Not only does this seem like an irresponsible response for a Christian, but it also shows a lack of concern for the rest of the world; a world that God dearly loves and sent his Son for.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Because God loves the world, this means that I should as well. I desire to love the things he loves; sometimes I just need him to open my eyes to see this world as he does. That changes my response to the horrors on the news. It necessitates a response.

God is using his word to remind me over and over that this world is not my home. There is a future hope and this vapor of a life is to be lived for his glory. As a Christian, we are to carry hope to those we meet and as a Christian mother, we are to disciple our children so that they too, may know him.

Here are a few ways I choose to respond to the current events:

  1. Be aware: Times are quickly changing and we should be listening. As we saw in Houston just this past week, freedom of speech is becoming less “free” and those with agendas clearly against the Lord are hitting “below the belt” by attacking our churches. Pray for those making these audacious decisions. They need Jesus. They need his love. They need to repent and they need his forgiveness. As a Christian, you don’t have to take this lying down. Dr. Russell Moore makes a fantastic point in a recent article where he tells us to follow Paul’s example in Acts 16:37 where Paul and Silas had been unfairly beaten and placed in jail. After realizing what they had done to Roman citizens, the police were going to send them away silently. Paul said, “No.. we’ve been unfairly treated, they need to come and walk us out!” (paraphrased) In other words, they need to own up to what they’ve done wrong. As a Christian, we have a responsibility to vote for and call Senators and leaders who will petition for values that honor the Lord. We know that not everyone is going to honor and obey God, but when human rights are being taken away or liberty attacked, we should fight for them. Once it’s gone, it may never return.
  2. Be prayerful: I shouldn’t be, but I am so often amazed at how God answers the prayers of his people. Prayer is not only unifying to Christians as a group, but it also causes each individual to seek the heart of their Lord. When we pray “in Jesus’ name”, we are praying what he would pray for us if he were here. That truth has revolutionized my selfish prayers and caused me to seek the face of God for what HE actually wants to be done…. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Just understand that God’s will and your will are probably two different things. As you surrender your heart to his will, you can more readily accept his answer.
  3. Care for Christians around the world: This will look different for each of us. If you are a new mom or have a house full of kids, you may not be able to do anything more than pray like crazy for the refugees, the pastors, and the many other Christians who face daily persecution. Make it a priority during this season of life to do just that! If you are more able to move about, perhaps collect clothes, money, shoes, or books to send to displaced people groups. Pray for our military and send them notes of thanks. Write notes of encouragement to those God places on your heart-Israeli Christians, Syrian refugees, Houston pastors just to name a few. Even another step is to go and serve those people.

In those times that fear creeps in, claim the truth of scripture! The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

 

 

Pastor Appreciation: Let’s flourish together!

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Last year around this time, I wrote a blog called “5 Things you should know about your Pastor”. It was by far the most widely read blog of the year, making it to countries all around the world. I was most surprised however, at how many pastor’s wives wrote me just to say, “thank you!” Some felt I had said what is so difficult for most people to say and others were just thankful for being understood. It’s a unique position that bears tremendous spiritual battle and sometimes, we just need to hear someone else say, “You’re not alone.”

My husband and I started our church 7 years ago with a few friends and a dream to reach a city for Christ. We worked tirelessly as others joined our efforts and we watched God build his church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the years of our church plant, we’ve learned a few things about how to not only survive “life in ministry”, but how to flourish.

  1. Take care of your family. One thing we consistently talk about in our home is that your faith has to become your own. My husband and I diligently teach our kids, pray with and for them, answer questions that they have about God and do our best to prepare them for this difficult world, but before long, they have to choose for themselves if they want to know God intimately as their Savior. I’m always sad to hear of pastor’s kids who have walked away from the faith, wondering if they had ever really known the God I know. You must cultivate a gracious environment so that your kids can ask you any and everything-even when they aren’t so sure about God. We’ve had some really good conversations after one of our kids has said, “How do I really know God is real?” or “What if I’m not sure I want to obey Him?” I’m glad they are asking “real” questions. This is a great opportunity to show them scripture and explain how our belief in God ultimately comes down to faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross…and then we pray like crazy! (Hebrews 11:1) How sad if pastors spend more time equipping those in his church than in his own family.
  2. Take care of your physical health. How many pulpits are filled with overweight, unfit, and sedentary pastors? The answer is pretty obvious. If you’re going to lead others spiritually, you must set a good example by being a good steward with your own body. “The Biggest Loser” recently reported that 80% of America is obese. Our diets lack real nutrition and we live sedentary lifestyles. That’s a staggering statistic! Most of us have struggled with weight at one time or another, but let’s just be honest and admit that you can’t eat out 8 times a week (even for pastoral counseling or mentorship meetings) and expect to stay in shape, unless you make some healthy and intentional food choices while you’re there. My husband and I decided to challenge ourselves this Fall with our first full marathon. This was after he looked at a picture of himself with what he calls “a tire” hanging over his belt and decided he was “fat”. Now, we’re not only running together, we’re also dropping pounds together and it has been so much fun!
  3. Take care of your mental health. The more leaders I talk to, the more I realize how important caring for your mental health is. How can you lead well if you are discouraged, have pent-up anger, or anxiety consuming you? My husband is very open about discussing how anxiety nearly consumed him several years ago. It was a difficult time for us as a couple, but with the help of a few trusted friends and a counselor who will surely receive extra rewards in heaven, he is healthier than I’ve ever known him to be. Before we made it to Raleigh, some mentors told my husband, “Find a good counselor as soon as you hit town. If you don’t need them now, you will soon.” They were right!! My only regret is that we didn’t find him sooner! You can’t put a price tag on living in freedom!
  4. Take care of your soul. Many pastors and their families are notorious for being servant-hearted souls. But they get tired and simply can’t always give out. In order for a pastor and his family to be truly healthy, they need time away, time to decompress the stresses and frustrations of ministry life, and also time to be “fed” spiritually themselves. Besides a night or two here and there to nurture our own relationship, my husband and I try to get to some sort of leadership conference (together) every 18 months or so. I’d love for it to be more often, but we have young children. Those times away fuel us for months as other pastors speak into our lives from God’s word.  I was so touched the last time we sat at a conference when a pastor named Ryan Gold from Denver, Colorado prayed passionately for us and for our ministry. I could barely stop the tears flowing down my cheeks as he said, “Amen”, because I couldn’t remember the last time someone had prayed for us in that way. We often pray with others, but to feel “pastored” ourselves was unforgettable! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a few people in every church made it their priority to humbly serve the pastors and their families by praying for them?

I am so grateful for the many pastors who are humbly serving the local church, God’s “Plan A” to reach this world for Christ. Please encourage your pastor and his wife by sharing this with them!

 

 

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