TAKE A SEAT

My word for 2015 is “listen.”

“Walk closely with Me”… “Be a servant”… “Bring glory to Me in all you think, say, and do.”

These are the words my loving Father is whispering to me.

Now, I readily receive these messages, and with all my heart I want to follow Him, BUT they are not easy for me to put into continual practice!

The only way I could ever live characterized as a God-glorifying servant of Christ Jesus is to truly learn and live out His whisper, “Walk closely with Me.”

Recently, as my children and I shared our Bible reading insights one morning, this simple statement overtook my heart:

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord…”

2 Samuel 7:18

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Do you sit still very well? When I say “still” I mean excluding driving, eating, reading, talking, and electronic devices? Like where you just sit with nothing visible or tangible to do? It’s odd to think about, isn’t it?

This is exactly what David did! He sought out the invisible, intangible Living God!

David went and sat before the Lord just after receiving some absolutely amazing news from the prophet Nathan – that God would bless David’s throne forever.

You see, David knew God intimately. He would have never gone and sat before Him and said the things he said if he hadn’t.

As David sat, he began praising God for His goodness and greatness. Surely, he was overwhelmed by the personal love and grace of His God! His deepest longing in those moments weren’t to reflect on his newfound importance and powerful position, but to glorify God as the Great One and the only true God.

When is the last time you simply sat before God – waiting on His whisper and resting in His love?

I want to follow David’s example, don’t you?

I want to sit still before God. I want to regularly take a pause from the strong current in my day and sit. Sit before my Father – to worship Him and listen to Him.

Let’s learn to walk with Him in such a way that our daily lives have become a natural overflow of a God-glorifying servant of Christ.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

Hey, Mom! How’s it going?

When our first child, Catelin Elizabeth, was born I was scared to death. It finally hit me, “What a great responsibility this is – raising a person! I have to teach her everything!”

Of course I wanted to be the perfect mom – a Super Mom. Ha! (Insert the rolling eyes here.) Puh-leeze

But who knew the cost of motherhood would be so great? The loss of sleep, sanity, and self is real!

Thankfully, the rewards of motherhood are infinite in wonder, joy, and amazing love! My children are true gifts from God, and I love them more than words can express.

In fact, let me introduce you to my amazing crew of Groeschel people.

catie bw

CATIE: 20 years, typical first born here, responsible, thoughtful, encouraging

LOVES: rules & order, cats (shh…), books, ministry & worship

 

 

mandy bw

MANDY: 19 years, tenderhearted, intuitive & witty

We thought she was our last! (God’s sense of humor is sweet!)

LOVES: techy stuff, dance, words, & church ministry

 

anna bw

ANNA: 16 years, artistic, outgoing, compassionate, encourager

LOVES: people, music, dance & church ministry

 

 

sam bw

SAM: 13 years, disciplined, self-controlled, focused

LOVES: family, friends, church, history & soccer

 

 

stephen bw

STEPHEN: 11 years, funny, competitive, fearless

LOVES: math, soccer, church, video games & reading

 

 

joy bw

JOY: 10 years, joyful, friendly, go-getter, leader, nurturer

LOVES: people, dance, Jesus, stuffed animals & penguins

 

 

Don’t they seem like great kids? They really are! But hey, they aren’t perfect. Nope. Just like their parents, they are each a work in progress by our Father.

Speaking of being a “work in progress”, I sometimes find myself filled with significant discouragement and even fear. But disheartened or not, I really want to do the best job I can as a mom. So to gain a better perspective, I’ll occasionally take an inventory of sorts and list where I may have had parenting successes, as well as failures.

I’d like to share some of my personal parenting observations with you.

Successes

  • My children love Jesus! They observe Craig and I loving and knowing Jesus. They see Jesus in us, and I am seeing Christ in them. And there is no greater joy than this!
  • We have been authentic and repentant before them.
  • They are learning and growing in wisdom and knowledge as I teach them God’s word.
  • My commitment – years of faithful dedication to all God’s called me to be as their mom and home educator.
  • They maintain a high standard of purity.
  • They have a growing faith.
  • Close family relationships – they love us and each other!
  • They are secure in who they are.

Well, that sure made me feel good! But the inventory doesn’t stop there. It’s important to look at our failures. My mentor once said, “The way we live our day, is the way we live our lives.” So here we go:

Failures

  • I’ve been too controlling – I should’ve allowed more choices.
  • I’ve been a poor example – “Do what I say, not what I do.”
  • I’ve been distracted and not fully engaged in listening well.
  • I’ve been inconsistent with rules and discipline.
  • I’ve been too much Martha & not enough Mary (Luke 10:38-42).
  • I’ve changed the standards –Younger ones are getting away with more.
  • And too many more to list!

I, I, I, I… Now, I didn’t list these failures to deflate myself (God gives us more GRACE!). I listed them to gain an honest look at where improvement is needed because only I am responsible for what I do or don’t do.

But please hear this: We can NOT take all the credit or blame for their outcomes. No. But we can pray. We can war for them. They are ALL in a spiritual battle. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Some of you know this battle full well.

Momma, you may want to do as I’ve done and sit and take inventory of your parenting successes and failures. I pray it will encourage and sharpen you.

Go to God in humble prayer and ask Him to lead you. And as you do, allow Him to cover you with His amazing grace.

To be continued… 🙂

To Be Familiar with God

My husband raised an interesting question this past weekend in his message.

He asked, “What do you think is the greatest enemy to faith?”

Many people would suggest that doubt is the greatest obstacle. Some believe fear or worry would be the biggest hindrance to faith. While all these are great suggestions and certainly true, Craig proposed another idea that most of us probably wouldn’t think about. He proposed that for many, the familiar is often the biggest obstacle to faith.

Think about it. Life becomes so familiar that we stop believing that God can change our circumstances. We think or say things like:

“I’ve prayed and nothing has changed.”

“I’ve tried to quit… but I just can’t.”

“I’ve always struggled with my weight.”

“We will always have a dysfunctional relationship.”

In fact, in our Life Group last week, almost everyone there expressed their willingness to pray with great faith for distantly related people but they acknowledged that it’s much more difficult to believe for themselves or those close to them.

Even the familiarity of your own Christian lifestyle can potentially set you into a faithless place of expecting only the predictable!

Listen, even though our God is a God of order, He is often unpredictable in His workings and let’s not forget ABLE to do MORE THAN WE COULD EVER EXPECT!

You may have been taught that He is able, but do you really believe it?

I admit that when I’m in a bad place I often first look at the known facts and use my own understanding (what’s familiar) and form a faithless perspective before looking to the real Source of All Truth. I don’t want to be overly familiar with this world and its deceiving answers! I am not of this world and neither are you (if you have Christ Jesus).

If faith pleases God (and we know it does), how very pleased will He be if we forget about what is our “familiar” on this Earth and engross ourselves in becoming familiar with HIM?! A faith-filled perspective will be our first and hopefully continual outlook. We will see God working in new, beautifully powerful ways!

Therefore, I want to be preoccupied with knowing and pursuing my great God! This world will never have true and just answers outside of its Creator and King. I never want to be more familiar with my circumstances than I am with the presence of God. I want to always pursue Jesus and become more familiar with His ways. I want to spend so much time with Him that I’m completely aware of his gentle and guiding voice. When I’m familiar with His grace, His power, His goodness, then my faith in Him is always bigger than my circumstances.

The familiar is often the enemy of faith.

May God be so well known – so familiar – so close – that we are never deceived into thinking that anything is impossible.

“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things? 

And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 13:55-58

I’ve Tried Everything!

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“I’ve tried everything! Nothing’s working. Now what?”

Momma, you are not alone! I’ve been here many times before! What do we do when all else fails? Scream into your pillow? Yes. No… Well, sometimes.

Although at times it seems as if I have depleted all parenting wisdom and resources, I’ve found it’s often the simple, tried and true basics of Christian parenting that works true wonders.

I’d like to share with you my simple “list” of

 Five Daily Momma Deeds to Always Do

1. Hug – I don’t care if your child is 1 or 21, they need your hugs! Hug them when they are happy, sad, moody, and even angry. Hug your child everyday! Hug before and after a long day. Hug when you feel like it and when you don’t. So much healing can come from a simple hug. I’ve found the teen years to be a time a child desperately needs these gracious embraces.

2. Pray – Not only be praying for your child each day, but pray with them! Regularly ask them how you can be praying for them. Be ready to stop and pray in the middle of a stressful battle, a disagreement, or any problem that arises. This can be so powerful as you humble yourself, join hands with your child and ask for God’s help. As I write this, I’m reminded of how dramatically this has made all the difference in my home.

Say a prayer as you drop them off at school. Pray together for someone in need. Pray for your church and for The Church. I love praying for the weekend church services with my kids as we drive to our local church!

3. Listen – Take it from me who has learned from many dumb mistakes. You may have amazing words of wisdom to share with your child but they will not have the mind or heart to truly hear you if they don’t feel heard first. LISTEN. Try not to be too quick to judge what they say. They may be sorting out the wrong before you hear them say the good and right. BE PATIENT. DON’T INTERRUPT. BREATHE. Affirm that you’ve heard them by saying something like, “I can understand why you feel this way.” “This must be hard for you.” or “I get what you are saying.” Listening in this way can create beautiful, strong relational bridges for your future together.

4. Train – Yep. Train up that child in the way they should go! I’m talking about teachable moments – be ready because they are ever present! You are your child’s main teacher. Teach them God’s Word daily! Are they 4 or 14? It doesn’t matter! Teach them about His Creation. Train them in Who God is. Teach them about the traps of this World. Train them by your humble example.

Train with consistent discipline. This is hard work but don’t grow weary! Create clear boundaries with established consequences. This will take out the emotional guesswork. Keep to KINDNESS and rely on the Holy Spirit. Even still, you’ll mess up so be ready to seek their forgiveness!

5. Smile – Smile at your child. Smile around your child. Laugh too, if you can! Just a simple smile can bring sunshine to brighten a burdened soul. Your emotional mood can lift up or weigh down your child’s tender heart. Smile whether you feel like it or not. Studies have shown that we feel happier when we smile. Give God thanks for your child and His grace and just smile.

I’d like to encourage you to write down these 5 Daily Momma Deeds to Always Do and ask God where you need to grow.

How can I pray for or encourage you?

Don’t Worry! Be Set Free!

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Anxious and worried? The fact is, we all worry sometimes. And sometimes a situation is valid, so fretting seems the responsible thing to do. This pain won’t go away. What if something is terribly wrong? I better get to the doctor.

Often it’s a problem with a family member or close friend that causes our anxiety. I’m very stressed right now. My spouse just lost his job. I don’t know what’s going to happen if he can’t find another one.

Real problems definitely warrant some wisdom, action and prayer.

But here’s what I want you to know, to believe: You can weather life’s storms without being enslaved by an anxious heart that’s full of worry and fear.

I believe this because I’m living proof.

My Freedom Story

Some of you know that I had a severe battle with anxiety around 14 years ago. It began when my health seemed to be deteriorating. I was a young mother of three small girls and had never dealt with chronic health issues (not even seasonal allergies).

One day, a sudden tension headache began on the top of my head. It felt really strange and was very scary. After about a week of these headaches, I went to the doctor and he assured me it was due to stress. Weeks later, I started experiencing numbness that gradually ended up on the total left side of my body. That called for a trip to the ER. Tests were run, follow-up appointments were made, and I was sent home with no answers and a lot of questions.

A year passed, and while the list of odd physical symptoms (debilitating fatigue, blurred vision, chest pain, etc.) increased and the doctor visits ended with no diagnosis, I became convinced that I was dying. The lab tests are just missing it, I thought.

You might imagine the fear that gripped me. It was awful. Worry, even death, dominated my thoughts, choking the very life I desperately wanted right out of me – every day, every hour. After about two years of struggling, depression started to set in, and being a strong introvert didn’t help. It was a l – o – n – g  time before I allowed my husband, Craig, to know how dark my thoughts were.

Throughout this whole ordeal my prayers were frequent and desperate. I begged God to reveal the answers I sought. I looked to His Word to find verses of healing to cling to. What was I doing wrong?

My journey to freedom began when I heard a message by author, Linda Dillow on worry. The Holy Spirit pierced my heart with the truth in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Busted! Being dominated by negative, worrisome, and anxious thoughts proved that I was not living by faith! I may have had the right actions and Christian lingo but my mind and heart weren’t convinced.

My problem was I was too focused on symptoms and not the Source of all life. And that made a world of difference!

Fear, not faith, was the result.

The root of worry is fear and a spirit of fear is not from God.

Freedom from fear is a spiritual battle. This war with fear must be won in the mind.

The strong conviction of God about my lack of faith brought me to repentance (a turning to His ways). He led me to renew my mind daily by catching every negative thought and replacing it with a scripture. The Truth! And the Truth literally began to set me free.

But don’t be misled. This was a process. It took focused determination to break my old pattern. It was a BATTLE. But one that brought victory after victory until the war was won.

Since then, there have been countless opportunities to worry and be anxious over this or that. But when worry’s grip begins to take hold, I automatically confront it head on, resist its lies (the “What ifs”), and renew my mind. This has actually turned into a sweet time of dependence on my Loving Father.

By the way, my health slowly improved over time! My mind now at peace, God also led me to exercise more and eat wisely. (I know you haven’t heard those health tips before!)

Here are a few truths that I continually meditate on to this day:

  • God is enough! Nothing can separate me from the love of God! Romans 8 (This truth had the biggest impact. God and His love became enough, became everything.)
  • I will be Spirit-led and not fear-led.
  • I will trust the Lord in all things.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

  • I will rejoice, pray, and think on things that are good, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  From Philippians 4:6-8

I’d love to pray for you in this area! Send your requests via “comments.”

Prayer Attitudes – Part 4

Joyful Surrender

Mandy bw

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Jesus – Luke 9:23

A certain rich ruler had the honor of a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ (this story is found in Luke 18).  A wealthy leader, he already had a good measure of blessings from God. But this man knew that he lacked what was needed for true righteousness and eternal life. So he asked Jesus,

What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

This ruler claimed to have kept all of God’s commands since childhood, but to reveal his true devotion, Jesus declared,

“You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The man became very sad because he had great wealth. He wanted eternal life but not at the expense of a fully surrendered life. He was deceived into caring more for the temporal than the eternal.

We must all first come to Christ making a great exchange: All of His life for all of ours. But it doesn’t end there! That’s just the beginning! As we remain in Him, we are to continue in a life of joyful abandonment.

This is easier said than done, right?

When you’re God’s child, you long to follow your Father and bring Him glory in all you do. This requires going into prayer with an empty self agenda and a heart surrendered to His will.

Recently, the Holy Spirit has been leading me to begin a new ministry endeavor. I will be frank. It thrills me and terrifies me. God is gently asking me, “Amy, if I lead you, are you willing to follow no matter what the cost?”

I know that His call to me entails great sacrifice, discomfort, and many unknowns. But in faith and with joyful surrender, I am willing to take up my cross and follow Him.

I bet you might want to know what this scary, faith-step is for me! Well… I’ll tell ya in a later post, okay?

There is no other way to live life to the full than to continue to joyfully surrender my life to Him.

What about you, dear friend?

Do you come before God in prayer as a fully yielded soul?

What are you holding tightly to? A habit, a sinful pleasure, or a comfortable routine?

Will you ask God to show you any way that you might be deceived?

Are you willing to lift your hands to the heavens and give Christ Jesus your all?

I pray you will know the joy of a life of surrender to Him.

 

Prayer Attitudes – Part 3

A Child-like Heart 

My beautiful picture

“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Luke 18:17 NKJV

Stop for a moment and think over the verse above.

A little child is not wise in their own eyes. Unfortunately, there have been too many occasions when I think too highly of my “wisdom,” even in my prayers. I’d catch myself trying to help God know how to handle a certain matter. I don’t think God has ever said, “Gee, Amy, thanks for that great idea! I hadn’t thought of that.”

Instead of trying to be so clever and spiritually sophisticated, we need to wait on the Holy Spirit and receive His promptings. God’s Spirit will guide us in how to pray.

All the promises of God and His Kingdom must be received like a little child. Becoming like a little child doesn’t mean that God wants us to become immature and ignorant. On the contrary, we know that God would have us grow in spiritual maturity and in wisdom and knowledge.  So what are the child-like qualities that God desires for us to have?

Faith, humility, and sincerity are certainly some good characteristics of a child-like attitude. But sadly, the world pulls us towards self-reliance, pride and pretension.

We must resist the world’s system! As Christians, Christ calls us to be made new in the attitude of our minds (Eph. 4:23). One way to beat the traps of the world and its spiritual darkness is to have the attitude of a little child.

I believe that our prayers to God should have a child-like disposition. Dependence is the child-like quality I will focus on for this post.

 A Child-like Dependence

About five years ago, I was asking God to give me a greater revelation of what it means to live by His Spirit.

“Depend on Me” was His answer.

“And how am I to depend on You, Father?” I asked.

“Like a helpless infant depends on their caregiver,” was His gentle revelation to the eyes of my heart.

Gasp! I was dazed as I reflected on His clear message.

“Really, Lord? This is complete and utter dependence… Yes. Yes! This is Your word, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing.’”

My children are still ridiculously dependent on me at times. They seem to think that I’m a nurse, wastebasket, water fountain, snack bar and entertainment center. “My tummy hurts. Here’s my empty wrapper. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. I’m bored.” It’s a little annoying. But hey, at least these are honest, humble and very dependent statements! They need me! They cling to me. Literally!

And God knows we desperately need Him.

Oh, oh, oh, how I need my Father God! I’m so terribly needy, weak and unable. Only in God do I live and move and have my being. Apart from Him, I can’t do anything. And the same is true for you.

This is how I now come to God in prayer, clinging to His wisdom and strength!

Proverbs 3:5-6 explains in perfect clarity the child-like dependence we should strive to maintain.

Read it carefully and as if for the very first time… like a little child.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

 

And lean not on your own understanding;

 

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

 

And He shall direct your paths.

 

Proverbs 3:5,6 NKJV

Prayer Attitudes – Part 2

A Humble Confidence

In him (Christ) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12

My youngest daughter approached me the other day with a request to eat dinner at her favorite restaurant. She began her entreaty with a syrupy string of “Mommy, I love you, I love you, I love you, and I love you and I LOVE you!” I guess she thought she needed to earn some points to entice me to comply. By the way, I said, “Sorry, no. Not tonight, honey. But I love you, too!”

It made me wonder, “God, do I ever do this to you? Do I try to impress you or try to win your favor and blessings?”

I do see this attitude subtly creep in to my thinking at times. God will hear and answer me when I’ve kept up with my Bible reading, prayer time, giving, serving…

This is wrong thinking! It places confidence in my efforts. As if I could add anything to Christ’s finished work! This is also pride. Pride seeks to make me the focus. Other people must come beneath us when we seek to elevate ourselves. It’s hypocrisy and deception to the fullest because we are fooled into thinking and acting as if we are superior. “I’m better than so and so…” Ha! What a joke! Only it’s not funny.

Christ Jesus became my righteousness when I received Him by faith. We don’t need to butter up or try to impress God! His loving work in and through our lives is based on being His adopted child!

Therefore, prayers to our loving and righteous God should be with an attitude of humble confidence. A humble confidence in prayer says, “Gracious Father, I am amazed by your great mercy and love for me! Thank you that I can boldly ask you to hear my requests!”

Did you notice how the humble confidence prayer’s focus was on God’s goodness? Living in feelings of guilt over our sin or pride in our good works will make our prayers about us. Our hope and confidence should be in Christ alone!

Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 was preached to people who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else.

“Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

A self-righteous attitude won’t get you very far with God in prayer. Let’s seek to maintain an attitude of humble confidence through which God receives all the glory and praise!