In Jesus’ Words: Children’s praise (Matthew 21:14-17)

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~ Matthew 21:14-17  Children’s praise in the temple ~

The blind and the lame came to Jesus in the temple complex, and He healed them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that He did and the children shouting in the temple complex, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus told them. “Have you never read:

You have prepared praise
from the mouths of children and nursing infants?”

Then He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, he came to the temple.  It was His Father’s house and the place where Jesus showed His authority over His spiritual Kingdom. The temple was to be revered, a place of prayer, and a place of praise.  We too should want to go to our Father’s house.  It seems we’ve lost some of the specialness of such a place, but it is my hope that we will never forget and never take it for granted.  And all children should have the chance to experience the extraordinary grace and love that comes from knowing Jesus. In the middle of our political and selfish chaos of who is right and who is wrong, I hope each of us will continue to do the small things every day to show Jesus’ love, especially to the children.  His light will shine through.feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: Children are a Blessing (Matthew 19:13-15)

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As a mom, and especially on this recent Mother’s Day, there are no more comforting words to hear than these spoken from Jesus:

~ Matthew 19:13-15  Jesus Blesses the Children ~

Then children were brought to Jesus so He might put His hands on them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them.  Then Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this.”  After putting His hands on them, He went on from there.

Children are a blessing in so many ways.  Whether you have children of your own or have a chance to interact with children in other ways, I cannot think of anything more precious.  Children teach us what is important in life.  They see things through a different lens than us adults.

Children are a promise of renewal.  Even though we have sadness in the world, there is something about seeing a new baby that washes over us like a wave of hope.  Jesus makes all things new and Heaven makes all things fair.  From Jesus’ own words, “Heaven is made up of children and people like this.”  Heaven is a joyous place, for the children.

One of the most important things we can do in this life is to take care of the children, teach them, show them kindness, and let them come to Jesus.  Children are naturally attracted to Jesus.  They are fresh from God.  And a mom praying for her child is a force that can change the world.feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: A message about children (Matthew 18:2-9)

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I wish I believed like that again.”

My co-worker and I were having lunch one day when the subject of our childhoods came up.  We both had lived very different childhoods – hers was international and mine from a small town, but we shared one memory in common, Christmas.  My friend talked about how she remembered laying in bed on the night before Christmas, listening for sounds of St. Nicholas on her roof, and then waking up on Christmas morning, peeking into the other room with anticipation and seeing it filled with presents.  And then with a whisper she said to me, “I wish I believed like that again.”

When my son was very young, around three or four years old, we took him to our big church for the first time, where he had told him the adults went to worship Jesus.  Prior to that, he had always stayed in the church nursery and had already heard many wonderful stories about Jesus.  He was excited to be going with us to “big church”.  I held his hand as we walked down the aisle of the sanctuary to find our seats, but he began to squirm and started looking all around.  I wondered if this had been a good idea after all.  And then suddenly with a loud voice and an eager look on his face, he couldn’t contain his excitement any longer and he yelled out, “Which one is Jesus?”

Ah, the faith of a child who believes!  It’s priceless.  And then as time passes and we begin to see more of the unfairness in the world, we start to question things.  We question God, we question his existence, and why doesn’t he do something?  But Jesus has a very specific answer for this.  He has not forgotten the children, the neglected, those who are unfairly treated, or any of the other injustices in the world.  Jesus says we will have those in this world, but there will be justice and he gives a strong warning about it.

~ Matthew 18:2-9  Faith of a child ~

Then Jesus called a child to Him and had him stand among them. “I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me.

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea! Woe to the world because of offenses. For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes. If your hand or your foot causes your downfall, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, rather than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire!”

It is easy to get discouraged when we only look at life from an earthly perspective instead of a heavenly one.  The enemy wants us to believe this life is all there is, injustices and all, so we should seek whatever pleasure we can out of life, discard any scripture that gets in our way, and just grab all we can.  But Jesus tells us something different.  And if Jesus’ words matter at all, and I believe they do, then life becomes a whole different story with a different outcome.feet with waves cropped

The Rocking Chair Experiment

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Someone challenged me recently to “stop, drop and roll” every morning when I get out of bed.  They were referring to living a life of prayer, whereby we should stop as soon as we rise in the morning, drop to our knees on the floor, roll over to face the bed and begin our day with prayer to God before doing anything else.

I decided to give this a try.  However, I am not much of a morning person.  The first few times, my knees popped and cracked as I immediately fell out of the bed and onto the floor.  I rolled over to face the bed, put my head down… and fell back asleep.  It seemed like a great idea but was not working too well for me.  Then I noticed the rocking chair just a few feet away from my bed.

This was the rocking chair I once used to rock my son to sleep at night, from the time he was born until he was old enough to crawl out of my lap.  Every night for those first few years, I would rock my son back and forth in that chair, singing to him as he fell asleep.  It was my favorite part of the day.  I always sang “Amazing Grace” to him, and the words and melody made me very happy.  I believe God was listening and smiling down on both of us, and it was a very special time in my life.

My son is way beyond the rocking chair these days.  Sometimes I would glance over at that rocking chair, not really knowing what to do with it.  It seemed empty.  But now I had a new idea.  I would modify the “stop, drop and roll” to be “stop, sit and rock” instead.  Now each morning when I wake up, I walk a few steps and sit down in the rocking chair to pray, before I go any further.  “God, I thank you for giving me this new day,” and then I pray for those things most urgently on my mind that day.  It only takes a few minutes, but it orients me in the right direction before I have a chance for anything else to occupy my mind.  The rocking chair is a sign of comfort for me, and holds good memories of a special time when I felt very close to God.  Now when I sit in the chair each morning, it feels like God is wrapping His arms around me.

But I will see Your face in righteousness;
When I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.
Psalm 17:15

The experiment worked.  It is similar to setting your GPS for the day or looking at a compass.  It will change the direction of your life.  After trying it for awhile each morning, I decided to also add it to the end of my day.  Before climbing into bed, I stop once more by the rocking chair to sit for a minute, thanking God for the day and for bringing us home safely.

I encourage you to try it too.  Find your own thing, whatever works for you, but do it first thing in the morning – stop and pray.  And during the day when things come up – stop and pray now!  Life a life of prayer.

Why would Jesus be nailed to the cross for our sins and then disregard our prayers?
– Max Lucado

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Raised on catfish from the Mississippi Delta

Mississippi-RiverI sat in my favorite seaside restaurant enjoying a platter of fried catfish and hush puppies.  The food was delicious but I had to hold back the tears as my husband and I adjusted to a “table for two” instead of a “table for three”, now that our son was away in college.  I thought I would burst out crying when the hostess asked me, “How many for dinner?”  I wanted to stop and tell her all about my wonderful son who used to come with us.  I can still feel my husband rolling his eyes behind me.

As I enjoyed the food in the unusual quietness of our table, I suddenly remembered why I always liked to order the catfish.  It was a comforting image from my own childhood.  My grandparents had a riverhouse on the Mississippi River, and each summer we would go there when we were young.  The boys went fishing in the early morning, and by the evening my grandmother would fry up a large batch of catfish – or chicken if the catch wasn’t too good that day.  The adults would gather ’round the back porch cleaning the fish and swapping stories, while I was more happy to meander along the dirt roads or sit on the dock watching the sunset and dangling my toes in the water.  It is in those very tangible memories from my childhood that I still hold to today.  It guides me home like a beacon.  Whether it is the warm smells of a kitchen, a favorite childhood dog, or spending lazy days in a tree house, we are all brought back home in some way to our childhoods.  It never truly leaves us.

Proverbs 22:6 ~ Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

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