Go First to God… or How a Chihuahua from SoCal Stole Our Hearts

Last November, I got a FaceTime call from my son who was attending college in California. He and his friends had just picked up a piece of furniture that one of them had bought online. As the music played and the friends drove, he was calling to introduce me to his new dog. What?!

When his friends picked up the piece of furniture, the seller mentioned, “I also have this dog if you know anyone who wants it.” And my son had readily agreed: “I’ll take her.”

Despite my appeals for him to take the dog back—”you have no idea what it will involve, the cost, the care, etc.”—it became clear she was a new member of the family.

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In the Morning

Though I’m not a morning person, I love mornings. I look forward to the start of each day to fix some hot tea (or sometimes coffee—though I can’t figure out a way to actually like coffee—any suggestions?) and spend time reading my Bible and praying. An especially good morning includes a walk in the neighborhood, which is a good time to focus, pray, and plan the day. Read more

Book Review and Giveaway

9780802419194This summer, I went through a new Bible study on prayer called On Bended Knee: Praying like Prophets, Warriors, and Kings by Crickett Keeth. Crickett is the women’s ministry director at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, where I grew up. She is also a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, where my husband earned his Th.M. So we have many mutual connections which helped stir my initial interest in this study. I’ve also been impressed with the growing number of Bible studies being offered by Moody Publishers (where my husband also happens to work!) and have enjoyed using them over the last few years as resources to dig into God’s Word. Read more

Praying for You

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I’ve been thinking about the “pray without ceasing” command in particular this week. This week I’ve seen friends dealing with death, hospitalization, waiting on test results, traveling, kids heading to college, and the list goes on. I find myself saying over and over, “I’ll be praying for you.” Perhaps you’ve seen the same thing on Facebook or said the same thing. But what does that mean? What do my prayers for others look like?

I suppose if we are to “pray without ceasing,” it indicates hearts that are prayerful, bent towards prayer, praying as we come and go through our days and the situations in them, so we can pray right then for those we commit to pray for. But do I also take the time to really invest in prayer and to pray in faith (James 1:6), asking God to increase my faith where I sense I doubt (Mark 9:24)?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us how to pray (Matt. 6:5-13). Do I take time to get on my knees in a posture of humility and prayer, and find a private place to pray (6:5-6)? Again, do I come in faith, or do I simply come with words (6:7-8)?

From the Lord’s Prayer, we learn to pray by hallowing Jesus’ name and according to his will. We pray for our daily needs and seek God’s forgiveness as we forgive others. We pray deliverance from evil and protection from temptation. We acknowledge God’s glory, power, and kingdom. Each of these includes the aspects of Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (ACTS as an acronym to help guide us in prayer).

Those verses enlarge my prayers as I consider things bigger and higher than only what I can see. Next time I say “I’ll pray for you,” rather than simply uttering a few words as I go to be sure I have done what I say, why don’t I also note it on my phone or a notepad in my purse? Then when I sit down to pray, add their names to my journal and pray through the list. Don’t simply depend on my memory, though I can pray for them as often as they come to mind, too. Pray Scripture and pray in faith, believing God to do more than I ask, think, or imagine by his power at work (Eph. 3:20). And record the answers. Nothing is too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). And like the disciples, perhaps we can simply ask, “Teach us to pray.”

Matthew 6:9-13: “Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”

Beholding His Face

Our church has a wonderful ministry to moms and their young children called Mom2Mom. I am one of the “mentor moms” since I and my children are older. At each monthly gathering, a mentor mom will share a short devotional. I did this last year, and you can read it here, and this week I was honored to share again. This is what I shared.

My Weakness

It is rather ironic to me that I should, first, be involved in this moms ministry and, second, be asked to share. This is because growing up, I was the younger of two girls, and my mom and my sister did everything for me. They did all the cooking and cleaning, and I did as little housework as possible. I was not that domestically minded, and I rarely babysat. So when my own children came along, I loved them wildly, but I didn’t know the first thing about how to take care of them! I was learning through each stage of their development, and as soon as I would figure out that stage and feel on top of things, they had moved right on to the next stage! And just when I thought I had things mastered with my first child and would be an expert with my second (yes, I really expected this!), she came along three months early and threw a wrench into that plan!

Also, my children aren’t yet grown. When I think about giving wise advice to young moms, I’m not even proven! So while it would be great to bring in adult children and point to them, and therefore to me, as models of all that wise parenting can bring, the reality is my kids aren’t that old. Though they have faith that is growing, we’re all still learning and growing, and our story is ongoing—though in reality, I know that’s the case for everyone.

So rather than point to my kids or point to me—which even if I could, I wouldn’t want to—I wanted to point all of us to look up and into the face of Jesus Christ.

Easter and God’s Grace

We just finished the Easter season where I was struck again at the thought of what Jesus has done for us. We who are sinners, separated from a holy God by our sin, are able to know God and have fellowship with Him through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He took the place we deserved, bore the penalty and weight of our sin on the cross, and rose again in victory. Now by faith in Jesus, we are restored to relationship with God. What grace! We didn’t do this; God did! That’s how much He loves us. And there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This gives me great hope, not just for an eternal future with God, but for even today—abundant life in the here and now. When I make a mistake as a parent, be it from ignorance, by accident, through my sin, or whatever it is, I have a God who loves me, who offers forgiveness, who helps me, and who can give me wisdom for parenting.

This doesn’t mean I hang my hands and do nothing as a mom, just trusting God to take care of everything. While I am indeed dependent on Him and trust it will be His Spirit’s work in my children’s life that transforms them, I nonetheless know that I need to teach my children, and I want to do all I can to show my children the grace and love of God that He has shown to me. Rather than simply trying to change their behavior, I want to see into their hearts and help shepherd them to Jesus. I so often fail, but I’m so thankful that God helps me in this wonderful adventure of being a mom.

Beauty Found in His Face

I have just come through a couple of surgeries for skin cancer on my face. During this time, as I wrestled with the idea of having a scar, I was reminded again of the massive love of Jesus for us, that He would suffer and die and bear scars in His body for us (John 20:24-29). Imagine that!

One of the big things I came to realize, though, was that beauty is not found in the absence of scars, but in the presence of Christ. Through my time reading God’s Word, the Bible, each day, He brought me to verse after verse to show me this truth.

Exodus 34 is about Moses who, after having spent time with God, came down from the mountain. His skin shone, and his face was so radiant that the people were afraid, and he had to wear a veil.

Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” The radiant face comes from looking at Him. 

2 Corinthians 4:6 tells us that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Psalm 80, the psalmist asks that God would restore them, that He would make His face shine that they might be saved.

Psalm 67:1-2 similarly says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.”

Brokenness and Beauty/Suffering and Glory

During this time, I also began to see that God takes broken things and makes them beautiful so they we might shine for Him. This is also similar to the way He takes our light and momentary afflictions (brokenness) and through them produces an eternal weight of glory (beauty, shining) far beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17, Rom. 8:18).

These experiences are working out something in us that will actually make us more beautiful and able to reflect and shine for Him if we go through them beholding His face and His beauty. Our beauty comes from Him. And we can actually ascribe beauty to His name through our praise (Ps. 29:1-2), which I pray will ever be on my lips and in my mouth (Ps. 34:1), even as a scar sits there to remind me of this necessity.

How Do We Behold His Face?

The question then becomes “How do we behold His face?” We can do this through the study of God’s Word and through prayer, in both ways taking pleasure in the presence of Christ.

Study the Bible

It’s important to study God’s Word, the Bible, not just good books, helpful though they might be at giving us practical parenting tips. Set aside time to read the Bible each day. It can be a psalm or using a Bible reading plan or doing a Bible study. It was through Women’s Bible Study at our church that I began to grow and learn and be transformed by God’s Spirit through spending time daily in His Word. This is a vital spiritual discipline. God’s Word will not return void.

Pray God’s Word

Similarly, we want to pray. Pray before we read the Bible asking God to open our eyes and heart to understand. We can also take what we read in Scripture and pray it back to God, pray it for our children. Here’s one way I’ve done that this year.

May His Face Shine Upon You

The content of this talk has been new to me recently, a new theme, and I haven’t had time to wrap it up into a neat outline. These are therefore somewhat disconnected thoughts that I would like to shape more, but I hope you will remember God’s grace and His face when you think of this talk! And I conclude with Numbers 6:24-26:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.