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Fullness of Life Through Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

If you’ve ever seen the movie Braveheart, the first image likely to come into your mind is  Mel Gibson’s blue painted face screaming, “FRRREEEEEEDDDOOOMMM!” as he rides into battle to bravely defend Scotland.  And if you’re a proud American, you likely proclaim that our country is great because it is free.  Our beautiful National Anthem even resounds this triumph with the concluding words, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  No matter how many times I’ve heard it, those majestic lyrics are enough to bring me (or any other patriot) to tears.  

It’s amazing how much strong emotion is brought on by the word and concept of freedom.  And rightly so- for it is the inborn desire of every person to be free. We yearn for the ability to think, speak, and act without hinderance or restraint; to not be governed by a foreign entity; and to not be imprisoned or enslaved to any person or thing.  

The quest for freedom takes form in many aspects of our lives.  This is evidenced by advertisements aimed at helping us find financial freedom, or advertisements informing us how working at home allows freedom in schedule setting or travel.  We even seek freedom in our physical appearance, choosing clothing, accessories, and hairstyles that reflect who we are as a person. And when it comes to relationships (or even our appearance), we might lean into phrases like, “I’m free to be me.”  We go after freedom in every category of life because it brings relief, joy, and peace.  Some might even say freedom is the foundation for life itself.  

As much as I enjoy the freedoms of this country, or believe in the benefits of financial freedom, or value the right to self-expression and healthy relationships, the truth is, these are not the freedoms I really need.  They are the freedoms I love and enjoy…but they cannot save my soul.  

Galatians 5:1 tells us it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is twofold: 1)Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven. Meaning, no longer can Satan (or anyone else for that matter) accuse us before God.  Our sins have been paid for in full, and for those who are in Christ, we can stand before God Almighty, uncondemned, covered in His grace. And 2) We are no longer slaves to sin; sin has been dethroned as our master!  Instead, we become servants to Christ. If you find this unsettling or confusing, take comfort in Romans 6:22 which says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  

It may seem paradoxical, but a life lived in service to the Savior of the world is the life of true freedom.  There is no lasting joy to be had when we are in slavery to our sin- for this is a slavery that leads to death.  There is however, infinite and eternal joy found in living obediently to Christ- for this is a servitude that leads to life.  

Indeed, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is the entire theme of this website as well as my book, Remade: Living Free.  I humbly invite you to join with me in the pursuit of understanding the depths of this freedom given to us by the God who loves us immeasurably.    

Hopeful Expectation

Following some time in the Word and prayer this Christmas Eve morning, I felt a twinge of sadness- of longing.  I have to say, this feeling took me a bit by surprise.  I had prayed for God to prepare my heart for the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the flesh, that joyous event filled with awe, wonder, and promise.  And I thought how amazing it is to live in a time to know the story of the Savior’s birth.  For thousands of years God’s people awaited the Messiah.  Thousands of years.  They didn’t know the story.  They had no idea about Mary, Joseph, shepherds, or wise men.  Nor did they know about the cross or the empty tomb. 

What must it have been like to wait for a promise for so long?  Then it hit me: the longing I feel now is the same of the Israelites of the Old Testament.  Like they, I’m waiting for the Messiah- though not for his birth, but for his return.  

As has been the case since the fall of man, this year the world has experienced illness, loss, and devastation of all kinds accompanied by fear, anger and sorrow.  I can’t help but think, how long must we wait?  My heart longs for the King to come and make all things new. 

But come again he will.  The book of Hebrews speaks of our glorious inheritance secured by the Prince of Peace, the author and anchor of our salvation who came to us as a babe in the manger.  The hope of all humanity who came once in flesh 2000 years ago will come again.  

This Christmas may we all be filled with praise and adoration as we consider the mercy and grace given to use from God at the birth of the Christ.  And in our restless longing may we not grow weary in our spirit; for the Son of Man will come again- though not as a babe born to a virgin, but as the Rider on the white horse coming for his bride.  May we  rejoice this season in the fulfilled promise of a Savior as we continue to wait in hopeful expectation of what is still to come.      

The Light of Life

*This post was published in this month’s issue of Faith on Every Corner Magazine. Please check out this amazing (and free!) online magazine at faithoneverycorner.com

It’s impossible to imagine the wonder of Christmas without the brilliance of thousands of twinkling lights.  In fact, the lights are one of my favorite parts of the season.  As a child, I loved riding in the backseat of my grandparents’ car at nighttime as we drove around our small town ohhhing and ahhhing at all of the festive lights.  And without a doubt, our church’s Christmas Eve candlelit service was my favorite service of the whole year. I loved the sense of awe and majesty those candles commanded.  As an adult, I still look forward to the cozy glow of the lights from our living room Christmas tree.          

Until recently I just assumed the lights were part of the holiday season in that they marked this unique time of the year; that they were nothing more than pretty decorations and tradition.  And maybe they are those things.  But for those who know Christ, perhaps they serve as a reminder of the essence of Christmas- a reminder that light has come into the world.  

The first 5 verses of the gospel of John give us incredible insight into the person of Jesus Christ.  It is in this passage we learn the baby who was born in Bethlehem is the eternal Word and the creator of all things.  And not only that, but all things were created for him!  He himself was the life and light of men, unable to be overcome by darkness.  

A few chapters later Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” (John 8:12).  He spoke these words during the Festival of Booths, a celebration commemorating God’s faithfulness to the Israelites during their time of desert wandering after the exodus.   During this festival, God’s provision of a fiery cloud at night would have been remembered:  

 “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night,” (Exodus 13:21).   

What Jesus claimed here was simply incredible.  He said that he was the light; the light to which the pillar of fire pointed.   

The glory of God had been in that great cloud night after night.  Later, His glory filled the tabernacle and eventually the temple:

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34)

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” (2 Chronicles 13b-14)

This glory returned in Jesus who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Imagine.  The glory of God in the face of a baby.  The glory of God laying in a manger.  

And this glory forever shines brightly in the face of Jesus Christ.  “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6). 

This light is spiritual life in Christ who raised us from our spiritual deadness.  It is the light of our salvation.  For as Colossians 3:1 states, And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” 

This is the light we celebrate this Christmas season.  

700 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote these words: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”   Praise God that this has been and continues to be so!  May we give thanks now and always for the glorious light that entered the world as a newborn child; the light that now sits at the right hand of the throne of God; the light that will reign forevermore.

No Shadow of Turning

On account of being a morning person I’m usually the first awake and the first to step foot out of bed.  Morning is by far my favorite part of the day.  (To those of you rolling your eyes right now, just bear with me here!) Although I enjoy starting the day with a good run or some other workout, what I really love is being the one to “open up the house.”  After the sun begins sharing its morning rays, I love turning the blinds and throwing open the curtains all throughout the downstairs.  Equally, once the sun has set I’m the first one to “close the house” by again turning the blinds and pulling the curtains shut.  

As I thought about this quirky daily ritual I began thinking about the significance of light, darkness, and shadows.   

I’ll admit, shadows have always confused me a bit.  I remember having great difficulty on a standardized test question asking about the shape of a shadow being cast when the sun was at a particular angle.  So…yeah, not my strong suit.  But what I do know is this: light is needed to create a shadow; but light does not (and cannot) have a shadow itself.  Perhaps this is what Thomas Obadiah Chisolm was thinking about when he penned these beautiful lyrics in the 19th century: 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.  

No shadow of turning with thee.  What a beautiful way to describe God’s unchanging nature.  However, we cannot credit Mr. Chisholm as the original author of this truth.  That honor belongs to the brother of Jesus.   

In verse 17 of the first chapter of James we find these words: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  

This one verse is so rich and full of truth!  How often we forget that God is the Father of lights and is light Himself.  1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”  What a comfort it is to know we serve a God who is completely pure and holy!  

Scripture also provides several passages about the glorious light abounding from the presence and glory of God: 

“Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory,” (Ezekiel 10:4).

“His brightness was like the light;  rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power,” (Habakkuk 3:4).

Furthermore, He alone will be the source of all light in the glorious City of God.  The prophet Isaiah wrote of this when he said, “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory,” (Isaiah 60:19).  Likewise, the book of Revelation tells us, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb,” (Revelation 21:22-23).

Truly, God is light and in him is no darkness at all.  There can be no shifting shadows of His character, and no damper placed on His glory.  From everlasting to everlasting only the pureness of His radiant holiness abounds.  

What a beautiful truth to cling to in the midst of this troubled world.  And when the darkness of doubt creeps into our heart and minds, we can heed these words from the Father of heavenly lights, “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6).  Indeed.  He is the great I AM, who was and is and always will be.  There is no shadow of turning within Him, and just as He is, forever He will be.  This beautiful knowledge is a gift of rest for His children.  For as James also reminds us, every good and perfect gift is from above.  

This week as I go about my daily “opening and closing” of the house, I will use it as an opportunity to meditate on the truth of our one true and unchanging Light.  I pray you will do the same.

The God of All Comfort in Depression

 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”  (Psalm 42:11)

Disturbed.  Turmoil.  Downcast. These are words often used in association with an emotional crisis.  Words used to express a state of distress or despair.  Over the last 14 years, countless clients experiencing depression have come to my office in search of a remedy.  It’s interesting that these clients have varied in age, skin colors, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, and have had vastly different histories and experiences.  And yet, there seems to be a common denominator…something King David knew full well.

King David, the mighty warrior who slayed Goliath and Israel’s most triumphant king, experienced times of great sadness.  In the above verse he inquires: Why is my soul so cast down?  and Why so disturbed within me? It’s the same questions my clients ask, and it’s the same questions you and I have asked ourselves.

So what is the common thread?  We find our answer when David exclaims, “Hope in God.”  Indeed, lost or misplaced hope is the commonality of a downcast spirit.  Placing our hope in the things of this world- beauty, money, fame, status, approval, careers, relationships-  only leads us to feel disappointed, disillusioned, and dissatisfied.  Abandoning hope all together leaves us even worse.  

But when we shift our focus to God and meditate on His character, we find peace and satisfaction for our souls.  And how much more so when we look to our Living Hope, Jesus Christ!  In this world we will have trouble (John 16:33).  We will experience times of sadness, and even depression.  But Jesus assures us he has overcome the world and is preparing a heavenly home for those who are in Him.  This, and only this, is our glorious hope and the ultimate remedy for a downcast spirit.

Questions: 1) In what have you been placing your hope? 2) How have the things of this world failed you, or lead you to despair? 3) Read 1 Peter 1:3-4.  What steps can you take each day to fix your mind on our glorious and living hope? 

Prayer:  Dear God, forgive me for seeking the things of this world to bring me what only you can.  Thank you for your unconditional love, your abounding faithfulness, and for the gift of your son, Jesus.  Father, I praise you for the hope of our salvation and for your promise to never leave us.  May your Holy Spirit prompt my heart to remember these truths at all times.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. 

The God of All Comfort in Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Phillipians 4:6-7)

A restless mind, jittery legs, and trouble breathing.  These are just a few manifestations of anxiety.  Anxiety runs the gamut of diagnoses in the DSM-V, and includes everything from Unspecified Anxiety Disorder to Generalized Anxiety Disorder to phobias.  For some, it may look like excessive worry about the future or fear of failure.

Isn’t it amazing then that the Apostle Paul (empowered by the Holy Spirit) tells us to be anxious for nothing?  This hardly seems possible!  Yet, we know with God nothing is impossible- nothing is too hard for Him!  I love that in the midst of this difficult command He doesn’t just leave us hanging.  Instead, He gently instructs us how to free ourselves of anxiety.  

Right before we are told to “be anxious for nothing,” we are also told to rejoice in the Lord always (v.4).  Rather than focus on the circumstance at hand, we are to rejoice in the person of God.  Focusing on His attributes and times of past faithfulness is the breath of fresh air needed when anxiety overwhelms us.  

Paul then says, By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  This is an amazing invitation to cast all of our worries on Him- to pour out our hearts to the God of the Universe!  He is our Father who loves us, and He invites us to pray with thanksgiving in our hearts.    

The result of this instruction? The peace which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Peace.  The longing of every anxious heart and mind.  What a wonderful promise given to us by God in His Word.  In our anxious moments, may we quickly remember to rejoice in God with a spirit of thanksgiving as we seek Him in prayer.  Then, we will have peace. 

Questions: 1) When are you most prone to anxiety?  2) List specific traits of God (or past instances of His faithfulness) to focus on when feeling anxious.  3) What do you need to bring to God in prayer today?  Write them down and pray through these.  Thank Him for His goodness and love!

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the invitation to come to you with all of my anxieties.  You are a God of grace and mercy and you are so good to me.  I rejoice in who you are and praise you for your unfailing love.  Thank you that through Christ, your peace can dwell in me richly.  In his mighty name we pray, Amen. 

(Un)Stuck in a Moment

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I love the 90’s.  The years of 1994-2000 were my adolescence. (Proud member of the class of Y2K right here!)  That means I get super nostalgic about things like flannel shirts, baggy jeans and t-shirts, clogs, Friends, hacky-sacks, disc-mans, and 90’s alternative rock.  Give me some Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, or Pearl Jam any day of the week.  And also U2.  After all, they were the band of the millennium.  Now, I know their albums Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby were the height of their awesomeness but I’m also a fan of their 2001 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind.   

On that particular album there is a lesser known song called Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.  If you’re unfamiliar, it’s worth the 4 minutes and 33 seconds of listening time.  But in case you decide to forego the youtube search, I’ll clue you in to the main idea: the song is directed to someone going through a rough time, someone who (as the title mentions) feels stuck.  The song then concludes with these lyrics: 

“And if, and if the night runs over, and if the day won’t last; And if your way should falter, along the stony pass; It’s just a moment, this time will pass.”    

I think this is the same message Axl Rose was also going for when he sang: 

“Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.”  

Like Bono and Axl, I would like to offer a personal insight when it comes to some stuck moments- as in those moments filled with complaints and self-pity.  Perhaps there’s a way to move those moments along with both a little more tempo and purpose.

I was having such a moment a few weeks back.  In the midst of it all I knew I was being petty and ridiculous.  But still.  I was in a mood and the thoughts just kept coming.  At first I tried to tell myself how awful I was being and made an attempt to focus my mind on something else.  

That didn’t work. 

If anything, it just made me feel angrier.  So, I figured I could either keep trying to talk myself out of being petty, or give myself some minutes to wallow in my self-imposed misery.  

I made the conscious choice to wallow. 

However, this choice was made with a full understanding that I was not meant to stay in that place of petty resentment; that those minutes could exist, but only for an allotted time.  I looked at the clock and gave myself 8 minutes to think all of my ridiculously selfish thoughts. 

Two interesting things happened next, the first of which was this: after the first minute I didn’t really feel the need to take 7 more.  Strangely, after I gave myself permission to dwell, it just didn’t seem necessary to do so.  

Second, shortly after the taken minute I was able to reflect upon where my thoughts were coming from.  What emotion or need was driving all of this?  

Turns out, I was having a moment of jealousy and insecurity.  I absolutely recognized the need to lay down my pride.  But I also recognized that what I really wanted- and maybe needed- was affirmation from friends.  And that became my prayer: for God to forgive my jealous heart and to help me lay down my pride; to remind me that I am immensely loved by the King of the Universe; and to provide, as He saw fit, the words of affirmation I desired from others. 

That prayer was like a giant sigh of relief and the key to becoming unstuck.

What I meant as an 8 minute gripe session, He meant as a moment to teach me about who He is.  These moments left me thanking God for His gracious love for me, even when I am most unlovable.  It left me overwhelmed by His patience and amazed by His compassion for my emotions and needs.  But most of all, it caused me to praise Him that His purposes prosper above my own.  Truly our God is the God of every moment.

S’mores and Beyond: A Camping Tale

I want to go on the record to say that I fully acknowledge stereotypes are just that- stereotypes.  Most often, they aren’t reflective of reality.  

However.  

Sometimes circumstances provide evidence for the establishment of said stereotypes.  Packing a vehicle for a one night camping trip with 5 women is one of them.  

Everything from the number of group texts regarding who was bringing what, to the crazy amount of clothes and gear crammed and overflowing (albeit somewhat orderly) in the back of an SUV was classic.  (It’s possible there were also a few randomly stashed bottles of wine in there as well.)  I  just smiled as I watched my husband lovingly bite his tongue when it was my turn to stuff my things into the vehicle.  And I’m still laughing at the memory of my friend saying, “I don’t know how we could’ve brought less!” as we headed for the highway, ready for camping adventure.    

I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant going into the trip.  After all, we were tent camping in Michigan in early October…and I hate being cold.  But some things are worth the cold, and this was certainly one of them.   (I’ll also give my husband credit here because he was emphatic that I not back out!)  I’m so glad I listened to him.  Had I not, here’s what I would have missed: 

1)  Some really great food- including a fantastic doughnut.  If you know me at all you know that I love to eat!  And I really love doughnuts.  So when the first stop of our trip was a quaint pumpkin patch, I was beyond pumped to see a sign for homemade doughnuts and apple cider.  And oh man!  I’ve had some good doughnuts in my day, but this was by far the best ever!  Later that night we also had a truly first rate camping dinner made over the fire.  Everything everyone contributed was superb.  In and of itself, the food was great.  But as we all know, the enjoyment of food is only intensified by the company you share it with.  Which leads me to my second point…

2)    Laughter and camaraderie. This probably goes without saying, but the conversation was constant and covered everything from parenting and careers to music, food, social media, and everything in between.  I loved that we could go back and forth from light-hearted trivial topics to real life problems so seamlessly.  That kind of camaraderie is such a gift and I’m beyond blessed to have these women in my life.  They are intelligent, funny, hard-working, loving, and genuine.  They’re also the kind of women who encourage and inspire me to do great things. 

Speaking of which…

 3) An epic hike.  Sometimes hiking trails turn out to be a little longer than you think.  And sometimes it’s also possible to get lost on those longer-that-thought trails.  What we thought initially would be a 5 mile hike turned into well over 13 (possibly 15, depending on who’s watch you consider most accurate).  I will say, a unifying factor in our friendships has been the love of exercise in general, and running in particular.  Thankfully, we have all cultivated the physical and mental stamina produced by long distance training and racing.   So when a 2 hour hike turned into 3, 4, and then 5 hours, I found it pretty impressive that we were all physically capable of this task (especially considering the serious hills involved).  But even more, I was proud of our ability to stay calm and positive throughout the entirety of the hike.  Although dinner was started a little later than originally planned, I’m so glad this was our story to share- and laugh about- together.  

In summation:  If you ever get invited to a girls-only camping trip…Go!  Without hesitation.  And by all means, bring an ax (no matter what your husband says or how ridiculous it may seem).  But most importantly, stay present and enjoy every moment, even if it includes a crazy detour; I guarantee you and your friendships will be better for it in the end.  

5 Emotion Coaching Strategies for Parents

Under normal circumstances, parenting provides a plethora of opportunities for growth- both on our children’s part as well as our own.  Under Covid 19 circumstances, those opportunities multiply by about 100.  However, often the word “opportunity” is not the word that comes to mind in the midst of frustration and aggravation.  If you have found yourself becoming short-tempered or easily irritated with your children (or have questioned your ability to parent in general), I assure you, you are not alone!  

As parents, we will definitely blow it from time to time.  But, the more we begin to see the opportunity that lies in the midst of the difficulty, the better we will become at responding to our children.  Whether we realize it or not, every mess, tantrum, and broken moment provides an opportunity to teach our children emotion regulation and to build connection with them.  Below I have outlined 5 Emotion Coaching Strategies (as identified by John Gottman) to implement the next time the opportunity presents itself.  

  1.  Be Aware of the Child’s Emotion 

Before you respond to your child, take a moment to breathe and ask yourself, “What emotion is my child likely feeling right now?”  If your answer is “anger,” ask yourself a second question: “What might be behind that anger?” For example, could they be feeling left out, discouraged, or hurt?  Our capacity for empathy (and thereby patience) increases when we take the time to first recognize the emotion being experienced by our child.    

  1. Recognize the Emotion as an Opportunity for Intimacy and Teaching  

As you know, our children were not born knowing how to respond to their emotions.  It is part of our job as parents to help guide them in this process and teach them the skills to navigate their feelings.  And as I said above, when we’re able to take the time to teach, it builds connection in the relationship, which is a huge bonus.  

  1. Listen Empathetically and Validate Your Child’s Feelings   

One of the best things we can do is to listen with the goal of understanding.  It’s easy to get swept away into problem-solving mode- but don’t go there too quickly! Letting our kids know we understand how they feel is powerful! Empathy and validation are superpowers when it comes to interacting and communicating with our children.

  1. Help Your Child Verbally Label Emotions

 Let’s be honest- sometimes this is a hard one, even for adults! Our kids will need help with this occasionally, and that is to be expected.  Having a list of feelings (or a face chart of feelings) available can be a great way to help them put a label to what they’re feeling.  Helping your child identify their feeling is a valuable skill that will serve them for the rest of their life!  

  1.  Setting Limits While Helping the Child Problem-Solve

Remember, all of our emotions serve a purpose.  If your child is feeling angry or frustrated, this last step provides resolution for the problem at hand.  Teaching our children to think through solutions is such a valuable gift! Asking them to identify possible solutions teaches a needed skill while giving them a sense of empowerment and capability.  However, children also need to be taught appropriate limits!  When we  collaboratively guide them in the problem-solving process, it is a win for everyone.  

Adapted from Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman

Mission Minded Parenting

To say there’s a lot of scary stuff happening in the world today would be a massive understatement.  Especially if you’re a parent.  Be honest, how many times in the last week alone have you had the thought, “I can’t believe this is the world my child is being raised in.”  We fear for their physical, mental, and emotional health in the wake of a worldwide pandemic.  Even more so, we fear for their safety in public as daily headlines remind us of existing evil in our world.  Truly, there is so much fear- and such a weight of responsibility to protect those little lives we love so much.

But there’s another fear that keeps me on edge when it comes to my kids.  Perhaps even more so than the ones mentioned above.    

Colossians 2:8 says, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.”   When I look at the world now, this is what I worry about for my kids.  I know this is not necessarily a new thing; the enemy of this world has been hard at work, tricking and deceiving ever since the Garden of Eden.  And here’s the thing about deceit: it’s incredibly subtle.  

I don’t worry about my kids not knowing right from wrong.  I’m absolutely confident they can recognize sin in the light of day.  My concern is for how they will respond when they meet a lie dressed up to look a lot like truth.  Because that is all around us.  A twist of Scripture here, something that sounds right over there.  It can be easy to slowly drift from truth to something that merely resembles it.  I am by far less concerned with an act of disobedience in the face of knowing truth than I am with them being deceived away from it. 

And just as I have a responsibility to protect my kids from viruses and strangers who intend hard, I have an even greater responsibility to share the gospel with them.  To help them learn sound doctrine, and to cultivate a home environment that models the love of Christ. 

My kids are now 11 and 9 and I know the influence of the world is coming hard after them- as it will for your children.  Along with fervent prayer, here are a few ways we can intentionally lean in to the above mentioned responsibility and privilege of parenting.  

Maintain Connection: This takes many forms, but specifically I’m thinking about the element of time.  Kids feel connected to their parents through the investment of time spent together.  Extended time on the weekends or vacations are great, but even more important are the daily connections.   Look for ways to hang out with your child- just be where they are! Common interests always help, but even if it’s not your thing, if your kid is into it, get into it with them!  Take an interest in their interests.  When our kids know we care about what matters to them, they are more likely to view us as trustworthy…and as someone whose influence they are likely to accept.  This is key.  Connection increases influence! 

Bold Conversations:  Of course we want our kids to maintain their innocence for as long as possible, but we also cannot be naive.  Often kids pick up on far more than we would like to think- whether from peers, the media, or overheard conversations in public.  We absolutely cannot shy away from talking about issues addressed in Scripture.  This includes (but is not limited to): sexuality and marriage, creation, how we speak, and how we treat others.  Trust me, it is never too early to begin these conversations.  Bold conversation might also look like talking over song lyrics or television and movie themes.  Additionally, bold conversation seeks out theological discussions.  These discussions should teach our kids to view life through the lens of Scripture and the character of God.  Which leads to my next point….  

Encourage Questions: Absolutely ask your kids about what they’re learning in their youth groups or church services.  This is a great springboard for discussion and can be a way for you to learn with them.  Within bold conversations, ask them what they think about the topics in light of what they know to be true of God and Scripture.  This cultivates critical thinking so that they will not blindly (and lazily) accept the teachings of the world. And as questions go both ways, be sure to let them know they can ask you about any topic they wish.  And when their questions get hard- and they will get hard- you can seek theologically sound answers together.  

Raising kids to know Christ in a world that is diametrically opposed to Christianity requires great intentionality and courage.  But we must make this our mission above all else.  May it ever be our goal to lead our children to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  That way, when they hear a lie that resembles the truth they will not be deceived.  They will not be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition.  Rather, they will have the mind of Christ. 

Pursuing Peace Part II: Relationship Mini-Series

Day 6:

Frequently Give Grace:  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

This one might be a game changer in our everyday lives.  Actually, there’s no might about it.  It is a game changer.  Why? Because grace has a way of creating freedom and safety in relationships; of softening our tendencies to criticize and resent; of reminding us that we also are imperfect sinners in need of God’s tender mercies.  

This thing called grace shows up in our relationships when we assume the best of the other person, rather than the worst.  When we look for the beauty rather than the flaws.  Isn’t that refreshing?  Isn’t that what we would want someone to do for us?  It’s easy to let our feelings of annoyance rise up when our expectations have not been met.  The critical wheels in our minds can go from zero to sixty in no time flat.

But what if we paused. 

What if we instead allowed for a gear shift in our thinking and in our posture towards one another?  Undoubtedly, choosing to believe the best in others fosters peace.  I can tell you with certainty that when I choose to assign a positive intention rather than a negative, I can feel the difference.  Irritability is replaced with love and compassion.  Resentment dissipates.  When I view those around me in light of their strengths instead of focusing on their shortcomings, it’s a new game. 

I challenge you and myself to let grace be our go-to rather than criticism.  Of course there is a time to speak the truth in love, but let’s rethink our default settings.  Let’s be generous benefactors of the grace so freely given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

*For more on this topic as it relates to parenting, check out my previous blog post Grace in the Good Work of Parenting 

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