Rallying the Troops

“Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my banner. “- Exodus 17:15

A yellow post-it note left on my computer keyboard while I was out of the office made my day.  I had been sleuthing around for weeks to find the information written on it.  And there it was, a gift on my desk top that made me feel as if I had been called by Publishers Clearing House.  I recognized the note’s handwriting immediately because it was my husband’s.  My husband had been a regular Sherlock Holmes, knowing how important the name and number was to me.

Funny how a Post It could inspire and encourage me so.   3 lines written in a familiar hand.

Do we get that excited when we see the names of God written in a familiar book, the Bible?  We can have a relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, a God with a personality.  Just as we have different facets to our personalities, so God does.  Are you funny, loving, organized?  How would people describe you?  Do friends and family come to you for help with something because you have a gift or talent?

God longs for us to call upon the different facets of His character.  He yearns for relationship with His creation.

YHWH – I am who I am, the God who IS.  Jesus used the Greek equivalent when He said, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  He equated Himself with God in the first word out of his mouth.  Be assured, Jesus says.  The Father and I are one, and I confirmed it when I proclaimed, “I AM.”

Jehovah-tsidkenu – The LORD our Righteousness, a foretelling of Jesus Christ our Righteousness who gave everything to make it right so we could have a living relationship with the living God, who gives everything to intercede for us every minute of every hour of every day of our lives.

Jehovah-Sabbaoth – The LORD of Hosts who fights our battles for us when we are weary and depressed.  Are you weary?  Physically tired?  Call on Jehovah-Sabbaoth to restore you.

Jehovah-Rapha – The LORD our Healer, who binds up our wounds, both physical and emotional.

And perhaps my favorite…

Jehovah-Nissi – The LORD our Banner

My daughters used to love to sing His Banner Over Me Is Love, a popular children’s praise song.

When I first heard the song, I pictured a computer-generated banner that is hung outside to welcome home a loved one or a type of sign we put up to wish a friend happy birthday.  But that isn’t what it is referring to at all.  It is referring to a military banner called the standard.

The standard was and still is considered the rallying point for troops in battle.  It was a symbol of all the character and pride that a military unit, and in Bible times, a nation, represented. Carrying the standard was a great honor, but it was a dangerous honor.  If the enemy killed the standard bearer, the troops became disoriented.  Have you ever watched an old Civil War movie where a soldier picks up the fallen standard and inspires men to move forward with a shout?

God says that HE is our banner.  We first read about Jehovah-nissi in Exodus ,when Moses becomes weary and Aaron and Hur hold his arms up.  As long as they hold up Moses’ arms, the battle goes in their favor.  Moses boldly declares God to be the Standard and the Standard Bearer.  And God promises to defeat those enemies forever.

What a promise!

Do you ever feel that your life is a battle even in the day to day? Picture the rallying point, the flag over you that says God’s love.  The God who is Jehovah-Nissi, the God who will mobilize your troops for you!

Here’s a great family craft project:

Have your family make a standard flag that represents who your family is.  Perhaps put a symbol to represent each member of your family and what unique gift they bring.  Choose a Bible verse that you would like to represent your  “troops” and put the reference on the flag.  If no one has sewing talent, then make it out of construction paper.  Put it in a place where all can see, like the kitchen or the family room.

And when you need to, rally the troops.

Because the LORD is your banner.

standard bearer

 

 

 


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Intentional Parenting

You show up for dinner at a friend’s house and older kids begin bullying, then excluding your kindergartner.  The parents laugh it off.  A trip to the neighborhood playground ends up a nightmare because 10 year olds are playing on the equipment expressly reserved for younger children and your daughter get knocked down by kids chasing each other across the rope bridge.  The mother seemingly ignores the situation because she is in deep conversation with a friend, or other case scenario, there is no adult. Your 5 year old son hits your year old daughter for taking his Hot Wheel.

WHAT TO DO?

In a recent discussion I was a part of with parents under 30, the question was asked:  Where do you get your parenting advice?  The overwhelming agreement was that parents get their advice from peers, in other words, from each other.  Research backs this up.  This is a shift from the days when parents considered advice from the family and ”experts” and read books.  Because of our cultural shift from book reading to short snippit articles on the web and social media, it’s much easier to hop on Facebook and ask, “What do you do with your strong-willed child?”

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with peer advice, the problem arises when parents only seek solutions from peers and when challenges arise.  Or they decide that kids need to just work out issues themselves, or worse, that somehow the kids are responsible for figuring it all out and the parents are off the hook.

Here is some helpful encouragement about how to be an intentional parent:

1)  DON’T WAIT FOR THE BIRTH!

There is no greater joy and fear wrapped into one cute bundle than when you strap that baby into a car seat and drive home.  You probably decorated a nursery, friends threw you baby showers, and you made sure you had all the safety equipment like a proper car seat.  BUT…did you read up or talk to people while you were pregnant?  When we are in school, we prepare for exams and papers, when we are at work, we prepare and get trained, but oftentimes, we approach one of the most important jobs we will ever be given – that of a parent- as something that will just work itself out.

Looking for some good books?:

No More Perfect Moms by Jill Savage

No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are by Jill Savage

Praying Circles Around Your Children  by Mark Batterson

Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman

The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent

1) PRAY

No, it’s not a typo that “pray” is also #1. Praying for our children, over our children, blessing them with scripture are the most powerful words we speak.

Pray blessing over them: Numbers 6:24-26

Pray for them to be secure and not anxious: Philippians 4:6

Pray for them to encompassed by God’s physical protection and shield: Psalm 3:3

Pray that they will shine God’s light and that others will see it: Matthew 5:16

Pray that the Holy Spirit of God will give them power, love and self discipline: 2 Timothy 1:7

Pray that they will show justice and mercy and walk humbly with God: Micah 6:8

Pray that they will know how all encompassing God’s love is! These are some of my favorite scriptures in the Bible: Ephesians 3:16-19

2) IT’S OKAY TO ASK  YOUR MOM

…Its wise to listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15b

Or dad, or grandmother, or aunt or sister.

It’s always good to have a couple of people you respect available for an emergency text.  And your mom or aunt or grandmother might have the right piece of advice from experiences, or from learning from her mistakes.

3) ESTABLISH A PLAN OF ACTION before you go somewhere.

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

One of our daughters was a crash and burn type when she was a toddler.  If we were at the mall, at the store, at a friend’s house, it didn’t matter.  Hunger, fatigue and over stimulation were not her friends, nor mine.  You know the signs of a toddler about to melt down?  Yeah, well as soon as I saw them, I would gently tug on the arm of my husband the talker.  “It’s time to go, ” I would whisper. “Em’s ready to go home.”

We had a plan.  Now granted, sometimes my husband the talker would keep talking.  Or I would get pulled into another conversation.  Sometimes, people just didn’t understand.  When we were young parents, it was embarrassing.  But ask yourself, would you rather A) leave with a child who you can sooth in a car seat with a healthy snack, who may fall asleep on the way home, or B) force a screaming, tantrum throwing mess into a car seat?  Me, too.  Let’s go with Option A.

There should be established rules for places like the playground, grocery store, Target, the mall.  Affirmative praise and small rewards help encourage good behavior for next time.  Questions to ask yourself: How do you handle discipline in a public place?  How do you handle toy sharing at the playground or pool?  How do you handle whining and asking for toys?  What about when grandparents visit and they may want to spoil your kids a bit?

COMMUNICATION and PLANNING are all essential.  Intentional parenting raises GODfident, healthy kids into GODfident, healthy young adults.

Coming soon…part 2!  Decide what works for your children and pick your battles.

 

 

 

 


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Stop the Parenting Wars

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A friend of mine once said that our first child should be sent home with a gallon of pink amoxicillin and a How-to-Fix-It-Book. Parenting.  It’s a word that brings great joy, but it also causes all kinds of other emotions.  Fear.  Anger. Disappointment.  Pride.  Love.  Hilarity.  You name it, I think parenting can make us feel, well, almost anything.

There are a gajillion parenting theories out there to help us get through this journey of joy, fear and love all rolled together.  A few days ago, I read a couple of articles on discipline that I would label “extreme.”  They represented each end of the spectrum.  One advocated little discipline, the other almost adult-like discipline.  Both articles made me cringe.  Talk to any parent, and they will give you a different opinion about what works and what doesn’t.  And now, parents can sign up for classes to teach them how to be better parents!  Attachment Parenting, Grace-Based Parenting, Love and Logic, Dare to Discipline, The Five Love Languages for Families are all names of books and schools of thought that have attempted to give the Christian parent a sure roadmap to raising emotionally and spiritually healthy and mature children.

Through the years of raising our own three daughters, being far from perfect, making plenty of mistakes and working with families in church and military life, I have learned some helpful insights:

1)  Whatever the advice is, we need to hold it up to Scripture and know the entire context of the biblical passages.  Does it line up biblically?  And are we taking verses out of context?  The Bible is full of parents, good (Timothy’s mother Eunice) and bad (several of King David’s kids had ALL kinds of issues) to study, as well as endless wisdom.  I have been guilty of putting a certain author or speaker on a pedestal where only God and his Word should be.

2) What works for one family may not work for another.  What works for one child may not work for another.  We learned to glean from all the advice, taking the good and separating the bad for our particular family dynamics and personalities or where perhaps we disagreed with the advisor.  We also learned to lean on prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

3) Discipline is not a bad word.  Biblical discipline (a) is consistent and true, (b) emanates from a legitimate authority (c) establishes boundaries and compels action and/or change.  Biblical discipline is concerned about the whole child and presenting a child to maturity!  The original word in the Greek implies an action that presents one who is mature and complete, lacking in nothing, reflecting  the very glory of Christ.   In other words, it’s how you raise your child into adulthood, not a method of punishment!

4) We must be careful to discern cultural expectations.  Perhaps the best insight I’ve learned over the years is one I first became aware of in one of the counseling classes Pastor Mike (my husband) and I took in seminary.  Family dynamics can be co-dependent, independent or interdependent.  A person can be codependent, independent or interdependent.  The very nature of American  culture teaches that independence is best.  The biblical and sociological reality is that God never intended us to be independent but interdependent!  Interdependency teaches that we need a relationship with Christ and fellow believers.  Inter-dependency teaches accountability for actions with family members and society in general.  God created the family to be the very foundation of society!  For it to work, we need to foster healthy relationships that are mutual and caring.

5) We need to be parents of grace and not push our children to adulthood before they are ready.  Children mature differently.  We tend to define maturity by age and how our legal system defines age-appropriate milestones, such as driving and voting.  Maturity depends on many factors, and we need to consider each of our children individually.  We need to have grace for not only our family but also other families.

6) Developing grace-based godly character should come above all else.  We need to be an earthly example of the grace that God extended to us through Jesus Christ.  And we need to help our children – and grandchildren- be secure in a world that is increasingly changing toward Christians.  May our families be Psalm 1 families:

Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners,

or join in with mockers.

2But they delight in the law of the LORD,

meditating on it day and night.

3They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

and they prosper in all they do.

4But not the wicked!

They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

5They will be condemned at the time of judgment.

Sinners will have no place among the godly.

6For the LORD watches over the path of the godly,

but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and know you are not alone.  It is possible to refocus and be intentional about your parenting.  A new year is a good time to reassess and set goals for your family.  I’ll touch on Intentional Parenting in the next blog.


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The Sign

A slightly stooped man carefully stepped out of his red truck, his thinning gray hair blowing random directions in the gusty autumn southwest winds.  The truck was not old and was not new.  It wore the dents and scratches of his craft.  He walked around to the truck bed and began unloading gray cement foundation blocks.  A new sign for the small church on the corner? I wondered.  Everything I knew about the denomination, well, plain, simple and functional fit.

That corner was one of the busiest in our area.  No matter where I was coming from, I had to turn on it every day.  And so I watched, fascinated, wondering what the sign would look like.  My husband joined in the guessing game.  Maybe it was just going to be one of those signs that required information to be manually lettered.  There were no electric wires that we could see.  Why would they use only gray foundation bricks?  Why are they going so slowly??  Why is the primary builder one man?  Oh, others came and went, helping with the basic masonry, but the slightly stooped man with the thinning gray hair that blew randomly in the gusty autumn winds as fallen leaves swirled around him slowly wielded his tools mostly by himself.

One day, beautiful and distinct brick-colored bricks appeared over the gray cement foundation blocks. The slightly stooped man now wore a jean jacket and sometimes a red ball cap over his thinning gray hair, as the winds turned toward the northwest and blew the dried up autumn leaves into the harvested corn field across the busy road.  I wondered how many other people who drove past the corner with the small church watched and wondered.  How many other people wanted to know why they didn’t just put up an electronic sign, because you know, that’s progress.

Once the man completed the bricks, he added large lighter color limestones, carefully selected for their shape and shade,  around the edges of the sign.  A curved piece appeared on the top of the sign and dark, opalisque tiles filled it, and smaller limestones bordered it, bringing out the colors in the tile.  Still, no writing, no church name, no information.  What good is a sign with no information? I thought.

For a few days, the wheel barrow and stones sit idly around the sign, and I lose interest. The days grow shorter and the dusk takes over the sky at 3:30 pm now.  It’s as if I look through a lense that has finger prints on it and nothing quite comes into focus.  Although I love the holidays, the waning daylight makes me often feel half functional.

But yesterday…yesterday, lamps appeared at either end of the sign with no information.  Large black wrought iron lamps with old world Dickens charm, warm flame-shaped bulbs shining through the foggy afternoon.  How could this be?  We had seen no electric wires.  The slightly stooped man with the thinning gray hair and the jean jacket stood with his sometimes helper gazing at the sign, a tool in his hand.

And that’s when God whispered.  I AM like that stooped man with the thinning gray hair that blows randomly in the wind.  You are like that sign that he creates.  You may feel like ordinary gray foundation blocks but I craft extradorinarily ordinary souls from scratch.  Let me take my time.  Let your light shine for Me as I finish my work.

God is not finished with you.  He fashions a one of a kind work of art, building the foundation first.   That foundation is Jesus Christ.

 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

 

 

 


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