Showing The Truth of Advent

We tend to think of Christmas as one of the purest times of year. It’s the time when goodwill advances. People smile, are generous, sensitive. But have you ever noticed the little twinkly white lies that surround the world’s most commercial holiday? This month, I want to highlight the truth of Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Thousands of years ago, the advent of Jesus became the best Christmas present that will ever be gifted or received. More than four centuries believers had waited with baited breath for his advent, His coming.

Coming. There’s a warmth and anticipation in that word. Most of us are only familiar with the word advent at Christmas time. But, it’s the coming, the conclusion of longing, waiting, pining, hoping.

As a girl, Daddy’s advent every night was a special time. My sisters and I would wait at the end of our long, gravel driveway jockeying to be the first to spot his car. Then, as he turned toward the house, we would race alongside the car. “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home! Daddy, I have something to show you!”

Also when I was a girl, my family did Angel Tree every year that I can remember. We would visit Wal-Mart and pluck a paper angel from the branches, usually a girl about our age. Then we scoured the brightly colored shelves for gifts that matched “our” little girl’s needs. When we  had packed the box to the brim, we took it to our church and stacked it among the hundreds of other shoeboxes filled by our friends’ families.

Back then, I didn’t think too much about the recipient of our gift. I didn’t really think about the gift that we couldn’t give them. The children of inmates who would open our Christmas presents might never celebrate their daddy’s advent. These children might wait night after night with no one coming home.

And I certainly didn’t have the capacity to wonder much about the incarcerated parents. They might never see the light in their children’s eyes as they opened Christmas presents, or feel the incomparable warmth of a child thrilled with their advent.

It’s been more than 20 years since I filled an Angel Tree shoebox with my sisters. My military husband and I have moved four times in our marriage and belonged to as many churches. But every single Christmas, my heart warms to see the Angel Tree in the foyer. My eyes water when the pastor announces the pending date for turning in our boxes.

I have been blessed with so many Advents. I have a wonderful father who came home to hug his daughters each night. I know the Savior whose Advent secured my eternity.

Angel Tree gives me the extended reach to love a child each Christmas and to show them the meaning of Christmas’ Advent. It gives me the opportunity to offer the anticipation of Christmas to a child missing their parent.

The Secret to World Peace (and yours)

In an election season, ‘peace’ is the buzzword. Every politician vying for your vote is promising you peace through their plan. Peace in your finances, peace in the form of less crime, international peace, partisan peace, peace with minorities and the absence of hate.

They valiantly pledge their lives to the betterment of public life. Then they turn around and viciously sling mud at their opponent. The worst part is, they can’t all be right! So where do we go for real, true peace?

The simple answer is: God. But unfortunately, that’s become a token response, spoken almost as glibly as a first grader in Sunday school class.

“Well, I’m just praying that God will intervene. If we would all just be obedient to God. Well, God’s going to punish America and then He will establish His peace.”

I’m absolutely not denying the fact that God Jehovah is the source of peace. Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace. In the Gospels, Jesus says, “My peace I give to you.”

If generations, centuries of Christians have believed that God is the source of peace for the world, then why do we not experience peace on earth? At the very least, why don’t we have peace in our own homes?

Remember the “good old days”? We say that when we look at our kids and realize that they have no concerns.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful, we think, to go back to having no worries, just trusting that Mom and Dad would take care of things? Those nights when you slept well; your breaths were soft and deep and you only cried if you stubbed your toe. Even then, Mom or Dad always had the power to make it better.”

Matthew 19:14 says, “But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Ah children, peaceful, quiet, innocent babes. (Not always, but you get my analogy.)

So what are they doing right?

In her Bible study, Living Beyond Yourself, Beth Moore made a startling observation – at least to me. She said, “peace is always associated with authority.” Think about it, your child lives peacefully, relative to you, because she is under your authority. This position includes being loved by you, cared for by you, advised by you and disciplined by you.

I have been mulling over that idea for a couple days. Then this morning, my Father showed me this truth definitively in His own words.

Colossians 3:15 says, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

Peace is found under the rulership of Jesus Christ. When I try to be my own authority, peace becomes an illusion.

In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is called the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. The next verse tell us of His governance. Jesus brings peace to those who are under His authority.

Question: In my most harried moments, the days when my brain feels as if it’s filled with rabid birds, when the anxiety almost seems to physically burn my insides: am I under Christ’s authority? If so, then like a child, I can simply trust my Father – to love me, care for me, advise me and discipline me.

One final thought, that I hope to explore in more detail later:
Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, tension has been an inevitable part of marriage relationships. There God cursed the man to be frustrated in his ambitions and the woman’s desire to be for her husband. Most scholars believe this indicates a power struggle between the two.

Throughout the Bible, God calls the man to be a leader in the home and for the woman to submit to his authority. We also know that God does not prefer men to women, or women to children or one race over another. So why this submission thing? Aren’t we equals?

Could it be that God knows in our sin-sick world, peace-less-ness will reign? I think He is offering us peace on earth by saying, “Yes, I love you the same, you are equal. But peace comes with authority. For the sake of peace in your homes, I am establishing a leader and a follower.” What do you think?

Exploiting Pain’s Privilege

I met Sadie at bootcamp.

A little, blond Curly-locks wandered into the backyard. She was an old-soul. You could see it in her peaceful eyes. Instead of a wild, catch-me-if-you-can grin, like so many kids her age, she confidently walked over to a set of toy trucks and went to work driving over imaginary roadways and through imaginary cities.

Sadie has something I wish had. Sadie has a bearing, a confidence, a quietness, a contentedness, a peace about her. As I learned Sadie’s story, I understood where these qualities come from. Sadie was diagnosed with Stage II Neuroblastoma at the age of 3 months. Praise God, Sadie is now in remission.

Here on Predatory Lies, we have talked a lot about the privilege of pain. Certainly, no one would wish for Sadie’s struggles, hospital stays and the strain it placed on their family. But our Glorious Father has brought beauty from ashes and Sadie and her family have flourished into a sun-ripened, bountiful, life-filled field in the wake of her pain.

I am joining Sadie’s big sister Anna and the rest of their family at the Cure Search Walk for Children’s Cancer, on October 14. If you are able to join us – wonderful! If not, would you consider supporting CureSearch?

I can say with confidence that nearly everyone who reads this post has been touched by cancer in some way. I would be honored and grateful if you would join me as I join Sadie and her family in the fight.

P.S. Brave wants me to tell you that he’s walking too, and he would love your support!

It’s A Small World After All

As a kid growing up in Oklahoma, my primary diet was dust. So, it was remarkably refreshing after an evening softball game, or an afternoon spent mowing the lawn, to pour a glass of cold water. In nearly any room of the house, my sisters and I could turn a shiny silver knob and and lavishly splash cool, clean waterover our faces, arms and neck. Then, reaching for a brightly colored cup, without a second thought, we gulped the life-giving liquid.

Nearly every summer, on the evening news, I remember hearing about a seasonal water shortage. Neighbors began to take turns watering their lawns. Daddy didn’t wash the cars. But never for one second did I fear that we would run out ofclean drinking water.

This year has been record setting in Oklahoma. In August, the temperature soared to 113 degrees. More than 30% of the state is experiencing an exceptional drought. But, in my family’s garage there are still cases of clean water. Every evening we take long showers. Here in rural Oklahoma, I have never known anyone dying for water.

In 2008, a non-profit foundation calledWater4 , was founded in Oklahoma City by Dick and Terri Greenly, to address the global water crisis. A water crisis that most of us in North America have never even considered. We certainly don’t worry about dying children every time we enjoy a cool glass of ice water.

Water4 exists primarily provide water to impoverished, thirsty areas. At the same time, Water4 educates and trains nationals to be intricately involved in the effort to provide sustainable, clean water sources to their villages. Already working tirelessly in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Rwanda, Water4’s goal is to provide clean drinking water to a million people by 2014.

Statistically, the majority of Oklahomans are pro-life. Consequently, voters are well aware that about 3,322 children are aborted everyday. However, few people know that 4,320 children die everyday due to a water-related illness.

Many states across America are withering with drought this summer. Farmers are fearful for their crops and consequently, their livelihood. The entire globe is feeling the economic pinch. But when we feel the parched tongues of children in third-world countries, when we see the countless tiny graves of thirsty children – we have to be grateful for our relative abundance and wonder…

What can we do?

While the cost to build a private well in Oklahoma is upwards of $2000, you can donate a well and supply water to an entire village through Water4’s program for $900. You’ll never turn that shiny silver knob mindlessly again, and neither will your children.

Topic courtesy of: Faith Writers

Hereditary, Painful Privilege

My friend knelt beside her 10-year-old son. She was torn between shaking him and crying right along with him. He didn’t want her to know he was crying; she wished she didn’t know.

It’s my fault, she moaned silently.

Wednesday, after our workout, Delaney relayed this story to me. She hadn’t told her husband, and didn’t plan to tell him. He had just returned from a year-long deployment, during which the depression that had been mounting in her since her own childhood collided with the anxiety of being a single parent while he was gone, the fear of losing her husband in battle, the loneliness of establishing “temporary” homes every two years.

“My fears, anxiety and depression must have bubbled over to Tim,” she told me through reserved tears. “I don’t want him to suffer with this the same way I have.” Delaney had bravely shared with me her brief suicidal impulses during the last year. “Selfishly though, I don’t want to deal with him dealing with depression. I scared myself when I registered the thought, I wish I had another son.”

Delaney drudged through the pain in her heart, piling big shovelfuls of muck to the side her pit of despair. It helped to air out the anxiety, before it sucked her down into its tomb. Watching Tim, she feared that she could spiral back into her old depression.

A Bible verse came to me.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. 2 Cor. 1:3-7

I am no stranger to depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, despair. In fact, if you’ve read this blog with any regularity, or if you’ve even just selected a random post, you probably understand that most of what I write are the shovelfuls of my own muck, thrown up on the side of my pit to air out my own anxiety.

“Delaney,” I said. “God has specifically prepared you to be Tim’s mom, more perfectly than anyone else. You can empathize with his weakness, comfort him as you have been comforted. You will know the right things to say. You can rest in the fact that God has delivered you from this pit and He will just as assuredly deliver Tim.

“It is absolutely not your fault that he feels this way. It can’t be. Tim is Tim and is in charge of his own decisions and feelings. Besides, if he observed your pain, he will observe your deliverance.”

Actually, I wish I had thought to say all that. I did say most of it, but as usual, when I write, I gain greater understanding of my own thoughts. At the time, I didn’t even know the whole passage, but I looked it up to share with you. Amazingly, in Great-Godness, the whole passage is more relevant than part of it.

“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters,b about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.” 2 Cor. 1:8-11

There is a privilege in pain – it is preparedness. If our prodigy is a blessing, then so is the pain that fills us with the wisdom and understanding to love them fully.

 

Lucky You!! Chrissy’s Thoughts

Guess What?! You get to hear from someone else today! One of my very dearest friends, Chrissy Lawson, agreed to share her thoughts on tough love with you today.

I met Chrissy when my husband was stationed at Fort Bragg. Both of our husbands were deployed at the same time. God kindly orchestrated for Chrissy and I to work together at GNC on the base. What a blessing! Through Chrissy, I met April and through them I met Jackie and the four of us have grown in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ ever since, albeit, long distance.

Several years ago, I was actually privileged to watch Jesus woo Chrissy to Himself. Since that time, God has developed in her a heart so fully His that I have to admit, sometimes I’m jealous! I know you will enjoy hearing from her today. Please leave your comments and share your experiences with tough love in your family.

Chrissy’s thoughts:

Tough Love….

harsh or stern behavior, often thought cruel by the recipient, with the end goal of their higher good.  (Abby’s definition)

Is tough love biblical?

 

How many times were the Israelites disciplined by God?  Too many to count it seems.  Did you ever read the biblical accounts and thought, “man, that was harsh!”  I have found myself saying that every once in a while.  It’s only when we truly see the character of God that we can comprehend why he did what he did.

 

King David had wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He gathered the chosen men of Israel to go get and bring it back from the Philistines. They put the Ark on a cart and Uzzah and Ahio were leading it.

“When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. David became angry because of the LORD’S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.” 2 Samuel 6:6-8

 

Doesn’t that seem a little overboard?  God killed someone for touching the Ark. If you understand the character of God, then you understand why he did this. You see, he is HOLY, perfect and righteous. He gave the Israelites clear instructions on how to move the objects to worship him.  When David wanted to move it, no one stopped to think, “hey lets read the directions first.”  Instead they picked up what they wanted and moved on.  If they would have just looked to God first they would have seen that under no circumstances were they allowed to touch the Ark. God wasn’t lashing out at them, he was acting according to who is his.  He demands perfection and obedience to his law.

 

This incident, it led David to read the instructions and do it right the second time.  God’s laws were respected this time around.

 

Psalm 78 very clearly illustrates God’s patience and tough love with his chosen people.  The Israelites forgot so quickly the miracles that God performed all around them.  He freed them from captivity, killed the Egyptians who were trying to kill them, fed them, gave them water from a rock.  Yet they still questioned and tested him.  He became furious and allowed other  nations to capture and defeat them.  They would cry out to God and he would save them.  Isn’t that tough love?  He is the best father you could ever imagine and yet the Israelites grumbled against him!  He became furious and allowed their wicked hearts to do what they wanted and allowed the consequences.

 

But when they turned back to him, he opened his arms to them.

 

The prodigal son is a great example of a “softer” tough love.  The son asked for his inheritance early, before his father had passed.  The father did so and allowed his son to take off on his own.  When the son became so hard-up that he considered eating pig slop he realized what he had left at home.  He came home to a father with open arms.  Of course this is a parable about God’s relationship with the sinner.  But do you see that as parents we can give our children tough love?  God did it to his chosen people, and today, if our hearts are hard he does it to us.

 

When it comes to the serious things: drugs, alcohol, dishonoring and disrespecting parents, I think we should implement tough love. After much grace (which God did over and over again) we need to say enough is enough and do something about it.  Maybe it’s intervention, maybe it’s throwing them out of the house.  We need to pray and trust the God of all creation to watch over them.  We put our children in HIS hands.  When they turn from their destructive ways we open our arms and welcome them home!

 

When our children are simply rebelling and want their freedom, again I think we need to give them tough love so that they can grow.  Allow them to step out (age appropriate of course) and grow.   When they come home give them grace abundantly.  Isn’t that what God gives us?  When we mess up and then turn to him, he forgives and forgives completely.  You can’t parent without discipline and grace.