When Racism Died at a Well

The title of this post should make most of us Christians say, “well of course.” However, the word “racism” is a modern word. When we read Biblical accounts sometimes we miss modern applications because we don’t see our modern words in the text. That is exactly what happens when we read the account of the Woman at the Well (John 1:1-42).

I have read that section of scripture many times and I have generally focused on the words of Jesus introducing salvation to this Samaritan woman. It is a beautiful story, but my previous casual reading of this text made me miss so much that is buried in these ancient words. But that changed recently when I was given the opportunity to teach this account to the youth group at my church.

About a year ago, I came across a little paragraph in my Chronological Bible that discussed some of the cultural realities of the time and I remember being blown away by how Jesus was turning the prevalent sexism of his time on its head (more about this in a later blog). But it was only recently, in preparing to teach the youth that the racial aspect of this account jumped out at me.

To see it, you have to understand the racial realities of Biblical times. By the time Jesus was walking on this earth, there was a centuries-old feud between Samaritan’s and Jews. When the Israelis had been taken captive by the Assyrians in approximately 722 BC, their captors had brought in colonists who intermarried with the few Israelis that had been left behind. This intermixed group of people would later be known as the Samaritans. Fast forward over a hundred years later, and a remnant of full blooded Jews had been allowed to return to their homeland by the Babylonians. This group of full-blooded Jews and their descendants came to despise the Samaritans and resented the fact that these Samaritans were now racially and religiously intermixed. (For a little more detailed history of this conflict read here.)

Enter Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus was a rabbi, and rabbinical standards of that time dictated that any “good” Jew would go nowhere near a Samaritan.  Why? Because Samaritans were considered “half-breeds.” When I asked my youth group class what that sounded like using modern terms, a very perceptive junior high student responded, “racism.” The most “religious” of Jews hated Samaritans so much that if they needed to travel between Judea (in the south) and Galilee (in the North), they would travel west into Perea and go completely around Samaria which was sandwiched in between Judea and Galilee. Considering that travel time by foot was about two and a half days from Judea to Galilee, to take such a detour would have been very taxing. The hate ran deep.

Another common belief by religious jewish leaders at the time was that anything a Samaritan touched was unclean. That means that drinking out of the same vessel as a Samaritan would have been unthinkable. When I reflected on this, it brought to mind the American segregation era when blacks were not allowed to drink from the same water fountains as whites. Yes, the prejudices against the Samaritans can only be described as good old fashioned racism.

But what does Jesus, the rabbi do? For starters, he didn’t take the long route through Perea to get from Galilee to Judea. He went straight through Samaria. The text actually said that he needed to go through Samaria and many Biblical commentators rightly point out, I believe, that the need was a spiritual one. He had a divine appointment, even if the intended party had no idea what awaited her. The account says that he reached the Samaritan city of Sychar and he sat at the well and asked the Samaritan woman for a drink. With the simple words, “Give me a drink,” he broke down centuries of cultural, social, and racial biases. Why? Because by asking the woman for a drink, the King of kings was telling the woman, “I am willing to drink out of the same vessel as you because to me, you are not unclean, you are worthy.”

Obviously, none of us are worthy. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. Our worthiness comes from Christ alone and as He proceeds to talk with the Samaritan woman, he invites her to drink from His living water to eternal salvation. But his actions stand in stark contrast to the corrupted doctrines and biases of the religious leaders of his time. No wonder the Pharisees hated him so much, but Jesus would have none of it. If anyone had any right to feel superior to any other human being, it would have been Him. And yet, He did not act superior. A couple of years later in the ultimate act of humility he would die for all of us, for all races and ethnicities, even for those that hated him the most.

In this beautiful account of the woman at the wall, the actions of Jesus are a good reminder to all of us that we have to check our own prejudices and biases at the door when interacting with others. There is no room for racism in Christianity. On the contrary, Christianity is about love, love for even those we consider “unworthy.”

So what of the Samaritans? I am not sure, but I do know that a word that once was considered so vile by so many now has a positive connotation. Thanks to Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, we now associate Samaritans with something really good. There is even a law named after it, the good Samaritan Law, to protect those just trying to be good neighbors. But what I want to remember when I think about the word Samaritan is my King, and how he loved us all then and how he loves us all now.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Letters from the Forgotten


A few of the women here at New Vision Community Church minister to female prisoners in Nuevo Laredo, a town in Mexico right across the border from here in Laredo, TX. They go there every Saturday morning to share the gospel and to comfort and bring a little joy to a dark and somber place. And although I am unable to cross the border (didn’t bring my passport), my girls and I were still able to take part in this very important ministry.

My father, the pastor, asked me if I would help respond to letters some of these women had written. I volunteered to do six and in my typical father fashion, he left me eleven to write. As I opened each letter and peeked into each woman’s soul, my heart ached for them. These were all women that had come to accept Jesus Christ in prison. They had experienced liberty in repenting, but they were still bound by their circumstances. They will have to finish their time served before they could be free from their jail cell.

Each woman had a different story to tell. Some just needed to vent, others desperately asked for prayers so that they could return to their families, their children. One insisted she was innocent, others admitted that they were guilty and asked God for help in becoming better people. While being on the outside, it is easy to look at these women and judge. Only God knows if they are truly repentant, but I am convinced that the abuse, the loneliness, the rejection, the extreme poverty many of these women endured played a significant role in propelling them to their current situation.

My girls coloring verse pictures for the prisoners.

Regardless of our feelings about why these women are there, Jesus has instructed us Christians to minister to those in prison (Matthew 25) and I was thankful to be part of it. These are women, that in many ways, have been forgotten by society and even by the church. I have to admit that at first it felt a little overwhelming, especially since I had already committed myself to helping in other ways and I don’t like writing letters by hand. But after reading each of the women’s letter, I felt compelled to respond. And since being here is suppose to help teach our entire family the importance of service, I asked my ten-year-old and five-year-old to help me. I had them color scripture cards to accompany my letters.

The letters and cards were done and we turned them in. A few days later, the woman in charge of the prison ministry thanked me and told me what an amazing blessing it had been to the women. They were overjoyed to have received letters and were able to take them back to their cells. I have to admit that I felt a little guilty that I first saw this important task as just another chore, but I am glad that I followed through with it. I do hope and pray that with God’s help, I was able to write the words that would help them in their spiritual journey.

I may have a chance to write a few more letters with the remaining weeks I have in Laredo and after I leave, I will go back to PA and continue doing the things that I do. However, there will be two women here in Laredo that will diligently make their way across the border every Saturday to minister to new and old souls. I am thankful for their service and their example of Christ’s love.

 

Family Mission

One of the poorest areas in Laredo.

Early this year, my husband and I decided that we needed to do something a bit out of the ordinary for the sake of our girls. Like many American kids in their generation, they carry an entitlement attitude and have the expectation that we exist only to cater to them. This is despite our best efforts to not spoil them, to not buy them too many toys, to often say no, and in many ways to make life a little difficult for them. Honestly, our girls do not truly have a concept of hard work nor do they know what it means to experience need. So we decided to give them an experience that would put both of those things front and center. We decided to spend a month working at my parents’ ministry in Laredo, TX.

Laredo is a not-so-small city right on the border with Mexico. Although you will see some wealth, there is also poverty so extreme, that you wonder whether you are still in the United States, but you are. And my parents’ church has a mission in Laredo to reach out to the poorest of the poor.

Well, today was our first day and we hit the ground running. Our first task was to fill grocery bags of food that will be given to the elderly later in the week. We had to sort through various boxes and make sure each grocery bag had an adequate mix of goods. It was quite the operation, pulling boxes off shelves, taking empty boxes to the recycling, moving filled bags to storage, etc. But the most beautiful part of it all was seeing the determined look on my daughters’ faces as they diligently accomplished each of their tasks. It felt good to do this as a family and know that our efforts would bless the lives of so many people. This took up most off our morning.

After a wonderful lunch of deep-dish pizza, made by my mom in the church kitchen for us and all the volunteers, we went to Ein Gedi Ranch. Ein Gedi is a small working farm owned by the church in the middle of one of the poorest and most forgotten areas of Laredo. It was sad to find out that people will use this community as a dumping ground for their garbage. But this isn’t a land fill. There are families, children that live, work, and play here. And thanks to Ein Gedi, the children have a safe place to come play, to learn, and to eat.

While at Ein Gedi, we distributed shoes to children that had attended Vacation Bible School the week before. Each family waited patiently to receive their shoes while the local school district provided lunch. The church has a working relationship with the school district in their efforts to make sure poor kids are still getting at least one nutritional meal a day during the summer break. Since there were many volunteers helping with the efforts we let our girls play outside. They loved seeing the ducks and chickens and playing with the dogs that live there ignoring the outside temperature of 100 degrees.

After Ein-Gedi, there was still more work to be done. We returned to the main church to sort boxes and boxes of donated goods. Each donated appliance had to be tested to make sure it worked. Other items had to be thoroughly cleaned before going into its respective bins, and some items would just need to be tossed out. My husband pulled the boxes from the truck into the sorting room. My ten-year-old worked with grandma to price items that would be sold in the church store to raise money for their ministry. My five-year-old was the runner. She was sent to deliver things like tape to the church secretary or plastic forks to the church kitchen. I loved how serious to took this important mission taking off in a full sprint every time she was sent out.

We finished our day by making a run to Wal-Mart to buy shoes for the kids who did not get shoes earlier in the day at Ein-Gedi (their shoe-size had not been available). Their shoes will be delivered on Friday.

All in all, by the end of the day we were all exhausted and maybe even a little cranky. We will be sleeping soundly tonight, and hopefully we will be well-rested to start this all over again tomorrow.

 

Essential Oil Fit for a King!

I love my essential oils. I am by no means an expert on them, but I use them a lot for medicinal purposes, for repelling unwanted pests, and just because they smell so good!  You can therefore imagine my excitement to find out that the oil Mary of Bethany used to anoint Jesus’ feet was spikenard, an oil you can order right off of Amazon! (Technically, it is not exactly the same, but the raw ingredient is.) More importantly, I enjoyed finding out more about this oil and its significance in the Biblical record.

In all honesty, when I had read this account before, I had not paid much attention to the type of oil, and if I had, I would have been clueless about what it actually was. Most of us have heard of myrrh and frankincense (gifts that the Magi gave to Jesus as a young child), but I don’t really think spikenard has made into our every day language. However, as I was preparing to teach a Bible study to my daughter and her friends regarding this Biblical account, I was compelled to pay attention to every detail. One of those details was the use of spikenard.

As I poured my energy and time into this study, I wanted to find out what spikenard was, how it was used by the ancients, and what its significance was in the anointing of Jesus. Spikenard was a highly expensive oil or ointment (as mentioned in scripture and confirmed by outside sources) derived from a plant that was used not only by the Jews, but many peoples from the Middle East and Asia. It was imported from the areas of present day India, China, and Nepal as the plant is native to the Himalayas. The ancients used it to season food, prepare bodies for burial, medicinal purposes, and as a perfume (See Charles Hatchet, On the Spikenard of the Ancients and Raoul McLaughlin, Rome and the Distant East.)

Jews used it as a component in incense burned at the temple in Jerusalem and apparently to bury their dead. Although I could not find first-hand sources, several online articles mentioned how Jews in Biblical times used it as one of the primary ingredients to prepare bodies for burial along with myrrh. Because nard was produced as an oil and/or ointment, it would allow more powdery substances like myrrh to stick to the body. In the John 12 account of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet with this expensive oil, Jesus himself declares in verse 7 that “she has kept it for the day of my burial” (HCSB version).

Regardless of what it was used for, Nard was highly valued and used by upper classes, including kings. For example, Spikenard appears to have be the primary fragrance in a perfume found in King Tut’s tomb. Therefore, it is only fitting that such an oil would be used to anoint the feet of the King of Kings! And if the oil was one of the primary ingredients for preparing bodies for burial, it brings even more significance to the humble act performed by Mary of Bethany. It shows that she knew exactly what she was doing, and was the first of Jesus’ disciple to acknowledge that he was indeed headed to the cross.

There is also an interesting correlation between the cross and how this oil is used today. While in hospice care, it is used to help patients transition from life to death because spikenard has been shown to relieve stress and anxiety, to calm both body and mind (See OilsandPlants.com and this article). When I read this, it brought my thoughts back to Jesus and what he must have been going through in the days prior to the crucifixion. We know from the record in Luke 22, shortly before his arrest, that Jesus was in agony over what was to come, enough so that he was sweating blood. If we backtrack only a few days to when Mary anointed his feet and filled the room with the scent of nard, I can only assume that the weight of what was before him was already weighing heavily on him. And I wonder, could the nard have been a small detail in how our Heavenly Father (through Mary’s loving action), was helping Jesus relieve some of that anxiety? We won’t know for sure on this side of heaven, but I do wonder. But even if the scent of nard was not physically helping to relieve some of his stress, Mary’s willingness to minister to him in that way certainly was.

Today, you can find spikenard as an essential oil. It is most likely not in the same form as it was used back in Biblical times as modern distillation processes were not existent (although Hatchet makes a good case that the Indians had a primitive form of distillation that they used to produce the nard ointment/oil). However, current research, some of which is in line with how the ancients used it for medicinal purposes, shows that nard essential oil can be used for a variety of purposes. Personally, I am just enjoying putting a few drops in my diffuser along with orange essential oil and meditating on the Bible record, but I also wanted to pass along this information for anyone that might need it.

 

Benefits of Using Nard Essential Oil

Fights bacteria and fungus

Antiinflammitory

Relieves anxiety, calming the mind and body

It boosts the immune system

Promotes hair growth

Relieves insomnia

Lessens sensitivity of nerves to pain

Reduces fever

Helps eliminate body odor

Provides relief from cough and other respiratory problems.

See these articles for more information on how to use it. Remember to do your due diligence especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding when using essential oils.

Spikenard Stimulates the Immune System and Relaxes Both Body and Mind

Spikenard Essential Oil, Uses and Side Effects

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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.”

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.