Get up! Lift them up! Take them by the hand!

9-8-2019
Connor’s baptism day

There’s a story in Genesis that grabs me.

Abraham and Sarah used their servant Hagar in their unbelief to get for themselves the child God promised. But when Sarah finally gave birth to the son God had promised, they sent Hagar and her son Ismael away into the desert.

In Genesis 21:8-21, the story goes that Hagar and her son are sent to wander in the desert with, “some food and a skin of water.” Basically they were sent away to die or become slaves to someone else. It’s horrible. But it gets worse.

Hagar and Ishmael run out of their meager provisions. Hagar knows her son can’t survive without food or water. So she puts him under a bush and walks away because she can’t bear watching her son die (verse 16). In the distance, her son out of sight, she slumps to the ground and sobs. And there God meets her.

The Bible says God heard the boy’s cries. And God tells Hagar to get up and hold her son. And he promises he will provide for her son.

I think as parents, and maybe more often as moms, we see our kids in impossible situations, maybe situations we fear will destroy them, and our slow-to-believe hearts can’t bear it.

Many times over the past 16 years of parenting I have succumbed to the belief that my circumstances would surely take my boys down. And in my fear and dread, I backed away from them and even wished I could just disappear so I didn’t have to watch them be destroyed. And every single time, the Holy Spirit did a, “Pull yourself together girl!” with me.

When God met Hagar, he told her to get up and lift up her son and take him by the hand. And that’s what God has told me many times. Even this week.

Moms, dads, when the circumstances in our lives seem certain spiritual or physical death for our kids, don’t turn your head and cave into depression’s lies. Get up! Lift them up! Lift them up in prayer. Lift their literal chin if you can. Take them by the hand and lead them to Jesus.

My boys are the children statistically most unlikely to be believers in Christ. Their dad is not yet a believer in Christ. They have been drug through three separations that almost led to divorce every time. They go to a public school system where they don’t learn Christ. They’ve been hurt by their friends, tempted to drink alcohol, do drugs and live for their own pleasure. And I’m sure they will go through more trials and testings, failures and successes. But just when I feel like I can’t handle watching the pain or confusion or bad choices they are enduring, God is there saying, “Get up Sheila! Lift them up! Take their hand and walk with them through this.”

Don’t give up on God with your kids. Don’t withdraw. Press in. Cry out to God, take your kids by the hand and follow Jesus.

 

Mothers: Tell your kids to trust the God of their mother.

boy child childhood happiness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yesterday at church my pastor taught through the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with “a man.”  Toward the end of the sermon he referred to the passage in Genesis 32: 9-12 where Jacob prays.

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. – Genesis 32:9-12

I’m raising two men. My sons are now sixteen and fourteen and everyday I wake with a burden to see them bend their knee to Jesus. I’ve approached my desire for them to know Jesus from different strategies as a parent, hoping to plant the seeds that only God can make grow. I’ve sung to them, as infants and toddlers, songs and hymns dripping with the doctrine of salvation by faith through grace. I’ve taught them Bible verses and told them Bible stories. I’ve prayed and pleaded with God, pouring out my concerns and intercessions for them. I’ve taken them to church with me and have tried to use every daily life opportunity as a teachable moment or a chance to hear their heart and learn how to pray better for them. I’ve sought God’s wisdom and have asked other parents for their help in knowing what to do in various situations. I’ve read books and blogs and articles. And as the long days and short years have flown by I continue to do the above on repeat.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I remember a time when I was praying and struggling to say what was on my heart and I remembered Jochebed, Moses’ mom, who placed him in a water-proof basket and put in him in the river like Pharoah decreed, hoping he would live, and I cried, “God of Jochebed, please save my sons!” It was a powerful moment. I wasn’t conjuring up some proper Christian prayer, I was drawing on the accounts of those who trusted God and acknowledging that I was calling for the help of the same God they trusted in.  It was a turnaround in my prayer life. Since then, I often call on the God of people in the Bibles who trusted God through various circumstances, as well as people in my life I’ve watched trust God when their faith was tested.

This has led to me teaching my sons to do the same. They both have expressed their doubts and questions when we’ve talked about Jesus or the Bible and their need for a savior. And in recent years I’ve found myself saying, “If you can’t believe because of what the Bible says, or what you hear at church, believe because you’ve seen me. Trust in the God of your mother. Look at my life. Look at my faith. And put your hope in the God who continually hears me and gives me hope and wisdom and a faithfulness to love others and turn from sin.”

It isn’t a strange practice, to call new or unsure believers to believe because of the witness of another person. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he said:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (emphasis mine).

When Paul was trying to stir up Timothy to courageous faith it’s not only Jesus he draws him to look to, but the faith of his mother and grandmother.  Hebrews 12:1 points back to chapter 11, calling the reader to look at the long history of people before them whose faith helped them endure through suffering an trials.

I am raising my sons in a post-modern, post-Christian culture with an unbelieving husband, who I love. I want to point them to Jesus, but in recent years I realize God would have them look to me to help them trust the Jesus they cannot see.  I’m calling them to follow me as I follow Christ. I’m calling them to look to a cloud of witnesses, including me, and to call on the God of their mother just like Jacob called on the God of his fathers.

It puts a holy fear in me to do this. Not a fear of not being good enough. But a fear of loosing sight of grace and ceasing to point them to Jesus. Asking my kids to trust the God of their mother means I am asking them to trust the God who called a coward like me to repentance and faith in Jesus and has provided for me, rescued me time and time again and is able to help me stand.

My faith has to be real to do this. As Moses wrote, I must love the Lord my God with all my heart, and all that Jesus has commanded must be written on my heart before I can tell my kids to follow the God of their mother (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

Mothers, we can’t save our sons and daughters. But we can call our kids trust the God who saved us!

A Man You Shall Be

Tomorrow, my youngest son turns 13.  His birth came at such a memorable time in my life. It was two days after Christmas and my marriage was in shambles. But God was with me!  God with us, who we celebrate at Christmas, was filling me with hope when I should have been in despair.  He was teaching me to trust him in the midst of betrayal.  He was teaching me that he sees me, he hears me and he gives me good gifts.  He gave me Ryland.  I think a lot about the fact that God gave me two sons.  My circumstances are less than ideal for raising men who love God.  I’m in one of those, “even if” marriages like first Peter says.  I fight depression.  I sin.  And I’m raising them in a culture that appeals to their flesh and makes it easy to become a slave… to anything.  At times I feel like my hope for my boys is impossible.  My hope that they’ll see the beauty and worth of Christ and follow him; my hope that they’ll be men who honor women and lead like servants and give like nothing belongs to them anyway and live like this world is not their home… these hopes seem impossible.  But with God, nothing shall be impossible!  My hope is in him for the sons I’m raising to be men.

 

A Man You Shall Be

by Sheila Dougal

Son tomorrow you turn thirteen

Lemuel’s mother’s words sting

I know ways that destroy kings

And the man that I’m raising

 

Hot tears in my eyes

Lump in my throat

I plead with the Lord

Another story be wrote

 

I know there’s no keeping you from sin

While still in my womb sin was within

 

But I am your mother

God gave you to me

To raise not a boy

But a man you shall be

 

I am His daughter

Saved by his grace

Granted faith in our Savior

Charged to show you His way

 

So when you’re tempted

And enticed by these three

Flesh’s cravings, Eye’s lusts, Pride’s possessions

I pray you’ll remember your mother’s decree

“You are a sinner, you need a Savior, and Jesus is he!”

 

Remember Whose you are!

You’re not your mother’s

Nor you’re father’s

And you’re not your own

 

You bear the Imago Dei

You were created for him

Not for yourself, your dad or me

 

It is God’s plan

That I raise you to be a man

Fully aware of the dangers ahead

I look to the God of Abraham

 

Though his body was good as dead

He believed God

Who always does what He says

 

He who was able to produce life out of old Sarah

Is able to produce fruit out of his daughter’s labor

 

He is faithful to generations of those who love Him

He who made you my son

Is able to keep

You, who He has entrusted to me

 

Seek him while you are young son

And don’t waste your life

Remember your mom’s faith

And put your hope in Christ!

 

 

 

 

 

eyes on the Author- the every morning struggle to walk by faith

I don’t wake up full of vision and motivation.  Actually, what motivates me most is the idea that my french press and single-origin coffee from Guatemala are just minutes away from awaking my senses with it’s warm, toasty aroma.  And on those days when I get my stiff, puffy-eyed body out of bed and make my way to the cabinet to prep the press with my favorite coffee and find we’re out, I feel great motivation to get dressed and drive to the local store so I can hurry up and get back home before too much time has passed and get my coffee going.

Basically, coffee motivates me to get up in the morning.

Mixed in the grogginess between eyes open and that first cup of coffee I remember who I am.

I am not my own.  I am a Christian.  The weight of meaning in that word falls on me like gravity on the fledgling attempts of a young eagle to fly every morning.

I feel myself falling.  Falling. Squawking out a cry, “Help!  Help Lord!  I am yours. Let me hear your loving kindness in the morning lest I be like those who go down to the pit!”  Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but never failing, my faithful Helper and Friend, my God, my Father, the one who made me a Christian and bought me out of slavery to the law of sin and death, he swoops down and lifts me up on his everlasting wings.

He’s teaching me to fly.  To soar on wings like eagles.  To walk and not grow weary.  To run the race set before me as a woman finding her identity in Christ, as wife to James in a difficult marriage, as a mother raising men, in a community and time full of the “treasures of Egypt“.  And when he finally lifts me up I see the wonder of who He is and what He’s done and what He’s doing in me, I can face the day.

I don’t always get a chance to reflect on the truth of what God has done in calling me his own daughter like today.  Usually the day marches on and I struggle to fix my eyes on the One who wrote this story. He’s the author of my faith, and since he is, he’s also the one who will finish the story he started in me.  He’s not an inconsistent blogger or an aspiring writer.  He’s the author of life, and the writer of faith, and the one who began this good work in me.  And he will be faithful to complete it.

Every morning the struggle is real.  And that’s no cliche.  I need to get my eyes on Jesus every morning and remember who I am, and the promise that He who began this good work in me will be faithful to complete it.  I need to remember that God gave me life in Christ and I am destined to be with him forever.  I need to remember because I’m called to die daily.  I’m called to follow Jesus in taking up my cross daily.  I’m not here for my best life now.  My life is not all about me and getting all the pleasure and comfort and ease I can squeeze out of the day and people in my world.  I’m a Christian, my best life is already and not yet.  I taste it here in every little resurrection, when I deny bitterness and embrace forgivenesss, when I deny ease and choose serving, when I feel the sorrow and the pain of my own sin and others’ sins and rejoice in the promise that the One I love, who I have never seen, He will make all things new.

If I could just get my eyes on the Author today I’ll be OK.

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Memorial Day: Remembering when you don’t remember

I’m a generation X-er.  The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the Shock and Awe headlines of March 2003, are the acts of war I remember.   And as close to home as the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have been to me, no one close to me has lost their life in the battles of the past 16 years.  Memorial Day could easily become the symbolic start of summer for me and nothing more.  But I’m a mom of teenage boys, and I hear the news headlines and appreciate American history and the value of human life too much to let that happen.

For me, remembering those who have lost their lives serving in the military means intentionally remembering when I don’t remember.  It means purposefully reflecting on what it means to me that I live in a country where over a million people have given their lives in combat.

My 12 and 14 year old sons know war mostly in terms of first person shooter games (something I’d rather they never knew).  They hear headlines and know the story of 9/11.  For them, the history of war is glamorized.

My point is, neither I nor my sons know the impact of loosing someone we love to war.  So I decided to have the boys use Google to calculate the combat deaths from every U.S. military conflict.  Once they added all those lives up, they had come up with 1,243,493 sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers given for us.

We never knew one of them.

Their lives and deaths weren’t glamorous.  They weren’t perfect.  They weren’t Marvel comic heroes.  But they put themselves in harms way in the moment they lost their lives on a mission to protect this country from the evils of foreign oppression and dictators.  Without them, the country my sons and I live in may not exist.  Both they and I need to take the time to remember those we don’t remember so we can foster gratitude and soberness and thoughtfulness about this country and our roles here.

I asked my boys to write either a poem or essay… some sort of reflection on the 1,243,493 souls who gave their lives in military combat for the freedom of citizens of the United States.

Connor, my 14 year old wrote an essay, “Why These Lives Matter To Us.”  Ryland an acrostic using the words MEMORIAL DAY.  Me, a blog.  Our stopping to think and reflect on these lives with our words is important.  It’s a way to honor the ones remembered.  Even when we don’t remember.

While writing this over my Twitter feed came a tweet about the book The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation is on sale on Amazon for $0.99 in the kindle edition.  We’ll be reading some of that tonight too.

As a Christian, my ultimate homeland is not the United States of America, but I want to be a blessing to her and honor those who laid down their lives for sojourning Americans like me.  I also want to be a sober minded, serving citizen and a mom who passes thoughtfulness and gratitude and the gift of remembering on to her kids.

How are you intentionally remembering the 1,243,493 today?