Take Up Your Cross

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25 

#DailyBibleReading

#BibleReadingPlan

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Tapping into God’s Power

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, I read in 2 Kings about Elijah and Elisha and the amazing power of God that filled them and fought their battles for them. In 2 Kings 1, the king kept sending out men to confront Elijah and each time they arrived Elijah would say: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then, poof, fire came down and consumed the king’s men.

Then a while later two pretty amazing things happened through another prophet, Elisha:

  1. The water of the city was contaminated and people were complaining to Elisha about it. He through a little salt in the water and, poof, the water was clean.
  2. Elisha finishes with the water and starts heading out of town, and some boys start heckling him about his bald head. Elisha cursed the boys and out of the woods come a couple of angry mama bears, and they tore the boys apart. Pretty gruesome. It makes me wonder if Elisha fully knew the power he was tapped into. Did he realize just cursing at some mean kids would unleash the fury of nature? I wonder if he was in shock as these bears came barreling down the hill?

Then in my #BibleReadingPlan, I moved into Matthew 10, and Jesus called his 12 disciples and gave them access to God’s power. He gave them the power to cast out demons, raise the dead, and heal diseases. Can you imagine what they felt like? Just think: you’ve been in awe of watching Jesus do these things and then he turns to you, and he says,”OK, now it is your turn. I’m giving you my powers.”

The power also came with a warning – Jesus told the disciples that they needed to be wise because once this power was unleashed, they were also going to have enemies. And these enemies weren’t just 10-year-old boys teasing them about their hair or lack of it, these enemies would be grown men – men in power – who would beat them and drag them to court and try to kill them.

I love what Jesus tells them next – when they were in court, facing an angry crowd and death – they were to be peaceful and still. God would give them the words. The spirit of God would speak through their mouths. It reminds me of a passage from a few days ago in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17 when Judah was going into battle and God said:

  • Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
  • Tomorrow go down against them.
  • You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.

Can you imagine being a disciple and being told you were going to have access to this kind of power, but that access to that power also came with a whole lot of responsibility? These were just ordinary guys who had been living their ordinary lives and Jesus called them to follow Him. They followed and experienced unbelievable things. It had to be surreal. And then even more surreal when he turned to this group of men and said, OK, now it’s your turn to have access to this amazing power. I think I’d be in shock and probably scared to death.

But the crazy, amazing, hard-to-believe thing is this . . . I do have access to that power.

Maybe God isn’t calling me to raise anyone from the dead, but he is calling me to be loving. To be kind. To be patient. To have self-control. To flee from temptation. To honor my husband. To share the gospel. And while those things might seem minuscule compared to casing out a demon, I can’t do them by myself. I can only do them by tapping into God’s power by daily reading my Bible, praying, and meditating on His word.

Pretty amazing. This God who called Elijah, Elisha, Matthew, Peter, and John also called me. Ordinary me. Just a mom and wife in middle America.

Some days He might be calling me to go into active battle.

Some days He might be calling me to stand calm and trust Him in the middle of a storm.

Every day, He is calling me to follow Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Leadership: A Mom’s Role

In today’s #DailyBibleReading, two things stood out to me:

  1. 1 Kings shows two kinds of leaders – leaders who followed God and did what was right in God’s eyes and leaders who did what was right in their own eyes and rejected God. And the people of Israel and Judah followed. When the king obeyed God, the people followed God. When the king followed other gods, the people followed other gods.
  2. Psalm 78 tells about the importance of teaching children about God.

I realize there is debate as to what a woman’s role is in terms of spiritual leadership in the house – especially if her husband chooses not to be a spiritual leader or if she is a single mom – but regardless of what a man is or isn’t doing in the house, a mom has a crucial role in shaping the next generation.

A Mom’s Role in the Spiritual Leadership of her Children

  • Reading and Teaching the Bible: As a mom, I need to be reading the Bible, meditating on it, studying it, memorizing it. And I need to be talking to my children about what the Bible says and what God is teaching me. 

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  Deuteronomy 11:18-20

Grandmas: this applies to you as well.

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— Deuteronomy 4:9 

  • Honoring their Father: I love my husband, but this struggle is SO real. I catch myself rolling my eyes behind his back, teasing him a little too much, complaining about him in front of my children. But how can I teach them to honor him, if I am not demonstrating it myself?

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 

  • Loving your Children: This is a no-brainer right . . . but what is love? Love is patient. Love is not irritable. Again, the struggle is real! I’ve got teen and tween girls with hormones and attitudes, and it is summer, so they are together all day and frequently arguing. And they have an often-irritated mom!

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13

And once again, I’m back to Jesus. The only way for me to be full of love, rather than irritation, is to be spending time with Jesus.

Also, I try daily to do something intentionally loving –  in each of their love languages – to show them love. For my youngest, it usually involves playing with her one-on-one for 20 minutes (“quality time”) and for my oldest it usually consists of an “act of service.” And it usually involves food since she is always hungry.

  • Praying for Them: Again, a no-brainer, but sometimes easier said than done. I’ve found it helpful to keep a prayer journal with a list of things to pray for my children:
    • Their walk with God
    • That they will make good friends and be good friends
    • For their future husbands and in-laws
    • That they will make good choices
    • For God’s protection of their bodies – for their physical, emotional, and mental health, for protection from accidents, and for them to honor God with their bodies

 

Being a mom isn’t easy, and along with everything else in life, I mess up, daily. But the blessing of children comes with a responsibility to teach them about God and set an example of living for Jesus. The only way I can do it is by clinging to Jesus and asking Him to live and love through me.

 

A Prayer for Tough Times

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord .

At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!

Psalms 69:13-18

logs surrounded by body of water during daytime
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Rising from Ashes

#DailyBibleReading #BibleReadingPlan

David, son of Jesse: anointed, but yet to be crowned king. An outlaw without reason. A wanderer with a pedigree from Judah a blessing from Samuel and a price on his head. Following God and being hunted by man.

Several years ago I read The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro, and it was life-changing in teaching me how to focus my Bible reading and to be disciplined in my walk with Jesus. I love how he describes the scene in 1 Samuel 30 from the perspective of one of David’s men:

The Divine Mentor
By Wayne Cordeiro

Prologue
Smoke billowed on the horizon. Smoke where there should be no smoke at least, not a towering column like this one.

It couldn’t be good.

Terrorists. What else could it be?

As we approached we could see a few flames licking at piles of rubble. Yet where there had been homes, streets, playgrounds, gardens . . . there was nothing at all. Smoke, ruin, ashes. Nothing more. Shocked into immobility, we could do nothing but gape. Where were the homes? Where were the women and children? 

We poured over the edge of the embankment some sliding, some jumping, some running headlong, falling, getting up, and falling again. Each man ran to the area where his home had been, hoping against hope to see someone moving in the wreckage: a beloved face, a form staggering out of the devastation. But there was no one. And no sound but the dry crackle of flames, fanned by a lonely desert wind.

Where were the bodies? We saw none. The terrorists must have kidnapped every woman and child in the village!

We wept without shame. Some cursed; some called out names in their anguish. Muttering among themselves, clusters began to gather, glancing at one another, nodding, fingering their weapons. It was like the moment before a violent thunderstorm, when the air becomes taut and stifling.

That’s when he collapsed on his knees and convulsed in agony. It’s not as though his loved ones had been spared.

We couldn’t help but watch. And as he poured out his sorrow, pleading for help and hope and direction, his body language began to change. Tension seemed to drain away from his shoulders. His hands unclenched, and he lifted his head as he prayed. Finally rising again to his feet, he wiped away his tears, squared his shoulders, and spoke with a steady voice.

Say what you will, something happened by that rock on the edge of total devastation. In those few moments, he had found strength, confidence, and fresh resolve. God must have given him a plan too, because it wasn’t long before we set off like the wind on the trail of the invaders.

In that moment, we could believe again. And rising among us was the confidence that we would recover from the ashes of Ziklag all we had lost . . . and maybe even more.

I love reading the Bible and seeing how God worked in the lives of Abraham, Judah & Tamar, Boaz & Ruth, Hannah & Samuel, and King David . . . All leading to Jesus. All pointing us to the Savior. Redemption. Forgiveness. We see God using broken people to weave His story. God giving strength to the weak.

We get a glimpse of God working all things together for good for those who love Him.

 

 

Who am I to the World?

I’ve just started a Bible study by A Fruitful Woman (check out her blog – she’s an awesome writer with a beautiful heart for Jesus), and assignment #1 is to journal my story. So I figured I’ll make a blog out of it and accomplish my blogging goal (which I am way behind on. Don’t read my post where I said I was going to post twice a week. I might need to change that to twice a month!)

So . . . here is my story.

I grew up in a conservative, “Christian” home in middle America. I fluctuated between being homeschooled and attending Christian schools, we didn’t have a TV, we listened to Christian music. We went to a very legalistic church. I had prayed the “salvation prayer” a million times out of fear of hell, and I considered myself a Christian, but did I really trust God? No. Was I following Him? No. Did I love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind? No.

In high school, we moved to another town and I started public school. We also changed churches to a more Jesus-centered church. It was a good move. I made great friends and I stayed out of trouble. But when it came to Jesus, my heart was confused. I still believed being a Christian meant how modest I dressed (or didn’t), what music I listened to, what shows I watched. Was I out drinking or smoking pot, or was I at youth group?

I’d read my Bible or devotional books occasionally, but I wasn’t seeking God.

Like most teens, I was insecure. I felt out-of-place because of my home school roots. I had acne. Money was tight. And things were starting to crumble at home. I knew my parents were heading to a divorce.

It wasn’t all bad. My mom was my rock. My siblings were wonderful humans (not that I would have admitted it at the time). I had good friends. I had a job. I was doing well at school.

But, I was hurting and empty inside, trying to follow all the rules to be a “Christian”. I  still wasn’t seeking God.

And then I found what I thought would be my escape: a guy. I got married young, just a few years out of high school. I won’t go into all the details, but it was a hot mess. I was a terrible wife. He wasn’t a great husband. We fought. A lot. And still, in the middle of the chaos, I wasn’t seeking God.

My personal life was messy. My spiritual life was non-existent, even though I went to church every Sunday, taught Sunday school, etc. But there was one area I excelled – work. I wanted more than anything to be successful in my career. I wanted to be financially secure. I was juggling work, college, and a crumbling marriage. Since I sucked at marriage, I focused all my energy on school and career. By age 23, I graduated Summa Cum Laude while working full-time at a job in my field. I had a 401(k), a house, a dog, and a new car. I was set.

By 25 I was divorced.

But I still didn’t seek God.

By 28 I was remarried. My priorities were 80% career, 10% marriage, 8% other, 2% God. We went to church and I went to occasional Bible studies. I prayed. But I wasn’t seeking God.

By 29, I was a Mom, but my priorities still didn’t really shift that much. My focus was still on my career and building a nest egg. If anything my career was still 80% of my focus, 15% kids, 4% husband and whatever was left-over went to God and other “priorities.” Thankfully, my second marriage was much better than my first. My kids were easy. Life was good. But God wasn’t my top priority. Not even close.

By 36, this life I was trying desperately to build came tumbling down. My career was extremely successful, but I was working from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., 6 days a week. I was never home. My husband was raising our kids by himself while struggling with his own inner demons. He couldn’t take it anymore. Things went from bad to worse. We ended up separating. My daughter was having panic attacks. I was a mess.

And I finally started to seek God. 

I pulled out my Bible and didn’t just read it to check something off my Christian to-do list. I opened it for answers. I opened it to find my savior.

There wasn’t some life-altering, noticeable change in me, but slowly God started to work in my life. He started to re-arrange my priorities. I started to see my husband and children with different eyes. I  started to really work at my marriage. I started to see Jesus, not just as a destination after death, but a daily companion.

At age 37, I attended a Bible study about finding God’s mission for my life. I went into the study thinking God was going to call me to some huge mission or massive undertaking. But God had a different message for me. He showed me my mission field: my husband and children.

At age 40, I “fired” all my clients, let all my employees go, and shut down my office. I read the entire Bible. I started my blog, “Becoming Mary”. I started making my time with Jesus my #1 priority. And He, in turn, has been changing me.

I’ll be 42 years old this year. I’m still a work in progress. If I go a day or two without reading the Bible my husband and kids can tell as I fall back into my old patterns. I still have to remind myself regularly to focus on the mission field God gave me, rather than chasing shiny career goals. I need reminders that I am not defined by my career, or lack of it. I am not defined by marriage or divorce. I am not defined by motherhood or the successes or failures of my children. I am not defined by the church I attend or my good works.

I am defined by my savior.

And when I go to bed at night and mull over my day, the question isn’t what I accomplished or failed to accomplish. But, was I faithful?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ Matthew 6:33

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:39-42