Thursday, January 31, 2013


We want to introduce you to our good friend, Tana Carder. Tana is happily married to Bryan Carder, and is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom to Sean, age seven. The sixth of sixteen children, ages fifteen to forty, thirteen of whom are adopted, Tana is very familiar with adoption, needless to say! We so appreciate her gift of wisdom as a mother. She hopes that her parenting and insights convey the love and grace of Jesus with which she has been blessed.

Punishment and Discipline

Is it really just a matter of semantics, or does the difference between these two words go to the very heart of family dynamics and the relationship between parent and child? I love this post from Beth Templeton that uses the word 'training' instead of discipline as an alternative to punishment, because it sweeps any possible argument about semantics away. However, I know that 'discipline' is a popular term in Christian parenting, so today that's the word I'll discuss.

What Do Punishment and Discipline Mean?

Punishment is "suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution" or "a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure" or even "severe, rough, or disastrous treatment." 
Discipline is, "punishment" or "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character" or "control gained by enforcing obedience or order" (Merriam-Webster). 
It's easy to see why the lines between the two are blurry. From a parenting point of view, though, I think we can have more clarity. To put it simply, discipline guides and teaches, while punishment exacts retribution for the purpose of behavior modification. Discipline is a parent's effort to discover the why's of a child's poor choices and help them to make positive heart changes (that tend to lead to behavior changes) while protecting the parent-child relationship and encouraging the child in his identity in Christ. Let me  give you a recent example before we continue.

What does Punishment look like?

Recently on the internet an image went around of a child holding a sign explaining that due to his ingratitude for an action figure that he received at church, he was forced to sell the Playstation 3 his parents had planned to give him and use the money to buy toys for less fortunate children. 

I'm sure his punishment taught him that in the future he should pretend to be grateful even when he isn't to avoid future suffering, loss, and public humiliation. What punishment did not teach the boy was that even if he doesn't like a gift, he can be truthfully grateful that someone cared enough about him to give him something and react graciously to protect the giver from hurt feelings without pretending. 
He also most likely learned that his parents are bullies who care more about being seen as 'effective' parents than they do about his heart. They probably are not, but that's the message that punishment sends. It says, "I am more powerful than you are, and if you do not please me, I will hurt you, and shame you, and make you pay." 
Discipline, on the other hand, would possibly have had the parents taking the child aside privately, (because love does not shame the beloved), guiding him to think about how he would feel if the roles were reversed, and getting him involved in willingly doing something positive to make things right with the giver (restitution, not retribution). I'm not sure what, because I think it would be important to find out what the child felt was the path to restitution. It's possible that since this was a gift from church, no one else was personally involved until his parents posted it for internet scrutiny. It still would have been a great opportunity to teach the boy to say, "Thank you so much for thinking of me," or, "That's so generous of you, thank you!" when presented with an unwanted gift. This would have taught the boy that others' feelings are as important as his own without causing needless suffering and damage to his relationship with his parents.

What Does the Bible Say About Punishment? 

Let's take a look at Proverbs 13:24, 
"He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." (NIV) 
It's fair to say that many parents choose to define 'discipline' as 'punishment' when they read this verse. However, I believe the use of the word 'rod' is a reference to guiding sheep with a shepherd's rod. No where are we led to understand that the shepherd uses the rod to hit or cause pain to the sheep. He uses it to nudge and to guide them in the right direction, or possibly holds it out beside them like a safety rail so they don't walk off a cliff (sheep aren't very clever). He also uses it to ward off predators, to defend his sheep from harm. A shepherd who didn't use his staff to guide and protect his sheep wouldn't have many sheep for very long. Verses 1-4 of Psalm 23 describe what the Shepherd does, and I think we can use that as our example of how to use the proverbial rod.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
 He lets me rest in green meadows;
 he leads me beside peaceful streams.
 He renews my strength.
 He guides me along right paths,
 bringing honor to his name.
 Even when I walk
 through the darkest valley,
 I will not be afraid,
 for you are close beside me.
 Your rod and your staff
 protect and comfort me." (NLT)

He leads his sheep, he guides them on right paths, he protects and comforts. He does not use his rod and staff to exact retribution on his sheep for acting like sheep. 

We are Free From the Fear of Punishment (so our kids should be, too). 

 1 John 4:16-18 says, 
"We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." (NLT)

If we are free from fear, how can we want anything less for our children? I don't want to send my child the message that he is free from fear of punishment from God, but he had better be watching out for punishment from me! I know I don't love perfectly, but my love is growing more perfect as I live in God, so there is no place for fear in my relationship with my child. That means that there is also no place for punishment, only the training and instruction that comes from the Lord.

And in Romans 8:1-4 we see that, 

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." (NLT)

Punishment is "a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure." If there's no condemnation because the just requirement of the law is fully satisfied by Christ's sacrifice, then there can be no punishment. If God isn't condemning and punishing me, then when I condemn and punish my child, I am not reflecting God's grace. I am setting a poor example for my child to follow.   

Reflecting God's Grace

As a mother, I'm not trying to fit my child into a “good Christian” mold, I'm striving at every turn to show him Jesus (to guide him along right paths), to put my son's hands into Jesus' (so that even when he walks through the darkest valley, my boy will never be afraid), to let Christ's grace pour through me to anoint every aspect of Sean's life at every opportunity. I prefer the word discipline over punishment, because it implies teaching and instruction. It prizes restitution over retribution. It means that I will be giving my child the tools to be free to do the right thing because that's what is in his heart due to his identity in Christ, instead of behaving properly because he is bound by fear. 'Training' is even better, because it erases any possible ambiguity between words and definitions. Coaches train athletes, preparing them to play well and be victorious. I want to be the kind of parent who trains my child, preparing him to live abundantly and be victorious in Jesus. I pray the same abundance and victory for you and your children, and I hope that my thoughts have been useful to you in your parenting journey.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013


From Beth Templeton:
I love analogies. Years ago I read an analogy comparing parenting a teenager to flying a kite and it has stuck with me through all these years of parenting. Maybe you will find it helpful too. 
So, picture this with me-- a colorful kite playfully jumping and soaring in the wind. It's a sight to behold! I know every summer on our annual beach vacation someone is flying a kite. It's the kind of thing that makes you stop and point with a smile, "Hey, look!" It is a beautiful thing, a kite high up in a blue sky. Something to be remarked upon and enjoyed for sure. I think any time we see something that is doing what it was created for, we can't help but rejoice. A kite is made to soar and when it does, it is a delight to all who see it! Even more so with our children. We know they were created to enjoy the freedom of dancing in the winds of their purpose and destiny, and we parents do anything and everything we can to help that to happen. It is our goal.

Let's Go Fly a Kite!
Flying the kite takes a careful hand doesn't it? First, we put in quite a bit of effort to get it off the ground. Often it takes multiple tries, including some pretty tiring runs as we work to launch that little triangle of fabric. The effort is definitely more easily done in team, with two people working together. And in time and with effort, we begin to see that colorful fabric climbing into the distance. We take off running, with a constant awareness of how taut we hold the string that connects us to the kite. If we pull it in too tight, the kite begins to plummet. If we let it go too slack, we get the same result-- loss of altitude. So we have this constant awareness of the kite, but really once it gets up there and the winds are favorable, we have the freedom to give our attention elsewhere. Still, even when we no longer are having to run, we stay connected, holding that string oh so carefully. 

The Winds of Change
It is not unusual though for the winds to change after some time. Maybe a gust comes along with a downdraft, or a storm comes through. Maybe we've gotten distracted and not been aware the kite is struggling and find our selves having to quickly adjust the string, pulling it in tighter so it can gain height once more. Some of us are gripping multiple strings attached to different kites, all needing our attention at once! Or we may even realize our kite has fallen to the ground, so we run quickly to it, lifting it up, gently repairing any damage, and once again launch it to soar. And sometimes we see that what is most needed is time of restoration for our kite, mending and special care. But always, our goal is to launch, to release.
The thing about flying a kite is that it requires our constant awareness, occasional more focused times of effort, and a steadfast connection-- So,
Father, help us to parent our teens well. Teach us when to pull them in closer, tightening our grip on the string, and when to release them to try higher altitudes. Cause us to be ready when they plummet to earth, mending their wounds with compassion rather than condemnation. We want to parent with skillful hands, God. May our children soar!

Monday, January 21, 2013


From Susan Hillis:
I wake up, feeling immense relief welling up inside, at the magnificent resolution of a monumental problem.  Then I realize, "Oh, it's all a dream."-- Or, is it?
  • I am at a conference of 10,000's of people, and I am about to speak (like the Passion Conference I wrote about at the Georgia Dome where 60,000 young people gathered.) I've lost my bright aqua blue skirt! I had laid it down on the back of some chair as I was juggling my stuff and now cannot find it.
  • I then madly try to find clothes and shoes in the hotel closet. I find a brown dress in the closet there that looks nice but the only shoes that work are beige tall boots that are a little scuffed -- but they'll do, I decide.
  • Finally dressed,realize I've lost my purse with my flash drive -- so don't have the prepared talk that I am supposed to give to this crowd! I go to a basement room full of computer docks, with about 80 or so speakers sitting at them -- I walk the aisles looking for my name, "Hillis," on the list of names taped to the upper left of each screen, and I can't find it. Finally, I find a desk with an attendant, who goes to a set of drawers, for which she references a master list of names and numbers -- "the H's are behind 216," she says.  Then she shows me section 216 is a small drawer; it has about 3 inches of horizontally placed business cards behind it -- so I search for my name, but can't find it.
  • Finally I STOP.
  • I realize all I've lost -- clothes, shoes, purse, flash drive, talk, any record to retrieve my talk -- and I wonder.
  • "Maybe God wants to replace what I've lost with something better."
  • Then I see, remembering in my dream what God has been teaching me lately, "He already has given you a better replacement...He has given you the Galatians message -- called to adoption, and the word message-- 'you are pillars.' Just use what He has given you."  

Lord, reveal to me Your message through this dream today (I do not see all dreams as messages but I did see and sense that this one had a message).  I see several:
  • The Galatians message is in fact sooo exciting! Starting in just chapters 1 and 2: we, like Paul, experience  
      A Call (from God) 
      A Connection (at the right time, with other solid believers       whom God uses in our lives)
      A Confirmation (through other believers of God's call to us)
      A Crucifixion (I am crucified with Christ)
      A Change (YET I LIVE!).
  • And the pillar message is this: We live life as God's pillars -- strong, tall supports for God's work in process in our spheres of influence. Though we must be connected with other pillars in order to be safe and effective, we must remember that our essence is that we reach heavenward, connected most foundationally to our heavenly Father.
  • And I decide, with this bubbling relief, that there is immeasurable excitement when we live with eyes to see that God has already given, replacing what we lost with something better.  And I for one, will  praise Him!
Lord, thank you that you replaced my self-dependence with
 a better dependence on You.  
Lord, thank you that you replaced my plan for my life with Your better plan for my life.
Lord, thank you that you replaced my view of family with Your better view of family.
Lord, thank you that you replaced my view of greatness with Your better view of greatness.
Lord, thank you that you replaced my view of my identity with Your better view of my identity.
Lord, thank you that you replaced my view of people with Your better view of people.

May we all have eyes to see in life what I saw so vividly in my dream, with only one change:  It is not maybe God wants to replace what I lost with something better.  It is this:  Definitely, God wants to replace what I lost with something better.  Because of this, we do not fear losing all. What we should fear is only losing some. Like the plaque I saw this week end at the Gwinnett Historical Country Courthouse at a dear friend's wedding, hung in a small section which memorialized soldiers from the County who had fallen in the line of battle, it had only six words....3 on the first line, 3 on the second, and it read:


And I, for one, praise You that when I look at life, generally I see, by God's grace, He has placed me in the second category more than in the first.  That is, when we are willing to give or lose all, what we receive back from our Lord is infinitely and predictably.....better. Not just is best. Best for His kingdom and His glory and His purposes in His world, upheld by His love and His power. 

If you have time before you move on with your day, take a few minutes to listen and join in with Chris Tomlin's wonderful song-- LAY ME DOWN

"I lay me down, I'm not my own, I belong to You alone....
Lay me down, lay me down...
Ohohoh...hands on my heart, this much is true:
There's no life apart from You...

(and because of this, we sing the bridge:)

It will be my joy to say,
It will be my joy to say,
It will be my joy to say,


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Many of you already know our friend Shelly Roberts from her work with the ABBA Fund, offering support and resources for adoptive families. Or you may know her from her wonderful devotional book for adoptive mothers, 31 Nuggets of Hope, a must have by the way. What a gift she is to our adoptive and foster communities! As you can see from this photo, she is the mother of 5 treasures, and we know you will be blessed by the word she is sharing with us today!


We just began a new year.  As 2012 came to a close I couldn’t get over how many times people shared that they were in need of a new year.  The past had been hard.  Many times full of grief and pain.  They “hoped” that the new year would be different.  Somehow it would bring with it NEW HOPE.  Can you relate?
As adoptive and fostering parents we are often faced with circumstances so far out of our control.  We grow downright weary.  These precious children that we said YES to many times have needs we can’t possibly meet on our own.  Our limitations can cause us great anxiety.  It’s easy to become discouraged, overwhelmed, and feel like a failure.

Rest often feels like some far-off-fantasy.  It doesn’t have to.


TRUE REST is fully available to you and to me.  It’s something this world can’t offer us.  Oh, but we get tempted to think so. Getting your child into the “right specialist” can’t produce it.  Landing that sought-after job won’t guarantee it. Friends can’t even supply it.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 62:5

Moms and Dads ... TRUE REST ... the kind you and I so desperately need can come only from God, our Father.  In HIM is where our souls can find that deep, fulfilling rest that our weary hearts need.

Perhaps you’re excited to have a new year ahead.  Maybe some things that your new year is bringing has you scared half silly.  If so, you’re in good company.

I’m Momma to five blessings.  Our kids all ganged up on us and in one year’s time our oldest got married, the next one is graduating high school, next one down just got his driver’s permit, next one down has been facing some pretty significant learning challenges and the baby in the family started Kindergarten.  Whew!  I’ve had to learn to seek out my Father for REST.  And I can tell you that He is SO GOOD to provide it.

Moms, sometimes rest is found by shutting yourself in the bathroom and just crying out to your Heavenly Father.  He’s THERE.  He’s ABLE.  He wants to MEET with you.  Dads, sometimes rest is found by taking a few moments on your lunch break and shutting out all the voices and pressures from the world so you can hear from Him.  Those moments with the Father can provide just what we need to keep going another few hours.  Your Father doesn’t see you as a failure.  He doesn’t see you as inferior.  He sees you just as He CREATED YOU ... HIS CHILD.  You are HIS.  He loves you so deeply that your mind can’t even comprehend it.  

He alone offers to be your ABUNDANT HOPE.


The wedding was beautiful.  Our family gained a wonderful daughter.  I’m finding joy in planning another graduation.  But there’s something more the Lord has asked of us.  Something that we said “no” to for a long time.  Yet Faithful Father is so patient!  He pursues His children.  He never gives up!  This spring we’ll be cleaning up our oldest son’s room and giving it a fresh coat of paint.  You see, Father asked us to say YES again.  This time in a new way.  We thought He was done after we adopted twice.  Then last fall He asked us to shed more layers of comfortable.  He pierced our hearts for those who need a safe place to go, if only for awhile.  I will need to learn to be a Momma like I never have before.

So the new year ahead scares me just a bit.  But more than that it draws me right back to my Father - in even deeper ways.  He has so much to teach me.  I’ll be needing to make sure and take those frequent moments to seek Him out to find TRUE REST ... because of HOPE.  I don’t have to worry about the future.  He already knows every detail.  In HIM I find my abundant source of HOPE.  He’s proven Himself faithful all of my life - there’s no reason to doubt Him now.

Do you need to find REST?  Embrace Him as your TRUE HOPE!

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Saturday, January 12, 2013


From Beth Templeton:

Parenting is a pretty effective classroom I have found. Boy have I learned a lot about myself, about relationships, and about God, directly as a result of being a mother. Today I want to share something that I have found very helpful in facing innumerable parenting situations over the years-- that is, the benefits of being a responsive rather than a reactive parent. 

I'll tell you up front that I've tried both ways-- reacting and responding. I'm not even sure these two words are exactly the right ones to use, but they have been helpful to me as a parent in differentiating between two very different parenting modes. The difference may seem subtle, but in the reality of our family life, as well as the realities of my own inner life, the line is not as fine as it might seem. 

Intense Needs-- The Highlight Effect

It doesn't take me long to tell the difference once I'm in the middle of a situation. Certainly Stephen and I have had ample opportunities over the years to recognize the difference between meeting a situation with one of our children by reacting, or by responding. When I react, I am operating on a more base level. I allow my initial feelings to direct my actions. For instance, feelings of anxiety, fear, stress, frustration and anger are pretty common reactions for a parent in certain more intense seasons. This is a reality for all parents, but the needs of children who have experienced relinquishment and all that often accompanies that sad fact of their past, put a new spin on the word intense!
And I know that many of you have little ones who deal with RAD, FAS, oppositional behaviors, learning disabilities, physical disabilities...... 

I've tried to describe the difference between parenting our adopted children and our birth children over the years. My friends who have not adopted will often say that what we are dealing with is no different than their situations, or of someone that they know. It is hard to explain, because on the surface it doesn't sound that different. But for me it is as if someone has taken a situation and put it down on paper, and then come along with a bright yellow highlighter and colored over the words. 
There is something different-- it is highlighted, more intense, more urgent. It stands out and draws my parental attention in a more alarming way. And I realize that my feelings, my reactions, are also highlighted. They are more intense, more loaded with fear for this child's future and a deep awareness of the healing work that has yet to be complete. Maybe it is because I see that my biological children have, underneath the difficult issue we are facing together, a solid foundation of unshakable truth-- they know they are loved, they are safe, they are accepted. But when our adopted children are in the midst of a similar life-issue I sense a vulnerability that simply does not exist in our birth children. A behavior that in one may be simply an immature expression of a desire, or a character trait that needs some direction, or a season of testing, in the other is an expression of the residual fear of being rejected, of being unsafe, or of an illogical drive to remain in survival mode long after the need to do so is over.

Reacting to the Child vs. Responding to the Lord

So, when I turn my mothering attention to the issue at hand and I react rather than respond, I find I am operating more unconsciously, and inevitably some level of fear is involved. And let me tell you from experience, parenting in fear simply does not work! It does not work for you, and it does not work for your child. 
But when I respond to my child and the need at hand, I realize that I am motivated by love, my love for my child, and even more important, God's love for me and my child. I am consciously aware and intentional about my actions. Responding involves me making choices about parenting decisions based on what I know to be true, not based on what I am feeling. As I often tell my children, feelings are real, but they very often do not tell the truth. Real and True are not the same thing!
When I respond I am able to stay in line with our family's values and vision. It is, I suppose, a matter of control. For it is so very true I have learned, the only thing I can control is myself! And believe me my friends, I have put a good effort into trying to control my children and the situations we deal with! But what I have found is that when I put my effort into controlling what I can, (that is me!) my children and even sometimes the situation we are in the middle of, come into alignment with our values and vision. As a lover of Jesus, I have a PEACE available to me, not based on my quiet time that morning or my good performance as a mother, but purchased and made available to me because of what Jesus did. So, as I access that peace and as I choose to respond to the Holy Spirit, rather than react to the situation, that same peace is diffused into the situation. Pretty exciting stuff!

Responding Results in Greater Freedom

Do you see this substantial difference I am talking about? Subtle on one hand, but significant in the aftereffect. 
With reaction often comes guilt, shame, blame, fear and anger. But when I respond to the Holy Spirit and God's truth, I experience peace and patience, and I find acceptance of my child and helpful understanding come quickly after. Responding results in greater freedom, for me and for my child. Reacting seems to narrow my options for moving forward as a parent, and therefore limiting my ability to help my child move forward. But when I respond to the presence of God in me and heed His voice of life, I find there is literally always a way forward. Always. My emotional reaction seems to shut doors and hide much needed answers, but my choice to respond to the Lord rather than react to my child's behavior opens pathways of life for both me and my child. And, answers for what to do in the situation at hand are revealed!

I'll end this post with some practical things I do to help me stay in responding mode, rather than reacting mode. Maybe some of you would be willing to share the things you do in the comment section!

1. Write down the scriptures and promises God has given you over the years about your family and your children. Keep them someplace where you will see them regularly.
2. Put on worship music.
3. Partner with a friend who will remind you of the Truth when you are in a tough time.
4. Speak the truth to yourself, out loud when possible. 
5. Take a break. Tell your child you will talk a little later. Then take whatever time you need to put fear in it's place and access the peace that is your inheritance.
6. Rehearse to yourself and your family what God has done, rather than focus on all that you are waiting for Him to do. This will build your faith for the things you are trusting Him for. 

Monday, January 7, 2013



My heart is brimming with joy and awe and gratitude over the abundant blessings I have received over the last several weeks.  Oh, there have been some challenges, too.  Anytime you have a big family and everyone is home and largely spending unstructured time together, conflicts will inevitably rear their ugly growls.  (It has been happening ever since Genesis....that classic textbook of dysfunctional family life being redeemed!)  But this is not what is striking.  What is overwhelmingly clear is this:  
God does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. 
The first time I ever remember reading or praying this verse (Ephesians 3:20) was over 35 years ago, when I was overcome with a rather obsessive crush on Brian Hillis.  I had never met anyone who loved God and loved people the way this sophomore college student at UNC did. I wanted to marry someone JUST LIKE HIM. He was way up on a high pedestal, way out of my league, but I began to pray, 
'God, you can do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all we can ask or imagine. Would you please, if it is Your will, help Brian Hillis to fall in love with me. 

Well, the answer to that prayer led to so much more...'immeasurably more.' He did eventually fall in love with me (it took him six months!) and we were married. Then when people would ask me, 'how many kids do you want to have,' I would quip flippantly, 'I think I could take 12 disciples.' If I had known then what I know now, I would likely have had a different response! But the Lord has given us 12....the legal 11 (our current 10 plus our 1 son Jonny, who moved to heaven at age 9), and the 1 "illegally adopted," as he calls himself, our dear George, who moved into our family as Trevor's best friend, a nonbeliever, just before his senior year of high school, and who as a sophomore at Georgia Tech, just celebrated one year of knowing the Lord as a believer!  

In these photos of most of our family, taken by my dear friend Paige Knudsen (if you have never visited Paige at Simple Thoughts, well-- you just have to!) over the holidays, I want to call your attention to my 3 lovely granddaughters.....and to the fact that the Lord is allowing all of us who have children, to equip the next generation to love their children well! The oldest of these, little Naomi, age 2, looks at me and belts out, 'this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine,'  and  'I wanna see Jesus lifted high,'  (as well as 'baby, baby!' by Justin Bieber!).  The other two, Madison and Elyse, are also loved so well by their sweet mamas!   For those of us who have adopted kids (legally or as George says, illegally!), we are being allowed to help interrupt the cycle of adversity and sow a new path towards hope. Our call is, simply, to love the next generation well, with the love we ourselves receive from our Father. It is what Jesus is talking about in John 15 when He says, "as You have loved me, so I have loved them." It is, inevitably, a costly and sacrificial type of love.

The Next Generation--60,000 of Them at Passion 2013
It was my great joy to greet January 1st in the Georgia Dome with 60,000 young people ages 18 to 25 at the Passion 2013 Conference. I am in awe of God calling this next generation to put an end to violence and abuse, as these are the very areas I work on in my job at the CDC, and they are the very areas to which God has called many of you to devote your lives. What is beyond AAAMMMMAAAAZZZZIIIINGGG! is how God is now calling those kids in the next generation whom many of us have loved well, to step out and love others in need with that same type of love they have received from the Father and seen in their families. It is so newsworthy that CNN did a special on it! In a day of sound bites, a 3 minute special - you have got to look
 - this is where I was several nights ago! A central message of this conference was the challenge to all to believe that God can do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine to change the world for each of us there and for the 27 million in slavery in brothels and factories around the world.  
(please go to the ENDIT-Shine a Light on Slavery as well and sign the petition to stop slavery!).

A New Goal for 2013....Loving the Next Generation More
It has long been the habit of many of us to spend some time in the New Year in thought and prayer about goals for the coming year.  As I did this over the past week, loving the next generation well is a clear goal I sense God is placing before me.  Let me share a little background.  For the past 5 years or so, a key message in Psalm 78 has really been striking to me. The subtitle says'Tell the Next Generation.'  David chronicles 5 cycles of man's rebellion and God's miracles. I felt sad to realize that all those miracles of love were not enough to stop the rebellion - it just kept happening over and over and over and over and over. What is striking is the next generation needed BOTH the stories of the miracles AND a person, David (as we see in the last verse --- I dare you to go read it for yourself!), who would 'shepherd them with an upright heart.'  So, this year, as I spent some time thinking and asking God what He wanted to give me as a main goal for 2013, I sensed He showed me this (taken from an excerpt from Zachariah 11:7)..."I became a shepherd and I took two staffs, one named Favor and the other named Harmony...and I shepherded the sheep."  

It is a year to love the next generation with excessive extravagance that is personally unique.

Lord, this year, help us to shepherd, to care for, those You have in our lives and bring into our lives, with the kind of favor that makes each of them feel like our favorites. Lord, give us wisdom to see the particular part of harmony that they are created to play in this symphony of life that You write, giving each of us our own voice and role.  Indeed, Lord Jesus, may this be the 'year of the Lord's favor!' (Isa 61:1f) through us to all in the next generation, and particularly to the least of these who are the poor, the captives, the lonely, the lost, the straying. Lord Jesus, give us hearts passionately inclined to follow You with determination and humility. To be the kind of shepherds who know and hear Your voice of kindness and love. For us and for all.  Amen.

Friday, January 4, 2013


We always love to hear from our good friend Michelle Haswell. She and her husband Greg lead Northlands Church in Atlanta and are on the Hope at Home Team. Enjoy!

Many of us are familiar with the well known story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38:42

Exhausted and worn out , Martha comes to Jesus. She is desperate for help with dinner (sound familiar?!) and needs an extra pair of hands so she can do what is necessary to be a good  hostess.

Jesus refuses to give her what she wants. He looks past her momentary difficulty and He sees a life filled with anxiety and distraction, desperate to please.

One Thing
Jesus wants to give her  a firm foundation for her life and He tells her she has need of only ONE THING - one thing that she can take with her no matter what the circumstances are.

So what is this 'one thing' that the Lord offers us amidst the frenzy of different demands,  distractions,  endless calls for our time from schools, jobs, home, church etc...what is He saying?

I believe He is simply calling us to a revelation of His deep love for us and an understanding that He is never disappointed in us, that we always qualify in His eyes as His beloved. 

Too often we measure ourselves against standards that the Lord never set for us and we disqualify ourselves in our own eyes because we have a bad day...who doesn't have a bad day when you're called to parent!?

When I'm secure in God's love for me and His faithfulness towards me , I'm strengthened amidst any crisis. I don't lose my footing or believe a lie that I disqualify as a good parent!

You can watch two people go through very similar hardship sand one comes out tired but whole, declaring Gods goodness. The other one comes out broken and feeling like a failure. Both probably had no choice but to walk through the valley, but one had an expectation of the Lords faithfulness and a security in the Father's love for them. The circumstances never disqualified them from the love and blessing of their heavenly Father. Amidst the crisis that were able to partake of their inheritance. 

Let's have a look at what the scriptures say about whether or not we qualify in the Lord's eyes.... After all what He thinks about us is what really counts, right?

Colossians 1:12 "Giving joyful thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light."

We are qualified to share in all His goodness, His love, His forgiveness and so much more. One version says we are partakers... When I read this I realized that I
 can sit in front of a delicious meal but will get no enjoyment out of it unless I partake of it. We are qualified in Jesus to partake of all His goodness and blessings.

Colossians 2:14 says that He completely cancelled and wiped away everything that was held against us..and nailed these things to the cross.
verse 18 says that we are to let no one declare us unworthy and disqualify us ....why?? Because our heavenly Father has declared us qualified. Now that is good news! 

This is news we carry with us regardless of circumstances that surround us and voices, both external and internal that scream the opposite at times! Jesus wanted to give Martha the gift of being secure in His love at all times.

His banner over us is always love because we are His beloved and He is ours. We are qualified to share in a glorious inheritance at all times and in all seasons not because of anything we have done but because of everything that Jeus did as He cancelled all accusation against us and declared us qualified!

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