Stuck, alone and helpless. [The Effective Prayer 9.29.15]


Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.

Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colors from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white;
but we decide which is right,
And which is an illusion?

~ Graeme Edge, Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed

Night, peaceful night.

Peaceful, at least, for some of us…

What do you feel when you find yourself in a still and silent place? Do you feel panic, anxiety, peace or joy?

I crave stillness. Life is so hectic. I yearn for those quiet moments when I don’t have to do or be anything. It is a human foible to constantly crave that which eludes us.

Here’s a little perspective:

Imagine for a moment being on end-of-life care or severely immobilized. You’re stuck in a wheelchair or confined to a hospital bed. You have no driver’s license. You don’t have the physical capability to get anywhere on your own.

You feel like a caged bird.

A world that used to brim with possibility is suddenly beyond reach. You can’t strike out on a new adventure unless someone is willing to take you along. You feel Stuck. Alone. Helpless.

Welcome to the life of the shut-in.

In the twilight of life, it is common to struggle to find purpose for those remaining days. People who are confined due to age or illness long for a kind word or a friendly visit. They feel forgotten, isolated. Some grow bitter in their loneliness. Others have physical ailments that cause embarrassment or discomfort. Sometimes, they aren’t elderly. Relatively young men and women struck with cancer or like illness may find themselves in a hospital bed, drawing closer to death far sooner than they’d expected.

Do we just cast them aside and pretend they don’t exist? Are they less deserving of our compassion than the vibrant, healthy and young? On the contrary, they are in desperate need of compassion and encouragement before they meet the Maker.

An example of compassion and purpose

Even though my mother worked full-time, she tried to find ways to visit the elderly ladies from church who were in the hospital or shut-in. During my junior year of high school, we gave a plate of cookies to an elderly couple at church that we didn’t know very well.

We all became fast friends.

A short time later, the man passed on leaving behind his wife. Their children lived elsewhere. She was all alone. Without her husband, she was unable to drive. Nearly every Friday afternoon, my mother would take Mary while she made deliveries for work so that they could visit with each other and pick up some groceries. It was an edifying experience for all of us. I observed that one could grow old and still have joy. One could be shut-in and still find purpose. Helping others could be helpful to you. Mary was a talented lady and she would knit and crochet blankets, sweaters and stuffed animals for new moms and needy folks. She made several of our baby blankets and I still have them today. Mary was a beautiful example of growing old with grace.

It all started with a plate of cookies and ended with a beautiful friendship.

Praying for the shut-ins.

This week’s prayer requires you to reach out a little. If you are an introvert like me, this may be a  difficult task. People are unpredictable and it can be a bit daunting. Remember, God does not call us to do only that which is easy or comfortable; He calls us to be compassionate regardless of circumstances.

If you have a similar personality to mine, I recommend starting out slowly. Begin by sending a card in the mail. Next, find someone who has experience ministering to the elderly and ask to accompany them when the visit people.

Here is a list of specific requests for the shut-ins:

  • Pray that they will seek the Lord until the end. I have observed the effects of debilitating disease and injuries. It either fosters a closer with God or triggers bitterness toward God. Pray that their eyes will be open to the Lord and that they won’t reject Him in their pain, loneliness and fear.
  • Ask the Lord to send them friendship. (This could be you!)
  • Pray that they will be comforted by the Lord’s presence.
  • Pray for those caring for them—both family and health professionals. Pray for those who are making decisions for this individual; pray that decisions will not be motivated by convenience, frustration, exhaustion or selfish desire, but rather what is best for the one cared for.
  • For those Christians suffering from dementia, pray that the Lord will remind them that He has not forsaken them. I have shared a story in the past about a lady I knew who suffered from Alzheimers. Even in that fog of confusion, she always spoke to me of God’s faithfulness. You can read that post here. It is a prayer that offer up for myself at times. I hope I am lucid until I die, but if I should get Alzheimer’s or dementia, I pray that I am like the examples I have seen of people who remember the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord even when all else is forgotten.

FREE PDF list of what to pray for shut-ins. Includes bible verses and a few lines to add notes/names. Download by clicking here.

Pray with purpose.

Pray effectively.

Reach out and encourage!

Please leave feedback in the comments section re: the PDF download. I am still trying to format this effectively to be a tool for your use and mine. Thank you in advance for your help.

Is My Brother My Enemy?

assume goodwill post

This is the second post in a series on Chip Removal for Christians. Read original post here.

Most people don’t like cops. The perception is that cops are self-serving, law-breaking enforcers out to ruin everybody’s life.

My best friend has been a cop for nearly seven years. Working in such a gritty profession has wrought violent changes to his perspective. He has arrested drug dealers, wrestled heroin addicts to the ground, apprehended drunk drivers, pursued high speed vehicles, rescued the dying, encountered bloody and decaying bodies, managed violent crash scenes, and stopped domestic violence.

And in case you are wondering… Yes, he has given tickets to soccer moms and white-collar dads on Christmas (going 90+ in a 65 zone). And yes, he has had vehicles towed that were over a year overdue on their registration or were being driven by those with suspended licenses. He’s also shown a great deal of mercy by giving warnings instead of tickets and refraining from throwing the book at people for all their infractions.

You’d think that dealing with criminals and being privy to the swirling dangers of the world would make the man bitter, but that wasn’t really the trigger. Dealing with everyday average people exasperated him. Nobody—except the desperately needy—assumed good intentions. They looked at him (and often treated him) like he was the Gestapo.

In turn, he viewed the world with intense skepticism. He assumed goodwill from no one (except family and very close friends).

When we first met, he was not a police officer. He had a heart for those who needed help. He noticed the people who often went unnoticed. He liked to go out of his way to make people feel comfortable or help a scraggly looking guy on a hot day by giving him some cold water.

After going through the academy, he was a different man. Instead of walking into a coffee shop or a restaurant and sitting down in whatever spot was open, he’d angle for a seat that faced the door in order to gain a good line of sight on who was coming and going. He’d listen to you talk, but instead of looking at you, his eyes would scan the room, evaluating suspicious characters. He couldn’t go anywhere without his pistol. The first time he took his family to Disneyland, he took the extra time to store his gun with the authorities at the park so he could drive to and from the Anaheim with protection. He could spot people he’d arrested or ticketed several hundred feet away. He was always on high alert.

After seeing so much death, blood, pain, corruption, disrespect and violence he had a diamond-hard exterior. I didn’t really think it could get any harder…

Two years ago, he was in his seventh career pursuit and that terminated with a combat shooting. Bullets everywhere. Blood everywhere. His partner nearly killed. It wasn’t a single-shot standoff.

Once again, his perspective and personality shifted. His usual long-suffering manner dissipated. This was a man who, before the shooting, could listen to a driver rant, rage and call him every name in the book and he would just smile and say, “sign here, please.” He wouldn’t rise to  goading or other stimuli that would make most people start punching. After the shooting, people’s asinine choices would spark hot temper. He spent a lot of time frustrated and angry. An entire year passed before he was finally evaluated and diagnosed with PTSD. That diamond-hard exterior went internal.

He had stopped assuming goodwill from anyone (except maybe his wife and close family).

How do you feel about people?

We live in a world marred by violence, hatred and deceit.

Priests, pastors and teachers have been accused of child molestation. Good samaritans get sued by the people they saved. People who should be trustworthy turn out to be base offenders. Someone in the church steals your identity. Maybe that couple you bought groceries for went back to the store, returned them, and used the money for dope.

We are weary and wary of people in the world. It’s a normal reaction, and, at times, a healthy one… but like anything it can get carried to extremes.

How do you feel about fellow Christians?

In the church, we try to be active participants. We help. We teach. We work.

Instead of thanks, we get criticism. At some point, the temptation is to throw up our hands and walk away with a very pessimistic view of the world and the church. We might stop worshipping with the church altogether. Or we may assume that people (Christians included) are out to thrash us in some way or another.

I’ve seen the tragedy play out too many times.

We stop assuming goodwill. We walk around with a chip on our shoulder. This is not what God intended. We should always assume the best of our Christian brethren, but how?

How can we assume goodwill without being destroyed?

1) Cultivate Situational Awareness

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.

~ Matthew 10:16, NASB

I like how the NASB uses the word “shrewd” because it implies a certain degree of street smarts. The greek word is “phronimos” which is defined as “prudent, sensible, wise.” Prudence involves wisdom and awareness. We’re not supposed to be witless wonders.

Situational awareness is a term used by military and law enforcement and is defined as the ability to evaluate your surroundings and prepare your mind to handle any perceived danger. A cop/soldier must rapidly identify danger and surrounding innocents at any time and in any scenario.

We need to have situational awareness as a Christian. There are people who are evil out there and they do creep into the church. We need to guard our hearts and minds from being carried away by their deceitfulness. We also need to be aware of the willingness of a brother or sister to turn over a new leaf. If someone repents, look at their attitude toward their repentance and give them that opportunity.

2) Practice forgiveness

The hardest people to forgive are often those closest to you because they have potential to wound you more deeply. Many of the conflicts that arise within our congregations stem from years of festering wounds. I’ve seen people get into conflict with an adult and then go on to  punish that adult’s children because they are bitter.

When we fail to forgive, the bitterness eats away at our heart like cancer. Every encounter becomes a potential for danger; our defenses and adrenaline rise and inevitable conflict ensues. Because they’ve hurt us before, we assume that they are always ready to hurt us.

Stop keeping a record of wrongs.

I’m not suggesting that you let go of your situational awareness, but I do recommend mercy, love and forgiveness. After all, what did Jesus give us? Mercy. Love. Forgiveness. Are we greater than Him? Did he ask God to forgive the people who put Him up on that cross? Yes. He did.

For more on forgiveness, read this post on conquering the haters.

In order to assume goodwill from our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to forgive them. We need to listen to what they are saying with a heart that is willing to give them a second chance. Christ died for them just like He died for you. We are no more perfect than they are. Show them love. Show them mercy. Extend forgiveness.

3) Innocent until proven guilty

When my friend was in the combat shooting that I mentioned above, it was interesting that, although most of us would see the end result as the execution of justice, those who investigate these incidents do not. There’s a lot of talk on the internet about how cops let cops get away with murder. Maybe it happens, I’m not sure, but there’s got to be widespread corruption for that to happen.

In the American justice system, a person on trial is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. When a cop is investigated, they are guilty until proven innocent. They took his badge and gun. After the shooting was over, he went through a debrief that lasted for an additional twelve hours. He was interrogated by all three agencies who had officers involved. He went home, then, the following week he had to drive with his partner, commander and sergeant to a different city for a final evaluation with a lawyer and another investigator. The final conclusion was that the shooting was justified, but even then, the paper work wasn’t closed up for another 2 years.

Guilty until proven innocent is a bit backwards, don’t you think?

And yet…

Isn’t that how we treat people at church sometimes? We ought to assume that their intentions are good until they prove otherwise.

You will know them by their fruits.

Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Matthew 7.16-20, NASB, emphasis mine

This passage refers to identifying false teachers. The principle can also be applied to those claiming to be Christians; if someone has been baptized into Christ and claims to be a Christian, walks like a Christian, talks like a Christian and acts like a Christian, then they are a Christian.

If they are hateful, malicious, spiteful, deceitful or selfish, then they have chosen not to be like Christ. Assume that your brother or sister has good intentions until they prove you wrong.

It’s a lifelong challenge.

Are you up for it?

Can we help our congregations to truly become sanctuaries by being situationally aware, practicing forgiveness and assuming innocence until shown otherwise?

It starts with you and me.

Next week, we’ll be discussing how to perfect the art of listening.

May the Lord grant you grace and peace through Jesus Christ.

Hurry up… and wait.

teach me

I never cease to be fascinated by themes throughout the Bible (look for posts on this in the future!) One predominant theme that seems to shout at me lately is waiting on the Lord.

I was having one of those days yesterday where I was moving about smartly and all was well for the moment when… crash! I hit another catastrophe. Another obstacle! Another spot where I was forced to mark time.

Have you ever had one of those days?

I took a few minutes to find a solitary place and think. I opened to the Psalm that has been my meditation and prayer lately: Psalm 25. I kept reading all the way through Psalm 27. In Psalm 27, this idea of waiting is repeated at the end of the chapter:

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

~Psalm 27.11-14, NKJV

“Wait on the Lord.”

“Be of good courage and he shall strengthen your heart.”

Are you despairing today? Have you lost heart? Are you afraid? Take time to meditate on this passage.

In verse 11 of the above passage it says, “teach me your way, O Lord.” This is also expressed in Psalm 25:4-5: “Make me to know your ways, O Lordteach me your paths; Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

When God teaches us His way, He has to draw us out of the world. We have to walk the path of faith. That path looks scary and uncertain at times, doesn’t it? He calls us to step out on a stormy ocean, disregarding the obvious threat of gravity and powerful waves. Who created the waves and gravity? Who has charge of our future? 

God wants to teach us His way: TRUST.

He wants us to trust Him in good times and bad. He wants us to trust Him above all other supports. The moment we lose all our helpers is the moment our faith is tested to the uttermost. Will we wait on Him in trust?

“I would have lost heart…”

I initially read this passage from the New King James Version. The words “I would have lost heart” were italicized in my Bible. Whenever the NKJV italicizes something it means that it was not in every manuscript or added to enhance understanding. I often do not count on those italicized phrases to establish any sort of point because it was not in the original.

I did a comparison between three translations (NASB, ESV & NKJV) to see how that particular spot was translated. You can see the full context comparison here.

In the footnotes of the ESV, it says, “other Hebrew manuscripts Oh! Had I not believed.” My conclusion is that those italicized words were added by the translators to enhance meaning. They don’t detract from the passage, but I think those italicize words clarify why it was important for the psalmist to believe that He would look on the goodness of the Lord in the context of the passage. He believes that God will deliver Him and so He does not go out and commit suicide in His despair. He trusts. He does not lose heart.

Waiting on the Lord can be a challenge. Many kings and people committed great errors because they did not wait on God’s timing or seek His counsel before acting [Think Abraham and Hagar].

Let the Lord teach you His way. He wants us to wait on Him in faith. He’s teaching me that lesson even now and the Bible is showing me that I need to seek His counsel and wait. It’s hard to wait in our busy world, but we need to learn to slow down and seek God.

While you are waiting, think of the times when the Lord has provided for you or delivered you from trouble:

  • Write it down (or type it and print it)
  • Post it somewhere you regularly look (maybe you could make a little graphic for your phone so when you hit the home button, it’s the first thing you see!)
  • Give thanks to God in prayer for those times.
  • Ask Him to help you again.

Are you being taught to wait?

Are you seeking God’s way or your own?

Do you honestly think you’re that important?

offense post

“I don’t mean to be rude —”  [Vernon] began, in a tone that threatened rudeness in every syllable.

“—yet, sadly, accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often,” Dumbledore finished the sentence gravely. “Best to say nothing at all, my dear man.”

~ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Have you ever noticed how easily offended people are these days?

I’m not talking about the old church lady who gasps in sanctimonious horror at Mr. Saggy Pants in the third row; I’m referring to people who seem to take an almost twisted pleasure in being offended.

Use words like “sound doctrine” and see the hackles rise:

“What do you mean? How dare you insinuate that I’m not teaching sound doctrine. You are so judgmental and self-righteous!”

Or maybe you think that the designation of marriage should be between one man and one woman. Instead of avoiding conflict, you tactfully proffer your contrarian view.

Look out for flying daggers:

“How dare you force your opinion on me! It’s not as though that supreme court ruling affects you anyway. What does it matter if two adults who love each other happen to be of the same sex and want to get married. It’s not as if you have to marry the same sex. You’re so selfish! You’re such a bigot!”

Just admitting that you’re a Christian gets people frothing at the mouth:

“What?! Don’t you know that Judeo-Christian religions are responsible for all the terribly offensive and devastating things that happened in history?! You’re such an idiot to believe in that nonsense.” 

And so it goes…

As Christians, we anticipate attacks from non-believers. If we mature in Christ, those types of attacks, while irritating, will be like the barking of a chihuahua to a great dane. None of us is greater than Jesus Christ, and we all know how vehemently his opponents cried out for his crucifixion. Jesus’ mere presence was enough to make the veins pulse dangerously on the Pharisees’ heads.

They passionately hated Him. Is it any wonder that people hate us?

What we don’t anticipate is thin-skin among fellow Christians. When we are working with fellow Christians, we consider ourselves to be in a safe zone. We operate as though we can act and speak with love, and, as long as our intentions are good, those words and deeds will be received with gratitude. Unfortunately, there are times when our good intentions are met with cynicism and substantial criticism.

It all began with political correctness.

Do you remember when the grip of political correctness tightened in the United States? It was in the 90s. It seemed to me that many considered it a passing fad. Colloquial phrases that had been used for decades were suddenly “offensive” and “inappropriate.” The majority found PC phrases to be absurdly humorous—until people started losing jobs and facing lawsuits. The whole movement has become so asinine that one can be accused of hate speech just for stating a countercultural viewpoint.

Political correctness created a culture of hypersensitivity. The perceived danger of “causing offense” enabled people and groups to grasp their desires, inflict harm on their enemies and hijack otherwise intelligent discourse. How often do we get in discussions, only to have them morph into a playground fight: “you’re racist.” “no, you are!” “you’re a homophobe.” “you’re just ugly” “am not!” “am too!”

Sadly, the thin-skinned political correctness movement has seeped into our church because we live in this world. We aren’t monks. We don’t get to go into isolation (although that often sounds very appealing…). We are bombarded with our culture every single day and it takes a lot of effort to counterbalance it.

Evil intentions? Or just having a bad day?

There is an old West African folk story entitled, “Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears.” It’s a simple tale of a mosquito who told an iguana some foolish nonsense. The iguana, intolerant of such ludicrous talk shoved sticks in his ears and left. As he ambled along, a python saw him and called out, “Good morning, Iguana!”

The iguana failed to hear the python (due to the aforementioned sticks) nor did he happen to see him. The python thought, “He must be plotting against me! I need to go and hide!” With great speed he slithered into a rabbit hole, and the occupants bounded away in fear.

Thus began a chain of events that eventually lead to the accidental death of an owlet; the owlet belonged to Mother Owl who woke the sun each day. So bereaved was Mother Owl that she refused to hoot for the sun to come up. Prolonged darkness settled on the land and anxiety settled on the animals.

When the animals gather to determine the source of the problem, they investigate the chain of events to find the source of all the trouble. In the end, they accuse the mosquito of being at fault for making up such nonsense in the first place.

When I read that story, I always think that it was the python’s fault. He should have seen the sticks in the ears of the iguana and thought, “I wonder why he’s walking around with those silly things in his ears…” Instead, he immediately assumed ill intent. He reacted erroneously based on unfounded suspicions. His reaction caused tremendous trouble.

How often are we like that offended snake?

Is the church transforming the culture or is the culture transforming the church?

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all products of our culture.

We don’t walk around in togas. We can go to the store in jeans and a ratty old t-shirt and people don’t necessarily assume we’re from the wrong part of town. We use iPhones, watch television, play sports, listen to music, argue about politics, read blogs, love our pets and take selfies (well… some of us do.). All of these activities are part of the standard American culture. They aren’t necessarily wrong or right, healthy or unhealthy. It’s just the way things are.

What about culturally acceptable viewpoints? Do we mesh with those too?


Our culture loves “tolerance.” Christianity is intolerant of sin.

Our culture embraces free-thinking. Christianity embraces Christ’s thinking.

Our culture believes in sensual satisfaction. Christianity believes in denying self and seeking spiritual satisfaction.

We go against the grain of our society—at least we’re supposed to—so it’s no real shock that society passionately hates us, just as Christ was hated by the culture of His day.

Our culture gets offended… easily. If you had the guts to go on Facebook during the whole “Love Wins” deal and speak against it, then you how quickly people took offense to your “bigoted” view point. It didn’t matter how civil your tone, the fact that you even espoused such a view was offensive.

People file lawsuits, claim racism, start riots all because of perceived offense.

Is the church countercultural in this regard? What has been your experience?

Hypersensitivity is very much alive in our congregations. It’s not supposed to be like that.

We are called out of the world.

We are called to be radically different from the world.

We are called to adopt the mind of Christ. Christ was not hypersensitive; he was perceptive. He knew when someone was genuinely on the attack and when they were just foolish.

There are three primary causes of taking offense too easily:

1) We are slow to understand and quick to anger.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

~James 1.19-20, ESV

Whoever James was writing to, they needed some attitude adjustments. Sounds like there were a lot of angry pythons running around…

Being slow-to-understand  can really damage our relationships. We sort of hear, we don’t process properly and we inevitably get angry. Anger leads to bitterness; Bitterness to resentment; resentment to hatred.

2) We think a little too much of ourselves

Remember that time your friend seemed like they were avoiding you? Your texts went unanswered, phone calls went to voicemail and your invitations were turned down a few times. You start to wonder if they even liked you anymore. You felt hurt and a tad resentful… and then you found out that they’d been dealing with a monumental crisis.

It had absolutely nothing to do with you.

There are times when people act or speak a certain away and we immediately take offense or assume malice.

Did consider that you hadn’t even crossed their minds?

You are like the python. They didn’t see or hear you because they were so consumed with frustration that they were blocking every extraneous thing. If they had seen you, they would have acknowledged you and told you about that dumb mosquito and his frustrating nonsense. But instead of going to them and making sure all is well in your relationship, you assume ill intent. You get mad. You hold a grudge. The relationship frays.

I’m surely going to offend somebody here, but it needs to be said: sometimes we overestimate our own importance. We have a little too much self and not enough Christ. Narcissism dwells in our heart instead of humility.

It’s time to do a little home maintenance

3) We fear being stabbed in the back.

Nobody wants to be fooled.

I think it is safe to assume that most of us fear what others think about us (despite all our bravado to the contrary). In order to avoid that humiliating position, we go on the defensive: we assume every player is trying to break through our line. We assume every player is the enemy… we go so far as to identify our own teammates as enemies.

We hunker down against everyone and everything and tuck that football into our body so that nobody can score a touchdown.

What if we try assuming innocence until guilt is proven?

What if we asked clarifying questions instead of wearing a chip on the shoulder? Would that make us all sissies… or would we simply have a little less bickering?

It’s time to start assuming good will from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It’s time to fix this problem.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to cover how we can adopt the humble and wise mind of Christ with the following topics:

Chip removal for Christians:

  1. Assume goodwill
  2. Perfect the art of listening.
  3. Do to others what you would have them do to you.
  4. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves
  5. Think before you speak
  6. Be slow to anger.

God be with you my friends.

Cliff Notes: The Lost Art of Bible Study In the Church (Part 2)

This is an excellent post on the importance of dedicating time to study the Word.


Samaritan's Song

“Some is better than none at all.”

I’m pretty sure my dad feels this way about pizza.  After having a quintuple bypass five years ago, he dutifully made the change to a heart-healthy diet – and that meant sacrificing the anything-goes pizza he used to have for a few meager slices of the healthiest kind available.  A sacrifice?  Sure.  But he doesn’t mind – he’s just glad he still gets to have pizza at all, even if it’s not quite the same.

I imagine that some Christians take the same attitude with Bible study.  Strapped for time and desperate to feel close to God, they swap out time with the Word for a ten-minute devotional, a chapter of a Philip Yancey book, or the latest study guide written for their small group.  Some time with God is better than none at all, they reason, and anyway, there are Bible verses

View original post 1,259 more words

Coffee Chat 10 – Are children supposed to be missionaries?

coffee chat

Read previous coffee chats under the “discussion” category or click here.

It’s almost Fall! The early fall is one of my favorite times of year. The weather is starting to cool, pumpkins are available both to decorate and eat in some form or fashion and the leaves begin to turn color. Who’s up for a pumpkin spice latte while we chat?

I’ve got a question for you and it’s one that is rather old: Are our children supposed to be “missionaries” in their schools?

I often hear Christians say that they don’t homeschool because their children need to be “lights to the world” in their schools.

What do you think?

It’s tough being a parent. [The Effective Prayer 9.12.15]

Copyright 2014. The Erwin Brothers Mom's Night Out
Copyright 2014. The Erwin Brothers Mom’s Night Out

Raise your hand if you’ve experienced any of the following:

  • Discovered your two-year old in the bathroom, eyes covered in black smears with the offending mascara brush still clutched in her chubby hand.
  • Discovered purple permanent marker scribbled on the carpet and wood flooring.
  • Cleaned up vomit from all three children from the bed and floor of your hotel room… the night before your big trip to Disneyland.
  • Sat in the nursery of the church building with a screaming toddler, knowing that everyone can hear the ruckus over the preaching.
  • Listened with horror as your child shouted at the top of their lungs how mean you are and how much they hate you.
  • Listened brokenly while they retract the previous statement.
  • Felt fear that your child will make the wrong friends.
  • Felt fear that your child won’t make any friends.
  • Felt utterly helpless because none of your parenting strategies seem to be working.
  • Chucked most of your parenting manuals in the garbage

Ok, now… raise your hand if you’ve ever had this expression on your face:

horrified mom look
Copyright 2014. The Erwin Brothers Mom’s Night Out

I’d raise both hands, but I’m typing.

People told me college would be hard. College was cake compared to raising children.

College is a 4 to 5 year commitment. Raising children is a minimum 18-year commitment (it’s really a lifetime commitment).

College has checklists. Parenting… wait, are there checklists?

College comes with guarantees. Parenting comes with few guarantees.

The bottom line?

Parenting is NOT for cowards.

Cowards run away.* Cowards refuse to face conflict. Cowards won’t do the hard thing and fight for what is right. Good parenting takes guts, requires courage and absolutely demands a warrior spirit.

(*Note: I know that divorce often makes it impossible for some parents to be with their children regularly. I am not referring to that situation in the “run away” comment.)

Over Labor Day weekend, we went to see War Room. While the movie primarily focuses on the husband-wife relationship, the principles of prayer could also be applied to the parent-child relationship. At one point, the main character exclaims, “I feel like my husband is the enemy!” The elderly woman replies, “He’s not your enemy! Satan is your enemy! You been fighting’ the wrong adversary!”

If you have ever raised (or are in the process of raising) a strong-willed, down-right difficult kid, you know that there are moments in which you want to cry out, “Why are we enemies?!?!”

Take a calming breath, and read on: your child is NOT the enemy. 

Let me repeat that: Your child is NOT the enemy. 

Just like that feisty old lady said: The devil is our enemy. He is what we fight against. He is the one we are training our children to resist. In your prayers, pray that the devil’s plans for your children will be defeated and that you will be able to have a healthy, loving relationship with them.

Parenting gives us a glimpse of how God sees us as His children. He loves us with a deep, unconditional love, even when we turn our back on Him.

Have you ever stood and watched a child sleep?

I love peeking on my little ones at night and saying a very short prayer for them as I make sure they’re tucked in and covered up. It is in those quiet moments that, unbeknownst to them, I am looking out for their simplest needs. No conflict. No chatter. No questions. No emergencies. I treasure those  moments.

Now, think of our heavenly Father. Doesn’t He watch over us even when we are unaware of His presence? Doesn’t He tend to our needs and care for us, even while we sleep? Doesn’t He gaze on us with affection, knowing our faults and imperfections?

Being a parent offers us insights into God’s relationship with us. Being a parent teaches us how to love our children the way that God loves us. He loves us with a love that is tough, unconditional and seeks the best for us. Is that the way we love our children?

My fellow parents—keep on fighting! This is one of the most important battles we will face! Don’t face the battle without first facing the Lord in prayer.

This week, let’s turn our focus to praying for parents. It doesn’t matter if you are a parent or not—your prayers are needed! If you are a parent, pray for other parents and especially pray for your spouse (isn’t he or she your fellow soldier in the parenting trenches?).

Pray that they will be strong and firm.

Pray for them to do everything with a loving, intentional spirit.

Pray that they will be consistent in discipline and training.

Pray that they will teach their children to love the Lord.

Pray for the divorced parents: If a couple is divorced, there may be acrimony between them and their divorced spouse. Judges often award joint custody (usually in favor of the mother, regardless of the situation) and the children end up shuttled between parents from time to time. If you are a parent who is divorced from your child’s mother or father, it may be difficult to pray for your ex-husband/ex-wife; they likely feel like your bitterest enemy and may even treat you as such. The fact of the matter is, they are still part of your children’s lives in some way. Pray that they will not have a negative influence on your children’s life, but a positive one. I know it may seem like an exercise in futility, but we do need to pray for our enemies and people who curse us. Pray that the Lord will soften their heart and establish a good relationship with your children and will be respectful of your wishes.

New this week!

FREE PDF list of what to pray for parents. Includes bible verses and a few lines to add notes/names Download here.

I intend to provide a PDF download with each Effective Prayer post going forward so that you can keep a list of these things with you wherever you pray.

I would love some feedback on whether the document downloaded properly and if you like the layout (too busy, too ugly, too big, too small, just right… etcetera. I debated doing a 3×5 size, but was concerned about the extra step of cutting it out). Thank you in advance for your assistance!

What is the state of your house?

home interior

Sheets of raining poured heavily from the darkening sky. The fading daylight made the two houses across the street barely visible.

The house to the right was large, new and beautiful. Glimpses of light peeked through the slits of the fine drapes that hung in the windows. The porch light cast a bright glow around the entrance. Elaborate balconies hung beneath two of the upper-story sliding glass doors. The front yard was well-groomed with neatly situated flower beds and elegantly trimmed rose bushes.

The house to the left was a modest dwelling. A warm glow shone from the porch lights. The paint looked like a warm brown with chocolate-colored facia. The grass out front was neatly groomed. Flowers and herbs sat in old mismatched pots around the porch. The single-story edifice had no distinctive architectural features, just some decorative shutters on either side of the house’s older single-pane windows. Plain white blinds had been drawn with the coming evening. Hanging from the brown door was a white sign on which a hand-painted message read: “visitors welcome.”

Staring thoughtfully at the two houses stood a middle-aged man with a small suitcase. His raincoat was barely repelling the rain as it spattered mercilessly against him.

He’d been looking at houses all day.

And what a long day it had been.

There were houses with exquisite exteriors modeled from the latest architectural trends. Houses with gorgeously designed and maintained landscaping. Houses that shouted affluence and taste.

He wished he could say the same for the interiors.

Inside most houses, the owners and chosen stylish but cheaply constructed  furniture and gaudy decor. The floors were filthy, cobwebbed corners abounded and there was always, always a cacophony of sounds—the pounding of the latest music, shouting about some political issue, the mindless chatter of gossip and, of course, a streaming lament over how so-and-so had such a better house than their own.

Most owners were clueless about their termite problems, rat infestations, cockroach issues, leaky roof, poor weather stripping and other related problems. As long as the house looked good on the outside, what did the rest of it matter? It’s not like they wanted to really let anybody in. Many of them did not want him to stay long nor did they want his advice on how to fix their houses. He was a simple home inspector. It was his job to promote health and safety. Many of the owners wanted him to get in, praise their houses and get out as quickly as possible so they could get back to whatever they were doing.

He’d had enough of those houses. He was exhausted and seeking a place to rest for the night.

“I think I’ll try that modest house.” He murmured to himself. “Maybe they’ll have an extra room I can rent for the night.” He wasn’t sure how the interior would be, but the outside—while old and little worn—was kept orderly and tidy, other than the cluttered pots of flowers.

As he approached the door, the tantalizing smell of freshly-baked bread greeted him through the damp evening chill. He smiled absently. Lifting his weary hand, he knocked lightly on the door. It was a strong metal door that belied it’s gentle brown paint color and welcome sign. Within seconds, the door opened wide and a smiling elderly woman appeared.

“Come in! Come in! My but it’s a chilly night! Don’t stand out there, you’ll catch cold!”

The man gratefully stepped over the threshold into the warmth of the little house.

As the woman closed the door behind him, he took in his surroundings.

A young couple sat on a loveseat in the corner, each with a steaming cup of tea, chatting quietly about their day. An elderly man rocked in another corner of the room in a black kennedy chair, a good book in front of him. Next to him was a simple end table holding a small bowl of stew and a slice of bread.

A few small children were plopped down on the floor in the center of the room building with blocks and bursting into belly laughs each time the structure collapsed. A warm fire glowed in a beautiful stone fire place. While simply furnished, the room seemed to have everything to meet the needs of it’s visitors. The floors were not dirty… except for the spot where he stood, dripping mud and water.

“I’m terribly sorry about the mess—” he began.

The old lady chuckled.

“Think nothing of it, young man. May I take your hat and coat?” she said.

“Yes, please. My name is Mike. May I ask whose kind hospitality I’m accepting?”

The woman smiled, her eyes twinkling through her thick glasses.

“My name is Joy.”

Mike grinned. “That name seems to fit you, Joy. Pleased to meet you. Are you the owner of the house?

“In a manner of speaking.” she replied.

Mike cocked his head to one side in question, then continued, “I wondered—well, I’m just passing through for a few days. Do you have an extra room I could rent? I need a place to stay while I’m here.”

“You are welcome to stay here, of course, as long as you like. I have a room down the hall. I assume you’d like to have a look at it first?”

“Yes please, ma’am.”

Mike walked down the clean hallway. Pictures of various people dotted the buttercream-colored walls. The strong oak floor gleamed as though freshly mopped.

He walked through the door that Joy indicated into a beautifully composed room. A bay window was immediately opposite the doorway in which he stood. Beneath the window was a dark red cushion, neatly fitted over the seat—a perfect reading or thinking spot. A queen size bed sat on the perpendicular wall with a complimentary bed spread. The floors in here were also clean with an expensive plush rug in the center of the room. There was a vase of fresh flowers emmiting a warm fragrance that whispered springtime on the bedside table. The side of the room opposite the bed possessed a very comfortable looking wingback chair, a small but elegant side table and an ornate bookshelf.

Mike, an avid reader, approached the bookshelf with interest. Some of the books were old and well-preserved. Some were new with shiny dust jackets. Each book was a classic or a best-seller. All were free-from dust. There was no trace of bugs, mice or rats anywhere in the room. It was the most beautiful, welcoming house he’d visited all day. He exhaled with pleasure. After setting down his small suitcase by the door, he turned around and walked back to Joy who was standing in a bright kitchen by the stove, humming absently and stirring a savory-smelling  stew.

“Well, what do you think? Would you still like to stay?” she asked.

“Joy, this is one of the most beautiful, well-maintained houses I’ve seen all day. I’m a home inspector. I mean, I’ve seen thousands of houses. I have rarely seen a more well-kept dwelling. How on earth do you do it?” Mike blurted out.

Joy turned a little from the stove to face him, still stirring the stew. She chuckled. “Oh, gracious! I don’t do all this work myself!”

Mike raised an eyebrow in question.

Joy continued, “I have a helper. He came to stay with me over fifty years ago. Whenever I ask him to fix something, he does it. I do plenty of sweeping and dusting and cleaning on my own, but if I need improvements, he helps me with them. The harder jobs He does without my help. He is always trying to help this house be the best place to live. His only requests are that I share my house with others, help him keep it tidy and, well… always let him be the master here.”

Mike was taken aback. Then his eyes widened with understanding. “Oh, that must be your husband.”

Joy looked at him, unblinking. “No, my husband died twelve years ago. He is the man sitting in the kennedy chair over there in the corner. He has been a constant friend to me and a constant friend to my husband. You should get to know Him. I’m always inviting people over to meet Him, but most people… well, what can I say… Most people don’t want to change anything and they don’t like Him. I bet you and He would get along splendidly. He is always looking for new houses to fix up. He might help you with your house if you want Him to.”

What is the state of your house?

I’m not referring to the brick and mortar place in which you dwell, but rather, I refer to your heart, soul and mind.

Is your heart a place in which God would be happy to dwell?

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20, ESV

Jesus, the son of God, lives within us. He dwells within our hearts, souls and minds… as long as we don’t crowd or shove Him out!

How lovely is that dwelling place?

Hang on a sec… don’t go over to the mirror and check yourself out! The Lord could care less how heavy you are, how many wrinkles you have, whether you have smile lines, a crooked nose or gray hair. If He did, do you think he would’ve spoken through a wild looking man like John the Baptist? Or an old baldy like Elijah?

In 1 Peter, there is a verse addressed specifically to women, but the principle is truly universal; God doesn’t care what you look like on the outside, he wants you to fix up what is inside:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

1 Peter 3.3-4, ESV

What does God desire for every heart—man and woman?

He desires a pure, honest and true heart. A heart that wants Him to reign over it. A heart that longs for His presence. A heart willing to make the changes He wants it to make.

Consider the following verses that deal with purity of heart:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

~Matthew 5:8, ESV

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

1 Peter 1:22-23, ESV

Who shall ascend the hill of the LordAnd who shall stand in his holy place? 

He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

~ Psalm 24:3-5, ESV

One of the primary reasons we should consistently read the Bible is to know the Lord and to know what kind of heart He wants us to have.

Are you working on your outer beauty and neglecting the state of your heart? Is your heart dusty? Moldy? Cluttered? Noisy? Tumultuous?

It might be time for us to do a little home inspection within our hearts. Who or what lives in your heart? Look for the termites of bitterness that creep in through lack of forgiveness and have your heart fumigated. Take out the clutter of worry and anxiety. Dust off the floors. Light the fire of God’s love in your heart so that you can invite people to share it’s warmth. Fill your heart with God so He can help mend what is broken in that place. Do whatever you can to make your heart a place where Jesus can dwell, with every room open to Him and meeting His approval.

As you go through this process, meditate on Psalm 51:

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

~Psalm 51:8-10, ESV (Read full Psalm here.)

May the Lord be with you this week my friends.

Press on to know the Lord!