Monthly Archives: September 2013

I Think You are Courageous – Another Letter to my Daughter

First of all, I’m sorry. The Bible provides timeless principles for raising kids but I haven’t yet found specific instructions for “what to do when your child wants to do something really hard for a sixth grade project.” And so, being a little overwhelmed for you, I wasn’t very enthusiastic about your project, was I? Truthfully, we know that I tried to talk you into doing something different – something easier.

Sweetheart, I’m learning so much as your Mom. While you are an imaginative, positive, creative thinker, I’m realistic and sensible.

You dream up a project and say “That has potential!”
I consider your ideas and ask, “Is that possible?”

It’s my responsibility as a parent to be reasonable and practical. I think about costs and time and effort. Some people would say that’s being “down-to-earth.”

And yet, honey, I never ever want to ground your dreams to fly.

I was afraid that you would be disappointed. And that your idea might be a failure. And you’d be working on Plan B at the very last minute.

But now I understand that protecting you from failure doesn’t serve you well. The time for you to fail is now. Doesn’t that sound weird? It’s not that I want your ideas to fall flat or I’m hoping that you will miss the cut. But my better responsibility as a parent is to be a safe place when you try. If you fail, if you don’t make the team, if you don’t make the grade, if you’re disappointed after the big audition, I will love you. And support you. And cheer for you anyway.

I want you to try.

As you walk with Jesus, He will take you on a narrow road. You might think that this was just a history assignment, but I’m proud of you for not shying away from a difficult choice. Take it as a life lesson — as part of your own story.

Of course I want you to think and plan and practice wisely. Learning how to do this is a process of growing up. Learning how to let you learn is a process of growing as a parent. You’re just beginning middle school, and your decisions are going to become much bigger than what to do for a school project. We have a lot of learning and growing to do together.

We’re going to make mistakes. I just did, as a mom. I’m writing about it. Failure is not final. I think somebody famous said something like that. Oh, Winston Churchill. (I just looked it up.) You’ll probably learn about him this year.

Ok, here’s what he really said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

So, all day long, on Saturday you worked. And shed a few tears. And continued.

“I can do it, Mommy.”

Sweetheart, I think you are courageous.

Kids and parents are discussing the life application of courage this month at our church. How appropriate, huh? Last week, our leader asked us to talk at home about things that have been hard and scary. I told you that, for me, 2013 has been a year of hard things like going on a mission trip without you and Daddy, taking a class on pastoral care at the hospital, and watching our dearest loved ones go through surgeries and chemotherapy.

At the class in the hospital, I had to go into the rooms of strangers and offer a word of hope or prayer. Sometimes those strangers were thankful and friendly and sometimes not. The director of the program knew that this was hard for a shy person like me.

“I think you are courageous,” he said.

His words gave me encouragement. Get it? En-COURAGE-ment. Just hearing that someone considered me courageous made me feel courageous.

But I couldn’t ultimately depend on courage coming from within myself or from the words of another person. An unkind word could just as easily dis-courage me. Before I could raise my fist to knock on another hospital room door, I had to rely on a promise that the Lord gave to Joshua:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

The Lord is with you, sweet girl. By His Spirit, you are courageous. Continue in hard things.

I remember now where I saw that quote from Winston Churchill. It was posted in a room where your Poppy received a treatment for his cancer.

Cancer is a hard thing. Your Grammy knows that too.

Poppy and Grammy are courageous. Sometimes you have to be courageous about things that you don’t choose.  But no matter what, God chooses to love you and stay with you, just as He continues to do so for your grandparents.

It is the courage to continue that counts.

Colossians 1: 6 – 7 says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in Him….”

Continue on, sweetheart. He will give you roots and let you fly.

When You’re in the Valley

Psalm 23, the beloved Shepherd Psalm, is perhaps the best-known chapter of the Bible. Several months ago, at Easter in fact, I read a blog post that drew my attention to Psalm 23 in a new way by placing it in the context of the psalms that surround it. In “Living in the Valley – For Now,” Jonathan Parnell writes that Psalm 22, 23, and 24, when we look at them together, say something even more meaningful about Jesus’ devotion and authority as our Shepherd.

As we read Psalm 22, we recognize Jesus right away in verse 1, especially His agony on the cross:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (22:1; see Matthew 27:46).

“… scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads” (22: 6 – 7; see Matthew 27:39).

“… people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment” (22: 17 – 18; see Matthew 27:35).

As Psalm 22 depicts Jesus’ cross, Psalm 24 describes His coronation:

Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is He, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
He is the King of glory (24: 8 – 10).

Psalm 22 reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice. Psalm 24 proclaims Jesus’ sovereignty and strength. As Jonathan Parnell put so well: “If Psalm 22 is a Good Friday meditation, Psalm 24 is our Easter morning song.”

But between Friday and Sunday, there is sorrow, uncertainty, disappointment, and confusion. There is a valley. There is a shadow of death.

But it is a mere shadow. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment.” Sunday’s a-coming. The Light of the World will dispel every shadow of darkness and death. The King of glory is coming.

I wholly lean on the triumphant hope of Psalm 24.

But today …. Today has felt like a valley. On days like these my head knows that Sunday is real but my heart is stuck in Friday. There is sorrow, uncertainty, disappointment, and confusion. I pray for vision yet I am short-sighted. There are steep and rugged mountains in the way.

In Psalm 22, I remember Jesus as Savior. In Psalm 24, I trust Him as Sovereign. But today I find myself in Psalm 23. And I need a Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.

Between the images of Jesus’ cross and His crown, here is my Comforter. The Messiah is in the middle.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

I fit the characteristics of a sheep – stubborn, needy, timid, and prone to wander (Isaiah 53:6). Yet, as I see in Psalm 22, the Good Shepherd bought me with a very high price.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

“The position of Psalm 23 is worthy of notice,” said Spurgeon, “It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross …. It is only after we have read, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” that we come to “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We must know the value of blood-shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd before we shall be able truly to know the Sweetness of the good Shepherd’s care.”

Because this Shepherd is willing to care for me, a sheep,  at such a tremendous cost to Himself, I can trust Him. Because this Lover of my soul is a Shepherd King – a King of glory – I can rest in His ability and authority to command all circumstances and lead me into places for my good – even the valley.

Though I walk through the valley … You are with me.

As a real-life shepherd, Phillip Keller explains that sheep are led to the mountain tops through the valleys because it is the well-watered route. In the valley there are rivers, streams, and still waters. The Shepherd who called Himself the Living Water (John 7:38) will refresh me again and again. Hope quenches my thirsty soul.

And as I’m here in the valley, I remember that the Shepherd is leading me through it. This is not a stopping place. One day I will join Him in Psalm 24.

I am the gate for the sheep,” Jesus said, “Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture … I have come that they may have life and have it to the full (John 10: 7 – 9).

The valley is the gateway to the fullest Life we will ever know. Jesus the Savior, Shepherd, and Sovereign makes it so.

“Living in the Valley – For Now.” Jonathan Parnell. April 8, 2013.

Psalm 23 in The Treasury of David by Charles H. Spurgeon

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller


Our Refuge and Strength

It’s NFL kickoff week (hooray for fall and football!) I recently attended a Panthers preseason game, and although it was only an exhibition, there was plenty of pre-game activity to excite the crowd. As an announcer with a bellowing voice introduced them, 11 starting players from the Panthers emerged out of gigantic jaws and ran onto the field. But as the inflatable jaws started to sink and were hauled off the field, I was puzzled.

These players made up only half of the team – the defense.

Where’s the offense? Are they playing tonight? (Feel free to insert your own sarcasm here).

We don’t go to many games, so maybe this is the way it always is. Perhaps the offense gets the big introduction for the next home game.

I asked my husband, thinking that surely he knows these things. His reply:
“I was kinda wondering myself.


Obviously, the offense showed up (not the regular starters – they took the preseason night off). But the reserves played well, and our team won.

I recently read something in my current devotional that I found so reassuring * –
(Based on Psalm 46:1) – “God is your refuge and strength – a refuge to protect you and a strength to help you overcome. Both defense AND offense.”

God is truly our ever-present help in time of trouble. Scripture assures us that He is both behind us and before us (Psalm 139:5). Our Defender and our Fighter. Whenever we feel vulnerable or afraid, we may rely on His certain character as a mighty Fortress.

In the Psalms and Proverbs, “refuge,” “shield,” “fortress,” and “rock” are often used together to describe God:

Psalm 18:2 – My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 62:7 – My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Psalm 71: 3 – You are my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 94:22 – But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.

Psalm 119:114 – You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your Word.

Proverbs 30:5 – Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

When everything else is insecure and uncertain, our God is immovable and unchangeable. I’ll take His protection over a 300 pound lineman anyday :)

Like any battle, offense is essential. In real life there are no preseasons, so Scripture tells us to remain alert and armed (Ephesians 6:17 – 18).

Hear David’s confident readiness in Psalm 18:

“God is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer … He shields all who take refuge in Him … It is God who arms me with strength … He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze … You arm me with strength for battle; You made my adversaries bow at my feet.”

God promises that the weapons that He gives us have divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). He arms us with His very Word. The sword of the Spirit is the believer’s surest weapon against –

Accusation – “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Insecurity – “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Weakness – “… we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Hopelessness- “I consider that our present sufferings are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Doubt – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Loneliness – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”

Fear – “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear but you received a spirit of sonship.”

Since all of these “weapons” are found in just one chapter of the Bible (Romans 8), imagine how well-armed we are with all of Scripture! With God’s Word in our hearts and minds, we can stand firm.

But, just being honest, there are times when I am too emotionally, mentally, or physically spent to wear my game face. The battle seems too much. Thankfully, in Romans 8, I find that God understands:

“We don’t know what we should pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (v. 26).

The Holy Spirit fights for me.

In 2 Chronicles 20, we read King Jehoshaphat’s desperate prayer as the Moabites and Ammonites threatened the people of Judah:

“We have no power to face this army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do but our eyes are on You.”

God gave Jehoshaphat words of hope:

“Do not be afraid or discouraged. The battle is not yours but God’s … You will not have to fight this battle … Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”

So Jehoshaphat trusted God and commanded men at the head of the army to sing:

“Give thanks to the Lord. His love endures forever.”

Worship was their offensive weapon. The enemy may loom large, and I may be weak, but I can worship. I am called to worship. Praise changes my perspective. It opens my eyes to see Who fights for me.

2 Chronicles 20 ends with verse 30: “And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for God had given him rest on every side.”

On every side. He is behind us and before us. Our defense and our offense.

Here’s to a winning season!

* Experiencing God’s Presence by Chris Tiegreen. Devotion for Oct. 2