Faithfulness

Undoubtedly, Moses is one of the most remarkable leaders we find in the Bible. A Hebrew raised in a palace in Egypt, Moses was used by God to lead the Hebrew nation out of the bondage of slavery from the Egyptians. Moses spent his life leading the Israelites to the land God promised to Abraham. Moses was used as God’s instrument to show His faithfulness to His people.

But in a public act of sin, Moses dishonored God in front of the Israelites. Because of how seriously God takes a leader’s actions, He responded with this judgment.

The Lord was displeased with Moses’ actions: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”   Numbers 20:12

Moses worked his whole life to receive the promise God made to the Israelites - to enter the Promise Land. Now, it would be taken away because of one mistake?

In Deuteronomy 34, we see the last scene of Moses’ life being played out. As ministry leaders, we can gain insight from the leadership lesson recorded in this final chapter of Moses’ life. 

As leaders, we may never get to see the end result of our faithfulness.

Moses climbed to the top of the mountain, and God showed Moses all the land the people would inherit. God had these words for Moses in Deuteronomy 34:4

Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

Moses served the majority of his life to never see the physical, earthly goal he was working toward. He never entered into Canaan.

People who work in preschool ministry can identify with this. We work to a lay a spiritual foundation in kids and families. Do we get to physically be the ministry who is hands on in seeing the goal realized of a child coming to Christ? Most often times, no.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to see the journey when you’re so focused on the destination. Those seemingly small moments we can take for granted are really defining moments along the journey. We only have to look for them.

The mom and dad who committed to raising their children in a godly home - that’s a victory.
The special needs child who made it through the whole class without having to call mom - that’s a victory.
The constant crier who’s peaceful morning led to their parents having a peaceful worship experience - that’s a victory.
The new family who’s children drag them back to church the next week - that’s a victory. 
The three year old who runs into their classroom excited to see their small group leader - that’s a victory.
The little boy who’s excited to say his Bible Verse - that’s a victory.
The picture on Instagram of a family continuing the conversation in their home from Sunday - that’s a victory.

Those small victories pave the way for a child, or a family, to come to know Christ. Never dismiss those small victories. 

A leader’s journey impacts all those around him. Though Moses never fully received the reward he spent his whole life working towards, Moses’ lasting legacy is recorded in the last few verses of Deuteronomy 34. 

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

Moses’ life was one spent with God. God knew him and he knew God. God gave him grace, wisdom and favor with the people he led. God’s people and those who did not worship God saw in Moses what obedience to God looks like. 

Moses’ journey of obedience and faithfulness was on display for the Israelites. One mistake would not define the impact Moses’ life had on the people. Moses’ lifelong legacy left an imprint on the people he served. 

Life is a collection of small moments. In those small moments, we build something of worth. No matter what ministry God has given us in this season of our life, we are called to be faithful. Because it's in that faithfulness, God shows up and shows off, but we have to get comfortable as leaders knowing He may do that in someone else's small moment - not ours. 

Where is God asking you to be faithful despite the results you may or may not receive?

 

A Song for a Season

What a Friend we have in Jesus,
  All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
  Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
  Everything to God in prayer!

I've listened to him strum his guitar and whisper these lyrics over the last few days. Sometimes there are no words to be said. No formal prayers to be spoken. Sometimes there are only lyrics and a melody that soothe and heal.

Songs matter. They move us.

That's why you can find a teenage girl crying over the lyrics of a song after a break up.
That's why couples find the perfect song that personifies their relationship to have their first dance to at their wedding.
That's why you can be transported back to your childhood when you hear a song that triggers a memory.

We all have different songs for different seasons. And in a season of pain, distress and growth a song can become a prayer. A prayer you sing that you long for your heart to believe. A song that can begin to heal your heart. An offering to God when you can't find your own words.

After 3 relatively easy pregnancies, I was stunned when we found out there was several complications in my 4th pregnancy. Life-changing complications. I had no words. I would sit trying to find the "right"  words to pray. I would open my journal, but the words to write would never come. I was trapped in a state of fear.

As I was driving one day in the midst of the chaos of loud children, a song came on. A song that became my anthem, my prayer through this season. These were the words I couldn't find on my own.

Lord I have see your goodness
And I know the way you are
Give me eyes to see you in the dark
And your face shines of glory
That I only know in part
And there is still a longing
A longing in my heart

You revive me
you revive me Lord
And all my deserts are rivers of joy
You are the treasure, I could not afford
So I'll spend myself till' I'm empty and poor
All for you, you revive me lord

It was the reminder I needed that no matter what may happen, He is the one who revives me. He is the one who is still good even when I am in the dark. 

Often times while driving by myself during that season, I would get in the car all alone and let the song play. I would turn up it loud and sing those words and the tears would stream down my cheeks. Many days I would play the song 5 times in a row - determined for it to play until I could believe what I was singing.

I'm alive, I'm alive
You breathe on me
You revive me

I inhaled His grace and exhaled my prayers and praises - a mom in a minivan with a song to sing and a prayer to give to her Creator. And He heard me. He revived me.

What song has God given you to sing during your season?

 

 

 

Because of I AM

Because of I AM

I am not defined as just a woman,
but as a child of God, daughter of the King and a sister in Christ.

I am not defined by my spouse,
but by how well I can die to myself to love him well.

I am not defined by the number of children I have,
but by how well I love all of God’s children.

I am not defined by my past,
but by how well I step into the person God has created me to be.

I am not not defined by the size of my body,
but by my the size of my heart.

I am not defined by the size of my house,
but by the way I make my house feel like a home.

I am not defined by the money I have,
but by how much I give away.

I am not defined by the number of friends I have,
but by the authenticity I show in my friendships.

I am not defined by the job I have,
but by who I am to the people God has given me life long influence over.

I am not defined by the number of books I read,
but by how close I hold the Greatest Book to my heart and prays it changes me.

I am not defined by how many people I lead,
but by how selflessly I lead people.

I am not defined by the number of tasks I get done,
but by what I can trust God to do despite my shortcomings.

I am not defined by my failures,
but by how well I listen to what God is teaching me through them.

I am not defined by my pain,
but by how I respond and allow my pain to refine me.

I am not defined by how many people esteem me,
but by how much the Giver of Life esteems me.

I am not defined by those who may look down upon me,
but by the God Who Sees Me.

I am not defined by what someone says about me,
but by what the Creator of the Universe whispers to me.

I am only because of I AM.

 

 

 

Overfed

As I was watching the documentary Hungry for a Change, a certain statement was said that made me stop and think.

People are overfed, but they are also starving to death.

Within the context of the movie, they were speaking about how we as a nation overeat, and yet we never feel full because we're not eating the good, natural foods that would truly satisfy us. So, we spend our time starving for the right kinds of food. 

As I began to think about this quote, I spent some time thinking about it also in terms of being a leader in the church. How easy is it for me to feed myself with things of the world, and never truly feed the one thing that could satisfy my soul?

I can read all the leadership how-to books, but if I'm not spending daily time in God's Word am I only getting fat off of knowledge, formulas and quotes? Christian leadership books are wonderful - they stretch us and help us grow. But, they were never meant to be a substitution for God's Word filling our hearts and our minds. I know for me there are times it's easier to read a book and have the book tell me how to apply certain things to my life rather than looking to His Word and asking God to help me figure out how to apply it to my life. 

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’" Matthew 4:4

It's easy for me to speak with other leaders and bounce ideas back and forth with them. What can be a bit more challenging for me is to get still and sit alone with God waiting on Him to tell me what my next step should be. I find I can get so full on others' opinions, never giving God on opening to have a dialogue with me about what He wants for my future - starving myself from His guidance. 

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." - 1 Chronicles 16:11

The lesson God is teaching me today is I can never truly overfeed myself spending time in His Word and prayer. I don't want to take in too much of the world to the point that I'm starving myself for more of Jesus. He is the only one that can truly satisfy my soul.

#pastorkidsproblems

As I was weeding the flower bed in our front yard late Easter day, my middle two children were playing on the porch steps. (By the way, any story involving "2 middle children", specifically, my "middle children" is always the start to something very entertaining or very disturbing.)

I heard a conversation that went something along these lines...

Middle Child #1: You're a liar, you're a liar. You're lying on Easter of all days. You lie just like Adam and Eve. 
Middle Child #2: Sobs hysterically.
Me: She just Jesus Juked you!

Just kidding, people. Only in my head did I say the last part.

I took Middle Child #1 aside and began to explain to her somethings...

Me: I know you are frustrated with your sister, but we did not call each other names or use the Bible as a weapon against her. Do you remember the people who had a hard time seeing their own sin because they were so worried about everyone else's? They were the Pharisees.

At this point Middle Child #2 comes running up, pointing at her sister...

Middle Child #2: You're a Pharisee and the Pharisees killed Jesus!!!

Mic drop. 

It's amazing how in one moment you can feel so proud and yet so horrified at your children. I was shocked that my 5 year old even knew what a Pharisee was and dumfounded that she knew how to use it against her sister.

I'm not sure if this happens in all church-going families or if this is just the effects of both of us being parents that work in ministry. But, at that moment I was reminded of how dangerous information with the wrong intent can be. 

My kids are learning a good foundation from the Bible. And for that, I am thankful. But, if I as a parent only concentrate on the "information", they will miss how it can ultimately transform you. Transform you into a godly man or woman of God or maybe transform you into a Pharisee.

As a parent, I have to constantly be putting new information in front of my kids for them to learn about the Bible and ultimately about God. I also have to come behind that information and explain what it means for them in their lives and in other people's lives. I have to contexteualize it for today.

I have to remind them that these stories from the Bible and God's Word were not meant to be used to hurt others, but rather to build others up. They were not meant to be used to help you "win" an argument.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

God, please help these pastor's kids...

 

For the Mom with a Tattered Soul

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!

There’s nothing that God doesn’t know. No thought or action of ours can be hidden from God. We cannot escape God. 

He sees us. He sees us in our moments of joy, and He sees us in our moments of desperation. He sees us in our sin, in our brokenness. He sees us in our failings and our struggles. He is El Roi - The God Who Sees.

And yet…

He never leaves us. He goes with us. In our highest of highs and in our lowest of lows, He goes with us. Why? Because he loves us. He created us, knowing us even before we were knitted together in our mother’s womb. His word says that His workmanship is marvelous.

You are marvelous.

You are a marvelous workmanship. You are a beautiful woman. God gave you your splendid body that carries your very soul, the magnificent core of who you are. Why are beautiful? Because God created you and His workmanship is marvelous. 

But life beats at us, tears us, tatters us and wears us down. Where is His marvelous workmanship? We look in the mirror and all we can see is the scars on our bodies and on our hearts. Where is His marvelous workmanship?

But that’s the beauty of our God, The God Who Sees. He sees past the scars on our tattered heart. And loves us right where we are. He loves us for us. He loves what others deem unlovely. 

He doesn’t just love us. He is jealous for us - jealous to have our whole heart. Not jealous as a man possessing a woman as a prize, but jealous for us because of the pure love He has for us, desiring for us to have the same for Him.

And when we feel like no one listens to us, not the men in our lives, not the children we created, not our bosses or our friends, He wants us to talk to Him - to tell Him the intimate details of our thoughts and desires. He wants us to lay our problems and our dreams at His feet, knowing that He cares for them and He will take care with them. 

As a mother and a woman, there are many, many thoughts in our minds. So many worries. So many desires for our families. God wants us to give those to Him. God wants to give those to us.

Give your desires to Him. 
Your God cares for them.
Your God sees you.

The Lord is close to all who call on him,
    yes, to all who call on him in truth. 

He grants the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cries for help and rescues them. 
Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)

 

Holding on Tight

We are Disney World fans.

Scratch that. We are Disney World fanatics. 

I was so excited for our trip this past January. It would be the first time we had every stayed at resort. It was the first time we would be on the Disney Dining Plan. It was the first time we would all be flying. Those are some big firsts for us, a family of 6.

I had talked this trip up. I was ready. My family was going to have such a fun time courtesy of this Type A mom - they would be thanking me while we there for all the planning I had done in preparation. My plan was tight.

Oh the best laid plans...see nothing went as planned. I forgot Cody's antibiotic for his ear infection. Delta had a problem with my plane ticket and getting me on the right side of the plane since I had an "infant in arms". Cody threw up when we landed in Orlando and then proceeded over the next few days to have some of the biggest diaper blowouts I have ever been privy to out of all 4 kids. Our credit card information was stolen...I could go on and on with all the things that went wrong. The plan was out the window.

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I was angry. A few times I'm pretty sure I let my family know it. All my planning, all my work.

Isn't that how we sometimes feel about Sunday mornings when they don't go as planned?

That volunteer who didn't connect with the parent at the door. Haven't I given them suggestions on what to say?
That large group storyteller who didn't quite have the "passion" that you hoped they would have. Did they not study up the script I gave them?
That greeter whose smile wasn't convincing enough. Haven't I told them how important it is that our lobby is our warm, friendly environment?
That worship leader who couldn't remember the lyrics. Did they not do their prep work I gave them before they came in?

We work all week on our plan for Sunday mornings. And sometimes we hold onto it so tight. So tight that we expect everyone else to feel the tension that we feel, the desire to have the PLAN go off without a hitch.

Something I learned from our last Disney World trip was that not all trips look alike. I would never wish the stuff we had happen on anyone, but it didn't mean we had a bad trip. This trip was different. We had to slow down and take our time which meant we were able to enjoy different aspects of Disney that we had not seen and discovered before. We had to learn to go with the flow. I had a choice. I could hold on tight to the plan, or I could let it go (cue the Frozen soundtrack).

We have a responsibility as leaders to pray and move in the direction God calls us in our planning and ministry throughout the week. But if we could do that and have Sundays turn out perfectly, what would that teach us as leaders? How would we grow? God wants us to rely on Him.I don't want to be a parent or a leader who holds on so tight to MY plan. I want to be a someone who says... "I have prepared and planned this week. Here you go, God. You can have my plan. I'm going hold on tight to You and trust that You have this Sunday. I'm going to trust if things don't go according to plan, You have a bigger plan at work."




Grace for the Working Mom

“I don’t see how you do it.”

That’s the statement I get told so often. Juggling 4 kids and working, is a daunting, busy task.

My response? “Most of the time, I don’t do it well.”

So many times people see the end result. They see an event I was working on go well. They see my house looking nice and tidy when they come over. They see the kids all decked out in their church clothes, giving off the illusion that we are all put together when we arrive on a Sunday morning.

What they don’t see is that I was racing against the clock to get my event done… that meant that my husband and kids didn’t get the time or attention they deserved for the week. They did not see that we ate fast food 3 nights in a row, because I couldn’t remember to set out any meet from the freezer. They did not see that I hired someone to come clean the house and I consciously scheduled it right before I knew I would have company because I was so embarrassed by the state of my house. What they did not see was me yelling at my kids before we left for church because they were not moving fast enough for me, and that I had to ask my kids for forgiveness on the way to church.

The word that keeps playing in my mind in this busy season is…grace.

Grace for me. Grace for my husband. Grace for my kids. And grace for all the other mommas out there that are just trying to make it.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

This verse has been been on replay in my mind. Our days are short on this earth. I love my family, and I love the work that God has called me to do. So, how do I reconcile all the priorities I have with the little time that I have?

Sometimes, it means that my family does get the short-end of the stick, because for a couple of weeks the load at work is a lot to bear. But maybe, grace abounds from my family to me because they know that before and after this “season”, I’m actively present with them. Maybe grace abounds to my husband when he has the same struggle with busyness with work and he has to be gone several nights, because I know “this too shall pass”, and we’ll all be reunited again. Maybe grace is shown to my kids…because my busyness affects them too. Because perhaps I am mistaking their outbursts for defiance when maybe it’s a cry for attention in the moment. And maybe some grace can flow through our whole home, because being present in each other lives trumped a clean and tidy house this week.

In Andy Stanley’s Book Choosing to Cheat he says that everyday we make the decision “to give up one thing in order to gain something else. This is something we do every day. We don’t think of it as cheating. Especially when we are making what most people would consider a good trade.” Andy Stanley goes on to illustrate that he chooses to “cheat” his work sometimes when there is something at home that requires him to be there, and then other times he has to make the choice to “cheat” his family when a big initiative is going on at church and he has to work longer hours.

We all want to be the best spouse, parent, friend, co-worker, homemaker we can be. But maybe we can’t be all those things at exactly the same moment. Things have to give, things have to ebb and flow. Priorities and hats have to change sometimes hour to hour. Grace has to flow.

And, I’ll make you a deal…if we are to be at each other homes in the near future, I’ll look past the spilled milk on the floor if you ignore the tumbleweed of dog hair rolling past your foot.

 

The Bible is Better than Gold

Teaching preschoolers about the Bible can be difficult when preschoolers can’t even read yet. Here’s some tips on speaking with your preschooler about the Bible.

Be careful to always reference the Bible and it’s “rules” regarding how we should live. Sure, children need to be corrected and they need to know what God’s standards for our lives are, but more importantly, they need to know the love of God and how He came to rescue us. If we as parents focus more with our children on the correcting and rebuking part of the Bible, our children will miss the biggest theme of the Bible: God sent us His Son so that we could know Him and spend forever with Him.

Teach your preschooler that the Bible is about God and His Story. The Bible is not all about me and what I should be doing – it’s about God and what He has done. Teach your preschooler that the big story of the Bible is about the love of God for His children and how He came to rescue us. And that love…never stops, no matter what we do. Talk about the ultimate super hero!!!

Reference biblical characters and their strengths AND weaknesses. The cool thing about the Bible is people have gone through what we struggle with today. Some did it well…some did it not so well. There are stories of people who struggled with fear, disobedience, selfishness, and the stories of how they overcame it. These stories remind preschoolers that they are not alone! And the God of the universe helped them. Because of this, I can know that He will help me!

Make the Bible apart of your life. If you want God’s Word to be in them, it has to be in you. If you want your children to know that His Word is precious to you, they need to see you spending time in it. What you love, you spend time with. Preschoolers catch onto what you are teaching them when they see it modeled out with their own eyes. They will know the Bible is the greatest treasure when they see you treating it like the greatest treasure!