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  1. Believe Kids Are A Blessing
  2. Read The Jesus Storybook Bible To Them
  3. Pray With Your Kids Concerning Taking Risks
  4. Teach *First Time Obedience*
  5. Give Rules For Respectful Disagreement
  6. Give Rules For Respectful Interruption
  7. Give Rules For Being Respectful in Public
  8. The Five Minute Rule (Warning)
  9. Pre-Event Preparation/Conversation
  10. Titles of Respect for Adults (No First Names)
  11. Use Timers
  12. Sharing Is Not Requested, It’s Essential
  13. Boys Treat Girls Differently Than Boys
  14. Play Rough & Teach Kids To Get Over It
  15. Kids Sit With You In Church
  16. Ask Your Kids To Forgive You
  17. Kiss Your Spouse In Front Of Them
  18. Talking Back To Mom Is Talking Back To My Wife
  19. Hugs & Kisses To Friends
  20. Disagree In Front Of Your Kids
  21. Keep/Give Away
  22. Teach Your Kids To Sing
  23. Teach Your Kids God Loves Them More Than You
  24. Get In The Pool

from Steve McCoy

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We often have no idea what to say in the face of senseless loss. That is especially true when children are the victims of tragedy. Yesterday’s massacre in Connecticut is heartbreaking in so many ways, not the least of which is the staggering loss of children.

Anyone ministering in the ER after senseless tragedies will hear incredibly bad theology coming from people who think they are helping. Untruth and conjectures do not make a situation better.

Here are five things not to say to grieving family and friends:

1. “God just needed another angel.”

Portraying God as someone who arbitrarily kills kids to fill celestial openings is neither faithful to God, nor helpful to grieving parents.

2. “Thank goodness you have other children,” or, “You’re young. You can have more kids.”

Children are not interchangeable or replaceable. The loss of a child will always be a loss, no matter how many other children a parent has or will have.

3. He/she was just on loan to you from God.

The message is that God is so capricious that God will break parents’ hearts at will just because God can. It also communicates to parents and loved ones that they are not really entitled to their grief.

4. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

Actually, some people do get a lot more than any one person should ever have to handle. Don’t trivialize someone’s grief with a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mentality.

5. “There, there, pull yourself together.”

Jesus did not say this to the family when he stood at the grave of Lazarus. Instead, he himself stood and wept. Job tore his garments and fell to ground – yet, the text says, he did not sin in doing this.

And here are five things to say:

1. This breaks the heart of God.

From beginning to end, the Bible speaks of God’s emotions of grief and anger at evil and his heart for the brokenhearted. He invites us to come to him, tell him our grieve, and know he is approachable.

2. It’s okay to be angry, and I’m a safe person for you express that anger to if you need it.

Anger is an essential part of the grieving process, but many don’t know where to talk about it because they are often silenced by others when they express their feelings. (For instance, they may be told they have no right to be angry at God.) By saying you are a safe person to share all feelings, including anger, with, you help the grieving person know where they can turn.

3. What happened is not okay.

It seems so obvious, but sometimes this doesn’t get said. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit. Sometimes nothing works out right. And sometimes there is no way to fix it. Naming it can be helpful for some because it lets them know you won’t sugarcoat their grief. The writers of Scripture often asked, “How long, O Lord, how long does this have to go on?”

4. I don’t know why this happened.

When trauma happens, the shock and emotion comes first. But not long after comes our human need to try to explain “why?” The reality is that often we cannot. The grieving person will likely have heard a lot of theories about why a trauma occurred. Sometimes it’s best not to add to the chorus, but to just acknowledge what you do not know.

5. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I care and I am here for you in whatever way you would like.

Even if you have faced a similar loss, remember that each loss is different. Saying “I know how you’re feeling” is often untrue. Instead, ask how the grieving person is feeling. And then ask what you can do to help. Then, do it and respect the boundaries around what they don’t want help with at this point. You will be putting some control back into the hands of the grieving person, who often feels like they have lost so much of it.

It goes without saying – but sensitive, short and trusting prayer is both right and needed.

Adapted from an article by Emily Heath

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Dear Lord Jesus, we abandon ourselves to you tonight—we come running with our tears and our fears, our anger and our anguish, our lament and our longings. We collapse in your presence, with the assurance of your welcome, needing the mercies of your heart.

Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses  beyond all measurability. We need your tears and your strength tonight. That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait.

But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail. Extend your tear wiping hand—reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.

We cry out on behalf of the children of Newtown, those most directly affected by this evil, and for children throughout our country and the world, whose little hearts are reeling with fear and terror. Give parents wisdom and kindness, as they seek to love their children well, this night and in the coming days. Raise up gifted counselors and care givers to serve those most traumatized.

Lastly, Lord Jesus, we cry out with a loud voice, How long, O, Lord? How long before you return to eradicate all evil, redeem all tragedies, and make all things new? How long, O, Lord, how long? Your Bride weeps and waits for you. In your merciful and mighty name we pray.

Scotty Smith

Today is a day for hatred.

As I write this article, the death count stands at 20 children. Twenty. Twenty babies who got on a bus or walked out a door or stepped out of a car at the drop-off curb and are never coming home.

Father in heaven, their lunchboxes still hold uneaten sandwiches, unread love notes scrawled on napkins.

For 20 families, the worst fear a parent can know was waiting at the other end of a phone line today. Eleven days before Christmas, no less. Those children and teachers who survived will carry in their heads sights and sounds that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

And what comfort is there to offer them? What words are there to speak? A parent takes every measure possible to protect a child, though we know full well the world is not safe. But this?

There is no spin to put on a story like this. Yes, we will hear stories of heroism begin to emerge over the next hours, and they are stories we will need to hear. But there is no way to soften the blow.

Nor should we want to.

As a mother watching someone else’s horror play out on a screen, I want to feel this to the core of my being. I want it to inform my thoughts and actions in a way that leaves me changed. Because on days like today we learn just how broken sin has left us, just how bleak is our landscape without a Savior.

Days like today give us no choice but to hate. They leave us only with a choice of where that hatred will land: Will we hate God, or will we hate sin?

I choose to hate sin. On days like today I will reflect again on the ravaging effects of rebellion against God, multiplied across millennia, manifested in a freshly printed headline. The more shocking the headline, the more I must come to grips with my minimized reckoning of the severity of sin. With Nehemiah I will cry out, “I and my fathers have sinned,” freshly grieved over the sins of others—yes—but freshly grieved over my own sin as well. I have not pulled a trigger, but I have harmed my share of victims. The killer lies dead, but I live on to harm again. On days like today I will renew my resolve not to participate in tearing down what God pronounced good at the dawn of human existence. I cannot stop a murderer, but by the grace of God I can stop sinning against those he has given into my care.

I cannot offer a snippet of Scripture or a platitude to comfort those families, or to comfort you, my fellow believers. The day of our comfort is a future one. All I can offer is to hate my sin more deeply than I did yesterday and to cry out to God for a time when the groaning of this creation gives birth to that which is once again good. If hope ever transects hatred, it is here. In a few hours my own children will walk through my front door, God willing. I can be a mother who loves deeply and unselfishly in a world that is not safe. Surely that is the least I can do for these precious lives.

Today is a day for hatred. Today is a day for the weight of our sin to be felt in full force. May our hearts break under the blow. May they be shattered to dust.

Jen Wilkins

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Eternal Father of my soul,
let my first thought today be of You,
let my first impulse be to worship You,
let my first speech be Your name,
let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.

For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:
For the love with which You love mankind:
For the love with which You love me:
For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:
For the indwelling of Your Spirit in my heart:
For the sevenfold gifts of Your Spirit:
I praise and worship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said,
think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You.
Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth,
and joy, and power, that will remain with me
through all the hours of the day;

Keeping me chaste in thought:
Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:
Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:
Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:
Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:
Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:
Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.

Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

– John Baillie, 1886-1960

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FACT: If your children can’t read by age four there is a 95% chance they will end up homeless and on drugs.

FACT: If your children eat any processed food there is an 85% chance they will contract a rare, most likely incurable disease, by age 12.

FACT: If  you’re not up at dawn reading the Bible to your children, you are most likely a pagan caught in the clutches of witchcraft.

FACT: If your children watch more than 10 minutes of television a day there is 75% chance they will end up in a violent street gang by age 17.

Obviously, the “facts” listed above are not true (at least, I don’t think they are). But, I’ve noticed that the Internet has made it much easier for people, and moms in particular, to compare themselves to each other. Now, just to be clear, this is not a post against “mom blogs”, or whatever they’re called. If you write a mom blog, that’s cool with me. This is a post to encourage the moms who tend to freak out and feel like complete failures when they read the mom blogs and mom Facebook posts.

Moms, Jesus wants you to chill out about being a mom. You don’t have to make homemade bread to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to sew you children’s clothing to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to coupon, buy all organic produce, keep a journal, scrapbook, plant a garden, or make your own babyfood to be a faithful mom. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but they’re also not in your biblical job description.

Your job description is as follows:

  • Love God. This simply means finding some time during the day to meet with the Lord. It doesn’t have to be before all the kids are awake. It doesn’t have to be in the pre-dawn stillness. Your job is to love God. How you make that happen can look a million different ways.
  • Love your husband (unless you’re a single mom, of course). Your second job is to love and serve your husband. Husbands are to do the same for their wives, but that’s for a different post. If your husband really likes homemade bread, maybe you could make it for him. But don’t make homemade bread simply because you see other moms posting pictures of their homemade bread on Facebook.
  • Love your kids. Your calling as mom is to love your kids and teach them to follow the Lord. They don’t need to know Latin by age six. If they do, more power to you. But that’s a bonus, not part of the job description. Your job is simply to love your kids with all your exhausted heart, and to teach them to love Jesus. That’s a high calling. Don’t go throwing in other, extraneous things to make your life more difficult. If you want to teach your kids to sew, great. But don’t be crushed by guilt if your kids aren’t making stylish blazers by the age of 10.

Moms, Jesus want you to rest in him. He wants you to chill out. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Don’t compare yourself to other moms. Don’t try to be something God hasn’t called you to be. If the mom blogs are making you feel guilty, stop reading them. Be faithful to what he has truly called you to do, and know that he is pleased with you. When your kids are resting, don’t feel guilty about watching an episode of “Lost”, or whatever your favorite show may happen to be.

Love God, love your husband, love your kids. Keep it simple and chill out.

From the Blazing Center

 

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Consider Henry David Thoreau. He could not find a publisher for his first book, so he financed the printing of 1000 copies with his own money and only sold 300. He spent the last few years of his life before he died of tuberculosis editing his works and urging publishers to republish them. Now his writings are required reading in many school curriculums.

Consider Anne Frank. “Will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?” She penned these words just months before she was captured by Nazis and taken to a prison camp where she suffered greatly and died, not realizing that the very words she penned in her diary would go on to become immortalized as a message of resistance against tyrannical persecution.

Consider Emily Dickinson. Of the 1800 poems she wrote, fewer than a dozen were published in her lifetime and those that were published were highly altered to fit the strict poetic conventions of her day. In fact, you might not even recognize the name Emily Dickinson if her sister had not broken a promise she made to burn all of Emily’s writings after her death.

There are many others. People who wrote with conviction without an audience. People with transformative ideas that the world discovered too late. People with little hope in this life that their message would gain traction or their ideas would being lauded for their merit. People with no Facebook Like button, no inflated comment count, no Mount Everest page view graph—just something important to say and the conviction, the discipline, and the wherewithal to say it.

Technology has afforded us, however, all these means of feedback, so it’s tempting to monitor them and shape our message around what people respond well to. Content creation by comment count, as it were. But anyone who has ever said anything worth saying knows that the important truths are sometimes the least obvious and least popular.

So the next time you contribute something to the annals of Internet history and you’re tempted to look upon yourself and curse your fate, wishing yourself like to one more rich in fans, friends, likes and comments, stop for a moment and consider instead the merit of your ideas.

“Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many.” —Spinoza

Plastic Mind Blog

 

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#1 – When excuses are made about the way things are instead of embracing a willingness to roll up the sleeves and fix the problem.

#2 – When the church becomes content with merely receiving people that come rather than actually going out and finding them…in other words, they lose their passion for evangelism!

#3 – The focus of the church is to build a great church (complete with the pastors picture…and his wife’s…on everything) and not the Kingdom of God.

#4 – The leadership begins to settle for the natural rather than rely on the supernatural.

#5 – The church begins to view success/failure in regards to how they are viewed in the church world rather than whether or not they are actually fulfilling the Great Commission!

#6 – The leaders within the church cease to be coachable.

#7 – There is a loss of a sense of urgency!  (Hell is no longer hot, sin is no longer wrong and the cross is no longer important!)

#8 – Scripture isn’t central in every decision that is made!

#9 – The church is reactive rather than proactive.

#10 – The people in the church lose sight of the next generation and refuse to fund ministry simply because they don’t understand “those young people.”

#11 – The goal of the church is to simply maintain the way things are…to NOT rock the boat and/or upset anyone…especially the big givers!

#12 – The church is no longer willing to take steps of faith because “there is just too much to lose.”

#13 – The church simply does not care about the obvious and immediate needs that exist in the community.

#14 – The people learn how to depend on one man to minister to everyone rather than everyone embracing their role in the body, thus allowing the body to care for itself.

#15 – When the leaders/staff refuse to go the extra mile in leading and serving because of how “inconvenient” doing so would be.

(this is from Perry Noble – and he is right on target) 
 

 

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In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal God created the universe. This God created human beings in His image to live joyfully in His presence, in humble submission to His gracious authority. But all of us have rebelled against God and, in consequence, must suffer the punishment of our rebellion: physical death and the wrath of God.

Thankfully, God initiated a rescue plan, which began with His choosing the nation of Israel to display His glory in a fallen world. The Bible describes how God acted mightily on Israel’s behalf, rescuing His people from slavery and then giving them His holy law. But God’s people – like all of us – failed to rightly reflect the glory of God.

Then, in the fullness of time, in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself came to renew the world and restore His people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law given to Israel. Though innocent, He suffered the consequences of human rebellion by His death on a cross. But three days later, God raised Him from the dead.

Now the church of Jesus Christ has been commissioned by God to take the news of Christ’s work to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church calls all people everywhere to repent of sin and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. Repentance and faith restores our relationship with God and results in a life of ongoing transformation.

The Bible promises that Jesus Christ will return to this earth as the conquering King. Only those who live in repentant faith in Christ will escape God’s judgment and live joyfully in God’s presence for all eternity. God’s message is the same to all of us: repent and believe, before it is too late. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.

Trevin Wax

 

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It is abundantly clear to most Americans that the “Westboro Baptist Church” is neither “Baptist” nor a “church” according to any commonly accepted meaning of either word. As a Christ follower, and a long time church attender, I enter this plea to stop using the phrase “Westboro Baptist Church” in favor of the more accurate “the Westboro cult.”

 

A search last Friday, August 3, 2012, on news.google.com–the news search, not the web search–of the phrase “Westboro Baptist Church” returned thousands of stories from news outlets. An immediate follow up search of “Westboro cult” returned four (4) results, all of which appeared to be people making comments on news stories. The most consistent users of the phrase “Westboro cult” appear to be a few conservative bloggers.

Westboro “Baptist Church” is not affiliated with any known Baptist conventions, associations, or denominations. It stands proudly independent, with little desire for “friendly cooperation.”

The overwhelming majority of churches in the United States do not fit these popular definitions of a cult regardless of how hard one stretched the description. But Westboro does. This is the definition from Wikipedia:

The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices.

 

Or what about this definition of cult from BING:

1. religion: a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader
2. religious group: a group of people who share religious or spiritual beliefs, especially beliefs regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false. [Emphasis in all cases mine.]

 

Even a general religious definition used at Cultwatch.com, defines “cult” as

a group claiming to be Christian [yet] teaches significantly different things from what the Bible teaches.

 

A brief glance at Westboro’s website (Godhatesfags.com) reveals they place even their picketing schedule above what they “believe.” The listed “Sister Sites” are filled with hatred. The Westboro cult is interested in attention and free publicity.

You will find no Christian leaders in America or the world, no ordinary church attender, and precious few non-Christians or atheists who consider the actions of Phelps’ group to be representative of orthodox, normal, true, or customary Christianity. Few would consider them to be a legitimate expression of a “church,” properly understood.

Simply stated, Fred Phelps and his Topeka followers are a cult, and should always be designated as “the Westboro cult.” They should never be called a “church,” nor should they be called “Baptist,” and it is grossly inaccurate, as well as offensive to millions of Americans, to continue to do so.

Sincerely,
Marty Duren

If you are a blogger, feel free to copy or use as a template for your own post. Please share on social media as you have opportunity.

 
 

 

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I’ve tried to leave this post just as it was originally written because it was a heartfelt response after a very traumatic experience.  But I’m sometimes clumsy with words and even when I think I am writing clearly, there is always the reader who doesn’t know my heart or doesn’t hear the words the way they were intended.

I feel as though a few people have taken what I said and twisted it. When I wrote my post on Friday, I had a grand total of eleven blog  followers. Yes, eleven. I generally post on facebook and have had a loyal little group of readers that numbered thirty or so. That is who I generally write for.  People who know me  know that I dislike talking on the telephone. I’d pretty much rather clean a toilet than spend time on the phone. I am not a speaker. After the shooting,  friends and family began calling. I knew I had to let people know what happened and that we were safe.  Since I also really wanted to respond to the people that were blaming God for this tragedy,  I wrote the blog post and put it up on facebook. I never in a million years would have anticipated the readers to skyrocket past a million , including strangers from all over the world. Only God could do that.

I realize that the vast majority of readers are complete strangers; they know nothing about my heart or my faith. Those who do, know  I would never, ever imply that God chose to keep me alive instead of another individual or that I think I am more worthy of being alive than any of the victims. I am grateful to be alive but still there are struggles with being a survivor when so many others lost their lives.  What I did mean to say, and what I do believe is that as His child in Christ,  my life has a specific purpose to draw others to Him, and that is how I can use the gift of life.  I believe that He can take something as horrific as the tragic, unfair and senseless deaths of twelve innocent people and create some good things from it.  Their deaths were NOT the good thing, their deaths were NOT God’s heart but the result of a man bent on evil.  God is a redeemer. He takes ugly, ugly situations and can bring something good out of it.

Original Post

(Maybe, just maybe God spared my life because He loves YOU and wants you to hear this..He wants you to believe that He loved you so much He gave His only begotten Son that if you would believe in Him you would have eternal life.)

So, you still believe in a merciful God?”  Some of the comments online are genuinely inquisitive, others are contemptuous in nature. Regardless of the motive behind the question, I will respond the same way.

Yes.

Yes, I do indeed.

Absolutely, positively, unequivocally.

Let’s get something straight: the theater shooting was an evil, horrendous act done by a man controlled by evil.  God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.

In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.

Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.

I was there in theater 9 at midnight, straining to make out the words and trying to figure out the story line as The Dark Night Rises began. I’m not a big movie-goer. The HH and I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of our own home…where I can use subtitles and get a foot rub. I don’t like action movies. And I don’t like midnight showings.  But, as I wrote in my last post, parents sometimes make sacrifices for their kiddos and I decided I would take my fourteen year old and sixteen year old daughters who were chomping at the bit to see this eagerly anticipated third movie in the Batman Trilogy. Twice I had the opportunity to back out and twice I was quite tempted. But something in me said just go with your girls. I did.

So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or  fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter.  In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, as I lay over my daughter, I began praying out loud. I don’t even remember what I prayed, but I don’t imagine it really matters. I’m sure it was for protection and peace. It drew me closer into the presence of God. When there was a pause in the shooting, people began to clamor for the exits. The girls and I jumped up and joined the masses. We had to step over a lifeless body,people were screaming and pushing, not knowing where the shooter was. We raced to our car and I dumped my purse, frantically searching for keys, looking all around, prepared to hit the ground. I yelled at Michelle to call Matthew and find out if he had made it out of the theater next door. She did. He did. We booked on out of there.

Why would you think such a tragedy would make me question the goodness of God? If anything, both of my girls said it made Him a much more real presence to them; the youngest shared this verse: Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught. Proverbs 3:25-26

He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil.  It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act.  Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.

We have not yet slept, so the girls and I are overtired and a bit emotional.  But overall, we are praising God and resting in His Goodness.   I love this word of wisdom and encouragement from a former pastor of mine:

Up to this point I haven’t had words to say that would matter. Of course we are all glad that you and the family are safe. Of course we would all state the obvious that this is horrific and senseless. But those words still don’t carry weight that remain in the midst of the questions. Then it hit me… Do you know what the difference was between Job and his wife in their response to the tragedy of losing everything… Job 1:20 Job was the only one that worshiped in the midst of it. Marie, I know your heart and I’ve seen your worship lived out before your family. Before the weight of this becomes unbearable… worship. Your profile pic was not coincidence, not by accident that you changed it on July 15th, but a beautiful foreshadowing of your need to hear the cry of your heart and give Him praise.  

Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What  can mere man  do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

God is always good.

Man is not.

Don’t get the two confused.

We will continue to praise and worship our mighty God, anticipating that He will bring beauty from ashes, as only He can do.

If you want to know how to pray for us: first and foremost, we need sleep. Somehow our bodies seem too wired. We also want the life that God has graciously allowed us to continue to live to not be a gift given in vain, we want our lives to draw others closer to Him. We do not want fear to dominate, for God has not given us a spirit of fear. We want His joy to be seen and experienced in all that we do.

Pray for the families who lost loved ones, and for young people who witnessed such horror. Pray for this to be an opportunity for God to manifest Himself in mighty ways.

As for you…we will pray that YOU might know His goodness.

Still grateful for this wonderful life,

Marie

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. . . all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. –Psalm 42:7

Every seasoned saint who walks deeply with God, I am coming to believe, has been through a very distinct experience. 

 
I could call the experience ‘adversity’ or ‘suffering’ and that would be true but unhelpful. I have in mind something more specific, more penetrating. 
 
I have in mind the experience of God’s children when they walk through the deep valley of a single instance of adversity or suffering so great that it cannot be handled in the same way as the various disappointments and frustrations of life. This particular adversity passes a threshold that the garden variety trials do not reach. 
An Over-the-Head Wave

The picture in my mind at the moment is swimming in the ocean of Laguna Beach in southern California many times years ago. Wading out into the water I would immediately feel the waves beginning to come against me. First my ankles, then my knees, and so on. As I continued, though, inevitably a wave would come that could not be outjumped. It washed over me. I’d get completely submerged and there was nothing I could do to avoid it.
 
That total-submersion wave is what I have in mind. I’m not thinking of bad grades, failed dating relationships, rejected applications for school or jobs, the flu, resentment over being sinned against. These are forms of adversity. But they are waves that hit us in the knees. We lose our balance, but quickly get it back. We keep moving on, weathering the trial but essentially unchanged. We aren’t forced to change. Such trials wash into all of our lives with some regularity.
 
But those who live into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and are quietly walking with the Lord from a posture of fundamental trust have weathered something deeper. At some point in their lives a wave has washed over them that could not be outjumped. And somehow they survived emotionally. They softened rather than hardened.

Finally Believing What We Say We Believe

 
Someone who has become a Christian and truly believes what he or she confesses to believe comes to a point in life where they must suddenly, for the first time, bank all that they are on that professed belief. Their true trust must be proven.

It is not as though they didn’t believe before. They did, with sincerity. But their belief had only to that point been tested by the gently lapping waist-high waves of adversity.

To switch metaphors: it’s the difference between saying you believe a parachute will float you safely to the ground in a skydiving class and actually jumping out of the plane.

At that moment of life meltdown we are forced into one of two positions: either cynicism and coldness of heart, or true depth with God. A spouse betrays. A habitual sin, left unchecked, blows up in our face. We are publicly shamed in some way that will haunt us as long as we live. We lose utterly that one thing we always counted on—physical health, financial stability, etc. Our good name is stolen. We hear words from the lips of a son or daughter that had only been the stuff of nightmares. A malignant, inoperable tumor. Abuse of a loved one, the kind of abuse that makes us physically nauseous to hear of. Sustained depression. Profound disillusionment in some way.

A Universal Experience

When I consider the saints I know who exhale that depth of trust that makes them almost otherworldly, there has always been a time of weathering a wave of adversity that went over their head. 
 
Abraham is told to slit the throat of his only son. Jacob wrestles with God and is crippled the rest of his life at just the moment when he needed God most, about to meet Esau. Moses kills a man and loses everything the world holds dear. David ruins his life through an afternoon’s indulgence. Job reaps the nightmare of all nightmares.
 
When that moment comes looking for us, sent by the hand of a tender Father, we will either believe that what we said we believe has just been disproven, or we will believe that what we said we believe can sustain us. The two lines of professed-belief and heart-belief, to this point parallel, are suddenly forced either to overlap completely or to move further apart. We cannot go on as before.

Let us not be simplistic or formulaic. Many such over-the-head waves may wash over us in life. Or we may experience such a crushing trial in our 20s–then another in our 40s that makes the trial 20 years before seem only waist-high–and so on. But I remain struck at how often it seems to have been one defining, devastating affliction when a senior saint reflects back on life.

The Tragedy of Shallowness

I know Christians in the latter half of life who are not deep people. They are dear people. But they are shallow. If they will take off the mask and be truly honest, they will acknowledge that what they are after in life is comfort, nice vacations, a good tan, and being liked. Nothing wrong with any of these things. But these now have their heart’s deepest loyalty rather than Christ. As a result they are not compelling, not attractive, people. They are wispy, not solid.
 
Could it be that a wave came suddenly crashing over their head and they believed that their faith had just been disproven? That God had failed them? Could it be that the very moment which they now look back on and view as the moment when God failed them was the Father inviting them further up and further in? Might it not be that the Lord stands as ready as ever to welcome them into depth, into a communion with him they never dreamed of, and that it is only on the other side of giving in and banking everything on him?
He Went through the Wave

Recognition of the strange ways of the Father should not drive into a fearful, darting-eyes existence. Recognition of this pattern should sober us, encouraging us to go on as we have been and not to throw in the towel when the nightmare becomes reality.

He is in it. He is over it. He loves us too much to let us remain the shallow, twaddling people we all are and will remain as long as the waves only reach our waist.

But above all else remember when life implodes that he went through the greatest nightmare himself, in our place. The tidal wave of separation from the Father washed over Another so that it need never wash over us. Dane Ortlund

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In September, 2010, a core group joined Jason and Kelly Stockdale, Ruthe and me, to launch The Orchard Fellowship. We met for a year and one half at a rented Episcopal elementary school. St George’s served us well for those first 20 months. After investigating over 20 possible locations, we  recently moved to Briarcrest, a Christian high school.

We began with worship services, serving teams, community groups, and ministry projects. This fall, we hope to add Equipping Groups. One of the dangers we want to avoid is overprogramming – and it is a challenging task. It means saying “no” in order that we might say “yes.” This is hard – due to my nature and personality. It is also difficult because we are inundated constantly with opportunities and good ideas. Everytime we say “no,” we probably offend someone. We possibly lose people. 

So why do we limit the programming of our church? 

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. No church plant can do everything well. We have to walk before we run. 

2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness. 

3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. We are like a shotgun blast – loud, effective close-up, but unfocused. 

4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into a host of extracurricular activities, mirroring the “Type-A family” mode of suburban achievers. We want families to have the time to actually meet and love and influence their neighbors, devote to child-rearing and marriage-building, and strengthen relationships to other believers. 

5. Over-programming dilutes actual ministry effectiveness. Let me explain. It can overextend leaders, increase administration, tax the time of church members, and sap financial and material resources from churches.

6. Over-programming leads to segmentation among ages, life stages, and affinities, which can create divisions in a church body. Pervasive segmentation is not good for church unity or spiritual growth.

7. Over-programming creates satisfaction in an illusion of success; meanwhile mission suffers. If a church looks like it’s doing lots of things, we tend to think it’s doing great things for God. In reality, it may simply be providing lots of religious goods and services. The more we are engaged within the four walls of the church, whether those walls are literal or metaphorical, the less we are engaged in being salt and light. Over-programming reduces the access to and opportunities with my neighbors.

8. Over-programming reduces margin in the lives of church members. It’s a fast track to burnout for both volunteers and attendees.

9. Over-programming gets a church further away from the New Testament vision of the local church. Here’s a good test, I think: take a look at a typical over-programmed church’s calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen in the New Testament.

10. Over-programming is usually the result of un-self-reflective reflex reactions to perceived needs and and an inability to kill sacred cows that are actually already dead. Always ask “Should we?” before you ask “Can we?” Always ask “Will this please God?” before you ask “Will this please our people?” Always ask “Will this meet a need?” before you ask “Will this meet a demand?”

Based on an article by Jared Wilson

 
 

 

Francis Schaeffer:

Once I was flying at night over the North Atlantic. It was in 1947, and I was coming back from my first visit to Europe. Our plane, one of those old DC4′s with two engines on each wing, was within two or three minutes of the middle of the Atlantic.

Suddenly two engines on one wing stopped. I had already flown a lot, and so I could feel the engines going wrong. I remember thinking, if I’m going to go down into the ocean, I’d better get my coat. When I did, I said to the hostess, “There’s something wrong with the engines.” She was a bit snappy and said, “You people always think there’s something wrong with the engines.” So I shrugged my shoulders, but I took my coat.

I had no sooner sat down, than the lights came on and a very agitated co-pilot came out. “We’re in trouble,” he said. “Hurry and put on your life jackets.”

So down we went, and we fell and fell, until in the middle of the night with no moon we could actually see the water breaking under us in the darkness. And as we were coming down, I prayed.

Interestingly enough, a radio message had gone out, an SOS that was picked up and broadcast immediately all over the United States in a flash news announcement: “There is a plane falling in the middle of the Atlantic.” My wife heard about this and at once she gathered our three little girls together and they knelt down and began to pray. They were praying in St Louis, Missouri, and I was praying on the plane. And we were going down and down.

Then, while we could see the waves breaking beneath us and everybody was ready for the crash, suddenly the two motors started, and we went on into Gander.

When we got down I found the pilot and asked what happened. “Well,” he said, “it’s a strange thing, something we can’t explain. Only rarely do two motors stop on one wing, but you can make an absolute rule that when they do, they don’t start again. We don’t understand it.”

So I turned to him and I said, “I can explain it.”

He looked at me: “How?”

And I said, “My Father in heaven started it because I was praying.”

That man had the strangest look on his face and he turned away.

Schaeffer draws a big-picture application:

What one must realize is that seeing the world as a Christian does not mean just saying, “I am a Christian. I believe in the supernatural world,” and then stopping. It is possible to be saved through faith in Christ and then spend much of our lives in [unbelief]. We can say we believe in a supernatural world, and yet live as though there were no supernatural in the universe at all. It is not enough merely to say, “I believe in a supernatural world.”

Christianity is not just a mental assent that certain doctrines are true. This is only the beginning. This would be rather like a starving man sitting in front of great heaps of food and saying, “I believe the food exists; I believe it is real,” and yet never eating it.

It is not enough merely to say, “I am a Christian,” and then in practice to live as if present contact with the supernatural were something far off and strange.

Many Christians I know seem to act as though they come in contact with the supernatural just twice—once when they are justified and become a Christian and once when they die. The rest of the time they act as though they were sitting in the materialist’s chair.

—Francis Schaeffer, “The Universe and Two Chairs

 

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I began to reflect on the lessons I learned from my father, Sam Shaw Sr. Just as I received his name, I hope to receive these character qualities as well.  

1. Integrity. 

When I was in high school, I interviewed dad’s supervisor for a class assignment. After the interview, his boss told me, “As you know, many of the leaders of this company were caught in an FBI sting operation – and are in prison. Every one in this company was under scrutiny. I want you to know – your dad has the cleanest name of any man in this town.” 

Imagine how it felt to hear that. I was proud that he was my dad. I had never really thought about my dad’s character. It was a very important lesson for me. 

2. Authority

 Some parents feel that the number one goal of parenting is for their child to like them. It’s not. The goal is to lovingly parent them. Liking has little to do with it. In fact, there is much that goes with loving parenting they will not like.

I remember dad telling me that I would not permitted to drive a car full of teenagers from Oklahoma to Washington on a mission trip. I did not understand his reasoning, and I was hurt and angry. Later, my mother told me that she had surprised dad while he was praying. She overheard him saying,  “I never want to hurt that boy.” 

Dad never forgot that parenting isn’t meant to be a popularity contest. He understood the purpose of his God-given authority in our family. 

 3. Grace. 

 My Dad and Mom recently moved from their long-time home in Oklahoma to an assisted living facility in this area. That is a huge change for an 87 year old man. He is not able to drive anymore. He spends most of his days looking after my mother. 

He is managing it with poise and grace and humor.

We talked last week about when he became a Christ-follower. His testimony was clear, simple, decisive – and assuring. His hope is the grace of the Lord Jesus.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.