Monday, October 29, 2012

Pass on your Blessings

I received the following several years ago and have kept in on my refrigerator ever since.  There are years when I am more committed to this than others, but it is always a good reminder of what we so often take for granted.  So, as we head into November later this week and begin focusing on all we have to be thankful for, I thought some of you might appreciate having a way to help your kids understand exactly what we do have and some additional things to be thankful for.

Once a day for the next 30 days, place an offering in a box.  During December, you can give the gift to missions.
Day 1 - One our of 5 American children live in poverty, lacking adequate clothing.  Give 2 cents for each pair of socks your child has.  Day 2 - Are you thankful for the blessing of electricity? Give 2 cents for each light bulb in your house.  Day 3 - Would you rather live in the dim light of candles?  Be thankful for them too. Give 2 cents for each candle in your house.  Day 4 - Most of the world's population lives beyond the reach of medical care.  Give 10 cents for each box of Band-Aids in your house.  Give an extra dime if they are not skin-colored.  Day 5 - Are you thankful you have a roof and doors to keep our the wind and rain?  Give 10 cents for every exterior door your house has.  Day 6 - Are you thankful for your clothes? Give a nickel for every closet in your house.  Day 7 - Are you glad you have indoor plumbing?  Give 5 cents for every roll of toilet paper in your house.  Day 8 - To people in refugee camps, even a thin sliver of soap is precious.  give 5 cents for each bar of soap in your house.  Give 10 cents for each container of pump soap.  Day 9 - Think of something nice you can do for a poor family in your community and do it today.  Maybe give some boxed food to the Food Bank.  If you can't, put a dollar in the box and be exceedingly grateful for all of your own blessings.  Day 10 - Do you walk to your town to get a bucket of water for washing, drinking, bathing, and cooking?  Or are you blessed with faucets that bring precious water to you?  Give 10 cents for each faucet.  Day 11 - How did you get clean today? Give 10 cents if you took a bath and 20 cents if you took a shower.  Day 12 - Most of the world is starving while Americans biggest concern is being overweight!  Put in 1 cent for each pound your mother and father thinks that they are overweight.  Day 13 - What a blessing to be able to see and have eye doctors to help us!  Put in 10 cents for each pair of glasses your family members wear.  Day 14 - Many people in the world are blind and do not have doctors to help them.  Give 5 cents for each person in your house that wears contact lenses.  Day 15 - Jesus loved the little children.  Give thanks, and 10 cents for every child in your family.  Do a secret good deed for each one of them today.  Day 16 - How would you like to live in your car as some families have to do?  Give 10 cents for every car in your family.  Day 17 - What if you lived on the streets?  Give thanks for your home and give 5 cents for every pillow in your house.  Day 18 - Epidemics often follow natural disasters.  Give thanks if no one in your house has been too sick this month to go to work or school, and give 50 cents.  Day 19 - The comfort of a clean bed is an undreamed of luxury for millions of the world's poor people.  give 5 cents for each bed in your house.  Day 20 - Did a cozy blanket cover you last night?  Give a penny for for every blanket in your home.  Day 21 - Was it cold enough to wear a coat today?  Give a penny for every coat in your house.  Day 22 - In some countries of the world, most of the people can't read.  Put in a penny for each children's book in your home. Day 23 - By now, you have bought some Christmas presents for friends and family members.  Give a penny for each present bought and give thanks to God for love.  Day 24 - Most of the world's population has never seen a grocery store.  Instead they scratch out their sustenance with primitive tools.  Give 5 cents for every garden tool in your garage.  Day 25 - Most people in the work cook over an open fire.  Aren't you glad your parents didn't send you out to chop wood this morning?  Give 5 cents for every burner on your stove and 5 cents for every oven.  Day 26 - Aren't you glad you have people that love and think about you?  Put in 5 cents for each grandparent, aunt and uncle.  Day 27 - Jesus was born and died for you!  Put in 10 cents for each family member who has received Jesus as their personal Savior.  Day 28 - Unfortunately this is the time of the year in which many people suffer loss in house fires.  Give 10 cents for every phone from which you can call 911 in the case of an emergency.  Day 29 - Many people suffer excruciating pain from the lack of dental care.  Give 5 cents for each toothbrush in your house.  Day 30 - Do you have a pet? Many people in the world can't even feed themselves, let alone a pet.  Give 25 cents for your pet.  If you live on a farm and have any other animals, give a penny for each additional animal.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Worshiping God in all Circumstances ... even a headache

You may think that the women that post on Stitches are just a random assortment of ladies, who write their random thoughts once a month, with no clear direction or message. Look a little closer. God is weaving a beautiful tapestry of lessons and stories. Often within a few days or weeks, there are multiple entries that follow a theme. That's not by accident, but by God's great design. He is speaking through this precious blog. I encourage you to subscribe, so you can see how God is speaking here.

I say that because I had a story to share about the need to worship God in all things, to focus our prayers on worshiping and praising the Almighty. Before I start writing, I go back and read previous posts. Thanks to this busy life of motherhood, I don't always read them the day they are posted. As I read, I realized my story is really just a furthering of a point January was just making in her post. We must have worship-centered prayers. But be warned, we have an enemy that does not want us to do this. The enemy is quite content for us to stay with our comfortable, need/request-centered prayers that truly can be focused on self rather than God.

Background: Since Sunday night, my oldest son has had a headache, a mean, painful, laughs at Tylenol and Motrin headache. I picked him up early from school Monday. He missed Tuesday and Wednesday. And now, Thursday, I am just waiting for the call from the nurse to ring. He has a history of migraines and severe sinus/allergy issues. The pediatrician thinks these are working together with this changing weather system to cause P1's headache. It has ranged in pain level from 2 to 8. Level 7/8 has him in tears and basically bed-ridden.

Tuesday night as P1 was trying to go to sleep and still struggling with the pain, I encouraged him in the most painful moments to stop and pray, worshiping God, thanking Him for all the blessings. P1 was quiet for a moment, as if he was doing just that, and then said, "I just can't. It makes it hurt more." I didn't address it but prayed over him and with him. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep.

Wednesday morning, he was determined to get to school. I hit him with the arsenal of medications. His headache was as a level 4. We loaded in the car. I decided to take him late because, honestly, the noise of the 6th grade trombone and tuba sectional would not have helped his headache. We took his sister on to preschool first, and as we headed to the middle school, P1 gripped his head and started crying ... level 7. He would not be going to school today.

As we drove home, I felt pressed to encourage him again to pray in praises and worship in the worst pain moments. He paused and again gave me the same answer, "I just can't. It makes it hurt worse." I knew if something is blocking him from praising God it needed to be bound up in the Name of Jesus and cast away. I started to say this to him but before I could say, "Jesus," P1 interrupted me. I tried three more times to instruct him in this and every time before the Name of Jesus could come out of my mouth, he interrupted me.

I raised my voice and said:
            [P1], I am not yelling at you. In the Name of Jesus Christ, I am binding you, evil spirit, and casting you away from [P1] and out of this car. God is our fortress or refuge. You have no strength or power here. You cannot prevent us from praising our Lord and Savior. Our God is a Mighty God and we are sheltered under His Wing.

P1 visibly relaxed. I sang a worship song the rest of the drive home. His headache did not miraculously go away, but that was not the point. He will, we will thank God in all circumstances. We will worship our God and praise His name. No one, nothing can stop us.

Psalm 91

English Standard Version (ESV)

My Refuge and My Fortress

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
    and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge[b]
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
    I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble;
    I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Passionate Prayer

A couple of months ago during the summer, one of our youth ministry associates (I think that's her title) asked me to master teach in the middle school youth on Sunday morning. Well, if you've met me, it probably won't surprise you that I love to be on stage and I love to talk… and both of those loves are easily fulfilled in teaching to our youth. So, of course, I accepted! And then I asked if there was a topic on which I should speak. Ooooo, I was hoping for something good and juicy… gossip, or drinking, or sex, drugs, and rock and roll! Ya know, a topic where I could whip out some good ol' fire and brimstone passed down from my Southern Baptist preacher grandfather. But when her text came back that my topic would be prayer, well, I was a little disappointed.

Ohhhhh, prayer. Ummmmmm, oh, okay. Prayer. Yeahhhhhhhh. Cool. Yeah, that's cool… cause you know, I like… pray… and stuff.


How was I supposed to teach middle school kids about prayer for 40 MINUTES?!?!

Well, I won't tell you the whole story in detail (although I am having to restrain myself from doing so because I do so lovvvvvve to tell overly detailed stories!), but in essence, I came up with something to teach that I'm pretty sure mainly just revealed that I knew very, very little about prayer.

But that started me doing some introspection… I was thinking: I am a good Christian. I love Jesus. I read my bible. But I just… don't pray. Well, I do the whole "pray continually" thing (and somedays that is as good as it's gonna get), but even on days where I have time, I don't sit down and pour out my heart to God.

What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to ask for? Or not ask for? Am I asking for too much? Does it really, REALLY make a difference if I pray? Does God change His plans based on what I pray?

So, I found that the "formula" that I used to use in teaching reading tended to apply to other things as well: "If you want to learn how to read, then you have to start reading." And in this case, I said to myself, "If you want to learn how to pray, start praying."

I began by getting out a cute little lime green journal my mother bought me and I "agreed" to journal pray (lest my thoughts get lost in space as usual) for fifteen minutes every day after I get my sons down for their nap. I figured I could book fifteen-minutes for that. I just talked to Jesus… well, I wrote to Him in essentially what is letter form.

And about twenty or thirty days into that process, I realized that I was just chatting AT Him. There was very little two way communication happening because I was just writing away. So, I prayed one day that God would teach me… that He would transform me… that He would transform my prayers.

Wouldn't you know that at that very moment my phone lit up with an email from Lynn Q about one of the women wanting to make sure she was signed up for a her bible study… she wanted to make sure she was signed up for the Transforming Prayer study.

Well, that was all the hint that I needed. I immediately got on my phone and signed up for bible study as well.

And it was totally a game-changer for me. I learned that prayer is SO MUCH MORE than lists presented to God via Jesus.

Duh. You're probably thinking.

But it was sorta new for me.

After some teaching about moving away from Request-Based Prayer and into Worship-Based Prayer, we spent some time going around the little circle and praying "God, you are…" and then filling in the blank with one of His attributes. Beautiful. I start ALL of my prayers this way now.

And then I learned that prayer in the bible was almost always a group thing. The beginning Christian church: pretty much all they did was pray together. And so I started asking myself, when do we pray together? Pretty much there is a hurried little prayer at the end of Sunday School given by the teacher and oftentimes we say the phrase "Let's pray SO THAT we can be dismissed"! Eek- how that must hurt the heart of God! Or maybe we pray one prayer over a gigantic list of prayer requests that refer to everything including my brother's co-worker's sister's dog-walker who stubbed her toe last week on the job. And then we all agree to pray for the list during the week. Or there is the person that offers to pray and we all groan inwardly because we know that he will drone on for a solid five minutes.

These amazing ladies in my bible study taught me "new" things…

Group prayer isn't intended for us to go on "babbling on like the pagans", but to be short, focused prayers. (But feel free to ramble allllll you want at home when you are talking to Jesus!)

Pray for people who make a request right THEN! Don't wait for it to move on to someone else's request! If a woman expresses that she is estranged from her father… stop and pray for her! If another woman says that her husband has a job interview that could potentially change their lives… pray for her right then! Yes, it's different. Yes, some people might think you are a "Holy Roller" at first, but do it and you will start to be transformed by prayer. You will start to see how prayer CAN transform others as well!

Pray the scriptures: The women often said "Pray with an open Bible." We took Psalm 27 one evening and slightly reworded it into us speaking to God… I was a dribbly mess by the end of it cause it was so moving and powerful!

And my favorite is something my friends on Facebook or my blog followers might recognize… but for the sake of repetition helping us to remember:

"The antidote for spiritual lethargy or heaviness is to put on a garment of praise."

As I recently struggled back out of a deep, cavernous pit of apathy towards God, I can assuredly say that making a concerted effort to praise God in the morning before anyone else was up (including the sun) and then to praise Him all day long and then to praise Him at the end of the day… well, that is what put me back on track. In my prayers of praise, I was reminding myself of who God was and is and is to come.

Again, some of this (or all of this) might be so elementary to you guys… if so, then do what you can to bring the rest of us along! Start a prayer group in your home! Interrupt the long chain of prayer requests by offering to pray for one at a time! Walk up and pray for a sister struggling in the grocery store!

And for those women like me that have been indifferent and possibly unbelieving in the power of prayer, test drive a few of the things above, and you, too, will probably discover a life filled with a newfound passion for prayer!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Patterns and Stitches

As most of you may know, I am a relatively new blogger for Stitches.  I am both honored and humbled to be asked to join all of these other ladies who are regular contributors.  I think what most intrigued me about this blog was the name, "Stitches - Watching how God stitches our lives together".  What a great thing and it so perfectly aligns with what I am passionate about - stitches, or more correctly, knitting.  If you know me at all, you know that I am a knitaholic.  I always have a project with me, and have multiple projects in progress.  I have a stash of yarn which is embarrassingly large - just so I can grab a new ball of yarn and start a project at a moment's notice.  Going to the movies - great, grab a hat.  Carpool - maybe a chance to work on at least a row or two of an afghan.  Cartrip - yeehaw, but don't ask me to drive because that is perfect knitting time.  The greatest thing about my passion for knitting is that, over the years, God has used this passion to bless others through Yarns of Hope, a charity knitting/crochet group that makes hats, scarves, blankets, etc. for cancer and pediatric patients. 

This fall, our Yarns of Hope group has started a bible study called "Knit Together: Finding God's Pattern for Your Life" by Debbie Macomber.  What a great truth that God has a pattern for our lives!  How much uncertainty this fact alleviates!  And, of course, this goes perfectly with the whole idea behind the Stitches blog as well - isn't that amazing how God knits (pun intended) all of this together?!?  Let's think about that for a minute.

When you first begin any project, whether it be knitting, crochet, sewing, painting, home improvement, literally anything, to be successful you need a pattern or plan.  Now, it can be elaborate or simple, grand or small in scale, detailed or just general guidelines, but to insure your success in the project, you must have an idea of where to begin and what the steps are along the way.  I love to make chemo hats and most often use a very simple rolled brim pattern.  I have used it so often that I don't have to refer back to the pattern now but there most definitely is a pattern that I use every single time.  If not, the hats would be too large or too small, too loosely knit, too long, too pointy - something wouldn't be right and the project would be a failure.  If I am starting on a sweater pattern (something I love to knit for my niece), I may spend hours picking out just the right yarn and pattern for her.  Then I will read through the whole pattern very carefully, making sure I have all of the supplies and that I know all of the stitches.  I may even knit a test swatch to make sure my tension is right and that I am using the right needles.  When I finally start, hours of preparation have gone into it beforehand and it is such a relief just to cast on those first stitches and begin the first few rows.  As I progress, I will have to pay close attention to the pattern and change my stitches according to it's direction.  I may even have to rip out a row or two if I don't like how it's looking or I missed a step in the pattern.  When it's finally complete, I have an immense sense of satisfaction.  Everyone else will see the finished project and how it looks on my niece.  Only I will know the planning, concentration, ripping out and all of the hours it took to complete.

By now, you may be wondering where I am going with this?  To me, in my very visual way of learning and thinking, this is a perfect example of how God creates a pattern for our lives.  He tells us in Psalm 139 how he has known each of us intimately before we were born.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 tells us that God has a plan for us:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

So, God has a plan for us, a grand pattern for our lives.  He has known what it is before we were born.  Now, we can still deviate from this pattern or go off track - that's when the pattern has to ripped out or has a flaw in it.  But what a great comfort to know that God loves us so much and won't leave us alone to our own human frailties and faults.  And, just like my sweater for my niece, when our patterns for our lives have been completed, nobody will see all of the snags, loose threads, mistakes or wrong stitches that we made along the way,  All anyone will see is the magnificent creature that God created to glorify Him.

My prayer for each of you is that you will find God's pattern for your life and experience the thrill of following it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mothers and Brothers

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”--Matthew 12:48-50 NIV

It used to be that generations of families lived in the same town--or at least in a neighboring town.  As the years went by, people went away to college and then settled down in a different city than they'd grown up in.  Continue down the years and jobs moved people across country.  Now, with technology the way it is, we talk to people across the world on a regular basis, and we don't think twice about it.  Families oftentimes live far from one another, and it's considered completely normal.

I know that you may be wondering what the verse I referenced at the top of this post has to do with the first paragraph, but stick with me.  Knowing the context of what Jesus was saying, I want to apply it to the situation so many of us now face.  For many of us, our mother and our brothers (our father and our sisters) very well may do the will of God and belong to the family of God.  However, they may live 1,000 miles away and therefore cannot be present on a daily basis for us.  I think the Lord is reminding us, our family isn't just those who share our blood line.  Our family is those who love the Lord and do His will.

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but I have met people (on more than one occasion) to whom I have immediately felt connected.  Though our life stories may be incredibly different, our ages may vary greatly, our culture may not be the same, I knew immediately they were family.  I remember this happening when I went off to college; I remember it again at a Christian summer camp where I worked; it has happened on each trip I've taken to Africa; it happens in church and in Bible studies.  And each time it happens, I am blown away by how the Lord loves me (us) and cares for me (us).  He knows we need and desire community, and He is so good to provide it for us.

The Lord created us for relationship--with Him and with others.  He showed us this in the Garden of Eden as He walked with Adam and as He also provided an earthly companion for Adam in Eve.  He loves to bestow His favor on us, and brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers of the faith are a beautiful part of that favor.

Though the Matthew passage is in no way speaking of families moving across the world from one another, the Lord knew it would happen.  And He knew we would still need one another to love and care for each other.  His Word tells us how important community is for Believers.

If your parents live nearby, be grateful.  It's becoming more rare.  If your parents are hours (or days) away, take heart.  The Lord has provided for that, too.  He has given us one another....

So, who can you care for today?  Who is in your family of faith that you need to reach out to this week?  What young mom or overworked dad needs an encouraging word from you?....Or maybe it's you who longs for someone to reach out to you.  Ask the Lord.  He is faithful.  He is good.  And He will provide in His perfect timing.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Grateful and Humbled

Last night, I was honored and blessed to participate in a service at church to ordain my husband as a deacon.  I have always regarded deacons as leaders in the church and the pastor was very kind to remind us of that last night.  It is an honor that my husband and our family does not take lightly.

While preparing for this, we tried to convey the importance of this to our boys, ages 13 and 11.  At this age, you never quite know what penetrates into their brains and what just flies right over.  :)  We have been very purposeful their whole lives to try to communicate with them about the importance of spiritual events.  It is not always easy and sometimes that meant I did not get anything out of a service because I wanted them to "experience" it and not distract others.  I am often reminded in these times, that this is a journey, not an overnight transformation.

There have been several things lately that have come to my attention, through others, that my boys are actually doing the things that we have taught them.  But one of the most humbling things happened last night, during the ordination service.  The men of the church came forward and prayed over all of the new deacons - individually.  It was an amazing time, as those we knew and those we do not know yet, prayed over us and our family.  Our boys came forward at one point and our 13 year old prayed over his dad!!!  What a powerful scene - this little boy (not so little anymore), understood what what going on, and lifted his dad to the throne room of the King!  I was humbled and overwhelmed at the beauty of his prayer and his willingness to pray for his dad during this time.

I say all of this to tell you to "take heart"!  Keep on, keeping on!  Stay the course!  While taking your kids into certain services may be difficult for you, you are training them on important things.  Have those spiritual conversations with your kids.  Do those devotions that you don't think they are listening to.  Help them learn to develop habits they will carry into adulthood.  Bring them to church and be consistent.  God will honor your sacrifices and return them to you!

Proverbs 22: 6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.