Monday, January 23, 2012

Proactive Parenting

Shane and I seem to be constantly correcting our child lately. "Don't do this... do that now... Stop that... That behavior is not kind."

Which leads to... "Do that again and you will be punished."

Which leads to excessive punishment. Which is discouraging for everyone.

Positive reinforcement for good choices has helped, but we are beginning to realize that planning ahead – training more than correcting – would be even more helpful. If we can train our children by preparing them for how to behave in situations before they happen, there would naturally be more rewards and less correction.

Proactive Parenting at Visionary Womanhood is worth reading if you are sick and tired of correcting, correcting, correcting. There has to be a better way, right?! This is going to take more forethought, as the author of this article says, but she gives some great ideas on how to get started in parenting proactively instead of reactively. May this wisdom help us all!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mother Goose Meets Jesus

Has anyone else noticed that Mother Goose nursery rhymes are sometimes violent, usually meaningless, and often make light of negative behavior in children?

I was always very fond of Mother Goose. My mom and grandma sang many nursery rhymes to me as a child. They stick with you and some are very lovely. I was so excited to share nursery rhymes with my son that I bought him the most beautiful book I could find for his first birthday!

But, since becoming a mom... a mom of a child who asks questions... I've noticed some not-so-lovely stuff as we read and sing.

Now, I know some people purposely choose to expose their kids to the junk and negativity of life early so they are not shell-shocked and horrified when they discover there really are Mother Hubbards who are so poor their dogs go starving and no one helps. I used to be of this persuasion until someone pointed out to me Matthew 10:16, where Jesus says:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."

This is a charge to be in the world, but not of the world. To be as wise as a slithery, cunning snake so we aren't ignorant of what's going on in a fallen world. But also to be innocent as doves, guarding our minds as much as possible from evil thoughts and intentions. We can only do this by regularly programming our minds with God's pure Word, and speaking words founded on the truth of God's Word... including speaking it to our children. Especially to children, because their brains are still developing and they need a good, innocent foundation upon which to stand as they face a messed up world around them.

So, that's where I'm coming from. We want what goes into our son's little brain to be as innocent as possible. Are we sheltering our kid? Of course. As much as we are able. That's our job right now.

This Christmas we received a wonderful book called The Christian Mother Goose Big Book by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker. Two hundred ninety-one pages of beautiful, God-honoring poetry and super-cute illustrations.

Why I love this book:

Twinkle, Twinkle becomes a wondrous realization of how big God must be to have made all the stars.

Instead of getting their tails chopped off by the farmer's wife, Three Kind Mice are busy doing good deeds for their friends.  

Humpty Dumpty rejoices that even when he falls, God can put him together again.

Instead of whipping them soundly, The Old Woman in the Shoe kisses her children gently before bed.  

Jack and Jill meet a man at the well who tells them about finding the living water and never thirsting again.  

The Itsy Bitsy Spider is encouraged by Miss Muffet not to doubt, but to keep climbing.

And for crying out loud, the baby peacefully rocking in the cradle does not fall out of a tree when the wind blows, because God is taking good care of him.

Ahhh... nursery rhymes are fun again! :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

True Compassion

I have been on the receiving end of much compassion over the last few years, and I want to tell you what it looks like. So many people have displayed compassion to me, but the compassion that stands out the most is that which comes from my three-year-old son.

Today after lunch was a good example. Lately I have been getting dizzy spells after lunch. So, I had finished eating and without explaining, I just lied down on the couch. My sweet boy proceeded to eat his lunch quietly for the next five minutes. And then he says, "How are you doing, Mommy?"

He knows something isn't right. I tell him I'm feeling a little better and he can be excused. So he comes to the couch and says, "What do you need, Mommy?"

Perceptive? I think so. Well... I tell him he can pray for me. "But, how can I pray, Mommy?"

So, I lead him in a short prayer for myself to feel better and for God to take away the dizzy. He repeats it, I smile and thank him, and he's off to play until I can get up to tuck him in for a nap. He pulls out the Tinker Toys and everything is fine in his world now, because he has helped, he has loved. And he knows God is helping, too.

Other days he recognizes my droopy eyes and says, "Do you need a backrub, Mommy?" or "Do you need some coffee, Mommy? I can get you some coffee." (I say yes to the backrub, no to the coffee!)

Or, he will offer to hold the door for me, carry something, bring something, etc.

If I call for Shane from upstairs, in seconds little feet come tearing up the stairs, busting through the door, and he exclaims, "What do you need, Mommy? I'll take care of you!"

"Well, sweetie, it's something I need Daddy to get this time."

"I can do it, Mommy. What is it? I can take care of you."

Shane appears, tries to help. But we have learned that if we don't find some way for the little man to help me... he becomes terribly upset. "No! I can take care of Mommy!! Let me do it!"

We find something. Bring a blanket... give a backrub... turn a light off... pray.

He has learned well from his daddy, and all the others. He knows what compassion looks like and he feels it, he wants desperately to act on it. This is a gift I did not anticipate teaching my son. This is one way God has used illness for his glory and our good.

I used to put such high value on empathy. It made me feel better just to know someone else had experienced something similar. But compassion, I have learned, is sympathy mixed with action. Sympathy mixed with action is actually more powerful than identifying with someone empathetically. When you sympathize, you may feel sorry for them, but you don't necessarily know how another person feels. You haven't experienced it. When you can't relate and you still act, this is such a powerful love.

Jesus' sympathy always leads to action. This is true compassion.
"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." Matthew 14:14

Action: Healing the sick.

"Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.'" Matthew 15:32

Action: Feeding the hungry.

"Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him." Matthew 20:34

Action: Giving sight to the blind.

"When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things." Mark 6:34

Action: Pastoring the lost.

I have been so floored by the compassionate help coming from people who can't relate to my situation at all. I have seen Jesus' compassion through some very special people! I see the sympathy in their eyes and I see their actions follow. This love is healing me in ways no doctor could.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Praying with Power

Have you ever thought about what it means to approach God with confidence (Hebrews 4:16)? Or to contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in you (Colossians 1:29)?

When Christ lives in us, great power and great faith live in us. Therefore, great prayers should come out of us.

Of course, there are as many ways to talk to God as there are people who talk to him. Any prayer is good as long as it is sincere. And I don't mean we should pray with eloquent words and proud hearts. What I mean is, we can and should pray with great power and great faith. Our grammar and sentence structure may also change over time as the Spirit guides our praying more and more.

Let me explain. A prayer might sound something like this:

"Dear Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for my family. Please bless them. Please heal my friend Susie. And please help me be a better wife and mom. Please show us your will for our life. Amen."

But when you add power and faith, it could sound something like this:

"FATHER. You are my King. My circumstances today are horrible, but YOU are with me and you are enough. The fact that you are with me makes this day bearable and important. Thank you that you suffer with me. My husband and son are such awesome gifts from you. I bless them today. You give me joy as I serve them. You are helping me in each moment. You are healing Susie even when she goes through pain. Thank you for your Word which shows us your perfect will for our way of life. Holy Spirit, come and internalize this Word in us that we may live it out to the glory of Jesus Christ. Amen."

See the difference?

Next time you pray, slow it down, and speak out loud so you can hear yourself. And then consider some of the following. (This isn't a formula... just some fresh perspective!)

1) "Father."

Relationship with our Heavenly Daddy. Acknowledge our Dad in his heavenly pad. Many people only pray to "Lord Jesus," but Jesus himself specifically told us to pray to Father (Luke 11:2; John 16:26-27).

2) "You are my King."

Submit to his royal authority, his Lordship. Getting into our rightful position helps us discern his voice in humility instead of pridefully listening to ourselves.

3) "My circumstances today are horrible."

Be honest.

4) "BUT you are with me and you are enough."

Never end a prayer with hopelessness and confusion. There are too many promises God has given us to stand on. If you can't think of a promise, it's time to open your Bible and find one. Claim God's promises in faith. Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).

5) "The fact that you are with me makes this day bearable and important."

God's promises move us out of despair and confusion. They help us draw conclusions about what is really true. Speak the truth out loud for your own ears to hear. Your spiritual enemies will also hear it and flee.

6) "Thank you that you suffer with me."

We are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). There is at least one gift in every moment for which to thank God. Pause until you can see what that gift is, and thank him.

7) "My husband and son are such awesome gifts from you."

Stating the obvious praises God by not taking any of his gifts for granted.

8) "I bless them today."

God wants us to bless others, even verbally. Spiritual blessing does actually flow out of us onto others when we bless them (Joshua 22:6 is just one example).

9) "You give me joy as I serve them."

Instead of complaining about challenges, like how hard it is to be joyful in a situation, we can remind God about how he comes through for us. Not so much because he needs to be reminded, but because we need to believe. This is a prayer of faith. The Psalmists did this.

10) "You help me in each moment."

Instead of begging for the help God has already promised to give, state that he does. Next time you need this help, say it again. "God, you are my helper. You never leave me to fend for myself." Just as God spoke creation into being, we speak his Word and it manifests.

11) "You are healing me even when I go through pain."

If you ask a room full of people for prayer requests, most of them will tell you that someone they know is sick. As a person who battles illness, let me tell you this: Please, stop whining and begging God to heal the sick. What we need are people who will stand strong and claim God's healing promise and power over the sick. Believe that he does heal and is working on it. Refuse the enemy's attacks on our behalf.

12) "Thank you for your Word which shows us your perfect will for our life."

If we are endlessly pleading for direction for our life and running in circles saying, "It's no use. God just isn't speaking to me." ...then there are likely specific standards laid out in Scripture that we may not be accepting or grasping yet. The Bible holds all the wisdom and guidance we could ever need. Search no further than God's Word, accept conviction from the Holy Spirit, and obey. Watch what happens next in your life. A door will open or a door will close. Either way, risk stepping out of the boat. This is the only way we will ever find ourselves walking on water, walking with Jesus. When we obey all we know, when we seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, all necessary things will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).

13) "Holy Spirit, come and internalize this Word in us that we may live it out to the glory of Jesus Christ."

Recognize the third person of the Trinity: the Spirit. Since we can't carry out God's will in our own might, we need the Holy Spirit to do it through us supernaturally. Imperative.

Welcome to the victorious Christian prayer life!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Memorization Box

It's always amazed me that I can remember nursery rhymes and songs that I learned when I was only three or four years old. Preschoolers are such sponges for rhymes and songs and sayings.

So one day, I thought, Why not get God's Word into my son's head instead of some meaningless rhyme about a cow jumping over the moon?

I was pondering how to do this when I came across the idea for a memorization box. A memorization box is a little box full of index cards with memory verses on them. You use it to recite and review verses.

This is a method I learned from Kimberly at Raising Olives. Ezekiel and I recite our verses each morning after breakfast. It takes about five minutes and I am in awe of all the Scriptures that he already knows by heart.

In the box, we have dividers labeled Daily, Odd Days, Even Days, Monday-Friday, Weeks 1-4, and Days 1-30 of the Month.

For example, we just recite a passage once or twice each day, and when it's memorized, we move it from Daily to Odd Days. When we can say it pretty well every odd day, we move it into the Tuesday slot, etc... until we are only reviewing it once a month.

If you want to memorize God's Word with your kids, a memorization box is a very helpful tool! Each day you recite 3-4 passages. You are constantly learning new verses, and constantly reviewing old ones.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Wedding Sermon

On New Year's Eve, my husband gave a wedding sermon. His message was superb, if I do say so myself. And not just because I got to proofread. :)

When I read his message, I realized this was a written summary of what God has shown us about marriage over the past year or so.

We've only been married four years, but people tell us we've been through more significant trials and attacks than most couples. All these circumstantial trials have put our marriage to the test. The good thing about trials is God uses them to make you open to his precious wisdom. If we are honest, we have probably applied God's wisdom out of simple desperation. But we keep finding that when we choose to apply the wisdom God gives us, he really does bless it.

When I listened to Shane speak these words on New Year's Eve, I realized that our marriage is the one sure thing I have right now besides my relationship with God. How could this be, when just last year I felt like giving up?!

I am so thankful for my husband and proud to be his wife. I am thankful he is so much stronger than me physically and emotionally, and I'm not ashamed of that. I am thankful he is humble enough to want to listen to God, who wants nothing but the best for us. I am thankful he wants to lead our family, even though he still doesn't specifically know where we're going. I'm thankful for his many :) weaknesses, because every time he hurts me, I remember God uses all things to make me like his Son.

I could not say these things last year.

The rubber hits the road as we learn about our marriages, but we can stand by our husbands and say, "Yes, Lord."

I hope Shane's message encourages you in your marriage today. (Names have been changed.*)

Ephesians 5:25-33  says… "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
I’m Shane Potratz and I was Candi’s* youth director from a young age, all the way through high school. When I first met her, she was 11 years old.  She was just a sweet little girl with a winning smile.  She also had an appreciation for humor, and a little Klein sassiness.  I quickly gave her the nickname "Candles in Charge," like the old TV show “Charles in Charge,” because I could tell she thought she was in charge. From a young age, Candi was a leader at church. When I started at Immanuel, she was one of the few who were actually excited to be at church and wanted to learn about God.  There’s always been a hunger in her heart for God, and that is her most endearing quality.  Over the years, I enjoyed getting to know her and watch her love for God and others blossom.  One of Candi’s qualities is faithfulness: She was at almost every youth group function, even if it meant she would be one of two or three kids.  She also has a great heart for people and desire to see them know God. During her senior year, it was her idea to start a weekly breakfast club for high schoolers, a time to eat and share in Christian fellowship and God’s Word. She even helped cook! Over the years, we spent lots of time gathering in youth groups talking about God, asking deep questions like, “When was the last time you cried?,” and laughing at awkward movie clips. Sometimes the discussion even ventured into the topic of boys…

Enter Jim*… During Christmas break of 2007, Candi said she wanted to come over and introduce Kati and I to a “friend” she had made at college.  All I knew was that he was in a band.  We spent an evening playing cards and he didn’t say too much, but we made sure to ask him lots of questions. I could tell early on that he was a thinker, and had some depth to him.  From a few other meetings with him, I could also see how God gifted him with creativity and thinking outside the box. He can take seemingly unrelated things and create music out of them.  I was interested in hearing what his band sounded like, and it made me smile to watch him and his friends having fun using their random gifts and instruments for, as I call it, a unique way of worshiping God.   He was definitely one of a kind, and comfortable in his own skin. I knew that Jim loved God and over time, he found out he loved another person who loved God.

After a few more years of dating, it became inevitable that Jim and Candles were meant for each other, and now, here we are on the precipice of the biggest decision of their lives.  Marriage will change you forever, and I want to tell you about the big plans that God has for each of you, as a husband and as a wife.

Plans to make you… “Holy.”

Did you know that the main purpose of marriage is not to make you happy? You will definitely have times of great happiness, but God’s main purpose is to use your marriage as a tool to make you holy

First I want to tell you, Jim, what God has planned for you as the husband. Your role. 

Your role, Jim, is to love Candi LIKE NO ONE ELSE HAS EVER LOVED her BEFORE. She has friends who love her, she has parents who love her. But no one else can do what you are called to do as a husband.

The first verse of the Ephesians passage says that Christ displayed his love for his Bride—the church, by giving up his life for her.  “As Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Christ is the ultimate husband to esteem, and for men to follow by example.  His love drove him to his death.  His love for his Bride was so deep that He gave up the one thing most dear to him, his very breath…Jim, God is calling you to love in a big way!  The way you show your love means you sacrifice. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” Jim Thomas, as you know him, is going to die a slow death, and it is going to be hard.  Marriage will test your heart, your motives, and expose your first love. However hard it is to resist this death of your self, welcome it, man, because it will make you holy, and this is God’s greatest purpose for you and your marriage. It is beautiful to see what God can do with self-giving love. 

But, Christ loved us SO THAT (as it says in the scripture)

“HE MIGHT SANCTIFY HER… THAT SHE MIGHT BE HOLY and without blemish, in splendor…"

Jim, as a husband, you get to follow in the footsteps of Christ. God will use you as Candi’s husband to sanctify her, that she might be holy and without blemish, in splendor. As you love her on a daily basis – and the old Jim dies, and the new Jim rises up to this honorable place of loving your wife – you make your wife holy and splendid!

To Love your wife as your life, Cherish it, nourish it…
Jim, let me put it this way. You get to make Candi look good. When a woman knows she is cherished, provided for, noticed, special, loved, protected… she glows, she looks beautiful. As a graphic designer, you know how to make something look good. Your job is to make Candi look good by loving her with the love that God gives you for her. Do what it takes. Your love for her, given by God, will make her shine, presented without blemish, in splendor. Because that’s what God’s love does to our hearts. We know we are chosen, valued, cherished, and loved by our heavenly Father, not just by His words, but by his actions as well.


You both are leaving your families now.  You are assuming new roles. As you become one flesh, you will now have one head, and one heart.  Jim, you will be the head now.  This means you lead. You make the tough decisions, you protect your wife and family, you are responsible for what happens to your family. You set the example of faith in your house to follow. You pray for your wife, silently and out loud. It is you, Jim. Don’t slack off.  Don’t allow Candi to lead—you will be the head now of your body. It says that Christ washes his Bride with the water of the Word. Read the Word, read it aloud to your family. Start family devotions from day one… Establish a habit yourself everyday to devote to growing in your faith together… Use your God-given authority to bless your wife.

“And let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

NOW CANDI. The wife is addressed briefly here, but this is huge!  And it may be the hardest thing you will ever do.

Your role is to be the heart in your marriage. You get to set the atmosphere in your home by always inviting your family into God’s peace and joy. You have a strong gift of hospitality. Use that gift first to serve Jim and your family, before hosting others. Use that smile of yours daily. Express yourself to Jim. Find small ways to show affection and love on a regular basis. When it’s hard to be joyful, you will learn to find more of your own peace and joy in God and not your circumstances. And we can’t forget that the previous two verses in this Ephesians passage tell the wife to be subject to your husband in every thing. I know you like to be in charge, and this will be challenging for you.  You are no longer Candles in Charge. But learn how to follow and respect Jim’s lead, even when he doesn’t do a very good job at it. And he will screw up, he will hurt you.  But he is making the decision today to never love anyone else like he will love you, and he is choosing today the choice he will make every day till he dies. To love you.  He will not give up on you.  He can lead you with the help of God. Believe in him, encourage him, and appreciate him.
Now that you know your roles, don’t try to do each other’s jobs.  Instead, humble yourselves to this calling; it is a high calling.  God will bless you so much!
In summary, MARRIAGE is a mysterious tool that God wants to use to make us holy, like His Son, through everyday life. No one is ever ready to take this step of faith together. But that’s why your marriage is based on your faith in God. You have chosen to submit to the lead of your God, no matter where it takes you, knowing that he will bless you and make you holy together. I praise God for the kind of love he has chosen to grow between you. Just like it is engraved in your wedding ring: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Let the world see a marriage that reveals the love between Christ and his Bride. Will you accept the challenge and move into your new roles? God will be with you! Go get 'em guys! GLORY!