How is he 9 months old already??
A priceless gift!
Whew, a lot of parentheses there, huh? Anybody else notice that?
A recent Sunday was a very special one for my family. On May 23rd, we celebrated Barrett West and dedicated him to the Lord in a special ceremony.
How is he 9 months old already??
Many Christian denominations have different practices when it comes to "baby dedication", so to clarify, at our celebration my husband and I made a public commitment to raise Barrett in a home in which he will learn the tenets of our faith and see it in action. We hope that someday he will make the decision to have his own personal relationship with Christ.
The timing of the baby dedication was really special. The celebration was almost exactly four years after our first miscarriage. This made for an emotional day of remembrance, thankfulness, overwhelming joy, and a tinge of bittersweet grief.
We were blessed to be joined at the celebration by my parents and Jacob's mom and stepdad. Barrett and Reed are surrounded by strong Christian examples in both of our families.
A priceless gift!
The children's leader at our church, Shannon, led the dedication. She did an amazing job! She gave a short talk that really made us think about the short time we have to invest as parents, and she emphasized planning, love, and quality time. Jacob and I had "homework" to share with the group; we (I) wrote a letter to Barrett sharing three words that we want to define the man he becomes. We chose strong, kind, and wise. We (I) read the letter aloud to our family during a planned break in the ceremony. I didn't cry (much), and I think Reed liked the letter as much as the grandparents (possibly because I included a reference to ninjas when discussing strength).
Whew, a lot of parentheses there, huh? Anybody else notice that?
Shannon said a prayer over the babies and families, and then we had time to take pictures, chat, eat snacks, exchange gifts, and then manage the sugar rush that hit all of the children once the cookies and punch inevitably hit the bloodstream.
We are so excited and thankful to spend the rest of our lives loving our two boys and teaching them the ways of God. An overwhelming responsibility, but the best job in the world!
Have you ever attended a baby dedication or similar celebration? I would love to hear how your church does it. Our experience with Reed was much different, more of a presentation in front of the congregation. Please share your "Baby D" stories in the comments!
In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom shares the story of a time when she asked her father a question on a topic that was, unbeknownst to her, inappropriate. As I have navigated this strange and complicated week, his response has often come to mind:
"Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
"It's too heavy," I said.
"Yes," he said. "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children... For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
(ten Boom 26-27)
It has been a week of heavy things. More than I would care to admit, I have found myself trying to carry more than I can possibly bear. Then I set it down, pray again, and try not to pick it up. But with every news conference, headline, social media post, and conversation, I am tempted to carry it all again. Sometimes, I even feel obligated to worry; I feel guilty if I am not trudging around under anxiety and burdens like the rest of the world.
I found my footing this week after spending hours alone in prayer, walking my dog, and listening to a series of podcasts by my favorite author, Sally Clarkson. After listening to her most recent podcast (linked in the picture above), I created a plan to leave the burdens behind and trust more than I am right now. For me, that means putting my phone away for most of the day. No news, no social media. Because I can't solve this. I can't carry this. I don't have to- and I'm not called to, either.
Psalms 131:1-2 (pictured above) has been my anchor verse this week. Just as Reed leans on my shoulder and chatters away, oblivious to the tensions in our world, I can trust my Father to take care of me. And in his strength, I can find courage to do the small things:
- I can "build up" my home and create a place of security, peace, and beauty for my family.
-I can carry this new life inside of me, this baby boy, in a healthy body free of stress.
- I can, in God's strength, encourage and listen to my husband, friends, and family as they share their anxieties (while not carrying them with me through the rest of the day).
- I can be clothed in strength and dignity and laugh without fear of the future. (Prov. 31:25)
Oh, how I adore you. I am so thankful for you, my all-knowing, all-powerful God. You are good. You are faithful. You love me, and you love every person reading this right now.
Lord, strengthen my dear friends today. Let us remember that, in this time of uncertainty, You are never-changing. None of this is a surprise to you. We remember that this world is a broken place, only the shadow-lands of what is to come. We find comfort in knowing that you are always with us.
May our thoughts, words, and deeds reflect your character today, especially in our interactions with others. May we be filled with such peace and trust that our families will marvel at Your work in us and remember this season as a time of your great faithfulness.
We lift up our president, our national and state leaders, and others making decisions in this crisis. Give them wisdom.
We lift up our healthcare system, our nurses and doctors, and other people working hard every day to meet the needs of our society. Give them strength and health.
We lift up all those who are hurting in various ways due to the impact of this virus. Let us be your hands and feet in this broken world.
We know you are in control. We love you and we trust you, step by step.
In Jesus' name, Amen
Over the past few weeks, I have been working with Reed on staying focused while completing a series of tasks.
Our interactions usually go something like this:
Me: "Reed, I would like you to please get a rag from the drawer, get it wet, wipe your place at the table, and place the rag in the sink."
Me: "Try not to get distracted, okay?"
Reed: "Okay, Momma, don't worry, don't worry."
He usually trudges off and completes all of the tasks and we all move on with our day. Sometimes a puppy-sized snag enters in my grand scheme by the name of Echo, but those occurrences are becoming more rare.
A few weeks ago, I stopped at Kohl's to look for some shoes. I really, really wanted a pair of those cute little brown ankle boots everyone is wearing now. I promised Reed that we would be quick-- I was just getting a pair of shoes.
Of course, I kept veering off course while making my way to the shoe section. Suddenly, from the front of my cart, a voice squeaked,
"Mommy! Stop being distracted, okay?!"
Ahem. I've been caught.
This got me thinking about distraction and focus. Am I practicing what I teach? I began asking myself about my focus each day, inventorying areas of my life to see if I had a clear focus as a wife, mother, follower of Jesus, and teacher.
My short answer-- I am one distracted woman.
When studying this idea of focus, I noticed the Bible uses a few phrases to describe this same idea- like keeping my eyes "set" or "fixed". For example, Hebrews 12:2 tells us to "Fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith". One of my favorite passages, though, is Proverbs 3:23-27 (AMP):
Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you.
Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose] and let your gaze be straight before you.
Consider well the paths of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright.
Turn not aside to the right or left; remove your foot from evil.
I thought about a few characters in the Bible who lost focus:
Martha, distracted by housework in Luke 10: 38-42. I like to picture a big stinky pile of dirty dishes. Can you imagine? A big pile of dishes in your home when Jesus is there! What will He think of your homemaking skills?
Or Elijah, distracted by fear and intimidation concerning Jezebel in 1 Kings 19. She must have been quite the evil lady to bring that mighty prophet to such a state.
And famously, Peter, distracted by circumstances, fear, and doubt on the turbulent lake in Matthew 14.
All of the sudden, I find myself in quite an elite company of distracted humans. This brings me great comfort, and I find grace in the midst of this crowd, reminding me of my need for an outstretched Savior's hand as I tread on the waters to the places to where I feel called. He sees us in our seasons of distractions with eyes of love and compassion. My loss of focus is no surprise to Him.
Like many others, I attempt to set apart time in January to reset and establish my priories and vision for the coming year- professionally, personally, and spiritually. I usually spend the first weeks of the year setting goals, clearing my plate, beginning new habits. I grasp at focus, achieve it for a moment, and begin to feel like I'm walking on water. I can picture the successes the year is going to bring...
Reed reads an entire book, practices addition regularly, and picks out notes to worship songs on the guitar.
Echo and Oliver play and rest peacefully in convenient increments of time throughout the day. In fact, Echo learns to pick up his own toys, and Oliver makes it an entire week without having an accident in the house.
My students complete their work on time, participate in class, and thank me for my hard work before they leave each day. I catch snippets of excited conversation about how much they are enjoying the course.
"Mrs. Hacker's class is the BEST!"
I lose 10 pounds in the first two weeks of January. I exercise regularly and eat healthy. I think this is going to work long term! I need to buy new clothes for this newer, slimmer me, and I won't get distracted while I'm shopping, of course!
There's just something about the end of January. Real life just kinda smacks ya in the face. Reed spent most of the month sick with either a cold or a virus and got half of his cousins sick in the process. Cabin fever sets in with the below-freezing temperatures, and the voices in my house become increasingly loud and whiny. At one point, Reed argues for 10 minutes about which Paw Patrol character is best- Marshall or Chase. We can't really figure out what brought this on. When the argument is finally over, I look over to see that Echo has chewed the front cover off of my new book, The Lifegiving Parent.
I don't miss the irony.
Let's call this "dirty dishes".
Being an educator in January is like playing whack-a-mole. Lovingly, of course. Meetings, trainings, research, conflicts, paperwork, interruptions, work/home balance (remember those colds?), relationships, evaluations, testing, professional development, planning, and somehow, actual teaching. You know, teaching those real, precious humans in my care for 90 minute increments each day. Its a bit chaotic.
I hereby code my professional life "The Sea of Galilee".
Oh, and that diet I was on? I felt great for like a week. But then I really wanted carbs. And the weight always sneaks back on faster and easier than it comes off. Self-consciously, I pinch my waist. I try to arrange my shirt "just so" around my belt, right back in its old loop.
Definitely calling this one "Jezebel".
It's the end of January, and I feel my stress levels rise. I want to whine and complain like Martha or run away like Elijah. I feel discouraged as I slowly lose focus and feel my perspective sinking like Peter into the sea.
But again, there's that outstretched hand of compassion. I return to that crowded room of grace. Jesus gently reminds me:
Guard your heart. Your mind, thoughts, and emotions can run your life. Align your words and thoughts with My will and purpose. Be anxious for nothing-- don't wander or wonder. Examine your life; what is hindering or besetting your walk with Me? My grace is sufficient. Only one thing is necessary. Choose the good part that cannot be taken away from you. Focus on ME.
I don't think real focus is found in resolutions made in the new year. It's not that I think these are bad at all; in fact, I believe they are very valuable. But more importantly, I think perspective is found by sitting at the feet of Jesus each morning, intentionally investing in certain areas of my life throughout the day, and resting in His grace and love that is the perfect amount for just one day at a time.
What are your goals for the coming year? Are you making any progress? Let me know in the comments!
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Happy Easter Weekend, everybody!
Like many families, we try to make a big deal out of Good Friday and Easter weekend. Last year we visited the cross at church along with some other activities, some Jesus-focused, some not. This year I decided to follow what worked successfully this past Christmas: simplify. So today we baked hot cross buns and visited the cross. Sunday we will go to church and have family dinner with an egg hunt. That is all, and trust me, it's a lot less than our years past (even without a kid).
My life's step over the past year has tread more and more often in the land of intentional simplicity and peace. The last few months especially, months of work, school, sickness, and job changes, have followed two ideas, wrapped (I hope) in love:
Recognize and Avoid Distractions
I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?
Parent and Work Intentionally
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
So this Easter was about simplicity and focus. We kicked the Easter bunny to the curb this year (sorry bunny- nothing personal) and intentionally placed our parenting focus not on the culture, but on Jesus.
Don't worry... TLO is still getting a gigantic Easter basket! I like Peeps as much as anybody! And Reese's eggs. And giant chocolate bunnies. Oh, and those whopper-egg things.
(Wait- am I buying for him or me here??)
We started the morning by rolling out the dough for the hot cross buns we let rise overnight. I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe, of course.
Piles of sugar and raisins later, we popped them in the oven and then made the five minute trip to church to read the Good Friday story and talk about Jesus.
We read the Good Friday story from The Jesus Storybook Bible (our fav). My big idea was to take the book down to the cross, but that rain was a pourin'!
So we read in the car.
Reed had a lot of thoughts and questions after reading the story and then seeing the cross. Plus it was extra cool because of the rain, puddles, and wildlife. I still think it is difficult to make the Crucifixion/Resurrection story relevant to a 3 year old, but he came away understanding that Jesus died on a cross, it was really important, and He did it because of His love for us.
He also came away soaked, muddy, and incredibly happy.
Afterwards, we went home, dried off, iced our hot cross buns, and took a big pan of them to my family who we are not going to be able to see on Easter Sunday.
Overall, it was a super-good Friday. I hope you have some time to come away with your family this weekend and truly enjoy and focus in the moment. I wish you a blessed, distraction-free, peaceful, Jesus-focused Easter weekend!
“There was once an invisible man, the monster continued, though Conor kept his eyes firmly on Harry, who had grown tired of being unseen.
Conor set himself into a walk.
A walk after Harry.
It was not that he was actually invisible, the monster said, following Conor, the room volume dropping as they passed. It was that the people had become used to not seeing him.
"Hey!" Conor called. Harry didn't turn around. Neither did Sully nor Anton, though they were still sniggering as Conor picked up his pace.
And if no one sees you, the monster said, picking up its pace, too, are you really there at all?
- Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
This excerpt from one of my favorite books of 2017, A Monster Calls, sends chills down my spine every time I read it. That feeling of being invisible, feeling like people don't really know you, don't really see who you are, is certainly a nightmarish one. It is something more of us have felt than we might like to admit. And it's a feeling that reaches back through time; it's an old fowler's snare, an ancient struggle.
Not sure about that? Well, I certainly don't claim to be a biblical scholar in any possible way, but I recognize isolation when I see it. Especially when that person is a she. And a soon-to-be-mommy. And all of the sudden it might not be too difficult to see myself in this Biblical character in the pages of Genesis, now noticed by millions through the ages.
Her name is Hagar, and she is introduced in Genesis 16. She's a servant, and her story is a little (well, a lot) crazy. Basically, her mistress, Sarai, is unable to have children. In a desperate attempt to build a family, Sarai "gives" Hagar to her husband, Abram. Abram and Hagar sleep together, Hagar conceives a child, and nothing could possibly go wrong.
OF COURSE, this backfires horribly. Nobody saw that coming, right?! Sarai thinks Hagar has a bad attitude, gets upset, and complains to Abram. Abram replies, "do whatever you think is best" (seriously?), and Sarai's decision is to mistreat Hagar so horribly that Hagar flees with her pregnant belly into the wilderness.
Holy moly. What a mess! Dysfunction with a capital D. All of this from Abram and Sarai, later Abraham and Sarah, you know, like the father and mother of Isaac and grandparents of Jacob (Israel). Yet God loves them in their mess, sees their hearts, and makes a covenant with them. They are faithful, admirable people who fear God but stumble still, entangling Hagar in it all.
She seems to be in the ultimate worst-case scenerio: A past that's been out of her control, an abusive present, a scary and unknown future. So maybe her pregnancy hormones kicked in a little too strongly one day, but who can blame a girl for that? Ultimately, she's stuck out in the desert, pregnant, through very little fault of her own. She feels unloved, unseen, and completely invisible.
However, as she wanders in the wilderness, her story changes. She encounters God in the wilderness, as many of us do. I know I have. And there in the desert, with the hot dust whirling around her, an angel tells her to return to Abram and Sarai, submit to them, and name her son Ishmael.
Now other than the obvious detail that people don't see angels very often, it is also super rare in the Bible that a person is named by God before their birth. The fact that Hagar experiences both of these is incredible! She recognizes this, and instead of complaining to God or arguing with the angel about her situation, she realizes that, for the first time, she is noticed. I love how the NIV explains her reaction:
She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me"...
When I read that last week, I stopped and stared. That's what she named God after her experience with Him. He was the One who finally saw her. Someone who recognized her, around whom she did not feel invisible. For the first time, she was truly Seen.
There is certainly a call here for the hurting ones who feel invisible. The unloved, the unknown, the uninvited. The only One who can make you and me feel fulfilled and known is the Creator and Savior. Beginning and pursuing a life-long relationship with Jesus is the only way to feel fulfilled in this life. He is the God who sees you, just as He saw Hagar all of those millenniums ago, and He loves you dearly.
This story also made me think about all of the wonderful people in my life that I pass each day. I wonder if, as a representative of Christ, I let them see the God Who Sees in me. Do I show people that I see them, that I want to know them, that I am interested in them? Does my family ever feel like I am not fully present around them? Do my students ever feel invisible around me? Do my coworkers and friends ever feel ignored? Do I attempt to connect with the people I encounter each day- not to talk about myself, but to listen to what they are really saying? Do I observe their body language for what they are not saying?
Do I reflect a God who sees?
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It seems to me this summer has been all about change. Transition from the school year to a family beach vacation in June, vacation to grad school in late June, school to stay-at-home-mom mode in July, home to a wild West adventure in August, and finally, the wild West to back to work. As summer melts into fall, it's time for me to settle back into routine at last- an early morning communion with my Father, a bittersweet goodbye to my sleeping son, a busy day of teaching smart kiddos, and too-quick nights of sweet family time, easy dinners, and packed lunches. As this last weekend of summer flashes by, my heart is filled with too many emotions.
The sadness is there, of course, along with the mix of excitement, anticipation, and anxiety that comes with the start of a new school year. But looming big and dark is the realization that it's indescribably hard and painful to leave my boy to go to work. As a result, it's easy to slip into dread, fear, sadness, and guilt this time of year. I found myself approaching that place last night and gave myself this three-point pep talk. My hope is that it helps someone else, too.
Point #1: I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way.
I've laid my heart, my plans, my desires before my King over and over and over. And each time, He gently makes my path clear. I trust Him. And I know, beyond all doubt, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. And that means that He will bless and shelter my family in this next transition, just how He has in the past. My trust and faith is in Him and His word.
If you surrender your life to Christ and lay your plans before Him, He will guide your footsteps. It is a promise repeated in His word. Whatever transition you find yourself in, whatever the circumstances, whatever others may say, and whatever your feelings may be, calm and quiet yourself in His promises.
Point #2: I can replace dread with expectation.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5: 6-7
"Dread" is a pretty strong word, and one that maybe we don't talk about enough. It creeps in, deceptive, and tends to stick around. Dread has no place in a joy-filled life, and dread is a choice. I have the power, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to overcome dread (2 Timothy 1:7), but I must humble myself before the Lord and accept his plans. Whenever an uncomfortable transition comes my way, it is helpful to remind myself that when I humble myself to God's plans and choose not to live in anxiety and dread, I can expect great things in my future and in my family.
Point #3: Rejoice in the season and love on.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12: 1-2
This verse covers this season for me in every way. I will offer my present, my future, my family, and myself to God in this season. With the help of the Holy Spirit I will renew my mind and replace dread with expectation. And then I will be able to do the will of my Father: I will love the people in in my life every day. That is my desire, to be a lover of people, whomever that may be in the season I am in. And I believe that God will meet my needs and take care of me and my family in every way. I look forward to a future of blessing.
So my heart is out there with all you mommas, educators, students, and other peeps dealing with a big change right now. I hope this pep talk helped somebody other than me. And hey, if you need prayer, just leave a note in the comments and I'm on it. And you can say a prayer for me, too.
I'm telling on myself tonight.
I feel like God decides to reveal my brokenness to me in small pieces. It's like the Holy Spirit will convict me of a sin we overcome that small thing, and then all of the sudden my eyes are opened to another area of weakness. And we start the journey all over again.
Let me explain. So a few months ago, God brought to my attention (again) that I was gossiping. Every time I would gossip, He would nudge my heart. Even when I prefaced the gossip with excuses like:
"just between us..."
"We are FAMILY (so it's OK)..."
"I need to get this off my chest..."
It was TOUGH. I felt AWFUL. I repented and asked God to help me keep my mouth shut. But it wasn't easy and I messed up a lot. I bought a book. I talked to my husband about it but talked to God more. I read my Bible. And over a few weeks, I felt myself getting better, able to stop my tongue before it crossed the line, thankful for God's grace. Of course I still mess up, way more than I care to share. But once my tongue was (more) in check, God brought another area of my life to my attention, and we did it over again.
His nudges aren't unto condemnation. But I do feel a dose of humility each time it happens; I have to breathe in grace a little deeper, spend more time alone. Listen. Pray. Read. And understand, once again, how much I need a Savior.
It's a beautiful cycle. I am so thankful. The latest lesson in the Holy Spirit Academy hit me pretty hard a few days ago:
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
1 Corinthians 13: 7 (AMPC)
Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.
That is what stood out to me. I want to be a lover of people so badly. It is my heart's desire- more than anything. This verse came up in my memory this week and suddenly, I saw another mess, another broken piece of myself. I remembered, in a rush, all of the times this week that I made poor assumptions about people I dearly love. I was cynical, I jumped to conclusions, I "read too much" into a conversation, a post on social media, a silence. As a result, my relationships were weakened and my joy was stolen. But I didn't recognize it until God revealed it to me. He is so good like that.
Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.
Of course this verse is not instructing me to be a blind follower, blissful in ignorance. I am always to pursue wisdom in my relationships. But too often I jump straight to skepticism. I often forget to empathize, to see things from some else's point of view. I just assume, perhaps not the worst about that person, but something not good. And that is not wisdom. And it is certainly not love.
Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.
To be a lover like Jesus, I must believe the best about someone- their motives, their situations, their perceptions. When I become cynical, the relationship is damaged and my joy is immediately gone. That was my biggest takeaway. I found these negative thoughts about others were stealing my joy, and as selfish as it sounds, that is the biggest reason I want to work on my thought life more. Joy is priceless to me. Peace is priceless to me. I want to pursue peace with my fellow human beings not only to love them well, but also to preserve joy and peace in my relationships. So assumptions have to go.
Father, thank you for your never ending mercy and grace. Teach me to be a lover of people. A Lover like You. Help me to be ready to believe the best of every person. Show me when I am being cynical, making assumptions, or believing something to be true that is not. Thank You for being my Teacher. Thank You for Your grace. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Reed's favorite Bible story (right now) is David and Goliath. At first, Noah and the Ark was his favorite, then Jonah and the Whale, briefly Moses, and now David and Goliath. We have The Usborne Book of Bible Stories, and we love it. It comes with a expressive audio CD that I play at night sometimes as he is going to sleep. This book finds the balance between telling the stories accurately while still making them toddler-friendly. And that is quite a feat!
We have a lot of fun reading through the Bible stories together. I love hearing Reed's interpretation of what is going on- "Moses is crying! They need to put him back in the basket, he needs a nap" and his questions, too- "Did Goliath trust God?". It also makes me revisit some stories that maybe I haven't read in a while and see them in a new way. I re-read David and Goliath this week in my Bible and took away some pretty powerful lessons to apply to my life:
1. Put your problem in its place
So David shows up to the battlefield to bring his brothers some food and is startled to hear Goliath screaming in defiance at the Israelites; he then sees the Israelite army run away in fear. David responds by immediately putting Goliath in his place. This tells me two things: one, that David understood the superiority of God over man. Two, that David had a habit of placing his problems in their place in his mind. This is reflected in his speech. David asks, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17: 26, emphasis mine).
Look at his word choice! David didn't immediately talk to the people around him about the size of Goliath, his giant muscles, or his impressive weaponry. He didn't wonder or worry or chatter nervously before coming to his conclusion of faith. In fact, as soon as David starts talking, Goliath is no longer mentioned by name (in the NIV), he is simply "this Philistine". Isn't that fascinating? He immediately speaks the about Goliath and puts him in his place. His words reflect his heart and his faith in God.
2. Pay attention to who you allow to speak into your life.
David's strong words get him attention pretty quickly. His older brother becomes angry and belittles him in front of others in the army. He basically tells him to to be quiet and go back to his "few sheep" (v. 28-29). Wow- what's the story there? I need the scoop! Why did Eliab react so strongly? After all- he could go fight Goliath and collect the huge reward. I am reminded of how, in the previous chapter, Samuel passed up Eliab when he was anointing a new king to follow Saul. It seems to me that Eliab is still bitter and jealous about the whole thing. He doesn't seem to be worried about David's welfare, or concerned out of love. I think he saw David's strength and trust in God and resented it; he perceived it as arrogance. It is a great reminder that a statement of faith can be an unpopular choice. The people around you, maybe even ones close to you, might want you to just "go back to your sheep"- no risks, no attention, nothing to rock the boat. Join the masses. Some may become ashamed and resent God's use of the weak and foolish things of this world (1 Corinthians 1:27). But how does David react to his brother? He says, "Can't I even speak?". He then "turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter" (v. 29-30). Man, I love that! He stays with the truth! He sticks with God's plan! He puts Eliab in his place too, turns his back to him, and asks the same question to someone who might be a little more supportive. He stays on the defense against negativity. He monitors who speaks into his life.
3. Carefully inspect the weight you carry
David's words continue to grab the attention of the people around him, and King Saul eventually hears about it. David encourages the king (v. 32) and convinces Saul to allow him to fight, reminding him of God's power (v. 34-36). Boy, his words are just so positive, powerful, and life-giving. My prayer today: Let me speak as David did in the face of my everyday trials, my conflicts, my life-changing moments. How that would change my life! Saul blesses David, and then dresses David in his armor:
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
(1 Samuel 17:38-40)
So again, I ask myself, why? Why did Saul dress David in his armor? Were the reasons born of goodwill- did he want to give him the best he had? Did he want to protect him with only the best? Or were the reasons showing a lack of faith- did he doubt David's skill? Did he want to make his mark on this remarkable act of bravery that he could not do? Whatever the reason, Saul's lack of faith is shown in this action, relying still on his earthly garments when David is so obviously wielding the shield of faith. David realizes that the armor, although nice, is not a good fit for him and rejects it.
My takeaway: sometimes, in this fight, this everyday spiritual warfare, it can become tempting to take on things that God has not instructed us to take on. These heavy weights can drag us down in our fight. Some may be suggested in goodwill. Two examples immediately come to mind:
1) Time Suckers
I used to be AWFUL at saying no. I would let people drag me in and out of their problems, schedules, and activities, leaving me exhausted at the end of each week with little to nothing to give to my family, little free time to enjoy a lazy Sunday, certainly little time to focus on growing spiritually. A few months ago, I intentionally paused before making a big decision and managed to squeak out a timid, "no". Now, I feel addicted to saying no! It was funny for a little bit, but I've calmed down now. Not saying "no" in a selfish way, but in a healthy way. In a "what is best for my family and me?" way. In a "is this something God is calling me to do?" way. I'm addicted to scheduled simplicity, and now I understand that time-suckers can distract and exhaust me from keeping my focus and perspective on what matters most.
2)Negativity and discouragement in the guise of "advice"
Yep, we all know and love those people. The well-meaning, wonderful people who always have discouragement and negativity gift-wrapped as well-meaning advice. If we are not careful, this negativity can weigh us down like Saul's armor weighed on David. Shake it off, take it off, it doesn't belong to you. Turn your back on it if you need to. Know what God says about you, know what he has told you to do, and go kill your Goliath.
Other weights in the fight might not have as pure motives; they might actually be distractions or manifestations of a lack of faith.
This one body-slammed me this week. I found myself worrying about everything: bug bites, "what-ifs", relationships, the future, and on and on and on. Silly stuff. But worry consumes. By the end of each day, I was exhausted. And I know worry stems from a lack of faith, from not trusting God, which led me to feel...
It's a downward spiral from there. Get me off the crazy train! If I'm not careful, it can drag me down for days, weeks even, and all spiritual growth stops, and to be honest, can even start to go backwards. These two distractions are a one-two punch. I spent the next few days immersed in my favorite Bible teachings and worship music to get out of that fight. When worry, guilt, and other distractions creep in, fight back! What God has ahead for you is too good, too important, to give up because of these weights. Press toward the mark, friends!
I am so excited after looking back through these takeaways from David and Goliath. It's amazing that after hundreds and hundreds of years, God's word is still so applicable, powerful, and relevant. I am so thankful for that!
And just in case you forgot, David beat that "MEAN, BIG, FAT giant- hit him right in the head" (Reed's words). We will overcome!
This past week was, to put it mildly, an adjustment. I got home from Myrtle Beach Saturday night, started my first graduate-level class at Miami University on Monday, and catapulted myself into a jarring week of transition from vacation back into being a full-time student, leaving Reed after being with him full-time for 10 days, and staying up late each night writing and doing homework. It was a fantastic week, but I have been ready for bedtime since about 4:30- maybe earlier? It is weeks like these that I find myself susceptible to stress, fatigue, possibly some crankiness, too. Is anybody with me?
Even in this hectic week, I managed to steal away each morning and get a few quiet moments alone with God. Because I know I couldn't do any of this without him. Some days I was able to focus and get 45 minutes, other days I was scatterbrained and just managed a small devotional. But people, you don't want to know me without my armor on! Because without it, that stress, fatigue, and crankiness can sink my day, and I will easily take my family's day with me. And I know I'm not the only one out there! Paul writes about this armor in Ephesians 6:10-18, if you are interested in reading further.
Spending time with God each morning helps me put on my armor and get spiritually dressed for the day ahead. And that part of my day has become pretty routine. My problems usually start when the people come out.
Are you the same? I do great when I'm by myself, drinking my coffee, reading my Bible. I feel so strong in my faith at that point in my day- it's really funny when I think about it. Driving in my car and listening to worship music is easy-peasy. I feel so connected, so spiritual. I feel the glow around my head (just kidding... maybe). I don't even have to mess with traffic when I'm driving at 6 AM. I usually rely on my armor when the people come out- whoever the people might be. Kids, spouses, students, coworkers, teachers, neighbors, bosses. People on the road, people in the store, people on social media, people texting, people calling. Because I want to love people well, as soon as the relationships start, I need that armor!
So what to do? Of course I rely on the armor, I pray, I try to remember what I've studied in the Word. But honestly, most of the time my life is so CRAZY BUSY that I need a little extra reminder. And, as any teacher will tell you, when we need a reminder we pull out our secret weapon:
(cue superhero music)
Post-it notes have been my spiritual warfare strategy for years. My husband laughs sometimes at the random notes I have taped to the walls and mirrors because they don't make sense to anyone except me. My mother-in-law taught me this little battle strategy- by modeling, mostly. Her house is always covered in Bible verses and prayers. She has the "typical" notes on the refrigerator, portraits with Bible verses, maybe notes taped on the walls. But she can get a little Miss Clara-crazy from War Room too when the occasion arises, writing on her door, mirrors, and even spending hours making little "scripture cards" that she has on her person at all times. It's an obsession, a passion. And I LOVE it. And you want to guess who I call when I'm fighting a battle? Yep- because she's serious. Isn't that what the Bible should be to us?
Think about this:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (emphasis mine)
I tend to take the Bible literally. (Silly me!) Although many people agree that this group of verses is a metaphor, asserting that God's word should be the focal point of our life and home, I certainly don't think there is any harm in taking it literally. Ultimately, the gospel should be our obsession and passion. I looked up "frontlets between your eyes." Yeah, I'm not ready to get that literal. But I will write on my walls!
About a year ago, I painted a section of my wall in chalkboard paint. Unfortunately, I don't have the "barista" talent to write and draw creatively on my chalkboard (like Aunt B), but every so often I scrawl down a new verse to fit what I need to work on in the moment...
or what is inspiring me...
or what God might be speaking to my heart (these are some of my MIL's scripture cards). Ever since I started surrounding myself with God's word, I find myself meditating on His ways more often, reminded to live a life that bears 100x fruit. And when a trial comes my way, I can break out the big guns, the notes, markers, and chalk, and whatever else I may need, and physically fight back with God's word. I love how the King James Version says it concerning David:
And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.
1 Samuel 30:6 (emphasis mine)
David understood that he could strengthen himself in God. I don't want to idly sit and meditate on my worries and trials. At the very least, I'll grab a stack of post-its, start writing, and prayerfully place God's word all over my house- Miss Clara style.
When I was in college working toward a career, one of the most important factors in my decision was the benefits of the teaching profession. A consistent schedule, holidays and summers free for family, good insurance, maternity leave, and retirement were all very important to me. It is a job with pretty great benefits, and I am very blessed! Serving Jesus comes with great benefits, too- way more amazing, actually! David lists many of them in Psalm 103:
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103: 1-5
This psalm has been my favorite to read all week. Reading and journaling by the beach, watching the sun rise, and hearing the waves crash on the shore has been my favorite part of each day. Here is a little excerpt from my journal:
My favorite part of this psalm (this week) is where David lists the "benefits" of loving God. I believe he gives five in a row in the first few verses:
1) He forgives all my sins
2) He heals all my diseases
3) He redeems my life
4) He crowns me with love and compassion
5) He satisfies me with good things
I think many people in "the world" are deceived into believing that a lifetime spent with Jesus is a restricted, limited one. And I think that deep down, some Christians believe this, too. This idea breeds discontent, envy, or covetousness, then compromise, and finally sin. And sin always costs us something. The longer I run this race, I think "compromise" may be the most dangerous, deciding force when it comes to eternity. The Bible is full of stories and verses about compromises that led to destruction. I just read one this week. Paul writes,
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.
Ephesians 5:3 (NIV- my emphasis added)
Yikes! Not even a hint! Friends, we must not give Satan a foothold, not even an inch in our lives, homes, and families. Oh, it may seem silly and harmless at times, but don't be deceived. Be alert! Satan is a roaring lion, seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Father, reveal areas of compromise in my life. Let me not be deceived.
I think this is part of the reason why David instructs us to "forget not" the benefits of serving the Lord. When I meditate on the five points listed in Psalm 103, I am reminded of the goodness of the Lord and the importance of being heavenly-minded, and I am overwhelmed by His love for me. I am reminded that His ways are higher and better- all of the time. When I look at my family and my life, I want to do everything I can to draw near to God, know Him more, and receive his favor and blessing. Psalm 103 reiterates this reminder of the lasting effects of serving God. Verses 17-18 (NLT) state:
But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
When we do our best to trust and obey God, he is faithful to extend salvation to our future generations. It's a promise! And like any mother, I want God's best for my children. If there's a promise concerning Jacob or Reed, I'm claiming it!
Remembering God's goodness, worshipping Him, and living a life that follows his commandments is a life of joy, blessing, and favor that our children, neighbors, and the people around us will notice. Even in the toughest of times, it is not difficult to sense and know the goodness of God. Prayerfully meditate with me on His benefits today.