Month: February 2013

You’re My Everything

Once again this winter I get to lead a wonderful group of women at my church. We are all moms of teens and preteens who are just trying to get the most out of these crazy years without going crazy ourselves. Last fall we went through a great parenting book called, “Grace Based Parenting” by Tim Kimmel. I highly recommend it.

This semester, we decided to go a different way. Women are like that. This time we aren’t focusing on our kids. We are focusing on our God. This time the book we are studying (Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow) is leading us into a more  intimate and personal relationship with our God. Really intimate.

The Bible tells us to Be still and know that he is God. (PS 46:10) The “know” in that passage is the same word used when the Bible talks about the way that Adam knew Eve. It implies the most intimate position possible for a human relationship. Please don’t make me spell it out. I think you get it. The point is… God wants to know us spiritually with the same kind of intimacy that a man and woman in marriage know each other physically.

For some of us, that’s quite up close and personal. For some of us that’s just a bit closer than we might be comfortable with, but just imagine it. The Creator of the Universe longs to be in your face; connected to you Spirit to spirit.

Alrighty then. As I read through this book, I am getting a bit excited at the whole idea. I want to experience God like never before. I want to have real communion with my Maker and Perfector. I want to KNOW Him.

I am learning that to do this comes about through personal worship time. We are told in scripture that God inhabits the praises of His people. So if you are looking for God, can’t seem to find Him, then worship Him. And…. There He is.

Finding time for a personal time of worship is a bit of a challenge. I don’t have free time. Hardly ever. Pretty much every moment of every day, someone has laid claim to. But… I have decided to pencil God in for twenty minutes on Tuesdays. I tried to do last Tuesday afternoon, but I forgot. I tend to forget appointments. I have three calendars, and I still miss appointments. My daughter’s Orthodontist was always surprised to actually see us on her scheduled appointment day.

You’d think I could manage to remember an appointment with the Almighty. But no. Four-thirty came and went without a thought of my plan. I learned something about God. He doesn’t mind the reschedule. Six-thirty worked fine for Him, too.

I sneaked through the house to make sure all my peeps were occupied, and then I stole away to my bedroom, and closed and locked the door. I turned on my noisemaker to block the clamor in my house. (With a husband and four kids, there’s always clamor.)

I might have forgotten my earlier appointment, but I hadn’t forgotten to prepare ahead for it. I had pulled up a couple of great worship songs on my phone, and had typed in some great Psalms to read aloud.

I knelt down on the floor at the foot of my bed, and turned on my music. I just sat there as I listened to the song play.

“I will set my eyes on You, and no one else.

I long for You; pull me closer. I collapse within your truth.

I’m falling fast. You guard my life, I surrender.

Jesus, You’re my everything. You’re my everything.

Jesus You’re my everything, You’re my everything.

How I long to see your face. To know your voice.

To look at you; in your wonder. I am nothing without you.

Alone in doubt. But when I cry, you will answer

Jesus, you’re my everything, You’re my everything.”

My busy world began to fade away. Peace began to come over me as I meditated on the words of this wonderful song. Thank you John Larson and Highlands Worship for it.

And then something happened. As I knelt there seeking God’s presence…

My feet fell asleep. Great. I needed to stretch out my legs, but found my knees had grown stiff. Then the pins and needles started prickling my feet, and I had to find a better position. This kneeling thing isn’t for sissies… or middle-aged women either. I’m no sissy.

This personal worship time is going to be a learned process. I may be able to clear my calendar, but clearing my mind to focus on Him is going to take practice. I do so want to see God’s face, connect my spirit with His, and experience the joy abundant in His hand. I want to climb right up in His lap, and soak in His love for me. I want to hear His voice and feel Him close. Everything worthwhile takes effort. I am excited to see where this goes. I look forward to my weekly appointments of personal worship and connection with God. I’ll keep you posted. This is going to be great!

Follow Up to the Dating Lie: It’s About Focus

So you are the parent of a preteen, and the thought of your child soon exploring the world of dating sends chills down your spine. Or your child is a teenager, and you have watched them move from one dating relationship to another only to see their hearts break again and again. What can a parent do? This is the way of things for kids these days, right? We just have to wade through it as best we can and hope our kids come through on the other end without too many relationship scars. Don’t we? Do we?

Dating is a modern day phenomenon. It’s only been in fashion for the last century or so. When I was a teenager and dating it had only been around for about seventy years. No one told me this. I thought, like everyone else, that it was how things had always been. I, like all my girlfriends, was obsessed with boys. I believed that if I wasn’t doodling some boy’s name on my notebooks, or planning what I was going to wear out on a date by the time I was twelve or thirteen, there must be something wrong with me. There was, my focus was off.

I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was a sophomore in high school. By all accounts, I was a late bloomer. Consequently, inside, I just knew I was completely flawed. I had never even kissed a boy! By the time I had graduated high school, I had been in a couple of serious dating relationships and several not so serious ones. I might have been a late bloomer, but I spent a lot of time making up for lost time. I also spent countless hours sitting by the phone waiting for that promised phone call. (I’d really like to have all that time back now.) Again, poor focus.

The world says to teens, “If you’re not dating you are a loser”, but God’s word says,

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

Ironically, a hymn I knew growing up taught this…

Yet I didn’t listen. Thankfully, my kids are listening. Thankfully, they have decided to go a different way.

Yes, my sons still like girls, and my daughter is attracted to boys. As our pastor has said, those feelings are right, but they are coming at the wrong time. “Right feelings, wrong season.” (Chris Hodges) It’s a matter of proper focus. It’s okay to acknowledge the right feelings; we just have to instruct them to hold those in check until the right season.

When they look back upon their teen years, my kids won’t wish to have hours and hours of wasted time back, like I do. They are standing in opposition to what the world is telling them about relationships.

My oldest son is in a stable relationship. He’s nineteen. Still quite young. He admired his girlfriend from afar for quite a while. They were both in an internship program at church that discouraged dating. It encouraged participants to focus on Jesus, and becoming the “right person” themselves, rather than the focus being on looking for the right person.

When they completed the internship, they started slowly. Very slowly. Coffee. Lunch. Then finally my son went to her dad and asked permission to date her. Most kids would have sped through three or four relationships in the time it took them to make it to their first official date.

We have tried to encourage that they spend lots of time with either our family or hers. We have tried to provide a great deal of accountability. In a way, she is dating our family, and he is dating hers. So far, so good.

Some might call this courting. It is, in a way. It’s more like modified dating. Of course, as they have grown a bit older, and have shown maturity in their relationship, both sets of parents have loosened the reigns a good bit, but we still enjoy spending regular time with my son and his girlfriend. We talk with our son a lot about their relationship and how things are going. He allows us to speak into it, even if he doesn’t always like what we have to say.

I say all of this to encourage parents as they walk this road with their kids. Don’t buy into the lie the world wants to sell you. There are other ways of doing things. Godly ways. Be fairly warned though, your kids will be different, and different for teens isn’t always looked upon in a positive way.

If you have a son, teach him to treasure females. When the time is right for him to pursue one, send him to her father. Have him ask permission to spend time with his daughter. After the father picks himself up off the ground, he will respect your son and be pleased that such a fine young man is showing an interest in his daughter.

If you have a daughter, guard her heart. Teach her how to guard her heart. Girls give that, and other things, away far too soon these days. She needs to first give her heart to Jesus. Then, in the right season, He will lead her to give it to the right young man. Her standards will be high, and they should be. She is a treasure.

Biblical Interpretation

When a subject comes to me from a couple of different directions or origins I begin to get the idea that the Lord wants to speak to me on that subject. So when it does, I usually end up writing about it on Cracked Pot Pieces. It’s how I mull things through, and hopefully reach the conclusion God has in mind for me to reach. It happened this week.

Biblical Interpretation. My first thought when I hear that term is, blech. It’s a booger, really. It’s also one of the courses my husband has been asked to teach this term at Highland’s College. He thinks it’s a booger, too. He didn’t actually call it that, but that’s my interpretation of his thoughts on the subject

So my husband teaching the subject was the first time that biblical interpretation came up on my radar. The second time was from a close friend who attends church with me. (Note: Dear Close Friends, subjects you bring up to my attention may find their way here.) She texted me about some finer points of, you guessed it, biblical interpretation, or church doctrine.

She has a friend interested in coming to our church. Hers is a bit of a far drive, and she had heard good things about ours, but there was a little matter or two she needed to have cleared up. Matters of… yes, biblical interpretation. Since my husband is on staff at our church, my friend wanted to clear up her friend’s questions by posing them to me. What was our church’s position on this thing and that thing.

I answered her questions, but then it hit me. God was trying to speak some truth to me in all this biblical interpretation mumbo jumbo. He reminded me that we can get so caught up in whether or not we are supposed to baptize babies, if we are supposed to have a prayer language or not, or raise our hands in worship, that we miss out on the main thing. (For those of you taking notes, the “main thing” is Jesus.)

Denominational differences were never Jesus’ idea. Denominational differences are a result of…. Biblical Interpretation. Denominational differences have resulted in the carving up Christ’s church, and dividing us from one another. How happy our Enemy must be over the subject of biblical interpretation.

I heard a joke once about biblical interpretation. There are three ways to interpret any Bible scripture. Your way, my way, and the right way. Cute, right?

Matthew and I have had the privilege of serving in ministry for over twenty years. In that time we have served in Southern Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, Nondenominational churches, one Christian Missionary Alliance church, and most recently, a church that most would likely be considered Charismatic.

Gasp

One thing I have found to be true of all of these different churches: While I never agreed fully, one hundred percent, with all of their Biblical Interpretation, I did find, in all of those churches, folks who held so tightly to their own biblical interpretation, that they could have worn it on their lapels like a badge of honor. They held so tightly to what they saw as correct doctrine they were unwilling to open their eyes to what God wanted to do with them and through them. (Insert gleeful dancing of the Enemy here.)

After twenty-three years of ministry, I have found this to be true. I don’t care what your denomination is. I don’t much care for what your personal doctrine is either. If God is doing something miraculous somewhere, that’s where you want to be. Matthew and I spent a lot of years trying to get God on board with what we were trying to do, so much so, that we often failed to get on board with what He was doing.

God once used a donkey to speak truth to a prophet (check it out in Numbers 22), he can well do what he wants to do in the way he wants to do it, seeing that he is God and all. The prophet Balaam probably didn’t expect his donkey to start talking to him. After all, as far as we know an angel of God had never spoken through a donkey before.

Will you really allow your personal or denominational biblical interpretation or doctrine keep you from joining God in what he is doing? Does he have to behave in predictable ways before you’re willing to climb on board?

In all honesty, I am still trying to comprehend and assimilate all of the biblical interpretation that is a part of the doctrine of my church. But here’s the thing for me. 1,400 people came to know Jesus in January of this year at my church. 1,500 people came to the first service at our Fultondale location last week to hear the Gospel of Jesus. Most Christian churches would love to be reaching that many people period. God is doing something at my church, and I want to be a part of it. He can decide to speak through the pastor’s dog for all I care.

I believe we must make sure that the church we decide to be a part of is a Bible believing church. Trust me, I’ve been a part of one for a brief time that played fast and loose with Bible truths. But if you find yourself drawn to a church that keeps the main thing the main thing (Again, Jesus) and God is working in miraculous ways there, then don’t be so hung up on their every minor point of biblical interpretation. God isn’t going to bless something that isn’t right in His biblical interpretation, now is he?

I think that’s all I have to say on the subject.

Parents, Let’s Not Fall for the Dating Lie

Maybe it’s true that wisdom comes with age. I’m almost forty-six, so it’s about time I gained some wisdom, I guess. I’ve learned a few things about my enemy here in the last little while. I’ve heard it’s wise to be wise to the ways of your adversary. Until recently, I didn’t give him his just due. I didn’t recognize just how surly and evil he is.

I have learned that his best and most brilliant talent is tampering with the truth. His expertise is taking a truth, and carefully, patiently whittling it into something untrue. Yet the metamorphosis of the truth into an untruth is so subtle, that unless we are diligently paying attention, we come to accept his version of the truth as actual truth. At this point I think I need to cut to my point, or I may lose you altogether, if I haven’t already.

Let’s talk dating. The way young people enter into social and romantic relationships has changed drastically over the last fifty years or so. What used to be admiration from afar has quickly become up close and personal. When my parents were teenagers, their parents were the keepers of all things relational for their teens. If a young man showed interest in my mother, he had a tough road to get to her. He had to go through my grandfather first. Good luck with that. My grandfather was my mother’s shield of protection, and he took that job seriously. He remained that shield until my mother married. Then both spiritually and literally, my grandfather gave my mother to my father, and he then became her shield of protection.

Fast-forwarding to today, just a mere fifty or so years later, my own children are teenagers. Things have changed so much. Many parents have let go of the responsibility they have to be that covering for their children, both male and female. Dating is encouraged even in middle school. Elementary aged children have boyfriends and girlfriends. Really?

We are putting our children into social and relational situations they are not nearly mature enough to handle. We step aside, too busy with our own lives, and allow them to make decisions regarding with whom they will spend time, and invest in emotionally, without setting limits that will allow them to proceed with success. So when their hearts are broken, all we can do is be there with a ready shoulder for them to cry on. We allow them to bounce from dating relationship to dating relationship, and all the while they get really good at ending relationships, but never quite so good at keeping them.

The enemy is destroying our kid’s ability to invest in healthy relationships because he has convinced us that parents having control over how and when our kids enter into social and emotional relationships is just too old school.

Gone are the days when a young man had to get through the father before he got to date the daughter. Gone are the boundaries that set younger relationships up for success.

One of my sons recently announced that he was going to meet up with a girl at the movie theater. He said it wasn’t a date, although he was considering the possibility of dating her. Okay, but things change quickly, and what might have started out as a platonic situation during the previews, could very easily end up something quite different by the credits.

When my husband questioned the wisdom of this endeavor, and asked what this young lady’s parents thought of their daughter going to a movie with a young man they had never met, our son told us that her parents were not as strict on those things as we were.

My husband was quick to tell him, that even though this girl’s parents had differing ideas, she would still be treated the same way that our daughter would be treated in the same situation. As it turned out, they didn’t see a movie. Instead, they went to lunch, and had a conversation. Out in the open. Not in a dark movie theater. Who talks in a dark movie theater anyway? A lunch date was a much better way for our son to determine if there was enough of an interest in this girl to then approach her parents about a dating relationship. So far, there isn’t.

It’s true that if you tell a lie long enough, you can believe it is true. That’s what our enemy is counting on. He has told us a lie about teens and dating for long enough that parents are just throwing up their hands in surrender and saying, “What are we supposed to do?”

We are supposed to be parents. We are supposed to be that spiritual covering that keeps our kids from venturing into relationships they cannot possibly be ready for. We can’t fall for the lies. Our kids need us too much.

Before You Buy a Cross

As a blogger, one should never intentionally provoke readers. After all, bloggers want readers to return again and again, and angry readers don’t tend to come back. So I have hesitated to write this particular blog piece for quite a while, and yet it keeps coming up over and over, so I am almost helpless in this decision to write this piece. Almost. I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind, and trust that my readers are up for the challenge.

It’s not hard these days to look around and find the image of the cross on just about anything. Last summer I saw bejeweled crosses on a woman’s flip-flops! I have seen it on t-shirts, purses, jean pockets, earrings, and necklaces, but never flip-flops before. I’ve noticed lots of pretty and colorful crosses on front doors in the town where I live. Some are polka dotted or striped, and some are decorated with the colors of college football teams. I see these crosses, often adorned with bling, and I wonder what Jesus must think of it all.

Lately, I have begun to wonder if it hasn’t been a carefully thought out operation by the Enemy to dilute the meaning of the cross for the Christian and non-Christian alike. I’m not trying to be a killjoy, but when you think about it, wearing the cross as flip-flop adornment is completely silly. How belittling it is to such a pivotal event in human history.

While I do not believe we should worship the cross itself, I do believe as Christians we must never forget what it truly represents.

Crucifixion was an ancient method of deliberate, slow, and painful execution in which the condemned person was tied or nailed to a large wooden cross, and left to hang until dead.

That’s what the cross was used for. When Jesus hung on one, I’ll bet there was no one in attendance wearing one around his or her neck, or upon their clothing for decoration. Can you imagine Jesus’ mother, Mary, wearing one on a chain around her neck? In that day, everyone likely understood the horror of that death sentence. I even wonder what an ancient Roman would think of us using it as jewelry or décor today. I seriously doubt there were kiosk vendors at public crucifixions selling crosses as event souvenirs.

I have a couple of cross necklaces, but I no longer wear them regularly. I wear one on “Good Friday”, and intentionally on other days, to remind me of the sacrifice Jesus made for me. Perhaps that’s why other people wear a cross around their necks, too. I hope so, but I have a feeling that many crosses hang around necks just because they are pretty or match a particular outfit. Sometimes we wear them to tell the world whose we are, yet we have mouths for that, don’t we? I seriously doubt it’s why anyone would wear a sparkly one on their shoes, or embroidered into their Buckle jeans pockets.

I’m not saying we should all get rid of our crosses. I’m just saying that I have been convinced to tread carefully where the image or representation of the cross is concerned. I never want to become desensitized to what it means for me and for every other person. It is the symbol of my salvation, of a debt paid that I could never repay myself. It represents the darkest day in history, the day that God the Father turned his back upon his son… for me… and for you.

The cross must be more than a mere adornment. We can’t let the Enemy steal the symbol, and make it frivolous and worthless. He would love nothing more than to turn the cross into a plaything, and water down its impact on the world. Let’s not let that happen. Satan was defeated because of that cross and because of Christ’s victory over the grave. Let us not be so far removed from that truth that we allow ourselves to be made fools of. Before we purchase something embellished with the symbol of the cross, let’s make sure we aren’t using it merely for decoration. The cross of Christ symbolized is sacred and deserves a higher place than that. It should always point our hearts toward Jesus for his sacrifice, and to our heavenly Father for his unfailing love.