4/25/12

Proactive Grandparenting

For more years than I care to admit, I let my occasions for grandparenting "just happen." (I think I was waiting around too long to be included, and didn't realize I could reach out more myself. I wasn't being proactive enough.)

As a result, I didn't get to spend as much time with my sweet granddaughters as I wanted, and even when I did have time with them, everything was more about amusements like going to Sea World than creating opportunities to leave a godly legacy.


I determined to change that a couple of years ago. First there was "Camp Grammy." I spent time having fun with the girls ~ building a tent, making microwave S'mores, and the expected "camp crafts" ~ but there were other elements that were more future-focused.

We talked about what kind of women they want to be. We talked about how they wanted to change the world. We prayed for their future husbands "somewhere in the world."

I had the first "Camp Grammy" with my two oldest granddaughters, and more recently, with the youngest two. It's become a bit of a tradition.

Then, this past Christmas, I gave my 11-year-old granddaughter Megan a special book (or rather, I told her that I ordered it for her). With the book came the promise of "Eight Dates with Grammy." Dates will include things like going to a production of "Oklahoma" and making ceramics at a local shop ... fun things to do together.

But we're also going through Elizabeth George's book, A Girl After God's Own Heart: A Tween Adventure with Jesus. We'll talk about family, friends, her room, and especially personal things like her heart and her walk with God. I'm serious about Psalm 145:4: "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts."

I think that Megan is enjoying her "God and Grammy Time," and my other granddaughters had a blast at their last Camp Grammy, but what has occurred to me over and over again is that this sort of thing doesn't "just happen." I have to be proactive. I have to ask their moms to find time in the girls' busy schedules. I have to clear my own schedule so I can focus on the girls. I have to shop for favorite foods and craft supplies.

I know that some grandparents have their grandchildren for far more hours than I do. I really don't have much control over that.

But what I can do is be proactive and intentional about making sure I have some input into my "kiddles'" lives when I do have time with them. Like all the family members, I want these girls to grow up to be strong, purpose-filled, truth-loving women.

And I may not grandparent like anyone else, but that's OK, too. I'm being myself, and I'm doing the best I can. Grandchildren don't need carbon copy relatives. They need variety and more than one godly source of wisdom.

I am glad to share my grandchildren with two other sets of grandparents. They are pouring precious time and energy into these three little girls that I dearly love. And this is important ~ there is no competition. I have unique contributions, but they are offering things that I simply cannot. Everything counts!

So the other grandparents (and other relatives like aunts and uncles) are a blessing not only to the girls, but also to me, because I cannot be there for them all the time. I'm thankful they live nearby. I'm grateful for their input. God has a good design for our family, just as I'm sure He does for yours.

My husband and I are finding fresh new ways that we can relate to the girls, enjoying their unique personalities and asking God to help us "be there" for the girls.

I'm thinking about grandparents because I saw a photo of my last living grandparent recently. Grandma Dorothy Parks died last December, on her birthday. Her mind was blurry the last time I saw her. I'm not sure how much she understood, but it felt good to hold her hand in mine and look into her eyes... and remember. I have fond memories of her, Grandpa Parks, and Grandpa and Grandma Webb.

My grandparents couldn't be more different. One set was more intellectually spiritual, and they taught me to stand for what I believe and that I could be strong in many circumstances. The other set was more practical in their spiritual perspective, and I observed many practical life skills that I wanted to learn. The blessing was that I knew I was accepted and loved by both sets. And they all prayed for me.

While my own sons have not experienced much time with my parents ~ circumstances prevented it and I've often grieved over the loss ~ I'm thankful to God that my husbands' parents (the fun-loving, wise Bestas) filled that role for the boys, and they continue to pour into their great-grand-children's lives. They are leaving an "inheritance" to all of us that goes far beyond financial wealth (Proverbs 13:22a).

One of my sons once told me that their example helps him remember to always work on his own marriage. He wants to have a long, strong marriage like the Bestas.

When our grandparents pass on, we suddenly become aware that we have "moved up" in the legacy line, and we have a great responsibility as well as the privilege to make sure our loved ones know about their past, even as we encourage them for the future.

I've included a lot of photos here. Photos remind us of our heritage, don't they? They remind me that someday, my husband and I will be sitting there in the Bestas' spot, and I pray that I will be as strong an influence for good as they have been.

If you are a grandparent, let me encourage you to set aside any negatives in your relationships, and to get on with positive, powerful, proactive grandparenting in the best ways you know. Bear "fruit" in your old age for God (Psalm 92:14-15).Your grandchildren need you ... more than you can imagine.




4/18/12

No More Striving for His Presence

Traveling with a revival ministry in the 1970s, there was a constant focus on seeking God, genuine repentance, and prayer for revival. These concepts became my goals each morning, and my last thoughts at night. I felt my life was saturated with thoughts of knowing God, and loving and pleasing Him. It was a wonderful, intense season of life when I learned to walk with the Lord.

After I left that ministry, for a long time ~ many years ~ my thoughts and routines stayed basically the same. Then children came along, and ministry opportunities, and personal pursuits. It wasn't that I forgot about the need for revival, but rather that other things seemed more important than "seeking God" at the time.

Years later, I discovered that in those times that I'd felt I didn't need "revival," I needed it most.

Wrapped up in busyness for God and family, I allowed my own ideas about life to take precedence over seeking God's face and making sure that He was speaking life into my everyday routines. We all have periods of dryness, but after a while, I realized how desperately thirsty I'd become. I couldn't seem to find a way to quench the deep thirst; I felt I'd always be a "sipper" at the fountain of life.

A few years ago, as I attended a revival meeting ~ or rather, a week of intense preparation for a year of church ministry ~ I heard these simple words: "Everything flows from the presence of God." I still remember the impact these words spoken by Little Rock pastor Bill Elliff had on my thinking. I sat weeping in my chair for a long, long time ~ letting the words sink into my soul.

At that time, life was not "flowing" for me. I felt stagnant and shallow, insecure and incompetent. So Bill's words haunted me. If everything flows from God's presence, I needed to make sure I was dwelling there.

I asked myself, "How do I get back into God's presence?"
The thought came to my mind, "I've always been here."
"Then why don't I sense your presence?" I asked.
"You don't spend time with me."

I'll admit that I spiritually rolled my eyes. Prayer. Bible reading. Meditation. All ways to "spend time" with God, and I was doing them all.

And then I unpacked what the Spirit was trying to tell me ... to teach me.

I was praying about others' requests in emails, on Facebook, and at church ... but I wasn't communing with God. I was reading my Bible for facts and for my job ... but I wasn't reading with the intention of obeying what God showed me. I was mulling over questions I had about philosophy and apologetics, but I wasn't meditating on scripture long enough to allow the Spirit of God to sink the Word deep into my soul and give me solid inner strength.

Over time, I realized that seeking the Lord in revival is a process. It's not once-for-all, and it doesn't happen overnight. But there is a beginning point. David told Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:19), "...set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God."

So I intentionally set my mind and heart to seek God, get into the Word for more than knowledge, and understand what it means to be "in Christ" ~ dwelling in His presence.

And I searched for a visual picture that would help me understand. How could I dwell in God's presence?

A speaker at a women's conference at Pine Valley Bible Conference Center supplied the illustration. Shelly Volkhardt stood on the platform behind a table and filled a small glass with water.

"That represents you, a believer," she said ~ a believer filled with the Spirit of God.

Then she set that cup of water into a larger glass container and proceeded to fill up the second container until the water overflowed the smaller cup and then continued to the top of the larger container. She explained that the larger container represents the Lord. We, the smaller glass, are "in Christ." [I've duplicated the illustration here ~ one vase inside of another, but both containing water.]

I clearly saw that no matter what comes into my life, it will be filtered through the presence of Christ. (Before anything can reach the smaller vase, at the right, it must pass through the waters surrounding the vase!) Some people describe this as life being "Father filtered," but for me, the picture of being in Christ is also rich.

Resting in my position in Christ means that I am safe, deeply loved, and more. It wasn't a matter of striving to sense His presence, but counting that it is always there. I simply need to acknowledge it and live as though it were true. I need to act on the truth of the presence of God.

I cannot tell you the relief I've discovered in this. No striving. Just resting. Just dwelling. Just allowing the power of the presence of Christ to flow in my life.

"Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?" Psalm 86:5
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

The stirrings of revival. The beginnings of fresh joy.

4/11/12

Worship: Calculating Value

When the fires raged through California a number of years ago, and the police moved in to tell us to evacuate, I grabbed my Bible, boxes of family photos and financial records, a computer, some artwork, and my little dog.

Though other things had some value, those few items and boxes were all that would fit into our car.

Later, I realized that all of the other things in my home could go up in smoke, and it really wouldn't matter. In fact, I could probably have survived with even less than I grabbed for our evacuation.

Since that time, I've had lots of time to think about what is important ... what I value ... and what I should value more.

In Barb Wilson's Bible study, A Wife of Noble Character, in one chapter she writes about the importance of worshiping God. She begins with Revelation 22:9, but the context includes verse 8. John heard the words of an angel and fell down to worship at the angel's feet. But the angel said, "See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant ... Worship God."

Wilson (no relation) then shared these thoughts from Gladis and Gordon DePree:

What is most valuable to me?
What do I hold to be most irreplaceable?
What would I be lost without?
What do I think of with most intensity
in the long stretches of my thoughts?
What is my incentive for living?
What gives my work meaning and purpose?

This I worship ...
Is it God?

I read through those questions quickly, without much thought.
But when I read those last two lines, I sucked in my breath with surprise.

What an incredible thought. What I value and focus on most, I worship.

I thought back to what I carried to the car when the fires came. Family memories, tools for work, my sweet pup. Yes, they were precious to me.

I heard the words of my loving Father: Do you love me more than these? I said, "Yes, Lord," but I had to admit that I get tied to these earthly treasures from time to time and need reminders that God wants all of my heart, and He wants me to embrace His priorities. He wants me to worship Him with a thankful heart!

The exercise in all of this for me was to realize that I must be careful not to worship anything but Him. I even need to be careful not to make a god of the man that I dearly love, my husband. As Dave Harvey said, "The fundamental problem of every marriage is misplaced worship. We all worship ourselves [or our spouse, I'd add] and need renewed worship of God."

When we worship God, we calculate or consider who He is. We ascribe value to Him. He is worthy of our praise. He is worthy of our adoration.

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker...
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
(Psalm 95:6; 29:2)

4/4/12

Preparing an Easter Heart

Growing up, there was often much more emphasis on the Easter hat than the Easter heart.

The bonnet was purchased or made with care. Every woman wanted just the right "image" on Easter Sunday... feminine, appropriate, celebratory. As a little girl, my mom made mine cute and colorful. I strutted around, enjoying all the smiles and comments.

But when I got old enough to care about such things, I questioned why the outside was dressed up on Resurrection Day, but little time was taken to clean and prepare the insides. It seemed hypocritical to me that the woman who bought the most ostentatious, expensive Easter hat was the same woman who stooped to gossiped about the other women in the church.

There's no room for pride in an Easter heart.

An Easter heart recognizes the reason for the season ~ a phrase not reserved for Christmas, by the way. Easter is not about chicks and bunnies, colorful eggs and fancy clothes. The reason for the Easter season is all about the love and power of God.

It's about God's love providing a means for our salvation. It's about the power of Jesus rising from the dead after the crucifixion, lying in a tomb, and Good Friday (Luke 24:1-6a; Matthew 28:2-7); so that we will have an eternity of Good Fridays and Mondays and Wednesdays and on into eternity where "days" won't matter, because we will live forever with God!

Though Easter is a time for celebration and joy, it's not a time for pride ~ unless our boast is in the risen King who will reign forever.

The Easter heart is about humility. It is a response of love, worship, praise, and most of all, deep gratitude. Easter Sunday is our response to the reality of John 3:15-16 and 1 John 4:9-10. And though we will celebrate in a focused way on Easter Sunday, we can have Easter hearts every day when we remember what our precious Savior accomplished for us.

The sign at the alleged tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem spoke to my heart. The sign (shown above) says: "Jesus Christ, declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:4." It is the power of the resurrection that fills me with awe. But it is the love of God motivating the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son ~ for me ~ that fills my heart with humble thanksgiving.

I love the final stanzas of the Easter song, "Awake, Glad Soul" ~

"... wake, glad heart! awake! awake
And seek Thy risen Lord;
Joy in His resurrection take,
And comfort in His Word.

And let thy life, through all its ways,
One long thanksgiving be:
Its theme of joy, its song of praise ~
Christ died, and rose for me."

T
ake some time to contemplate the manifestation of God's love for you. Bow your head and heart, and express your gratitude to the One who loves you, died for you, and gives you eternal life. Prepare an Easter Heart.