When Jesus wants us to act like a three year old.

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What a tender picture of these preschoolers laying a hand on their Operation Christmas Child box and praying for the child who will receive it.

One little girl chose to give her very first baby doll. An adorable doll with a yellow gingham dress with lace trim. Like cutey patootey put-in-the-cedar-box-and-save-for-your-great-Granddaughter cuteness. Mama was struggling about this one because it’s a bit of a keepsake (you know how we Mama’s are about the firsts). It would be easier and less heavy on the heart to just go buy a brand new one like all the other items being boxed up. But the three year old wanted another little girl to have her favorite baby doll.

I love that this Mama’s heart was trumped by her heart for God. She wanted her little girl to walk in that love and give selflessly. Who are we to mess with what God is doing in our kids hearts?

Have you been there before? We talk to our kids about loving God and others and how we should pray for the homeless man we see out our window and then our kids come back with, “Oh, I know what we should do Mama. We should invite him to come home with us!”

Errrr, well……and a slight laugh of “bless him he doesn’t know any better.”

My good friend had that conversation with her son last week. The three year old wanted the homeless man to come over to their house. The Mama’s heart has been burdened for this man for a long time. They see him on the streets all the time.

What do you even do with that?

I’m the first to say that fear would keep me from having a complete stranger in my home. I’m more street wise than that.

I regret not letting Sophie give ALL her money one time as a gift to someone. She was so little and didn’t understand the value of money but her heart is so very generous and I snuffed out her desired act of radical generosity because it didn’t make sense to me.  You don’t give ALL of it. Be generous but with limits. Be a wise steward which means it needs to make sense on paper and always leaving money left over.

You give a baby doll but not the one that means a lot to you. That’s too special to give to someone you don’t even know.

Sadly this is my thinking at times and when I say it out loud it makes me cringe and sick to my stomach because I know it’s not the perspective our God has on things. I don’t want this to be my earthly vision of things.  I want to have a three year old’s perspective when it comes to loving others. Perhaps this is what  Jesus was talking about when he tells his followers to become like a child.

I don’t know what it always looks like and I don’t always do it well but I’m learning and watching the radical generosity and love of our God through the Bible. And I love it. I want to extend this kind of love to others.

So the next time someone accuses you of acting childish – don’t necessarily take offense to it. Unless you like stuck your tongue out at someone or fell down on the ground and threw a temper tantrum in the church aisle because they didn’t use the hymnal or something. Yeah that’s not cool childish behavior.

Well, I’m off to go play in the sandbox.

Ya’ll have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

We trust the God we know – God is Love

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Do you know that God’s love for us is intense and never changing? God did not spare his only son in death, when he could have out, of love for you and for me.  God loved his son with an intense love but he was still willing to give him up so that all of us could have a relationship with God. That’s true love.

If you’re feeling unloved or overlooked today rest in knowing this: God is love. He is for you.

We trust the God we know.

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One way we get to know God is through his word. His word is alive and active. And the more we know him the more we love and trust him.

Today’s Attribute and focus is God is our Shield.

Remember today that no matter what you face you have a God you can take refuge in. He is safe. He is strong. He can protect you. Run to him. Praise him for being your shield. Find comfort in knowing he is your shield.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 115:9 O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.

Lord, today we praise you for being our shield as your word tells us you are. We believe you are our shield and we are asking you as our shield to protect us from what you know we need to be protected from. Sometimes we don’t even know what you shield us from. Thank you for those times, Father.

Umbrella Prayers

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For something to sink into my brain I have to visualize it in pretty simplistic terms. Just how I roll. So when I am talking about Umbrella Prayers I have this visual in my head of holding up an umbrella. The umbrella represents God and who he is. An attribute of God.

I focus my thoughts and praise on God and who He is. Our God is vast according to scripture. There are so many facets to him and we can’t even comprehend it all but he does give us many references to who he is in the Bible. Knowing who God is and recounting who he is will make a difference in our lives.

After praising God for who he is and meditating on God himself I will then move into a time of confession. Asking God to reveal and show me hidden and blatant sin in my life. Sometimes I write and sometimes I don’t care to put pen to paper about these grievances. Either way – there is sweet relief in the immediate forgiveness of our God.

My next step falling under Praise and Confession is a time of Thanksgiving. It’s pretty self explanatory. Thanking God for answered prayer, for unanswered prayer, for surprised blessings and every day beauties that come from his hand.

Finally, I get to the part I long to start with if the truth be known. My requests. Petitions. Intercession. However you want to put it. It’s simply where we ask God for help. For intervention. Here’s the thing with the order of these prayers….when I start with who God is it reveals who I am in light of Him and the confession comes quite naturally. Which then leads to an overflow of thanksgiving. And then when I finally get to the asking part it feels different in a way. The circumstances are the same, yes. But my perspective has changed some. I’m now viewing this request as under the protection and covering of my amazing God who is capable of all things. Who loves me faithfully. Who extends mercy. Who is a shield and refuge. This is who I choose to align my very real life troubles under.

So friends, whether it’s a torrential downpour or crystal clear sunshine in your world today, pick up your umbrella and imagine putting yourself under the covering of an amazing God who is full of grace and mercy and so much more.

 

 

Powerful words to frame our circumstances

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This spoken from a friend Mama whose little girl has CF and is fighting for her life right now. This spoken from Jesus to his Father as he faced death by crucifixion.

These are hard words to utter sometimes. Because God’s will isn’t always what we desire or want. We can’t see the whole picture and understand his ways and so life just won’t always make sense to us. But the reason we can be okay with these words “Thy will be done” in every single circumstance in life is because of who our God is. Even in the midst of not understanding his ways He is good. He is faithful and won’t ever leave us. He is compassionate and His mercies are new every single morning. He is fully aware and knows everything about our circumstance. The details of the valley you’re walking right now – I’m walking right now – He knows it. And while He might seem distant and far away, He is not. In His silence He is not punishing you or me. He is working his will and his plan. Trust that he is good and his love for us is individual and intimate. This is why I can say, “Thy will be done.” It might come with tears streaming down my face and a meltdown on the front porch but I still want these words to reign in my life. These words to hover and frame every single circumstance and season of my life.

It’s not easy to do. I’m preaching to myself friends. My Mom is very sick in the hospital and being six hours away and unable because of my own surgery recovery to be there has been extremely difficult for me. My sister and brother live within 5 minutes from my Mother so they are giving me updates and keeping me in the loop all throughout the day. My Mom fell a few days before coming to help us with my bowel resection surgery in August. A CT scan didn’t reveal anything going on with her head and her back injury wasn’t addressed through X-ray or CT scan. Three other Dr. visits and Urgent Care visits still didn’t reveal the hairline fractures she had in L2-4 in her back. It was when she was taken to the ER and admitted that they did a CT scan of her back and realized this. But she has now developed something called “Ogilvie Syndrome” which mimics a bowel obstruction. The Dr is 99.9% sure this is what it is. If medication doesn’t take care of it then she’ll have to have surgery removing a large portion of her colon. She’s been through so much in the last two weeks and experienced pain like she never has before. There are risks with the medication and there are risks with the surgery. And all I can do and the best thing I can do is pray and tell God, “Thy will be done.”

I had my meltdown moment for the first time yesterday on the front porch. I was hiding from our daughter because I didn’t want her to see me cry and then upset her on behalf of her Grandmother. I texted my sister and said, “Mom’s going to be okay, right?” She called me a few seconds later and I answered all sniffly and she said all big sister like, “Quit crying. She’s going to be fine.” And I laughed.  And I got my head back on relatively straight. You see sometimes I replace those powerful words with “My will be done.” And so it’s a process of speaking Truth to ourselves and to each other. Reminding our hearts of what our heads probably already know. Walking in those Truths and knowing we won’t always get it right.

Well, friends, I would be so touched by your continued prayers for my Mom, Sue, and my sister, Linda, who is her main caregiver right now. Will you pray specifically that God will heal my Mom? But at the very top of that specific request let’s tell God we want what He wants because we trust him more than we do ourselves.

Thank you so much.

 

Faith isn’t enough

Faith isn’t enough.

Ya’ll I didn’t say it.

God did in a powerful set of verses in Corinthians.

Here’s the gist: We can preach like Billy Graham. Dig wells in Africa. Work like crazy to rescue sex trafficking victims. Speak in tongues. Be a martyr. Give away everything we own to the poor. And have the kind of faith that moves mountains. But……

BUT if we don’t have love there’s no gain whatsoever. 

One might assume all those really great things is the equivalent of love. Why would you give away everything you own if it wasn’t fueled by love right? Or become a martyr – who would do that if they didn’t have love for God and others. But we must not assume love is the same thing as service, faith or hard humanitarian work.

Here’s how God defines love in I Corinthians 13.

It’s patient. (letting go of the sighs, loud voice and rolling eyes when repeating something you already said ten times to your child.)

It’s Kind. (offering to help someone you don’t know. others first – me last.)

Love isn’t envious. (not becoming distant to a friend you once were close to but not anymore because you’re jealous of her: house, kids, husband, income, etc.)

Doesn’t boast. (doesn’t brag about that promotion or latest accomplishment to co-workers and friends.)

It’s not proud. (doest brag about that promotion or latest accomplishment – inside your mind and heart.)

Love is not rude. (doesn’t say, “your service stinks here – where’s your boss?” it offers grace instead. Maybe you don’t return as a customer but love isn’t a rude customer.)

It’s not self-seeking. (doesn’t approach life saying, “what can I get out of this?”)

Or easily angered.  (honking at the lady in front of you who is still sitting at the green light)

It doesn’t keep score – (“that’s the 100th time he left his clothes on the floor”)

It doesn’t delight in evil  (“well they got what they deserved!”)

Love never fails. (we succeed every time we love the way Jesus loves.)

So yeah, let’s keep digging wells, rescuing sex slaves, giving to the poor, preaching and having faith that God can do anything. But let’s remember that God is most interested in us loving well.

I have circled four items on God’s love list that I need his help with the most. Check yourself and see where you’re coming up short. And ask God for his help and watch how you transform and grow in loving others well.

 

3 ways to overcome a fear of praying out loud

Okay let’s get super real here and confess that sometimes praying out loud can be intimidating even if you’ve been attending church forever. It doesn’t have to be but we start overthinking the process of talking to God in front of others and fear we can mess it up. We fear what we say might not be the right thing or good enough. Or maybe we think we don’t have a place in audible prayer among our churches or communities. “That’s for the pastors and men of the church.” All these are misconceptions that satan loves to throw our way in hopes that we’ll remain silent even though there’s a strong prayer in our hearts.

I don’t want to dismiss silent prayer. Or praying in agreement with the other person who is praying aloud. This is just as important and powerful in our times of prayer with other people. I don’t care if you come to a prayer meeting every single time and never utter a word but you are praying in your heart with those around you. This is prayer too.

So why write this post then?

Because I talk to so many women who have a real fear of praying aloud. They want to but are scared to. They won’t come to certain church functions because they’re afraid of being called on to pray. If this is you just know you’re not the only one and I am hoping you will give consideration to learning how to pray out loud. Because I believe praying aloud with a community of believers binds us together and deepens our faith. If you are grappling with your fear of praying aloud may I tell you that you are growing in your faith.  Don’t interpret the wrestle with praying aloud as a bad thing – this is a wonderful thing! Embrace it and ask God to help you with it.

If you’re wanting to pray out loud but are afraid consider these three things to help. 

1.) Say aloud the prayers in your head. When you’re driving and you’re thinking in your heart and asking God to help, heal, intervene, etc…..say it out loud instead. Pray aloud when you’re by yourself and begin to form a habit of praying aloud by yourself.

2.) Pray Scripture. Did you know that when we pray scripture we are praying the perfect will of God? It’s HIS words. And praying them back to Him is powerful. An example would be Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” You can pray that verse aloud and that is your simple audible prayer. You could even read it out of your Bible if you can’t remember it. Maybe you want to add the context of what you’re praying about afterwards. Thank you that your words says, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Would you please help so and so as they start their new job to remember this Truth. That you will give them the strength they need. Amen.”

3.) Picture God as you talk to him. Prayer is talking to God and listening to God. If you can say it you can pray it. It’s a conversation. And even though our conversation is with a Holy and powerful unseen God it is also with the One who died for us and who longs to be in relationship with us. Instead of picturing yourself praying to the “Powerful Grand Oz” and being fearful picture going to the person who loved you enough to put his life up for yours. Your Abba Father. Arms open wide and full of love and grace. This is who you’re talking to.

 

 

Summer is almost here – don’t ditch your Bible!

For some of us Summer IS here already – like for our kids. Graduation was Friday night and we’re saying Goodbye to the school year. But I know some of you still have a few more weeks of school. And I solemnly pray for your soul as you enter the insane zone or as Jenn Hatmaker affectionally calls it: “The end of the year screw-its.”

I don’t know about you but Summer scheduling is just so totally different than the school year schedule and sometimes personal Bible reading can slip pretty quickly. I want to challenge us to stay in God’s Word this Summer.

A great place to start is to look at Psalm 119. It’s that really really super long chapter in the Bible. So maybe you don’t have time to sit down and read the entire thing in one sitting but work your way through Psalm 119 and ask yourself this one question with pen and paper nearby. What impact does reading and loving God’s word have on a person? And jot down what you see. It’s astounding. The benefits and the power of God’s word (law, precepts, statutes, words, commands – all words you can substitute for God’s word in Ps. 119) has a profound effect on our lives. Why would we ever stop reading it? Well, I can answer that. It’s because we have an enemy who roams this earth and wants nothing more than for us to be unaware of the power of God’s word in our lives. Let’s fight back with God’s word in our hearts.

Below I’ve linked to LifeWay’s all access online studies – most of them are 7 week studies and great for an individual study over the Summer or grab a few girlfriends and study together – while the kids drool popsicle juice down their mouths and hang from chandeliers in the house. Okay so maybe after bedtime is the perfect time for you?

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Lord – help us to believe you and when you tell us that your words give us life and health and understanding that we would want those things from you. We can strive for these things on our own accord but we will never achieve them without coming to you. Help us to long for your word and to engage in it every single day. Amen.

 

 

Dinner Parties & Alcohol – “you asked”

Occasionally I’ll get an email from someone asking me to address a particular topic on my blog and recently I received this question:

“What to do when you’re invited to a gathering you know alcohol will be served at?” 

The person who asked this question doesn’t drink alcohol and is feeling the tension of wanting to reach out to people but not wanting to be around the alcohol. The particular event this person is talking about is not a wild & crazy party but a simple gathering of adults and some of them drink. So your basic adult gathering with alcohol being served.

This is a very personal issue and I can’t answer for anyone but myself but maybe I can give some food for thought based on personal experience and observations from scripture.

We actually experienced this exact scenario recently. We were invited to a cocktail party for a new neighbor. New gay neighbors. We don’t drink. And we don’t condone homosexual lifestyles. But we want to love our neighbors well and it starts by getting to know them. So we went. Most everyone drank but us. Was it awkward? No, it really wasn’t. We didn’t make a big deal out of it and neither did they. They asked if we wanted something to drink and we declined. That simple.

We’ve been to a few other neighborhood type events where alcohol was served and we were the only ones not drinking. The first time it was a bit awkward for us just because we felt kind of out of place but walking home that night it just felt right. I can’t explain it other than we knew we were doing what Jesus would do – he would totally spend time with his neighbors. Right where they were. In their homes.

In order to be a light in our world, in our communities and in our neighborhoods we have to get on other people’s turf. And their turf isn’t going to always look like ours. And that’s okay. It will involve being uncomfortable sometimes. That’s also okay.

At first you might feel like you have to defend yourself and explain yourself – for instance, “No, I wouldn’t care for anything to drink because………”  But you don’t have to do that. Don’t make a deal out of it. If someone asks you why you don’t drink that’s one thing. Everyone has their right to drink or not to drink. If they ask, tell them why but try not to get into a debate about it. This isn’t your chance to turn people away from drinking. It’s your chance as a Christian to love people where they are. And that starts by simply getting to know them. Even when they have a drink in their hand. And it’s important to remember nobody is “better” or  “more free in Christ” because they do or don’t drink.

The other thing you might be worrying about is what other people will think if you attend a party with alcohol. What if someone sees you there or finds out you went and they don’t know you didn’t have a drink. What if you’re at the company party where there’s a lot of drinking and someone see you there and your testimony is ruined.

When we feel the need to put disclaimers out when coming along side people it tells us we’re more concerned with what other people think about us, our image, and our reputation instead of loving people right where they are. If we’re concerned about what other people think of us then we’re missing the point of reaching out.

I used to walk in fear of what others would think when they saw me with a neighbor who was having a glass of wine while we ate lunch in a public place. But it didn’t take long for me to shed that fear when I heard stories of women just like me in need of a Savior. They poured their hearts out and felt comfortable being themselves. Some of these women would later come to know Christ and some of them didn’t. One woman sat in our living room and cussed confidently in the middle of Bible study because she just didn’t know any better. A few months later on her self made prayer list was “help me not to cuss.” Had anyone asked her to stop? Yes. But it’s not what you think. It wasn’t me. And it wasn’t the ladies in our Bible study. But the Holy Spirit put that on her heart as she grew in her new walk with Jesus. And that stuff really happens when we simply love people the way Jesus loved.  And it’s beautiful. Messy sometimes but really beautiful.

When we look at Jesus in the Bible we will see that he didn’t care what other people thought about his testimony. If he did he wouldn’t have shown compassion towards prostitutes. He would have avoided the tax collectors house instead of partying there. We don’t even see him explaining himself to his disciples or religious leaders in these situations. It was through and through love for these people.

And if we can remember that we are “these people” then loving others in this way will come easier. You might not have had 5 husbands but the sin you were born into is the sin that Jesus died for out of his love for you. We all have the same universal problem – sin. And we all have access to the One who can redeem us from this problem. But some people don’t know this. Some of your neighbors haven’t heard. And how will they know unless we tell them? Are we seriously going to wait until they “stop drinking” or “start looking like us”?  I pray not.

So I would say to the Christian adult who doesn’t drink to still go to the party where alcohol is served. Go with the purpose of getting to know people who may not know the Good News. And by all means look for opportunities to love your neighbor well. They’re just like you – in need of the love of Jesus Christ.

Have a question or topic you’d like to see addressed on LIABOW? Shoot me an email. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I’ll share what I’ve learned if I’ve learned anything at all. 

 

 

 

 

When your child marches to their own beat

 

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When you have a child that marches to their own beat it can be frightening and beautiful all at the same time. I’m learning that letting go of what others think will be one of the best things we can do for our little rebels, true-to-themselves-marchers. And sometimes letting go of even what we think “should be.” I’m referring to peripheral issues not foundational biblical and moral truths. I realize what some people consider peripheral and merely “preference” could be someone else’s interpretation of “foundational.” And that’s where grace and openness comes into the picture. For each other and for ourselves as we learn & grow and let the Holy Spirit lead us – not rules, regulations and other people.

I love my girl. She is so fun and beautiful and yes sassy like her Mamma. I love the picture above of her performing a little part in the Mother’s Day Drama thingy they did this past Sunday.  This is not my first choice for a Sunday morning Mother’s Day outfit. I almost made her change but then I didn’t. I didn’t because I’m learning that Sophie’s style is so different than mine. At her age I didn’t care what I wore. My Mother put me in quite a few Laura Ashley dresses with Nelly Olson bows that flapped all over the place threatening to injure bystanders. I liked it fine. If it pleased her it pleased me. I didn’t really have much of an opinion because that was just me at that time in my life.

But Sophie at this age has a definite opinion and especially when it comes to fashion and style. And it doesn’t come close to ruffles or florals. It’s more like mismatched socks, Dr. Martens, messy hair and a cute-funky style. It used to bother me because I prefer ruffles and bows at that age for little girls. But I realized I was trying to impose on her my style and what I thought “should be” at her age. So I backed off. I still intervene and guide her in fashion choices but at the end of the day I’m okay if it’s not my first choice. She has a desire to dress modest and appropriate and my biggest concern and prayer for her is that she clothe herself with a beautiful spirit and a tender heart towards Christ. I’m not going to get all wedgied up over casual vs. dressy and boots vs. church shoes. What are church shoes anyways? Really, think about it.

Music is another one of these issues. Our teenage son loves techno music. Electronic music that makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Picture Axel F overdosing on steroids. Not my first choice. Let me rephrase – not even my personal last choice. But we’ve allowed it. In moderation and with teaching and monitoring of what specific techno music is appropriate (ie: no *#%* words allowed). I actually think it drove him batty as well because we don’t hear it nearly as much anymore. Kinda glad he got that out of his system.

I pray that as our kids get older and God continues to develop their unique make up that we will have the wisdom to know which beats to encourage them to march to; which beats to embrace even if they aren’t the ones we want to dance to and the ones to redirect completely. Because if we believe we truly have a Creator and He made us all individually then we’ll realize we all march to our own God-given beat. Let’s do it well with His direction.

Now excuse me while I go and dance to the beat of  Uptown Funk (clean version!) in my striped toe socks. My Mother would be rolling her eyes and praying a prayer for the next generation.