4 Reasons We Don’t Have Peace

We are the most entertained people in history, and we are also the most bored. The average American has more stuff, more free-time and more conveniences than most of our ancestors before us, but I’d bet we’d agree anxiety keeps close company.

I’d suggest five reasons our peace could be lacking today:

– We keep prayer on the back burner.

We hear about prayer, talk about prayer and may even believe in prayer. But when’s the last time you sank deep in a chair, put down your phone and gave God five minutes? 

We will often think it out, talk it out with friends and then determine to fix our own problems before we go to God.

In Phillipians chapter 4, Paul tells us that God’s peace will guard our heart and mind after we pray

It’s the praying that releases the weight. Burdens are shifted and peace is found. 

What if you stopped right now and gave God what you’ve worrying about?
We are rolling the wrong tapes.

I’m guilty of this. We let our minds turn to all the things we can’t control, have to do or wish we had. We roll over the same tapes in our minds until they unravel. The more we think on something negative, the more energy and joy it steals. 

So right after Paul says to pray & have peace, he adds something very key in Phillipians. Paul gives us a tunnel of adjectives through which every thought should filter. He knows we will begin to believe what we think most on.

If we pray one way, but think another, are we really trusting?

It takes a deliberate choice every time we notice a habit of turning our thoughts to what worries us. Change your thoughts and change your life.

-We are trying to be & do what only God can.

We have limits for a reason. We are limited by time and space. We want to be everywhere at once and have more time than the next guy. We rush so we don’t miss out and we try to be in relationship with a thousand people at once through social media. 

God invites us to rest in His omnipresence. He is not bound by space or time. He can do what we cannot. 

It can be very freeing to accept our limitations and let God handle the timing of our circumstances. 

We are not leaning on the indwelling presence of God.

We can spend our whole lives trying to find peace in various ways and places. Jesus said He offers a peace unlike what the world will offer. That peace is found only through a personal relationship with Christ. 

You can give Him your life today and the peace-maker will come to live inside of you. If you have a relationship with God—maybe He’s whispering today, Lean into my strength and peace and let me lead again.

——-

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing – 

Rom. 15:13

Powerful Ways to Cultivate Hope

The apostle Paul wisely stated, “who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25

Waiting is the school of hope. But that word patience is HARD. So I heartily welcomed a new word during study. Through study of the original Greek, I found the word “constancy.”

That’s something I can grab ahold of! I may have a long way to go in my faith walk, but I can get up again tomorrow and grab ahold of hope. I can come after Him with a constant hunger.

Here are four ways to cultivate that hope in your daily life:

  • Call it to Mind
    • Lamentations chapter three is known for the beautiful text about God’s mercies being new every morning.  But let’s step back to see that the writer had to literally call that to mind to encourage himself.  What is on the forefront of your mind? Call to mind what God has done for you. Call to mind His steadfast love!
  • Cultivate His presence within
    • Colossians 1:27 tells us that Christ within us is the hope of glory. We press in to the power of the Spirit and spend time with Him to lean on the hope he offers. Are you talking to the One Who is for you? Look for Him. Speak to Him. Turn your face to the Giver of Hope.
  • Profess
    • The writer of Hebrews calls us to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. It’s a hope we share with others that comes most alive within us. Has your hope or faith been weak? Begin to testify again. Paul said, “I believe, therefore I speak.” There is just something about speaking out faith and letting our heart catch up!
  • Give it Away
    • This is powerful! Sometimes the best thing we can do is sow what we want to reap. Turn your focus to what others need and often your own needs get smaller.

Have you lost hope? Do you see people around you who just seem hopeless? Friends, sometimes we just have to stir up our own hope. That’s what I want to help you do with my latest podcast series on hope! Head over to your podcast app and check out After Sunday today!

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope!” Romans 15:13

6 Ways to Stop Sin at the Front Door

Do you know the first thing God ever said about sin?

He was warning Cain because Cain was about to make a very big mistake. In the moment of temptation, God said, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Gen 4:7)

Sin is crouching at the door.

But how in the world can we master it? Those long engrained habits. The attitudes we catch ourselves having. The ways we react with anger or apathy or judgement. And, perhaps more importantly, do we want to?

Over the last few years I’ve invited God into an area of personal struggle with sin. The first year I spent wearing myself out trying to change myself. I thought if my will was strong enough, I could overcome. I was missing the key to the power of the gospel. Thankfully, the Lord showed me the truth of His Word as I earnestly sought Him.

Here are the six keys God gave me to overcome sin and know what victory in Christ can really look like in our daily lives:

Confess

Acknowledging neediness is perhaps the most important step in receiving help. Jesus came for sinners. That’s good news today! He came for me! He came for you! Have you ever confessed out loud to the Lord, “I confess I am a sinner in need of a Savior?” Have you ever confessed a specific struggle to God that you really thought you were hiding? Confession brings our raw, real, authentic selves into the light. There is no better place to sit. God is gentle and loving. Go ahead and say out loud that you need help. Name the sin. Put it out there. You must decide it will not stay in hiding any more.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Cleansing comes with confession. But that sin will still knock at the door. So we must now press into the power of the gospel.

Believe in the Power of the Gospel

The gospel is more than a story written a long time ago. When you came into Christ, you entered a living, ongoing story. The power of the gospel is seen in the redeeming work Christ does in the life of a believer. It is real. It is tangible. It is how the kingdom is advancing on earth.

story

We must believe we were meant to become more like Christ and – with His help – we CAN. If I focus on my weaknesses or past sins, I can become despondent. But if I truly believe the gospel, I cannot turn to discouragement because everything about the gospel speaks hope. For me, I focus on three beautiful truths:

  1. There is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1) When condemning thoughts come into our minds, they are not from the Lord. He is for us in every way. When we confess our sins, he separates them from us as far as the east is from the west. Believe it.
  2. Where sin increased, grace increased all the more. (Romans 5:20) The gospel tells me that my sin will always be met with GRACE when I confess and turn. We all fall, and we all get back up. Grace. Grace. Grace.
  3. The mystery of the gospel has been made known to us: It is Christ in you and Christ in me! (Col. 1:27) I don’t do the changing. Christ in me does. Every time I pray, Christ prays through me. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” The believer takes the power of Christ with them everywhere they go. Your circumstances may not change, but Christ in you can change how you live within them.

Plug Into the Power Source

When you have given your life to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is not just a subject matter for Sunday sermons. He is a person living inside of you. But just like your friendships grow in intimacy through time together and conversation, we must nurture our relationship with the Spirit. You may know the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. But did you know one of his main jobs, according to Christ in John chapter 14, is to remind us of everything Jesus has said to us. This is HUGE.

When you have hard days, who brings a worship song to your mind? The Spirit. When you need hope for the day and you wake up with a verse on your mind…who did that? The Spirit. He is moving in ways we don’t even recognize. And if we don’t recognize Him at work, how can we press in to what He is giving or showing us?

Have you every invited the Holy Spirit to give you power to overcome that habit? Are you listening and looking for ways in which He is speaking to you? If we will lean into that nudge to pull near, the Spirit will strengthen us in ways only He can.

Retrain your Mind

If you have ever read The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, you will be saying “yes!” to this key. That is a great resource to see the power our thought life has over our actions. But it all comes down to one very good verse in Romans 12:

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This one truth can change your whole life if you really apply it. We are (meaning, yes you CAN BE) transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. How do we do that? We’ve got to get in the Word of God and replace lies, attitudes and hurtful thoughts with truth. God’s Word renews our minds. Scripture even tells us that only after that can we really understand the will of God. Understanding of His will comes after we have given Him full reign in our thought life.

Practically speaking, if you have struggled with negativity your whole life, you can rewire your brain to think differently. You can choose to change your thought life and memorizing Scripture is one great way to do that.

For struggles with sin, we begin by casting out tempting thoughts the moment they enter. We choose to turn from evil thoughts and immediately ask the Spirit for help. I have to quickly rebuke some thoughts out loud and invite the Spirit to remove them from my memory.

Thoughts lead to action, so we pay close attention to the thoughts we let roam through our minds. Another great resource for this area is Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book, Switch on Your Brain.

Combine Forces

I noticed my struggle with frustration often occurred in the mornings. I didn’t want to live frustrated any more. One morning I told my husband to notice when I started to show frustration so he could gently tell me four words: “you can do this.”

Do you want to know why that worked? Because we need cheerleaders in life. And he wasn’t just cheering me on; he was affirming to me what I knew I had already decided for myself. When he said those words, my mind then said to me, “you DO want this. You want the better part of yourself to come forth.”

And I did. But when it comes to long engrained habits, perhaps that we have seen modeled or have ourselves practiced for years, we need help to overcome. That help is called accountability.

There is power in sharing your specific struggle with another trusted person. Confession to God brings forgiveness, but confession to another person brings healing. You are saying, I’m human and I can’t do this alone.

Do you have a friend, pastor or relative you could invite into this journey with you? Community was God’s idea. He never meant for us to walk alone.

Address the Root

Invite God to change your heart. See, I cannot change my own heart. It is the seat of my emotions and from it flow wellsprings of life. God is both the maker and the changer of the heart. But we must choose to give Him full right and reign to make those changes. We can do that in three specific ways:

  1. Meditate on or memorize verses such as “I desire to do your will, Oh, God. Your law is in my heart.” (Ps 40:8) By doing so, you are soaking your mind with the truth you need your heart to receive. The longer we think on something, the more deeply it will sink into our belief system. Though you may not truly want His will over yours at first, you may be surprised to see how speaking this verse over time can change you.
  2. Pray specifically for the desires of your heart to change. It’s where the root is. The mind may be the battlefield, but the heart is where that battle was conceived. Should your area of change be in an attitude or habit, pray that you would be quickly turned off by the bad attitude and lack any desire for that habit. When you truly desire virtue over what you have long fed your flesh on, the fight can begin.
  3. Worship. We were made for worship. But worship is not only a set of songs during a service. To worship God is to adore Him. And the more we adore our Creator, the less we love the ways of the world. How do you adore Him? Have you sat in creation lately and thought on God alone? Have you gone over a favorite lyric of a hymn in the car on the way to work. Have you ever written a love letter to God?Worship will root out hate, discord, bitterness and long engrained sin. Turn your heart to adore Him and let His agape love sweep over everything else you thought you wanted.

I pray you are encouraged by my weekly posts on living out the faith. Find more encouragement by downloading a copy of my new release, Therefore Christ – A Commentary on Romans 8, available on Amazon. Or subscribe to my podcast via iTunes, After Sunday

If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus Christ and you desire to have a relationship with Him, He is ready and willing to welcome you today! Romans 10 tells us that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.

Simply pray from your heart confessing you believe He is Lord, you are a sinner and you want to give Him your life. The Spirit will come to live inside you and you will never be alone. If you give your life to Christ, I’d love to hear about it and encourage you. Find a church family and download the Bible App on your phone or pick up a Bible today.

God is for you! He is Mighty and Able to do more than we can ask or imagine! Have a great week,

Ginger

You Are Fully Known

We were created to be known at a level we have yet to experience on this earth.

“You have searched me Lord, and you know me.”

Has someone ever assumed something about you that was totally off? I’m sure they have. 
Have you ever been misunderstood by someone because of your actions or words? Probably.

This is discouraging because we want to be known for who we truly are. Yet when we see ourselves for who we truly are, it is frightening. Our carnal mind is tempted to turn to condemnation.

“Because God knows my truest nature, He is disappointed.”

And yet…

Before we were formed, He knew. 

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place…

…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…” Psalm 139

Before we lived with this nature, He chose. He gave up the Son knowing we would betray him. He chose us ahead of time. He knew you then. He knows you now. He still offers grace.

And the only way to experience this knowing is through the Holy Spirit. He woos us to Christ, where we find a new nature. A new kind of longing that can be met. 

Every deep desire at its core is a desire for God. 

A longing for trust. A hope for a mate. A desire for friendship. We were made for community because we were created by the Triune God. Our best relationships are a picture of what the most important relationship can be. Yet they are dim in comparison. Like a negative sitting in a dark room and slowly developing over time, the picture will come forth the day we are privileged to “know as we are known.”

Though we know Him only in part on this earth, that part is more than enough to steady our hungry hearts. 

Even part of God is far superior to the whole of anything else.

No matter how close we are to another, there will always be a hunger for more because Christ is the reason we were made. 

“All things have been created through him and for him.” Col. 1:16

In our hunger to be loved, to be understood, to be known- we strive and search and grasp until all other sources fall short. And then, we look. We see a glimpse. Though dim, it warms our heart like nothing else. He beckons us- come near.

And in Him, we find a love that surpasses our knowledge. He is all-knowing AND completely loving. 

We invite him, “search my heart and know my anxious thoughts. Show me if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way that is everlasting.”

And He does. Beside still waters, He leads. 

Hand in hand we will walk with Him, fully known. 

When You Need to Know God is Working Something Good

I’ve been working on a commentary for Romans 8. And when a verse you are studying makes a head on collision with life, things become real clear in a personal way.

It’s such a beautiful and hard verse.

“God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.”

God works.

Just rest there for a minute. Just put that on the fridge today. For the striver, the worrier – for all of us – what would we do, if not for Him? Before we ever were, He worked. Before our current problem, He was at work. In the midst of the Bermuda triangle when everything around you is spinning – He works.

All things. Each thing. Each person. Individually. On our time table. He works. He works all things together. For our good.

It’s the good that makes it beautiful and hard.

It’s the defining and understanding and questioning of that word. It’s the living it out. It’s the trusting.

We see in its study the word compared to its usage in Luke when the writer is talking about fertile ground. The hard stuff is fertile ground. We don’t want to be tilled, but we must be to prepare for a planting.

And I remember what I said to my daughter yesterday about the flower she picked for me.

“No, baby, it won’t grow. It doesn’t have roots.”

We have to choose what we allow to take deep root in us.

deep root

Often a seed of hurt goes deep, deep down. We can’t nurse it. Too much attention, too much water and it rots. Ignoring it causes the dryness. So what do we do? Where do we go?

The word good here actually denotes something that is inclined towards goodness. Of course; I get it. Where does all goodness come from? Only the Lord. He allows and uses circumstances, trials and joys that our neck would turn in one direction.

That’s the working out of it. All things draw us to Him.

We want a person to say a certain thing. We imagine a certain puzzle piece locking into place. We go back a thousand times and rehearse the scenario. What if…..

And you eventually find out that no person, no pill, no scheme can touch that hurt you have. And you realize there’s got to be something more. There’s got to be something bigger.

And there is.

God.

He is. He is bigger. He is better. Only God can do this for me. Only God can turn me around when I’m running hard in the wrong direction. Only God can mend a broken heart. But it’s more than that. God isn’t just a mender. He’s a Maker.

He makes new from nothing. He creates hope. He enables us to do what we are convinced we cannot do. And it changes us. When we offer grace we didn’t think we had. When we see ourselves in the lineup of people deserving judgment and see Him pronounce us released.

They say trials bring out the heart of a man. I’ve seen mine too often. But recently, I saw the heart of a man I know and it changed me. In the thick of the fire, his heart came forth as gold. He loved those who slandered him. He reached out to those to hurt him. He listened to those who disagreed with him. And he still loved them. And he told me so. He told me how much he loved them. And it really, truly did something in  me. It was the changing point.

I’d never really seen the love of Christ lived out like that.

Christ was humiliated, and He still loved them. They spat on Him, and He still loved them. Deeply. Dearly. He lived through the hurt because His heart beat for people.

And everyone was wondering how this cruel act could cause any good. His followers were overtaken by a mob, and they scattered. Meanwhile, the seed of Christ’s pain was burying deep into the story of the world. The ground had been tilled with the truth of the gospel. Long hard days of truth-telling and miracle-working. God always works.

Christ really can make us a different kind of people. And it’s a miracle. Like the Sunday morning when the seed took root, sprouted and Christ overcame the world.

Doesn’t mean it’s not hard. To love people. To overcome. To believe for something good in every hard, confusing story. It means we can.

We turn our face towards Him. We allow His work in our heart. He waits for us. He sees the hurt. He doesn’t rush. But He offers a different way. Different than the world. Different than the direction we’ve been moving. And though we thought our way felt the most right, we feel relieved. The hurt can move on….because we’ve got Him. He really is enough.

The circumstances are trumped. Because the something good coming forth is found inside of us.

That’s His best work.

Perseverance Must Finish Its Work

I have a friend from my school days who has a son on the heart transplant list. Her family is on my heart so often these days. I’m sure I need to tell her more often how much I have been lifting her up to the Lord.

She’s been waiting 14 long months. Within that- many long days. Away from home. Hoping for a new thing.

I spoke about new things to a group of ladies yesterday. Lunches in front, small high school library, in between student testing.

I told them it’s how God defined Himself.

“Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5

Not just a hope. Not a slogan.

It’s what He does.

And I remembered a season when I needed a new thing, hoping for good news. Discouragement sat heavy and I leaned on the prayers of others.

Then I ran across a section in the book of James, while asking “how much longer Lord?”

“Perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

Perseverance wasn’t done in me. My faith was strong until the trial hit home. And just like the Lord told Peter, there is a faith each of us will need in the final days….and what we have now just may not cut it.

There is a work inside the believer toward the characteristic God means to observe. He doesn’t cause trials, but He uses them. If we can trust with faith — in the waiting – we attain the reward that ends up strengthening us. For what do we get when we persevere in faith? Character. And through character, the forming of our spirit after God – we gain hope. Because who knows the promise of hope more than those who have desperately needed it and found it in Him.

The winter will soon turn to spring, new life brimming with scents and colors we’ve missed in the waiting. I’m long from that season of struggle, years ago now. I have not seen the answer to my prayers in their fullness. Only part. But seeing the pieces come together slowly over time has grown patience in me. Quick answers never do that.

So for those fresh in the season of waiting and persevering, I’d offer hope. Hope that doesn’t come easy but lasts forever. Hope in the promise of God doing the making.

The verb used in the Greek for “makes” is a prolonged verb. It denotes a long passage of time. We each have our own time table. Our own story.

And I remember Paul, chained in prison, saying something about “all things” working together for the good of those who love Him. There, in the Greek, it speaks of individual things. Each circumstance, each trial, each person a part of the whole story.

They work together. Like winter, spring, summer and fall. Every season is part of our redemption story.

So we look for spring in the midst of winter. We call a friend and admit to a testing of our faith. And we hope. Mostly for the day when we are found complete in Him.

For now, we let perseverance do it’s work as we choose to believe. Something new is springing up. Even something new inside of me.

 

 

 

There is a Comforter

 

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7

Imagine the despair of the disciples. The only One you trust is leaving. Suffering. Dying. They scatter and feel alone. It is here and only here, in suffering and solace that we are invited into a level of intimacy with the Comforter of our souls we had never known before.

Paul proclaimed that as we “share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” (2 Corinthians 1:5) Who would rejoice in sharing abundantly in suffering? Yet, here we see what it leads to.

When you read this literally through the eyes of the Greek language, it actually says that an increase in suffering equals an increase in comfort. We get more of Him.

Because He knows we need more strength, His strength is poured out in greater measure. So to experience more of His power, we actually need to be in a place where we recognize how much we need Him.

If you are acutely aware of your weakness today, you are in the perfect place for God to show up. The word comfort actually means “to call beside.” He is calling, waiting. It is a calling near. To lean into Him and rest.

Does God allow suffering so you will draw near? It seems so. The God of all comfort knows just what our personal disposition will require for finally letting go and falling into His grace. You can fall into Him today. He is holding all things together. That includes you.

Lord, you are more than able to hold all things together. There is nothing you cannot do. I’m resting in your promise today that where I am weak, you will be strong. Thank you for never letting me go.

5 Ways to Go Deeper with God

Make one change for Him. Daily choices determine our habits, and habits form a life. Big changes always start with one step you take over and over again. Recently, I gave my phone to my husband as he headed out the door to work and told him I would pick it up in the afternoon. That was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I recognized that a habit I had allowed to form was drowning the one I really desired to live out. I needed to shut down the habit of checking in with the world so I could focus on what God has for me in this season. Because we are creatures of habit, change will always challenge us. Fasting is perhaps the surest way to awaken us to what we hold quite tightly too. When I want to shake my spirit from dullness, I skip a meal and cause my mind to reflect on God. What is one change you can make….or need to make…to help your focus turn towards Him? It may just be the best decision you make.

choices

 

Pick up a pen. No other created thing God made can communicate through the written word. There is something powerful about writing. Whether it means you begin taking notes again during the sermon time, start journaling your evening prayers or just always have a pen handy when reading scripture. I thoroughly enjoyed When I Journal, He Speaks by Dr. Michelle Miner. The Holy Spirit is actively speaking to believers. Writing helps us tune in to what we think we are hearing from Him. Putting the pen to paper (or hitting the keyboard) is one way we “capture our thoughts” so we can put them up against the light of truth and combat any lies of the enemy. As King David sang unto the Lord, he declared that his tongue was the pen of a skillful writer. (Psalm 45:1) He turned his praise into written word so others would know the goodness of the Lord. Just imagine if we did not have the Psalms today! Pick up a pen, listen and lean into what the Spirit is saying.

Cultivate daily worship. When a local radio station challenged listeners to listen only to Christian music for thirty days, they saw a huge response in the attitudes of callers who participated. We were made for worship. The ironic truth is that as we worship God, it actually renews our own spirit within. Feelings won’t always come first. That’s okay. You may even feel distant from the Lord and wouldn’t know where to start. Try out a Christian station on Pandora or play soft music on your iPhone while reading the Psalms in the morning. God has promised He will inhabit the praises of His people. When you choose to enter an atmosphere of praise, you are drawing near to God. And He will draw near to you.

Read the Bible out loud. We know from studies that when you increase the modes of learning, the brain sits up to pay attention. Even visual learners will increase their memory when sound is added. One really enriching way to do this is reading to your children, but anyone can benefit. Specifically, I find that reading the Psalms or Isaiah out loud can cause the words to catch in my spirit. I find I start praying the words and coming into agreement. God chose to communicate with us through the written word. He is waiting to speak to you on every page. If reading has become old hat, try something new. Find a hidden place to go by yourself and read aloud. Turn every reading into a time of prayer by saying, “Thank you God for this truth.”

Choose community. Christianity does not flourish in isolation. My most intimate times with the Lord have surely been alone with Him, but I will bear little fruit for Him, if any, sitting in my home. Because the Lord designed us in His image, we have the built-in need for fellowship and communion. For many, this step is huge or hard. Isolation has become common in a world in which connecting includes only a screen. Many are alone or don’t know where to start. When we sink into ourselves, our spirit will become dry.  Everyone, at some time or another, has felt alone. God wants to lift you up. He sees you. But you would help his cause quite a bit if you would give Him the chance to love you through the tangible hands and feet of the church again. If you have allowed a hurt from a person to transfer to the Lord, remember that God is defined as love. Choose to attend church this week. Let the pastor put the ashes on your forehead and remind you that “from dust you came and to dust you shall return.” Then remember that the pastor will also face eternity and we are all in the same boat. Call an old friend and ask them about their faith walk these days. Attend a Bible study and take a deep breath knowing everyone else in the room needs help just as much as you.

Deeper

Our church is asking a question during Lent: How can you go deeper with God? We’ll be discussing the vows we take upon joining a church and what that means for a follower of Christ. What are some ways you go deeper with Him? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share via your favorite social media. Be sure to use #deeper to share with others about your faith journey this Lenten season.

 

 

5 Ways Every Mom Can Capture a Child’s Heart

I’ve always been moved by the truth we often miss in the midst of evangelism amongst the poor.

Empty stomachs have no ears.

Hungry bellies can’t focus on our lessons about God’s provision like the moment we give them a warm roll to chew on. It’s a hard balance for the church today. Thankfully, by His mercy, we learned that gospel truth plants more deeply in the warm soil of love in action.

We nourish their physical hunger and the spiritual antenna goes up. Love can soften the hardest heart.

It’s the same, I’m learning, with the children we raise up.

My son doesn’t really hear my frustrated words about treating his sister with kindness after I made him feel less important than the book I was reading twenty minutes earlier.

My daughter will nod to please because she wants to be liked but her heart will wonder where my priorities are when I say “in a minute” one more time to her request for playing with her.

I pray they are passionate and courageous and sold out for God. I think most days of how and in what ways I will try to teach them the better ways of life. But the truth here in the home where world changers are meant to be nurtured, is that needy hearts have no ears. 

Children need to feel loved first.

mom child

When any relationship is based solely on duty, behaviors may adapt short term while the heart only hardens or breaks.

Forced obedience is one route, but it won’t follow them out the door. Or bring them back. Souls return to grace over law every time.

If I want my influence to go deep and long, it must be rooted in something other than my authority.

Authority is a gift to be stewarded well. All Moms know it’s a daily struggle to balance law and grace. Lately, in our home, grace has just been needed much more.

I don’t want perfect behavior; even I can’t pull that off. I’m praying for molded hearts. Here are five ways I’m working to earn the ears and mold the hearts of my children:

My promises are “Yes”

All of God’s promises are yes in Christ. As a bearer of His goodness, I want to keep my promises. We are careful in our home about using the word, and when we do, we consider it important to follow through. We will all fall short of God’s faithfulness, but we can then point our children to the One who keeps every promise. When I forget, I try to apologize quickly and tell my kids I need their grace. When I do keep my word, I build credibility with my kids. So when the day comes that they have hard questions, they come to me as trustworthy. Words only go so far when the actions don’t match. How can I focus mostly on their actions but ask them to focus on my word alone? I’m paying attention to see that my actions match my words.

Strategic Prayer

We don’t need to wait for the hard teen years or the various school challenges to arise for our prayers to truly matter. Only parents know the most specific emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our families. Every single need can be targeted in prayer with scripture. We can even pray for their hearts to be receptive before we teach them a principle we value. For the things you see in your children, have you tried prayer as a first approach? It is powerful and provides a peace in our home and heart as Moms. One important note: let them hear you praying. The seeds may not be visible, but the fruit will follow.

Quick Response

If quick obedience is requested, will our children have ever seen us respond as quickly to them? How long do they wait on us to give them our full attention? What priority do they hold in our day? How long do we really have to capture their hearts? I’m working on dropping what I’m doing the moment they ask me to hold them or play for five minutes. We can’t always do this. What if we responded quickly when we can? It trickles over to their quick obedience. Children need to know they are a priority to us. They need to see it, feel it, experience it first hand.

Praise

For all the days of discipline, praise can go a long way. Kids are as hungry for praise as we are. Some are just plain starving for it. When my days are heavy with “No’s” (and that’s often in the younger years) – the house can start to feel heavy with frustration. How often are we looking for opportunities to encourage with our words? Positive affirmations often work much better than constant correction. I’ve found the more I praise, the more often my kids want to obey. We talk about praise in our home. Praising God and sharing His love with others. We invite the kids to think about how they can encourage others. We can’t make their choices for them, but we can lead their hearts. We start by praising them.

Laughter

There is just nothing like the breaking of laughter in the midst of stress. It is absolutely healing. For grief, frustration….and even anger. For our kids, it just helps break the ice. Tickling is quite common here. When awkward comes in, the tickle monster comes out. Parents need laughter too. Sometimes the family just needs to remember that we are on the same team. That not every issue is worth fighting over. That we can even laugh at ourselves. When children struggle to communicate, they understand touch – whether it’s through tickling hands or loving hugs. It’s about a return to joy and the bigger perspective. Perhaps the issue is not as important as us loving each other in the moment.

We live with needy hearts. Little or all grown up, all anyone needs to know is that they are loved. It’s a daily goal to capture those little hearts with grace so they will desire the law of the Lord. Perhaps, along the way, we will learn more about grace ourselves.

One Way to Encourage Your Child: Name the Gift

I sat down to write a note of thanks and found another drawing on the table.

annieart

Scribble to some. Imagination and vision to another. The creator always knows. Isn’t it always how we see it?

And I remember the one I should have saved.

There were about eleven copies. Annie brought them to me one day and presented them as usual. “For you, Mom.”

They were all of the exact same thing. It seemed like mountains. And each picture had a circle at the bottom with a dot in the middle. I said, “Annie, what is this?”

“It’s a foot, and that’s a boo boo.”

“Ann, is your foot hurting?’

We found out that day Ann had an abscess on her foot. She didn’t just come up and tell me her foot hurt. She expressed herself through art. And right then at that moment, I said it.

Annie, you are an artist. You express your feelings through art.”

She smiled. And I believed. I spoke out what I believed for her future. For her right now.

If words have power, and they do…..and if parents have influence….and we do….what have we spoken over the life of our children? Is there something waiting to spring forth when we activate that faith in a child?

To name the gift is to believe in what we see developing within them. We open doors to hope and purpose when we are specific and intentional with our words.

What life can you speak forth in your child today? Name the gift and watch that child shine.