The Devotionals Transcripts
When I was 10, I went to church camp for the first time and it became a decade-long summer tradition, first as a camper and eventually as a counselor. Our days were filled with swimming, boating, hiking, and crafts, and we spent time in singing and Bible study several times every day for a week. At night, when we were in our cabins, each tucked snuggly in our bunks, it was time for lights out and our counselor shared what she called “devotions” with us. She read a passage of Scripture and made application for it that was from her own life and what she believed was important for us to know.
A rather quaint word in today’s world, “devotions” inspired us in our relationship to God and to others. It implies more than what we might experience in a quiet time. The word devotion itself connotes loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, commitment, allegiance, and dedication. It expresses fondness, love, admiration, affection, and care as in living a life of devotion. Join me as I begin a series of podcasts intended to build up moms and dads in their devotion to the Lord, each other, and their children! If you prefer, there are transcripts of each podcast in the articles menu, along with questions for reflection and discussion for each program!
Those who have been long time blog readers and podcast listeners know that my heart’s desire is to see moms growing in God’s grace as they love and serve their families through all the seasons of life. In the past year I have begun to see a pattern in evangelicalism and conservative Christianity that I believe is counter productive to this process. There is a glorification of skepticism, an extolling of the so-called virtues of doubt in the life of the believer that I find troubling. Rather than exhorting one another to grow closer to God and worship Him in truth, there is the trend toward wallowing in what is known as a “messy” life where there is, in reality, no purpose or meaning to anything at all. It is nihilism in the here and now with no hope whatsoever being dispensed. And to those sharing these views, they come across as if this places them on a higher plain of understanding and even dare I say, spirituality. The truth is that it is only humanism in yet one more new costume and the result is discouragement in our spiritual lives, devotion to oneself rather than to the Lord, and has eternal consequences for both those who espouse these views and their followers.
Hebrews 3:12-13 admonishes us: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
So, today is the first of the podcast series I am calling The Devotionals. You will be able to listen to them as with the other podcasts but I will also have a page given to transcripts of them for your convenience and will include some questions for reflection and discussion. The Devotionals will be interspersed with other podcast series from time to time as I will still want to explore particular topics and I already have some upcoming podcast guests I am excited to be talking with. My hope is that what you hear on The Devotionals will bless you, encourage you, and inspire you to trust that God is working in your life, especially during difficult times, and that you, too, will be inspired to be part of a culture of hope and encouragement.
The Devotionals No. 1 (originally aired 11-01-2014)
Today I want to consider what encouragement really means. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: “Encourage one another and build up one another.”
We all have “bucket lists,” a record of things we would like to experience or accomplish in the days before we die. My friend, Tom, who had spent much of his life doing research and living behind a desk, decided he wanted to become a competitive runner and so, well into his 40s, began training for a marathon. He spent evenings and weekends running along the country roads near his home and began entering 5k running events as often as he could. He added bicycling to his exercise regimen and joined friends on daylong trips across the state.
Finally, the day came for his first real marathon and Tom was ready. On that glorious October morning, he joined 44,999 other runners in downtown Chicago, slowly and meticulously making their way across the 26.2 miles of pavement, past parks and office buildings, through cool lake front breezes, up and down the slow rise of the concrete before him. He had never felt so invigorated or so exhausted all at once and he was so attentive to his own pace that he didn’t pay much attention as other runners passed him by. He knew he could not place in the top 6,000 of those whose times were recorded for posterity but on he ran, determined to enjoy his own personal victory.
Up until this point, it had not occurred to Tom to quit. Instead, he kept his eyes fixed on the back of another man about his age who ran 20 or so paces in front of him. And then he reached the hurdle he had been warned of, the psychological wall he would need to scale around the 22 mile marker. Thoughts of just stopping began to fill his mind. “Why not?” he asked himself. “I am not a failure, look at all I have been able to accomplish!” he rationalized. An attorney by trade, it seemed as though both sides of his mind were arguing their case pretty convincingly when Tom heard someone calling out his number. “3622, you can do it! You are almost there.” Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of someone, a stranger waving a small flag and speaking just to him. “Every step is one closer to your goal. You are an amazing runner; your pace is perfect. You are doing everything just right! Now just keep on going! The finish line is just ahead!” Handing him a cup of cold water, the man ran alongside Tom for another half mile or so, cheering him with his words, inspiring him with his encouragement, sealing his resolve to finish the race! What Tom experienced as he neared the end of his first marathon is the perfect picture of encouragement in action.
When we encourage others, we seek to further their faith in seeing their goals met, offering them hope for what lies ahead. All the while we are coming alongside them, caring for their various needs. It requires seeing the world from their perspective and showing empathy to them! Since we know that a parent’s nurture includes being involved in the whole training and education of children, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, we also know that our encouragement in each of these areas of their lives is crucial.
The Greek word for exhort is “parakaleo” and is found 16 times in the New Testament. It is the only word translated as such. It comes from two root words, “para,” meaning close proximity, joined, alongside of and suggests encouraging both by strengthening and comforting and “kaleo” which means “to call,” the same word used by Christ to call certain ones to be his disciples and also to call people by the preaching of the Gospel. The word given to the Holy Spirit, “paraclete” means one who consoles, one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate (an attorney) and comes from the same root words.
Did you ever know someone who had been raised in a home where encouragement was not a part of the life of the family? Where hope was replaced by despair and faith was squelched at every turn? When our sons were on a little league baseball team, one of the coaches was also the father of one of the players. Week after week, this man belittled and humiliated his son in front of all his teammates and their parents. The poor kid didn’t improve much during the season, frequently striking out when at bat or watching as the ball rolled out of his glove, and he always had the demeanor of a defeated little soul, sitting on the bench, shoulders stooped and head down. No matter how accomplished that little boy might be as an adult now, I am certain he bears the scars of his father’s words today. There could be no encouragement, no hope, and no joy in a home like this one.
In contrast, one of my friends in high school had a mom who was his biggest fan and everyone knew it. On the nights when there was a home football game, people filled the stands, in part, to watch this woman cheer, wave her “Patrick flag,” and chew out any referee who made bad calls against her boy. Rather than being embarrassed, Patrick walked tall and grinned at his mom from the field, routinely gulping down her encouragement along with his Gatorade!
Let me encourage you today to find someone to encourage! Have them tell you their own personal stories and listen to those glimpses of God working in their life situations. Come alongside them and share with them your own testimonies of God’s goodness, especially through times of struggle. I love how Amy Carmichael said it best: “God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed.”
Questions for reflection and discussion:
1. Consider a time when some came alongside you and encouraged you. How did it change your perspective or situation?
2. Did you grow up in a home that was encouraging or not encouraging? What were the fruits of that that you see in your life today? How have you repeated that or changed that in your own home?
3. Identify 2 or 3 people you know who are struggling in some way. How can you reach out and encourage them in very practical ways this week?
The Devotionals #2 (originally aired 11-10-2014)
As of today, there are 44 days until Christmas. Amazingly, retail stores started filling their aisles with Christmas merchandise a couple weeks ago and I even have friends who have finished their Christmas shopping! To be honest, I am not far behind! When you have 14 grandchildren, Christmas preparation sanity requires time and creativity so it helps to start planning early. In this week’s devotional, we are going to consider the perfect gifts for our children. Remember you can find the transcripts of The Devotionals on the pull down Articles menu, along with questions for reflection and discussion each time. If you care to comment on the podcast, be sure to leave your thoughts on the link for each podcast on www.thatmom.com.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~ Matthew 7:11” Jesus assumed that moms and dads, who are sinners by nature, will give good gifts to their children, using this thought to help us recognize the truth that God will not withhold any thing from us He deems is good. The difference is that because we are sinners, we sometimes have a difficult time discerning what those good gifts for our children might actually be!
Here are some thoughts I had:
Children need and want someone who will listen to them ~ I am always up at the crack of dawn and disgustingly cheerful at that time, too. My favorite part about having little ones visit me is the early morning cuddle and chat time! I love hearing them come down the stairs in their jammied feet and I love listening to their stories. They are always so ready and eager to tell me about their lives and interests and all they really want is an audience. I sometimes wonder how many really and truly great ideas for mankind could be captured simply by listening to children talk.
The same is true not only for the smaller ones but also for teens and even adult children! I believe that the more we are willing to give children our time to listen to them, they more willing they will be to come and share with us any struggles they might have in the future.
Children need and want some who will express kindness and willingness to partake in their childhood sorrows and joys ~ As we get older, we tend to think of grief only in terms of the big things…the death of a loved one, a job loss, broken relationships. But children have real and true sorrows that are devastating to their own little hearts ….. a broken toy, a missed turn, not finding mom close by when waking from a nap, a harsh word spoken in haste, or even a disapproving glance their direction. Scripture admonishes us to be kind to one another, literally to succor or to come alongside or to help, to uplift and to be gentle and tenderhearted while doing so. I believe kindness also manifests itself in taking delight in things that our children find delightful, not dismissing their interests. I must admit that I have a hard time finding the joy of Spongebob or the Three Stooges but knowing how much joy it brings to those I love inspires me!
Children need and want simple things ~ Madison Avenue, especially through television advertising, has done a great job of programming parents into thinking that they must purchase every new and whiz bang toy that comes along. The fact is, children love things that are simple, especially if it gives them room to imagine and create themselves. We have often joked that homeschooled children are so easily entertained and it is true. Give them scrap wood, old cardboard boxes, and simple tools and they are happy and busy for hours. While the children were all here, one of our sons went into our basement and, in true Tony Stark fashion, made individual weapons for each of the older ones using parts from old vacuum cleaners, flash lights, etc., and held together with duct tape. Each gun was unique and the kids spent hours and hours racing through the house and yard, their imaginations running wild. Who needs to spend hundreds of dollars on toys that will soon pile up and eventually become the bane of mom’s existence before they are trotted off to Goodwill?
Children need and want a slower pace so they can soak in the wonder of little things ~ Not long ago, some of the older members of our Toastmaster’s club were lamenting the fact that we had had so many members just a few years ago and now our group is small. They couldn’t understand why there were so few younger people in recent years who are interested in improving their communication skills. I don’t think it has a thing to do with an interest in this group or any other group; I believe it is because families are so busy taking children from one activity to another that schedules are just too full. I also believe that homeschoolers are sometimes prone to this temptation more than others because they don’t want their children to miss out on anything they might have gotten from formal education. How often does a child ask a question that could open up all sorts of other discussion but we have to say “Ask me later, we don’t have time right now; we have to get to soccer practice or puppet club?” The true beauty of parenting is that teaching and learning come in those often quiet, serendipitous moments that happen when we slow down. Children want us to give them “soaking time,” time to examine, ask questions, and think about all sorts of things. And they want us to soak on those things, too.
Children need and want someone who knows that living outside the box is sometimes the best idea ~ Yes, we must be good, law-abiding citizens and yes, God’s Word is to be obeyed. Those are true. But sometimes it is the best choice to color outside the lines. One year while my eight year old grandson, Henry, was here, I had promised him that I would bake a Texas cake. As I described to him in detail the double chocolate deliciousness, his eyes grew bigger and bigger and I could actually see his mouth water! But, as the days went by and life was so, so hectic with 21 people in the house, the cake hadn’t made it into the oven. He was too polite to harass me, but the night before he was to leave the next morning, I woke up several times remembering that I hadn’t made that cake and I felt terrible. So at 4:00 am I got up and baked a Texas cake for breakfast, its deliciousness still warm with fudge frosting when he woke up. As the children came down, one by one, they were pleased, though probably not entirely shocked, to find Grandma serving chocolate cake for breakfast! I highly recommend this for everyone from time to time, especially for those who are bound up in any sort of legalism, spiritual or otherwise. It’s amazing how liberating a piece of Texas cake can be!
Children need and want the freedom and encouragement to explore and create ~ This really goes along with the idea of slowing down and living more simply and it can be lovingly encouraged just by what we provide for them. My daughter has an amazing way of bringing out the best of a child’s creativity simply by keeping an always-changing costume box. She watches for any sort of prop and Christmas always means adding to the ever-growing collection. She is also much better than I ever was at tolerating and encouraging mess making….one of the things I would do over if I could.
Children need and want to beloved for who they are rather than for what we think they should be ~ I believe one of our important roles as parents is to help inspire our children and to give them a vision for using their gifts and talents in service to the Lord. At the same time, we must fight the temptation to try to force them into some ideal model that we envision based on our own desires or preferences. We need to pattern our own parenting after God’s parenting of us, loving our children simply for the preciousness of their souls, through tendermercies demonstrated toward them by grace alone.
Children want and need to know that they can depend on Mom and Dad anytime, anywhere ~ Children need to know that their parents are their biggest fans. A while back I read an absolutely inane article that said it is a sin for children to desire the approval of their parents, even citing what the author believed to be a bad example where a child had experienced emotional pain from years of having her thoughts and abilities minimized and dismissed. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the servants and their talents. The servant who was faithful with what the Lord had given to him was given even more and “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Is not this the response that all children desire to hear from their own parents as well? If this were a sin, wouldn’t Jesus have taken this opportunity to instruct us so? Our children need to hear how much they are valued, treasured, and delighted in by their parents!
Children need and want to know that we expect the best of them, even if what they do doesn’t look like the way we might do things ~ One thing I have really enjoyed about having children who are grown and married is observing how each couple becomes one and together make up one family. They have their own family favorite foods and their own family traditions. They have convictions and goals and use their amazing talents and abilities in unique ways. Sometimes I am amazed at how much like Clay or me they might seem. Other times I am equally amazed at how differently they look at life. I once knew a woman who repeatedly said to her daughter “You’re not like me at all,” sending the message that to be acceptable within their family, the daughter was expected to be a carbon copy of the mom. What a tragedy for a daughter who spent years struggling needlessly with self-acceptance issues and how much that mother missed by not enjoying the unique ways God was working in her family!
Children need and want someone who is honest and genuine, someone who is willing to be vulnerable and transparent, someone who is consistent in living out her faith and is willing to admit wrongdoing and seek forgiveness when she fails ~ I have taught communications skills to groups of homeschoolers and I always include working through the principles of storytelling. From the corporate boardrooms to family dining tables, telling your own story is a powerful way to communicate God’s working in your life. But the value of our stories diminishes if we are not willing to share the truth of mistakes we have made or if we embellish them for our own glory. Years ago, I heard the story of a man I knew who had competed in a Toastmaster’s Humorous Speaking competition. The most important rule of this event is the one that requires all participants to present their own original stories and it comes with the warning that plagiarism will be punished. This man won first place through all the levels of contests and finally made it to the top, winning the grand prize with his hilarious telling of a personal story. He went home with a huge trophy and displayed it on a shelf in his family room, but only for a few weeks. It seems that this man had taken found this amusing tale online and decided to make it his own story. Imagine his chagrin at receiving the phone call asking to arrange a time for his trophy to be returned. And can you even imagine the horror of facing your friends and family after such an experience? Children want parents who are willing to share the real stories of their own lives, the good and the bad, the joyous and the painful. They want parents with integrity who are willing to become vulnerable and, most importantly, they want parents whose stories include repentance and seeking forgiveness when they have wronged others, especially their children.
Proverbs3:27 says: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.” All of these gifts are within your power to give. They will not break your holiday budget but they will cost you something….They will cost you everything, as you purpose to one another your children by God’s grace and for the glory of the Newborn King Jesus whose gift of eternal life is the very reason we celebrate Christmas!
Questions for reflection and discussion:
- Which of these suggestions do you see as the most needed by each of your children this year?
- Which of these gifts is the most difficult for you to give? Why?
- If you could go back 20 or 30 or 40 years, which of these gifts were missing in your own life? Which ones did your parents give to you in abundance? Which ones could you give to them at this time?
The Devotionals No. 3 (originally aired 11-22-2014)
A few days ago, actor, conservative Christian, and homeschooling dad, Kirk Cameron, in anticipation of the upcoming holidays, created a firestorm by commending women who use their talents and gifts to make the holidays special in their homes. He said, “If you are a mom, if you are a wife, if you’re the keeper of your home, I want you to know that your joy is so important this Christmas because Christmas is about joy and if the joy of the Lord is your strength, remember, the joy of the mom is her children’s strength, so don’t let anything steal your joy….If you let your joy get stolen, it will sap your strength. Let your children, your family, see your joy in the way that you decorate your home this Christmas, in the food that you cook, the songs you sing, the stories you tell, and the traditions that you keep. Invite your whole neighborhood into your Christmas, and invite the world into our story of our king and his kingdom.”
I so appreciated these thoughts as I believe making a home for our families is really important and sets the stage for our own family histories. Making our homes a welcoming and winsome environment for extended family and others ought to be done intentionally. What Cameron is encouraging applies not only to Christmas time and I believe that was the reason he received such a strong reaction to his suggestions.
Declaring Cameron a misogynist, secular feminists showed their true colors: they twisted his words and ultimately mocked the choice of being a homemaker. It is no surprise. Their most venerated role model, Betty Freidan, in her paradigm shifting book, The Feminist Mystic, once wrote quote: “Housewives are mindless and thing-hungry….. They are trapped in trivial domestic routine and meaningless busywork within a community that does not challenge their intelligence. Housework is peculiarly suited to the capabilities of feeble-minded girls; it can hardly use the abilities of a woman of average or normal human intelligence.”
In her book At Wit’s End, humorist Erma Bombeck tells the story of discovering a desire to organize her home. She wrote: “It happens every November. I don’t know why. I suffer an attack of domesticity. I want to bustle about in a starched apron, bake bread, iron sheets, and make my own soap. I want to beat mattresses, mend cleaning rags, wax the driveway, and can green beans.
Last November’s seizure was a doozie! When I returned to my slovenly ways I discovered I had rearranged the furniture, giving it all the personality of a bus station restroom. Ignoring the advice of experts, I washed the draperies, causing the lining to sag like a toddler’s underwear….I have found that a cold shower shocks me back to my slovenly ways. I know I am slovenly because I gave myself one of those magazine quizzes once to find out if I was “children-geared,” “husband-geared,” or “home-geared.”
The “child-geared” mother often referred to her husband as what’s-his-name and took a tape recorder to the labor room to record her suffering so she could play it at her children’s weddings. I wasn’t that. A “husband-geared” woman fed her husband steak and the kids hamburger. I wasn’t that. A “home-geared” woman fixed up the basement for the family to live in and cried whenever someone splashed water on her kitchen tiles. I wasn’t that. According to my score, I wasn’t crazy about any one of the three. In fact, in homemaking I only scored five out of a possible hundred points because I changed the paper in my birdcage with some regularity.”
Well, wherever we are on Erma’s spectrum, running a household is a challenge, that is for sure. Many young women are not prepared to do so when they marry, though I think most of them really are excited at the prospect of having their own homes. The sale of cookbooks and all manner of kitchen supplies has never been more in demand. Books like Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home and Cheryl Mendelson’s Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House remain best sellers.
Cable TV shows featuring cooks like Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, any number of professional chefs are popular and inspire tremendous sales in the cookbooks. Every county home extension office and community college, as well as many kitchen stores offer specialiity cooking classes and even craft stores make cake and cookie decorating a simple task with their often-free courses. And, of course, the internet, especially You Tube, is a wealth of suggestions, instructions, and recipes for caring for any aspect of meal preparation and housekeeping. And don’t even get me started on Pinterest!
When I first married, I didn’t know much about cooking. But I did know that if I could read and follow directions, delicious meals were only a cookbook away. My mother had always cooked “from scratch” and that is what I intended to do, too, so I purchased the basic Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and asked my mom to write down her best recipes. After a year or so, I also subscribed to a Farm Journal Cookbook club and learned how to cook and bake using the same ingredients used by county fair winners all over the country! That was the fun part of homemaking, to me. The cleaning was another story!
Though a young woman might not know much about keeping house, there are many good resources available. But my contention is that the true need for women who run their homes is not really the training as much as it is the character that it takes to make it all happen. You may know how to do any number of things in a home, but if you aren’t motivated by the desire to do them and to do them well, which is equally important, it won’t matter what you know.
Proverbs 31:13-28, the story of the “proverbial” Proverbs 31 woman, lists for us many of the tasks that a homemaker is responsible to do: purchase and prepare meals, provide clothing for the family, reaching out to the poor, managing household chores, overseeing those who are hired to help the family, and maintaining the household part of the family budget, whether it is by bringing in her own earnings or making wise purchases.
In reading this passage, I see a variety of character qualities that are necessary in order for a woman to pull it all off. Two of those are responsibility and diligence.
Demonstrating responsibility is accomplished when you are able to do things that need to be done without having to be reminded to do them. I have often described this quality to my children by telling them that it is an inward nagging sense that there is something you must do and you do not feel comfortable resting until it is accomplished.
Diligence comes from the root word that means “to love earnestly”, and it is defined as the steady application in business of any kind, the constant effort to accomplish what is undertaken. In other words, using all your energy to accomplish your goals, knowing that, as Christians, we are to do all things as unto the Lord.
As moms, a huge part of what we do during the day is running the household. To the list of responsibilities of the Proverbs 31 woman, for homeschooling moms, we also add educating our children. Because we “earnestly love” our families, we desire to meet their needs, whether they are physical, emotional, or educational. But we will only be able to do so as we remember that we are homeschooling our children for one reason alone, to bring glory to the Lord. Exceptional educational opportunities, children who get big scholarships, avoidance of peer pressure and influence, and any number of other reasons to teach our children at home may be part of our goals. But we will only genuinely be motivated to persevere if we remember that we must be doing them as unto the Lord.
If I think about nearly 40 years of marriage, times the number of loads of laundry I have done for 2 parents, 6 children and 1 grandma, I am amazed to know that I have washed, dried, folded, (sometimes ironed) and put away roughly 30,000 loads of laundry. That is over 250,000 socks! Or, in that same amount of time, provided 35,587 meals for a family and sometimes guests. Or that I have overseen nearly 20,000 hours of education of one sort or another during that time. Just thinking of those numbers takes my breath away.
Moms, as we consider the character that is necessary to meet our responsibilities with diligence, we have to remember that character comes by God’s grace, by looking into his word and trusting these words “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
Questions for reflection and discussion:
1. On a scale of one to ten, how valuable is homemaking to your life as a woman, wife, and mother? Why?
2. How has Betty Freidan’s perspective on homemaking influenced your life?
3. In what areas of your homemaking do you believe you need to be more diligent and responsible?