Polarizing Opposites: Children’s Ministry vs. Integrated Family Worship

{Unfamiliar with Polarizing Opposites? Find out the purpose and goal of this monthly series here. }
If you’re looking for an incredible dividing line, this is the cause to take up! Either side of the issue has strong feelings, and discussing the matter with the “opposing” side can escalate quickly. But let’s listen for a moment to each perspective.

If you're looking for a cause that can easily bring divison with the Church, this is it! Read how this issue relates to the Gospel.Children’s Ministry

Some parents utilize the children’s ministry at their church during worship, Sunday school, or both. The ministry is vibrant and engaging. Their kids learn so much and eagerly return for more. Parents might also mention their need for personal, undistracted time to be fed in the Word so they are equipped for their week.

Integrated Family Worship

Parents who choose to keep their children in service with them might list any of the following reasons: they are called to be the primary disciplers of their children, children understand more than we give them credit for, and/or the family unit does things as a unit more often than as individuals. They consider the age/grade segregation detrimental, or at least a deterrent, to multi-generational faithfulness.

How this Relates to the Gospel

Jesus didn’t lay out a step-by-step plan for the conversion and discipleship of our children. He commissioned us to make disciples.

Parenting with Purpose means the goal of the family utilizing children’s ministry and the goal of the family choosing to worship as a family are the same: that Christ be glorified as our children trust the sufficiency of His sacrifice for the remission of their sins.

Each of us is at a different point in our faith journey. Some of us will gravitate toward one option or the other based on our own experiences and convictions. And that’s okay.  Even if you and I make two distinct choices, we are still part of one Body. We glorify Him best when we let those distinct choices fade into the shadow of the Cross and we prioritize unity over being “right.”

Take My Feet

Each Monday, we look at a line from the old hymn  Take My Life and Let it Be. Let’s see how we can apply the next line.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.

Looking at the next line of a classic hymn as I blog through Take My Life and Let it Be each Monday!Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Last week at church, our pastor introduced the new sermon theme for the year. Witness: Be Where Your Feet Are.

Huh?

It doesn’t sound Scriptural, at least not a scriptural cliche that we so easily regurgitate these days. Perhaps that’s the pastoral staff’s goal — to force us to dig deeper and not just consume a steady diet of cultural Christianity. For me, though, it worked.

You see, I more easily find application to my life, my days, and my hands. My feet? Sure, they carry me from place to place…but that seems to be it.

It’s not. Because God doesn’t call all of us to do the same thing, we interact with different people. You live in a different city, so your co-workers are people I will likely never meet. You’re an at-home mom, but your circles aren’t the same as mine. You go to the grocery store at 7pm on a Thursday — that doesn’t happen for me right now.

Each of these differences between you and me connect us to people who desperately need to hear from us. We have witnessed great things God has done, and they  need to know. They need encouragement rooted in the goodness of God. They need to know there is a Way out.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

The command in this verse is not “go.” Many of us have heard missions programs emphasize the “go,” but the imperative (command) in this passage is actually “make disciples.” A more accurate wording for the concept would be: “As you go, make disciples…” As you go. Wherever you find yourself. Whatever path your feet trod.

If I don’t speak when they take me all these places, am I allowing God to take my feet? Or am I curling them up in an effort to keep them warm, dry, and clean? Is His goodness on the tip of my tongue as I go?

Not usually. I hold myself to an unrealistic standard that every conversation must either proclaim the steps to salvation or I probably shouldn’t speak. So as I go,  I usually don’t say much. But if the Gospel is indeed good news, should it not always be part of my perspective, my speech, my interactions? When my feet take me somewhere new, do I exude good news? When my feet tromp through the same ol’ wagon trails I’ve wandered a million times, do I radiate the Gospel?

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7

Tough questions with not-so-dainty answers. In my home, my church, my community, Lord, take my feet.

In the Hands of a Warrior

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalm 127:3-5

Psalm 127:3-5 is often preached with a focus on the arrows (children)... But perhaps we've overlooked the importance of the archer/warrior (the parents).I can hear it now, groans arising from computer desks all around the nation. Here comes *another* blog post about the quiverfull movement. Here comes another post about how I should feel guilty for only having one or two children. Here comes another post about how much of a blessing kids are when it’s all I can do to not strangle them some days. Rest assured, weary comrade. This post is not one of those. I, Pilot, wish to hold true to my calling, and talk about loftier, grander ideas: parenting.

“But wait!”  you say. “I thought this passage focused on kids… lots of kids… a lot of very short, skinny kids that can fit inside an arrow sheath.” I would not disagree with you. Your feeding habits to have such small kids… probably, but this passage is definitely about kids. There is another focal point to this passage that lies just below the surface: the warrior. If you take an average Joe Shmoe or Jane Shane and give them a bow and some arrows and tell them to shoot this weapon of war at a target, it better be bigger than the broad side of a barn. A bow is not too incredibly hard to shoot, assuming you have the arm strength, but to shoot it straight or even accurately takes a lot of practice and hard work.

So, warriors, when was the last time you trained for battle? When was the last time you exercised those shooting muscles to make sure that arrow flies straight? Parenting is hard work. Even if I did not have any kids, I would know that parenting was hard work. I know this because, firstly, I was a kid (shout out to my parents who will probably be reading this after those therapy sessions I instigated ;) ) and, secondly, the Bible says that parenting is war. Not is “like” war, or somewhat similar to war, or as stressful as war, but is  war. The enemy is not the kid(s) though; the enemy is the Enemy (obvious, I know). And since parenting is war, there will be skirmishes, and battles, flanking maneuvers, and full head-on assaults, defeats, and victories. So whether you have one kid, or a battalion of subordinates, you better gird up your loins, and get in those trenches because the Enemy is at your gate, and he is looking to devour your kids.

So what is your weapon as a parent? The first answer that comes to mind is, well, the bow. And that is true, you do have that weapon at your disposal, but I would caution against that until the arrows are straight and deadly. So what else? How about the Sword of the Spirit? As parents, we need to be in God’s Word daily. We need to live God’s Word daily. We need to talk God’s Word daily. (To talk God’s Word is different than to talk about  God’s Word. Family devotions and church attendance do little to impact a child for Christ if the rest of the time our words and actions are not honorable. Kids can see through that façade a mile away.) We, as parents, need to suit up in God’s armor. It was this armor that allowed David to defeat Goliath. It was this armor that allowed Stephen to become the first martyr. It was this armor that allowed Abraham to leave the country he knew for an unknown destination and Moses to go back to the one he knew all too well. And it is this armor that will give us the fighting edge over the Enemy in the battle for the eternal soul of our kids. It’s taking up His armor that forges the best arrows.

He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Psalm 18:34

We have incredible strength as parents. The power bestowed on us is strong enough to traverse time, to radically change the future, and to even bend a bow of bronze. The only bows I have had the privilege to shoot were plastic compound bows, but in Biblical times, bows were mostly made of wood but some could have been made out of animal horns as well. So you can imagine the strength and power necessary to shoot such a weapon. That is the epitome of being a parent. After years of training on your part, and honing the arrows on your kids’ behalf, there will come a moment in their life when you pull back the string and let them fly. Will they fly true? Will they hit the mark God has set for them? Will they route the Enemy and push his forces back? That is why we train.

It is by the strength of the archer that the arrow goes anywhere. So, fellow warrior, be strong and courageous, step up to the battle covered by the armor of God, and parent your child for the war that rages.

{photo by zsbenko}

Through the Eyes of a Child

When Jesus talked about the faith of a child, I always thought of it as a metaphor. Children tend to trust easily and not always need the reasoning behind an adult’s actions.

But parenting Buddy has shown me childlike faith in a whole new way.

God uses our children to define "childlike faith." I really shouldn’t be surprised anymore. He’s said some pretty selfishness-shattering, Christ-glorifying statements, usually in passing… not even aware of the depth of what he just uttered.

Like the evening we sat down to supper, just us two while Pilot delivered pizzas. There was nothing exceptional about this meal. It was a simple pb&j with applesauce, yet our conversation turned to all of the things God has provided. As an adult, I gave examples like our home and the heater on these bitterly cold winter days. The big things that I am very easily thankful for. Then Buddy chimed in. Actually, to emphasize, he slipped down from his chair and started walking around the kitchen as he talked. He mentioned

  • a stepstool — so Buddy can see what’s cooking and help Daddy cook scrambled eggs
  • letters on the fridge — to help Buddy learn to read
  • a zebra hat — to keep Buddy’s head warm

His list was far too numerous for me to capture.

So this is childlike faith. The faith that starts with gratitude for the little things rather than the big ones. The faith that demolishes any notion of “needs” being what God provides and “wants” being what Mommy or Daddy or other Big People provide. The faith that always, always prays “thank You Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins” — even when the one praying it doesn’t fully comprehend what it means. The unashamed, eager to share, excited to learn more faith. This. This is what it’s all about.

How has parenting opened your eyes to the meaning of “childlike faith?”

Come join our New Every Morning link-up recounting God's mercies (Lam. 3:22-24)!

Wanna join us? It’s simple. Grab a journal and start writing. What are you thankful for in this moment? What have you overlooked that He has graciously given you? Then once a month in 2015, join me as we revel –together– in His mercies! If you have a blog, I’d love for you to leave your link. If you don’t, feel free to leave your list in the comments!

Mercies since January 2014: 1553. Take a look at this week’s list:
1456. Trooper sleeping in his pack ‘n play until 3am
1459. a 2 year old who is eager to help clean {even when I think he will complicate the process}
1462. that Trooper allowed me to set him down so I could use the computer
1466. Buddy’s eagerness to help Pilot build his bed
1467. Buddy finding an empty cookie pan from Pilot’s work — and eagerly eating the crumbs without complaint
1469. a 14lb. turkey from Papa & Nana… and a Saturday to roast it
1471. audiobooks to listen to while deboning said turkey
1472. leaving the house on time after getting out of bed 30 minutes late
1473. Buddy making an unprompted and untrained “good choice” to stand by me as I talked with someone at church
1475. the parking pass receptacle being out of service so Pilot didn’t have to pay to drop us off at the library
1476. Buddy requesting that I hold him during our congregational meeting — and falling asleep in my arms
1479. a child who forgives Mommy readily
1480. frequent good choices made by Buddy
1481. that you can buy replacement parts for carseats {after a curious 2 year old snapped the head foam while I was cleaning the cover}
1483. Buddy caring for his Bear
1484. a creative imagination
1485. a bulletin in the car to write a blogpost on
1486. breakfast (muffins) in bed, courtesy of Buddy
1487. a boy who asks me to read while I’m cooking egg & cheese sandwiches
1490. hard
eucharisteo
1491. Pilot praising my less-than-stellar pancakes
1492. a comfortable couch to lounge on while under the weather
1494. Buddy’s speech development — from “mayas” to “semi”
1495. Buddy listening attentively to The Boxcar Children while playing — and then talking to me about the part of the story I just read
1497. talking with Buddy about all the things God has provided
1498. childlike faith that values the provision of a stepstool, letters on the fridge, and a zebra hat
1499. learning and adapting to a life with two as a helper to my husband and a writer
1500. Pilot assuming a more typical work schedule — Saturdays off now!
1501. a cooperative 2 year old who helps me let Pilot sleep in
1506. some time to browse at the library and find good books for myself
1508. a successful loaf of cinnamon raisin bread in the breadmaker! {fresh yeast helps…}
1511. seeing the numbers about the impact a multi-generational legacy of faithfulness could hold {
Visionary Marriage}
1512. attempting to make crepes — and succeeding!
1513. an hour worship session in our living room with a 2 year old and a purse he declared a “guitar”
1514. Buddy singing The Old Rugged Cross
1517. a good visit, as a family, with a friend from college
1518. spending time — just Mom and Buddy — playing the violin as Trooper slept
1519. blankets straight from the dryer at bedtime
1521. Buddy asking me, “Momma, please read Little House in Big Woods.”
1525. God growing my compassion for Trooper {sweet boy struggles with too much air in his belly while eating}
1526. an opportunity to edit an eBook
1529. Buddy’s servant heart as he attempted to cut the loaf of fresh pumpkin bread by himself and brought me a piece to eat
1530. that his bread-carving escapade did not end in blood
1532. quiet time (naps for everyone else!) to work on a month-long meal plan
1534. my brother {on his birthday!}…and his patience as I’ve transitioned to adulthood
1535. Pilot faithfully cooking eggs on Sunday mornings
1537. faithful provision
1539. a backup meal when I realized I didn’t turn on the crock pot before we left for church
1541. both boys taking extended naps (at the same time!) so I could chop carrots and celery, roast a ham, make a calzone, set aside some chicken broth, and do 2 loads of laundry
1542. discipline begets discipline
1543. singing as I finished up the day’s tasks
1545. waking rested
1546. an hour of time with Buddy while Pilot and Trooper slept
1548. saying yes when Buddy asked if we could make cookies to use the heart shaped cookie cutter
1549. loading the dishwasher & starting to cook veggie broth *before breakfast!
1551. that I can upload and purchase photos to be printed at the Walmart nearest grandparents
1552. Trooper’s smiles
1553. Pilot’s relaxed parenting style
 
Do you tweet? Keep up with what’s going on and join in the fun with the hashtag #neweverymorning!

Sarah Jo at Paper-Bark Burch publishes her mercy recounting each Thursday, so be sure to check her posts. Oh, and please leave your link in the comments!

Take My Hands

Each Monday, we look at a line from the old hymn  Take My Life and Let it Be. Let’s see how we can apply the next line.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Looking at line 3 of the classic hymn Take My Life and Let it Be. Have you ever looked at how hymns apply to our lives?Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.

This particular line had a very specific meaning to me for about 5 years, so when I hear or sing it, my mind reverts back to “then.” Since I spent a lot of time with Deaf friends in my high school years, became fluent in American Sign Language in 6-8 months, and went to college to become an interpreter for the Deaf, the idea of my hands moving at the impulse of His love has always been linked to the Deaf.

My current reality, though, is a far cry from the glories of interpreting ASL. I spend my days interpreting Trooper’s whimpers and Buddy’s developing speech. Not much signing takes place around here, at least not until Trooper gets bigger.

So what do my hands do these days? Until now, I hadn’t stopped to consider all that my hands do, like:

  • hold Trooper when he needs snuggles
  • pat Trooper’s back when he needs to burp or fall asleep
  • change Trooper’s diaper
  • tussle Buddy’s hair
  • open doors and buckle seat belts
  • cook meals
  • wash dishes
  • sort, load, and fold laundry (sometimes even put it away!)
  • hold a book or a craft project
  • write a letter
  • send a text or make a phone call

There are also times my hands are balled up, tightening into fists whether from anger or frustration or timidity or concern. A window into the condition of my heart.

To let the Lord consecrate my life, even my moments and my days, my hands must be willing servants as well. Willing to relinquish those emotions that will not bring Him glory. Willing to wait before penning (or typing) a response. Willing to act when needed. Willing to let go or grab hold — whichever action will be an act of obedience and not defiance. Obedience best positions my hands to move at the impulse of His love.

What do your hands do in a typical day? How are you letting God take your hands?

Books I’ve Been Reading

I enjoy directing your attention to (usually) really great books by writing full length book reviews, but sometimes I don’t get to do that. I thought it might be fun, though, to talk to you about books I recently finished and ones I’m reading right now in an effort to show you a tad more variety.

A list of my recent reads, whether I recommend them or not, and a look at upcoming books.I am learning how to utilize my local library, both in person and online. I am a sucker for a paper version of a book I’ve been anticipating reading. In fact, this is still my favorite and preferred way to catch a good book. However, before Christmas we purchased a Kindle Fire HD6 on sale, so I also enjoy reading eBooks and listening to audiobooks. Our library uses an app called OverDrive (I know several libraries use it; maybe yours does, too!), and even Pilot has started listening to audiobooks frequently as he drives at work.

If you want a more thorough list of books I am interested in reading, currently reading, or have read in the past, Goodreads is the place to be. I enjoy seeing books others have read to get an idea of books I might like. It also helps me track how many books I’ve read toward my goal of 48 in 2015.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are the books I’ve been reading this month:

Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt
I’ve had this book on my list for a while, but I didn’t really know what to expect. If you’re working your way through Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, this book provides some comic relief in the midst of a tense time. Jon Acuff’s writing style will keep you cracking up with each topic covered, and the topics are usually 2-3 pages plus a clever illustration. It’s not a book I would buy, but it’s a fun book to read.

Brandwashed
Pilot discovered this book on OverDrive and started listening to it… and then, it seemed, most of our conversations centered around it. We started noticing marketing schemes and declaring them “Brandwashing.” Our awareness of how hard companies try (and how much they spend) to get us loyal to their brand skyrocketed. Hopefully, we’re a bit more cautious as a result of reading this book.

The Birth Order Book
I don’t usually buy psychology based books, but in college, I heard Dr. Kevin Leman on a Focus on the Family broadcast… Intrigued by the detail of his theory, I bought his book. I skimmed it at the time, and it’s sat on my bookshelf ever since. When I found the audiobook on OverDrive, I jumped at the chance to finally finish the book. I’m still intrigued by how accurate his theory seems to be, in both my family and in Pilot’s. {P.S. Although I’m the youngest, I am a functional firstborn.}

The Screwtape Letters
I’m not generally one for a fiction read, but I’ve heard so many references to C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters that I was willing to indulge this time. It’s a more complex book than I anticipated and requires quite a bit of concentration (even more than Mere Christianity ). That being said, I would consider it a worthwhile read. It’s pretty short, too.

Dad is Fat
We watched a couple of Jim Gaffigan’s comedy sketches on YouTube and laughed pretty hard, so when Pilot discovered his book Dad is Fat as an audiobook on OverDrive [read by Gaffigan!], we decided to give it a shot. I listened to about half of it with Pilot and he finished the rest at work. While some of it was quite funny, we noted a couple expletives as well as a general condescension about kids. For a family that believes 1) children are a blessing and 2) words are powerful, we really can’t recommend this read.

Visionary Marriage
My sister recommended this read to me. Before that, I had never heard of Rob Rienow or his ministry, Visionary Families. As I read the beginning of this book, it didn’t really stand out to me. “Same ol’, same ol'” marriage stuff that I’ve read in many other books. About halfway through, I discovered a jewel. Amy (Rob’s wife) writes to wives about their role as helper, which I very much appreciated. Pilot read the last half of the book with me, and we were both struck by the vision of what a multi-generational legacy of faith could look like. I highly recommend this read!

When Godly People Do Ungodly Things
I started this book a year ago… before my other Kindle crashed. It’s lengthy, but I have found much encouragement from Beth Moore’s candid look at Scriptures and how Christians are being seduced by the enemy. This book isn’t really one you would just pick up and read unless you were going through a situation where a loved one is being/has been seduced or you have experienced it yourself, although if you did read it otherwise, God could grow you in the area of compassion and understanding. It’s a great read so far — nope, I haven’t finished it yet.

Next on the list:
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys
Goodreads recommended this book to me, and I found it at our local library last week. I’ve started reading it a little, and it seems to be an easy, quick read (even though it comprises 298 pages…). Being a momma of 2 boys, I like picking up books that remind me boys are different and give me some ideas for helping them be who God created them to be.

Visionary Parenting
This book is a follow-up to Visionary Marriage. After reading Visionary Marriage, I’m pretty sure Rob and Amy’s philosophy of family discipleship parallels ours, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to say. {P.S. Rob Rienow is one of the speakers at the D6 Conference this September!}

Trusting God in a Twisted World
One of my 2015 goals is to read a book by Elisabeth Elliot every month — mainly because I have 9 books written by her, and I really enjoy the depth of her writing. This one happens to be first on the list.

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half
Several years ago, I read America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. It learned some great money-saving tips, especially for vacations, and this book has been on my list ever since. I finally secured it! Hopefully I’ll get to read it and report back about it next month.

Reading Aloud with Buddy:
The Blue Bay Mystery
We love The Boxcar Children. Having a few illustrations and short chapters has been a great way to introduce longer books to our read-aloud time together. This book was particularly fun, because as Buddy would hear things he was familiar with (sand, for example), he would interrupt the story to relate it to his own experience (the beach last summer). I loved getting to see him make those kinds of connections.

Little House in the Big Woods
I was going to hold off on these books until a daughter came along, but a fellow blogger encouraged me to read it anyways. So we’ve begun it, and Buddy is fascinated by the illustrations. I have a feeling I’ll be reading the series aloud again in a few years, but we’re still jumping in to enjoy it now. Maybe I can actually finish the series this time!

Bonus! Here’s what Pilot’s been listening to:
Redwall
Pilot read this series in his early teen years, and he was thrilled to find it in dramatized audio. Unfortunately, we can’t listen to it in the car on long trips because Trooper isn’t a fan and will wake up crying. Even so, Pilot managed to listen to it in its entirety.

Martin The Warrior
This book actually precedes Redwall chronologically. Since I  found Redwall on cd, I didn’t know I needed to get this one first. Pilot has no complaints though; he enjoys listening to it.

Beyond Band of Brothers
Pilot’s favorite historical period is WWII. He owns the tv series “Band of Brothers” on DVD, and he jumped at the chance to listen to this book as he drives at work. He says it’s neat, because there are more details than can be provided in the tv series…many more. Hurray for OverDrive!

There’s no telling what he’ll be reading/listening to next, but I’ll try to include it again in next month’s update. Hop over to Facebook, drop me a line on Twitter, or comment with what you’ve been reading of late. I’m always looking for a good book to add to my ever-increasing to-read list!

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Moving Up and Out

A lot of change has taken place at our house in the last 2 1/2 months. Trooper’s arrival takes the prize for the greatest impact. A series of signs of “big boyness” with Buddy followed rather quickly. He is now dressing himself, both for the day and for bed. He buckles himself into his carseat. He moved from a sippy cup to a glass with no lid.  In the potty training process, he’s had fewer accidents. And then there was his bed…

Boundaries are an interesting thing.Because he had only climbed out once (in an uncharacteristic Hulk-like adrenaline craze), we saw no point in moving him to a toddler bed too quickly. We allowed him to climb in to bed as part of the nightly routine and, when morning came, he would sit in his crib chatting. At some point, he would finally call, “Momma, please come get you out!” I was in no hurry for that to change.

Then, just before naptime one day, his crib side came off, at least partially. Pilot asked if he wanted to try sleeping without the side, and Buddy answered, “Yes!”

We expected him to get out of bed. He didn’t… at least not until he was done sleeping. He slept that evening and the next morning, getting up only once. Then, at the beginning of the bedtime routine, he shocked me. “Momma, please put crib side back on.”

My first thought was, “Why? You have so much freedom!” And then I realized two things:

  • Freedom requires more self-control.
  • What’s familiar is far more comfortable than any “promise” of freedom.

Hmm. Reminds me of Egypt and the Israelites. Of my own life and sin. How often do I refuse the offer to try something new (obedience) for the sake of “normal” (complacent disobedience)?

As Buddy’s story goes, he just needed a temporary reminder of what crib life was like. When Pilot refashioned an old dual drop-side crib into a toddler bed, Buddy was ready and excited for the new adventure… even if he does sleep with his head at the footboard. ;)

The boundaries are different, but he’s finding this “different” to be good. Now if I  could learn to adapt (and obey) so easily…

Take My Moments and My Days

Each Monday, we look at a line from the old hymn  Take My Life and Let it Be. Be sure to catch last week’s post, too. For now, let’s see how we can apply the next line.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.Looking at the second line of Take My Life and Let it Be. Let's find ways to give our moments and our days to God.Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Oh no. Not my days. Please don’t touch my days. I am a list maker and a planner. I want to know exactly what to expect and when. The more efficient the day, the better. Being productive, to me, directly correlates to my ability to enjoy rest. But it’s gotta be my  definition of productive.

As I allow the Lord to set apart my life, however, it naturally follows that the minutes that add up to the longer periods known as “days” be included in the surrendered life. Clinging to my own plans for how to spend my days not only hinders the sanctification progress, it invariably makes life a bit harder.

When the 2 year old gets out of his bed without completing a nap, my default response is frustration. I didn’t get that blog post finished.  or I wanted to accomplish this task without little hands attempting to “help.”  {Yes, as much as I am a proponent of encouraging your toddler to help, I don’t always want the help.} Not exactly a consecrated response.

Yet if God has called me to write as I believe He has… and to care for my home as I know He has, I must trust Him to provide the time for these things to be completed. I too often fritter away my “free” time and then get frustrated when I get “down to business,” only for interruptions to abound. I waste the focus time I’m given and complain when timing doesn’t follow my  plans.

In all this, am I saying we throw out schedules and routines and “wing it” in order to allow God full control over our moments and days? Not in the least.  God is a God of order. But when a schedule precludes our awareness of how God is working in and around us, it has become an idol. All too easily do I bow at this idol, oblivious to my misplaced worship until I lash out verbally or in my thoughts at whoever dare disturb my meticulously calculated agenda. And all too often I choose not to repent of this idolatry.

As the song says, when I relinquish my  moments and my   days, then — and only then — are they ready and able to flow with ceaseless praise.  How often they do not. How often they should!

What’s your biggest struggle with relinquishing your moments and your days?

Ministry Spotlight: Voice of the Martyrs

Welcome to a new feature here at Renown and Crowned: the monthly ministry spotlight. At the end of 2014, I reflected on all the ministries I have participated in or been impacted by. In this reflection, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t have had those opportunities if I didn’t know about them. So each month of 2015, I will be highlighting a ministry with which I have or have had some kind of connection. I am excited to present 12 great ministries this year, each with a unique “niche” but all with the goal of glorifying Christ and furthering His kingdom. I don’t expect you to donate to all of these, but there may be one that strikes a cord with your own experience or where the Lord is encouraging you to grow this year. And prayer? Prayer is waging war.

Ministry Spotlight this month is The Voice of the Martyrs. Check out the neat opportunities for you to partner with them.Persecution. It’s something we are aware can happen to Christians, something we may have experienced in our life. Socially ostracized, belittled, or promotions withheld are often what persecution  looks like stateside. But globally? Around the world, our brothers and sisters in Christ are enduring life and death situations for the sake of Christ.

The Voice of the Martyrs began in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. For his Christian faith, he had undergone 14 years of imprisonment in Communist Romania. From this ordeal, he, his wife Sabina, and his son Mihai brought word of the treatment of Christians in restricted nations – countries where governments prevent Christians from acquiring Bibles or Christian literature.

The Voice of the Martyrs bases their ministry operations on Hebrews 13:3 — Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.  Their explicit mission is “Serving the persecuted church through practical and spiritual assistance while leading Christians in the free world into fellowship with them.

Want to do something tangible, along with your prayers? You can write letters to brothers and sisters in Christ who are imprisoned for their faith! At this site, operated by VOM, you can select phrases in the prisoner’s native language (many from Scripture or reworded blessings and encouragements from Scripture). Once you’ve chosen them and arranged them as you wish, you are taken to a page where you can print it. That page also gives you the prisoner’s address and how much postage will cost to ship a letter to his or her country. You can also petition officials on your brother or sister’s behalf for his/her release. Technology is incredible!

{I just  discovered this amazing tool. So guess who is now going to add the letter-writing to her to-do list? This gal!}

Another tangible way you can minister to persecuted siblings in the faith is by the VOM ActionPacks. Currently, these are being sent to Pakistan, Iraq, and Sudan. They include blankets, jackets, t-shirts, socks, bed sheets, and soap. Practical needs Christians may not have access to under some governments. You can fill your own for $7 or sponsor one packed by VOM for $30.

Of course, the greatest need is prayer. You can sign up for email alerts or visit the VOM website to find new prayer requests. Have you ever considered using your Facebook posts and Twitter feeds to raise awareness of persecution around the world? This is another way you can support the ministry of The Voice of the Martyrs, and — ultimately — the edification of the Body of Christ.

Whether it’s a pastor who has sought to follow city ordinances to have his congregation authorized to meet (and has been denied) or telling of a Christmas celebration by Christian families who had fled attacks not long ago, The Voice of the Martyrs shares stories that don’t make it into our media. You will find stories that encourage you, bolster your faith, tear you up, and bring you to your knees. These,  friends, these are our brothers and sisters. One day, we will worship around the Great Throne with them. And we have the privilege, opportunity, and resources to be able to pray for them earthside.

Were you already aware of The Voice of the Martyrs?

How We Handle Hurts

Parenting has grown me in so many ways. As a mom, there is a part of me that wants to shelter Buddy and Trooper from every possible dangerous situation. I don’t want him to get hurt. At the same time, I want him to learn how to handle hurts – because careless people, accidents, and other causes do exist.

In the process of learning how to stand, cruise, and walk, Buddy bumped his head many times. Through that process, we developed a series of options for response because every hurt is different. A pat response to every single “ouch” doesn’t encourage us to care for him when he needs it, and the last thing we want him to develop is a heart that is hardened and unwilling to share hurts with the people closest to him.

At the same time, neither do we want to coddle and foster an overly “sensitive” child. Taking these things into consideration, we have developed these responses:

First, we ask Buddy: “Are you okay?” We don’t tell  him “you’re okay,” because we don’t know if he is. Then we watch for his response:

Before he was talking, if he continued to cry, we knew it was a major owie. A major owie necessitated soothing, walking outside, and possibly nursing (most often for mouth/head injuries). We would show sympathy (“Oh, buddy, I know it hurts“) but carefully and not in excess. When he recovered, we encouraged him to play with his toys, sit and read a book, or eat a snack.

If he did not continue to cry, we know it was a minor bump. If he stopped for a moment, looked up, and then scurried away, we knew he was okay. He had places to explore and stuff to tinker with, so he wouldn’t stay still for minor bumps.

Once he started talking, Buddy would respond more directly. We still ask, “Are you okay?” Tears usually indicate a pretty intense hurt, but sometimes he was startled by what happened more than hurt. After one particular incident, we started explaining to Buddy that our bodies don’t stay hurt. Since then, when we ask if he needs kisses, he matter-of-factly replies, “No need kisses. God made bodies that heal!”

God made bodies that heal.  Whether earthside or heavenside, healing is guaranteed. Whether our emotions, our mind, or our physical body, Jehovah Rapha will not leave us broken and in disrepair. He makes all things new.

{Of course, this is how our family handles hurts based on our personal experiences. I’d love to hear how your family handles hurts, too!}