Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Who are our Children's Greatest Influencers?

Proverbs 13:20 NLT

Walk with the wise and become wise;

associate with fools and get in trouble.

Hope you had a great weekend! If you are just joining us, today's post is a continuation of the series: "Are we giving our children to the devil?"

I was horrified at the news a few weeks ago of the alcohol, drugs, sex and sexting culture at the Christian school my children attend. This revelation has broken my heart. As a result, a passion has grown within me to parent smarter and wiser.

So as parents, what can we do to fight against the tide of depravity and immorality our society advocates?

God has blessed me with the friendships of many wise women. Some of which are older than me and have successfully navigated these waters. What are their secrets? I started last week's post with their advice. This week, I'll continue.

Today's thoughts come from Suzi. Suzi is a mighty woman of God. God strategically allowed me to be her neighbor for 8 years. I have learned and continue to learn so much from her. I'm so thankful for her counsel. As you read her advice, read slowly. She's someone who packs a lot into one sentence. As I did last week, I'll break this into bite-sized chunks. Take time to digest it - it's good stuff. (Her words are purple; mine are black.)

Suzi's advice:
There are lots of depressing statistics in the news about children, even Christian children involved in alcohol, drugs, sex, sexting, bullying and more. As frightening as this is to hear, be encouraged. God knew all about these problems and has provided wise and loving counselors for each of your children: YOU and your HUSBAND!

In the book, But You Don't Understand, Paul Borthwick, a successful Youth Pastor of a large church says he has observed that the greatest influence on young people is not the media, or their peers, or their hormones, but their parents! We are the ones that make the greatest long-term difference in the life of a child.

I don't have to tell you how smart your children are. They are watching everything you do and

say. If the way we live does not line up with what we are telling them, they know it and will stop listening to us. They'll begin to tune us out. We must commit to "walk the talk." The child who sees their parents living as people of:
honesty and integrity

of faith and character

will be more likely to give them their trust, respect and listening ear. Authentic character counts with our kids - especially our teens.

So when you go out to dinner, do you lie about your child's age in order to receive the discount?

Do they see prayer, Bible reading, and serving as a priority in your life? (Be careful of thinking that the "serving" part - counts for the prayer and Bible reading part - it doesn't. It's all equally important.) As you watch the news and live life - do you allow it to be seen through what the Bible says on that particular issue?

Suzi continues, how do we have success in our parenting role? It begins with our own relationship with Jesus. John 15:5 says, "Abide in Me and I in you and you will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing." In other words, if we want to bear the fruit of righteous children, it begins with OUR abiding relationship with Christ.

So what is our nugget for today? We, as moms and dads are our children's greatest influencers. If we want our children to have a God-centered view of the world and it's choices, they have to see it modeled in their home on a regular basis. If God's Word, prayer and service are our priorities, it's much more likely that they will be our child's priority as well.

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Practical Parenting Tips

Titus 2:3-4

"...older women...teach what is good. Train the younger women to love their husbands and children..."

God has richly blessed me with the counsel of very wise and godly women. After posting "best advice" the other day, the Lord prompted me to ask them to join the discussion! Their responses are so encouraging and practical!

I don't want to overload you with information, so I'll give it in bite-sized chunks over the next few posts. Pray and ask the Lord to impress upon your heart what He' d have you apply.

What are their secrets? I'll start with the practical:

1. The computer needs to be in a well-traveled area (such as the kitchen). A place where parental eyes are observant. There are too many dangers on the Internet these days.

2. Confiscate IPods or IPads before settling in for the night. (I would add phones as well.)

3. Know their friends and what their friends are doing. 1 Cor. 15:33 - "Bad company corrupts good morals."

(Tara: This is huge! I'm experiencing this right now. Do you remember the show "Leave it to Beaver?" I can remember watching it as a child. Be on the lookout for friends like Eddie Haskell who had dual personalities. Sweet and charming to your face, but scheming when listening ears are not around.)

4. If you have younger children, what are the values of the parents of your children's friends?

Do you share the same values and convictions? When your children are in elementary school, it may not be too big a deal. But when they get into Middle and High School - it's a big deal. What are their rules on dating? Cell phone ownership? Curfews? They may not have determined these answers now, but you'll have a good idea by getting to know the heart of your child's close friend's parents.

5. Pray for godly wisdom to read between the lines - to read body language. (James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

6. If married, have your husband kiss you (not too passionately) in front of the children. Point out that those types of embraces are made by God for marriage.

7. Maintain this mindset: YOUR CHILDREN GROW UP SO FAST. They will be adults and gone before you know it! Colossians 4:5 - "make the most of every opportunity." Spend quality time with them doing the things they like to do. As you do, your children will begin to share what's on their heart.

8. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. If appropriate (not all the time), humble yourself and confess your sin before your children.

(Tara: I'll never forget the time I absolutely 'lost it' with my children. It was ugly. One of those times that your children see the worst of you. A bad that's so bad, that even you didn't know it existed in you.
The next day, the Lord led me to share, Colossians 3:8 with my children. "But you must rid yourselves of all such things as anger and rage..." I pointed out to my children that I had fallen short of how God would have me parent them. And asked for their forgiveness. It was VERY humbling. But my children got to see that the Bible is our Manual for Living. It was worth the humiliation.)

Oh, I have much more - please stay tuned. If these posts are helpful to you, will you share this blog with at least one of your friends?

On a different note:
My children begin summer break tomorrow. I must admit, I have wanted to take a break from these posts, but the Lord is not releasing me to stop! In fact, He's pouring new thoughts and various ideas for new series' within me.

This leads me to think, these devotional posts must be for someone who needs them. I hope that those of you who have children coming home for the summer, will hang with me. I realize our routines change as the seasons change - but if you are a regular reader - I pray that this blog post will remain part of your routine. Not because of me, but because to the best of my ability, I'm trying to share God thoughts that will be practical, helpful, personal, meaningful and life changing for you.

And if these posts are only for 1 woman - and her heart is growing closer to Jesus as a result - than YOU, dear woman, are worth the effort, the titanic effort it takes to post these everyday!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend. I'll be back on either Tuesday, if not - Wednesday - to share more profound parenting thoughts.

Hang with me as we fight for our children in a deprave culture!


Depravity Doesn't Just Happen

If you are just joining us, welcome! I am doing a parenting series called:

"Are we Giving our Children to the Devil." This is the fifth post in the series. Feel free to go back and read the previous posts!

James 1:14-16

...but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.

The depravity of our culture and the depravity of our children do not just happen over night. It's subtle. It's starts small; almost "innocent" like. And then it builds till it reaches a crescendo. Clearly from scripture, sin has a cycle. (This can be applied to us as well!) Let's look carefully at the cycle:

1. Desire leads to enticement.
2. Enticement leads to the birth of sin.
3. Sin is conceived.
4. Sin grows.
5. Sin fully-grown, gives birth to death. (Yes, possible physical death, death of relationships, marriages,trust, etc...)

So what is our part as parents? We have to be listening and watching. We have to ask for the Holy Spirit's help in reading between the lines. This recently just happened with my son, Will.

Without giving specifics, I was sensing a stirring in my spirit. I can't really explain it - I just a lacked peace towards Will. So I asked the Lord to show me if there was anything I needed to see. The Bible says, that the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

Within days of uttering this prayer, Caroline told on her brother - for several things that she had been scared to tell me. The Lord allowed me to see a desire and an enticement being born in Will. It had not led to sin - but this is the direction we were headed unless there was intervention.

I shared what I had learned with my husband - and we had a calm and rational, discussion between the 3 of us. But you see, even though it's technically 'over' - it's really not. Since the Lord has opened my eyes to a potential desire that oculd lead to sin in future years, my job now is to PRAY. And to be watching and listening. The Bible says we are to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (See Matthew 10:16)

What does this mean? It means praying against this "thing" in his life - listening to his conversations when he least expects - watching his interactions when he least expects... Paying attention to his demeanor. Alert to his vocabulary and music. And above all, listening to the Holy Spirit. Do you see?

Now let me tell you - it would be easier to ignore this. Much easier to shove it under a rug and hope for the best. In fact, if I shared the specifics, you might think that my husband I over- reacted.

But I'm not giving my child to the devil. And you see, if I ignore what the Lord has allowed me to see - than I am inadvertently opening the door for the enemy to work in his life. As parents we have to be willing to do the hard things. We have to do our part and trust the Lord with the rest. Our part - is listening to the Holy Spirit and being attuned to our children. And not parenting out of convenience. (Ouch, I can be so guilty of this.)

If you are a born again believer, than you have the Holy Spirit of God living within you. And if you are willing to have eyes to see - the Holy Spirit will open your eyes as well. Sadly, what I often find, are parents who do not want eyes to see. And this is even in the Christian school.

Don't be deceived dear sisters. I told you this would be a fight!

Can't wait to share tomorrow - I have a big surprise - make sure you tune in!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Take them to the Word

Last week I started a series titled: Are we Giving our Children to the Devil? I pray that it is opening your eyes if they are not already. We cannot entrust the spiritual and moral development of our children to the church or to the Christian school. If we do, we may be in for a big surprise one day! We have to fight for the souls of our children. We cannot settle. And we cannot be spiritually lazy.

Today, I want to share with the you the BEST parenting advice I've ever received. Ironically enough, I had an opportunity to apply it in a practical way just last week.

Deuteronomy 32:47

They are not just idle words for you [the Bible] - they are your life.

The best parenting advice I've ever been given is to: Take your children to the Word. In other words, when disciplining them; when trying to teach them right from wrong; when they come to you with heartache - take them to God's Word.

What does God's Word say about: lying?

potty mouth?


drugs and alcohol?

premarital sex?


Take them to the Word! Teach them, that God's Word is the ultimate authority for your life and for their life too.

My daughter, Caroline is in the 2ND grade. We are already experiencing the "mean girls." I can hardly believe it! One of Caroline's special friends is a neighbor with 2 other girls in the second grade. The four girls have become buddies this school year. They eat lunch and enjoy recess together each day.

However, one of these girls have been on my radar all year. She's bossy, demanding and refuses to play by the rules. She has all the making of a future mean girl in high school. Caroline has on more than one occasion come home upset because of something that happened on the play ground. For months, I've prayed that God would prune these friendships. Last week, we reached a tipping point with this little girl.

As I tucked Caroline into bed last Sunday night, she broke into tears. She didn't want to go to school the next day and she wanted to change schools so that she wouldn't have to deal with this little girl any more. As I comforted my daughter, I could hear in the recesses of my heart, "take her to the Word." "But where Lord," I silently prayed.

First Corinthians 15:33 came to mind. Why? Because I had just recently seen it during my quiet time. (He'll do the same for you if you are in His Word on a regular basis. The Holy Spirit will remind us of what He's taught us. see John 14:26.) Listen to how relevant God is:

"Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

I told Caroline that this little girl was corrupting her sweet spirit. That although God loves this other little girl - she is now someone else's project. Not Caroline's. Based on what the Bible says, I told her that she was not to eat or play with this little girl anymore. We then proceeded to come up with a plan of who she should eat and play with for the last 2 weeks of school. Her tears dried up and there was finally an answer to the torment that was coming against her little soul.
It was not her mother's words, but the Words of her Creator that brought peace to her heart.

Take your children to the Word. Show them that the Bible is the final authority. Teach them that the Bible is not just a pretty table ornament - but that it's our instruction manual for living.

Is the Bible your Instruction Manual in theory or in reality? Our children will know the difference!

Tomorrow: Depravity doesn't just happen...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Children's Role Model

Our children and teenagers are watching everything we do. In today's post on fighting for our children from a culture that wants to suck them in to immorality, I want to build on yesterday's message. I'll use 2 verses:

Deuteronomy 6:5-7a

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.

Matthew 24:38

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen...

So how do these two verses converge? How do these verses teach us about protecting our children from the enemy?

Jesus is describing life prior to the flood in Noah's day. Notice He does not condemn eating, drinking and marrying etc... What He's pointing out is that God was no where to be found in the lives of the people who were eating, drinking and marrying. God was not a part of their life. They were completely indifferent to the God who loved and created them. Yet catastrophe would be just around the corner...

What a lesson for us today. In the walk of everyday life, our actions, our attitude, our words and our decisions convey our heart attitude toward God. Are we living out what we learn on Sunday morning? Are we setting the example of the priority of personal prayer and Bible reading to our children? Are our children seeing us turning to God in times of trouble? How are they seeing us respond to the lunatic that cuts us off in traffic?

Let me give you an example: When I was in high school, my mother always had her nails done every two weeks. When she stopped having them done, I inquired. When she realized that she was spending more on her nails than her tithe to the church each month - she stopped. This is living out the Word in a practical way!

I'll give you another example: We used to go on big family vacations. There is not a morning in my childhood that I cannot remember my mother reading her Bible. On one family vacation, a family member was surprised that my mom had brought her Bible. My mom chuckled and said, "God goes on vacation too!" Do you see what I mean? This was her life - not her add-on. This lifestyle, in turn gave me a reverence for God and His Words.

I don't know about you, but I want to be my daughter and my son's role model - not the teenagers on Disney. When Will begins to think about picking a wife - I want to him to pick a Proverbs 31 woman. (She's amazing!) And I want Caroline to learn to BE a Proverbs 31 woman. How can they learn this, unless it's lived out in front of them day after day?

Notice that Deuteronomy says that the commandments are to be upon our hearts - then we are to impress them upon our children.

Do you see... it starts with us! From how we dress - to how we talk - to how we are entertained - to what we watch on TV - to how we respond - to how we live. If in utter frustration, I speed off in my car, well, I can expect my kids to respond the same way when they are 16 and are in a frustrating situation. If I'm putting on my mascara behind the wheel and driving down the road, I can expect Caroline to be doing the same thing one day. If I'm a big drinker and a party girl, I can expect my children to follow suit. If I dress like the hoochie-mama, Caroline will too and Will will be drawn to slutty looking girls.

Our children desperately need biblical role models in a morally and spiritually corrupt world. They need a holy fear of God's Word - not indifference or nominal Christianity that sadly, we too frequently see.

So how will you respond? Are you willing to be the Biblical role model that our children so desperately need? I told you this wasn't going to be easy. Some of this might require lifestyle change for some of you. Oh girlfriend, do it! The character and purity of our children are at stake.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Sunday Morning God

One of the most powerful parenting verses is Deuteronomy 6:5-7. Over the next few days, we will go line by line. I'll also be inviting you to share your wisdom. But let's start with first things first in the fight for our children from the world's pitfalls and trappings.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up..."

We are not to entrust the spiritual growth of our children to the church or to a Christian school. It starts with US - THEIR PARENTS! We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our soul and with all our strength. God is to be our life - not our add on; or our Sunday morning family activity. Biblical living starts at home.

Do you love God with all of your heart, soul and strength? Be honest - do you?

I remember when I was first confronted with this question. My honest answer was, "Lord, I know I'm supposed to love You. But the truth is, I don't. I don't even really know You. In fact, I love my husband more; my children more; and sadly my stuff more. But I want to love You more. Help me."

Please know that God does not mind your honesty. He welcomes it! Because when we get real with Him - it's then that He can begin to work.

Over the years, God has honored this request. I can honestly write - that I love Him with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. I know Him now - not as well as I'd like - but more than I knew Him then. And yes, I love Jesus more than I love my precious husband (whom I adore) and my children (who do nothing wrong! LOL!!!!! Kidding - had to throw that in!)

However, do you realize this passage is considered radical or fanatical in today's world? Yet this is what God intends to be the norm for a healthy, functional home. The norm is not to be Sunday morning Christianity. Yet sadly, this is what I see - more often than not.

This is a short post - but we've got to get this first thing nailed down before we can move on.

If we want our kids to be sexually pure and not fall into the trappings of the world - it starts with us. And when God is only our Sunday morning God, we are in essence telling our children that the Bible isn't really that important. That it really isn't the final Word. But how we feel and what we want (world's standards) is the final word. Oh girl, we're in dangerous territory then.

Think about it... if the first step in the battle for our children is loving God... this is where you've got to start. He doesn't mind your honesty.

I'll let you chew on that for a while.

Friday: Role Models

Tuesday: Best Advice I've ever Been Given

Wednesday: Depravity Doesn't Happen Over Night

I told you God lit a fire in my belly over this!

Have a great day:)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are we Giving our Children to the Devil?

Nehemiah 4:14

"Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives (spouses) and your homes."

Last Friday after school, my kids and I went to our favorite ice cream shop. Another mom, who happens to be a special friend, met us there. I was hesitant to bring "it" up. Part of me didn't want to know if there was any truth to the rumors of sex and drugs invading the culture of some of our high school students. A little side note: The school we attend is a school that I dearly love. A school that I literally thank God for everyday. It's a school, whose superintendent doesn't just talk the talk - but walks the walk. I LOVE our school. We bear the name of Christ on our front sign. It's a privilege to go to a school where Christ is high and lifted up.

My children are in the 2ND and 4Th grades. For the most part, we are very sheltered from the middle and high school issues. But my friend, has a child in those upper grades. (So I knew that she would know.) She not only confirmed the rumors but said that sexting is an issue even in middle school. Did you hear me? Sexting! Sexting has left her having to explain what oral sex is.

OK - stop right there. I know what you may be thinking, "Get a life, Tara. It's high school. Kids are going to experiment." OR "How naive are you? Just because you're at a Christian school, why do you think the kids are any different?"

Well, maybe I am naive. Maybe my standards are too high. But I REFUSE to accept that "kids will be kids." That, "they are going to experiment and that you can't shelter them from everything." Why???


Sure, we would never willingly give our child to the devil. But do you know how we inadvertently do so? By failing to pray fervently for them! And by failing to be attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit... Listen to these Scriptures:

"I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none." Ezekiel 22:30

"Do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:27

When we fail to stand in the gap on our children's behalf - we are giving the devil a foothold. I rarely EVER give parenting advice and I never speak on it - but the Lord has lit a fire in my belly over the last few days on this issue. And my heart is full.

It's time for the Body of Christ fight! WE must fight for our children and for our grandchildren. One of my precious mentors, Fayeson once taught me, "if we are not praying for our children - who is???

This is no time for spiritual laziness. If you have young children - do not think - "oh, I've got a few years before I have to deal with things like this." Wrong girlfriend. Our culture is morally and spiritually bankrupt. There are issues that we have to deal with that our parents never had to deal with, like facebook, video games, cell phones, Internet access.

It's game on! The devil wants to steal, kill and destroy your child and your family. NOW is the time to fight.

More tomorrow...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Where the Enemy Cannot Reach You

The last 10 days have been especially intense and challenging. They have brought unexpected surprises and hiccups. And then last night, disappointment - great disappointment. Tearful disappointment. I went to bed mentally and physically exhausted - even overwhelmed.

Does this ever happen to you? I'm sure it does, after all, Jesus tells us that in this world we will experience difficulties.

My dog, Jake, wakes me every morning around 5:30am. Instead of resisting, I've learned that this is God beckoning me to Himself. He's merely using one of His creatures to awaken me. (God is so practical!) This morning, Jake came in at 5:15am - a little earlier than normal. After last night and the last few days, God knows that I need extra time with Him today far more than I need my sleep. I need His perspective and His wisdom. I also need His comfort and encouragement.

When the pressures of the world are caving in on you - resist your body telling you that you need sleep, or a pill or a friend. You need God far more than you need any of these things. He and He alone is the only One who can give rest to your soul.

Right now, in this season, I begin my quiet time out of a daily Chronological Bible. Below was my morning reading. How relevant - how personal! I hope this encourages you if you, too are overloaded with the stress of your circumstances.

Psalm 61:1-4 NLT

O God, listen to my cry!

Hear my prayer!

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help...my heart is overwhelmed. (That's me!)

Listen to this - love this...

"Lead me to the towering rock of safety,

for You are my safe refuge,

a Fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.

(Can't you just picture a spiritual barricade formed around you while you spend time with Jesus. A barricade where no enemy of stress, pressure, disappointment or uncertainty can penetrate!!! Keep reading.)

Let me live forever in Your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.

(In other words, in my literal quiet time place and throughout the day as I choose to abide in You.)

How cool! God is so personal and relevant to everyday life. As many times as I've read Psalm 61, I've never seen this! One of the things I love about an early morning quiet time - is that it's a period of time when I don't feel the weight of my burdens. They supernaturally disappear. And now I know why - He's barricaded me in! When we go to Him, He put us in the force field - barricaded from our enemies. A place where the enemy of uncertainty, insecurity, financial pressures and disappointment cannot reach us.

What enemies are you facing today?

If you are weighted down by the pain and pressures of your circumstances - go into your fortress - your quiet time place. Read the Word! Read expectantly! Know that the God of the Universe wants to quiet your soul - so that your soul finds rest in Him alone. Allow Him to barricade you from your enemies.

I still have the same burdens. It's 7:00am as I write this. But I'm not carrying them - He is! I've started my day in the fortress where my enemies cannot reach me! My burdens are lifted! I see things differently - right now at least. "Lord, keep me in the fortress!"

Extremely busy day. See you tomorrow-

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Modern Day Samaritan Woman

From the onset, I must confess that today's post is something I'm embarassed to share. It reveals a condition of the heart that clearly - God is purging.

This past Saturday, I was in Mt. Airy, NC. participating in a Women's Conference. I was 1 of 3 speakers. My turn was after lunch. The first speaker, Phyllis Foy taught on the Samaritan woman. Her message was powerful. I'll share a key verse, but I encourage you to read John 4:4-30.

John 4:6-7

Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?"

The Samaritan woman was not accepted by other women. Her low self-esteem and hunger for love and acceptance caused her to make many bad choices. We learn that she had had 5 husbands and was currently shacking up with her new man. She was probably abused and the town's source of ridicule. No other self-respecting woman wanted to engage her. This woman was lonely and was thirsty - no, starving for intimacy with God, but did not know it.

She went to the well at the sixth hour. This was a time when no one else would be there. It was probably easier that way. Little did she know the Divine appointment awaiting her that day. Jesus was waiting for her when she arrived. And He engaged with her. He didn't judge her or give her 3 point sermon on the attrocity of her life-style. He just simply asked in so many words, "How can I help you?"

Well, following lunch on Saturday, I wanted some solitude before it was my turn to speak. So I headed for my car. Across the street from the church was a delapadated house - falling apart at the seams. The owners were holding a yard sale. Girlfriend, you've never seen so much stuff! Junk in my mind.

Then a woman stepped out onto the front porch. She was probably in her late 50's; 100-150 pounds over weight; short shorts; halter top; cigarette dangling from her lips; yelling at a man in a sleeveless, white undershirt and jeans.

My knee-jerk inward response? A sarcastic, "lovely... quality," sadly, without an ounce of remorse.

As I sat in my car, trying to review my notes, I kept turning to watch what was unfolding on the porch behind me. It was a spectacle. Immediately, I heard in my heart, "go over there."

"What," I said?

"Go over there." All of a sudden, Phyllis' teaching flooded my heart. That woman on the porch... was a modern day Samaritan woman. And here we are, the church, a conference for women giving out the very thing she needs: Jesus - and has she been invited?

I put all my things away and walked over to her house. Receiving "the look" as I approached, I shyly introduced myself and asked if I could come on the porch to talk to her. The porch was so unstable - it felt like I would fall through the boards.

As I approached the woman - that truly - just 5 minutes ago - I would have labeled "riff-raff", I found myself looking deep into her wounded, weary, and worn eyes. At that moment, I didn't see what 'Tara' initially saw. I saw what 'God' sees: A woman who was completely broken. At that moment I was convicted to the core. It's amazing how judgementalism and a critical, haughty spirit can be woven into the fabric of our very being. God was revealing not only this woman - but how He saw me as well: prideful, haughty, judgemental, critical. Probably not too different from the women in Samaria during Jesus' day.

Filled with shame and embarassment, I really didn't know what to say, except to invite her to come eat with us. I told her what we were doing across the street and invited her to be my guest if she would come. Her response: "I'm not fit to go there..." She proceeded to tell me the most heart-breaking story I have ever heard. I just listened and cried with her. I asked for her name and promised that I would pray for her. (The event planners at this point were calling my name from the church's front doors. It was go time.)

Walking across the street - I thanked the Lord for revealing the deep-rooted ugliness in my heart. And asked for His forgiveness. I also prayed for Rhonda. I prayed that HE would someone else to minister to this very broken, hurting woman. Someone, who will give her Jesus.

Since this weekend, my eyes have been opened to the reality of the Modern Day Samaritan. Isn't it amazing, how we often cling to the people who look like us; who act like us; who dress like us; who worship like us and who live and work in our self-proclaimed acceptable social circles?

What is your knee-jerk response to the woman who falls outside of your prototype? Are you too, like me (before Saturday) stand-offish? Distant? Unengaged? Critical? Judgemental?

If you don't know the answer, just wait till the Lord brings you a modern day Samaritan woman. And oh, He will! I will pray that your response is better than mine.

Have a great day! Be on the look out...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God is my Portion

Psalm 119:57

"You are my Portion, O Lord..."

One of the milestones Will had to reach before he could eat was the ability to pass gas. This would indicate that his intestines were waking up and beginning to function properly.

Each day, Will and I prayed and prayed - but nothing. He was starving. The last time he had eaten was Friday morning before school. He was not even allowed to suck on an ice chip. These were long, hard, hungry days.

Finally on Wednesday morning - TOUCHDOWN!!! He passed gas and he could begin eating! We followed the doctors and nurses advice - start slow with broth etc... and begin building. By evening, he had graduated to macaroni and cheese. However, moving this quickly would prove to be a big mistake.

Without giving the gory details - he relapsed BIG TIME. It was awful and painful to watch. Due to the nature of his surgery - it made the relapse that much worse. This would set us back a day - that felt more like 3.

By Friday, he begin eating again. We received the same advice from doctors and nurses - except this time - 'Mama Nazi' showed up! We would go even slower than advised. Slower in my mind would equal success - which would equal going home - which would equal sleeping in my own bed! The nurses were pushing me to be more aggressive with his feeding - but I would not budge. After Wednesday night - there was a new sheriff in town: "Mama Nazi!" The eyes that were rolled in my direction - were too many to count - but we would be doing this Mama Nazi's way or no way at all!

I started with dry Cheerios. I counted out 5. If figured if he could tolerate 5 - he could have more. We grew to 8 - to 10- to 15. (By this time, he was ravenous for food.)

A little side note: for a long time prior - a dear friend would tell me that God was my Portion. I never understand what she meant. Every time I heard "portion," I would think of chocolate cake portions... Totally not what she meant!

All of sudden, while portioning out Will's Cheerios - God gave me a beautiful picture of what my friend had been trying to teach me. (God being my Portion.)

As I gave Will small portions of food and saw that he was able to handle the small portion - he'd get a larger portion. If he handled that portion - his portion would grow. If I had not been careful and had given him the larger portion at first - he could not have handled it -and would have relapsed again.

The same is true of God. God knows what you are able to handle. Are you desiring for your business to grow? Your ministry to grow? Your influence to grow? Your bank account to grow? Do you have more to do than you have time for? Or just the opposite - not enough strength for the day? God, being our Portion, means that He will never place more on our plates than we can handle.

At the time, I really wanted my ministry to grow. Secretly in the past, I've envied other women in ministry who are really successful - like Anne Lotz (she's my favorite); Beth Moore and Lysa Terkeurst just to name a few. NOT ANYMORE! Have you ever found yourself envying other people's "larger portions?"

God taught me a lesson that day - through the dry Cheerios, what it means for Him to be my portion. I learned and have never forgotten that I need not envy (nor should you) because I am not equipped to handle what those I was envying have been given to handle. (And trust me, I've seen a glimpse of it - and it is NOT easy. Ministry is hard work and you and your family and your marriage become direct targets for attack from the enemy.)

Whatever you are facing today, will you allow God to be your Portion? Will you ask Him to be your Portion?

And then trust that your All-Wise and All-Knowing Father will never give you more than you can handle!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

When God is No Where to be Found... A Mother's Day Tribute Part 2

Will in the neonatal intensive care unit at UNC - finally out of pain.

John 5:17

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too, am working." (That means today too!)

We were told that the surgery would be an hour. After three and a half hours, the pediatric anesthesiologist appeared in the waiting room and then finally the surgeon. It was almost 10:00pm. He led us to an empty to room and proceeded to tell us of his surprise upon inserting the scope through Will's belly.

Will's intestine had twisted and had adhered to the abdominal wall. This was cutting off the supply of blood and oxygen - prohibiting circulation and the bowel was dead. It was caught (praise Jesus!) before it perforated and was carefully and gently removed. Perforation would have released poisonous toxins throughout his body. Forty centimeters were cut out of Will's intestines leaving him with a 6 inch incision in his abdominal area. This prohibited him from walking or even eating until huge milestones were reached.

My sweet husband stayed with Will in the NICU that night. I went home with my parents who had been with us all day and spent the night at their house. The next morning, my mother dropped me off at the hospital @ 6am. I sent my dear man home for much needed sleep and sat holding Will's hand as he slept.

Was this a dream? My life was so normal a week ago. And now, I'm in the NICU, looking at my son connected to multiple machines and tubes everywhere - including his nose. I had almost forgotten - it was Mother's Day. Tears began streaming down my face as I held Will's hand. What kind of Mother's Day was this?

And all of a sudden it occurred to me. If God had taken the pain away on Friday - as I had asked - as I had begged Him to do - I may not have been sitting in the NICU that Mother's Day morning. I trembled at the thought of where else I would have been.

In that moment, I began praising God for the pain! Thank you Jesus for the pain. Thank you that even though I could not see You working in one of my darkest hours - You were at work - Bringing healing through pain.

What God had dropped into my heart 2 days prior was that He works all things (even pain) for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Roman 8:28) I had experienced a fresh perspective to what that verse actually means. He does work all things for good to those who love Him! Even a little boy vomiting out of control and in relentless pain for HOURS on end. I know it may sound cliche, but I truly had experienced a Mother's Day miracle. The pain, that I thought was my greatest enemy, was actually, my best friend. This was the greatest Mother's Day ever - one I will never forget.

I hope this encourages you if you are in pain - perhaps it's not physical pain, but emotional or spiritual. Perhaps you are in anguish. Hold on - dear friend. God is always at work. If you belong to Him and are living for Him as best you know how to - Romans 8:28 is for you too.

Take time today to praise Him and thank Him for the pain. Thank Him for being at work in your circumstances even though you may not see Him at work. Ask Him to open your eyes to see His presence in your midst - He will! (Remember, the ER nurse, Michelle, an open door at the ER, a Starbucks - just when I really needed it!) These were God sightings. He'll do the same for you!

Will remained @ UNC Hospital for a total of 8 days. During that week, God would teach me another huge life lesson. I'll share it with you tomorrow!

Thank you for all your comments - on the blog and to me personally. They bless my soul!

When God is No Where to be Found... A Mother's Day Tribute Part 1

Will and I prior to surgery.

Romans 8:28

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.

Last year on Mother's Day weekend, my life was set into a whirlwind of sickness, fear and the unknown with one phone call. It was Friday morning prior to Mother's Day and at 10:00am, my phone rang - it was my son, Will, calling from school. He was sick and needed me to pick him up - quick.

Will came home in agonizing pain. He had barely eaten any breakfast, which was unusual, so there wasn't much productivity. After 3 hours of heaving and curled up in writhing pain, I found myself with my face on the floor beside him in my bedroom - begging - BEGGING - God to intervene. Begging God for mercy. Begging God to allow him to get sick so that he could feel better. Begging God for relief.

Three hours turned into 5. Five hours turned into 7 of the same thing - heaving and relentless pain. If you are a mom, there is nothing worse than watching your child in agony. In fact, it was getting worse. What was God's seeming response: silence. Where was God???

After 8 hours, I put Will and a trash can in the car and we went to Urgent Care. On the way, I found myself begging God, yet again, for mercy. Mid-sentence in this silent petitioning, I stopped begging and said,

"Where are You? I'm mad at you and I'm not talking to You anymore. You're not listening anyway. I've been begging for hours and You're no where to be found."

After being told there was nothing they could do for us at Urgent Care - I headed to the ER. My irritation at God kept playing in my mind. I began talking silently to God again,

"But I know You're not ignoring me, God. This is not Your character. You love me and You love my son - even though it doesn't feel like it right now. I will CHOOSE to believe what Your Word says, regardless of how I feel; regardless of how this seems - that you will work this out for good. I personally don't know how You can work for good a child in vomiting and writhing pain for hours on end for good - but I choose to trust You Lord."

There was a peace in my heart to such honesty - the situation had not changed - but choosing to focus on Who I knew God to be - helped in that dark hour.

I began texting my girlfriend, Gay, who's an ER doc to find out if she was working. (Yes, I was texting, praying and driving all at the same time.) I got a message that she was working, but that her ER was super busy. She instructed me to go to an outpatient ER in the town next to mine. (Invisible hand of God.)

Upon arriving - we were seen immediately. (Invisible hand of God). After 2 hours, the vomiting was under control - but not the pain. Eventually, after 2 doses of morphine, the pain was under control. My husband stayed with Will and sent me home. A few hours later they were home. (11:00pm). I chose to sleep in Will's room - I needed a break from the sound of sickness! Will slept with my husband in my spot.

Two hours later - my husband was standing over me - Will was sick again. They were going back to the ER.

At 5:30am, I relieved my husband so that he could go home and sleep. After 6 hours of tests and HEAVY doses of morphine, they sent us by ambulance to UNC hospitals. At this point I couldn't pray. I was in a fog. "Was this really happening, or am I dreaming," I kept asking myself. I had texted friends and had asked them to pray. This explained a supernatural peace and calm that I could not explain...

As we were being checked into UNC ER, I was appalled by all that was around me. The sick, the broken, the bleeding, the profanity... It was a dark place spiritually and I felt very alone and weak spiritually and emotionally.

As our ER nurse walked into our room, I broke into tears. Who was it, but a former babysitter and fellow believer, Michelle! It had been YEARS since I'd seen Michelle. Just the sight of her was God saying, "I'm here sweet girl, I'm here." (It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it!) And what else did God do - but provide a Starbucks right around the corner in the hospital! Oh, did I need it!

Due to the how sick Will was, he was transferred into the O.R. holding area within the hour. The surgeon met us there. He hypothesized that it was 1 of 3 things. It turned out to be none of those things. Little did any of us know how very sick my son was. What started out as a little boy coming home from school with a stomach ache - 30 hours later - this same little boy, was on the verge of death.

Before being rolled into the Operating Room, my husband and I prayed over him. And then at 6:00pm, Saturday night prior to Mother's Day, we tearfully walked away and left him in God's hands...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The National Day of Prayer

"I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

Psalm 91:2

A few years ago, I read something I hope to never forget: (forgive me if I chop it up - tried to find the quote, but could not find it).

That God is a Gentleman. And when we ask Him to remove His Hand from our:

schools; our court houses; our town halls; our city meetings; our government affairs; our elections; and the many other things we've pushed Him out of...

He will.

When His Hand is removed - so is His hand of protection.

(What a chilling thought if you think about it. Makes you wonder about 9/11 and many other things.)

My mom can remember at time when devotions were given each day in the public school system. Can you imagine? We live in such a politically correct culture, it's hard to believe that could have taken place.

Today is the official National Day of Prayer. Let me give you a quick summarized history. I found all of this on the National Day of Prayer Website:

1775 The first Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer. They asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation.

1863 Abraham Lincoln called for such a day. His proclamation called for "humiliation, fasting and prayer." (Can you imagine a prayer saying such a thing! How cool.)

1952 Harry S. Truman declares a National Day of Prayer and signs into law an annual observance. (You'll never guess who instigated it... Conrad Hilton of the Hilton hotels! He and Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas brought the actual bill forward. Who would have thought!)

1988 Ronald Reagan signs into law the designation of the first Thursday in May as the annual observance for the NDP.

Our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. We too should humbly come before God - seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people. (Especially in light of the tornadoes over the last month.)

Shirley Dobson, the NDP chairman, is quoted as saying, "We have lost many of our freedoms in America because we have been asleep. I feel if we do not become involved and support the annual National Day of Prayer, we could end up forgetting this freedom, too."

Take time to pray today. I know that my church has opened it's doors for prayer. Many other churches and places have as well. What a privilege we have - who knows how long it'll last...

For more on the National Day of Prayer, visit: nationaldayofprayer.org

Have a great day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Iron Sharpens Iron, Women's Leadership League

Proverbs 27:17

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man [woman] sharpens another."
Last month, after months and months of prayer, my ministry team launched Iron Sharpens Iron, Women's Leadership League. We are an interdenominational Christian women's group. Our focus is to equip leaders to be more impactful in their sphere of influence.

Iron Sharpens Iron serves:

Women's Ministry Leaders; Bible Study Leaders; MOPS Leaders; Pastor's Wives; Missionaries; A woman who wants to start leading Bible studies in her church, school, neighborhood, or community; Any woman who is a Christian leader in her sphere of influence.

Jesus says in John 15:5, "I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." As Christian leaders it is imperative for us to "remain on the Vine!" The topics will change each month, but the overriding theme will always be the same: growth in our personal relationships with Jesus. If we are not growing, how can anyone we are shepherding be growing in Christ?

We meet the 2nd Friday of every month (excluding June and July) at MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary, NC. The cost per person is $16.

This includes a delicious lunch; a fabulous speaker; an opportunity to meet and collaborate with other women in ministry. To find out what leaders are doing and how they are doing it. To sharpen each other so that we can be more impactful in our places of service so that God's Kingdom can be furthered in our corners of the world.

If you are Christian leader in any capacity (and a woman!), you are invited to join us!

Our next gathering will be Friday, May 13Th. 11:30am-1:00pm.

Our speaker: Amy Carroll, Proverbs 31 Ministries

"Cultivating a Culture of Mentoring"

I need to know if you are coming! The deadline for RSVP is Monday, May 9Th at noon. Below are a few pictures from last month. We had almost 50 women come for our first meeting! There's a definite hunger for this kind of forum. I hope you can join us next week!

Our speaker last month was Melody Merritt. Her story was amazing! What an inspiration.

We have door prizes too!

What sweet, sweet fellowship! Hope you can join us!

What in the World is Going On?

  • The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti 16 months ago-

  • The unprecedented blizzards this past winter in the Midwest and northeast-

  • The tsunami that brought utter destruction to parts of Japan - wiping out total towns and villages-

  • The tornadoes a few weeks ago that hit the southeast and parts of my state - leaving 24 killed in North Carolina alone-

  • The utterly devastating tornadoes of last week - that came right on the heels of 2 others in the past few weeks that has hit the southeast once again.

  • The economy of not only the United States, but much of the world that is teetering closer to depression - rather than recovery...

  • The unrest in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East.

  • Not to mention the tsunami of 2004 and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

What in the world is going on? Do you think the end of the world is near? Are we close to Armageddon? Are we on the brink of collapse?

I have no idea and I'm not even going there. But this I know for certain. Anytime we see disaster after disaster - instead of looking to a political figure or an organization to come to the rescue (and yes, I know that many need practical help and I praise Jesus for the groups that are in the 'war zone' offering life's essentials); instead of even looking at a religion - let this be a wake up call for us to look to God.

What do I mean by look to God?

First of all, are you right with God? That needs to be your first question. And if not - get right with God today. Confess that you are a sinner in need of a Savior (not a religion; not a program at church; not even service in the church). Invite God's Son, Jesus, the One who is THE ONLY WAY to the Father to come into your life. (See John 14:6)

Secondly, know Him outside of the church. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 32:46-47, these are not just idle words for you [the Bible], they are your life.

  • Begin reading the Bible each day;

  • find some godly friends that can help encourage you to live out biblical principles in your everyday life.

On this blog - I try to point you to the relevancy of the Bible in our everyday life. I also try to illustrate ways of making the Bible part of your everyday life. (See the post on my desire for breast implants; the posts on marriage...) This is rubber meeting the road - everyday life - living out biblical principles.

Watching the news breaks my heart. I feel totally inadequate to help these people. I honestly am n0t even sure how to pray for them. "Help them Jesus," is all I can seem to muster. However, as I've asked the Lord to show me how to pray, I keep hearing the theme - people getting right with God. "So Lord, not only help them, but point them to You; draw them to Yourself through this disaster. Allow them to look upward not outward.

What about you? Are you right with God? If you are right with Him, is the Bible your life? Or is it another book adorning the coffee table?

Do people know you are a believer in Christ or are you a closet Christian - hiding your light under a bushel for fear of what others might say if you publicly gave allegiance to Jesus?

These are strange times we are living in. People need the Hope (Jesus) found inside of you and me.