Take Heart!

Flipping through the news and scrolling through social media are enough to leave us frazzled and reaching for the smelling salts! We’re inundated with doom, gloom, and political mudslinging, which has a tendency to leave us in a state of fear and uncertainty.

We cannot be Christians who are long on fear and short on faith. We cannot spend more time researching media and repeating others. We must rest in the arms of our Savior by searching Scripture and pursuing prayer. Sweet friends, this is the time to stand on our authority in Christ and become intense prayer warriors. To stand on the promise of his already-won victory! The enemy longs for us to fill our hearts and minds with today’s hopelessness. To ruminate over injustices and unfairness to the point of anger and rage. To hail our chosen political candidates as the answer and solution to society’s ills. Take heart, my friends, Jesus has overcome all of this! We can look to Scripture for guidance on how to behave in the midst of the world’s chaos. 

God made us very aware of what to expect throughout the ages. He also gave us instructions on what to do during His appointed times. Take a few moments to ponder these passages…

Daniel 7-12

Daniel fasted, confessed, prayed, and stood firm in his faith in the midst of all that God revealed to him. We have agency to do likewise! Ask God to guide you in beginning a fast. It’s OK to start small–even baby steps bring forward movement.

Proverbs 3

Trust God by asking for His wisdom. Don’t lose sight of common sense. Ask the Father for discernment. Do good to your neighbors–online and in real life! Don’t pick fights–online and in real life! It’s easy to let our emotions guide our actions (I am absolutely guilty of this), but we must be led by His wisdom and grace. Chase after righteousness instead of being right.  

Matthew 24

Jesus tells us exactly what Christians should expect in the last days, and he doesn’t sugarcoat it! He also tells us that His word will never disappear. Take heed of his timeless, prophetic words and cling to His promise!

Luke 21

Again, we are reminded of God’s instruction during these times. Verse 34 tells us to keep watch! Look away from the screens and worldly voices; keep your eyes (physical and spiritual) fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith. Verse 36 says to keep alert and pray! Know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Fill your heart and head with the knowledge of God, rather than headlines, statistics, and worst-case-scenarios.

Ask for God’s discernment and wisdom in the midst of the melee. Rather than sounding the fear alarm and parroting doom and gloom, tune into what the Holy Spirit is doing. This has been a game-changer in my life! Luke 21 ends by saying the crowds gathered early to hear Jesus. This reminds us to rightly order our days; be nourished by Scripture and time in prayer before consuming media. Starting your day with an in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit–and his gift of discernment–will navigate you to faith instead of fear. 

Mothering with Grace

dsc_8269-edit_original

The myriad of threads woven into the fabric of your day make up your family’s tapestry of faith. What we see mid-process looks like loose threads and knots, but God is taking those gloriously quotidian efforts and crafting a masterpiece. Remain faithful in your weaving, dear mama. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). Here are some of the daily rhythms that have enriched our family’s faith journey…

Biblical Affirmations

When you begin the day by speaking biblical words of affirmation over your children, it not only reminds them of who they are in Christ, it reminds YOU of who they are in Christ! Our affirmation statements are based in scripture; this idea came from a Wild + Free podcast I heard many years ago. Every morning at 9:00am, we sit together, hold hands, and I look them in the eyes as I say:

  1. You are a mighty man of God.
  2. You are a leader of leaders and a follower of Jesus Christ.
  3. You are a blessing wherever you go; you are never a burden.
  4. You walk in favor with God and man.
  5. You are bold and you speak the truth.
  6. You are creative, artistic, athletic, and intelligent.
  7. You will marry only whom God has intended for you.
  8. You will lend to many nations and you will never borrow.
  9. The Fruit of the Spirit lives inside you.
  10. You are a Ludwig young man, and you are destined for righteousness!

After affirmations, I chose a couple of scriptures to pray over them. When we routinely begin our days in this manner, we all tend to treat one another with more kindness, love, grace, understanding, and respect. When we become swept up in life’s craziness and move away from this anchor, attitudes deteriorate and there’s more fussing all around.

Take Authority

When those inevitable sibling squabbles arise, I’m quick to take authority and lead my boys in the act of repentance. “Son, the Bible tells us our words have the power to give life or death. Did you speak life or death over your brother just now?” Starting there keeps me focused on the actual issue at hand: We are all sinful people living together in one house; the enemy would love nothing more than to bring division, and then keep that division going with an upset, angry response from one or both parents.

Recognize the enemy’s plans, and thwart them through the power of the Holy Spirit. After they speak words of apology and forgiveness, I hold their hands together in mine and pray: “God, thank you for giving these brothers to each other for life. Your word says it is good and pleasant for brothers to dwell together in unity, and I pray you break the spirit of frustration between them, and bind them with your unity.”

Does it magically make them both happy? Do glittery butterflies and rays of light shoot out from our hands clasped in prayer? No and no. But it absolutely takes the sting out of the situation. Inviting Jesus right into the middle of a disagreement always makes a difference. This is discipleship-based discipline over punitive punishment.

In our family vocabulary, we call this “planting a Kingdom flag.” I wrote a parable story for my boys to explain spiritual warfare in a way they could understand. We all know that the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Simply yelling at my kids for their behavior and sending them to their room doesn’t get at the root of the issue. In so doing, I’ve aimed my worldly arrows at flesh and blood. I need to exchange my “weapons” for God’s and redirect my aim!

I believe this story was divinely inspired after three days of fasting and prayer, in which I experienced palpable spiritual warfare. As a writer, I normally follow a creative process when I set out to write something. Not this time! This story was nothing like anything I’d ever written. The best I can explain it was God instantly downloaded it into my brain, and I could barely keep up with getting it on paper. With it came a direct instruction: “Tell your children.” I did, and they gained an immediate understanding of what happens in the spiritual realm when we pray and take back ground from the enemy. They understood that the enemy was defeated long ago, and we–as Christians–have authority to enforce God’s victory. I share this story with you in case you’d like to use it in your own home. Genuinely, I can’t take writer’s credit since God gave it to me.

THE KINGDOM KEEPERS

The story itself may seem unfinished, but I believe that was done on purpose. There was simply no more “divine inspiration” past that point, and I didn’t feel at liberty to add more or attempt to finish it on my own efforts. However, I strongly felt God tell me to take my boys on a prayer walk to finish the story. After reading the last line, I charged my boys with this statement: “Let’s go plant flags for the King, my princes!”

We then set out on a prayer walk where semi-violent protests had taken place the night before. (No protests were taking place at the time we went out, all was physically safe.) I held their hands as we walked to the police station–now covered with graffiti and strewn with trash–and we prayed for God’s unity and healing to be released in our sate and nation. We prayed for God’s angel armies to be released in battling the spiritual forces of violence and division. We planted Kingdom flags together! They tangibly understood their part in spiritual warfare. I’d say that was infinitely more powerful than any story ending I could’ve crafted!

Teach your children about spiritual warfare as soon as they come to Christ. Don’t give them a watered down cartoon version of “Sunday School Jesus.” My friend Jillian often reminds me that there is no Junior Holy Spirit, and she is absolutely right! Have your children pray big prayers with you, and rejoice over every single answered prayer. Invite them into your walk with Christ, and tell them what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.

When we take nature walks or spend time in our garden, we collectively marvel over God’s creation and openly thank him for the lovely flowers. For the bees, squirrels, and doves that so often visit our windowsill. Everything is an opportunity for praise and worship.

Personal Faith Stories

Both of my sons made the decision to follow Christ at an early age, and I wanted to mark these special occasions with something they could physically hold on to. We worked together to write faith stories (testimonies) by using their actual quotes and photos shortly after each of their baptisms. This allows them to take ownership of their personal decision to follow Jesus. They are so proud of their books and read them often. Here’ a video preview of their faith stories…

The Baptism Book

Missionary Stories

I want my children to understand that following Jesus means living a life of sacrifice. American cultural Christianity often tilts toward a hyper-grace-prosperity-gospel. Yes, God provides for us and abundantly gives us His grace–and for that I am eternally grateful–but I don’t want my sons to fall into the broken mindset that God only shows his love by padding our bank accounts or that grace exempts us from obedience to the Father. Missionary biographies are frequently part of our family read-alouds, and we openly talk about the difficulties our real-life missionary friends face around the world. We turn those struggles into prayer petitions!

Someone recently told my boys that China was a bad communist country who hates America, which planted a lie in their hearts that China, and all its people, are bad. I stepped in and told them that Jesus died for the people of China. I told them that he wrote eternity on their hearts. I told them of the underground churches and persecution, and how it’s our job to pray for them. We then prayed for God’s angel armies to be released to fight against the spiritual forces of darkness and oppression. After praying for China, my oldest son’s eyes grew wide as he said, “We just planted a Kingdom flag!”

The next morning, I pulled Hudson Taylor’s biography off the shelf so that my boys will have an encounter with someone who dedicated his life to bringing God’s truth to China. Someone who loved them with every ounce of his being and saw them through the eyes of Jesus. Speak God’s truth over negative mindsets and don’t allow any seed of hatred to germinate in your home.

Discipline vs. Punishment

This next bit may seem controversial, so I offer this up simply as something I do in my own home, based on searching the scriptures and prayerful revelations. Here it is: I don’t yell and I don’t spank. Have I ever yelled or spanked in the history of my parenting journey? Yes. But now, I rely on my Savior not to do those things. In the past when I have spanked and yelled, I repented to my children and to God, asking their forgiveness.

From my personal experience, spanking is a lazy shortcut, and yelling only goes to show that I am severely lacking in the Fruits of the Spirit. How did I come to this less-than-conventional Christian parenting decision? Scripture. I researched the actual Hebrew words used in the “pro-spanking” verses and learned that the Hebrew word used specifically refers to an almost-grown male, NOT young children. The actual Hebrew words that translate to “young child” are not used in the book of Proverbs. The word that is used in the “pro-spanking” verses is naar, which Jewish rabbinical tradition considers to be males between the ages of 16 and 24. So, the practice of spanking young children is found nowhere in the original translation.

I grew up in a very pro-spanking household, and what did I truly learn from it? How to conceal things from my parents, and how to be a very good liar to avoid another spanking. I lied to my parents, to myself, and to God. Avoid getting caught to avoid the punishment! It took lots of prayer, searching the scriptures, and wise mentors of the faith to bring me to this question: “Am I willing to trust God to help me discipline my children rather than trust a ‘proven’ and obviously more practical method?” (Clay Clarkson posed this question in Heartfelt Discipline.)

If you’re remotely interested in exploring this aspect of biblical parenting, I highly recommend these books:

Clay Clarkson’s Heartfelt Discipline 

Clay and Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Parent

Tim Kimmel’s Grace Based Parenting

L.R. Knost’s Jesus, the Gentle Parent

Their collective wisdom, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was instrumental in bringing me to a place of repentance and understanding. I choose to parent by faith and discipleship instead of fear and punishment. This road is not easy. It’s a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute choice–one that cannot be made apart from Christ’s strength. Shockingly, it actually works!

Parents are the first impression children have of God. For the life of me, I couldn’t find any examples of Jesus smacking his disciples when they went against his instruction. If I’m going to call myself a Christian, I’m supposed to be like Christ. Ten years ago, I was absolutely 100% pro-spanking. That change only came about through the power of God.

Understanding my children’s intricate personalities has also been instrumental in my parenting journey. We shouldn’t ever punish personality, but many do. We all encounter people who grate on our nerves without actually doing anything wrong…you may experience this in your own home. Paul and Barbara Tieger’s Nurture by Nature helped me pinpoint my boys’ and my husband’s personality types, which opened my eyes to how God made them. This knowledge has solved many problems before they’ve ever started.

Motherhood is an adventurous journey with many uphill battles. I fail often, but I cling to His grace. Sweet mama-friend, stand firm in the faith as you stand in the gap for your family! May the God of Peace bless you with wisdom and discernment as you shepherd your precious flock.