Job Descriptions . . . Take 2

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

I’ve written about it here, on this site, before. And I have it written off to the side of my running prayer list in my journal. Six simple words. A constant reminder. “You are not the Holy Spirit.”

Sometimes, a lot of times, we need to speak truth. Sometimes that truth may be hard spiritual, moral, and biblical truth on which God is calling us to speak. Sometimes, it’s truth in relationships with our spouses, our families, our friends. Other times it’s the mundane, daily truths that need to be said. There’s a lot of mundane, daily truths in raising teenagers. Can I get an amen? Read through Paul’s epistles. He never minced words when truth was necessary. He knew the value of planting the seed.

And then there’s the watering. A tending and teaching that accompanies those truths. Not harping. Not nagging. But lovingly leading. This is where I often mess up. I can be pretty darn good at speaking that truth. I mean I will blast you with it. But then I’ll keep on blasting you. I’ll keep on pounding it. Because when in the history of the world has preaching and pounding, nagging and lecturing, cajoling and coercing, ever worked? Answer: It hasn’t. And it won’t. So why do I do it? I guess I think that somehow, if I just say it louder, and harsher, and one more time, I’ll get the result I want. I’ll somehow change what’s going on in the other person. It’s why I have those words written in the margin of my journal. They serve as a daily reminder, that I’m not the one who does the changing. I’m not the one who brings growth, increase, and transformation. I am not the Holy Spirit.

Just over two years ago, in a post entitled Job Descriptions, I wrote about this very thing. Clearly, I’m very much a work in progress because this morning, while praying (if you can call it that . . . it was more like whining and throwing a small fit), I told God exactly how I thought He should do His job. And as always that still, small, voice, that I’d sometimes just as soon ignore as obey (just being honest), once again reminded me, I am not the Holy Spirit. I don’t change anyone. When I’m called (and only when I’m called) to speak truth, I speak it from a place of boldness and authority, not because of who I am but only because of who He is. I am nothing . . . as Paul says, “Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters” . . . but I have the authority to speak the truth of God because of the blood of Jesus. When I’m called to teach, I should teach and lead with grace, love, and compassion. But when I’m called to step back and shut up, I should actually step back and shut up and let God do what God does. Starting with changing me . . . because ultimately, that’s where this all begins.

First World Problems … Tales of Sharing a Restroom With a Teenager

In an effort to avoid discussing something that actually matters and carries weight and importance (because I am not capable of having a reasonable conversation regarding how much I’m not okay with the whole student loan forgiveness thing … so I won’t go there now), let’s talk about a completely superficial and shallow annoyance with which I’m currently dealing. It is the absolute definition of first world problem. And if you’re not feeling it or don’t really have a sense of humor, I recommend you just stop reading right now and come back when I’m not on the precipice of completely going off about the actual, important issues facing our country and our world, and thus, able to discuss, like a mature grown up, real things that matter. For the moment, a little levity is needed.

We have 3.5 restrooms . . . bathrooms . . . water closets . . . whatever you want to call them, there’s a lot of them in our house. I love indoor plumbing. I don’t love anything that has anything to do with not having it. See number eight in Courtney’s Confessions Continued . . . The Final Installment . . . For Now . . . where I very kindly explain my abhorrence of camping. No apologies there. Anyhow, I digress. When we built our house, we decided to modify the plans so that every bedroom has its own bathroom, and then we also have a half bath for guests, so they don’t have to use my kids’ bathrooms because kids . . . especially boys . . . are gross.

Having said that, I’m fully aware of how extra it is that my kids do not have to share a bathroom. No need to tell me or write me or set me straight. I’m aware. My children, bless them, however, are not even slightly aware of this. They think they’re entitled to their own bathroom. College is going to be a rude and more than funny awakening for certain teenagers in this house. I told y’all first world problems up in here . . .

Back to the restroom situation. My son has been telling us for a while that his shower leaked when it was on. But only when it was on. And we kind of, sort of, didn’t really believe him. We thought he was just splashing water on the floor and blaming it on some sort of leak. Well, lo and behold, something is leaking when the water is turned on . . . thankfully, only when the water is on, but the kid wasn’t wrong. So we need to get it fixed, and the fix is probably a fairly easy one. However, we need the handyman we use to come help us (by “us” I mean Patrick . . . I don’t fix stuff . . . I’m more likely to be the one breaking stuff) because we (“we” and “us” . . . same thing) are likely going to have to cut into the wall, and “we” need to be sure it’s done right. But . . . there’s a lot of buts here . . . the handyman, jack of all trades, fixer of all things, has been working on a property we recently bought, and that is a more pressing job. Which means, I have been sharing a shower with my 14 year old son for the past three weeks . . . or one hundred years. Same difference.

Y’all, he’s kind of a slob. Am I allowed to say that? I mean he’s smart, cute, funny, a hard worker, disciplined in everything . . . except he doesn’t understand how to pick things up. You would think he would get it, considering his IQ is pretty dang high, but alas, I’d be lying if I told you the kid was a neat freak. Now when it’s contained to his own room and bathroom, as long as it isn’t straight up filthy, I let it go. It’s not the hill on which I plan on dying, but y’all he’s been using my bathroom and shower forever. FOREVER. Remember how Squints said it in The Sandlot? FOR-EV-VER. Same. There has been some improvement over the past few weeks. After I almost brained him (no worries . . . I’ve never actually “brained” one of my children . . . I’m not even sure what that would entail) for using my washcloth, not flushing the toilet, getting body wash everywhere, leaving dirty clothes and towels on the floor . . . he did start to show signs of improvement. But if we don’t get his shower fixed soon, well, I might lose my ever-loving mind. And we wouldn’t want that now would we?

Sometimes we just need to take a minute and breathe and worry about something truly important . . . like why we shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with our children (and I know … some of you do … you have all my empathy … all of it). Can I get an amen?

THE END

The One on Which I Hop Right Up on That Soapbox . . . You’re Welcome . . .

I’ve been on social media a little too much the past couple weeks.

It makes me irritated and anxious and annoyed.

It’s also stupid addictive. Time for some detox.

But here’s the thing I keep seeing that’s really getting to me.

It’s the low-key judgment of moms by other moms regarding the whole back to school thing.

Examples:

“You’re excited your kids are going back to school. What is wrong with you?”

“You homeschool . . . ugh . . . I could never.”

“You send your kids to public school. Go ahead and brainwash them.”

“You send your kids to private school. Must be nice.”

And other things of the same thread attached to obnoxious memes, so the judgment is a little more thinly veiled and low key. It’s still judgment. It’s still saying, “I think I’m better than you”. Bottom line it’s pride.

Can we just stop y’all? Can we stop being judgy and obnoxious and realize that each family has to make the decision about what is right for them and their children? And newsflash, regardless of whether your child goes to public or private school or is homeschooled, you, as parents, are the main ones responsible for instilling personal and spiritual values in your children. So absolutely, if something is being taught that you don’t agree with, speak up! Especially if it’s something that you object to morally. By all means, it’s your child. But also, take responsibility and stop shifting it to others, AND on the flip side, accept that one can be a good parent and send their child to public school (or private school or the moon if need be).

Finally, on a personal note, I have one child in a private, Christian school. It’s where we want him and where he belongs. We love his school because it does reinforce our values. That’s why we chose it. But at the end of the day, we don’t depend on the school to fulfill the role of spiritually guiding and teaching him. It’s a supplement to what we try to walk out and teach in our home each and every day. Not that we’re perfect. The good Lord knows we’re not, but we keep on keepin’ on. We also have a child in public school mostly due to her particular needs, and we love our local elementary school. It’s where God led us to place her. It has been a blessing, and we are so thankful for her teachers, therapists, counselors, etc. No, they don’t offer spiritual guidance (not their job), but they also don’t detract from our beliefs and are very respectful of what we try to instill in our daughter. Ultimately, she’s there until we feel she needs to be somewhere else . . . which at some point, might be homeschooling. Might not. We’re asking God to show us the right path for her. I’m also a big believer in homeschooling when and where it’s appropriate for your family. I have tons of friends that homeschool and love it, and we may join those ranks one day. Regardless, I think it’s great!

But bottom line, because this devolved rapidly from where I started, whatever your day looks like today. . . if you’re swinging from the rafters because “Hallelujah, school started again!” more power to you. If you have tears in your eyes because sending your babes off to kindergarten . . . or senior year . . . or college . . . is rough, lots of hugs and empathy sent your way. If you, like myself, fall somewhere in the middle of “Praise Jesus, it’s quiet! I get to grocery shop in peace!” and “Gosh, I hope she’s okay without me, and did I remember to tell her teacher . . . and what time is it? Is school out yet?” then cool. It’s okay. And if you keep your kids home year-round and are homeschool mom extraordinaire, then way to go! But let’s just stop being overtly and covertly obnoxious toward one another. Instead, let’s be supportive and helpful, and crazy thought, encouraging.

That’s it. I’ll now step down off my soap box.

That’s A Wrap . . . A Little Life Update and Prayers and Scriptures for the New School Year

The insanely busy summer of 2022 has come to an end. When I say it has flown by, that’s not an exaggeration or understatement. Three(ish) months never passed so fast. I have one that goes back to school tomorrow (Wednesday) and one that starts next Monday, and so yesterday, Monday morning, I declared summer officially over. We’re back at it. The regular routine. The early mornings. All the things that come with school being back in session.

This year I have a third grader and a freshman in high school. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how we got here. How have my babies grown up so quickly? And I give myself a moment to pause, to feel the bittersweetness that comes with your kiddos growing up. I look back at those early, first day photos with chubby little cheeks and pudgy little hands . . . it’s sometimes hard to remember those days. They seem so long ago, and like most parents, I feel that pang of “where has the time gone???”.

But then I look at my long legged nine-year-old, and my almost 15-year-old man child, and I like what I see, not just physically, because they keep growing out of their shoes and their clothes, and that’s expensive! But I like the people they are and are becoming. I like being the parent of older kids. Even more than that, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the immense privilege and responsibility of watching them grow into the people God created them to be. It’s not that every day is easy. I mean teenagers y’all . . . and a nine year that struggles emotionally . . . it can make for some hard days, but when I step back and take a thousand-foot view, I see these two, amazing people that God is molding. I, with my far from perfect parenting, with all its mistakes and mess ups, inconsistencies and imperfections, get to be a part of that. And one day, I pray, we get the even more immense privilege of launching our kids out into this world. I’m not sure exactly how an “empty nest” will look for us, but however, it ends up looking, I’m looking forward to it.

My prayer for my kids going into this year is relatively simple. “First and foremost, before anything else, let them have hearts that follow hard after you, Lord. Let them be leaders that show others Your light in a world that is hurting and struggling, Jesus. Let them be kind, hardworking, and honest. Help them to learn and grow and understand what is taught to them. Help them to make wise and mature choices even when it’s hard. Heal their hearts and their hurts no matter how deeply they run. Protect them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. May your “truth” be their “shield and their buckler”. Give your “angels guard over them”. Bring friends adults and teachers into their lives that will draw them closer to you and that are good for them. Give them peace and freedom from fear. Let them know how much they are loved.”

And for good measure, I want to share some of the scriptures I try to pray over my children regularly. Anna is so used to hearing them, that although she sometimes mixes them up, she knows these mostly by heart. That’s nothing special I’ve done. As I’ve already said, I get a lot wrong when it comes to parenting, but if I don’t do anything else, I want to get the word of God in them, and I want them to know, as much as is humanly possible, how much He loves them. I believe in praying scripture. Not as some magical words or incantations but because the word of God is active and living:

  • You have the fruit of the spirit . . . “love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
  • God has not given you a “spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (self control).” 2 Timothy 1:7
  • “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me, Says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17
  • “All your (my) children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your (my) children. In righteousness you (we) shall be established; You (we) shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you (us).” Isaiah 54:13
  • Paraphrased from Daniel 1:4 . . . “My children are a young lady and young gentleman in whom there is no blemish (because of what Christ has done for them), good looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand.”
  • All of Psalm 91 . . . “He (we . . . Courtney, Patrick, Andrew, and Anna) who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty . . . His truth shall be your (our) shield and buckler. You (we) shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness . . . No evil shall befall you (us) nor any plague come near your (our) dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge of you (us), to keep you (us) in all your (our) ways . . . with long life I will satisfy Him (He will satisfy us) And show him (us) My (His . . .God’s) salvation.” I just hit on a few verses throughout the chapter, but seriously every word of Psalm 91 matters to me.

Whether your children are just starting their first day of daycare or preschool or getting read to fly the nest, embrace the moment. Be thankful for what lies behind and look forward to what’s ahead. I pray for blessings and protection for you and for them. May this be the best year yet!

Because I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on it, here’s my PSA for today: As always, I’ll take a minute to emphasize this – don’t neglect your marriage while you’re raising your kids. As Jimmy Evans always says, “Your kids are a temporary assignment”. With obvious exceptions for special needs, they aren’t meant to be your everything and forever, and even with kiddos with special needs, maybe even more so, at least in our case, you have to work to make your marriage a priority when you have a child that, by virtue of their needs and through no fault of their own, demands so much attention. The order of things, if you’re married, should always and forever be – 1. God 2. Spouse 3. Kids . . . followed by everything else (church, extended family, friends, work . . .). But too many people sacrifice their marriages on the altar of “raising” their kids, activities, etc. Our children should grow into adults that we no longer need to parent. That leave home and have their own lives. That no longer obey and look to us for constant guidance, provision, and direction (yes, they may seek wisdom and advice from time to time, but that’s their choice not a commandment) but instead walk alongside us as friends and equals. So as challenging as it can be, build your friendship and relationship with your spouse while your kids are home so that one day, when they leave, while there will most likely be some tears and sadness (I mean I get it . . . our kids are loud and fun and exhausting so when they’re not here, it’s quiet and weird), you won’t be at a loss as to how function without them, and you won’t look at your spouse and realize you have no idea who you are married to because you’ve spent the last 18+ years ignoring the most important thing, next to God, in your life. PSA over!

On Gentleness . . .

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I know these verses by heart. They are seared into my memory. I recall them often. But the words preceding?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:4-5

It’s not that I don’t know them, but I don’t necessarily give them the respect and weight I should. Especially, the “let your gentleness be known to all men” part. I’ve always kind of skimmed right past those words.

I am not an inherently gentle person. The NASB translation says “let your gentle spirit, be known to all men”. Gentle in the Greek means, “gentle, mild, forbearing, fair, reasonable, moderate” . . . I mean y’all, I don’t often find myself falling into any of these categories, but “reasonable” and “moderate” are definitely not my forte. However, as of late, God has been reminding me, that it’s not about my natural disposition . . . it’s not about whether or not I’m an “inherently gentle person” . . . if Jesus is my Savior, then I am called to gentleness, and the Holy Spirit enables me to be gentle. Gentleness is not optional.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:22-25

People often frustrate me . . . how’s that for a segue? I don’t understand why they do the things they do. Why do some relationships have to be so hard? Why is it that boundaries can’t be respected? Why does judgment have to be passed on aspects of other people’s lives that have absolutely no moral or ethical consequences? Why is it that constructive, healthy, criticism can’t be heard? Why is jealousy the top dynamic in some relationships? Yep. People often frustrate me. And I frustrate myself. Because I have found that I kind of, sort of, have an inability to let things go . . . to sometimes leave things unsaid. I have a need for accuracy and honesty in my life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue is that I often fail to couple honesty and truth with gentleness. So rather than gently speaking truth, I blast it like a stick of dynamite and end up imploding what’s there rather than building up and creating something stronger.

I think we confuse gentleness with weakness. We think gentleness equals compromise. We are never told to be weak in God’s word. We are never called to compromise on biblical values and morals. Sin is still sin, and we still have a responsibility to address sin when, if, and how God tells us we should. Some of the gentlest followers of Christ are bold and strong in speaking the truth and living for Him, but they are also ruled by a gentle spirit.

Gentleness . . . it’s the area on which God is currently working in my life, and let me tell y’all, it is quite a lot of work. I want to have a gentle and quiet spirit. I want to boldly speak the truth with gentleness. I want to be gentle as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I don’t want to be abrasive and cynical. I don’t want to use truth to destroy, but instead use it to bring life to others. I’m definitely not there yet. Reality is, I’ve really only begun, and I know there is a lot of work to be done. But here’s the other reality, the one that really matters . . . it’s not my job to make myself gentle. It’s the job of the Holy Spirit to instill that gentleness in me. It’s my job to let Him. It’s my job to submit. The more I allow the Holy Spirit to live in me and work through me, the more that gentleness, and all the fruits of the spirit, will flow out of me. It’s not something I have to make happen, but rather it’s something I must allow to happen.

Forever Healed

“I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them.” Hosea 11:3

“But they did not know that I healed them.”

Nine simple words.

Nine profound words.

Seven hundred years before Jesus.

Almost 3000 years before our time.

Yet still so relevant.

“But they did not know that I healed them.”

In the context of Hosea “healed” is referring to being made spiritually complete and whole. The children of Israel were rebellious and headstrong. They repeatedly turned away from God and insisted on doing things their own way. They worshipped idols and sought worldly pleasures. But over and over the book of Hosea speaks of returning to God. Of repentance and redemption. Hosea 14:4 “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.”

The parallels of Hosea to our current world and culture are undeniable. We live in world of people, broken and hurting, suffering and striving, reaching for anything and everything they think will make them “feel” good. Searching for a healing they cannot attain on their own. Never finding a place of peace and contentment. It plays out in our homes, our churches, our schools, our workplaces . . . always grasping for more, seeking ever elusive satisfaction and freedom. Never coming to the realization that there is healing and wholeness and freedom found at the foot of the cross.

But we do not know that Jesus healed us.

We do not truly realize that what He did in dying on the cross and rising again brought to us a completion and a healing that far exceeds anything physical we could ever reach here on this earth. Even within the church we don’t quite get it. We walk around defeated, heartsick and heartbroken. We struggle emotionally and mentally. We’re angry and bitter, full of fear and anxiety. We’re never quite satisfied. We put men and things, attendance and activity, in the place of God, and we look to humans to do what only God can do. We do not fully grasp that we are healed. No matter what this world throws at us. No matter how awful things may seem around us. We are healed.

Every time I read those words in Hosea they hit me as if it’s the first time I’ve read them. The people of God, rebellious and striving, struggling and not understanding they are healed. God’s never ending compassion to rescue them time and again. My own struggling, worrying, trying to measure up, trying to be perfect, and never fully comprehending, I am healed.

What’s the catch? What’s the “condition” that must be met in order to embrace and live in this healing?

Submission.

Submission to the cross.

Acceptance.

Acceptance of the Savior.

Obedience.

Obedience to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Relinquishment.

Relinquishment of control.

It’s so simple. So basic, and yet, so complicated. Because nothing seems more daunting than submitting and accepting, obeying and relinquishing. It’s not so much about doing as receiving. Jesus did the work when He gave His life for us. It’s not about working to receive. It’s about accepting the completed work of Christ in our lives. Posturing ourselves in a place of full submission and acceptance of a God, our Creator, who knows us far better than we know ourselves so that we can relinquish and obey. Good works won’t get us there. Showing up and doing all the things won’t bring healing. That’s not how it works.

If we are Christ’s, we are healed, this broken world is not our home, and no matter how things play out in the here and now, we have the victory eternally. When I look at all the hardships and struggles, from an earthly, finite perspective, I find nothing but anxiety and fear. But when I look at this life as a mere blip on the timeline of eternity, knowing that Heaven is my ultimate home, and these years on earth are but a vapor (James 4:14), I find such immense peace.

Some of the freest and most healed people I know also seem to have the most challenges in life. Yet, they know where their healing is found. Not in things or possessions, not in self-satisfaction or self-serving pleasure, but in Christ alone. If Jesus is our Savior . . . the Holy Spirit our Counselor . . . and the Father our everlasting and eternal Creator . . . we are healed – completely healed, purified, have become fresh – just a few of the words that define that word “healed” in the book of Hosea*.

And if we are healed then we have a mandate, a command, and the great privilege of sharing that healing with the world.

He’s taught us to walk. He’s taken us by the arms. Let’s not forget that He has healed us.

*https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7495.htm

Effective, Fervent, Righteous . . .

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.James 5:13-17

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

We tend to discount prayer. To see it as a last resort. It’s that “thing” we do when we can’t think of anything else to do. We hold prayer in much lower regard than we ever should while the God’s word holds it in highest regard. Maybe it’s part of our human nature, the striving for independence and self-sufficiency, or possibly it’s because we don’t feel worthy of asking God. We don’t want to be a bother. Often, I think it’s because we think we’re supposed to have enough faith without praying in order to make things happen. We have more faith in our own faith than in the living God who gives us that faith. Prayer shows weakness, and we believe that’s a bad thing.

I would contend, however, that I am absolutely unworthy, totally unrighteous . . . in my own right, I have zero right to approach the throne of God, but the blood that Jesus shed for me has covered me and made me righteous. Because of the blood of Christ, it’s not just that I can pray effectively and fervently from a place of righteousness, it’s also that God has commanded me in His word to pray. I would further argue that prayer shows our weakness, and that’s the very best thing. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that it’s only in weaknesses we are made strong. It’s in total reliance on Christ, in embracing our weakness, that we become who we are meant and created to be.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 9-10

Our prayers are powerful, but they’re not magical. They’re powerful in spite of us not because of us. They’re powerful, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of Who it is we pray to.

Our prayers are righteous and effective, but that righteousness is not something we’ve earned. We can never do enough or be good enough to be truly righteous. The effectiveness comes not because we are perfect in our words, actions, and thoughts. Our prayers are righteous and effective solely because of the blood of our Savior.

Our prayers are earnest because the King of Kings is on the receiving end of our words. When you look up the word “earnestly” from James 5:17 it means “prayer to God”.  “Elijah was a man (one of the human race*) with a nature (of like feelings, having similar passions and feelings, of like infirmities*) like ours, and he prayed earnestly (prayer to God*) . . .”. We over complicate what it looks like to pray earnestly, to be righteous, to pray fervently. We give ourselves way too much credit and God way too little. We forget that it really has nothing to do with our own abilities and everything to do with His.

We have to stop discounting prayer. We have to stop putting in the place of last resort. We have to stop leaning into our own self sufficiency and our own meager abilities realizing that without Christ we are nothing. We have to glory in our weaknesses knowing that it’s in our weakness we become strong through the blood of Jesus. We have to hold prayer in the highest regard because it literally takes us before the throne of our Creator, it moves the Holy Spirit to speak to us, in us, and through us. It changes things.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. We often say “all we can do is pray” but prayer is not just “all we can do”. It’s everything we can do. It should saturate our lives and fill our days. Prayer isn’t some magical mumbo jumbo of conjuring up the right formula or code to get what we want. Prayer is communication with the One, True, Living God. It’s not about just getting what we want or bringing a wish list for the “big guy in the sky”. It’s about developing a close, personal, and intimate relationship with Him. I wonder what our lives and our world would look like if we took the call to pray seriously? I wonder what level of change and transformation we would see, starting in our own hearts and growing outward, if we truly sought to live in continual and constant communication with our Savior, our Father, and the Holy Spirit?

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

* https://biblehub.com/lexicon/james/5-17.htm

It’s Like the Song that Never Ends . . . Only It’s Just Life as Usual

“Adulthood is saying, “After this week, things will slow down a bit.” over and over again until you die.”

Y’all this is my life. I thought summer would mean a slower pace, but there has been nothing slow about this summer. It has turned out to be the complete opposite. And now we’re staring down the last few weeks of this crazy busy summer, and I think . . . possibly . . . maybe . . . I’m coming to terms with the reality that having two kids, with (almost) six years and six grade levels separating them, means we’re going to be running in 12 different directions most days.

Things are not going to slow down . . . not next week . . . not next month . . . not next year . . . I’ve realized that I may as well stop fighting it and just accept it.

That’s it.

That’s life for the foreseeable future.

And then there’s the fact that when we are home, my youngest talks endlessly all day long. There are 1440 minutes a day and she asks approximately 850 questions a day . . . she does have to eat and sleep sometime. My kids are both talkers, but teenagers as a rule, tend to be a bit quieter. However, whatever my oldest doesn’t say (and he says a lot . . . especially about basketball), my youngest more than makes up for. So basically, I’m a very busy introvert (and we all know how well that works out) whose life is never going to slow down and whose ears are so incredibly tired.

I’ll confess, you can think I’m awful and judge me all you want, but I am looking forward to the glorious silence that comes with both of my kids being back in school. Because as much as I love their precious faces and never-ending chatter, my introverted self needs some peace and quiet. And also, there’s a good chance that when we get to the actual last few days of summer, you’ll find me mourning the end of the insanity and wishing that I could drag it out just a couple more weeks. I’m complicated that way.

Last year, around back to school time, another mom that I follow on social media (and I honestly, cannot remember which one), wrote a scathing post about how awful moms who celebrate their kids going back to school are, and although, it should not have mattered to me in the least what this person, whom I’ve never met in real life and can’t even remember, thinks I was so bothered by it. The author of the post may not have stuck with me, but by golly, the message did. I mean talk about passing judgment on something that absolutely doesn’t matter . . . I think judging other moms because they’re happy about the first day of school tops the list. We’re all different. We all have different personalities and needs . . . we all lead and live different lives . . . if you want your kids with you 24/7 then more power to you. If you need a break every now and again and cannot wait for that first glorious day of school, that’s cool too. And if you’re like me and want your kids to stay home forever because you love their crazy selves so stinkin’ much but also cannot wait for them to go back to school so you can drink your coffee in total and complete silence, well, I got nothing . . . there’s no logic when it comes to motherhood because these sweet, precious children suck it all out of us. But I’ll promise you this, however you feel, I’m here for it.

When Revelations Lead to Revolutions

We spent the last few days at a conference with the youth from our church. This is the first time I’ve been to a youth camp/conference since I’ve had my own kiddos. I was not a huge fan of leaving my kids overnight when they were younger, so I always stayed home with them. Just about the time my oldest was old enough to handle a few nights away, Anna came home. Wash, rinse, repeat for quite a few years. Plus, Anna is a little more complicated when it comes to being away from us. Even now, there’s a fine line of balance that we have to walk in order to keep her regulated and also continue to develop a solid foundation of attachment. Leaving her usually means we have to work for days and sometimes weeks to regain lost ground. But we were finally getting to a point where she did okay when we left her for more than a few hours, and then, hello, COVID. So we all sat out camps and conferences for a couple summers, but this year it was back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Still, the truth was, I wasn’t super excited to go. Pre-kids, I went to more than a couple youth camps, including one where we unknowingly booked unairconditioned cabins in the middle of the Texas summer. That was a special time where I threw a very, carnal fit about the heat and lack of AC in front of my teenage girls. Good job, Courtney. Way to set the example. But in continuing in this vein of honesty, I always found the camps exhausting and draining to the point where I could not wait to get home. I always felt like it was a constant tug-a-war of trying to get kids to participate and partake in the services and activities all the while, I wasn’t really feeling it myself.

This week was so unbelievably different. Maybe it’s because I’m (much) older . . . although one would think that older = harder (and physically, yeah, I don’t do as well on less than 5 hours of sleep coupled with copious amounts of caffeine). I’m also more mature emotionally and spiritually (at least on most days), and being older offers a perspective that I just didn’t have when I was in my 20s. But it was more than just maturity in my own life and walk with God. It was more than the fact that we took a great group of relatively easy kids . . . I mean they are teenagers, so at least a few shenanigans were a given. It was more than being in an air-conditioned church rather than outside in the 110-degree Texas heat. But praise Jesus for the air conditioning because I am too old for this heat. The fact is, there was a genuineness and sincerity in both the worship and the word that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt or seen before (I’m not throwing shade at any church or camp so no one get offended). I don’t for a moment think it’s because other camps or churches are disingenuous. I think, it’s because we have, standing in front of us, a generation, that is desperate for something real. Real beyond the latest cause or perceived “right” thrown in their faces. A realness that comes only through the redeeming blood of Christ.

There was emotion (I mean teenagers are emotional) in that auditorium this week, but it wasn’t driven by emotion. If anything, it was emphasized over and over again, that this wasn’t about having an emotional experience. It wasn’t about putting on a show or applause or counting salvations to post on social media (which we should always celebrate salvations, do not hear me wrong). No “repeat this prayer after me” moments happened, but I promise you, lives were given to Jesus, hearts were committed and recommitted to Christ. This week was 100% about a personal encounter with a God that transforms, delivers, heals, and sets free. And if you’ve never stood in an auditorium with over 3500 teenagers (yes that’s a LOT of teenage hormones) truly worshipping the Lord, then you’ll have to take my word for it that there is absolutely nothing like it. And I have no doubt that heaven was worshipping right alongside us.

I had this great revelation during this conference . . . I am middle aged (thus the copious amounts of caffeine). I’m telling y’all, it was a shock. I have, approximately as many years ahead of me as behind be, give or take 10ish or so years. I am not the future of our nation or our world . . . at least not to the extent that this generation, Gen Z, is. I am not old yet, but I’m not super young anymore either.

If you all know me, you know I’m a big fan of increasing independence as our teens creep closer to adulthood. I’m a big fan of equipping and enabling them to move into that independence as they grow. I am NOT a big fan of enabling kids, capable of becoming functioning, independent adults, to remain children well into adulthood. Stay with me here . . . I have a point.

On the first night of the conference, just as they were about to open, as I looked out over the crowd of teenagers, I felt like the Lord was telling me (I know I say that a lot, but I do think God can and does speak to our hearts through the Holy Spirit) that this is the generation that will be a catalyst for change. That this generation, more than any other generation since Jesus’s birth, is going to revolutionize the world for Jesus. This is the generation that’s going to rock our world. And on repeat, throughout the conference, what I heard God speaking to me on that first night, before we even knew what was going to be taught and covered (no obvious theme was given), was very clearly confirmed through the messages and the words that were spoken, and ultimately through the actual, living Word of God. But here’s the other side of that, here is what else God laid on my heart. We, as adults, have to let them. We have to let them grow up. We have to let them develop their own relationship with Christ. We have to let them both suffer and sacrifice . . . two things that my generation – those of us that rounded out Gen X and are on the cusp of, but not quite, millenials – and the generations immediately preceding us, do not do well. We like comfort and ease. Suffering and sacrifice? Not so popular in our post WWII world.

There’s a lot of research out there that shows that young adults are leaving the church at pretty alarming rates. It’s been getting progressively worse over the past 70ish years, and there are a number of reasons for it. We can look at the breakdown of the nuclear family, as God intended to be, as one of the leading reasons. We can look at the breakdown of our society, our morals, the value, or lack thereof, placed on life from the moment of conception and beyond, we can look at the lack of church attendance . . . none of it is wrong. But I think something we miss is that we, as parents, are too often trying to have a relationship with Jesus for our kids. We have more “thou shall” and “thou shall nots” than the actual bible. We are trying to force worship and church attendance and ultimately a relationship with Christ even into adulthood because we are still parenting grown adults in our society and in our churches. And guess what y’all? It’s not working.

Hear me on this. We go to church as a family pretty much every Sunday. That’s part of living in this house as a child and growing up in our family. I’m not saying let your 10 year old decide whether or not to go to church. We have rules . . . the good Lord knows we have rules in our home, but as you grow older the rules do change and grow with you. The freedom given grows, and is retained, by showing oneself to be responsible. But at the end of it all, no legalistic amount of rules and regulations are going to do what the Holy Spirit will do. The hard part is that we, the generation of helicopter, control freak parents, have to step back and be willing to let God work. We have to let our kids work out their own salvation because we cannot do it for them. We have to admit that as parents and leaders, we don’t have it all together, and we don’t always get it right. We have to stop spending our lives listing all of the sins of our kids and start looking for what God is doing in them. We have to start living out what we’re preaching. If we’re not walking the walk, in our words, in our actions, in setting a day-to-day example, in our homes, and our cars, when we’re not in church, our kids see that. And believe me it matters.

We have to believe that when we pray God hears. When we seek we will find, and when we ask we will receive. And then we have to spend more time in the word and on our knees than in trying to control everything. Because in the end, if this is the generation that is going to spark a revolution for Jesus, they’re not doing it because of anything we do as human parents. They’re doing it because they have a true and intimate relationship with the creator of the universe. We have to let Him reveal Himself to them. We have to let the revelation of Jesus’s love . . . of the unequivocal sacrifice He made for all of mankind but also for each of us individually . . . be the revelation that sparks a revolution in the world.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-14

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

When the Physical Meets the Spiritual

“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:8

The other day I was watering my gardens and thinking that this must be the definition of insanity. Paying way too much for water, to keep tomatoes (and okra and peppers and zucchini) alive, because by gosh, I may be a lot of things, but a quitter is not one of them. These tomatoes may be the most expensive tomatoes ever, but come heck or high water, or no water at this point, they’re not dying ’til I say they’re dying.

We’ve had over 30 days of 100+ degree heat so far this summer. As Texas summers go, heat is normal, this kind of heat is abnormal. Not to mention the lack of rain. We so desperately need rain.

It’s easy to look at the statistics. It’s easy to see where we’re tracking this year versus past nightmarish years of heat and drought . . . I’m looking at you 2011. It’s easy to get anxious.

Honestly, it’s not just my gardens or the surrounding farmland or even the drought, that extends throughout our state and beyond, that’s cause for concern . . . it’s not just the weather giving me pause. It feels like the drought we’re currently suffering through is a physical reflection of the state of our world, and we’re living and existing in a culture that is in a perpetual spiritual, moral, and emotional drought. When I say, “We need Jesus”, it’s not just some trite response to the current state of affairs. We desperately need Jesus. We need Jesus in our families, in our culture, and yes, even in our churches. Because y’all, we aren’t acting and living like Christ. We’re not full of grace and truth. We are full of condemnation and accusations and discord and anxiety . . . we try to extend truth without coupling it with mercy and grace. We point fingers at others while refusing to examine our own motives, our own hearts, our own soundness of doctrine . . . we need Jesus. The Jesus that never excused sin . . . read the bible . . . He always called out sin for what it was . . . but also, the Jesus that picked up the sinner, dusted them off, and with love, said “go and sin no more”. Full of grace. Full of truth.

It’s easy to look around and despair. I can’t fix it all. I can’t make it rain. But I know the rain maker. And I know the fixer of human hearts. So when all looks lost, I’ll keep on doing what I know to do. I’ll keep watering my gardens day after day. I’ll keep reading and studying the word asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me, to reveal truth to me, and to correct me when I’m wrong. I’ll keep praying for physical rain and relief, and for spiritual rain and repentance for all of us, myself included. And most importantly, I’ll spread out my roots toward Jesus and refuse to despair in the heat and the drought and the hard times. Because they will come, the bible never says they won’t, but I serve the God that waters in the middle of the drought. That provides relief from the heat and water to my very thirsty soul.