Archives For Elaine Woods

This is from my friend Elaine Woods:

I’ve been a mother for 21 years.  I’ve celebrated 21 Mother’s Days.  If you look in my nightstand by my bed you’ll see the cards and notes from each of my four kids over the years. Some of them resemble squiggles of their younger years; recent cards are filled with creative, loving poems and thoughts.  Occasionally I’ll look through that drawer, and pull out a cherished treasure.  The other day I came across one that said,

 

Dear Mom,

I wish we did’t have to eat meet for dinner.

Love, Your Son.

 

Each card means so much to me. I’ve been blessed.

 

Every year my kids ask the same question, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”  Now they know I’m a fan of Starbucks, massages, and chocolate, so they know any one of those will make me happy.  Yet still, they ask.

 

When I think about Mother’s Day this year, what I really want are two things.

 

First, I want my kids to know that I truly, unconditionally love them.  Really.  I love them with my whole being.  I will always be there for them.  Now this doesn’t mean I will give them anything they want or support any decision they make, but it does mean I will always have their best interest at heart.  Children don’t always understand this.  As mothers, we do.

 

When my kids get frustrated, mad, or angry at me for decisions I’m making, they are confusing love with getting what they want.  That’s okay.  If they ever get the chance to be parents someday, then they will understand.

 

Another thing I want is for my children is to serve and appreciate others. I know this sounds altruistic, but there are so many reasons why I want this for my children. Mainly because it will shape their character and mold them into loving, responsible adults.  They don’t understand that these characteristics will ultimately bring them the most success and joy in life, but I do.

 

If you ask them right now what they want out of life, they will probably say a great job, lots of money, a big house, and a dog.

 

As parents, we want to make our kids happy.  We love them, and have the power to instantaneously make them happy.  It’s easy to get sucked into buying our kids the latest toy or electronic. Just try to get out of Target without waiting in line while your child looks around and says, “Can I have that?”

 

As Director of Children’s Ministries, even I get caught up in ways to entertain and entice our children so they will want to come to church: Should I get inflatables?  What about a mini-carnival?  How much candy or treats should I serve?

 

While these are all good ideas and fun to do, we know what matters most is the character of our children. In church lingo, we call that spiritual formation.  Christian spiritual formation is a lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus. While today’s culture is telling our children that life is “all about me,” we can remind them that life is really “all about God.”

 

We can practice this daily. Teaching our children to serve and appreciate others begins when we first teach our children to say, “Please” and “Thank you.” Later, as they mature, we have them visit sick relatives, write thank you cards, share their things, volunteer in church, etc.  Let them be the ones to answer the question, “What needs to be done?”

 

The more they give to others, the more they will appreciate what is given to them.

 

I realize my Mother’s Day list won’t happen in one day, or even one year. Raising a child takes time. To me, motherhood is a celebration of life.  I’m thankful for the life my mother gave me, the life I see in my children, and the eternal life with our heavenly Father.

 

 

taize1This is from my friend, Elaine Woods:

Last Tuesday, my divorce became final.

On Saturday (4 days later), my son was accepted to West Point.

Talk about drama in one week!

Although these two events may seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, I like to think of them as a continuation.  New beginnings leading to renewed hope.

Tuesday marked the end of a 23 year marriage (although in reality it ended years ago). Nevertheless, its finality closed the book on my marriage and thrust me into a new chapter in my life.

I approach this new phase with excitement, hope, uncertainty, and melancholy.  I fondly recall memories with the bittersweet taste of gratitude for their existence, and yet, disappointment at their endings.  I look at photos and smile.  Then cry.  Then smile again.  The pictures are reminiscent of times past.

And yet, love never ends; it just transcends into different perspectives.

I’m hopeful for the future.  I couldn’t have done this if I wasn’t.  I believe I’ve been gently led in this direction, where growth and joy will flourish and manifest in ways untapped before.  It will require inner strength and perseverance.

I know my faith will guide me.  I believe in the Holy Spirit and its power.

Although many people are uncomfortable talking about the Holy Spirit (and may consider it a bit suspect), the Holy Spirit has been a part of the Christian faith for centuries.

stainedglass247lIn the Old Testament, there are numerous times when we are told that the Holy Spirit was specifically made available to certain people.  Moses was guided by the Holy Spirit.  Gideon, Joshua, Saul, David, Isaiah, Zechariah, and many others are said to have had the Spirit of the Lord upon them.

In the New Testament, the early Christians told the story of Jesus and referenced the Holy Spirit in many important events.  The birth of Jesus is due in part to the Holy Spirit.  At Jesus baptism, the Holy Spirit descends on him.  Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit and later, returned to Galilee “in the power of the spirit” to begin his ministry.

Listening to and discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit can come all at once or over time.  When you keep coming back to a certain thought; when doors open that were once closed; or when options become possibilities, you know the Holy Spirit is busy at work in your life.  This happens through earnest prayer.  Praying to our Lord and Savior will help to discern the voice of the Spirit. Even just inquiring about the Holy Spirit in your life is a first step.

If you’ve never heard God speak to you through the Holy Spirit, don’t worry. I believe you’ll begin to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit as your prayer life becomes more active and powerful. It’s easier to look back on your life and see the fruits of the Holy Spirit afterwards, rather than day in and day out.  Just remember, the Holy Spirit will never endorse anything that separates you from God.

Even if you don’t feel a “gentle nudge,” the Holy Spirit is still busy at work in your life.

My son applied to West Point during his senior year of high school.  Although he was a stellar student, participated in many extracurricular activities, and had glowing recommendations and a congressional nomination, he didn’t make the cut.  His dream of attending the United States Military Academy at West Point was over.

He was crushed.

He didn’t give up, however, but instead enrolled at another university.  He continued to pursue activities and academics with dedication and hard work. He became a member of the elite Corps of Cadets, and embraced his college experience with enthusiasm. During the fall, he applied again to West Point.

When the news came of his acceptance, we were all thrilled.  Thrilled that through faith and hard work, my son learned not to give up on his dreams.  He learned to redirect, to venture out into uncharted territory, and to find new avenues to discover.

As I continue on my journey, I hope to be as brave as my son.  Major life changes tend to make us feel vulnerable, fragile, and even raw.  We may not feel anything for a while, let alone the Holy Spirit. Take comfort in God.  Know that the Holy Spirit is at work bringing relief, joy and peace to our lives.

Christ promised to his disciples before leaving them that he would pray to God and ask for another Comforter (meaning the Spirit) who would love and guide them forever, just as he did with his disciples.

I believe him.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.     John 14:16

 

 

 

Got Church?

Jason Micheli —  January 27, 2014 — 4 Comments

This is from Elaine Woods:

Why do you go to church?

This was the question I asked my daughter yesterday afternoon while driving to piano lessons.

I thought for sure she would say, “Because you make me.”

Instead she replied, “Because I like to learn about Jesus.”

Taking a cue from my pause, she continued her thought,

“Mom, it’s like if you have a friend, you want to get to know all about them.”

As I thought about her answer, I realized how true her statement was. We not only learn about Jesus in church from scripture and sermons, but from the fellowship of members and guests; how we interact with each other.

Do we rush into worship?

Do we exit right after the service?

Spending time at coffee hour does more than give you a caffeine rush.  It allows time for multigenerational conversation: kids sharing with grandparents; mothers bonding with other mothers over family issues; teenagers joking with young kids.

Faith is about relationships.

When we feel connected to something, we feel a part of it and take ownership in it.

That’s when the Gospel comes alive.

People return to church week after week because of the people they will see there.  Knowing someone’s name and asking them about their week means so much.

You never know if coming to church is the highlight of someone’s week.  I remember years ago a friend was going through a difficult breakup.  The only thing that got her from week to week was knowing that on Sunday mornings, she would hear an inspiration message and feel connected to something bigger than herself.  She felt a part of God’s family when she worshipped.

One of my favorite parts of the week is Sunday morning.  You may think I’m just saying that because I work at a church, but I truly mean it from the heart.  I’m energized and uplifted when I interact with teachers, parents, kids, guests, and friends on Sunday morning.

I hear stories from parents on how their child actually wants to attend church again because of a Sunday school group.  I get to see the joy in a child’s face as they recognize their teacher and run up to give a hug.

I hear families planning their next weekend outing, or dads strategizing on how best to coach their child’s basketball game.

I’ve seen tears well up in the eyes of those singing or listening to a favorite song in worship.

I’ve also seen the faces of those exiting worship; shaking the pastor’s hand and thanking them for preaching, “as if you read my mind.”

When Jesus began his ministry, he didn’t do it alone.

He gathered 12 Apostles to minister with him. He was teaching us about fellowship, that is, a partnership; a bond with each other.

In ministering to and with the Apostles, Jesus was modeling to us what the church body should look like; Groups of people coming together, developing friendships, working together in the body of Christ, and then sharing their experiences with others.

We gather in church as a physical form of fellowship. As followers of Christ, we also experience fellowship when we gather spiritually in one mind and body worshipping our Lord.

Coming to church on Sunday mornings not only allows us to learn about Jesus, but we get to experience first hand what Christ meant by fellowship.

 

 

The Gift of Prayer

Jason Micheli —  January 3, 2014 — 2 Comments

1231472_10201379536123104_1520633178_nThis is from Elaine Woods:

The Gift of Prayer

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a time we focus on generosity.  We shop for Christmas presents for friends and family; and in the spirit of giving, we often think of the less fortunate and donate to charities or help at food kitchens.

We tend to think of giving as something we give to others.  Our money. Our time. Our things.

We are the givers and the less fortunate are the receivers.   After all, we don’t expect to receive something from those who have nothing.

This is especially true of the homeless.

After all, they don’t have a home, barely have enough food or supplies to survive, and may have addiction or psychological issues to overcome.

But just like us, they yearn to connect with others and want to feel valued.  Many of them once had homes and were active members of society.

The book, Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, is a true story of the lifelong friendship that develops between a homeless man (Denver) from Louisiana and an art dealer (Ron) from California due to the efforts of the art dealer’s wife (Debbie).

Debbie convinces her husband to join her in serving the poor at the Union Gospel Mission.  Her passion was to treat and care for the homeless with the same respect and love that she gave her own family.  Not just once a week, but 2-3 times. It wasn’t easy.  Both sides were weary of each other’s motives.  Fear and hurt go deep and are not easily removed. But over time, they began to trust each other and a friendship ensued.

At first, Denver wouldn’t speak to either of them.  He was known on the streets as an angry, tough guy and had a reputation to uphold. But over months of watching them, he eventually opened his heart to their friendship.

Years later, as Debbie was dying of cancer, Denver was the one consoling Ron and helping him with his faith.  Denver was able to understand Ron’s anger, and helped him see God’s perspective.  Denver was a prayer warrior who spent night after night holding vigil over Debbie’s illness.

Here’s one of my favorite passages:

“You know, if you ain’t poor, you might think it’s the folks in them big ole fine brick churches that’s doin all the givin and the carin and the prayin.  I wish you coulda seen all them little circles a’ homeless folks with their heads bowed and their eyes closed, whisperin what was on their hearts.  Seemed like they didn’t have nothing to give, but they was givin what they had, takin the time to knock on God’s front door and ask Him to heal this woman that had loved them. ”

Not everyone is called to minister with the homeless; however, it’s important to remember that God values each of us, and will use people from all kinds of backgrounds for His glory. The homeless have keys to the kingdom the same as anyone else.

When Jesus came to earth, His messages and miracles were for everyone.  He redefined what a ‘king’ should look and act like.  He spent time with fishermen, tax collectors, priests, prostitutes, lepers, widows, and children.  All were welcome into the kingdom of God.  And in joining humanity, He prayed for them.

Jesus loved His Father and communicated with Him often.  He prayed for wisdom and guidance in His earthly ministry. He prayed for others to come to know Him as Savior and Lord. He prayed for the twelve disciples, and that God would strengthen their ministry once He departed from them. He prayed with honesty, reverence, joy and praise. But most of all, Jesus prayed with expectation. He knew the Father heard His prayers and would respond.

If you feel like you have nothing to give this season, or you have already given much of your time and money, I ask you to give the gift of prayer.

It doesn’t take much time and doesn’t cost a thing.

God will give you the resources to help others if you ask.

Encourage your children to have their own prayer time. Praying for family, friends, and even strangers is a good place to start.  Children can also use this time to talk to God about whatever is on their mind.

Praying is something every single person on this earth can do, and it’s important to God.  The word ‘pray’ is mentioned 313 times in the Bible.  It is active communication with God.  We talk, listen, or just walk with Him in prayer.

And best of all, prayers are free.

 

 

 

1231472_10201379536123104_1520633178_nOurs is a God who speaks creation into being, reveals more often through vowels and consonants than pillars of cloud and burning bushes.

Our scripture is mostly story form.

Our faith is narrative so it makes sense that our faith would be passed down narratively.

Here’s this reflection from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Minister:

I love a good story.  I’m entranced when someone tells an interesting story about what happened to them.  From the set up to the climatic conclusion, a good storyteller captures your full attention.

My grandmother loved to tell stories.  Whenever I would stop by and visit her, she seemed to always have something to say.  Whether it was about her garden or canning fruit, she made it sound interesting.  She spoke in a causal, relaxed tone; never seemed to be in a hurry.  I rarely felt that she was preaching to me or telling me what to do.  And yet, I learned from her.  To this day when I sew, I can hear my grandmother’s voice saying, “I like to make sure the inside seams are as pretty as the outside ones.”

With all the technology we use today, the art of storytelling is fading away.

No television, computer, ipad, or internet can replace the face to face, interaction of someone telling a story with gestures, facial expressions, and tone inflections.  It’s an active communication between two people.

As a parent, I try to monitor how much time my children spend using media.

I must admit though, it’s usually the first thing they want to do after school, homework, or activities.

It’s such a temptation.  And with our busy lifestyles, even parents succumb to going online far too often.

My daughters were recently getting ready for their Homecoming dance.  As we were talking together, they asked me about my high school years. They wanted to know if I had homecoming dances at my school, and if I attended any of them.  The conversation took a turn down memory lane for me as I shared about my high school dances and dates.  I even pulled out my old photo album; the kind where the photos stick to the white pages with the “magnetic” plastic covering.  I showed them the yellow stained pictures of me in my Gunne Sax dresses.  We laughed hysterically.  Afterwards they said, “Mom, I didn’t know any of this about you!”

What a wonderful opportunity we have as parents to share stories with our children.

No matter how many times they roll their eyes or poke fun, children are interested in their parents and want to get to know them.

Personalized stories can become a starting point for parents to share their faith.  Something as simple as sharing whether or not you attended worship as a child and what that looked like.

Family gatherings at holidays, weddings, or funerals are also an opportunity to discuss faith with your children.

Keep in mind the more detail you go into, the better chance that your child will relate to parts of your story. These stories do not have to be elegant or something that happened long ago.   If your faith is new to you, let your children know that. Their faith is still new to them, so they will enjoy knowing that they are not alone. As long as you are sharing about yourself, it will mean the world to them.

Stories brought to life are exciting.  Just look at the bible.  Stories of prophesy, murder, redemption, love, and forgiveness occur in the first book alone!

Sharing stories with our children allows them to see us as more than just “parents.”

They see us as people with our own experiences and feelings.

Inviting grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members to connect with our children through stories is invaluable.  Children will learn they are part of a larger, grander story than just their own.  Faith will become real to them as they see it through the eyes of family members.

Life is a gift from God.  We have the opportunity to share this gift with our children through stories.

 

 

 

 

 

The Silver Lining of Prayer

Jason Micheli —  November 2, 2013 — 1 Comment

3300This is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Minister.

 What is prayer?

Prayer simply means talking and listening to God.

A conversation.

We teach our children as young as three years old to bow their heads, close their eyes, fold their hands together, and pray. There’s no right or wrong way to pray; God always loves to hear from us.

As we mature, our prayers become more complex as we thank and praise God, ask for forgiveness, and petition for something for ourselves or on behalf of someone else.

We can pray aloud or silently.  Standing or kneeling.  Individually or collectively.

A few years ago I remember sitting in the pews with others at church as our pastor said, “Will you all pray with me?”  We bowed our heads and closed our eyes.

The prayer started out like others, graciously giving thanks and praise.  As our pastor continued praying, his tone became softer.

His voice almost cracked.

He was speaking from the heart; almost imploring God to remember and bless His creation.

The sanctuary became silent. He took his time with each, genuine word.

I was witnessing an intimate, pure, and holy conversation. The humility and sincerity in his voice was moving.

At that moment, I learned more about my pastor’s faith than any previous conversations I had with him.

Although he has a gift with words, what I heard that morning was faith, and the extent to which it impacts and shapes his character.

When we share our inner most thoughts with God, without hiding behind our masks of insecurity or pride, our soul is exposed.  We see ourselves for who we are, and perhaps, who we can become through Christ.  It’s a barometer of our faith journey.

Since God is all-knowing, the gift He gives us through prayer is self-realization.

He shines the light on our strengths and weaknesses.  We can never hide from the truth when we are walking with God.  His truth is revealed in our innocent, honest, and loving communication with Him.

The real silver lining of prayer occurs when we open our hearts to God and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal our truths and transform us.

God hears our prayers.  He answers them according to His timeline.  While we are waiting, He blesses us with the gift of discovery, both in Him and in ourselves.

 

1231472_10201379536123104_1520633178_nThis is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Director. That I willingly share this is proof I can rise above the cynicism. 

I like contemporary Christian music (CCM).  In fact, I love it.  I know some of you may scoff at this comment, but I also know that many of you hum along and even sing aloud to MercyMe, Third Day, and dare I say, Chris Tomlin’s songs.

I’m inspired by contemporary Christian music.  Whether I’m running, driving in my car, or enjoying my time at home, my mood always improves while listening to these songs.  Many lyrics are taken from scripture.  Other songs are written with themes of hope, comfort, and joy while at the same time offering praise and worship to God. While these musicians often sing about matters of truth and religious commitment, they also explore the breadth of the human condition.

Contemporary Christian music began in the 1970’s as part of the Jesus movement; a mixture of 60’s rebellion with rock-n-roll rhythms.  As it became more popular, artist expanded the lyrics and added additional music styles such a pop and classic rock, and it developed into its own genre with songs about the love of God.  In the 1980’s CCM artists such DC Talk, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith found crossover success with their albums and took CCM to a whole new level.

Contemporary Christian music has now developed into a mainstream genre with lyrics and rhythms, which include, but are not limited to Gospel, Pop, Country, and Hip Hop, and Metal.

It also has become a major music ministry for Christians who feel the call to serve.

If you have never been to a contemporary Christian concert before, I highly recommend it.  It is a fabulous form of worship where people come together standing, singing, and listening to the message of Christ in a concert atmosphere through songs and stories.

People from different generations and backgrounds choose to attend, and the fellowship that occurs between virtual strangers is compelling.  You leave the concert feeling empowered with the Holy Spirit

Christian music reaches out to us on a level that we can understand and feel. It shows us that Jesus is still with us, even when we’re facing a crisis or celebrating our blessings. It keeps us on course with our faith.

Anything that allows us to ponder and explore our faith is beneficial.  For some of us, it is through music.  Others find reading books on faith and theology as a source of inspiration.

We are all uniquely created with different interests and personalities.

How God reaches out and communicates with us varies from person to person.

God will meet people where they are at and take them to the next level.

For those of you still uncertain, give it a try. Here’s a sample list of current CCM artists (random order):

MercyMe

Third Day

Big Daddy Weave

Crystal Lewis

Heather Williams

Mandisa

Casting Crowns

TobyMac

Selah

Matthew West

You: Conduits of Love

Jason Micheli —  September 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

photo

This is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Minister.

Why is it that people at church are more comfortable talking to others about weddings, new babies or hairstyles but avoid asking them about their unemployment, divorce, or addiction?

Do you know that in your congregation you will find people who have lied, stolen things, or have had extra-marital affairs?

You will also find parents who’ve had to bury their children.

Just because people come to church doesn’t mean that sin and suffering aren’t a part of their life.

I find it ironic when people who don’t attend church expect those that do to be perfect.  It’s just the opposite.

Church should be a place where we can freely let our guard down as we grow and develop our faith.

If we truly are a “church family,” then we should act like a family.  Families accept and love each other regardless of differences or disappointments.  They share what’s happening in their lives, and provide bits of wisdom to help each other along the way.  But mainly, they are there for each other.  Whether they see each other every week, or perhaps take a few years off, families have a bond.

I understand it’s uncomfortable to talk to someone you barely know about personal issues.

But what about the person you have seen at church every week for the last few years?

Have you taken the time to get to know them?

Jesus came to earth to show us how to live.  His parables, miracles, and words were meant to guide us on our path of reconciliation with God.

It is only through Christ that we can accept God’s love and wisdom and thus, give it to others.

We become conduits of love.

Christ love flows into us, changes our hearts and minds, and prepares us to serve others.

If we try to do this on our own, our egos or insecurities get in the way.

This is what the future church should resemble.

A community of faith that forms followers of Christ, depends on fellowship with other Christians for support, accountability, and unity, and finds areas to serve and give back to the world.

It doesn’t care for worldly values, attitudes, or what the neighbors think.  It doesn’t exist to make you feel better.  It should change your thinking which in turn will change your behavior.

It will create Disciples of Christ.

 

 

 

Inner Peace

Jason Micheli —  August 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

photo-300x300This is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Minister.

“Peace I leave, my peace I give.”  I remember hearing these words repeatedly as a child when I was in church.

When I was younger, I thought the “peace” referred to was in “peace and quiet..”  Noise and talking at a minimal level, or not at all.  Being alone.  A physical kind of peace.

Now my life has become more hectic: raising kids, working and maintaining our household.  It’s no longer a physical peace I crave (although a week in Hawaii sounds great), but an inner peace.  Where everything seems balanced and right.  Where time could stop and I would be fine.

This peace occurs when I’m walking with God.  When all distractions and thoughts are set aside, and I’m focusing on communication with Christ.  When God’s comfort, compassion, wisdom, and hope start as a small spark inside me, and then spread throughout my entire body.

Where God’s love and pure goodness cause me to smile with joy.

God calls us to communicate with him.  Most of the time, this is in the form of prayer.  We bow our heads, close our eyes, and pray to God, praising His name, and listening to His voice.

Nothing in this world can substitute for the inner harmony I feel when I’m earnestly praying to Christ.

But communication with God can also occur at other times.  I find jogging on the GW Parkway trail listening to the lyrics of the Christian music in my headphones keeps my faith alive.

Seeing God work in other peoples’ lives also keeps me connected to Him.   I see how the struggles and joys we face are masterfully weaved into God’s purpose.

The Bible tells us that peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  (Galations 5:22-23).  Peace is one of the “fruits” or results of being in a relationship with God.

Peace grows, as we trust in God.  When we are anxious, the Bible tells us to give thanks to God and pray.  Then the “‘peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Putting this into action can sometimes be difficult.

I woke up at 3am last night because I heard my daughter.  She recently had knee surgery, and was quietly making whimpering sounds while still asleep, like a fragile bird that had fallen.  I listen intently until the sounds stopped, and she returned to a deep sleep.

I, of course, did not.

I lay awake worried about her knee.  Worried about her recovery and worried about finding the cause of her ailment.

I had to consciously put those thoughts aside and focus on prayer.  It wasn’t easy.  My mind kept drifting off to “what ifs?”

But eventually the Holy Spirit reminded me of God’s grace and mercy.

Jesus is our Prince of peace.  These aren’t merely titles and words, but promises.

I fell back asleep, trusting that God loves us enough to provide the peace needed in this world.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Influencing Your Kids

Jason Micheli —  July 9, 2013 — 1 Comment

photo-300x300This is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Ministry Director:

Summer is here.  Kids are out of school.  Their normal routine has changed whether they are spending time at home, on vacation, or in camps.

If you are like most parents, the battle over the amount of time your child uses media is in full force.  Does watching TV for an hour mean less computer time?  What about checking Facebook and Twitter? Not to mention the time spent posting photos on Instagram.

What better time to ask yourself:

“What’s influencing my children?”

In addition to all the media options, parents should know their kids’ friends.  Who are they spending time with?  Peer pressure is strongest in the teenage years, yet even elementary children will follow the “cool” kids.

Before you throw out all the electronics in the house, or do a background check on all your kid’s friends, keep in mind this important statistic: Parents have more influence over their children than friends, music, TV, the Internet or celebrities.

We choose our children’s education, extracurricular activities, spiritual formation, and values.

We nurture their relationships with family and friends.  We create their “family” model.

Have you ever thought how your marriage affects your children?

It is probably one of the strongest influences in their life.

Not surprisingly, one of the most important gifts we can give our children is a happy marriage.

A happy marriage you may ask?  What does that have to do with raising children?

Children will learn how to treat others, how to share, disagree, compromise, and even love by watching their parents interact.

Just as we nurture our children, we should nurture our marriage.

Add up the amount of time spent chauffeuring your children from school, sports, activities……you get the idea.  Now add up the amount of time (alone) you spend with your mate.  How do these compare?  Is there even a comparison?

The framework for marriage is clear in the Bible.

Love each other.

Sacrifice for each other.

Be faithful to each other.

The marriage covenant here on earth is a first step in practicing the marriage we will have in heaven with Christ.  We are the bride and Christ is the bridegroom.  We, as believers, wait with great anticipation for the day we are reunited with our Lord.

It’s easy to forget this when we are busy raising kids.

The commitments and responsibilities can be overwhelming, and let’s face it, we’re tired at the end of the day.

However, the dynamics between parents cannot be underestimated.

Make an effort to spend quality time with your spouse.  Go on a date.  Show affection to one another.  Teach your children what it means to love your spouse.  Sometimes the simplest look, touch, or kiss can rekindle lost feelings.

The benefits of a warm, affectionate, and loving marriage will influence your children now and in their future relationships.

For in loving, forgiving, and sharing with our spouse, our children see Christ at work.

In addition to looking at media and peer influences on your children, don’t forget to reflect on your marriage.  A night out together may be just what you need.

Parents have more influence over their child than friends, music, TV, the Internet and celebrities

photo-300x300

This is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Director

Last week my son had his high school graduation.  As a mother who has loved and cherished this boy for 18 years, I could tell you countless stories from his childhood.  How I remember his rosy cheeks after an afternoon nap; shopping at Safeway as a toddler in his cowboy boots and Batman cape; “dropping into the bowl” at Vans Indoor Skate park on his Haro BMX bike with his brother in elementary school; and all the dating drama that goes with Junior and Senior High School.  It all seems so long ago, yet the memories so vivid and current.

Mothers with young children ask me what it’s like to have a graduate, how I will cope with “letting go.”

I tell them that I actually feel good about it.  By the time your child becomes a senior in high school, they are ready for their new adventure, and so are you.

No longer do you see the small, young toddler holding onto your pant leg, looking up at you with eyes that say, protect me.

You see a confident young adult who is anxious to begin another chapter in their life.

Graduation is a milestone that forces our youth to think about their future.  I pray that future includes thinking about their faith.

I want my son to be grateful for his family, for the opportunities he’s had, and for his accomplishments.

I want him to be kind to others, courageous and daring, and persevere under trials.

I want him to thank God for his blessings.

But I also want him also to know that God isn’t done with him yet.

Living in faith is a lifelong journey.

Just as we have guided and prepared our children for their next step in life, God guides and prepares us for our next adventure.

We are never too young or old for God to teach us and guide us on our journey.

Our current sermon series in church is the study of Romans. God waited until Saul was ready before appearing to him on the road to Damascus, and thus changing his heart.  Saul was an adult.

Apostle Paul (formerly Saul) spent the rest of his life sharing and teaching the message of Jesus to the world. Even as he was tortured and beheaded in Rome, he remained true to his faith.

It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve attended church, how many mission trips you’ve been on, or how much theology you’ve studied, the Christian life is a daily decision to obey and follow Jesus whether you are new in the faith, or a seasoned Pastor.

God calls all of us to participate in the salvation of humanity.

God will use you and your life, whether you know it or not, for His purpose.

Yes, we have free will.  We choose our actions.  But God’s purpose will reign.  His grace and mercy will exist in His creation.

As I think about my graduate, and prepare to take him to college in August, I pray for his safety and for God’s guidance; and that I don’t forget my box of kleenex.

 

 

help_my_unbelief-1This reflection on Doubt is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Director: photo-300x3001

I woke up at 4am this morning thinking about the conversation I had with my daughter last night before bed.  She had just returned from dance class and was worrying about auditioning and being selected into a prestigious dance school in the fall.  She has worked hard all year in dance, and has even scheduled her summer break with intensive dance classes to improve her performance.

I told her how proud I was of her dedication to her passion, and how much she has improved over the year.

She responded how it’s still not good enough, especially when compared to ‘Stacy’ (one of her dance friends).

There will always be a ‘Stacy’ out there for comparison, I said.  Focus on the enjoyment dance brings to you, and how much you have learned.

I could still see her frustration, so I tried another tactic.

What is your biggest fear?  Not getting into the dance school?

Face that fear now.

Pretend you just found out you were not selected.

How do you feel?  How are you going to deal with this?

If you can work through the doubts and fears now, then you can relax and know you will be okay.

As parents, we want to impart all the words of wisdom we know to teach and protect our children.  Unfortunately, many of life’s lessons are learned through one’s own experience.

This got me thinking about doubt and faith.  How it’s okay to have doubts about our beliefs.

Don’t push it aside; bring it on.

As I told my daughter to face her biggest fear about dance, I think God wants us to face our fears about our faith, or lack of.

Accepting our doubt = Accepting our humanity = Celebrating being created by God.

God uses our humanity to make us whole again through Christ.

We were created to be with God forever.  God’s covenant was promised in Eden, proclaimed to Abraham, and fulfilled in Christ.

Use doubt as a springboard to dive further into your faith.

photo-300x3001This reflection is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Ministry Director:

Driving down the GW parkway, I make sure it’s dark enough outside so drivers next to me won’t see the tears streaming down my face. The car is my only refuge; the only place to let my emotions out without fear of my someone seeing the complete despair and pain on my face.  The sobs continue.  My shoulders heaving up and down.

Pain reaching down to the same place in my body where life was once growing, and then, pulled out of me during childbirth.  If only I could pull this pain out and discard it forever.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Heartbreak is one of the strongest emotions we can experience.  Whether losing a loved one or a relationship, heartbreak strangles your core and refuses to release it.

The tears flow so consistently that I must pull over to avoid an accident.  I pull off the road to a parking lot that faces the Potomac River.  Luckily, no one else is around.  I search the radio stations for my favorite Christian music.  Nothing seems to comfort me.  I pray, actually beg, God to take this pain from me.  I promise to be a better person, a better mother, a better disciple.

Why me?  Why ME?  Lord, you promise not to give me more than I can handle. I can’t handle this.

I come across a gospel station.  I hear the song, “Take Me To The King,” by Tamela Mann.  I love the repetition of gospel music.  I hear again and again the words “Take Me To The King.”  The intensity of the singing touches me.  The desperate need to have God’s healing speaks to me.

A small voice inside me says:

“I am here.  Reach out to me.  Give it to me.”

I want to, really I do, but I don’t know how.

Then I remember scripture and the words Jesus promised: Have faith.  I’ve over come this world.  I love you.  I will lead you.

I start to feel better.  The spark of hope slowly begins to burn brighter and brighter inside me.

I cry out:

“Okay Lord. I’ll give it to you. Please take it.”

Months later, I reflect on that night.  I can still taste the tears.  I can still recall the sorrow I felt during that time.  But I also know that pain doesn’t last forever.  Joy returns.  Smiles and laughter will come again.

I remember participating in a women’s bible study years back and hearing someone say, “I welcome trials in my life.  It strengthens my faith.”  I also remember silently thinking, “What? Are you crazy?  Not me.  I don’t pray for any hardships.”

While I still don’t pray for hardships, I better understand what she was saying.  During trials, our faith is strengthened when we rely on God and His healing.

When I was distraught, I read my Bible every day, listened to Christian music consistently, and prayed about 4-5 times a day.  I wasn’t being “extra-religious.” I was desperate.

It was a special time with Christ.  And yes, over time it did strengthen my faith.

Unfortunately, we ALL will have trials and adversity in this life.  That’s a given.

How we act during these times is the key.  It’s the key to recovering and it’s the key to learning about God.

I’m not saying you will instantly feel better.  You may only have one good hour, or one good day.   But think of this time as an opportunity to grow closer to Christ.  Rely on His strength.

One of my favorite Christian songs speaks to this message:

Bring The Rain – Mercy Me

Bring me joy, bring me peace

Bring the chance to be free

Bring me anything that brings You glory

And I know there’ll be days

When this life brings me pain

But if that’s what it takes to praise You

Jesus, bring the rain

 

 

 

photo-300x300

This is from Elaine Woods, our Children’s Director-

Don’t Hesitate to Wait: God is Never Late

Whether you are waiting in line at Starbucks, waiting for your child in the kiss and ride line, or waiting in traffic, we all know what it’s like to wait.  Luckily, most of us have smart phones that keep us entertained during these times.   In this culture of immediate gratification, we’ve become impatient and want every minute to count.

Even waiting for something enjoyable such as a concert to begin, or a wedding to start can be a nuisance.  It isn’t in our nature to wait.

One of the hardest waits I find is waiting for answered prayer.  Sometimes God answers prayer immediately; other times we wait years to hear.  I remember praying before bed for an interesting idea to blog about, and in the middle of the night, an idea came to me.  I also have a prayer I’ve been praying for about 10 years now and still haven’t heard the answer.

But we have to remember that God’s timing is different than our own. He sees things from a different lens and sees the whole picture, not just what we want, but what is best for us in His grand plan for our lives.

Whether WE believe it or not, God has created and designed the world to fulfill HIS purpose.

Of course, when we are hoping, praying and waiting for something, it’s easy to forget this. After all, waiting is “remaining inactive in one place while expecting something.”  Being inactive means feeling powerless and at the mercy of the world – nobody likes that feeling.

But we must keep in mind God’s greater plan and His perfect timing.

Lamentations 3:25

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

It’s understandable to have doubt.  It’s normal, not unusual, to question God’s presence in your life.

I sometimes feel that God is answering everyone else’s prayer before mine.

But remember that God said He will never leave us or forsake us. If He seems silent now, it is because He has another plan, different timing or a way to answer our prayer that has not been revealed to us yet. We must trust in His plan.

The Bible is filled with stories of people waiting on God’s timing:

·  Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry

·  Moses was in the desert for 40 years before he was sent by God to rescue the children of Israel from the Egyptians

·  David had to wait at least 15  years before he became king of Israel

·  Abraham had to wait 25 years for the birth of his son Isaac

·  Noah had to wait 120 years from the time God told him to build the ark until the time the flood actually occurred

·  The apostles waited until after Jesus ascended into Heaven before they received the Holy Spirit in the upper room

The key to waiting is not the length of time but how we handle the wait. The Bible teaches us that we should “wait on the Lord.” We must choose to be optimistic about our future as God guides our lives.

After all, if we had all the details in advance, we wouldn’t be walking in faith would we?

Isaiah 40:31

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

God usually answers yes, no, or hold on…I have something better planned for you.  Waiting strengthens our faith, teaches us patience, and reminds us it’s not all about us.

This Prayer can help you as you wait on God’s perfect timing:

Gracious God,

I have been waiting for ________________ for so long now, and I come before you today to ask for your help. I pray that you will strengthen my faith so that I will put my trust in your perfect timing and plan for my life. I thank you for the blessings you have given me so far.  I will put my complete trust in you that you will answer my prayers in your own time.

Amen

 

Sticky-FaithMany of you like to point out- crank about- the thread of snarkiness that runs through my blog. Caveat Emptor: The blog’s called Tamed Cynic. What did you expect?

Nonetheless I’ve dutifully listened to these ministrations and decided to enlist the help of others who have a more compassionate and tender disposition than me.

photoElaine Woods is our Director of Children’s Ministries. Here’s some thoughts from her on the recent book, StickyFaith.

The book, StickyFaith, by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark, encourages young people to develop a faith that “sticks” to them as they mature and come face to face with the challenges of college and beyond.

Research shows that 40 – 50 percent of kids who graduate from a church or youth group fail to stick with their faith in college.

Loneliness and the search for friends seem to motivate the behavior of college students.

One of the key points of the book is that trusting God is a necessary discipline for sticky faith to develop. It’s more than doing “good works.”

The lifestyle of doing “good works” or external faith is not enough to sustain sticky faith.  It needs to come from within.

Faith that TRUSTS God understands that obedience is a response to that trust.  We don’t obey because of something we will get, we obey because we trust and love God to do what’s right for us.

The Greek word for faith is pisteuo.  In the New Testament, pisteuo can be translated as three different words: “faith,” “believe,” and “trust.”  So when you see the words faith and believe in the Bible, they come from pisteuo and can be translated as “trust.”

In the elementary years, it’s important to teach the foundation of our faith: obeying God’s word, forgiveness, prayer, and sin.

But as children mature, more emphasis is placed on a personal relationship with God.  Praying daily and listening to his words

God promises to change us from the inside out if we trust Him.  When you are changed from the inside out, all aspects of your life are affected:  your personal relationships, your job, and your habits.  It changes your mind, heart, and behavior.

Check out the book, StickyFaith.  It will give you ideas and suggestions to implement a lifelong faith with your children.  Keep in mind, however, that a person’s faith walk becomes his or her own.   We can’t do it for our children.

Thankfully, we have a God who sticks with us forever.