Tag Archives: Parenting

Joy – It Isn’t What You Think

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Joy - It Isn't What You Think.

Joy – It Isn’t What You Think.

 Did you know that the words “joy” and “happiness” aren’t even related? Perhaps the reason why we partner the two together has more to do with the English language, namely, a poor translation of the word “joy” in the English language that misses the target of the original Greek definition. Indeed, joy and happiness are opposites. A right understanding of the Greek word “joy” will not only illuminate the difference between the two words, but we’ll discover another English word that is compatible for “joy”, and it offers another meaning to ponder on this Christmas.

Joy and Happiness are Not Compatible

 Have you ever considered why the word “happiness” is an imposter for the word “joy?” In addition to the two words not being related, consider their opposite meanings. In our materialistic culture, we married joy and happiness together. Our “happiness meter” fluctuates up and down depending on what is happening in our lives.

If we are getting what we want out of life and our circumstances are favorable, we consider ourselves happy, or joyful. And if our circumstances take a negative turn, likewise, we consider ourselves unhappy, or less joyful. The flaw with this understanding is that happiness is tied to emotions.

Word searches for “joy” produces words that describe feelings, or emotions-blissful, thrilled, elated, delighted, pleasant, gladness, and happiness. Therefore, emotions come and go and cannot be relied upon for experiencing genuine joy. In a nutshell, happiness has to do with getting, while joy is about giving. Did you get that? Joy has to do with giving….Interestingly, the word “joy” shares a root word with another important Christian word – grace.1

Christ-followers know that the definition of grace is the unmerited favor from our Lord Jesus Christ. Born with a sin nature, we can never earn grace, but out of God’s immense love for us, He has given Christians unmerited favor. This is because grace should prompt our hearts to respond with joy. Joy, then, is deep grace. And what are Christians called to do? They are to give grace to others. My family’s pastor Craig Laughlin of Marysville Church of the Nazarene explained it this way:

Joy is that fleeting moment as you witness small children opening presents on Christmas morning. This is a picture of unmerited favor. You, as parents, have purchased for them, or put something into their lives that they couldn’t possibly put into their own lives. They cannot earn it on their own.2

 Other examples of joy are: a child’s first step, an “A” on a child’s test, witnessing a troubled teen turn from a life of sin, serving meals to the homeless, stocking a food bank, using a spiritual gift to benefit someone else, and a restored relationship. Joy isn’t about what we get, but what we give away to others. Thus, joy is giving away grace.

Grace is in the parents who guide and encourage their baby to take her first step. Grace is the many hours parents pour into their children to do well in school. Grace is the parents guiding, directing, encouraging, training, and praying­‑pouring their energy into a troubled teen who decides to live God’s way. It’s that “something” we know they can’t possibly do for themselves. Grace (unmerited favor) was given and joy (grace) is the giver’s response. Joy is our response from what we experience when we give away grace. Christ wired us to give to others. Likewise, He also wired us to respond with joy. Consider the words the angel spoke to the shepherds in Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”(niv).

 Because of shorter life spans, the shepherds of those early days in all likelihood didn’t live to see Jesus grow up and start His ministry. The shepherds were told of the good news-that the Messiah had come, however, the joy they experienced wasn’t so much for themselves as it was for the benefit of their children and the generations that came after them. For these shepherds who had seen the Christ-child, they realized this baby would change the lifestyle of their descendants. They responded in grace – deep joy in giving away the life-changing announcement for all time. And their joy lasted all their days. Deep in their hearts, these shepherds knew the world would never be the same again.3

 If we, as parents, receive joy as the giver of gifts to our children, who cannot obtain these gifts for themselves, think of the joy God has over His gift of Jesus to us. What He gave to us is meaningful beyond measure­‑something we cannot put into our own lives or obtain for ourselves. The only appropriate response is joy.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1Pastor Craig Laughlin, “Joy-It’s Not What You Think,” www.MarysvilleNaz.org. (Accessed 20 Dec. 2014).

2Ibid.

3 Ibid.

 

How Do You Relate to God? Four Points, Part 1

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Salad or Stew

How Do You Relate to God – As a Judge or Father

“How you think of God, determines how you relate to God,” said Pastor, Craig McLaughlin of Marysville Church of the Nazarene. Indeed, “family is the primary way God relates to us.” That is certainly true for me. All my major turning points in my life were through relationships with my family, and how God manipulated those family circumstances that moved me along His path for my life. God thinks in terms of family, too. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). This verse is evidence of the concept of ‘family’ used in Scripture. God is the parent and we are His children. But the crux of the matter is this: How you think of God, determines how you interact with Him.

If you were brought up with the understanding that God is a detached being, uninvolved in your life, you may also see Him as a distant ruler that you can’t relate to. If this has been your perception of God growing up, then that perception will influence how you relate to Him later in life.

God As A Judge

When John Calvin arrived on the scene in the 1500’s his view of God wasn’t so much a distant king or a ruler, but as a judge–a righteous judge. As a result, many people of his time viewed God in the same way. This mindset believes God is always ready to condemn us. It’s the inner belief that if I fail in any one area, or break some rule, He will judge me harshly.1 This view of God fosters an unhealthy manner in which we relate to Him.

God As A Father

Then, in the 1700’s along came John Wesley. His view of God was more in line with how we believe God wants us to view Him–that as Father. He is our heavenly Father and we are His children, not just in eternity, but right now.2 And just like we would be available for our own children, God is also available to us. Like parents, God also wants His children to seek Him for meeting all our needs–the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. God isn’t some remote king uninterested in our lives. Quite the opposite, He created family and this means family matters to Him.

Have you seen the television commercial of the daughter who is backing up in her car and she hits the lamp post at the end of the driveway? She turns around to see her father coming towards her with a serious look on his face, but then her father’s countenance suddenly changes to a gentle grace-filled smile. This is not the face of a parent coming to judge her for backing over the lamp post, but to come alongside her and teach her how to use care and caution in backing out of the driveway.

God is Grace as Expressed in the Flesh

When our children break a house rule and they need discipline, that discipline isn’t all about punishment, but in showing grace (to extend kindness to a person who doesn’t deserve it or can never earn it). True, grace corrects, but always with accepting the person, not with dismissing remarks such as “you can’t do anything right,” or “you never use your head or think.” These are shaming statements and it breaks down a person’s sense of worth.

The Creator Knows His Created

The first thing God deemed not good was Adam being alone in the garden. Adam needed family, so God created Eve. Ever since, we have the ‘essence’ of family wired into us; It was put there by God. “All that is good in life is connected to family whether directly or indirectly.3 Since family matters to Him, it also means our heavenly Father is a relatable God.

Next Post: Part 2, Is Your Family Like A Salad or A Stew?

Tweet: How do you relate to God? http://www.LisaNixonPhillips.com/blog.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Pastor Craig McLaughlin, “What Matters to God?” (accessed 4/3/16).

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

Where Did All the Good Go?

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“The graveyard of history testifies that God rejects nations that reject Him and His Word. Is God getting ready to reject us once and for all?” -Dr. Mike Evans

In the World, but Outside of Its Influence

We are told in John 17:16: “They are not part of this world any more than I [Jesus] am” [emphasis mine]. Just think for a moment what it may have seemed like to Jesus. He left heaven, a perfect and glorious home, to live on earth, fallen and weighed down by sin. Even though he came to the world as an infant and adjusted to the culture of the world, He knew He wasn’t a permanent resident. Even though he didn’t tolerate lying, murder, profanity, sexual sin, deception, rebellion, false teachers, pride, covetousness, adultery, stealing, etc., Jesus lived in a world of sin but remained outside of its influence.

It’s no surprise that our culture is moving further away from God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. There’s a prevailing style of thinking in the world today that says, “I can get by in life without God,” and an over-indulgence for pleasure is the new god of our land. Our country has adopted a new set of values for good and evil. Isaiah 5:20 explains:

“Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight!”

Evil Is Good and Good Is Evil

As the line of distinction between good and evil and bitter and sweet becomes blurred, a catastrophic breakdown has been set in motion.

It used to be good to pray in school. It used to be good to say the Pledge of Allegiance before class began. It used to be good to take a stand for biblical beliefs without fearing reprisal. It used to be good to love your neighbor as yourself. It used to be good to close stores for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, putting God, faith, and family first. It used to be good having nativity scenes set up on public grounds to demonstrate Who the Light of our faith and nation is. It used o be good to apologize when needed. It used to be good to offer your seat to an elderly person. It used to be good to say thank-you. It used to be good to earn something worth working hard for. It used to be good to respect authority. It used to be good to respect our elders. It used to be good to respect and honor God and His son Jesus Christ.

What used to be good is now unpopular and in fact, intolerable, wrong, offending, or even criminal. This is because it is now good and pleasing for people to base their actions on the relativity-thinking model, meaning what may be right for one person may not be for another, dismissing the truth that consequences aren’t removed for rejecting God.

Sacred Out – Sin In

Today, what used to be evil is considered good. Evil doesn’t have to mean just wicked, but also malevolent, sinful, malicious, immoral, foul, revolting, and disgusting. We now have classrooms without prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance removed, creating a disconnect of pride and servitude to our country. Faith based family businesses are targeted or sued for being genuine to their faith because faith means living out God’s presence in all aspects of our lives, not just our private lives.

Today, our nation would rather ignore our neighbors, let alone love them. And the dollar bill drives our holiday seasons instead of family unity, leaving nothing sacred anymore. It is now evil in our culture to put a Christmas nativity scene, so the baby Jesus won’t be offensive. It is now evil to apologize. We’ll forsake restoring a relationship over correcting a wrong. Pride has gotten in the way and apologizing is viewed as a sign of a character flaw. And parents are far too busy to teach their children the godly value of saying thank-you.

A society can’t exist without structure, rules, boundaries, and principles. As church relevance drops in America, the churches influence also declines. Sadly, the torch the Statue of Liberty holds up to the heavens is dimming and she is losing her flavor.

The Torch of Freedom

The Bible offers structure for our lives, boundaries for protection, principles for living, basic rules for conduct, wisdom, and many other virtues. However, since the days of our founding fathers until present time, America has subtly estranged herself from its biblical roots and is now outside of the protection of the harbor. I recently read an article by Dr. Mike Evans inside the February 2016 issue of Friends of Zion magazine called, “Is America A Christian Nation?” he concludes his article with this sobering possibility:

“The graveyard of history testifies that God rejects nations that reject Him and His Word. Is God getting ready to reject us once and for all?”

Take Up the TorchLight

The Statue of Liberty’s torchlight is a symbol of freedom, showing its people the path of liberty. But the liberty that God intended for the citizens of America was for a different purpose. He gave us this beautiful nation, not for our own purposes and agendas, but for God’s. According to Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence…”(nrsv).

This freedom we are blessed with isn’t for following our fallen natures or acting in opposition to God’s standards for living. That is no freedom at all. That is actually being slaves to our fallen nature. True freedom is living to do right by God’s Word because there is protection in that – God’s protection.

If those of us who are Christ’s remnant allow our light to dim because our values and beliefs are in direct opposition of the worlds, the darkness of this world continues to grow and its reach becomes broader.

I began this article with John 17:16, but the verse before it, verse 15 is Jesus’ prayer for His children, and today’s remnant.

Take Up the Battle Cry

We are Christ-followers are called to be His vessels – to be that torchlight to show true freedom is godly living. God has given us this land as a blessing. Bible-believing Americans, we need to wake up and make good on that blessing. We need to take up the battle cry against the evil that is sweeping across our nation. We need to pray “against the rulers, against the authorities [Satan’s evil army] against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil…” (ESV). As the remnant, we don’t have the strength to stand on our own; we must rely upon the Lord’s strength. We get that strength through prayer. And we need to heed the warning in Proverbs 29:18:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (kjv).

There is a correlation and a consequence for a nation in this verse. It describes a nation in upheaval. That nation is America. A country that removes God is a country that is overrun with crime, sin, corruption, and turning good into evil and sweet into bitter. We have lost our vision – a vision that was once admired by other countries. This vision was once a model for other countries to aspire to. God has a consequence for such a nation. It perishes. America, don’t forget there are countries that would, in an instant, elevate their god in our country, in our government, in our schools and in our churches – in place of the one true God of the Bible.

Yes, we live in the world, but like Jesus, not of it. I urge you to stand up for the Lord Jesus Christ. Take Him off the dusty book shelf and exalt Him. For I am still hungry for God’s blessing upon our land. Are you?

Blessings,

Lisa

 

Holiday Deployments: 6 Ways to Make the Holidays Notable

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Is there a deployment that runs through your holiday season this year?

Is there a deployment coming that runs through your holiday season this year?

Holiday Deployments

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Even though we’re still several months away from the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it isn’t too soon to begin planning for them, especially if your beloved military member will be on a deployment at that time. Deployments that run through the year-end holidays have the potential to cause loneliness and isolation. Communication and feeling connected are vital components for powerful growth during  holiday deployments. During my first deployment that stretched through a major holiday season, I found six strategies that kept a sense of aloneness from completely sabotaging my holiday season.

 1. Have an Agenda in Place. Even before your husband (or wife) has left on deployment, focus on nailing down your holiday plans. Putting plans in place communicates to your children and to yourself that yours and their world hasn’t stop when your beloved service member has deployed. Planned experiences also aid in bringing about the kind of growth you want to see manifested.

Do you live far away from family? Instead of traveling to see them, mix it up, and invite members of your family to spend Thanksgiving with you. Then, if the budget allows, switch, and travel to spend Christmas with them. If that isn’t possible, and you’re the wife at home, join forces with another military wife with a husband also on deployment. Invite her and her children to your home for a potluck Thanksgiving meal. For a more festive event, invite several women and their children over.

For the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend, put on the calendar one or two activities with just you and your children. Take advantage of the command’s sponsored activities for the kids, plan a day trip to an event or place you and your children have been looking forward to. If staying home for the long Thanksgiving holiday, incorporate simple at-home activities like putting together a care package for the deployed parent and include his or her favorite cookies or treats.

 2. Get Moving. If you are a seasoned military spouse with teenagers, or you want your children to acquire the skill and desire to help others, consider volunteering in a worthy cause. It is widely known that the most effective way to build personal growth is by serving others. In fact, one of the best benefits of volunteering is improved mental and spiritual health. Since deployments have the potential of creating isolation, by volunteering, you reduce your risk of depression. Other benefits include the satisfying feeling of making a difference in other people’s lives and bettering your community. You’ll may even make a new friend with someone you volunteer with, which can then become one of your support systems. Volunteering also builds bridges with other people who share a common interest with the cause you choose to help. If this is new for you and your children, start small and simple. Depending on the type of volunteering, fit your children’s age and skills, including communication skills, to the volunteer activity.

 3. Learn a New Skill. During my husband’s third deployment, I returned to school. He was nearing his time to rotate off of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and go to shore duty. You don’t have to return to college in order to learn a new skill, but a six month deployment may afford you the opportunity to learn a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Have you always wanted to take a course in creative writing, PowerPoint or Excel? How about something fun like learning to watercolor paint or take a dance class? The key is to find something that contributes to your spiritual and mental health and development. Even your volunteer activities may lead you to discover a new skill you’d like to enhance. By homecoming, you’ll feel more confident about yourself and your abilities.

 4. Seek Out Spiritual Experiences. If leaving a legacy of faith to your children is important to you, participate in your church’s Christmas activities. In each of my husband’s duty stations, we found a church home. As a military family today, you can benefit from churches that have implemented a military ministry. When God is a part of your family, He establishes your home. A family that incorporates faith creates its own unique spiritual bond, enabling the family members to see the military lifestyle through the lens of faith. It is this spiritual bond in which God’s strength is infused and enables the military family to overcome challenges that result in deeper relationships and spiritual unity. When there’s spiritual unity in your military home, it makes togetherness a richer experience and diminishes a sense of discontentment and aloneness associated with deployments.

5. Incorporate Fun and Reflection. The military lifestyle seems naturally bent towards seriousness. To even the scales, we must be intentional about incorporating periods of fun and reflection. Plan simple, yet fun activities like playing board or card games with your kids, or put up a tent inside the house and for one night everyone sleeps in it. Here’s one idea I did with my kids and it was a big hit. Create a story together. The idea is to make the story funny, meaningful, crazy, or amazing. It doesn’t even have to make perfect sense, just have fun.

The parent at home begins the story with his or her paragraph, then each child adds to the story with their own paragraphs. If your child can’t write, have your that child speak their part of the story and another family member writes it down. When everyone has added their part of the story, send it to the deployed parent to read and enjoy (and laugh). Then the deployed member builds on the story by adding in a twist or a surprise. He then mails (or emails) the story back home. Repeat the process several times so you have a beginning, middle, and end to the story. When the deployed parent returns, share the entire story at a special homecoming dinner. This can also be a time when everyone shares points of reflection about the deployment. It is through the exercise of reflection that we can truly measure personal growth.

6. Begin a Deployment Journal.If you enjoy writing in a journal, consider keeping a separate Deployment Journal. Record people and events you’re grateful God put into your life during your deployment. Include your circumstances, prayers, concerns, praises, or anything that was notable during your deployment. You can even include the fun story your family created above (for great laughs later).  When you spend quiet time before God, His peace will still your heart. His peace will protect your heart from rampant worry. And years from now when you reflect back on your deployment journal you’ll seen fresh insights of God’s faithfulness. That is a gift in itself. 

Blessings,

Lisa

 Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness from the Psalms of Ascent uses fifteen psalms to convey biblical concepts for building spiritual readiness in military homes. Each psalm carries a theme and Faith Steps for Military Families translates these relevant themes into the lives of twenty-first century military families. Through vivid pictorial metaphors, the themes cover:

  • Hope for when life as a military family is on hold
  • Understanding how God’s strength and love protects His own
  • Honoring God while living out the difficult military lifestyle
  • How unity builds resiliency in the military home
  • The danger of a complacent faith
  • Seeking God for a downtrodden spirit
  • A deeper understanding of God’s nature as Protector, Keeper, and the Night Watchman, and other topics.

 To order a signed copy of Lisa’s book, send an email to info@lisanixonphillips.com to order a copy. Books are $12.50 and includes shipping and handling. You can also order from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Christianbook.com.  

Military Family: Unity is Key to Spiritual Readiness

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Book_Cover_for_Faith_Steps_for_Military_Families

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes. Psalm 133:2

 If you’re familiar with King David’s story, you know that he was probably a better ruler than a parent. He triggered a string of unfortunate consequences when he sinned with Bathsheba. To make matters worse, he tried to cover it up by having her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. Even though God forgave David, He didn’t hold back David’s consequences. “Thus says the Lord: ‘I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house…”’ David’s consequences included a tumultuous home. His son Absalom plotted to overthrow him, David’s other son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar, then Absalom took revenge two years later and killed Amnon. It isn’t hard to see why David’s home starved for unity.

I can’t help but wonder if David wrote Psalm 133 while enjoying a rare moment in his household in which things had quieted down, his family members were getting along for however brief it might have been, and he reflected on how sweet unity is “when kindred live together in unity” (verse 1).

Because spiritual unity was rarely a part of my home growing up, I can relate to David’s desire and appreciation for harmonious relationships. At the time I left home for college, many of my family relationships laid in ruins. And the devastation extended several generations deep. Disunity had a strong foothold. When my husband, Ray, and I began our family, nurturing a spirit of unity in our military home became paramount. My heart’s desire was to stop the cycle of disunity that began with the three generations before me.

 Let’s see what golden nuggets are tucked in this beautiful psalm.

 In verse 2, David makes a comparison. It says, “It [unity] is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.” Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Its purpose was to bless someone for a particular calling. Aaron was Israel’s first high priest. He was anointed with oil for his new role. Recall that Mary anointed Jesus before His death on the cross. Once she broke the jar open, the sweet fragrance permeated the air. Likewise, when we live in spiritual unity with our own families our homes are blessed with the sweet fragrance of harmonious relationships.

 Unity also serves another purpose. David provides a hint in the second part of verse 2. It says: “…running down on the beard of Aaron…running down over the collar of his robes.” Oil spilling over Aaron’s beard and running down over his robes conveys the idea of spreading out to others. Thus, when unity is present in our homes, it multiplies and unifies. What happens when we unite? We become one, but stronger.  A spirit of unity also deepens our resolve. This resolve is that tough inner edge to persevere; it is what aids in building resilience for those hard days of military life. Psalm 133: 2 provides us with a beautiful illustration of what a blessed home looks like.

 When unity is the prevailing rhythm and energy of your military home, it not only multiplies, by extending to others, but it reaches down to successive generations-to your children to be lived out in their homes.

 Next, we’ll unpack the meaning of a unique metaphor in our final verse of Psalm 133 that also includes an interesting geography lesson revealing how to maintain a spirit of unity. You don’t want to miss part 2.

Blessings,

Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 127: Have You Deployed Your Arrows Yet?

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Did you get the blessing?
Am I aiming my children in the right direction so they will hit their target for God?

 

Sons [and daughters] are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3)

Have you deployed your arrows yet? I’m talking about children, that is, not actual arrows released from a bow. Psalm 127 uses the metaphor of arrows to describe our children. This psalm, written by King Solomon, offers wisdom for the spiritual building of our homes and children as gifts from God. He says, “Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (v.3). Rest assured, even though verse 3 refers to sons, daughters are included in this blessing. Today, our western culture too often views children as liabilities. But according to King Solomon, children are to be regarded as assets. In fact, in Old Testament times, a father with many children was honored in his home town.

As parents, it’s our responsibility in preparing our children for life outside of our home. This includes skill building for how to manage on their own, but also includes training them up in God’s Word so they can add faith and godly living to their lives, too. If you have children, God has tasked you with the job of aiming your children towards a relationship with Jesus. But there’s more to this than simply raising godly children. There’s also a purpose behind this crucial responsibility. Our children will become the next generation of salt and light dispensers in our dark and warped world. They become Christ’s agents as they live out their lives. While they’re still with us in our homes, it’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I aiming my children in the right direction so they will hit their target for God?

As I write this, my son, Lawrence, is about to head off to Navy boot camp. He is following in his father’s footsteps, as did our daughter. She serves in the Army National Guard. Clearly, my husband’s military service had a positive influence on our children, but my hope is that our faith in the Lord makes an even great impact. Our influence as parents will never be as strong as it is while our children are still in the home where we can shape their minds with godly principles, goals, and choices. When we deploy our children into the world, to navigate their way through life, will they draw from their faith and relationship with Christ, or slowly mold into the culture of our world? This is where the rubber hits the road for me. As a mother, did I carry out my responsibility to my fullest potential in steering both of my children towards a faith in Christ? Did I incorporate into their lives good building materials that led them to develop their own unique relationship with Jesus–a foundation that equips them with a stout faith and grounded by the principles of God’s Word? In other words, did my convictions, values, and beliefs make an imprint on their lives to such a degree that I leave them a legacy of faith?

Fortunately, just because our children will leave the security of our homes doesn’t mean our influence as parents comes to an end. In reality, parenting doesn’t end when they leave home; it just changes. Our daughter, while in college, often called us for our opinions or our thoughts on a particular subject she was considering. This was my confirmation that her father and I must of done something right because she values our responses, whether they are spiritual in nature, or just wise living. Everything else our children encounter in life, once released from our charge is prayed over and entrusted into God’s hands.

Delight yourself in the Lord today,

Lisa

You can also find me on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies, Twitter @lisanixonphili, http://google.com/+LisaNixonPhillips4487 and Goodreads.

 

 

Vain Building

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Who's the Builder of Your Home?

Who’s the Builder of Your Home?

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. Psalm 127:1

Are you building in vain? King Solomon knew a thing or two about vain building. He knew the importance of creating a home with God as its foundation. His own father, King David, was a far better ruler than he was a parent. He deliberately planted the seed of sin that triggered a string of horrific consequences for himself as well as for his family members when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. From there it only grew worse. Constant trouble came upon King David’s household creating a crevasse of deep disunity.  Disunity in King David’s home led to what we call today a dysfunctional family.

Solomon’s message is clear: Families make a house a home, but vain building means that God is not part of every aspect of the building of the home. Its efforts are futile. A family without God can never experience the spiritual bond God brings to relationships.1 In Psalm 127, Solomon compares a home to a city. A city without God will be at risk of crumbling due to evil and corruption on the inside,2  even if those who guard the city are awake; it will still fall.  Likewise, a home without God is at great risk of imploding due to unchecked sin, pride, and disunity. This is because a home where God doesn’t dwell is a home void of His blessing. And without the Lord’s blessing, our toil is meaningless. In addition, it will have no eternal value. Therefore, be encouraged by Solomon’s wisdom of this psalm. Wisdom is attained when we find God’s perspective.

God Created Families

God designed us to be in families and He designed our homes to be under His Lordship. This means that the outcome of our toils is dependent on whether or not we have His blessings. If we go about this life with no regard for God, then it is reasonable that we also can’t expect Him to bless our homes. In truth, we are dependent on our heavenly Father for all aspects of life within our homes: for our health, our personalities and skills He created that determine our vocation, and how those skills contribute to our families, the wisdom we attain, and the outcome of our undertakings. The God who created our families is the same Power and Authority that controls every aspect of our existence. We are dependent on God for the very breaths we take and for the health and strength of our bodies.  If we invite God to be in the life of our homes and we allow Him to manipulate and orchestrate what goes on within it, then even if evil or harm touches our efforts, it will not be permanently consumed, but carefully preserved in heaven. When we have God’s blessing upon our home, His dividends far exceed earth’s temporary wages.

Blessings to You,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Psalm 127:1, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1989).

2 Ibid.

God – Our Master Builder

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Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

There is a spiritual bond like no other when parents bring the Lord into their home.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Psalm 127:1

 King Solomon asserted that a life that is lived apart from God is a futile effort. In fact, a life that declares it doesn’t need God is an empty life. It means it is void of eternal meaning and purpose. Having God as the Master Builder of your military home ensures His blessings.

 The book of Ecclesiastes (Ecc. 1:2) says, “The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities!’ All is vanity.’” The word vanity means “breath” or “vapor.”2 Solomon states that our lives are as fleeting as a spray of thin mist. The years swiftly pass by. If you are a parent, you can identify with this concept. When our children are small it seems like they will be small forever, or least for a long time. However, when they are grown we reflect on how those formative years zipped along.

 Psalm 127 is a psalm about family. Its wisdom states that unless God is in the life of our home, the Master Builder, all of life that goes on in our home is futile. Leaving God out of every aspect of life renders all that we do, achieve, or pursue, as pointless, void of eternal value. It is as if we’re trying to invest funds into our retirement accounts with counterfeit money. There is only one thing that is lasting–a life that pleases God. This type of life is based on 1 Corinthians 3:10. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and some else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

 There is a spiritual bond that is like no other when parents bring the Lord into their homes. When a home has invited God to be an active participant in all areas of the home, those relationships are not only blessed, but God imparts meaning into each relationship, forging eternal perspectives and purposes. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t call out a life from a broken home and give him or her a spiritual purpose. He does. There are many examples in the Bible where God does just that (i.e. Rahab).

 Some years ago I heard this analogy about a home that is void of Jesus’ presence. His blessings are gifts to us. But when the Lord is vacant in the home, it is like a gift still under the tree, still wrapped up. It was never opened in order for its blessings to be experienced. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says, “Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.” The beautiful thing about God is that He is full of compassion and gives us second chances. If we didn’t grow up in homes where God was present and welcomed, we can choose the Lord as adults and allow Jesus’ to establish our homes today, allowing Jesus’ life to be the source of its strength, joy, resiliency, unity, and purpose. God blesses a home that is moving towards Him.

 Blessings,

Lisa

The above devotional was an except from Faith Steps for Military Families. You can also find me at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and on twitter at www.Twitter.com/lisanixonphilli

 

Prayer Supports Adult Military Children

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All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. Psalm 25:10

Does your military member have your prayers?

Does your military member have your prayers?

My book, Faith Steps for Military Families is about spiritual readiness–incorporating one’s faith in preparing for adversity or living under difficult circumstances and includes how well a military family can bounce back. As a retired military wife and now a Blue Star Mother (mothers who have children serving in the armed forces. See www.bluestarmothers.org ), it’s hard to see our grown children who serve our country go through difficult trials.

Our daughter, Megan’s, biggest challenge began in the summer of 2007, between her high school graduation and departing for college at Washington State University in Pullman that fall. She had worked hard and done everything right when she secured a spot in the college’s Army’s ROTC program. Excited, she was ready for her upcoming college experiences and the ROTC program. But all her grand plans were nearly extinguished with a cancer diagnoses. Earlier, I insisted she get her booster tetanus shot. While in that office visit, the doctor detected a large mass on her throat. A tissue biopsy later came back positive for cancer. The timing of this diagnosis couldn’t of come at the worst time–on the very day we were leaving to move her to the college.

 After many phone calls to doctors and faxing medical records to the medical clinic in the small college town, Megan was confident she could mend herself after surgery in order to stay in college, but her standing and participation in the ROTC program was hanging in the balance. Not wanting to give up on college, we supported her decision to have surgery and radiation treatment in Pullman, while attending college. As expected, the ROTC program abruptly ended for her. Understandably disappointed, we encouraged her to focus on her health. From home, we monitored her progress and recovery. As expected, the mental and physical demands of college became challenging and her grades suffered, but she was determined to stick it out and overcome this setback.

 Daily, I prayed for God to provide her with the strength and will to keep strong and not to give up. Surgery to remove the cancer was successful. It was additional good news that the cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes. Radiation was the next step of her treatment. Afterwards, she began working with doctors on her physical health, getting it dialed in with new medication she’d be on for the rest of her life. With the cancer behind her, getting her grades up and seeking to be restated back into the ROTC program became her new focus. She would have to work harder than even the first time around because her health had been compromised by the cancer. It would prove to be her hardest challenge yet. Her grades weren’t stellar, but in time they improved as did her health.

 Four years later, she graduated with a 3.32 gpa and received her criminal justice degree. As parents, watching our determined daughter complete the grueling ROTC program on time, long with her fellow cadets, and be commissioned an Army officer was truly a blessing.

 My son, Lawrence, will have a different challenge come this fall when he departs for Navy boot camp. He will be a submariner – a first in our family. After boot camp, there’s sub school, then from there to “A” school for training in his rating. As parents, we know he will have some big challenges of his own as he completes each phase. Again, his father and I will be on the front lines as prayer warriors.

Prayer is the Supportive Key

 It’s hard to see our young military children go through difficult trials. What it boils down to is that they need to acknowledge there will be challenges in life; some may be life and death situations and some may be living under difficult circumstances. But a life of faith doesn’t always protect from experiencing certain tests and trials. However, having a faith in the Lord does give us a godly perspective regarding trials. God goes before us and meets us right there in the trouble and distress. There’s comfort in knowing that faith in Jesus is that special something for spiritual readiness. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Faith makes a difference because God is in the here and now. In those times, however, when we can’t understand the works of His hand, we must rely on His Word, and trust it.

 It’s imperative that, as parents, we pray daily for our military children because we never really know when their skill set will be called upon by our commander-in-chief. Prayer changes things. Prayer affects circumstances. And the Holy Spirit provides discernment into those circumstances. This is so we can see these circumstances through the lens of a godly perspective. Prayer manifests God’s hand into their situation. If your military son or daughter is encountering a difficult season in his or her life, pray these prayer points.

 1). They will recognize Jesus as their strong tower and choose to run to it for safety (Proverbs 18:10). Instead of relying solely on their own abilities, but that they will find their endurance and strength from Jesus.

 2). Pray their heart will become sensitive to the Holy Spirit and follow in its leading.

 3). Pray that he or she will discern, or glean what must be learned from the challenge, and,

 4). Pray their faith would grow as a result of the trials in the complex military lifestyle.

 There’s a human tendency to want to get the rough times over with in order to alleviate the associated discomfort, but encourage your beloved military member not to disregard the golden nugget–don’t overlook the work, the inner spiritual work of the Holy Spirit. God may be allowing this trial to move them along in their faith journey to discover His plan and purpose for their lives.

Did You Miss the Parental Blessing? (Learning About Their Work)

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Become a Learner of Your Children. Picture above drawn by my son, Lawrence.
Become a Learner of Your Children. Picture above drawn by my son, Lawrence.

 

Final Post of Series

In the last three blog posts, we’ve been looking at the fifth element of The Blessing, by Gary Smalley and John Trent. We learned that there are four aspects to a Genuine Commitment – the fifth element to passing down a blessing to our children. Trent and Smalley call this becoming a student of your children, or those you want to be a source of blessing to.  The best way to describe it is through an example with my own son, Lawrence.

Lawrence enjoys drawing. He’s quite good at it despite no formal training except some high school elective art classes. Throughout his high school years, drawing became a major preoccupation.  It replaced his childhood passion of Lego’s.

 Interestingly, when it came time for high school parent-teacher conferences our son’s teachers complained that his drawing became an issue in class­-often getting in the way of learning. But then in the same breath, some teachers back-pedaled with, “But have you seen his drawings? He’s really good!,” they exclaimed with a large grin and a chuckle.

 Upon our initial inspection of our son’s school binder, much to our dismay and surprise, most of his notebook paper didn’t contain class notes, but instead hundreds of elaborate and detailed drawings of trucks, hotrods with flames, and an array of classic cars.  Sometimes, he integrated the lines of the notebook paper into his design. Impressed with his talent, but perplexed at the problem we were faced with, I found it hard to get overly angry; he just needed to learn there was a time for drawing and a time to shelve it for homework time. Over and over we had to insist that school came first and in his spare time he could draw. It took several rounds of this same lecture before the wisdom of our guidance took hold.

On the weekends he had the latitude to draw and draw he did. He drew meticulously and for hours. As for me, I marveled at his talent and enjoyed asking him about each of his projects and where he got his ideas from.  Soon I grew frustrated seeing notebook lines distorting his beautiful drawings and the three holes ripped where he yanked the paper from his binder. That just won’t do I thought to myself. So one day I went to an art supplies store and purchased a 11 x 14” art tablet with room to expand his range, an array of colored and charcoal pencils, and a couple of pink erasers. As I drove home, I thought, maybe he will be designing cars like he always said he wanted to do.

Now, just three weeks away from high school graduation, I not only see his pictures as priceless pieces of his own unique ability, but also as part of his life story growing up. Of course, he thought I made too much of his artistic ability.  It was the same with the complex and colossal Lego inventions he did from the time he could hold a single Lego block. To preserve the memory of his Lego structures, I took many pictures of him creating something “outside the box.”  Obviously, he found a hobby that gave him joy and satisfaction. And these hobbies, working, building, and creating, may just serve him well in his life’s work.

The point is, we’re to be involved with our children’s passions. Talk about them and learn about them. For example, If your child loves to draw or paint bridges or lighthouses, learn the history together behind a particular bridge or lighthouse. If she is into clothes and wants to be a clothes designer, learn about the various designers and their unique trademarks.  As Trent and Smalley say in The Blessing, it’s important to learn to be a student of your children. They add, “Realize that any shared activity with a child-from driving them to school or athletic practice to an airplane trip before they put on their headphones – offers tremendous opportunities to learn about our children.”1 Trent and Smalley also offer advice on how to connect with our children in casual ways. During those “unguarded times at the hamburger place, at the ball game, or while taking a walk. Don’t grill your child with questions as if you were giving a test. Just ask some casual questions in an offhanded way, and then really listen to the answers.”2   Some of Trent and Smalley’s suggested questions are:

  • What do you think about when you daydream?
  • What one thing would you like to do before you marry?
  • What is your favorite part of school? What do you dislike the most?
  • Who is your favorite person in the Bible? Why?3

According to Trent and Smalley, another way to convey acceptance and blessing is active listening.4 By putting down our cell phones and other electronics, we convey that what they have to say is worthy of our attention. Do we listen with our eyes? In other words, do we look at them when our children are trying to share something?

Learning to pass on a legacy of blessing to our children takes hard work. It takes sacrifice– time, energy, and emotions. If you’ve been with me through this blog series, you’ve learned the  five elements of the blessing found in the book, The Blessing by John Trent and Gary Smalley. It requires effort to meaningfully touch and hug our children. It takes courage to speak or write a message of meaningful words that convey their value to us, to convey a bright future with a special purpose. All of these elements take great commitment.

Those of you who have followed me through this series, thank you. I hope there were many benefits to it and great take-a-ways. I will close with these final thoughts from Trent and Smalley:

One day, perhaps years later, the blessing that you give will return. Those you bless will rise up and bless you. What’s more, you will find that the joy at seeing another person’s life bloom and grow because of your commitment to seek their best is a blessing in itself.5 Giving our children the blessing is like casting bread upon the waters. In years to come they, too, will rise up and bless us.6

Please share any comments or final thoughts about this series. And let me know what topics you’d like to read about on this blog. It is here for you. Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 John Trent and Gary Smalley. The Blessing (Nashville, TN., Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993), 145

2 Ibid. 146

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid. 147

5 Ibid. 152

6 Ibid. 153