Surprising Lessons I Learned This Spring

Today, I am linking up over at Emily P. Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky, to share what I’ve learned this spring. Stop over and see the lessons have sprouted! Or share your own lessons harvested during this last season. Looking back is a great way thing to practice before moving forward. You can share the silly, the serious or the just plain practical. All are welcome!

What I Learned

 

Prayer is vital.

I know, you are probably thinking, well, duh! I’ve always known prayer was important, but during this season, God has been planting the importance of prayer deep in my heart. Without prayer, I can’t fully walk as His daughter. And prayer takes time, time that is sometimes hard to carve out. But it is SO worth it!

Praying for Other is Hard Work

And the enemy will definitely try to distract you and keep you from this work. It’s interesting that as God has pressed the importance of prayer into my heart, I’ve become more and more aware of the needs of others. I’ve realized the importance of fighting for people’s hearts and minds on my knees and wielding God’s Word as my sword.

Anxiety and Worry Can Be Sneaky

In many ways, God has done an incredible work in me in regards to my tendency to get anxious and worried over things (there are downsides to an active imagination!). But, as I was praying about some things (see a pattern here?), God showed me that anxiety had crept into my perception of my calling to write. Instead of something joyful (because truly creating with words takes me to my happy place), there had crept in a sort of anxious burdensome feeling when I thought of my writing. Instead of a gift and privilege, it had started to feel (at least when I was thinking about it and not doing it) like a duty and heavy burden. I had become way more concerned with finding the time to write rather than just writing. Weird right? But the enemy will distract us any way that works!

My Son Can Sing

On a lighter note (see what I did there?), my son was one of the leads in the musical Hello, Dolly! this spring. While he sang around the house quite a bit and was on key and all that, I had no idea he could sing. I know he’s my kid and I might be a bit biased, but I was delightfully surprised by his portrayal of Horace Vandergelder.

I Enjoy the Arts So Much More than Sports

Which brings me to my next point…. I married the Coach 24 years ago, and my life started to revolve around the sporting seasons. Then I had 2 boys who were also sports junkies, and soon my entire life seemed to orbit around practice and game schedules. I have to be honest, I get super nervous before every single game. It’s like going into battle. I wonder if we’ll play well as a team. I wonder if my child will have a great night or if he’ll come home with a list of things he could have done better or shaking his head over a shot that just wouldn’t fall. Arts are not like that. Opening night of the play, I was simply excited. I went each night with a sense of delightful anticipation. I think I’ll be having a conversation with my future grandchildren, encouraging them to be in the arts, so grandma doesn’t have a heart attack!

It’s Much Better to Embrace a Busy Season

Spring is a busy time of year for us. There is the annual teen conference I speak at and the school play and all the end of year things like awards and banquets. Not to mention, there is baseball season, too. This year, I decided to just embrace the busyness and to stop feeling guilty that I couldn’t get more done. It made the spring much less stressful which just goes to show – much of the stress and pressure I experience is because of my own unrealistic expectations!

The Crock Pot Is My Friend

We have entered a new season this year with my oldest son attending college locally. Between his school and work schedule, and everyone else’s busy schedules, I have given up on making a dinner to serve at a specific time. Instead, I’ve turned to my crock pot. Not only do I not have to worry about preparing something at the dreaded dinner hour, but dinner is warm and ready for whoever happens to be coming into the kitchen for dinner! Add a crock pot liner and clean up is even easy! On a side note, New Leaf Wellness has some wonderful make ahead crock pot recipes. You just assemble them in large freezer bags, and then you can thaw them and pop them in your crock pot. SO EASY!!!!

So, there you have it, what I have learned this spring. What have you learned this past season? I’d love to hear about it!

Review of Storm by Jim Cymbala

Is the light of Jesus that we shine before people growing dark?

Has a storm cut us off from our power source?

Is the church of Christ disappearing into a dark night?

Those three questions on the back cover of Storm by Jim Cymbala caught my eye. Our local Christian bookstore was going out of business, and as I perused the shelves, looking for ways to spend a gift card I had, those words caught my eye.

I’ve read other books by Jim Cymbala, so I knew this one would probably be just as good. I wasn’t disappointed. The truth is, in recent times, the Church’s light seems to have grown dim in our culture and society.

Storm points out the warning signs that the Church is in trouble, the current problems within the church, and things both church leaders and members can be doing to fix or reverse those problems.

Throughout the book, Cymbala shares personal stories of members of his own Church who have seen God work in and through them. While I enjoyed the entire book, the stories were some of my favorite parts.

Out of all the chapters, I found the list of warning signs to be some of the most alarming. Cymbala points out three warning signs. The first is dwindling numbers. While some statistics list almost 80% of Americans as being “Christian,” the real data doesn’t back that up. In fact, the real percentage of true believers in America is shockingly between 7 and 8.9%.

The second warning sign Cymbala mentions is that personal transformation is rare. A recent Barna Group survey found that 46% of regular churchgoers said that their life had not changed at all as a result of attending church. Yikes.

Finally, the third warning sign Cymbala shares is that Biblical literacy is declining. Americans who are hostile to the Bible rose from 10% in 2011 to 17% in 2013. Those numbers continue to grow.  While lack of Biblical knowledge or even hostility is understandable for non-believers, only 1 in 5 self-proclaimed Christians actively read their own Bibles.

The two other chapters in the book that really resonated with me were “Tempest Within,” which discusses the failure of church fads and trends, and “Storming Heaven,” which talks about the power of prayer.

In “Tempest Within,” Cymbala touches on some of the most popular trends of the church. He also points out something very interesting. “In the last twenty years there have been more conferences and more books published on church growth than in all the prior history of our country. As new models of how to grow your church have increased in popularity, we have actually witnessed a precipitous decline of Christianity in America.” Makes you think doesn’t it?

“Storming Heaven” was a chapter that reaffirms a message God has been teaching me all year – the importance and power of prayer. One of my goals this year was to fully realize and live out what it means to be a daughter of the Living God. The one thing God keeps bringing me back to again and again is prayer. It is something that is conspicuously absent in many churches.

If the vast changes you are seeing, not just in the culture around us, but also inside the Church have you feeling bewildered and anxious, Storm is an anchor in the swirling waters of change we now find ourselves in.

What book have you read this year that has really made you stop and think? I’d love to hear about it!

How to Truly Celebrate Mother’s Day

Best Laid Plans

I had an entire blog post written out. It was all about how lately I’ve been feeling a tad underappreciated as a mom. It was about the need to ask for help and how important the word no is – even when that no is to your family. It was a pretty good post. I was all ready to do a little editing and then post it today.

But then I read this post from Kristen Welch from We Are That Family. She was guest posting on Ann Voskamp’s blog.

If you don’t know who Kristen Welch is, she founded and runs Mercy House, a maternity home in Kenya. Their website explains them this way. Mercy House exists to engage, empower and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name through partnerships and sustainable fair trade product development.

A New Perspective

Reading Kristen’s heartfelt words about a mom who lives in the worst slums in Kenya, I realized something. No matter what any of our Mother’s Days looked like, it was still miles better than about 75% of the world’s.

It’s hard to fathom the grinding poverty that exists elsewhere in the world.

It’s hard to understand the desperate and heartbreaking choices mothers around the world have to make just to keep their children alive.

It’s impossible to wrap our minds around handing our child over to forms of slavery just so they can have enough food to live.

Yet, this is how a huge percentage of the world’s women live their lives – in poverty, in fear, in desperation. 

How You Can Make a Difference

It’s overwhelming to think about, and yet, there are ways we can help.

Today is the She is Priceless campaign. There are 8 non-profit organizations, all designed to help the most vulnerable of women and children in some of the most difficult places in the world.

When I think of the mother Kristen writes about, who has had to allow her young teen daughter to sell her body to provide food and whose son is owned by a neighbor who works him night and day just for a small amount of sustenance, I’m ashamed. Ashamed that I was whining about feeling taken advantage of because I had to pick up extra socks. Ashamed that I complain about anything in my very blessed and abundant life.

So, are you ready to truly celebrate mothers?

Review of Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Remembering the Early Days

It’s been a long time since I had a baby. My youngest will be 16 in a few weeks (and just got his driving permit today – yikes!). So why I decided to pick up a book my son Brock was reading to complete an assignment in one of his education classes is beyond me. But for some reason, Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe: One American Woman Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, called to me

The bigger mystery  is why I proceeded to read the entire thing rather than just flip through it, but read it, I did.

 

My Guilty Secret

The funny thing is, as I read about the French way of parenting, I recognized a lot of my own parenting in it. Maybe that was why I read the whole thing – sort of confirmation that I didn’t completely stink as a mother.

As I said, I’m long past the days of diapers and sippy cups and toddler tantrums. But here’s my guilty little secret – when I look around at everything mothers do with and for their kids now I feel a tiny bit guilty. Like maybe I wasn’t engaged enough or intentional enough.

The truth is, I’m a whole lot more like the French mothers described in Bringing Up Bebe than many of the American moms I see and ready about today.

Mothering Has Changed In Recent Years

I hang out a lot in the blogosphere. I blog. I have friends that blog. I read blogs. And one thing I’ve noticed is that motherhood has become sort of a competing sport.

The pressure on moms is enormous and the guilt that goes along with it is also pretty huge. From throwing the perfectly, pinterest-worthy birthday party, to cooking organically from scratch, to bubble wrapping their child’s apparently fragile esteem, it’s no wonder exhaustion is rampant.

In fact, it’s become kind of a badge of honor to say how exhausted you are, how few hours you’ve slept and what a complete wreck your house is. Why? Because by not focusing on anything but your kids, you’re winning at this whole motherhood competition. 

The French Are Doing It Differently

It’s not like French parents aren’t into reading their kids books or giving them lessons or letting them play sports. But French parents have kids who eat normal foods, sleep through the night by 3 or 4 months and seem relatively well-behaved in public. French parents have actual lives. They sleep and have sex and do fun, adult activities without children tagging along. (On a sidenote – for YEARS I tried to have a New Year’s Eve party with just adults, and never once managed it in about a 10 year span. I finally gave up and just invited families instead).

While I can’t say either of my boys are foodies, I also have never been a short order cook. The other things, I can say WERE true about my kids (well, besides that unfortunate year when Brody decided to assert his desire to rule the world. He took a bit of convincing that he actually wasn’t the next Mussolini).

Bringing Up Bebe is about American Pamela Druckerman’s own experience having and a daughter and then twin boys in Paris where she lived with her British husband. It didn’t come easily, but the book is both informative and entertaining as she shares her fumbling attempts to figure out what the French were doing differently. And then her more fumbling attempts to imitate them. This is not a Christian book, but it is so full of commonsense wisdom, I had to review it!

My 5 Top Takeaways From the Book

  1. Babies aren’t just blobs. The French believe babies are sentient humans from birth. They believe babies are rational and can communicate (sort of) what they are thinking and feeling. Suggestion: Talk to your baby in a normal tone, and be polite. Let the baby know what you are doing and why. It will probably feel a bit silly. On a funny sidenote, the book describes the French’s penchant for giving a new baby a tour of their new to them home. I have an actual recording (on an ancient VHS tape) of me taking Brock around our tiny apartment and “showing” it to him. True story.
  2. Babies can sleep through the night at a relatively early age (or permanent sleep deprivation isn’t a badge of being a good parent). The French call it “doing his nights.” They believe that a baby has to learn how to connect his or her sleep cycles. So, when a baby wakes up and starts to fuss a bit, they pause for about 5 minutes to see if the baby will go back to sleep. Babies are notoriously restless sleepers, sometimes thrashing all over the crib, but often, they aren’t really awake. Sleeping like a baby is a very misleading cliche! If left to themselves, they will often transition into the next sleep cycle. The French also tell their babies why they need to sleep and how confident they are in the baby’s ability to do just that. (see above)
  3. Kids don’t actually need kid foods. Yes, the French use pureed foods, but they start with flavorful veggies, not bland cereal. They see it as their job to cultivate a wide palette in their children. They also do not allow their children to snack continually throughout the day. Go to any American playground, and baggies of puffs and yogurt dips and all manner of food is on display, but at French playgrounds, they are conspicuously absent. The French also get their baby on a eating schedule that closely mirrors the family’s eating schedule pretty quickly. This means 3 meals plus one snack each day.
  4. Children have the ability to be patient. The French believe coping with frustration and delaying gratification (see above on snacks) is something that every child has the ability to learn. Patience is expected and calm is desired. French parents teach their children accordingly. French parents have a philosophy of very firm boundaries but then giving their children a lot of freedom within those boundaries.
  5. Children are encouraged to be independent. In France, children often go on week-long overnight field trips away from home at young ages like 6 or 7. Parents also place their children in public daycares as  infants. They are called the creche and are staffed by highly trained professionals.
  6. In France, there isn’t a smorgasboard of parenting styles and philosophies. Everyone generally sticks to the same formula, including the daycares, preschools and schools. They do this because it works. Children know what is expected and usually live up to that expectation.

After reading Bringing Up Bebe, instead of guilty, now I feel a tiny bit like I was ahead of the trend. What is your favorite parenting book? I’d love to hear about it!

Praying God’s Word Over Our Kids

It’s Okay If You Haven’t Been Stellar At Praying

I’ll be honest. I have not always been consistent in my prayer life, particularly when my children were tiny. There were times when I would forget to pray for them for days at a time.

Often, I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT to pray for them either. So many of my natural inclinations of what to pray – to keep them safe, to prevent failure, to keep them from getting hurt – aren’t really in my kids’ best interests. While I hate to see my children fail or get hurt or be in danger, I also know that those things help them to forge character and grow and learn.

But, let’s be real here, who wants to pray that for their kids?

Prayer Isn’t a Warranty Against the Tough Stuff

Prayer is also not a guarantee against bad stuff happening or a child straying from their faith, either. We can pray faithfully from the day our child is born until we take our last breath, but that doesn’t mean our child won’t make wrong choices or endure difficult or unfair things in his or her life.

About the time my kids were starting school, I came across a book by Beth Moore about praying the Scriptures. I decided to pick out some key Scriptures to pray over my boys on a regular basis.

Pick Out a Few Key Verses To Pray Over Your Children

I knew I wanted my kids to love Jesus, and that their relationship with Him was foundational for everything else in their life. So, one of the first verses I started praying for my kids was found in Luke 10:27.

The second verse I picked out to pray over my kids was about God’s love for us. For me, truly believing that God loved me was life transforming. When you grow up in church, it’s so easy to take God’s love for granted and not really think about what it truly means that God loves us.

It’s also easy when you grow up in church to start equating God’s love with our performance. I don’t know that anyone ever comes out and says that. However, when you hear Bible lessons about obedience and all the things you aren’t supposed to do, that message can inadvertently come across. So, the next verses I prayed for my kids came from Ephesians.

 

Finally, I really wanted my kids to understand what it meant to be in Christ. I wanted them to grow in their own relationship with God. Instead of relying on my faith and their dad’s faith, I wanted them to stand independently and firmly on the foundation of who they were in Christ.

Coming from a Christian home and being raised in church can be a huge blessing. But it can also sometimes make the sheer grace of the gospel seem a bit muffled.

The other verse I prayed regularly for my boys also is found in Ephesians. Paul is praying for the Ephesian Christians to fully understand just who they are in Christ. I decided to steal a page from Paul’s book.

Of course, over the years, these are not the only verses I’ve prayed over my kids, but they have been the constant ones. They were the verses that formed the backbone of contending for my children in the spiritual realm.

Because, let’s be honest, we are in a daily fight for our kids aren’t we? The enemy, the world and their own flesh natures continually want to get them off track.

Do you have some favorite verses you pray over your kids? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

 

5 Minute Friday: Should

Today, I’m back over at Kate Motaung’s blog, Heading Home for 5 Minute Fridays. If you are unfamiliar, 5 Minute Fridays are where women from all over write for 5 minutes on one word. No editing, no second -guessing – just writing for 5 minutes and hitting the publish button. You can come check it out HERE.

Today’s word is SHOULD


There are 5 words we all really need to strike from our thoughts and our vocabulary: if only, what if and should. These 5 words cover our past, our present and our futures.

If only looks back with regret at a past we can’t change.

What if looks ahead with fear to a future we don’t have much control over either.

And should, well, should can dominate our present to the extent that we end up living out everyone else’s agenda – if we let it. The problem with that is when we live by shoulds, we end up missing our musts.

Lately, God has been showing me that I have been so fixated on all the shoulds from what I should be doing to grow my online platforms to all my various commitments, that I haven’t actually been doing what He asked me to do.

While I’ve been running down rabbit trails, feeling frustrated at my lack of progress on what I’ve been called to do, God has been patiently waiting back on the path. He patiently repeats, “it’s this way,” every time I draw close to Him.

I guess I’m kind of a slow learner (or I’m just easily distracted), but this is not the first time God has pointed out that I’ve been way too taken up with everyone else’s shoulds, and missed out on His plan.

So, what should is keeping you from following where God is actually leading? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Prayer Requires Persistence

Persistence is Modeled in the Bible

I was reading through Draw the Circle: 40 Day Prayer Challenge, and the reading for the day was the story of the persistent widow.

In Luke 18:1, Jesus shares a parable of how a widow comes before a judge with bad character. At first he ignores her, but the widow just won’t be ignored. She persists until the judge finally gives her her request.

“For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection; otherwise, by continually coming she will wear me out.” Luke 18: 4, 5.

Jesus goes on to say that if a wicked judge would grant this widow’s request, then how much more will God – who is perfectly good- answer our prayers when we persist.

Persistence Often Doesn’t Come Easily

I don’t know about you, but persistence in prayer is not something that comes naturally to me. It feels, well, almost like I’m being rude or something. Like I’m somehow pestering God by coming to Him over and over with the same request.

Yet, God invites us to pray about things, not just once, but repeatedly. When we come to Him in prayer, it isn’t an easy thing. (You can read about how prayer might be simple but it isn’t easy HERE).

Why Should We Persist in Prayer?

As I was thinking about this post and what we can learn about persistence in prayer, the one thing that I kept circling back around to was why? Why would God want us to pray for the same thing over and over again?

The thing is, prayer isn’t just about getting answers. It’s about changing us and molding us to God’s will in our lives. I don’t know about you, but have you ever prayed for something over a period time. And as time went on, you found your prayer changing until in the end, your request barely resembled those first prayers?

God invites us to petition Him because the more we bring something to God, the more His light shines on whatever it is and the more we lay our own agenda down.

The bottom line is prayer changes us and it changes our relationship to God. 

How Do We Know When NOT to Persist?

So, how do we know that God wants us to stop praying about something – that He has answered us?

I think we have a good example in Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says he prayed three times for God to remove a thorn in his flesh. We don’t know what this thorn was, but some speculate it had to do with his eyes. Nobody knows for sure though.

It was after this third time that God specifically told Paul He wasn’t removing that thorn and the reason why. Only after God spoke to him did Paul stop praying.

What does this mean for us?

I think it means that means a few things for us. The first thing is that, sometimes, when we think God hasn’t answered, it’s not because He is saying no. It’s actually that He hasn’t answered at all.

The second thing is I believe a lot of the powerlessness in prayer is not because prayer doesn’t have power. But it is because of a lack of persistence on our part.

The third thing is that we need to persistently pray about something until God gives us an answer or He specifically tells us to stop.

Finally, we need to pray with an open heart and mind. Maybe God is trying to change our perspective or get us to submit to His will and not insist on our own way. Prayer is powerful – not just in what it accomplished out in the world, but in what it accomplishes in us.

Do you struggle with praying persistently? I’d love to hear about it!

Are You Stretched Too Thin?

Lately, I’ve been feeling stretched way too thin. I signed up to be an affiliate for the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, and I had big plans (even though I was a bit late joining the party – yes, I signed up 2 days before the sale started. Oops!).

And yes, there are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you! Total win-win!)

But the truth is, as I came into this week, I was already over-scheduled. I teach middle school English,  teach an adult Sunday school class, write a weekly newsletter for a local non-profit ministry, write monthly articles for another newsletter, and blog here. I’m also working on writing a series of devotional journals and children’s fiction. This doesn’t even take into account my family and running my home.

So, this morning, when I went to put the finishing touches on this big post I had written reviewing the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, I was a bit panicked when my computer crashed and I couldn’t get on it. At all.

Then my mom texted me that my dad had a bad reaction to his new chemo treatments and they were in the hospital. Suddenly, the perfect post and compelling emails took a back seat.

Since I had a few minutes and could get on my computer again, I decided, instead of a super long, salesy post (which isn’t really my style anyway) to share with you the one ecourse that I am really enjoying out of the homemaking bundle. It’s called Stretched Too Thin by Jessica Turner. Kind of appropriate isn’t it?

The truth is, I just can’t do all the things. I’d really like to because I have a lot of interests and a lot of ideas. Not only that, but I tend to be very curious and have a relatively short attention span. You know that dog in the Pixar movie UP!? He is talking and then all of a sudden, he shouts, “Squirrel!” randomly throughout the movie? Yep, that’s me!

So, as I dive into this course, I’m feeling my soul giving a little sigh of, “ahh” because I really AM stretched too thin right now. That’s the main reason I wanted to share the bundle with everyone – because I always find a book or course that really helps me wherever I happen to be. So, you can click the graphic below and check out the bundle and buy one for yourself (or ask for it as a Mother’s Day gift like I do!) or you don’t have to. I”m totally okay with that because sales isn’t really my thing anyway.

I also wanted to share with you the things I am most excited about.

 

  • A Mom’s Guide to Better Photos: A Beginning Photography Class for Moms With Any Type of Camera by Meg Calton  – I’m always looking for ways to improve my photography!
  • Adventures in Bible Journaling: An Extensive Beginner’s Guide to Art and Bible Journaling by Bethany Floyd – I’ve been journaling my prayers for a while, but I’ve started incorporating a bit of art. So, I’m excited to learn more.
  • Praying the Promises of the Cross: A 40-Day Prayer Journal by Arabah Joy – I discovered Arabah’s blog late last year, and she has quickly become someone I read regularly. I frequently participate in her prayer challenges, so I can wait to dive into this since learning about prayer is something I’m focusing on this year!
  • Matters of the Heart: a 52-Week Scripture Memorization Journey for Women by Carlie Kercheval – The older I get, the harder it is to retain what I memorize. So, anything to help with that I am pretty stoked about!
  • Don’t Wait, Decorate!: An Encouraging Guide to Decorating by Chelsea Coulston- Maybe it is the years of bringing up two boys (and all their friends plus a dog) in our small-ish house, but decorating has taken a back seat (like maybe in the Uhaul attached to the back). Now that I am getting into a new stage, I’ve circled back around to wanting to decorate a bit more – but I’m a bit challenged in this area.
  • 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life by Crystal Paine – I have about zero self-discipline so this one is self-explanatory!
  • Productivity and Well-Being eCourse by Lisa Grace Byrne – I’m always looking for ways to be more productive (see above!).
  • The Temper Toolkit: How to Take Control of Your Temper Before You Lose it! by Lisa-Jo Baker – So, I’ve got a bit of a temper. Strangely, it is all the little things that drive me over the edge, but I’d still like to conquer my temper and not have it reach out and bite anyone!
  • 14 Days to Opening Your Front Door to Guests by Dana White – One thing I’d like to do is be more hospitable and have more people over, but I don’t feel like my house is ready (see above on decorating). I really want to challenge myself in this area.
  • Speed Clean the Deep Clean: A Collection of Time-Saving Cleaning Tutorials and Tips for Busy Moms by Katelyn Fagan – I”ll be honest – I really don’t enjoy cleaning. So, anything that shows me how to get it done more quickly and efficiently I’m on board with!

 

 

Prayer Is Hard And That’s Okay

Do You Find it Hard to Pray?

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever noticed that when you start to pray, your focus tends to desert you? Suddenly, your mind wanders to your to do list or what you’re having for dinner or that disagreement you had with your child. Instead of praying, you find yourself worrying or planning your day or, in my case, off in lala land.

Turns out, there’s a reason for that. I noticed that Paul, in the famous passage in Ephesians 6, tells the believers of Ephesus to put on their spiritual armor before he tells them to pray. They have to strap on truth, put on their helmet of salvation, buckle on the breastplate of righteousness and slip into their shoes of the Gospel of peace. They have to get their shield of faith ready because the enemy is sure to start shooting fiery darts, and their swords can’t be just lying around somewhere. That sword has to be in their hands.

In Colossians 4:12, Paul tells the Colossians that Epaphras was “laboring earnestly in his prayers for you.” That word laboring actually means “to contend with adversaries or fight.”

Do You Have the Wrong Idea About Prayer?

Prayer isn’t easy. It’s hard work because the enemy knows there is great power in prayer. He doesn’t want you to actually pray and experience that power. That means, he’ll use whatever means he can to keep you from spending time in prayer.

In many ways, prayer is a form of spiritual fighting. So, it’s really no wonder that it seems to be something believers talk about way more than they actually do.

Am I the only person who has been to a prayer meeting where half the time was spent talking and not praying?

Even our churches, which Jesus said were to be houses of prayer, often teach more about prayer than they do actually praying.

I think the problem is that we have confused the simplicity of prayer with ease in prayer. Because of that confusion, we have not prepared ourselves for the work it takes to carve out a powerful prayer life.

Learning Vs. Applying

This year, I really wanted to focus on what it means to truly be God’s child. There is a passage in 2 Timothy 3:5-7.

Today, we have the blessing of  having so many resources and information. But there is a danger in having all that knowledge at our fingertips. The danger is we keep learning rather than start applying.

Don’t Give Up

Because we expect prayer to be easy, we get discouraged about our prayer lives. We quit almost before we begin, or we resort to shallow, short prayers. We let the busyness in our lives become an excuse to not pray.

And then we wonder why we don’t see any spiritual power in our lives.

This post isn’t about being legalistic or judgmental about prayer. It’s meant as encouragement. Yes, prayer is hard, and it’s not just you that struggles. But can I encourage you to keep at it? We have the opportunity to approach God’s throne any day at any time. God invites us into intimacy with Him.

It’s time to suit up and start fighting on your knees. God will meet you on the battlefield!

 

 

 

The Book That Terrified Me!

  Parents Need to Be Informed

As a parent, my goal has always been to work myself out of a job.

As parents, we spend 18 or 19 years preparing our kids to step out into the world, to live out the beliefs we’ve instilled and to make good decisions.

However, a lot of the statistics surrounding millennials don’t leave Christian parents feeling very confident. Not only are millennials dropping out of organized church in droves, but they are also espousing beliefs very different than their parents.

On a recent trip to the library, I saw a book entitled, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Having one son who is a freshman in college and another who only has two more years of high school, I felt like I should probably read it.

I will warn you, this book is NOT written by a Christian. The author, Lisa Wade, is a professor of sociology at Occidental College with a string of degrees behind her name. The text contains not only swear words, but also a pretty blunt discussion about the sexual activities of college students.

Despite the rather raw contents of this book, I highly recommend Christian parents get over their squeamishness and read it!

A Look At American Hookup

Wade used a group of her first-year students as case studies. The students had to collect data about sex and romance on campus, writing as much or as little as they wanted about their own experiences. The students then recorded it in a journal that was submitted every Tuesday. The project lasted through the semester. Wade hoped that the students would consent to allow her to share their facts and quotes in her research.  Out of 110 students, all but nine consented to have their information included. While Wade keeps the students’ names confidential, their stories make up the backbone of the book.

The two things that stood out to me the most were the widespread and accepted view on drinking (even under age) and casual sex. According to Wade, the prevailing attitude that you haven’t done college until you’ve drank until almost blacking out and had sex with as many people as possible is present on all college campuses. This includes even denominational campuses, with the exception of those that are evangelical and Mormon. It didn’t seem to matter if it was an Ivy League school or a state college, partying and hooking up were not only accepted but expected.

While hard partying is not actively sponsored on campus, I think it could be safe to say that most colleges appear to turn a blind eye to the amount of drinking and drug use that goes on at campuses across the United States. One researcher coined the word Drunkworld to describe the corporate state of drunkenness encountered at most parties and events. One girl said that she went to a concert sober and described the experience as, “horrible and awful and no fun.”

How Hooking Up Works

The drinking on campus is one way the students facilitate hookups. Hookups don’t necessarily include actual sex, and can be anything from kissing to intercourse – and often anything in-between. The rules for hooking up include six steps that Wade outlines in detail. I’ll just give you the highlights.

  1. Pregame – basically this is when students get ready for a party and get a bit drunk so they are in the “right frame of mind” to party. This is also the time when girls dress in outfits that are designed to show they are up for anything sexually.
  2. Grind – grinding is dirty dancing. Basically, the women get in the center and the men circle around the outside. The men come up behind a woman they are interested in and grind their pelvises against the girl’s backside. The women usually have no idea who is behind them.
  3. Initiate the hookup – they will ask their friends if the guy is “hot.” If he is, the girl will turn around and look at him. Looking at the person grinding against you basically “seals the deal,” according to a girl named Miranda.
  4. Do…something – as I stated before, a hookup can be anything from kissing to actual intercourse and anything in-between.
  5. Establish meaninglessness – According to a student named Ruby, the goal in a hookup is “fast, random, no-strings attached sex.” Unfortunately, this idea of meaningless often translates to partners being cold and callous toward each other. Kindness to the person you are having sex with is seen as a form of weakness. To facilitate that the encounter was indeed meaningless, students engage in several steps. First, it’s important to establish that you were completely drunk when this hookup occurred. According to Wade, “When students talk about meaningless sex on college campuses, they are almost referring to drunk sex.” It’s also important that two people don’t hook up too many times. Otherwise, it might mean something.  Another way students enforce the idea that the hookup was meaningless is to create emotional distance afterwards. Wrote Wade, “After it’s all over, students confirm that a hookup meant nothing by giving their relationship – whatever it was – a demotion. The rule is to be less close after a hookup than before, at least for a time.” Interestingly, being nice to someone you hooked up with immediately afterwards is considered rude since it might give that other person the wrong idea.

The Dangers of Hookup Culture

I don’t know if this information is new to you, but it was certainly eye opening to me! I mean, I was aware that partying took place on campuses, but the prevalence and expectation has changed. Despite Wade’s progressive views on casual sex, even she points out the inherent hazards and pitfalls of this hook up culture.

Even students that “opt out” for whatever reason, have the hookup culture shoved into their faces. One student, Jimena, opted out due to her faith (yeah, Jimena!). However, her roommate was often visibly drunk when she left for parties. Her roommate also brought guys back to the room and had sex – even when Jimena was in the room. The result was that Jimena felt like an outcast in her own dorm room. She often had to go elsewhere to avoid the culture that had invaded her personal space.

Sadly, even students who started by opting out to the hookup culture, ended up capitulating in the end. Wade did say that those students who regularly attended church services were less likely to end up opting in. For parents, we need to really encourage and helping your college student to find a good church nearby!

Knowledge Is Power

As a parent of one college-aged son and one in high school, I found this book not just terrifying. I also found it important.

As parents, we can’t stick our heads in the sand. For many students, especially those who have grown up in a church culture, campus life will come as a shock. We need to prepare our kids for that.  Acting like somehow partying and casual sex won’t effect our child doesn’t just isn’t an option.

How are you preparing your child for the culture shock of college life?  I’d love to hear about it!

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