Running Ahead of God?

Woman sitting at cluttered desk

Image by Andrew Neel from Unsplash

I don’t like chaos, uncertainty, or when things don’t go according to plan–and I almost always have a plan, carefully outlined, day by day, hour by hour, in my day planner. The problem is, I can get so focused on the plan, on my agenda or even what I think God wants me to do, that I quick seeking Him. Linda’s post, below, was a gentle call to slow down, listen, and follow (which I can’t do if I’m running full-speed ahead!).

 Running Ahead of God?
by Linda Shenton Matchett

Crisis mode is never a good way to operate, but I have found myself there on more than one occasion.

I manage a boarding school’s dining hall, and meals tend to run smoothly. Until we lost electrical power. Chaos reigned. Fortunately, dinner had already been prepared or we would have had to serve PB&J. As the kids streamed in, we stumbled around looking for flashlights. (Of course, more than one contained dead batteries!)

Convinced the power would soon return, I waited before breaking out the paper plates and plastic forks. Dirty dishes, cups and silverware stacked up the dish room while the chefs figured out how to keep hot things hot and cold things cold. Our biggest concern was whether we would have enough to feed five hundred people. Though we got through the meal, the dining staff became frustrated and exhausted.

Fast forward to last week, when we lost power again. This time we had procedures in place that included having battery-powered lanterns and flashlights close at hand (with fresh and extra batteries!). Staff members had assignments, thus knowing exactly what was expected of them. The chefs had a standby “without power” menu. Although challenging, we served dinner with smiles in the soft glow of emergency lighting. Preparation and planning made all the difference.

God used both experiences to speak to me about preparation (and the lack thereof) in my life. He asked me how many times I’d done something Woman thinking while drinking coffeewithout preparation that resulted in disastrous outcomes. I became disappointed when things didn’t go as I wanted.

Perhaps if I’d planned ahead, and more specifically, prayed about the situation, the outcome would have been positive.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? But forethought is even better.

I’m a doer. As much as I enjoy being with people-lots of people-when it comes to a task, I prefer to work alone. I love the feeling of charging ahead to get the job done. Did you catch that? “Charging ahead.”

Though I’ve been a Christian most of my life, I often run ahead of God, turning to look behind to see if He’s keeping up. Fortunately, He is patient with me, and He reins me in with His soft, gentle voice. The Holy Spirit nudges me to seek the Father’s will before I start the task, project, or journey-to ask Him if it’s something I should be doing or should wait to begin. To consider whether He’d like others to be involved. He reminds me that listening to God is how one plans ahead.

What about you? Have you raced ahead of God lately? Do you need to rethink your modus operandi? Reach for God’s hand. He wants to be your partner.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

***

Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you as you read Linda’s post? Do you have a tendency to run ahead of God? What’s the result been? Have you ever had Him use chaos, like He did with Linda, to guide and teach you? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other!

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly e-mailing; the next edition releases soon! Subscribers receive image of cover for study based on 1 Timothygreat,free content sent directly to their inbox along with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook form) based on truths presented in 1 Timothy (sent separately). (If you signed up and haven’t yet received your free study, please contact me through this website so I can get that to you!) You can sign up for my e-mailing HERE.

Get to know Linda:

Linda Matchett, headshotLinda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library. Active in her church, she serves as a choir member, usher, and treasurer. She lives in the central New Hampshire. Connect with her on at her website, on Facebook, follow her on Pinterest, and sign up for her newsletter HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinios, 60188. All rights reserved.

Check out her latest release, Under FireCover image for Under Fire by Linda Matchett

Set in April 1942, Under Fire tells the story of Ruth Brown whose missing sister Jane is declared dead. Convinced her sister is still alive, Ruth follows clues from their small New Hampshire town to war-torn London trying to find her. Discovering that Jane has been murdered results in a faith crisis for Ruth, and she decides she must find Jane’s killer. In her pursuit, she stumbles on black marketers, resistance fighters, and the IRA – all of whom may want her dead

 

 

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For Those It’s Hard to Pray for

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash

When life gets crazy and hard, when I’m afraid and feel threatened, and especially when I sense those I love might be hurting or in danger, I become diligent—fervent!—in prayer. I beg God to intervene and rescue me or those I care about.

The last thing I want to do is pray for the offender. But when, by God’s grace, I put aside my will and all the negative emotions that go with it, and, out of obedience, pray for the very ones who are causing me or my loved one’s pain, something happens within me.

My heart softens. The anger lessens. The fear and tension and all the other gunk that can keep me worked up and distracted are abated. And maybe, just maybe that is, in part how I experience the peace that “surpasses all understanding,” (Phil. 4:6-7) as Christ promised.

Because in that moment, I became more like Jesus, who, as He hung on the cross, prayed for the very ones who were persecuting Him. (Luke 23:34). I believe we can see this same agape love in Paul in 1 Timothy chapter 2. He’d just been released from prison and was, in 1 Timothy 2:1-6, telling his young friend to pray for their leaders. For those who were persecuting them and the entire Christian community. And probably even for those false teachers in Ephesus who were creating so many problems.

Because Paul knew those leaders would never change unless they came to know Christ, and maybe he remembered that he was once just like them.

He and Timothy were living in terrifying, desperate times, under the authority of one of the world’s cruelest and most insane leaders, a man by the name of Nero. Each day, whether they went to the market, or the temple, or simply walked through the streets of ancient Palestine, fears had to arise. Was that the day they’d be imprisoned? Or stoned, flogged, or perhaps even executed?

I can’t help but wonder how I would’ve responded in that situation. Actually, I think I know. I fear I would’ve gone into hiding. I would’ve prayed—a lot! But sadly, for myself. That God would protect and save me and make all the chaos go away.

But not Paul. Instead, Paul focused on others, not just those he loved, like Timothy, but for all people—the betrayer and betrayed. The oppressor and oppressed. Those who believed in Christ and those who didn’t.

And notice, he doesn’t just ask Timothy to pray for them. Paul urges him to do so. Can you sense his passion, his love?

The same love we saw in Jesus when, on the night before He was betrayed, the night before He was to suffer unspeakable pain, when even those closest to Him would flee, He prayed not for Himself but for them. Knowing, as He was praying, that in a short while, the very ones He prayed for would abandon Him. The men He’d poured Himself into, day in and day out, would flee, during His darkest hour. (Matthew 26:20-35)

Maybe you’ve been there. I have, and it hurt.

I’d walked beside a woman, invested in her, prayed with and for her, and had done all I knew to help her grow and be successful. But then, she turned on me and quickly turned ugly. The injustice of it all pricked against my pride. How could she, after all I’d done for her?

And so, I stewed, growing more and more indignant. More and more angry, all the while sensing God’s gentle but persistent tap on my heart: Forgive. Love. Pray.

Still fighting negative thoughts and emotions, I closed my eyes and out of obedience, did the latter. At first, it felt unnatural, like words forced through gritted teeth. But the more I prayed for this woman, the softer my heart became toward her. I began to see her and the situation differently, not through the lens of my pain but instead, through the lens of hers. I caught a glimpse of the healing and growth God wanted to bring about in her.

And suddenly, I understood—this wasn’t about me. It never had been and it never will be. It’s all about Jesus Christ saving and transforming our broken world. Paul understood this, and this understanding drove him, and I believe, gave him the strength to keep pouring himself out to others, as His Savior had, so that God’s glory could be seen and lives could be saved. Paul longed for his dear friend, his son in the faith, to have that same focus and passion.

I believe God has the same desire for us.

When have you been in a time of need and sensed God asking you to pray for someone else? What made that hard? If you were obedient, what helped you to obey? Share your thoughts here or visit our Facebook page to discuss today’s Bible reading: John 17:6-23 and Matthew 26:14-74.

Before you go, can I share a fun and encouraging review of Healing Love with you? I saw it floating around Facebook yesterday, and it really touched and encouraged me! The reviewer begins her review with this: “Readers beware: this book is going to touch your heart in ways you didn’t think possible from a book.”

You can read it HERE.

When His People Pray–Watching God’s Faithfulness Unfold

Perhaps, like me, you’ve wrestled with thoughts like, “If God’s sovereign, why pray?” Or maybe you’ve been frustrated when your prayers don’t get answered like you’ve hoped. When I first got sick, my prayer life suffered. I couldn’t understand why a loving, faithful, all-powerful God would choose not to heal me. For maybe a year, I got stuck in the why. I can happily say I’ve moved past that phase and have learned to trust Him, whether He says yes or no, and honestly, the depth of my prayers have deepened, as has my intimacy with Christ.

It’s interesting that I’m sharing Gail Pallotta’s post today, when another friend chose to share one I’d written on a similar subject–a time when God used a crisis to revive my passion for prayer. You can read about that HERE. (You’ll want to scroll down past my bio to read it.)

Today my sweet friend and fellow ACFW member shares how God allowed her to see His answers unfold. Her story reminded me of a verse I read this morning from Psalm 107:43: “Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord” (NLT).

They will see in our history, in considering all God has done, that He is indeed faithful.

 

Celebrating answered prayer

by Gail Pallotta

My husband and I joined a Bible study class while visiting a small church. The leader introduced us to a slender man with blond hair, probably in his forties, and a dark-haired woman about the same age. She sat with a walker in front of her, and both peered at us with sad eyes, their lips turned down. Interesting.

I’ll call the guy Fred and the pretty woman, Lou.

“Lou loves music. I hope she’ll sing for us sometime,” the leader said.

Lou smiled, and several of us seated in the circle of folding chairs returned the gesture. Then we studied the Parables, and before I knew it, it was time to leave.The leader closed her Bible and asked us to pray aloud whatever was on our hearts.

Fred was last. He asked the Lord to help Lou, who’d been ill for eight years with a crippling disease. The leader closed with “Amen” and we disbursed.

The next class, Lou brought a song she’d written and led us to sing it. We all clapped and told her how much we loved the tune. It was hard to tell who grinned bigger, her or Fred. After the study, I watched as Fred took Lou’s walker, and she navigated the church steps with great difficulty My heart ached to see her struggle so.

Busy, we missed visiting the church for several weeks. When we returned for a morning service,, I saw Fred. on my way into the sanctuary.He smiled so big I wondered if he would crack his cheeks. I said, “hello” but he charged past me as though he hadn’t seen me. Curiosity needled me. What prompted his happy, yet intense focus?

We entered the sanctuary, and I turned my attention to the altar. Lou was in the choir! Apparently, someone had encouraged her to join. When the director motioned for the choristers to rise, Lou stood with no help. My heart leapt each time she got up and sang a hymn. After the closing song, two ladies held onto Lou, and she walked arm and arm between them as the choir left the loft.

None of the choristers had been a part of the class or heard Fred’s prayer. Perhaps someone in the group told them the joy music brought to Lou and Fred. I don’t know. But by honoring her talent, caring for her, these Christians followed Jesus’ commandment that we love one another, and she brought a joyful noise to the service. I blinked back the tears in my misty eyes and marveled at divine intervention.

***

Award-winning author Gail Pallotta’s a wife, mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010. Her teen book, Stopped Cold, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors readers’ poll and was a 2013 Grace Awards finalist. She’s published five books, poems, short stories and two-hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Gail loves to connect with readers. To learn more about her, visit her website at GailPallotta.com.

Barely Above Water:

An illness comes out of nowhere and strikes Suzie Morris. Her boyfriend dumps her. She has no living family, and her physician can’t diagnose the malady. Suzie relies on her Christian faith as she faces the uncertainty of the disease, and turns to a renowned alternative doctor in Destin, Florida. She takes a job coaching a county-sponsored summer swim team. She’s determined to turn the fun, sometimes comical, rag-tag bunch into winners. Her handsome boss renews her belief in love, but learns of her mysterious affliction and abruptly cuts romantic ties. Later he has regrets, but can he overcome his fear of losing a loved one and regain Suzie’s trust?

Available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/1W4fUXB

 

Let’s talk about this! How’s your prayer life? Can you share a time when you felt God call you to pray for someone and then were allowed to see the results of that? Can you perhaps share a time when God didn’t answer your prayer as you’d hoped, and yet God showed you His love through that?

In the beginning of my post, I mentioned my struggles with prayer, and God’s answers at the time. He ended up using a “no” in a powerful way. You can read about that HERE.

You may also enjoy reading “The Gift of No.”

May God give you a renewed passion for prayer as you seek Him this week and intercede on behalf of others. And make sure to come back next week to read a transparent post by Mary Bowen about when she struggled to see herself as God sees her, and how He changed her self-perception. Then, on June 1st, author Jana Kelley will share a story of an opened door, a woman who allowed fear to keep her from stepping through it, and what Jana learned from that experience. Then, on June 8th, I’m going to be sharing some about an upcoming I’m excited to launch with a friend, and how God sparked that passion within. So make sure to come back!

For those in the Omaha Metro area, make sure to come to Wholly Loved’s next conference on June 24th. You can find out more HERE. Want to book Wholly Loved for your next event or host one of our speakers? Email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com.

Why is it, the moment we start to pray, our mind jumps to a thousand other things? Why does an hour in church service launch launch thoughts of our to-do list? These questions arose as I read my guest blogger’s post this morning. Fellow ACFW writer Sue Barr shares a comical yet thought-provoking analogy below, from a writer’s perspective. Enjoy, and happy Easter!

Spiritual Bunny Trails

By Sue Barr

Being that the Easter weekend is only a few days away, I thought I’d share a small story about bunnies. Plot Bunnies to be exact. Cute, fuzzy, totally adorable and can lead you down a merry path where you lose focus and ultimately don’t meet any of your goals. I know of which I speak.

Plot Bunny dropped a single line into my brain and then proceeded to hop around adding ideas, characters and exciting scenes. Soon I found myself scouring sites for character inspiration and the whole story consumed me. I lost a few days of precious writing time before the Lord gently reminded me of my current work in progress.

Ultimately, I believe I was allowed to run amok because God had a plan to link plot bunnies with the way we behave as children of God. Fitting, don’t you agree?

How often do we lose focus in our Christian lives? We become sidetracked by social activities within our church family as well as our blood families. Ever catch yourself thinking about where you’ll go for lunch after service when you should be praising God? Do you tune out the pastor as you quickly send/receive a text or peruse the church bulletin? Do you wonder if, or think about, or…the list is long.

Why is that?

In the big picture called Life, our loving Father asks very little of us and we sometimes struggle to spend a few precious minutes focusing on Him. The plot bunnies of life intrude and all they really do is take away our joy.

Then you will call upon Me and you will go and pray to Me and I shall heed you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13 One New Man Bible)

What a promise.

God does not lie, and this is a promise we can cling to. We will call. We will pray. Ergo, we will focus, and He shall heed us.

This Friday is Good Friday, when we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. He laid down His life so we could stand before our Holy Father blameless and forgiven. Let’s focus our attention on what is true. Cast aside those plot bunnies which threaten to sidetrack us and steal our joy. Give God the Glory, for the things He has done. I love that hymn.

***

Sue Barr is a wife, mom, grandmother and a Christian fiction writer. She’s a member of ACFW as well as Romance Writers of America and their satellite chapter, Faith, Hope and Love. She writes small town contemporary romance as well as Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF).

Her latest release, Caroline, is first in the series Pride & Prejudice continued. Reviewers agree that although Caroline Bingley is a character we all love to hate, they reluctantly find themselves rooting for her throughout the book. Which is exactly why Sue penned this novel. God placed on her heart to write a story of redemptive love and healing of shattered dreams. Something He’s exceptionally good at.

Caroline:

Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and unrequited love interest married a Bennet sister?

Caroline Bingley, beyond frustrated with her brother and Mr. Darcy both proposing to the Bennet sisters, dreads their upcoming nuptials. For three years her sole focus has been on attaining a marriage proposal from one Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, only to be foiled by a country miss with ‘fine eyes’. Adrift and not sure of her place in life, she meets the devastatingly handsome Lord Nathan, who equally vexes and intrigues her.

Lord Nathan Kerr, third in line to a Dukedom, had a well-earned reputation as a Rake. He cast all that and his noble title aside to become Mr. Darcy’s vicar in Kympton, finding contentment in leading his small flock and doing the Lord’s work. His plan for a quiet, country life is thrown into upheaval when he meets the fiery Miss Bingley. Can he reconcile his rising desire for the spoiled miss with how a vicar’s wife ‘should’ behave?

Buy the book HERE.

Visit Sue on her website and blog, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

You might also enjoy:

Taming ADD Prayers

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

And for those who like to follow the devotions on Wholly Loved, this week guest blogger Eileen Rife shared how we can find peace and fulfillment when our life-roles shift. You can read that HERE. (If you’d like Wholly Loved to come to you, email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com, and visit our website to learn more.

 

 

Waiting Well

jrlkfafz-4e-elijah-hendersonWe all have struggles. Challenges we must face, uncertainties we must embrace. And sometimes, in the pressing forward and the waiting, it can feel as if God isn’t listening. And in the silence, we may be tempted to think He doesn’t care. But as my guest shares in the following post, He does, and He’s given us marching orders in the middle of the tough. Or should I say, resting orders … 

Waiting Well by Dr. Leslie Parker Umstattd

Over the past two years I have been sick. You wouldn’t know it to look at me on most days. Most days I’m up before my kids, getting lunches fixed, working, and going about my daily life. I may look a little tired but most people don’t notice. If you asked me, I’d say “I’m fine” because to tell you what has transpired over the last two years would be too much for a five-minute conversation.

There are days when I simply wanted to feel better, and in my mind I wasn’t asking for much. I’d cry out to God wondering why in the world this was happening but it felt like He was deaf to my tears, my suffering, and even my anger. I was frustrated at myself for getting sick and God for not taking it away. I read, I prayed, others prayed, and still nothing. Then finally, His answer–Wait!

I didn’t get there overnight and some days I don’t rest here but for today, I can rest well knowing that God is bigger than whatever is wrong with me and whatever my diagnosis turns out to be.

So waiting well sounds good, but how? How do I wait well when I feel lousy and I’m having a bad day? How do I wait well when I become frustrated at insurance and uncaring doctors? How do I wait well when it seems my cries to God for relief from the pain or just an answer seems to go unanswered? How do I wait well when I know that God could heal me if He wanted to but doesn’t?

I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can share five things God has taught me thus far. Waiting well isn’t easy but it is something that God calls us to do, just ask Abraham or Noah, maybe Esther or David, or even Jesus. All of these people had to wait on God’s plan to unfold.

lesliequoteone1) Realize it’s okay to question and get angry—just don’t stay there! Sometimes this is hard because there’s a very real struggle in keeping perspective when you are lonely, exhausted, in pain, or generally depressed. The emotions of the moment take over and judgement is clouded. Remembering the truth of what I know doesn’t negate my feelings but it tempers them long enough for me to gain perspective. The only real truth I know is God’s Word which leads me to number two.

2) Your lifeline as a believer is the Word of God. It is the only true and righteous place to find comfort and peace in times of wondering, wandering, and waiting. Scripture doesn’t always have specifics for every situation but it does have guiding principles for all situations. I know what God’s word says about waiting on Him. This is nourishment for an emaciated soul that doesn’t understand or needs to be quiet in times of chaos or simply needs direction in times of waiting.

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As believers we are a community and there are brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to minister to you. Don’t steal that blessing. (P.S. I fail at this often!) There are others who are walking in this life with you and desire to be a part of what is going on in your life. Pick and choose wisely who these people are going to be for you. Believers whom you trust can serve you well in your wait. Whatever we are waiting on, someone has walked this road before and it is easy to forget that in the moment.

4) Keep doing! -don’t allow whatever you’re waiting for to stagnant your ministry or your life. God has created you for lesliesquote2something, allow Him to keep working in your waiting. Whether you are waiting on a diagnosis, a spouse, or a different pay check God is fully aware. Situations don’t determine your usefulness to God. He can use you, just the way you are-just where you are. With that said, a new season or situation brings about opportunity and sometimes in ways you never expected.

The last thing for me is sometimes the hardest, next to asking for help.

5) Keep an eternal perspective. Romans 8:28. “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord.” This is our hope that there is more than just the waiting. God is ALWAYS doing something. Keep in mind it may not be what you expected or even what you wanted but He is doing something in your or in someone else that is watching you.

Be reminded and encouraged He is faithful even in the waiting, allow Him to work and move, and don’t allow what you are waiting on to steal your first love. In your moments of waiting, take heart that God has never left you there.

***

16523735_10154246558168093_1704661183_oDr. Leslie Umstattd was born and raised in Alabama with her high school years being spent in Fairfax, VA. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a business degree. While there, God called her into full time ministry so she moved to Texas to go to seminary after graduation. She graduated from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth with my Masters in Religious Education and Marriage and Family Counseling and also met her husband there. They’ve been married for fifteen years and have two beautiful daughters, Ashtin is 13 and Jordan is 10.

After graduation from seminary, she worked in the public and private school sector as an elementary teacher until she moved to Kansas City. After moving to Kansas City, she completed my DEdMin at Midwestern Seminary. She’s been teaching and doing online development work for Midwestern for several years and serves at her local church on staff as the Children’s Ministry Director and heading up their women’s ministry. A couple of times a month she guest writes for a women’s devotional blog, Gracefully Truthful.

Let’s talk about this! Are you in a time of waiting? If so, which of Leslie’s suggestions resonated with you most? If you’ve livingbygracepic-jpcome through a time of waiting, do you have any advice to share with others who might be in a tough and uncertain season? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all encourage and learn from each other.

Trusting God With Our children ~ Guest Post by Robin Patchen

boy-926103_1920My mentor always says parenting will test and grow our faith like little else can. Each year, as my daughter gets older, and the stakes inherently rise, I agree more and more. I, like today’s guest Robin Patchen, once thought if parents did A and B, C and D would necessarily occur. But then I began to encounter parents who’d done everything they knew to do, who lived incredibly godly lives, to have their children rebel against nearly everything they’d taught them. And suddenly, my black and white world was marbleized with all sorts of ugly grays.

Trusting God with My Children by guest blogger Robin Patchen

I have a confession to make: I have three teenagers, and all of them have rebelled to one degree or another. In fact, one rebelled so thoroughly, he spent what should have been his senior year of high school in rehab. I promise you, when he was a little baby, all smiles and giggles, I never imagined that. When I was reading Goodnight Moon to that boy for the thousandth time, you couldn’t have convinced me he’d ever struggle with addiction. When I homeschooled him, taught him to read, took him to church, rehab never entered my mind.

So what went wrong?

When my kids were preschoolers, my husband and I attended a parenting conference. A man I respected greatly taught one of the classes. He made a lot of points in that class, but one stuck with me.

He suggested that some of the “great” men in the Bible weren’t all that great as fathers. He mentioned Eli, whose sons were called “scoundrels” (1 Samuel 2:12). He talked about David. One of his sons, Amnon, raped his own sister (2 Samuel 13). Another of his sons, Absolom, started a revolution (2 Samuel 15). This Bible teacher’s point was clear: If your children misbehave, then you must be a bad parent.

Some evidence for that idea can be found in the Bible. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV).

Way back when I had preschool children, I savored that idea like I would the best Swiss chocolate. I believed I had that much power, that if I just did my job right, my children would obey me, walk with God, and be blessed. I was convinced that if I could just be good enough, then my kids could skip that pesky rebellious stage and slide effortlessly into adulthood.

What a nice thought, that great parenting plus solid Bible teaching equals perfect kids.

A decade later, I can testify to one thing—that’s a total crock.

Don’t get me wrong, friends. It’s essential that we parents do our very best. We must discipline our children consistently. We must teach them the Bible. We must expose them to truth and encourage them to do right. It’s essential that we love and spend time with them and guard their influences. There’s all that stuff, and there’s mountains more we need to do to ensure our children have the best chance in life.

But do our efforts guarantee results? If we do all of that, will we then have godly, obedient children?

Maybe. Maybe not.

If you read Proverbs 22:6 closely, you’ll see it doesn’t promise that your children will never depart from the way you taught them to go. It says that “when he is old, he will not depart.”

What about the time between today and “when he is old”? Will he not depart from the correct way at all, ever? How does thatyoung-1683363_1920 fit in with the idea that “all have sinned and fall short…?” (Romans 3:23) Other Scriptures warn us that children do rebel against their parents, even perfect parents.

“Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!
This is what the Lord says:
‘The children I raised and cared for
have rebelled against me.’” Isaiah 2:1

If our perfect God doesn’t have perfect children, how can we, as imperfect as we are? And do we truly believe that our children are simply blank slates, or are they, like us, born with a sin nature? Why do we believe we can outsmart sin with rules and guidelines?

It’s a lovely idea. Or perhaps, it’s an insidiously evil idea. Because if I believe I can control my children’s futures with perfect parenting, where does God fit in? If I believe that Bible teaching and Scripture memorization will make my kids into perfect little Christian soldiers, what room have I left for grace? And when my children fail to be perfect—which they are guaranteed to do—who do I blame? Myself, for all the times I failed? God, whom I was trying so hard to obey? Or my children for not living up to my expectations?

I thank God that over the years of parenting, He taught me that, ultimately, I have very little control over their choices. The older they get, the less control I have and the more freedom they have to make good choices or to mess up their lives.

(Join us next Thursday for part 2 of this post where Robin will talk about trusting God with our kids.)

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this! For those of you with rebellious children, can I say, I’m sorry. That’s hard. I suspect there are times when you’re consumed with guilt, analyzing ever word you spoke or lesson you did or didn’t teach. I suspect there are times when you feel judged by the Christian community, because many of us tend to think in black and white, forgetting that life is incredibly complicated. And third, I suspect your heart is breaking as you watch your child, the one you love so intensely it hurts, self-destruct.

Again, I’m sorry. May we pray for you?

Some of you, who are or have parented prodigals, might have words of wisdom or encouragement to share. I encourage you to do so in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

You may also find the following helpful:

A Mother’s Heart Praying for Her Prodigal Son

Parenting Prodigals

Prodigals and Those Who Love Them: Words of Encouragement for Those Who Wait by Ruth Bell Graham

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headshotRobin Patchen is an award winning multi-published author, but only because she can’t pursue her other dream.

If time and money were no object, Robin would spend her life traveling. Her goal is to visit every place in the entire world–twice. She longs to meet everybody and see everything and spread the good news of Christ. Alas, time is short and money is scarce, and her husband and three teenagers don’t want to traipse all around the world with her, so Robin does the next best thing: she writes. In the tales she creates, she can illustrate the unending grace of God through the power and magic of story.

Find out more at Robin’s website, and connect with her on Facebook.

 

 

robin_twistedliesTwisted Lies: Hidden Truth Series Book #2

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Buy it on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, B&N.com, and find it on Goodreads.

 

While We Wait For Guidance

thinkinglikechristGod always answers us, and often in unexpected ways.

I have found myself, once again, in a position of awaiting divine guidance. I’ve been praying throughout the day, asking God to direct my heart and to turn my will from mine to His. As I sit with my coffee, my Bible, and my journal each morning, I stay alert for God’s guidance.

This morning God assured me He hears me as I read Psalm 16:

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me” (Psalm 16:7-8 NLT).Psalm16verse

Not exactly the answer I was hoping for, but a promise none the less. Assurance that as I grow closer to Him, as I spend time with Him and reading His Word, the Bible, He’ll shift my thinking and sway my heart so that I can say, like my Savior did, that I only do what I see the Father doing.”

This is a process, and one that is infinitely more important than any decision I make today. I often have a very short term focus, getting caught up in the here and now. I allow myself to be deceived into thinking this thing, whatever it is, is more urgent, more necessary than the weightier and eternal matters relating to my character and spiritual growth.

This has become a cliche’ but I’ll say it anyway: God is more concerned with our journey than our destination. Yes, He is always working out His plan. Yes, He is always working on our behalf. Yes, He guides us regarding which path to take, what opportunity to accept or decline, and how to handle the difficulties that arise. Like a loving Father, He wants the very best for us.

But what if that best is not so much what happens to us but instead within us? 

Tuesday, as I was reading Psalm 15, I sensed God saying to me, “Why are you asking Me what you should do? You already know. Live out what you know to be right. I’ll show you the rest in time.”

Let me share the passage I read with you, one that has become my memory goal for this week:

psalm15versejpg“Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:1-4 NLT).

There’s enough instruction packed in that short passage to keep me occupied for weeks. Months. The rest of my life.

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about this. I like to have all the answers. To know what’s ahead and how to get there, and I can get so caught up on the whats and whens that I lose sight of what God is trying to do in and through me in the here and now. Can you relate? When you look back at your moments of uncertainty or indecision, can you see God’s hand working not just in the situation, but in and through you as well? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace, because we can all learn from one another!

Before I go, I’d love to invite you to visit the Wholly Loved blog where my ministry team and I share stories on how we’re learning to live wholly loved, as God’s image bearers who surrender our whole selves, quirks, faults, and all, to God, so He can mold us and use us for His glory as we learn to lean deeper into Him.

I also invite you to read a few stories behind the story in my newest release.

Read about how my family’s interaction with a poor, single mom in Omaha influenced the missional thread in Restoring Love HERE.

You can read how God used a difficult time to birth my passion for single moms HERE.

And you can read some of the reviews that have been coming in for the story HERE.

And for the discount lovers among us …

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