Five Powerful Prayers for Your Kids

Parenting is hard. My oldest is now in her “tweens” and I am encountering a whole new range of issues to deal with. Honestly, the toddler years were simpler, but that is a topic for a whole other blog. As I go through my ups and downs of parenting, I have come to learn to fall back on what is tried and true, God’s word. I now pray scripture over my children. I cannot say it was my idea, but something I learned from a godly woman much wiser than myself who has already been in my shoes. When you combine God’s word with prayer, you just know it has to have a powerful impact. So here are prayers inspired by scripture that I pray over my own children and hopefully they will inspire you to find verses that you can pray over your own kids.

From I Chronicles 4:10:

“Lord, bless my daughters and enlarge their spiritual territory, and that your hand may be with them, and that you would keep them from harm so that it may not bring them any pain.”

From Psalm 119:133:

“Keep steady my daughters’ steps according to your promise and let no iniquity get dominion over them.”

From Colossians 1:9-13:

“I pray that my daughters might be filled with the knowledge of your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that they may walk worthy of you Lord, fully pleasing you, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of you God. May they be strengthened with all might, according to your glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness. May they always give thanks to you Father, who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of your dear son.”

From Proverbs 4:20-23

“Father I pray that my daughters may be attentive to your words, and may they incline their ears to your saying. May those words never escape from their sight and may they keep them within their heart. For they are life to those who find them and healing to all their flesh. May they keep their heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

From Ephesians 3:14-19

“Father I pray that you may grant my daughters, according to the riches of your glory, to be strengthened with might through your Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith. I pray also that they, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height, to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of you Lord.”

If there are prayers from scripture that you pray over your children, feel free to share in the comments below so that we may all benefit from it.

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Christian Media: Ignoring the Nations

Before I delve into what I hope is constructive criticism of Christian media, I want to say that I am thrilled on how far Christian media has come. The choices for Christian families on movies, print media, and radio has increased significantly since I was a child. My children have access to Christian apps which in my view is one of the coolest things. These are things that were non-existent when I was a kid. However, despite my gratitude at the expansion and growth in Christian entertainment and educational tools, I do want to call attention to a problem I do not believe is getting enough attention; that is the continued use of mostly Caucasian people and culture to represent characters, whether in movies, cartoons, or print media. I don’t want to belittle the willingness and the heart that our Caucasian brothers and sisters have put into making better Christian productions, much of which has been spirit inspired, but this is an area that we can do better and I believe that for the sake of the gospel, we must do better.

My eyes were opened to this issue only recently despite my Latin American origins. For many years I was oblivious to the issues that dark skinned people face because frankly, I am pretty light skinned. As is common for most Hispanics, I have both European and indigenous blood running through my veins. Because the European side dominates I am what many of my family members would call me, “blanquita,” that is white. But I married a tall, dark, and handsome Puerto Rican and our first child is dark skinned, just like her daddy. My second child was born looking more like me with much lighter skin than her sister and upon her birth, I heard words that stung. Family members would comment on how beautiful and “blanquita” she was. The implications behind those comments hurt because I knew that not one of those people had ever said about my first child, “Look how beautiful and dark she is.”

Fast forward several years later my oldest daughter asked me a question that unsettled me more than those insensitive comments by family members. While watching a Christian cartoon on an app, my dark-skinned child asked, “Mom, why are there no people in this show that look like me? Why are there no people with dark skin?” The implication behind my daughter’s questions was this, “Isn’t the Christian message for people like me as well?” It broke my heart to think how excluded my child must have felt at that moment from Christianity. It hurt because I knew that Christ meant for his sacrifice to be for all people regardless of their background or race.

The cartoon that my child was watching was a re-telling of a Bible story in the Old Testament. It is an illustration that could have been made to look historically accurate, but it was not. It is more likely that most of the people in the Bible were dark-skinned because of the geographical region of where most Bible events took place. Therefore it only only makes sense to try to portray them as such and not continue this habit of making them Caucasian. As Christians, our reasons for doing so should go beyond any social justice cry to do so. We are called to share the gospel with all peoples and if that is our purpose, why do we continue to exclude so many from the images that we portray and the stories that we tell?

Just by sticking to historical and cultural accuracy of Biblical accounts, we will appeal to much larger audience than is currently the case. And if we portray a fictional story or an event, let’s tell the story of Hispanics, or Indians, or Native Americans or African Americans or Asians that are Christians. This also means that more Christians from different racial and cultural backgrounds need to step up to the plate. We need to tell our stories and have movies, and books, and magazines, and apps that represent our cultures and our race and the way we look. Not for our sake, but  for the sake of the audience.  I know that if my child who has had very little experience with racism and and has been raised in a Christian home could feel so excluded, it makes me wonder how other non-Caucasian children feel to hardly ever be represented within Christian media?

In I Corinthians 9:20-22 Paul tells us:

“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became as I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

If our goal is to spread the gospel to all peoples, then we need to do a better job of representing different cultures within Christian media. Kudos to those outlets that are making an effort in this area, and there are definitely some that are. However, in general, we need to be more intentional about it because in large part, we are ignoring the nations. Paul may not had had print media, nor cartoons, nor movies, but in the most basic sense, he understood that he had to conform to the culture of the people that he was reaching in order to appeal to them. If we want to reach more than just the Caucasian population, then we need to re-think how we are going to portray the Christian message through images. Those images need to speak to people and children of different backgrounds and say, “Yes, Jesus died for you too.”

“Unicorn” Rose Swirl Cake

We recently celebrated my daughter’s five-year-old birthday party and her theme of choice was unicorns. As we planned each detail, she and I came up with a beautiful birthday cake that got a lot of praises both for the design and the taste. A few of my friends have asked me for the recipe, so I thought it would be a good idea to share not only the recipes, but instructions on how to put this baby together. I am not a baker so I had to do a lot of google searches to make this happen, but hopefully my blog will provide you a one-stop shop so you don’t have to do your own research.

If you have read any of my previous blogs, you probably know that I like healthy eating. And in the past, I have made whole grain cakes, sprouted grain cakes, cakes with spinach, etc. However, I need to warn you, that is not the case for this cake. I threw in the towel and decided that this is a once a year event and I wasn’t going to worry about the excess sugar, color dye toxins, nor the evils of white flour. Although I used mostly organic ingredients and replaced some of the ingredients for healthier options, it is still a not-so-good-for-you cake, but it was sooooooo good!

Well this delicious cake was a chocolate cake because, simply, that is what my five-year-old requested. I do not use some secret family recipe that was passed on through the generations nor did I develop some amazing recipe (Did I mention that I am not a baker?). Nope. This recipe was taken from the back of a Hershey cocoa box. A few years back I had used that same recipe and I remembered people loved it so there was no need to reinvent the wheel. Thankfully for me, that recipe is still printed on their cocoa powder boxes and you can also access it online. Hershey’s own “PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE” Chocolate Cake Recipe is to die for and I highly recommend it.

In order to make my three layered 8″ cake, I had to double the recipe (and use the left overs to make cupcakes). I used mostly organic ingredients with the exception of the Hershey cocoa and the baking powder/soda. I also substituted coconut oil for the vegetable oil. (TIP: If you do use coconut oil, I recommend you warm up the milk so the oil does not clump up.) Once you are done with the cakes, put them in the fridge for a few hours before putting on the icing. Trust me, it will make your life easier.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted a cream cheese frosting because I genuinely dislike buttercream icing. At first, I was not sure if cream cheese frosting would work well for the details my five-year-old wanted on her cake, but after a little google search, I came across this recipe that uses cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and lots of powdered sugar. The recipe worked well for all the decorations just as the author said it would. Make sure to follow her advice to keep the icing from getting too warm in your hands. It makes a difference. You will either need to make two batches or double the recipe to frost the cake and for the filling. However, if you want enough for the cupcakes I mentioned above and maybe to give yourself a little wiggle room, buy enough ingredients for three batches.

I cannot take too much credit for the design of the cake because I had a lot of help from a very intentional five-year-old girl. As she and I perused through Pinterest, we couldn’t find a design we both agreed on. Instead we pulled our favorite details from various cakes to come up with her “perfect” unicorn cake (Feel free to look at our Pinterest board to see where we got our inspiration). Notice that our unicorn cake does not have a unicorn anywhere near it, but my five-year-old felt the color scheme is what made it special. The final product fit perfectly with her party decorations and motif and more importantly, she was thrilled with it.

To actually decorate the cake, you want to first cover the cake with frosting. Roses line the sides and the top is covered with multi-colored jimmies. The roses are actually called “rose swirls” as I found out. To fit four rows, I used the equivalent of a Wilton 129 drop flower tip. If you want larger roses, you can use a Wilton 2D tip (the 2D works better for the cupcakes). I recommend you get at least four tips so that you can have several bags of frosting ready to go. It will allow you to move easily from one color to the next. I didn’t have the extra tips so I had to finish one color, wash the tip, and move on to the next color. It was a bit of a pain. This video shows you exactly how to do the swirls and it is as easy as it looks. Just practice a couple of times before you put it on the cake.

Well friends, that is basically it. I hope you enjoy making this cake and good luck!

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Hope in a Failing Marriage

img_8193I realize that we have the tendency to put our best-foot forward and social media seems to fuel that tendency. We upload our best pictures, our best stories, the best part of our lives, but rarely is anyone’s life that perfect. The honest truth is that my life is nothing close to what you might see from my Facebook timeline or what you might even see from me at church. I don’t have it all together. My life is messy and it is a rollercoaster ride of falling and getting back up and I have quite a few skeletons in my closet. One of those is that my marriage came dangerously close to failing, to being another divorce statistic.

I am writing this because there are many of you who are struggling in your marriages and are suffering in silence. You are afraid of what people might think of you or what the church might think of you. Some of you might even think that divorce is the only way out. And I am here to tell you that that was me and that you are not alone.

My husband and I had a very good marriage for the first nine years. We fought sometimes and got on each other nerves, but it never got so bad that I would have the desire to leave.  We survived living in separate states for several years, the unpredictable nature of the military, his deployment to Afghanistan, a significant reduction in our income when I decided to leave my full-time job. We even survived the fact that we were “unevenly yoked.” I was an evangelical Christian and he was not, but we seemed to make it work.

And then year number ten came and my “wonderful” marriage came crushing down. There were a series of circumstances that were pushing my husband and I farther and farther apart. Before we had a chance to realize what was happening, I found myself in my bedroom with my husband asking me directly, “Do you even love me anymore?” As I sat on our bed, I looked down at my feet and said, “I don’t know.” I wanted to have compassion for this man that was only a few feet away from me, but all I had was disdain. I felt the hypocrisy of my Christianity weighing heavily on me and I felt like I was drowning and that I was slowly losing my faith.

At the time we had bought a house in PA, but I was still living in VA with my daughter at a friend’s house. He was working out of NJ because of the military. He was in the Marines at the time. Initially, we had agreed that I would come up every week for a long weekend while our house was getting renovated. However, as time progressed I found myself wanting to visit PA less and less and I was reluctant to fulfill my husband’s wishes to finally move in permanently.

I justified my actions with a million excuses. “Whenever I am home, he is always mad and upset.” “I don’t know anyone in Pennsylvania and my family and friends are here in VA.” “The students at Sunday school in VA need me and if I leave there is no teacher to replace me.” “He had the choice to stay in VA had he wanted to but because he wanted to go off to war, now he is in NJ and I am paying the price for it.” “My real estate business is thriving in VA and I can’t do it from PA.”

The only thing I did right during that time period is to go see a friend. I needed to unload completely and I knew that she loved God and that she wouldn’t judge me. She listened quietly as I went off on a rant about my husband. After listening for awhile, and maybe even losing patience with me (although she did not show it), she said, “You need to let go of the business, of the church here in VA, and move in with your husband. The Bible is clear, it is God first, then husband, then children, then church, then everything else.” I resented her words, but deep down I knew she was right. A few weeks later, my concerned parents told me the same thing during a trip with them to Puerto Rico (I later found out my husband had reached out to them for help). I still didn’t accept the correction very easily; however, eventually I would take their advice. In my stubbornness, it took several days to tell me husband, but I finally let him know that I was moving to PA and I was going to stay.

I would be lying if I said that the road to restore our marriage was easy after that. It was not. After finally moving, I would spend hours laying on the bench of my dining room table crying while my daughter was at school. I had to force myself to be kind to my husband and to make him his morning coffee. I had to force myself to put my best foot forward for my little girl. I had to force myself to sit down and read the Bible and pray. But looking back now, God rewarded my obedience and he gave me a sign of hope the day after I made the decision to move to PA. I found out I was pregnant.

One of the stresses that had led us to such a broken place was the fact that we had been trying for a few years to have a second child, but to no avail. I had given up hope.  But as I made that first step towards reconciliation and things were still very rocky between my husband and I, seeing that cross on the pregnancy test gave us both something to smile about. I always say, I should have named that child Grace. In that gesture, I felt God saying, “Yes, you sinned and walked away from me, but you have repented and now I am extending my grace towards you.”

Fast forward many years later, I found out the reason behind my husband’s apparent bad moods that had been one of the reasons I had started to pull away from him. During that time period, he had been going through a very difficult time at work. My husband has never liked to talk about his problems nor open up. While he was trying his best not to bring work issues home, his frustrations at work and the effect it was having on him emotionally was causing him to be quieter than usual and it was manifesting itself in grumpiness. I felt like he was rejecting me, but from his point of view, having me there, even though he didn’t feel like doing anything, was comforting. When I started to not want to visit him, it would cause him to fall into an even greater depression that I would interpret as disdain for me. It was a horrible cycle.

By my obedience and moving home, he began to feel comfort from it and he was able to face work head on. And his mood changed for the better. I also changed. All those feelings that had disappeared starting coming back and my love and respect for my husband has grown exponentially. Eventually he also accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. God pulled us through but it took an act of obedience on my part and my willingness to take the first step.

It was a very difficult time in both of our lives, but good came out of it. We both have learned wisdom in the ways to best guard our marriage and we both have gotten closer to God. I also learned the importance of having good godly friends (and parents) who are willing to provide that gentle but honest correction when you need it most. Reaching out was instrumental. I reached out to my friend and my husband reached out to my parents. We will be forever thankful for their wisdom.

My final words to you is that if you find yourself going through a hard time, find a trustworthy and godly person to talk to and someone that can pray with you. God has given us each other to provide edification and support and to help remind us that no matter how dark it may seem, He is still there.

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The Art of Raising Prayer Warriors: Part 1

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

img_7925_fotorI have to admit, I hated praying. For years as a professed Christian, I spent no more than five minutes each night. Every once in a while I might do ten to fifteen minutes, but seriously, looking back at it now I realize how pitiful that was. I was far from fulfilling I Thessalonians 5:17 where it says to “Pray without ceasing.” God was still graceful and answered many of my prayers, but I came to realize that my pathetic prayer life stunted my spiritual growth in multiple ways. I was not receiving the full blessing that comes with being in communion with our heavenly Father. Even though I spent a lot of time studying the Bible, my discernment, my ability to resist temptation, and my ability to fight the spiritual battle were all weakened because I lacked a real prayer life. But through the encouragement of a friend, I have come to enjoy prayer and to seek it in ways that I had never done so before.

Early this year, I started thinking of how I could encourage my children the way my friend had encouraged me to not only pray more but to love it. I don’t want my girls to waste years missing out on something so amazingly powerful like I did. I therefore meditated on it and I discovered that a lot of the same reasons I had disliked praying were the same reasons my children did not enjoy it either. I asked God for wisdom and direction on the things that I could do encourage them to become prayer warriors and now I want to share what I learned with you in a series of blogs. This is the first one.

This first strategy is simple and straight forward. You have probably heard this shared many times, but it works and I have seen the fruit of it this past year with my girls.

Make sure they see AND hear you pray. Children learn best from watching you, especially young children. It may seem that in their multiple distractions, they don’t notice what you are doing, but they do. They don’t miss a beat and if they don’t see you praying, they will wonder why they have to do it. Both my nine-year-old and my four-year-old are quick to point out any inconsistency with the things I say and the things I do. I, therefore, know that I have to model praying behavior for them if I expect them to listen to my encouragements to pray.

Just as important as it is for our kids to see us praying, it is also important for them to hear us praying. We will sometimes seek to pray in a quiet place away from the noise of our children. Or we might be tempted to quit praying when the kids interrupt us. There are certainly good reasons to do that and we do need quiet in our own personal prayer lives. However, I want to encourage you to also pray in spite of your children’s commotion. Even though it is hard for us to concentrate, it does something for them. It really does. Believe or not, they are listening.

A couple of years ago my then two-year-old was role playing with her toys. At one point in her story, one doll started praying for the others. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I was surprised because the words that came out of my child’s mouth were almost verbatim phrases she had heard me pray. Up until that point, I had not even known she had been listening, but she obviously had been.

Now I am getting to enjoy the fruits of modeling prayer for them. My four-year-old sometimes wakes up early and she will find her way to my war room (a.k.a. family room) where I pray in the mornings. She snuggles next to me. We have had enough conversations about what I am doing that she knows to try to be quiet, but many times she is not quiet. Sometimes she is asking me a million questions, but many times she is repeating everything that I say. The latter is music to my ears because I know that she is learning how to pray. And just this morning, I was praying and my older daughter was getting ready for school. She then found her way to the couch on the opposite end of me and bowed her head. There was no nagging on my part. I had not even asked her to come pray with me. She did it all on her own.

BONUS TIP: Form a prayer/play group. Yes it will be loud and yes it may be hard to concentrate but prayer is powerful in numbers. Just as important, your children will  see and hear you pray together. What a wonderful testimony for their young lives and a wonderful way for them to learn about prayer.

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Why I Stopped Praying for the Election

For far too long, I have been fretting about what the future of this nation means for my daughters. I have prayed tirelessly over our future leaders, over our laws, over this godless culture, over this coming election. I obviously want my daughters and their children to be raised in a safe and wholesome society that honors God. The word does say in I Timothy 2:1-2 that we should pray for all those in authority so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life and so that is what I was trying to do. And yet, what I saw where things getting worse instead of getting better.

Then the Lord revealed something to me through prayer groups and intercession that changed my whole outlook. He showed me that I have been focusing and putting too much trust in this nation. I have been putting my trust in men and thinking that if only the right leader was elected, things could turn around. That kind of revelation rocked my world as I have loved this country since the day that I immigrated here decades ago. This revelation shook my foundations as an American patriot. My heart sank, but as I continued to pray and search the scripture, my heart found hope.

He has shown me several things in scripture but this week, I was moved by what I read II Chronicles regarding Hezekiah. What struck me was what this king of Judah did when he first came into power. II Chronicles 29 teaches us that in the first year of his reign, Hezekiah set himself to cleanse the temple of the Lord. Think about that for a minute. He did not restructure alliances. He did not build up the military might. He did not change governing laws. He cleansed the temple and the reason that he did it is revealed in verse 10 where it says, “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us.” Hezekiah was going to get himself and his nation right before God before worrying about anything else.

In the age of grace, and post Jesus fulfilling the requirements of the law, what does that mean for us? God has been showing me that we need to cleanse our temple, both at the individual and the corporate level. He has taken me through a process of examining, and reexamining my heart and priorities (I have still work to do). But he has also showed me that while we fret over candidates, and transgenderism, and guns laws (the list goes on), we have ignored the fact that the American church, with some exceptions, is dead.

Now, I know that many will say, “How can you say that? I go to church. I teach a Bible study. Our congregation is growing.”  I will say, that is what I thought too. But when I look at the early churches in the books of Acts, I see churches that were on fire. People lived their faith, day in and day out. What I see in the American church is that we live our faith one day a week. The rest of the time, we are fretting over our professional advancement, on our kids professional advancement, and on how to maintain our comfortable lifestyles. Our churches are active maybe one or two days a week, but the other five days our churches are empty and lifeless.

Our churches are constantly pointing the finger at the sin made by unbelievers who don’t know any better, and fails to look or consider the sin within its own walls. For example, while we rail on the fact that babies are being aborted, what are we doing to reach out to women and help them provide for their children?Are we the type of church that a young, scared teenage girl would go to for help if she got pregnant out of wedlock? For every aborted baby there is a father who failed to provide. What are we doing as a church to teach boys and men how to be fathers? Are we showing grace, and mercy, and the love of Jesus or are we just bringing down judgement?

So instead of focusing so much time on praying for our nation and the coming election, God has changed my focus to pray for the body of Christ. He does not want a church that is lukewarm. He wants a church that is on fire. He wants a church that is reaching out to the poor, healing the sick, taking care of the elderly, providing for the orphans and widows, releasing people from bondage. He wants a church that is fasting and praying and interceding continually. He wants churches that are busting out the seems most days of the week doing His work. Because when that happens, we are truly living for His Kingdom and showing ourselves worthy of that citizenship. This country may one day fade away, but His Kingdom will live forever.

Thinking Before Speaking

For the summer, I decided to teach my daughters one verse of scripture per week. The idea is to pick verses of things that we as a family need to work on. This week’s verse is Proverbs 29:20:

 “Do you see a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope in a fool than with him.”

Once I explained what the word “hasty” meant, my nine-year-old daughter nailed it. She said, “It is when you speak without thinking.” How often do we say things without really thinking them through? We speak out of emotion, but do not take the time to consider how hurtful those words could be to the hearer. I hear many adults (myself included) blurt things out, but once something has been said, it is hard to take it back. I realized that thinking before speaking is a habit I can teach my daughters from a young age and that is what I decided to do.

So for this week, my young ones will be focusing on how they speak to each other and how they speak to us as parents. I will be encouraging them to take the time to think things through before proceeding verbally. This is something I also need to work on as a wife and a mother and I let them know that I too needed help in that area. I will be keeping them accountable, and they will be keeping me accountable all while maintaining God’s word at the center of it. It is a beautiful thing.

The results of our first lesson? Surprisingly, my daughters enjoyed our lesson with my older daughter commenting after we finished, “Mom, that was fun.” It certainly was not the reaction I was expecting, but I welcomed it gladly. It was not a long dragged out lesson. It was no more than 15 minutes and everyone was able to participate, even the four-year-old. Throughout the day, we have randomly been reciting the verse to help us memorize it and my oldest daughter is thrilled that she can now recite it on a moment’s notice.

Are there areas in your family dynamic that need improvement? I recommend finding the applicable scripture in the Bible and work on it together as a family. You will be surprised how much the children will actually enjoy it (as I was) because you are spending quality time with them. Also, don’t be afraid to show your vulnerabilities to your children. Just as much as they need to know that they are under your authority and need your guidance, it is helpful for them to see that you are also under authority (Jesus) and you too need His guidance.

Removing the Sin to Remove the Violence

Another school shooting. Another violent end. As I find my emotions raging, I try to bring myself down and reflect on the God that made me and the God that created us. I try to reflect on His word and His words of wisdom in times like these. Otherwise I think I might just go crazy. In my reflection, I came across these verses.

Psalm 141:4-5 Do not let my heart incline to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity,
and let me not eat of their delicacies!

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it.
Yet my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.

Let those words sink in. Meditate on them. The Psalmist here gives us the anecdote to preventing evil deeds. It is reproof and correction. He is begging for righteous men to correct him when he begins to stray so that he does not fall into wicked ways.

It is no wonder that as a nation we find ourselves in the place we are in. We have become so afraid to correct and reprove in fear of offending, that we are now letting evil run amuck. We are in a society where we teach children that everything is okay because we don’t want to ruin their sensibilities. We in turn produce children that feel entitled, selfish, and eventually some of them become wicked. And even if our children don’t initially turn out to be bad kids, we produce weak-minded children easily manipulated by evil doctrines. They are easily manipulated by the internet, by a godless entertainment industry, by wicked thoughts.

My husband had an experience recently that is telling of how far our society has strayed. While in class for a course that he is taking, he noticed that there was a young man that was continuously holding a conversation while the instructor was trying to teach. Many where annoyed by this man’s lack of respect for the professor but no one was willing to correct the young man. No one, until my husband stepped in. Yes, he chided the young man. Yes, he probably embarrassed him. My husband is a former Marine so I know it probably was not pretty, but the young man was silent for the rest of the class. And although he might be mad and embarrassed for a time, he will probably think twice before doing the same thing again in another class.

That hold incident forced me to ask the question, where were the other men or women of courage? What puzzled me even more is the thanks and pats on the back my husband got from his classmates afterwards. What once would have been expected, an adult correcting and disciplining an unruly young man, is now so out of the ordinary that my husband’s actions where a surprise. But by everyone else’s response, I could also tell that my husband did what everyone wanted done, but no one had the courage to do.

Here is the bottom line, if we do not step up and correct now, even if it is not our own children, sin will fester in their hearts. Sin is what leads men to do evil and wicked deeds, not the weapon itself. I have my opinions on gun control. Personally, I am all about background checks but I also know that unless states share criminal histories with one another, background checks are useless. I am also for stricter penalties for irresponsible gun owners (leaving a gun within reach of a child for example). However, the gun doesn’t cause a man or woman to do evil things. I know this because we own many guns, and I my neighbors own lots of guns, but neither we nor they would ever be the type to randomly shoot people.

It is a sin issue. We want to change our violent society? We need to target the sin in men’s hearts and there are many ways of doing it. One is reproving and correcting our children and youth. We also need to stop glorifying sin through music and movies. And we need to give room to the only one that can completely heal us from a sinful past, Jesus Christ. And for those that we cannot influence, we can do what the Psalmist says, “my prayer is continually against their evil deeds.”

Get Ready for War!

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Amazingly, the War Room is now the number one movie in America! My heart rejoices knowing that such a powerful movie is moving the hearts of God’s people and calling them back to a life of prayer. Prayer should not be relegated to five minutes before we go to bed. It should be a central part of our time and efforts. And that is what the movie showed.

Reflecting on the movie, and as begin to host prayer events in my house, I wanted to put together a cheat sheet, especially to those that are new to prayer to help them improve their prayer life. It will help you not only elongate your prayer, but also improve the quality of it by using Biblical principles. These are principles that I learned from women in my life that are prayer warriors that will spend hours on their and knees and who actually hear from God (not surprisingly). These are the Miss Claras in my life. Obviously, prayer does not have to follow this pattern exactly, but I have found that including these elements will help keep your heart in the right place day after day and you will see God move in your life more and more.

Get ready for War!!

PRAYER OPERATIONAL PLAN

Evaluate Your Strategic Environment

1. Praises and Thankfulness: 

Begin your prayer by praising God either through words or songs. Through your praises you will be reminded about how big He is and how little the enemy is in comparison. Through thankfulness you will strengthen your faith. You will be reminded about all the things that He has done for you and all the ways that He has blessed you. It will give you confidence that He will come through for you once again.

Psalm 69:34 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with     thanksgiving.

Psalm 95:2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Phillippians 4:6  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Psalm 9:1 ….I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

Set Up Your Defenses

2.    Forgive and Be Forgiven: 

Because prayer is such a powerful force, if you start praying more, you become a bigger target for the enemy. The enemy will look for weaknesses in your life to attack you or your family. Therefore you need to make sure your walls are built up high to keep the enemy out. All he needs is a little open crack to wreak havoc so patch up those cracks quickly. Open cracks include unconfessed sins especially a failure to forgive others.

During this portion of you prayer you want to forgive anyone you have not forgiven and you want to ask for forgiveness for your errors. Be specific, acknowledge your sins/mistakes and ask for forgiveness. It also puts you in a place of humility and helps you search your heart to make sure the petitions you ask of God are coming from a pure heart.

Matthew 6:15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 17:4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;

James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I John 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

3. Ask God for Protection:

This is essentially where you set up spiritual forces around your perimeter. You do this by asking God to protect you either through His mighty hand, through his angels, and through what Jesus accomplished by his blood (think Passover Lamb).

Psalm 91 (the whole thing) but some specifics part of it… verse 11: For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. verses 9-10: Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge, no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.

I John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Colossians 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Go on the Offensive

4. Put Forward Your Petitions:

This is the time to tell God your needs. It is the first step in going on the offensive by identifying the targets.  Give him every detail and make your requests specific. This is your time to “gossip” with God. Tell him what bothers you, what things in your life are affecting you. If you think about it that way, you will find that your prayer just turned from a five minute prayer to an hour prayer.

And think about your requests. Do they line up with the word of God? Is your request something that would please God to do based now what you know of the Bible? Asking for the latest new gadget to show off to your friends probably does not line up with the word of God, but asking for healing for a family member or asking for your financial needs to be met so that you may provide for your family and be able to give to others probably does.

I John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

James 1: 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Matthew 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

5. Let God Lead You in Prayer:

At this point you want to quiet your heart. Let God talk to you. If something comes to mind that you should pray for, then do it then. I have often found that it is at these times that God tells us what areas in our life and the lives of others need prayers. These are the times that God tells you what areas the enemy is attacking and encourages to pray more fervently for those areas. This is the time where you are actively engaging the enemy and where somewhere in the spiritual world God is focusing his forces against the enemy’s minions! This is where the supernatural happens! This is where the miracles happen!

John 4:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Luke 12:12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

READ Daniel chapter 10 to see how God’s angels actually engage in war against the enemy.

Surviving Long Runs with a Toddler

Long Run CoverIf you are like me and like to run, the only way to make that happen is to tow along the baby or toddler. Running when my little girl was a baby was a lot easier because she would sleep most of the time. However, I soon found out that running with a toddler was a whole different story. They don’t sleep and they don’t like to sit still! At least mine doesn’t. It started to become frustrating for her and therefore frustrating for me.

Like most toddlers, mine is full of energy and does not like to be strapped in for extended periods of time. That did not work well when I aimed to run at least six-miles at a time while pushing 40 lbs plus the weight of the jogging stroller, making my run even longer. The temptation was there to just stick an iPad in front of her and let her watch a cartoon or play a game so that I could complete my work-out. Although I did do that once or twice, I cringed because I wanted her to enjoy being outside as much as I do. I finally found techniques that worked. I don’t always use all of them but a combination of a few of these allows both of us to get as much out of this mommy-daughter time.

FullSizeRender1. Stop to Stretch. After the first mile or two, we always stop to stretch. It is so incredibly cute to see her copy me and try to do everything I do.  I also like to add a couple of silly things such as, “Reach your hands all the way up to the sky!” or “Hop on one foot!” or “Do the wiggle!” When we stretch together, it seems as though she sees herself as part of the run and she is more likely to be calm during most of our six-mile loop if she feels that she is part of the process.

2. Have a Conversation. I often find that my little girl will sit and enjoy nature if I talk to her about it. We look for birds, search for crazy looking trees, and point out beautiful flowers. We talk about how God created them and what our favorites are of each kind. It is also a great time to practice basic skills. If I am running near the lake, we’ll identify the colors of the kayaks or count the number of bike riders that pass us by.

I know this means I can’t turn up the volume on my iPod and zone out, but I have found that if we talk for 10 minutes, she will sit on her own and enjoy the view for another 10. Then I can enjoy a song or two. But even if she does not, she get so much out of me engaging her in conversation and if I listen, I get a lot out of it too.

3. Sing Songs. Since I lack any singing genes, this may not be so enjoyable for anyone else that may be sharing the running path with me, but my toddler gets a kick out of it. Usually, she picks the songs and we have a blast with our renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and “Jesus Loves Me.”

4. Identify Reachable Mile Stones and Let Them Play. I really hated to stop while running mostly because I hated the feeling I got when I started running again after a long break. However, when I was running by the lake, I felt a little selfish strapping my kid in and not letting THEM enjoy being there as well. Now, during our run, we make two stops. One of them is to just throw rocks into the water. The other one is to explore one of their piers. I feel this works because if she has something to look forward to, she will sit and wait. On one occasion, I was feeling very tired and wasn’t planning on doing more than two miles. However, because she insisted on hitting one of our mile stones, I managed to run four-miles instead. My little three year old ended up being a great encouragement and helped me push myself.

If you are really hard core, and don’t want the interruption in the work out. This is a good time to do push ups, squats, or burpees while your little one runs around and burns energy.

5. Have Them Run With You. Little kids are more likely to sit still if they are tired. Sometimes, and if she is up to it, she runs along side of me. Kids are imitators and especially at that age they just want to do everything you do. She enjoys the idea of “running” just like me and I like it because I feel like I am instilling in her a love for running. After a block or two of sprints and stops and pretending that she is just too fast for me she is wore out and will remain in the jogging stroller until the end of our run.

6. Bring 2 or 3 Figurines, Small Dolls, etc. Although I will not bring the iPad, I do keep a few toys handy. It grabs her attention and she will sit in the stroller and put her imagination into high gear. It is another simple way of keeping her entertained and giving me the time to keep on trekking.

7. Bring a Healthy Snack. I tend to run mid-morning which coincides with snack time. To avoid a meltdown, I always make sure to have a good healthy snack on hand for her. It gives her yet another thing to look forward to as we make progress.

Some of you may not like the idea of having interruptions while running and you certainly can ignore that advice. I myself was very hesitant at first and it is what led to my frustrations. However, I found that I get as much of a workout with the interruptions as without them. More importantly, my toddler now looks forward to our runs instead of dreading them, and that just makes life so much easier for the both of us. .