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.

The Suffering Saint

“For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

It seems notable that Paul mentions this kind of glory as “displayed in the face of Christ.” There is a different kind of glory going on here – in the making of all things new. Christ was glorified in his suffering.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Heb. 5:8)

The light of the world can shine within our hearts because He walked through His darkest day on a dusty road to Golgotha. The light shines out of darkness.

I find hope deep within this promise: that God brings light out of the darkness. It starts in our hearts – our hoping, living, breathing hearts. When all is dark around us and it seems there is no hope, God is stirring within. Like heat on a humid day, hope rises.

To know Christ is to know suffering. Paul declared that we carry around the death of Jesus, so that His life may be revealed in us. This revealing is a process secured in the trials we overcome, and the securing is different for each of us. The time table, the means and the grace we will need to persevere. Though outwardly we feel and see and believe in the wasting away – inwardly there is a kind of renewing found only in the suffering saint.

How was James able to reach this place of consideration: that trials produce joy? Had he persevered through enough that he hungered for the intimacy he found only there? He desired very much that perseverance would “finish its work.” How many of our trials come because we are unfinished within?

What truths can we cling to in the midst of this finishing?

  • That our good Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials (2 Peter 2:9)
  • We will be hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)
  • No pain can compare with the GLORY that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)
  • NOTHING can separate us from the LOVE of God that is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39)
  • His grace WILL BE sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What is incomplete in us was finished on the cross. Though our sanctification is life-long, our redemption was sealed in the final words of Christ.

“It is finished.”

Salvation is working itself out in us, we can be sure. We wait for the GREAT REVEALING. When the Lamb will lay down with the lion and all will be made well. Until then, we cling.

Peter instructed us to cling to the Word as to a “light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts.”

Jesus is the Morning Star. May He arise in our hearts as we suffer unto affliction, even for His great Name. And may we heed the Word like the brightest bulb in a dark and damp cave.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this?

If God is FOR US, who can be against us?”  Rom. 8:31

 

 

When Grace Breaks Me

Recently, I was a monster.

For the first time in an eternity, I started a Saturday in prayer. Kneeling. This itself is like miracle stuff. Saturday is for kids in our bed and big breakfast meals and cleanup and spilled juice and cartoon marathon and adventures at the park way too early.

I woke up heavy-minded. You know, all the stuff. I knew I needed Him today. I did not know, just yet, how much. And somehow, after the commitment of my day and the choice to honor Him, I came out of that prayer closet swinging at the world.

It started with a splinter. Or, at least, the thought of one. My boy was limping. Walking on his heal. No matter how many times I tried to persuade him to let me look, he pulled farther and harder away. Protective Mom was getting irritated because of all those times someone told me “it can hurt your foot if you walk like that!”

Obviously threatening was necessary.

“You cannot go to the store with Dad until we look at that foot!”

You cannot leave this room until you let me look!”

Anger rising. Volume raising.

And in the middle of all of this very positive affirmation, she came out. Mrs. Hyde.

The morning became like Anger Management with Adam Sandler. Minus the counselor. It’s worse than you think. Don’t be thinking I’m nice Mom being hard on myself. I’m pretty sure I then yelled at my daughter about applesauce. APPLESAUCE.

I’m pretty sure I also stubbed my toe, hit my elbow and ran into something all in the span of an hour. Mmmmmk.

It was honestly like one of those moments you can look down from the sky and see yourself, and you are absolutely baffled.

What is wrong with you, Ginger?

I knew I needed a shower. A time-out for Mom. And the moment the water started, I said, “Where, God, did that come from?”

I knew I needed to apologize to the kids quickly. And I did. I told them I make mistakes. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have yelled. They were gracious to forgive me.

But I was still baffled.

I could blame female hormones. But, alas, copout.

I know spiritual warfare is sharp. Yet, it had been quite some time since my flesh had come into the ring with my spirit and punched the tar out of it like that.

I started over after that apology, and we had a great family day. When the kids were down to sleep, I treated myself to a hot bath. I pulled out my current read, Grace in the Workplace. (I’m obviously very qualified to teach grown adults about living in grace.)

And of all the verses I would come upon in the middle of a chapter about evangelism….yeah – you guessed it, BAM! ——->Right to the heart.

It was only my VERSE FOR THE YEAR. Smack in the middle of my random book. On THIS day.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

 

You guys. For real.

Here is the thing about God as a Dad. He is always good in His discipline. Perfect, really. Perfect timing. Perfect words. Perfect way about it.

He throws it out there – the truth we know we need to hear. Then He lets it sit and do its work.

The verses actually goes on to say, “for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

That part – that was God’s encouragement to me. Like when I discipline Josh and then give him reasoning for the character I want him to have.

God knows I want that righteous life in Christ. He knows – deep down – what I really want. He was saying to me……in my spirit, “Ginger, anger itself may not be sin, but it opens a gate you don’t want to walk through. And you’re standing at the gate.”

When grace comes in the form of discipline, we are the better for it. Every time. When the discipline happens in the exact area of your ministry, it can break you. It’s the best kind of humble. Because on our best days we are only as good as the lessons we apply from our worst. We do not teach well what we have not struggled through.

Aren’t we most useful after we have been broken? And how many times does God warn us before the breaking is at its worst? And how grateful should we be – all of us – that He does indeed discipline us as a good Father does a son He loves.

His goodness is humbling and His grace breaks me in every kind of good way.

Why the Term “Fallen Pastor” Really Bothers Me

Side note/small print/Full Disclosure: I’m married to the preacher man.

I’ve only been thinking about this post for a year now. Just the title though – don’t get your expectations up. So let’s just get on with this one so I can sleep already.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH (That about sums it up)

The first thing God EVER said about sin is that SIN is crouching, waiting – even coming after us. We will be tempted. When did going to seminary qualify you to be less sensitive to what God said is crouching near us?

If we think temptations lessen in the ministry – we are about as wrong as a cat is curious. If anything – they double. Satan doesn’t waste his time on the benchwarmers. He’s after the first string.

So let’s assume people understand pastors are tempted. Then why are we so surprised when they sin? Do we really (does anyone still really) place them in the status of holy superhero? Are we still mixing up healthy respect with idol worship?

Here is some BREAKING NEWS: Your pastor probably sinned yesterday.

(I’m sorry. And you’re welcome)

Because when we expect ANYONE to be CHRIST other than the MAIN MAN – we are the ones set up to fall – into major disappointment and our own faith crises.

Your pastor cannot determine WHO GOD IS TO YOU. If we put all the cards of our faith into the pastor deck, we will seriously misinterpret the gospel and what PERFECT LOVE really looks like.

One problem here is that we seem to call the big stuff sin, and misunderstand our sin nature. The news hits when a leader commits a sin we consider major. Really, one of the most common sins in the Christian family is NOT doing what we know to do. We are all works in progress.

I understand articles that address HOW to heal in the midst of issues surrounding a leader. We all need help in conflict resolution and healing from hurts. What is sad is that the leader becomes this object of discussion. Everyone has their thought on what that leader should do. How they should confess. What their website should look like now.

Beth Moore opened her heart recently about a hunt going on in the Christian family. How we are quick to label people heretics. I fully agree. We are quick to label EVERYONE. When did we ever think putting “FALLEN” in front of a title or name is in anyway helpful? Because really, we all start out on that same fallen plane. But can I just…….HELLO, the fall was in G-E-N-E-S-I-S. Can we move on from this already?

If anyone – ANYONE – is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. Purchased, bought, DONE. They are REDEEMED SINNERS. To move them back over to “fallen” because they sinned is contrary to the grace we preach – I guess unless we want to write an article about every Christian when they sin and call them fallen too. Which seems kind of repetitious and quite time consuming.

There is either a clear misunderstanding of sanctification or we just plain want the opportunity to pounce on a leader and give our two cents. The title REVERAND does not graduate you from the need for the same daily grace we all get offered from a loving God.

Pastors are accountable to the system of authority set around them in their particular church. Just like we are all accountable to authority. Mostly – and above all – they answer to God. Well – us too there. Here is the kicker – they will be held to a higher standard with regard to the way they lead souls – but that’s God’s deal. I’m pretty sure He can handle that.

I expect all the people in robes or otherwise comfy preaching attire to sin. (Don’t get all – you should expect the best from people here) Of course I hope, I spur on….and above all I pray for pastors. But I do not expect them to be perfect. I’ve got enough on my plate confessing my own sin. I’m not signing up for the sin management record keeper position any time soon.

I’m concerned when I see headlines soaring because they have all the JUICE on someone’s mistakes. What does it say about us that we keep those conversations going?

Can we drop the term “fallen” from our labeling repertoire? Or maybe just throw out the label-maker. It’s pretty 20th century anyway.

On Measuring your Days, Prayers, and Life in the Longest Yards

The days are long and the years are short. That’s what they say.

I just threatened my son again about taking his precious boots away. Because threatening is a great strategy with three-year-olds.

boots

Meanwhile I’m thinking of measuring my daughter with a tiny ruler for her costume. That shouldn’t take long. Inches add up either way, right. Who can find a measuring tape in this house?

Those days of long stretch out the insides of you running circles around raising them right. Deep breath to deep sigh, you just want them to catch it. To be the very best they can be. We want it for them. We believe.

Then the discipline of Fall break day one is about to break you.

We measure our success by how many of their moments fit into the good behavior category. The outward signs of learning; each choice of obedience.

Lord knows all my moments don’t fit there. But I was driving today, somewhere in between our shopping, cleaning and making a mess of the church errands – when I saw the bigger picture. The longer stretch of days.

How I’m looking forward to the silver crown of life and the wisdom I will only gain by getting there. You can’t hurry a good stew or make a boy child a man. Like the yeast in the best of dough, some lessons just need to rise up in us over time. And they will.

I hear my three-year-old daughter praying over her own food in the next room, by herself, and I know something is catching. This comfort with talking to someone invisible, but all around. This faith is something taught from someone else, and the choice to act on it.

And I peer into the long years ahead to see the fruit of this messy labor. They believe.

Can all the moments of quiet grace overshadow the screams of loud when my boy acted out again – and I did too? Can all the hugs and kisses last into the years while the rolling of the eyes fades away.

I think so. I believe in the long stretches of God’s grace.

I think God wants to teach us something in the longer spaces of time.

space of time

He wants to do a long work in us. Something deeper than can’t be manufactured on the fastest product line. He’s drawing my kids….me…to walk with Him and learn a little. Become…………….over time……… with Him.

It’s what I’m carrying into my prayer life. This new kind of faith in forever. How the prayers we pray actually end up in the altar box and wait there. They keep. Even in the answering. Waiting for their highest fulfillment: the offering. When all will spill out before Him like incense and help mark the end of days.

Time doesn’t restrict our prayers, even when we try to. So every prayer counts. And though I keep looking, looking, looking for that hand-sized cloud and the drops of rain, I can rest knowing my prayers stick with God.

I focus on the answer or the wording of the prayer itself. But what if I looked farther into the distance of time…….where, regardless of the words or the outcome, the struggle or the confidence, each prayer is a deposit into everlasting praise.

Our prayers are measured with the yardstick of eternity. Holding steady.

On the longer days of motherhood and prayer, I’m thankful He measures with grace.

****************

Hopping on the link-up with my bud, Meredith today. She’s writing on #31days of living like she’s dying – we all could use a dose of that. And I’m linking with Holly, someone born to be an encourager. Blessings.

 

If Only There Were Someone: A Journey Into Grace

I can picture his calloused, blistered hands attaching the breast piece and overlaying an ephod. With deep breaths, he puts on his robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash.

He was one of the very few. Chosen. To enter in.

Every morning he had to check the fires. Adjust the wood just right – keep the flames going. God required this – every. single. morning. His hands evidence of his daily task.

“Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.” Lev. 6:12-13

And then once a year – because he was a high priest, he walked beyond the second curtain. He was a priest in the tribe of Levi, the only men able to approach God…and plead mercy.

Can you imagine? The heavy weight on the chest as the wind of God’s presence HIT you just touching that curtain.

He may have gotten used to the stench. Of burning bulls and the blood spilled out. But I imagine his hands shook just a little….every time.

He knew “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22) And he knew he needed it. We all do.

There are still shaky hands today. Reaching out for the curtain to find God. Years and years of sins and offerings later. Trying to make it to noon without tipping the bottle……or moving the mouse to click on that flashing picture on the screen.

Sin – guilt – repentance. Repeat.

Sin has always been crouching at our door, gnawing away at our minds. And the guilt today is as serious as it was in the tabernacle days. It leads to death; it must have blood.

Some of us are keenly aware. Living from guilt to guilt. Reading posts and verses about freedom but living a double life. Doing what we don’t want to do, over and over again.

“I did it again, Lord.”

Our knees hit the floor and we ask Him —-again —do you have enough mercy —for ME?

When even the edges of my sin nature are caught by the light of His glory, there is a great chasm.

This is when conviction can lead to despondency. We fight to fix ourselves and fail miserably….with all our good deeds and such. (The usual routine of the “good” Christian soul)

What is this offering I keep laying down, handing over, milling with my hands? This good thing or the effort to do no wrong. Because this is most tiring of all ——–> Trying to be GOOD ENOUGH.

Good enough.

For Him. For others. For ourselves.

What if there was another way to live this life?

Moving beyond sin maintenance and beating ourselves up and wondering all the time if He is really deep down disappointed in us?

What if there really was another way beyond the curtain? Into the most intimate room with God and a life of peace for our own souls? What if the checklist could be burned on the altar? What if we were already enough?

Even Job – the man God considered blameless and upright – he asked “if only…”

With no New Testament to read or new covenant in his heart, years before the life of Christ, Job needed someone to come between his sin and the presence of a holy God.

 “He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court.

If only….

If only there were someone…

to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. ” Job 9:32-35

“….so that His terror would frighten me no more.”

Because what “a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)

So Christ- our Someone– laid His hands upon us all by stretching them out on a tree. He lifted His hands to the Father and carried the cup of our condemnation with his own blistered hands, worn from woodworking and stone cutting…..and we are still trying to come up with our own clean offerings.

“by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Heb. 10:14

made perfect

Note – those in Christ – you ARE PERFECT in Him. You can’t get any better than the righteousness of Christ covering you.

Note – those who have yet to believe – believe in Him today!

The next step – the holy making – a day by day changing from glory to glory – that’s His business too. We obey, one brave day, one brave yes at a time.

 It’s so tiring to try and complete something He started in the first place: our sanctification.

What does it look like to LIVE in the palm of those hands? To actually believe we are righteous by faith alone?

What would it really mean if we found ourselves whole in Him? Could this revelation of grace – wouldn’t it – push us into the arms of justice? Fighting for the grace of others. Empower us to leave the dark corners we hunker down in to offer a deep soul drink to the thirsty.

Wouldn’t it remove competition? The need for a great name? With this astounding love of the Saving Name.

Would it remove fear? Because love drives out fear and the receiving of unmerited grace is a shocking kind of love.

Would it change our thinking – about others? Because we know grace had nothing to do with who we are or what we’ve done but WHO HE IS and what HE DID.

What if we could really SEE that Someone – the living Christ we fix our eyes on – in every living soul we pass?

Like my three-year old son, who passed a shirtless, shoeless, bearded man at the park and said,

“Look, Mommy, …..God.”

(Be still my heart)

“Yes, honey. I see Him too.”

I’m interested in the LIVING OUT OF GRACE. The knowing and believing that leads to practical actions in our world.

Because freedom is only honored when we do something about it.

Real grace – understood – does not lead to self-indulgence. This living free in sin because we know we are forgiven. No. Authentic grace received is seen in ripe ready fruit offered to another and another and another. It’s seen in a desire to live for Him. Not a have to. A want to.

There is a real freedom in this new implanted desire. When those sins, those inklings to chase after the pleasures of this world become like the most bitter taste to the mouth. When your heart pounds for righteousness one victory over sin at a time.

And when the checklist has been burned on the altar and we rise from the ashes of all our rag offerings – we open our eyes to something new and unexpected. Something we thought we had to figure out and study and understand.

His JOY is our strength.

 This is worth talking about, learning.

What kind of strength can be found over sin and complacency and guilt and condemnation by entering into His JOY?

And how does accepting grace unlock the door to that joy?

** Like my Facebook group. Let’s talk about practical grace. Inside the church walls and all over the world. What are you learning about grace? Tweet your response with #gracelivedout. And follow along here on the blog to let your heart ponder just how much grace He has for you….and what that might mean for the way you live this one chance life.

Humble Pie for Dinner

pecan pie

Sometimes it starts with a big bite.

Like right after I married a minister and thought I knew a lot about religion and stuff…and ministering to people. Ahem.

It seems to always go with that “I thought I knew a lot” phrase.

But lately, for months….it’s like something…or someone just placed a fork in front of me. Like a nudging. Crazy thoughts really. As in “maybe I’m not always right.” Or “my way is not always the best or only way.”

I know, crazy.

And the fork is sitting there. Kindly really. Instead of a face down fall into complete embarrassment. Because just like we should embarrass our sins before they embarrass us…..taking the first bite of the pie pays off. And here’s why:

Pride goes before the fall.

Humility goes knees down before Him.

And it changes the way everyone sees you.

It’s visible. When you’ve been with Him.

It changes the way you see yourself. However it happens, fast or overtime, it’s a good thing. The problem occurs with the C word. And it’s not conviction.

Satan condemns. And we join him when we only beat ourselves up for “who we are” or how we acted.

We all act poorly sometimes. We misunderstand His grace and short others on it. To humble ourselves is to admit we are now and will always be in great need of His help.

We hear a lot about entitlement today. It’s mostly about kids. How can we teach our kids to be givers and not takers in a self-serving world? But we all know – they learn what they see. When we are short tempered with the customer service rep. Or frustrated with the school assistant.

Anytime me rises up to say “I’m right” or “I deserve this” or “I could do that better”, we are teaching them.

So I need to keep my mouth shut more. And skip emails and phone calls when I’m confused about something.

But mostly, I need to sit down and have a big piece of pie with my Father.

Because there is rest for our souls. Where comparisons end and demands for self are left at the cross. It’s freeing really. To lay down our heavy merits we’ve been trying to use for the win. He becomes our only brag. And He always wins.

Humbling ourselves before Him is key in loving people. It’s hard to love when your heart is full of self. And here’s the antidote:

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Not on a pedestal. They tumble.

Back on your feet. To live out His call and do it gladly. In service and love. And every now and then, when you need it, the Spirit may lay a fork down. In warnings. Whispering to you….

Eat some pie.

It’s what’s for dinner.