Friday, December 7, 2018

Kids Are Sinners, And So Are We

Last week, I shared some ideas with you about involving children in corporate worship. You can read that post HERE. This is still an area that I am learning and growing in and so I appreciated the positive feedback from that post; I'm thankful to the Lord that it was an encouragement to many of you. 

I mentioned in that previous blog post that I was going to move on to discuss ways to train our children in worshiping the Lord in our homes. But before I do that, I wanted to take a quick detour. I felt that the Lord brought this to my heart, and I wanted to share it with you all. 

There are times that despite our best intentions and efforts, our kids don't cooperate. To put it frankly, they don't want to worship. 

And there are times, to put it frankly again, that it's not a problem with our kids, but with ourselves--with our own attitudes, lack of obedience to the Lord, failure to realize something that the Lord is showing us--and this is reflected in the attitudes/reactions of our children.

We are sinners. Our kids are sinners. We are all in need of help from a merciful Savior.

We need Him to teach us how to worship. We need Him to change us, to adjust our attitudes and habits, to teach us and to reveal new attitudes and habits to us. We need Him to show us how to daily lead our children through our actions in sometimes quiet, sometimes more visible or audible worship of Him. 

But we struggle with this as sinners. Other attitudes and actions come in--attitudes not born of His Spirit. We get busy and tired. We replace worship with other things and place the Lord on the "back burner" of our lives. This is so easy to do. 

And sometimes as believers we leave it right there. 

We are sinners; our kids are sinners--oh well; we'll never "get it right" here on this earth so why put in such an effort? Just let things flow; just go with it--it will all work itself out in the end. 

Or there is the attitude of "messy grace" which is so prevalent in the church today. I have no problem with the concept itself--but I do think that we need to start taking the grace and cleaning up the mess! Our kids are naughty--our kids are not naturally worshipers, they are sinners like us; ok--don't ultimately laugh it off, don't take it lightly--deal with it by the grace of God so that our lives and the lives of our family may bring greater glory to Him.

Admit your mistakes; admit your shortcomings and come before the throne of grace to ask for help from the Lord in how we raise our children. Fast and pray. Take Him seriously in daily life. Ask for wisdom and direction and He will give it to you. He promises that in His Word. 

Pray with your kids; pray with them daily. Deal with the "issues." Take the grace of God in your daily life with your kids. 

In other words, put the "grace" back into the "messy."

I am speaking to myself. If we want, truly want our kids to worship God aright, in spirit and in truth, then we must set the example. Do our kids see us on our knees? Do they see us taking God seriously, making sacrifices for the kingdom, putting Him first in our lives? Do they see that we value worship? Do they see that we care about the things of God? If our spouse is a believer, do they see their parents praying together and depending upon the Lord for the daily needs of the family? These are all important questions to ask and if we are honest with ourselves, we all fall short in many of these areas. We all could grow and change and make a greater impact upon our children for the glory of God. I know that I could. By the grace of God. 

I have a little sign in my house that I asked someone to make for me (thanks, Sara :-))--it says simply "Spend and be Spent." I wanted a reminder that my life is not to be used up for myself, to please myself, but to be used up for God--to be poured out for God--not for myself. 

I need this constant reminder. I am a sinner; my kids are sinners--we continually depend upon the grace of Almighty God. 

Everyday I face challenges with my children--and with my own ambivalence, or disobedience, or ignorance in some area that the Lord wants to reveal to me as I cry out to Him in my weakness. 

It is good to recognize our weakness so that we can lay hold of the great strength that is offered to us in our merciful Savior. When we do this, it gives Him the opportunity to pour His mercy out upon us as we teach ourselves and our children to worship Him aright--in spirit and in truth. 

As we establish these habits and patterns and seek to pursue the Lord as a family in daily worshiping our God, the key is--never give up. Through the grace of God, never give up and like Jacob, God will bless you and your family. 

Seek to worship God as a family; seek to put Him first in all that you do and your lives as a family will become a living fountain. Not a perfect example of holiness, but a refreshment to those around you. Admit your shortcomings and move on to embrace the grace of God and to grow and change in the areas that He would have you grow in your worship of Him. 

I faced a situation last year which is somewhat funny (in a terrible way ;-)) in retrospect but which taught me a lesson that I could not have learned any other way--a lesson involving high heels.  

It was Christmas Eve. At our church we have a Christmas Eve Service. For those of you who attend these services, you know that they are usually quiet and reflective. 

My 3-year-old son was in a surly mood. Obviously, he had not yet caught the holiday spirit. Or perhaps he was re-enacting the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in a Christmas Carol--the live version ;-). 

My husband and I have been training our kids to sit quietly in church since they were babies. But my strong-willed son would have none of it on this particularly reverent night of nights. 

He couldn't have challenged me on a sunny Sunday morning; it had to be performed on the evening when the sanctuary was full and there were visiting churches joining us for worship, when the lights were lowered and all was supposedly calm and peaceful. 

No. He could not. 

We had just finished singing a hymn (or maybe it was the prayer--I cannot remember--or maybe it is because I have been trying so hard not to ;-)). 

My son was fidgety and I asked him to sit on my lap where I thought that I could better deal with him and his wiles. 

No, he told me in a cheeky manner and I insisted, picking the little stinker up to sit on my lap.

The end result was humiliation. 

No! No! No! He loudly yelled (I think that that is the appropriate word) just as there was complete silence in the sanctuary.

Well, I would not be challenged--the little three year old would not get the better of yours truly--

So I scooped him up still squawking No! and proceeded to trip over one of the folding chairs that was set up for extra guests who attended the service.

Red-faced, I brought my child out of the sanctuary and vowed never, never to wear high heels to church again with young children. 

I quickly disciplined my son and brought him back into that sanctuary, even though I wished to run back home to Rhode Island. I also took my heels off and went barefoot the rest of the evening. 

I knew that the battle would be lost if I kept him out of the service for bad behavior. 

Later on I lamented to my Mom about the whole, terrible embarrassing ordeal (she had witnessed it, by the way--thankfully she was still willing to be associated with us ;-) standing with me in the foyer over a Christmas cookie that I think that I ate out of depression ;-). 

I can't remember her exact words, but she encouraged me so much over that incident. My Mom is not one to beat around the bush or just to say what someone wants to hear--she tells you the truth gently, whether you like it not--it's what I love about my Mom even though sometimes initially I balk at it. 

My Mom told me, "Bekki; you dealt with it (the disobedience)--that is the important thing. If you hadn't, that would have been much worse-- a lot of people would have just allowed the child to disobey--you removed him and didn't give him his way." 

(The back story of this whole episode is that I had just asked my Mom for advice on what to do when my son wouldn't obey me in the church service and she had told me just to scoop him up and take him out of the service, discipline him, and come back in. This advice was fresh on my mind at that service--unfortunately it was the first time that I tried it. ;-))

Then she added, with her usual humor--"but did you have to choose the Christmas Eve Service to deal with it?" 

My older sister, also a comedian, ;-) asked me later, "didn't you know enough to put your hand over his mouth? That's the first thing you do!" I think that she was counseling me to try it the next time--I was hoping that there wouldn't be a next time!!

And even if I had thought of this I suppose that it would have been impossible as I was using both hands to steady myself after tripping over the chair with a husky three-year-old in arms. 

The point of the story is this. Kids are sinners. We are sinners--things like this happen when we are trying to worship--when we are trying to teach our children to worship. 

The key is not to ignore the bad behavior, or to try to cover it up, but to deal with it, by God's grace. There were things that I needed to learn about being firmer in my discipline --there were things that my son needed to learn about obedience. We are both sinners. 

No one wants attention drawn to themselves--no one wants to be the one who looks like they have a strong-willed non-compliant child. But I'll tell you one thing--I admire the mothers who deal with the behavioral issues swiftly rather than ignoring them. I want to be more like that --in a loving way, of course, and with the discernment and the direction of the Holy Spirit. We have been working on this all year, and though my son will still challenge me at times, we seldom have any dramatic episodes. 

We are learning to worship together--two sinners, under the cross of Jesus Christ--my little son and I--the strong-willed little boy who loves to sing hymns and to dress up in a tie like his Dad and reveres the men who bring the tithe up to the front of the sanctuary. 

How I love my son --my fiery little Elisha--I love him enough to discipline him, to teach him through action and example, how to worship, how to obey his parents, how to love the Lord with all of his stubborn little heart. 

We are learning to worship.

We are not perfect families; we are sinners saved by grace pressing toward the goal.

We have a high calling; we have a job to do as parents. To teach little sinners to worship--and to worship aright ourselves.

May we do it with the grace that God supplies. 

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story, Messy Marriage,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdaySoul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewCounting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridaySHINE Blog HopRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayLiving Proverbs 31Coffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Children and Worship

Reading about Susannah Wesley and the way that she ran her home has always inspired me and challenged me. To be honest, it has awed me. I believe that the Lord at certain times in history places His hand upon parents in a special way. He does this when He is preparing to use their children in a great work of His hand. We see this in the lives of Moses' parents; we see it in the life of Susannah Wesley, the mother of the great evangelist John Wesley and his brother-hymnwriter Charles. 

The other day, I read a story about Susannah that pertained to the way that she raised her children. It really encouraged me and spurred me on to press on with my little ones. We all have to admit that though there are many joys in bringing children up, there are also challenges and discouragement that comes along with the territory. We are not raising robots; we are raising fellow sinners saved by grace with wills sometimes as strong as iron. We have need of perseverance and I love how this story involving Susannah and one of her children speaks to this aspect of parenting. She was teaching one of her young children a piece of information in one of their lessons and her husband was listening. She repeated the same lesson over and over again and her husband interrupted her to say, "I wonder at your patience. You have told that child the same thing twenty times." She answered him with these words: "If I had satisfied myself in mentioning it only 19 times, I should have lost all my labor. It was the twentieth time when the lesson was finally learned." 

We have an opportunity as parents to lovingly and patiently impress lessons upon our child's hearts. They are listening. God has given us authority over them--but only for a short time. We have an opportunity by the grace of God, to be "unusual" parents--the kind that teach the lesson twenty times. God will reward us for our diligence and give us the strength that we don't have in our own flesh. One of these areas is teaching our children to worship. 

I believe that this is an area that is vital in encouraging children toward having a heart that loves and reveres our great God. Teaching our children to worship at home and in church is a tremendous part of their understanding of who God is and of how He impacts and relates to them--and what response this should illicit from them. 

This week, I've compiled some idea for encouraging children to worship in the house of God. Next week, I'll share some ideas for encouraging children to worship God in our homes. I pray that these would be an encouragement and I would love to hear your ideas as well! 

Encouraging Children to Worship in the House of God

Ideas for involving children in worship:

Preparing children for church~

  • Talk to children about church during the week; encourage children to be excited about going to church. Talk about how wonderful it is to be able to go into God's house and to meet with God's people. 
  • Prepare clothing, bags, anything else that is needed beforehand so that the morning isn't chaotic and rushed.
  • Play hymns/quiet music in the morning before going to church. Encourage a quiet atmosphere in the home that will be helpful in encouraging young, active children to sit still in church.
  • "Play" church at home. My kids love this! They will "act out" the service and play the different roles of Pastor, song leader, etc. It prepares their little hearts for "real" worship and sets the stage for participating in "real" church.
  • Practice sitting still at home. For a while, I believed that the Lord laid upon my heart to teach my children to sit quietly in church through listening to sermons at home together while they were expected to sit quietly. This was helpful in going to "real" church where they are expected to sit through the service quietly (this does not always happen, of course, but it is a work in progress! :-))
  • Talk about people who attend your church in a positive way during the week. Talk about how we are excited to see them, etc., and how good it is to be able to worship with the people of God. 

Encouraging children toward a worshipful and reverent attitude in church:

  • Encourage children and set an example of wearing our "best" to church (something special, according to your convictions). Iron it and prepare it ahead of time. Let your children see you do this.
  • From when children are very small, teach them to regard the sanctuary of the church as a special place to meet with God in worship. Encourage children not to run or shout in the sanctuary. Speak quietly as you enter the sanctuary and demonstrate a quiet, reverent attitude for your children. 
  • Children should speak quietly in the sanctuary as the family sits down and settles into their pew; help children to practice this.
  • Talk quietly to a child about each aspect of the service (without distracting those around you). Direct them to focus on what is taking place in the service. 

Encouraging Children to be Involved in Church: 
  • Let children hold a hymnal; encourage them to follow along and to sing the hymns and if they are not able to read yet, to hum the tunes of the hymns!
  • Let children bring an offering or hold the family's offering and let them put it into the plate as it is passed around. 
  • Point out the different leaders in the church. 
  • Encourage children to listen to the speaker as they bring the Word. 
  • Demonstrate an attitude of serving/helping at various functions that the church holds. Encourage children to come alongside in helping at these functions rather than always allowing them to play while the adults work. 

Enjoying children in church:
  • At times we wish that we could listen to the sermon/be able to worship ourselves without distraction. Remember that children are only little once--for a very small window of time. Cherish this time of training your children in church while they are young--this season will soon pass, and you'll probably wish that you could have it back! 
  • Remember our Lord's admonition to Peter to "feed (His) sheep." What a blessing and a privilege it is for us as parents to train these little ones in the ways of the Lord! 
  • Be thankful for the little souls next to you in the pew and enjoy watching them worship as little children. They can actually teach us a lot about true worship. 

Of course, many of these ideas will look different at different ages/stages of a child's life . . . the goal is not perfection, but purpose. Are we purposing in our hearts as parents to teach our children how to reverently worship the Lord? Or are we distracted or distanced from our children? It may also look different for different families--some families have one child; some have 7; obviously the dynamic in the pew might change according to the number of children a person has. Family situations are different. Some people face parenting alone as a single parent or as the partner of an unbelieving spouse. They are trying to parent alone. God gives grace in every situation. Lay hold of His promises and obey Him to the best of your ability and He will bless you. 

Above all, press on . . . some weeks may bring discouragement. Children misbehave. Parents get tired and frazzled, but press on. The Lord will reward your efforts with your children and give you fruit as you seek to honor Him in raising up your little ones to know and to love the Lord. He will bless you. Do you want children who love and serve the Lord as they grow older? Is that the desire of your heart? Press into His ways and He will bless you--we will never train our children perfectly, but the Lord knows the intent and desire of the heart. Do your best and don't quit. I was listening to a sermon from Pastor Charles Stanley the other day that really spoke to me in regards to my children. He was talking about prayer, but this applies to any aspect of our walk with the Lord. Stanley said, "Just beyond where we stop is God's very choice blessing. When you want to stop, DON'T STOP." 

Train your children to worship. Help them, guide them, direct them. Children need and crave direction. Enjoy them; enjoy this season in your life. And above all, don't stop

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story, Messy Marriage,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdaySoul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewCounting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridaySHINE Blog HopRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayLiving Proverbs 31Coffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Thursday, November 22, 2018

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas! Plus a GIVEAWAY!

*Please read to the end for a GIVEAWAY!!! 😊 

To welcome in the Christmas season, I thought that I would share a fun post about some stores that I love to shop from for people on my Christmas shopping list. :-) 

For those of us who don't have a huge budget and are not able to normally support small businesses even if we would like to, Christmas is a great excuse opportunity. 😊. 

And I would add a Scriptural principle into the mix here--as believers, we are to do good to all people, but especially to those of the household of faith. Therefore, I often try to support small businesses/shops run by Christians when I am purchasing gifts. I believe that this is just one way that we can show love and kindness towards our sisters and brothers in Christ through supporting them in their business endeavors--and they usually make/create beautiful things! :-) 

So, without further ado, I'll share some of the shops that I love below. These individuals create lovely products that make great Christmas gifts--they are also very easy to contact/get in touch with and are quick to answer any questions that you may have. Use the highlighted links below to check out their shops; maybe you'll find something for someone on your list that they will love from one or all of these shops! 🎄

Elizabeth creates lovely and unique jewelry that makes wonderful Christmas gifts! Her work is careful and meticulous and she is a joy to order from! I ordered a pair of earrings for my niece from Elizabeth for Christmas (shhh ;-)). They were delicate and incredibly well-made and carefully packaged. Elizabeth continually posts new pieces on Facebook; there is so much to choose from! You can find Figure Eight Jewelry on Facebook

I have to admit that I am a bit partial toward this shop as Alicia is my dear sister, but even if she was not, I would highly recommend her works of fiction. Alicia writes beautiful Christian fiction; her stories are redemptive, heartwarming, and incredibly well-written. She is a disciplined writer who pours herself into her work and into every aspect of her books. Alicia recently opened a shop on her author website where her books may be purchased directly from her.  Her books are priced extremely reasonably and make perfect Christmas gifts, especially for those who enjoy Christian fiction with substance that is well-written. She is even running a sale right now! You may visit her store HERE--and she is offering autographed copies of her books as well when you purchase them directly from her. 

This is a very sweet Etsy shop that is filled with all kinds of delightful handmade soaps, gift baskets, and other wonderful gifts. All of the items are prepared with great love and care and there is almost certainly something for everyone in this shop! I've enjoyed getting to know Ang a little better through blogging and I really enjoy many of the products that she offers in her sweet shop! There are so may wonderful listings right now! 

The Enchanting Rose 

Stephanie is a friend who makes exquisite handmade gifts. I love her shop because she offers free shipping in the continental United States, which is a huge incentive for me, along with the fact that her creations are lovely, very feminine, and highly "gift-able." If you have a someone on your list who loves pretty, useful, unique gifts, this shop is for you! Stephanie also ships extremely quickly and often includes "extras" in her boxes. You may shop directly through Stephanie's store on her blog

And there you have it! Four wonderful shops to visit this Christmas season! And you may do it all from the comfort of your cozy couch! I hope that you will find something for someone on your list! Go ahead! Be a blessing to someone from the household of faith! 🎄

And now for the fun part! If you would SHARE this post and comment below that you have shared it and where you have shared it, I will enter your name into a giveaway for the complete signed set (trilogy) of Alicia Ruggieri's A Time of Grace Series. The only condition is that you share this post and live in the continental United States. Please check back in a week to see if your name was chosen! 


Giveaway Update! :-)
dguz your name was chosen as the winner of the giveaway! Please send me a message with your e-mail address so that I may contact you! :-)

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story, Messy Marriage,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdaySoul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewCounting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridaySHINE Blog HopRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayLiving Proverbs 31Coffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving

This book . . . Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving--I cannot say enough good things about it. My children picked this book up in our church library; they handed it to me and asked if we could bring it home. We read it together and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to recommend it to my readers here. 

First, I must say what an incredible blessing church libraries are . . . my sister, who is an avid (voracious :-) is a better word :-)) reader organizes our church library and fills it with such treasures.  My children always find a book that they like and this time it was this one--

Partly because I grew up in New England and partly because I love history, the Pilgrims have always held a very special place in my heart. One of my favorite places to visit (we used to camp there when I was a little girl) is Plymouth. I love the cobblestone streets, the roar of the water at the Jenney Gristmill, and especially Burial Hill where many of the great men and women who risked their lives to begin fresh in the New World are laid to rest. 

I realized that Squanto, of the Patuxet Tribe, helped the Pilgrims to survive in the New World after their harrowing first winter. But this book, written by Eric Metaxas, delves more deeply into the details of Squanto's early life and of his conversion to Christianity that I was not aware of. This book fascinated me. I never realized that Squanto was captured as a young boy and sold as a slave in Spain. I never realized that sincere, compassionate monks bought him and treated him kindly, and then found a way for him to return to his native land. The seed of Christianity was planted in his heart through the loving example of those humble men of God. When Squanto returned to the village where he was born, he learned to his devastation that his entire village had been wiped out--not one member of his tribe had survived--except him--because he had been sold as a slave and had been delayed from returning to his village. 

Truly, the Lord worked in a marvelous way in this young Native American's life, using, like Joseph, men's evil for ultimate good in the life of Squanto and ultimately for the good of the Pilgrims who were struggling to survive in an unfamiliar place.  Squanto was instrumental in helping the Pilgrims to learn to hunt, fish, and plant in the New World. He could even communicate with the Pilgrims as he had learned their language while in captivity. His long confinement had turned into a blessing both for himself and for those around him. What men intended for evil, God used for good. 

This book is so well worth reading--the paperback is priced extremely reasonably on Amazon. It is definitely a worthwhile book to add to your family library. Eric Metaxas lends his usual wonderful writing style to the book and it is such a rich, historic story suitable for children and adults alike. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Politics and Fear

Surely the principles of Christianity lead to action as well as meditation.
~William Wilberforce
I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
~J.R.R. Tolkien

I just began reading a fascinating book (Ship of Fools) written by political commentator Tucker Carlson. For a long time I've enjoyed Carlson's insight and wisdom, even though I don't believe that he is a professing Christian. Almost all of my life, I've been interested in politics. I come from a "voting" family who believes that we can make a difference through allowing our voice to be heard. In fact, I believe that the silence of many Christians on political matters has contributed in part to the moral demise of this country. Christians have always had a purifying influence on peoples and nations. The Methodist movement is a powerful example of this fact as the healing of men and women through conversion and repentance produced markedly less crime in England during the time of the First Great Awakening. As believers also took their relationship with God more seriously and allowed this relationship to impact their actions, men like William Wilberforce emerged and impacted the entire system of social justice in a positive and effective manner in his country. But not without becoming politically involved, of course. 
As a Christian who believes strongly that this world is not my final resting place and that my citizenship is ultimately not in a particular country but in Heaven with the Lord Jesus, there has always been a struggle within me. I wonder how politically involved it is "right" for a Christian to be, how caught up with whatever is going on in politics my mind should become, how I should pray for this country at a critical moral time in her history when all values and conscience seem to be slipping away and fading fast even from what they used to be 20 years ago. America is certainly on a downward spiral and drowning fast, though she does not even realize the danger. 
Progressivism and liberalism have nearly taken over our schools, the media, our homes, and is even seeking to slither its way into our thought lives through social media and other seemingly harmless means. It is frightening to me, truly. Big Brother is lurking--but our Father in Heaven is stronger; this is the only thing that anchors me.  
We live in frightening, bewildering times. 
It is easy to lose hope. 
It is easy to give in to worry and fear. 
When I lived in New England, I basically had no voice politically. The tiny, liberal state in which I lived always went in a far-left direction. My conservative values were lost in the sea of the voices of shouting liberals--but I voted anyway, believing that it was my spiritual duty to raise my voice even if it was barely heard in the final statistical analysis. The Lord would honor my effort to vote according to His truth and righteousness, even if it was disregarded in the state in which I lived. This is life; this is the healthy political process. Vote and accept the outcome. Honor God. 
But now I live in the Midwest in a state where elections are critical. I finally feel that I have a voice, that my vote may actually do something. Everything has become more important. Encouraging other Christians to vote their conscience and God's Word have become more important. Prayer toward this end has become vital in terms of house, senatorial, and governmental elections. 
As believers we truly do not realize the impact our words and our actions may have on those around us and how they may change the course of history at any given time. William Wilberforce saw this in his life and I would strongly encourage anyone who has not read about this prayerful, humble man to read about his life or to watch the film based upon his life, Amazing Grace. Wilberforce is a beautiful testimony of a man who was heavily involved in politics and who used his position to bring glory to God and literal deliverance to the captives. 

What are some of the issues that we are facing in our day?
We have largely placed the subject of abortion on the back burner, but it is one that could potentially be reversed in this country. Probably not, but do we even pray toward that end consistently? Or have we just accepted the evil of it, thinking that nothing could possibly change to make things right? 
We have a voice. 
We still have a voice. 
Lately, I've been noticing a lot of Christians downplaying our involvement in politics and even subtly discouraging it. These believers emphasize the fact that our citizenship is in Heaven and that there is very little that we can do to change things at this point in our country. We should just pray "generally" and move on in the other facets of our lives. 
I feel like we are hobbits living in our happy little sphere while the world burns around us and is taken over by dark, insidious forces. The poignant line from J.R.R. Tolkien's masterful trilogy comes through like a knife--"Will you do nothing?"
I have felt afraid lately, with a fear that is not entirely from the Lord but also with one that drives me to contemplate deeper issues. I feel afraid of the direction that this country is taking. I feel afraid of the loud, mob-like voices of the left wing that have passed the point of reason and discussion and logic. I feel afraid of a ruling class that wants to control every aspect of our lives in a God-like fashion. These things strike fear in my heart. 
These are the things that I need to surrender to the Lord. Ultimately, the outcome of these important midterm elections are in His hands, not mine, and there is nothing that I can ultimately do but to pray and to trust Him for the result. Things must eventually get worse before the Lord comes. I was reminded of this Corrie Ten Boom quote this past week that really spoke to me in my fear--
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
Fear of the future is not from God--He is always to be trusted even in the most dire of circumstances. And His kingdom will prevail against the hosts of evil that try without success to break it down. Our God is a mighty fortress. There is great, lasting, true strength and hope in that knowledge. 
But the other fear that I have felt is actually the one that I believe is legitimate and that should motivate me to action. I know that I must ultimately also surrender this fear to the Lord, but I pray that it will not drive me to silence, but to action, as it should. I feel afraid of the apathy of Christians in this time. I feel like we have grown intimidated, that we have softened our stance in order to become more "like-able," and not become labeled as harsh; we're afraid for this reason of speaking the truth even when we are speaking it in a loving fashion. 
My husband often quips that "fear is a marvelous motivator." We think of fear as a purely bad thing, but sometimes it can be a motivator to action. When fear brings us to the hand grip of trust, then it is a helper to grace. 
I am afraid for believers today. I am afraid of what my children may face in the future. I am afraid of the silence, of the lack of involvement, in the ambivalence and the distraction away from the things that really matter in favor of trivial things. I am afraid of my own apathy at times, of my own reluctance to speak out in love against wrong. 
II Kings 13:15-19 gives an intriguing account of what God might have done in response to a more enthusiastic display of trust in a saving, acting God --I believe that it is a lesson for me, for each of us in terms of persevering prayer and of holding on to God until He blesses us--
And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.” Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”
We are often weak in our prayers. We give up too easily or attribute everything that happens as the "will of God" when perhaps He would have answered our petitions if we had pressed them further and not given up. Is God's answer, His working dependent upon us? Absolutely not. But He is a God who hears and answers prayer and who acts on behalf of persistent and trusting petitions. 
Truly, God has not given us a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7 ) and so I must take my fears to the throne of grace and allow them to be replaced with love, power, and a sound mind.  
And a spirit of love, power and a sound mind should lead to prayerful action, should lead to peace and trust in a loving Father, should lead to hope in His perfect plan for the future--of mine and of my children's. We embrace that hope by faith. 
When I began writing my blog some years ago I made a kind of "promise" to the Lord that I would never hold back truth so that people would "like" me. That would be the death knell of my soul and God forbid that I write what tickles people's ears or that I hold back truth because, in the words of Amy Carmichael, I am afraid to "lose affection." 
I have lost "likes" on my blog Facebook page because of this stance. I have had other bloggers rebuke me. But I have become even more convinced through these occurrences that I am accountable to the Lord above all else and that if to please Him means losing "likes," or friends, or anything else, then that is worth it. I embrace the words of Pastor Charles Stanley here--a man who has suffered rejection and loss and even humiliation as the result of standing firm on the Word of God and not compromising-- to "obey God and to leave the consequences to Him." It is not worth it to gain the world and to lose one's soul. We obey and the end result is in God's hands. 
We have a choice, dear friends. We can sit back and swim as the proverbial frog in the water that is boiling or we can use these times that we are in to move forward by faith. The Lord does not call everyone to serve in political positions or to be heavily involved in politics, but He does call us to use our voice when we can. Perhaps, like Esther, He has placed us in positions of influence (wherever we are) for such a time as this. And God forbid that we remain silent. 
Be prayerful, be hopeful, have faith, put trust in the living God who rules over Kings and nations and countries and government. Don't put your hope in them but in the living God who can work through them and turn the king's heart . . . (Proverbs 21:1 ). 
We serve a great and mighty God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Great I Am; He deeply cares and moves in the affairs of men. He cares and knows the times that we are in and is able to work mightily in response to believing, persevering prayer. 
I listened to a fascinating sermon from Pastor Michael Youssef the other day and believe that it was providential as I have been thinking and praying over this blog post. He spoke about Sir Francis Drake and his naval battle against the Spanish Armada. At a critical point, Drake apparently sent burning ships ahead of his army towards the Spanish fleet, hoping for a final victory. At the sight of these ships, the Spanish panicked and retreated. After this battle it is said that the Spanish nation was never the power it once was. Youssef made the point that as believers, we often decide to retreat instead of advancing. We become afraid and so we turn back when the Lord would have us press forward by faith. Like the spies who were afraid of the "giants" in Canaan, so we fear the evil powers of this world and are afraid at times to take God at His Word and to go forward speaking the truth in love even though the truth is not received well. 

Who knows what God will do at this time in our country? The future is in His hands. And as long as we have a voice, as long as we have knees to pray and a heart to trust, may we like Daniel and Jeremiah and the prophets of old go forward instead of retreating into our quiet, comfortable Christian lives. 
Vote, pray, have faith. Put action to your meditation. 

Trust the outcome to Him. 
And may we use the time given to us as best we can through the power of the Holy Spirit.
 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.~Ephesians 6:12-13 NKJV

You might find me on these link-ups:

Inspire Me MondayLiteracy Musing MondaysThe Modest MomRaising Homemakers, Classical HomemakingA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries,  Testimony TuesdayTell His Story, Messy Marriage,  Imparting Grace, Thought Provoking ThursdaySoul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysThe Weekend BrewCounting My BlessingsThe HomeAcre Hop, Mommy Moments Link UpGrace and Truth LinkupFaith Filled FridaySHINE Blog HopRaRaLinkupWord of God SpeakBooknificent ThursdayLiving Proverbs 31Coffee For Your Heart Weekly LinkUpYou're the Star Blog HopHomesteader HopFresh Market FridayHeart Encouragement Thursday Sitting Among Friends Blog PartyFabulous Warm Heart PartyOh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday LinkupWriter WednesdayTea and Word