7 Pounds of His Grace

13912431_928723135739_3489667227565621351_nDear Father, 

I already knew that You are God, Yahweh, the Great I AM. I am the one who speaks and writes and cries about life in the womb because of the holocaust against it in America today. I should say that I am ONE of the ones, for there are still many and we are unwilling to give up the battle for life to those who routinely burn with saline, rip apart, vacuum out and discard those viable body parts, suffocating those screams before  tiny mouths can open to the air that allows them to cry out for themselves. I am not about quietness when I can be a voice for those whose beating hearts are stopped in brutal and painful ways. 

But, today, Lord, I knew more than ever that Your throne of grace and majesty extends into the darkness of the womb. Help me never to forget what I saw today. I know that You have pushed the pause button on the miraculous, but this morning in that doctor’s office in Montgomery was just about as close to a miracle as I will get before Your mighty trumpet blows. 

My little girl’s little girl was there, as big as life, on that screen. In fact, it was the tiny epitome of life. They told us that she weighs seven pounds and four ounces already and her chubby cheeks evidenced that she’s big and healthy.  Lord, I cannot believe that I saw so clearly that right cheek turn to the side. I’m remembering now that you told us to have cheeks that turn. I pray that she will. It will be painful for me if I ever have to witness her cheek being smitten; yet I know she will experience hurt and people will mistreat her. Help her to turn the other cheek—to show mercy in exchange for cruelty. Help her never to be self-centered or to seek for glory. Help her to defer to the preferences of others. Help me to show her the beauty that comes from a meek spirit.

I saw her little hands in her mouth. It’s tight in there now and she’s just all balled up with her hands against her cheeks and against those tiny lips. Lord, they are Your hands. Those fingers will play instruments or hold a baseball bat or a needle and thread. They will turn pages in all kinds of books. They will turn pages in Your book, Lord. One day some handsome boy will put a ring on that chubby finger that I saw today and her daddy will give that hand in marriage to him. Those sweet hands will roll out dough and pat curly tresses and pick up cheerios and mend socks and fold clothes.  I pray that those little fingers will minister for You, Lord; that they will feel burning foreheads and administer Tylenol…that they will hold other hands beside hospital beds and nursing home rockers…that they will change diapers…that they will change lives by opening up Your Word in Bible studies. May those hands hold Yours. May they be daily folded in prayer and reaching to fill needs. 

I saw that tiny heel that Hannah has been feeling—-that even I can feel— as she kicks against the taut skin on Hannah’s right side. I could count the toes and see that little foot so very clearly. Lord, You made that little extremity so perfectly! May her spiritual feet be just as beautiful. May her feet carry the gospel of peace to the souls around her for all of her days. Help us, as her family, to train her to walk—to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May we never take it for granted that she will, but help us Lord to be purposeful for the footsteps of her and her brother, Ezra. The devil is purposeful. He is seeking to devour. On some days it seems like he is making it next to impossible for parents to direct the footsteps of little ones in Your ways. But we can do all things through Your Son. May even we, as grandparents, profoundly impact her footsteps to stay in Your narrow way that leads to life. 

She heard me, Father! That little girl responded to my voice. I knew because when I spoke she turned her head toward me and she opened her eyes wide in response! This is the part I could not believe. I said, “She’s hearing me!” The technician responded “Of course, she is!”  So I told her right there that I loved her. I called her “Sweetness” since I do not know her name, and I told her about You, Lord. I just could not help myself. I made her promises. I made them out loud and  I will keep them. I told her I will teach her about Jesus, Your Son, and that I will teach her Your Word. I told her that we love her so much and that we cannot wait to tell her about You! I sang a bit of “Baby Mine” to her and I was overwhelmed at that moment with Your goodness to me. I am just dust, Lord! How can I thank You for a moment like that?! When I was driving those four hours to arrive in time for that ultra-sound after getting those three hours of sleep last night, I have to admit it. My faith was weak. I thought I would see an unrecognizable bit of blur. I saw YOU there, Father, and I will never forget Your grace in letting me see, in her, Your amazing creative power and unrivaled attention to detail. I stand amazed in Your holy presence!

And then, as she turned to look toward us, searching for the sounds, she opened that huge eye as wide as she could, as if to say, “Where ARE you?” And, in that moment, I fell helplessly in love with that little girl…just hopelessly and forever devoted to her well-being. Father, help me, to show her the goodness in this world; the hope that’s still left in this place. Help those beautiful eyes to sparkle and shine and to shed few tears of sorrow.  But most of all, help us to show her the hope and peace that comes from living for You. Help those gentle eyes to witness, with wonder and awe, the pictures and characters in little Bible story books. Help them to record the righteous examples of service around her. Guard her tender eyes from those things that can trap her at an early age. Give her maturity and resolve before the toughest tactics of Satan catch her eyes. As she grows, give her eyes to search for those who may be willing to listen to the gospel, the message of Your salvation. Open her eyes that  they may see those whose needs may really be doors to evangelism. Lord keep her eyes focused heavenward. 

Reflecting back on this day, I can hardly believe You let me do this. Your Words are true: She IS fearfully and wonderfully made! My only sadness is that her grandfather is preaching Your gospel in Kentucky this week and there is no way I can adequately describe this heart-swell to someone who was not in that room!  Help us Lord, her parents and grandparents. If all is as it seems, You are giving her to us in perfect condition. May we work as a team, Father, to give her back to You, through the gift of Your Son, in that same perfect condition. Father, thank-You for today. I cannot wait  to hold her, fresh from Your hands. I cannot wait for her to see my face and to start learning just how much I love her. But, most of all, I can’t wait to show her You and just how much YOU love her. I want her to see Your face!

Moms, Shoot for This!

13245489_132797127136197_2138064978297995935_nCentral California this last week has been very warm in a couple of ways. The degree of hospitality was the best kind of warm as several families in the Lord’s church went out of their way to see that our every need, and so much more, was met. One of the conversations we had with Jason and Jill Jackson was about family life and parenting and how they, several years ago, sought advice from our brother, Wendell Winkler, about how to make a home from which children might emerge and faithfully walk in the ways of the Lord. He had five pieces of advice that are worth sharing. He was a man of great wisdom and moms will do well to put these in their hearts and around their dinner tables.

  1. About normalcy: Even if your family is a preaching family or an elder family in the church, don’t make your children feel as though they are “on display” or “different” from other Christians. After all, the reason we do what we do is not because of the preaching role or the leadership role. The reason we do what we do is because we are Christians. We can make our kids resent the work pretty quickly if we cause them to think there’s negative abnormality about serving the Lord. Don’t make your sons wear a coat and tie to events when the rest of the kids have on khakis and polos. 
  2. About the value of a dollar. Don’t try to provide all the “wants” for your kids. The work ethic is missing today in many homes, even in the church, and it is to our detriment.  Children will be better stewards of their material possessions if they understand that earning and saving are prerequisites to enjoying and sharing material possessions. The entitlement spirit is strong in our culture and we have to work to help our children reject it. Perhaps another way to say this is “Don’t let your children complain about the food on the table.”
  3. About saying “yes”: You should say yes to the “asks” of your kids as often as you can (“May I go here?” …”May I try out for this?” …”May I have a sleepover with my friends?” etc…) because you will have to say “no” often because of the difference in our profession of Christianity and the culture in which we live. 
  4. About criticism: Criticism will come from those in the world and from those in the church. Your family, if you are faithful, and especially if you are in a leadership position, will often be scrutinized and there will be those who think it’s their job to “correct” or instruct you, even if you are doing your very best. Just expect that. Prepare your minds for it and go on and do your very best. 
  5. About balance. You will pay dearly if you neglect family to do “church work”. You will pay dearly if you neglect your work in the church for family priorities. Be sure you have a good balance and blend. The work of the church should be the family’s work. Get in there and do it together! Family vacations, ballgames, family game nights and hobbies pursued together will grow and solidify the influence you are able to wield on your children. Never take a vacation from God, though. Whatever you are doing, be sure your family knows He’s always the priority and you will not forsake the worship of His church for any reason. Remember, as a mom, your most important evangelism is in your home. Those souls are the priority during their growing-up years. 

There you have it. I know lots of parents who are great examples of this kind of parenting and family balance. This spring, one of those families in Texas watched, as their daughter gave them this word of thanks for that kind of “raising”.  Kastin Carroll would have included lots of Biblical references had she been speaking just to women. But in this graduation ceremony, you can hear the Word behind her remarks to her parents. Her father is an elder in the Brown Trail church in Fort Worth. She and her dad are in the photo above.  You will enjoy and take courage from watching. 

From the Archives: All Dirty Uniforms Welcome!

softball-340488_960_720Question:When ball games, work, or other activities in which our young people may participate require them to leave mid-game, mid-practice etc…in order to make it to the services of the church, is it a wrong thing for them to wear their uniforms to worship services or Bible classes?

Answer:

Are you kidding me? What better statement to the church, the world, the Lord and the devil can a young person make than the one he wears to that service! He says “I was involved in what many people consider to be the most important part of life: sports. But that’s not the most important thing to me.” She says “ I’ve had to make it clear to those on my team and to my coach that my participation in this activity is a distant second to my faithfulness to the assemblies of God’s people.” It is a statement that so many of our adults need to hear.

When our young people wear ball uniforms to worship, my husband stands from the pulpit and makes a very clear object lesson from the young people who sit there in that attire. He says something along these lines: “We are so blessed to have young people of faith who chose to be at the gospel meeting tonight. Look at these guys in their uniforms. They left the field at the bottom of the seventh inning. They don’t know whether their team has won or lost. But there is one victory they are determined to win and it is the most important one. We are privileged to have men in uniform in our midst. And it’s a blessing to get to clean up a little dirt if it falls from the cleats of these guys. I know you will tell them how proud you are of the choice they made tonight.”

I have, unfortunately, heard of those who have criticized these young people for wearing uniforms to services. How could any church member get his conscience’s consent to discourage a teen or child who has made such an extremely difficult decision by criticizing the wearing of the uniform? I would be afraid of the wrath of Diety who called a little child to him and said “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven…But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for Him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the sea.”

For every one of these children who show up in uniform there are generally several adults who made conscious choices to be elsewhere that Wednesday night or during that particular service of the meeting. Perhaps our time would be better spent addressing the decisions of those who are failing to seek first the kingdom (lovingly helping them arrange priorities), than addressing whether or not the kids who made courageous decisions to fly in the face of negative peer pressure are spic and span when the first song begins. May their souls always be clean. May their lives always be unspotted. But let all dirty uniforms be welcome!

Nickelodeon: “Let’s Make History!”

 

 

UnknownWhat television station is available to 94.7 % of households in America with at least one television set?  What station airs programming specifically for preschool children from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm daily? It’s Nickelodeon, of course, and now, Nickelodeon has something else to “boast” about. They’ve introduced for America’s children, their first animated “gay married” couple. 

According to LifeSite news (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/nickelodeon-makes-history-with-first-cartoon-same-sex-married-couple), Lincoln Loud, an 11-year old from “The Loud House” even says, before opening the door for a friend who’s been invited for a sleepover, “Time to make history!” He then opens the door to a little boy and his two daddies, who then go about their business of fussing over the little boy’s health and safety. (Never mind about his or your children’s emotional and moral safety, of course. We’re way past that in cartoon land.)  

The_loud_house

Following the lead of Disney  and Cartoon Network, who have already introduced gay married couples in children’s programming, Viacom owned Nickelodeon had already introduced a lesbian couple in online programming in the finale of “The Legend of Korra,” in 2014.

I can remember when moms used to be concerned about whether or not it was healthy for their children to watch Roadrunner blowing up Wiley Coyote all the time. I remember thinking “Those mothers need a nap.”

Well, I guess maybe so. But if we moms took a nap, then for sure, we needed to wake up a little bit sooner. Moms really do have something to worry about now. As Jeff Johnston, an analyst from Focus on the Family,  put it “…television shows, books, and movies with sexually-confusing messages … introduce children to falsehoods and immorality, and they create confusion and insecurity….Children are not equipped to handle these adult themes” (LifeSite News).

That’s an understatement. The damage is substantial and often permanent. Moms really can’t be too vigilant around children, especially preschoolers, and television. The toddler years are when they are forming their media habits and America’s eight-year-olds are now consuming eight hours per day of what’s mostly pop culture via the tv screen. It’s  no wonder we are suffering in huge ways from missing morals in America today.

I know. I know….”Television just reflects our ethics and morality…it doesn’t create them.”  Well,  that’s partly true, of course. Television both reflects and promotes the moral plunge of the populace. But two-year-olds are not morally depraved.  They are sponges soaking up the examples…through media and culture and, thankfully and primarily, through parents. So step up to the plate, moms. Take charge of the amount of time you let the world’s mentality influence your kids. And, just as importantly, take charge of the content of material your children are viewing through the magic window that’s above your fireplace or in your entertainment center. Time is short. Don’t let television be your babysitter. If you can’t control it, remove it (Matthew 5: 29,30). Let’s love our kids and grandkids enough to protect them, nurture them and point them to heaven.

(You can watch a preview of The Loud House sleepover episode here, but the preview ends just before the “history-making” door opens….http://www.nick.com/videos/clip/the-loud-house-109a-clip.html)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #43–Cooking Times Four

Portrait of happy mother and her daughter cooking in the kitchen

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 43 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

I’m sure you’ve thought of doing this with your kids, but it’s been a real benefit to ministry on several occasions for this family. Every time I make a casserole, a cobbler or a soup of any kind, I multiply all ingredient amounts by four, prepare the ingredients, and then spoon them out into 4-6 casserole dishes (depending on dish sizes), cover them well with heavy-duty foil, and freeze all of them except the one we are having for supper. I usually place the wrapped dishes in individual giant zippy bags to help guard them from freezer burn. I also label the bags with the name of the dish and the instructions for cooking or re-heating the dish. The casseroles and pies are almost always placed in the freezer before the baking, so you can just grab them from the freezer, thaw them and bake according to directions. Soups only need reheating. This is great math for upper-elementary kids, as they multiply the fractions of cups and teaspoons, and it’s great hospitality and benevolence planning for kids (especially daughters) of any age.

I know I don’t need to explain the benefits of this, but here goes. It’s cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk.  It greatly reduces cooking time because it only takes a few more minutes to make four casseroles than it takes to make one. When you do four meals at the time, you have one mess to clean up instead of four. 

But the biggest plus for me is being able to take a dish to a grieving family on the spur of the moment or to enjoy time with visiting family or friends instead of spending all my time cooking and cleaning the kitchen. It’s great to be able to have food on hand for Sunday dinners or fellowship meals. It’s great to be able to take a meal to someone who has just gotten home from the hospital or to someone who has a sick child. Best of all, your kids are watching and absorbing this active freezer ministry which just becomes a part of your family’s routine. It would be worth the price of my deep freezer many times over just for the consistency of hospitality and benevolence that it afforded our family. Of course we were still not even close to thorough or perfect as we took advantage of having a deep freezer. But still, it was/is a very helpful tool. 

Here are some dishes that work particularly well in the freezer. I’ve included the most recent recipe that I prepared and froze as well. It was very good! Thanks to Diana Shafer in Collierville, TN for sharing! It has already gone to a couple of octogenarians in their home in Tennessee and  to a visiting preacher-student family around our table.

These work well: 

Any kind of soup

Chili

Lasagne

Poppy seed chicken casseroles

Chicken, broccoli and rice casseroles

Most pasta dishes (especially if they are creamy)

Ground beef and vegetable casseroles

Dumpling dishes

Cobblers of any kind 

Dump cakes

Enchilada casseroles

Casseroles with crescent roll type crusts/toppings

Homemade Bread (Wrap well in a couple of layers of heavy duty foil or plastic wrap.)

(If a casserole calls for a cracker or potato chip or corn chip topping, add this after you remove it from the freezer.) 

                                                                                  Creamy Chicken

Ingredients:

4-8 chicken breasts or 1 chicken

1 pt. sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 8 oz. package Pepperidge Farm dressing mix (may use more)… (Also, I think I used a store brand and it was yum.)

1/4 c.milk

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Directions:

Cook chicken (boil or cook in microwave). Cool. Remove skin and cut into bite-size pieces. Line 9×13 dish with chicken. (But you can really use any size dishes. cc) Sprinkle with salt. Combine soups, sour cream and milk. Spread this over chicken.Prepare dressing mix according to directions on package. Margarine may be omitted if you do not like rich dressing. Use broth from chicken or chicken bouillon for liquid required in dressing mix. Spread dressing on top of soup mixture. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. May be frozen before baking.  (This is easy and so very good!)

 

This! Destined to be Dog-eared…

unnamed-7Allen Webster says More than 20 years in the making, (this book) seems destined for a rare shelf-life of a generation or more in church libraries across the brotherhood. More importantly, I foresee worn and marked copies on elders’ nightstands and in preachers’ studies. 

Each year at Polishing the Pulpit Glenn Colley’s real-life scenarios are the most popular elders’ classes. These give shepherds the opportunity to discuss difficult situations using “rubber bullets” instead of the “live rounds” they must use in making decisions back home.

This book gives God’s men the opportunity to prepare ahead of time for challenges and to find solutions when the heat is on. Churches across the land will find their elders making better decisions. I highly recommend Awake at Night.” 

Alan Highers says “This is a practical book. It has grown out of actual sessions with elders who share their problems and difficulties. There are suggested solutions and recommended procedures for dealing with a wide variety of real situations that elders encounter. This is a virtual ‘handbook’ for an eldership. I know of no other book like it. There are many worthwhile books discussing the qualifications and duties of elders, but there is little in print to help elders in handling sensitive issues that arise within a congregation. This book fulfills that need.”

But I say—“Just get it!” For many years I’ve been languishing about leadership; the famine we’re in for lack of elders who are willing to do the hard things that are required for leading the church through an era of cultural relativism and ignorance of the scriptures in the body, itself. I’ve been encouraging mothers to do all we can to bring up our boys to be elders; to put backbones in them for the battles that are inevitably facing our congregations in the twenty-first century church. We need to be raising our girls to be the helpers, encouragers and comforters of these up-and-coming men of God. We simply have to make it our aim…our project, if you will…to put the qualities in our children that will make them ready for some difficult engagements with the devil’s forces in the next generation, should our God choose to let our world continue.

This book is the most “real” thing I’ve seen for preparing church leaders. Over the years, my husband has collected real, but anonymous problems elders have faced in recent times, for the purpose of an elders’ workshop session he conducts annually at Polishing the Pulpit (http://polishingthepulpit.com). The scenarios chosen for the book are designed to prepare and challenge today’s Christian men to lead God’s people with wisdom and courage. They include situations involving divorce and remarriage, other moral issues, doctrinal questions and sin in the lives of elders, themselves. While this is not necessarily a “happy” book, it’s a book filled with hope. It’s a bold attempt to transform the problems elders face today into teaching tools for tomorrow’s leaders. The “solutions” given in the book are both scriptural and practical.

I know the editor of this volume is my husband, but I’m really not promoting him. I want this book to fall into the hands of current elders who need resolve to stand against sin and division. I hope it falls into the hands of others who are already determined. They’re praying and working and loving and leading their flocks and are worthy of double honor and our encouragement. I hope it falls into the hands of young fathers who are already planning and preparing to take the reins of leadership when their turns come, because great leaders don’t just “happen” when old leaders die. I hope it falls into the hands of your sons and mine as we work to develop leadership skills in them—skills that will bless the kingdom. 

One lady left Huntsville last weekend with enough copies on hand so that each of her elders could have one. Do you know elders who are struggling, young men who can be tomorrow’s leaders, men who could present this material to the men of your congregation? The governance of the church has been perfectly designed by God. It’s up to us, though—mere humans— to develop qualified men who are up to the challenge of this greatest office to which mortals attain. I believe when we give this book to our elders, fathers, preachers and sons, we give strength to our congregations.

You can order here: http://thecolleyhouse.org