Conditions, Conditions, Conditions

MBA

Something that has always rubbed me the wrong way are conditional agreements.  I’m not talking about contracts where each side is negotiating their terms.  What I am talking about are those moments when you ask someone for a favor, and they respond with “only if you will….”.   Or, even better, when someone approaches you to do a kind deed and then slips in the terms.  I just don’t like it.

I think it is because I don’t operate that way.  If you ask for a favor, I am going to say yes or no… but my answer is not going to be dependent on what you can do for me.  If I do a favor for you, it is because I want to help not because I want something out of it.

If you do me a favor, I only want you to do it if you want to.  It’s a heart issue, I suppose.  I was always taught to give without expectation of return, even if what I was giving was my time.  As an adult I learned to give money instead of loaning it.  I also learned how to value my time better so that I didn’t say yes to everything and burn myself out.  It also meant I learned how to accept no as an answer without getting upset.

I’ve also learned over the years I don’t like conditions in other aspects of relationships.  I don’t want to be your friend, if the conditions are that I must agree with everything you say and do.  I don’t want to be your friend if I have to change who I am in order for us to keep the peace.

I just hate conditions.  I also think that is the absolute beauty in God’s gift of salvation, and His love for His children.  God did give us conditions.  The Ten Commandments and The Great Commission, for example.  However, what the Old Testament Reveals to us is that as much as man tries, he is virtually incapable of following them.  He knew this, and still loved us anyway.  He knew this was an impossibility for us, and gave us His son to bear our iniquities.

This is not an excuse that allows us to continue to live in the flesh, in spite of His conditions.  It is an assurance that even though we can’t, His love doesn’t waiver.  Our salvation doesn’t balance the line of conditions, fluctuating based on our ability to walk that line.  Our salvation hung on a cross.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – BOOK REVIEW

missionaccomplished

As a parent of kids of varying ages, from High School to Elementary School, finding new devotion books that encompasses the needs of my entire family is hard.  If I shop with my teenager in mind, it ends up being too deep for my youngest.  However, if I shop with my youngest in mind… my teenager is usually bored to tears.

When I had the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of Mission Accomplished, thanks to New Growth Press, I was very impressed.

1)  The book covers two weeks of devotions, specifically written for Easter.  This is a book I reference year, after year.

2)  Each devotion starts with scripture, that supports the devotion theme.  It is followed with sections that encourage us to think about the context of the scripture, discussion questions, prayer prompts and even songs or activities to support that particular devotion.

3)  The devotions are quick and to the point, which is good for shorter attention spans or those with busy schedules.

4) The devotions are written in a way that will engage your older children, but can be explained by the parents when needed.

Overall, this is a great book for the family who spans a broad array of ages.  That said, if your family is predominantly young children, you may want to read the devotions ahead and reword to fit the age group you are working with.  You will find some words that your children may not be familiar with (depending on the verbiage your church uses), some of the discussion questions are better suited for older children who have a background of Sunday school classes, and some of the songs referenced in the “Sing About It” portions were not familiar to me.  This devotion is definitely written for a more seasoned believer, in my opinion.

I do love this devotion, and with all of the tools we have available; simply pre-reading the devotion can help identify areas you might want to brush up on before sitting down with the family.  Since they are short, you can skim it relatively quickly and use your bible or the internet to define unfamiliar words, or even look up the music for the songs.

Do not be intimidated to pick up this devotion, even if some of the references are unfamiliar to you as a new believer.  It will help your grow, understanding the Easter story better, and more accurately.  The devotions are not overwhelming and they do a great job of tying in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

If you are looking for a good devotion for the family, one that you can learn from & teach from… check out Scott James’ A Mission Accomplished.

PRAYERS FOR YOUR CHILDREN – Book Review

prayersforyourchildren

To be blunt, PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK.

If you have children in your life, this book is frankly amazing.  I am so glad I was able to get my hands on an advanced copy!  Every so often, I will write reviews for Family Christian on various books they sell in their stores and online.  My compensation is getting books for free, which as an avid reader… that is a win.  So, when I was given the opportunity to get an advanced copy of this book… I SAID YES.

Let’s face it, sometimes…. our prayers for our kids… can become a bit ROUTINE.

Dear God, please watch over my children…

Keep them safe.  Help them to know you…

Let them do well in school, get along with their siblings better…

Heal their cold, help them pass their tests…

Lead them to a godly spouse…

Amen.

Sound familiar?  In recent years, I have been trying a lot harder to pray from the scriptures.  Yet, even with that attempt, I still found that the it was getting repetitive.  I needed help!

In the past, I have purchased devotion books for my kids.   They are great for teaching kids, and praying WITH your kids, but not for your kids.  At a recent meeting with my church small group, we talked about the difference between praying ABOUT people, and praying FOR them.  I really want my prayer life for my kids to be more meaningful, I don’t want to pray a laundry list of all the things they are doing wrong, failing at, or causing frustration to me.  I want to pray for my children with deep, scriptural, prayer.

In the book, Prayers for Your Children: 90 Days of Heartfelt Prayers, we get exactly that.  When you finish the 90 days, you may be ready to launch off on your own.  But, you may find, you want to start back over from the beginning, making small changes along the way.

The author, James Banks, has a very comfortable writing style that gets right to the point.  The 90 days of prayers are broken up into themed weeks (Knowing [God], [Being] Thankful, etc).  Each day, within that week, has a selection of scripture that reflects the days main point.  Immediately, you move into the prayer structure.  Supporting the scripture and theme for the week, every sentence of the prayer reflects scripture.  Not only is it written out for us in a prayer format, but the actual scripture is referenced in parenthesis next to it.

As you begin to move through the pages of the book, I would recommend reading through the prayer first.  With a prayer journal, or even just by writing in the margins of the pages, customize the prayers to the child you are praying for.  Change he into she, or substitute with your child’s name. Perhaps the prayer selection brings to mind a very specific situation, jot that down & make sure to include it in your prayers.  After reading through it, pray it!  Pray on your own, or with your spouse; you may even wish to include your child in the prayer as they get older.  Utilize your journal or empty space in the margins, to come back to it & keep track of how God is answering your prayers.

In moments of doubt, you can reflect on how God has answered your prayers & is working in the life of your child.  And, if your child is going through a season of doubt…. show it to them.  Let them see all of the prayers you had been praying for them, and how God was moving on their behalf… and they didn’t even know it!

Life will throw our kids loops and put obstacles in their way.  You may not choose to work through the prayers in order, but instead search for the ones appropriate to what is happening in your child’s life… right now.  Regardless of how you choose to use it, this is a great scriptural prayer resource.  A perfect tool for any parent.

At $12.99 it is not an expensive book at all, and one you may reference over and over again.  This would make a great gift for parents-to-be, parents that are new believers, or even for that parent who is struggling with their child.  When we shift from praying ABOUT our kids and into praying FOR them, it opens up compassion and allows us to see our kids from heavenly perspective.

Prayers for Your Children: 90 Days of Heartfelt Prayers

Author:  James Banks

Publisher:  Discovery House Publishers

ISBN: 978-1-62707-333-2

Currently on Pre-Order, Anticipated for Release March 2015

I RAN, AS FAST AS I COULD

cooperdog

Just a few days ago, our littlest dog escaped out the front door.  He began running.  This wouldn’t be the first time.  He usually runs to one of the neighborhood yards, and I can catch him due to his built in nature to find a tree and relieve himself.  He just can’t help himself.  So, as usual, I shut the door and ran after him.  This time he didn’t stop.  He ran for half a mile.  Me running behind him, calling him back.  Every so often he’d stop and look at me, as soon as I got too close…. he would run again.

I ran until my breath was giving out. I ran until my knees felt like they were going to buckle.  I ran some more.  I kept running because for the first time, our little dog was leaving the sanctuary of our neighborhood and heading for a busy intersection.  As much as I wanted to stop running, I couldn’t.  I had to catch him.  He didn’t know any better.  He had no idea what he was running to.

The more I ran, the more my feet ached.  I was barefoot, not having time to grab shoes as I darted out the door after him.  I was in pain.   I was scared for him.  I was angry at the neighbors, whom I know by name, watched as I ran after him…. not a single one stopping what they were doing to help.  I was angry at the cars that didn’t stop.  All of the people who would just go on about their way, watching me run… no clue that I had been running barefoot on the hot Florida asphalt for half a mile.   No clue that I was already emotionally compromised by the fact our elder dog had a stroke just two nights before.  Clueless, they drove on by.

In my head I had to answer the questions…. “how long will you keep running?”…. “when do you stop and turn around?”…. “why is no one stopping?”…. “why is no one helping?”… “what about the kids?  I left them alone.”… “what if something happens with our other dog, while I am out running after him?”.

It was then, just as I was about to give up, that she stopped.  She pulled her car off to the side to block him.  She started talking to him, to try and distract him from me.  He stopped, briefly, but then darted across the street.  Before I knew it,  I was running into the street, hand up to stop cars.  I had no idea, she was coming right after me.  We cornered him. I tackled him.  Then, for the first time, I caught my breath.  Bless her, she offered me a ride home.  She was shocked by how far I ran.  She was surprised none of the people we passed on the drive home helped me.  She said “I have a runner too”.  She knew.  She sympathized.

I imagine, that is how God feels.  When he sees us take off from the safety of his shelter, into the world.  The world that doesn’t care, that doesn’t stop to help, that just watches as we make poor choice after poor choice.  We look back at him, seeing him pursuing us.  We know that we are doing the wrong thing, yet we keep running. Further and further.  Faster and faster.   I imagine, that it pains God watch us make these decisions.  Coming after us, knowing that others need him as well.  The Good Shepherd who leaves the flock to find his one lost sheep.   I imagine, the pain I felt running pales in comparison to the pain Christ felt as he was beaten, carried the cross, and was hung.  The wages of sin.

I just wanted that little dog to turn back to me; to recognize me as that owner whom he dotes on, follows like shadow, and misses terribly when I leave.  I just wanted to bend down, open my arms and shout his name, and see him turn on his heels running back toward my arms.

I imagine, that is what God wants.

Lord, I hear you.  I’m not running away from you.  I’m running toward you.