Monday, March 31, 2014

For God's Girls Who Are Tweens, Twenty's, Thirties...

Our daughters Grace and Mary are now 20-somethings. When they were very young I told them -- more than once -- that there was nothing they could do to make me stop loving them. I said, "You can say and do things I disagree with, I can get hurt feelings or fret over your safety and well-being, but you're my daughters and my love runs deep."  It still holds true today. 

By the grace of God both of them are passionate...about many things...but most importantly they are on-fire with their love for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus saves, and He chose them to come into His kingdom as His children. Even my dysfunctional attempts-- at times-- mothering has not robbed them of their passion for God and for abundant life! Whew! I am so thankful! My godly hubby Don had a lot to do with that, too.

Grace, Me, Don, Mary Celebrating Grace's Birthday, 2009

I've also told the girls that I wished they could see themselves as I see them. I always get tears when I say this. Because as their mom I know they boldly stand against injustice, are deeply compassionate, have God-given creative gifts, talents and amazing abilities that they know are to be used for God's glory. I also know their frailties, weaknesses, and I adore them and pray for them daily! I'm praising God for the driving force of the Holy Spirit in them to shine Christ's light with their very lives. 

Christmas 2013
(I had trouble getting pregnant and also had a heartbreaking miscarriage between my pregnancies with Grace and Mary. That's why I praise God every day I get to be their mom. He heard our prayers!)

I tell them the truth that I love them for who they are not what they do. 
I also know the world bombards women, especially young women, with the following kind of lies: "Your outward appearance needs to be perfect so you will have value. Do whatever it takes to make yourself flawless! Then you'll be a winner. Then people will love you and approve of you!" Yuck. Lies all lies.

"Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Whose approval are we seeking, Sisters? Is it the affirmation of the Creator of the Universe who loves His children unconditionally and eternally -- or are we blindly craving the fleeting, idolatrous fancies and lies of the world?

Whenever I learn something new from my prayer time with God -- cool stuff that is powerful and encouraging --  I'll either call, email or text them to share with them. I want them equipped to continue to shine Christ's light and to continue to stand against the darkness of this world. You know, like the countless magazine covers today that imitate pornography and can easily tempt young women to hate their appearance and become anorexic and/or bulimic!

Oh, how I wish all of God's daughters could see themselves the way God sees them! He rejoices over His daughters (and sons) with singing! Yes, SINGING! Wow. "The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Yep. there it is. TRUTH. It's in Zephaniah 3:17. You matter to God. That settles it.

However, when I would complement Grace and Mary about anything, they'd say, "Oh, you have to say that because you're my mom."  Hahahaha! What? I was sincere. But that would be their response! Sometimes there might also be a rolling of the eyes when they said it.

So my response is always the same, "What? You think I'm lying to you? That I'm flattering you? First of all flattery is sin. It's manipulation. I'm telling you the truth! You really ARE amazing!"

I think that's how it is with us and God. He tells us He loves us and takes great delight in us. But even as His children sometimes we won't believe Him.

With love and blessings to you,
psalm 34:3

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Who's Your Spiritual Mama?

For some reason God has chosen to give me three--yes--three spiritual far! All I can think is: "Wow, I must really need a lot of help if God sends me three when my own mother loved me unconditionally and was my greatest cheerleader and loving encourager!" 

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a spiritual mother is a mentor. The concept comes from Scripture. "Older women are to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God" (Titus 2:3-5). 

Spiritual mothers can be any age, what matters is the older woman is to teach the younger. She could be old enough to be our mother and/or grandmother or a 35-year-old mentoring a 20-year-old.

My experience with my spiritual  mothers is they're women who have been  faithful followers of Jesus for decades and have hearts filled with rich, life-giving  wisdom and humility. They're fierce prayer warriors because they know God is a mountain-moving God and it glorifies Him when they pray. They walk closely with Jesus every day. And there's no fanfare with a true spiritual mother. She doesn't boast or brag about her wisdom and knowledge. She has a gentle and quiet spirit because the Lord has quieted her soul with His love over the years. She has a beautiful, deep relationship with her Savior. She has a sense of humor because she's learned not to take herself too seriously, she dearly loves her own family and the whole wide world of believers! She is full of life, not pride. 

She is usually someone you would not expect to be so filled with a huge dose of Holy Spirit power. But when she walks into a room she's radiant with God's presence. See, she's not impressed with worldly things like designer clothes, people pleasing and her own fame. She's really cool because she has Christ confidence and filled with His love and His light. This describes my spiritual mothers.

I was inspired to write about spiritual mothering/mentoring when my hubby showed me a recent story on Elisabeth Elliot in WORLD Magazine. Wow. It was very moving for me because it brought back sweet memories of my early years as a Christian. 

My first spiritual mother was Evelyn Green. I sought her out as a newborn Christian and asked her if we could get together. We had a special bond for 30 years until she went to live with Jesus at the age of 102.Whenever Elisabeth Elliot came to Atlanta for a conference as the key speaker, we'd go! Evelyn called her "Betty." 
Elisabeth Elliot Conference, Atlanta, GA 1991
(from l: my close friend Sue Becker, Elisabeth Elliot, Evelyn Green, me!)

I didn't know Elisabeth Elliot personally, but she was always gracious in posing with us for photos.

I was hungry to learn how to live for God, so I collected a few of Elisabeth Elliot's books over the years. Just sayin'...

She didn't know she was a mentor/spiritual mother to me, but Elisabeth Elliot was gracious to autograph her videos when I asked. I imagine there are thousands of women like me who have grown in Christ  through her life and ministry. After reading the World Magazine article, I'm continuing to be amazed and exhorted with her words of grace and trust.

I learned in my 20's to seek out a godly woman and then ask her to spend time with me. But it's never too late to start, Sisters!  I'm now 61 years old (I can't believe it) and my spiritual mother, Frances, is 90! She's a firecracker...a tiny package radiant with God's light and enthusiastically fueled by His Holy Spirit. Her prayers blow through the roof because they're motivated by a passionate faith.

We are the Body of Christ. We are the light of the world. If you don't have a spiritual mother, my sisters, pray for one. Invite one into your life. You won't believe the blessings. And God showed me I'm not the only one enriched for spending time with her.  Over and over it was obvious she wanted me to come alongside her, too. I had no idea. How glorious is that?

For His Glory,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A New Commandment!

I don't know if this happens to anyone else but sometimes during my personal Bible reading I come across a verse of Scripture I've read many times before but then all of a sudden the words jump off the page because I've seen something new. I usually say something aloud like, "Yikes! Wow, LORD, this is amazing". Then I proceed to get out my concordances and dig deeper. I know it's going to be another devotion for my next book. And I know God wants to teach me something.
It happened this morning while I was engaged in the online  IF: Gathering  devotional study on the book of John. It's a fresh, ongoing study hosted by IF:Gathering Founder/Visionary Sweet Jennie Allen and her adorable peeps. Its home base is Austin, TX, where Jennie lives but everyone everywhere is invited to join in by the way..that's why they're hosting it on the worldwide web! I invite my sisters to check it out!
Now back to the words jumping off the pages and onto me this morning! The passage in today's devotion, John 13:1-20, tells the story of Jesus washing His disciples' feet. And it wasn't just water He poured out on them, He poured out His love! "Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love." (John 13:1)

Such a beautiful picture of humility, self-denial, love and a passion to serve others.The Majestic, Holy King of Glory getting down on His knees to wash His disciples' dirty feet!
He was kind as He taught them. "When He finished He said to them, "Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If then,  your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." (John 13:12-16)
Jesus wanted His disciples to be eager to serve. He told them "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28); "He made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:8).
Boy! Does this concept ever go against the grain of our society! And I believe foot washing isn't just literally, physically doing it, I believe any act of service that puts the needs of others before our own is foot washing: helping an elderly neighbor unload groceries, letting another driver in the long line of traffic, cooking a meal for a needy family, giving a helping hand at a senior citizens' center, writing a kind note, making a phone call to a shut in, and just think of the impact of making time every day to pray for others! Wow. What a concept! Praying for others really  is like washing their feet. Yep. I believe it is! And how beautiful and rewarding it that for everyone!?
I was so caught up in today's passage I kept on reading all of John 13!  It was verse 34, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" that jumped off the page and jumped on me! Why? First of all, "A new commandment?????" I dug deeply into the ESV Commentary for this nugget: "There is nothing new about the commandment to love, since Leviticus 19:18 teaches to "love your neighbor as yourself." The new element is the change from "neighbor" to "one another" and the change from "as yourself" to "as I have loved you." Christian love has Christ's  sacrificial love as its model and the community of believers as the primary (not exclusive) place in which it is expressed."
Wow. It's still all about love! We are supposed to be loving others as Christ loves us. We say we want to make a difference in this world. We say we want to glorify God with our lives. When we are out in the world washing feet in Jesus' Name, we're loving others as He loved us.
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." (John 13:35).

For the glory of God.
Psalm. 34:3

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anybody Hungry?

Are we hungry? Do we know what we are hungry for? Are we really hungry for a meal or are we craving something else? What is it? What do we really want? Peace? Joy? Contentment? Love? We have this empty place in us and we want it filled. Right now! This is America and that's how we as a nation roll these days. We want something now. Don't know exactly what it is, but someone needs to give it to me, now. We're tired of being hungry, right? Where do we go to get what we really need?
Think about a child who says to her mother, "Mom, I'm starving to death! There's nothing to eat here!" And the pantry and the refrigerator are full of food.
The mother says, "I can make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a ham sandwich and a glass of milk. Or I'll pop some fresh popcorn for you." 
The child says, "No! I don't want that! I want something else but I don't know what I want to eat...hmmmm."  Then she gives up and stomps out of the kitchen saying, "You're not giving me what I want! Why don't we ever have anything good to eat in this house?" Uh-oh. Is this us?
The food is offered to her. Her mother is ready to prepare it.  And yet, even though she has cravings she angrily rejects the offer. Think about this: when she walks away from the offer to have her needs met she walks away still hungry and discontented. Now she's really angry.
We're like that before Jesus changes our hearts and we gladly surrender our lives to Him. He offers Himself to a lost, hungry world as the Bread of Life saying, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry..." (John 6:35).  Then as we draw near to Him, He begins to feed us with the truth of His Word, His forgiveness, love and provision. He begins to fill up our hearts with love, joy, peace, contentment as we follow Him.
Jesus also promises that those who come to Him in repentance and faith and believe in Him "will never be thirsty." (John 6:35). He says, "Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38 ) Jesus will give abundance of life-giving blessings to us and even people around us will benefit! Imagine! He promises to abundantly provide!

All this feeding of the hungry warmly reminds me of a precious couple, George and Ginger Schmidt,  who lived near us in our rural area of  East Cherokee County. We visited them often and I ended up writing a feature story about them in The Cherokee Tribune in 1991. George was an Air Force Sergeant and a firefighter for the Air Force crews.While still living in New Jersey he was a fire and police commissioner before they moved south to Roswell, GA. Then they moved into Cherokee County and bought a 20-acre farm.
They kept adopting animals and ended up with 60 dairy goats, four dogs, 15 guinea hens, three geese, 13 turkeys, two peacocks, eight varieties of chickens (I don't know how many ... a lot!), a horse named Trudy and 20 or so sheep. You get the picture.
When it was time to feed their beloved critters -- and George and Ginger lovingly cared for every single one -- George would walk out to the middle of the barnyard, clap his hands and loudly yell,  "Anybody hungry?" Immediately, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and peacocks came running from every bush, barn, shed and pasture and flocked to his feet. It was loud and it was hilarious. Then George would slowly walk to one of the barns, pick up a bucket and dip it into a bin of corn and walk back out to the barnyard to scatter the food on the ground. I've watched him do this many times! It was always amazing. The flocks knew George. They trusted him. They came to him and they were loved and well fed.

George Schmidt  Cherokee Tribune photo by Jack Tuszynski (1991)

George made his "Anybody Hungry" call loud and clear so as not to leave anyone out of the invitation! Sounds like the same sort of invitation Jesus makes to the world. He says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6).But the world isn't hungry for the kind of food Jesus is offering. So the world's cravings will continue.
Jesus will feed us and satisfy our souls but we have to have the hearts that want to go to Him when he calls. 

In loving memory of our friend and neighbor, George Schmidt.
For the joy and the  glory of GOD.