Treasure For Spiritually Investing In Children!

To know me is to know I love books!  Especially old books!

It’s not the yellowed pages or musty smell that thrills me – but the ideas often contained.  Now that’s not true for every old book, but I love to pray as I head into a used bookstore, “Lord, would you lead me to treasure?”  And it seems He often does in the midst of faded volumes.

This past Saturday I was just about to leave the antiquated book room at a nearby Goodwill when I saw the book Kenneth Forbes lying on the religion shelf.

An author’s name where the title goes? On the religion shelf?!

In truth, that’s what first caught my attention.  But then, when I opened the cover and read the subtitle, my curiosity was really piqued, “Fourteen ways of studying the Bible.”

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Each chapter in this book lets you sit in while a mother is teaching her children about the Bible using a different inductive Bible study technique.  So it’s written like a story, but wow!  Can that mother teach!  As she ties each lesson in with circumstances transpiring in her children’s lives, we are privileged to observe a master teacher in action.  And this was written back in 1854!!!

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I have been studying the Bible for 34 years and have read it through each year for the past twenty.  Still I found myself gleaning all sorts of new treasures from this mother’s teaching!  You better believe as I’m reading this I am being spurred on to dive even deeper in my own Bible Study!  I only wish I’d found this book when my son was younger and still at home.

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But even if you don’t have children to teach, this book is pure gold for learning new ways to study the Scriptures ~ and for motivating you to do so even more!

And here’s the best news of all – you can read this treasure online at the Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/details/kennethforbesorf00phil

Just click on the pages at the top to turn them.

Or you can buy a facsimile at Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Kenneth-Forbes-Fourteen-Studying-Bible/dp/1166604993/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1460314147&sr=8-1&keywords=kenneth+forbes

Truly there is no greater gift a mom can give her children (and herself!) than to invest time helping them not only read the Scriptures but teaching them how to dig deep, to understand, ponder and worship The One revealed through them, then practically live them out for life!

And can reading this book ever help equip moms to do this in a number of enlightening and engaging ways!  I highly recommend it!

 

 

The Pressure’s off!

Ever been to a Bible study where you watch a video or listen to a speaker talk and then break into small groups and your facilitator presents a second message?  It can be a heady thing to speak and have a group listening to what you share.  But is that really what’s needed for life change to occur?

We live in a society that is information rich.  At any moment of the day you can pull up a sermon online or read a book or listen to a radio broadcast.  We’ve never had more access to the Word being taught – and struggled as much to live it out.

Consider what the Scriptures say:

“But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brothers.”  Matthew 23:8

“Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor – the Christ.” Matthew 23:10

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in Him.”              1 John 2:27

Once someone is a believer their greatest need usually isn’t for advice, but for someone to come along and help them learn how to listen to what the Lord is teaching them and help them process what they are hearing so they know how to respond and to encourage them to respond by living out what He is laying on their hearts. There are three key ways you can do this:

1.  Modeling

Until the day we die we are all very much in process, in need of growing and becoming more like Jesus.  As you share your weaknesses, where you struggle, and what helps you, there is a tremendous opportunity for people to learn how to process and apply as they see you doing this.  The quote, “More is caught than taught” is so true!  Whenever I’m asked to speak at a women’s retreat or to a group I find it so helpful to keep this in mind.  My goal isn’t to teach but to share my journey, yes, even the ugly parts when it will be of help for them to hear, and what’s been helping me.

2.  Listening & Asking Questions, Then Listening More

In James 1:19 we are instructed, “Everyone should be quick to listen…”  Is this ever vitally important to remember when you are facilitating a group discussion.  There is nothing like listening to someone share their heart or their thoughts to make them feel loved and cared for.  This creates a wonderful environment where growth can happen.

And is the second part of that verse, “slow to speak…” ever key for facilitators to remember.  When I’m speaking I’m in control.  So if I’m scared it’s so easy for that to be my default.  Even if someone in the group asks a question, well, the natural response is to answer right away.  But what a difference it can make if you first ask if anyone else in the group would like to respond.  Creating a learning community, where you are all sharing your journeys together is so much more powerful and life changing than a quick correct answer being given.  You want to be able to engage with each other as well as the material.  Can that ever do wonders to help people grow as this takes place.

Now it can really help to identify whether the women in your group are internal or external processors.  Those who process externally will usually be the first to share and sometimes the internal processors can get left out, so it takes extra intention to listen to them.  I’ve found it can be so helpful to provide an opportunity for them to first process on their own and then listen and ask questions.

For example, when I’m facilitating a group discussion after a speaker has shared, I will often start our time encouraging them to first write down on a notecard what stood out to them in the message or draw a quick picture representing this.  Even extroverts benefit from this opportunity to collect their thoughts (because writing is also a form of external processing) so when they share it tends to be more focused. But this is so key to being able to “listen” to internal processors.  I can’t tell you how many times this makes it possible to listen to what’s going on inside them.  Women who ordinarily would never share in a group will often open up when the group is conducted this way.

And it really is amazing how much more people are helped when we listen and ask questions, than when we just give answers!

3.  Introducing different ways to process

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As mentioned above, this can be as simple as having your group draw a picture or write a word or short paragraph that summarizes the key thing that stood out to them either from the message they just heard or from their Bible study that week.  Or if you’re reading the scriptures together and then discussing, it can be giving colored pencils and having them underline what stands out to them or circle key words.  Or it can be as involved as having the group art journal a page reflecting what they learned and then sharing it afterwards with the group (more information on this and examples are available at http://www.restfulheart.wordpress.com)

All of these means help people focus in on the key thing that stood out to them, narrowing down what they heard so they can more easily come up with an application.  That really is where the rubber meets the road.  It can be so powerful when people have time to process together for helping them come up with an application and then for the group to provide an opportunity for accountability – it doesn’t even have to be like drill sergeants checking up on you ~ just knowing someone is going to ask “how did it go this week?”  or “What did you experience as you sought to live out what you learned last week?” can be a powerful motivator for actually doing what’s on your heart to do.

Remember the difference between the wise and foolish builder isn’t a matter of hearing the Word!  The difference is what they do in response to it.  And it wasn’t that the wise builder got more gold stars – no!  By responding to what he heard, by actively seeking to do it, to live it out, he was laying a solid foundation for when the storms of life came.  And note it’s not “If” they come but “when!”

Yes, there can be times when it is appropriate to give advice, but I like to filter that through Ephesians 4:29 speaking “only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Be sure to ask yourself – is this really helping them become wise?  Helping them process what they’ve already heard and move towards application?  Or am I just providing opportunity for them to “hear” more?

Whether you’re meeting one on one with someone or facilitating a group it can be so wise to keep asking yourself how much time am I talking?  And what is happening as a result?

Best part of this?  Does it ever take the pressure off you as a facilitator, discipler or mentor!  You don’t have to have all the answers!  And since no one does (according to I Corinthians 13:12 in this life we only know in part) what a relief!  All you have to do is join in with what Jesus is doing, helping them learn to listen to him – not just hear him, but respond to him and yield to him as He guides them.  And in the process, instead of remaining babes dependent on you they are learning how to walk with him and abide with him for life!

Seeing Myself The Way Jesus Does

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Years ago a fellow Navigator, David Lyons, wrote a booklet entitled “Now That I’m Born Again” based on what the Lord  reveals in Ephesians regarding our identity in Christ.  Now I love to walk and pray so I placed that content on a bookmark that I print double sided on card stock.  I like to carry a copy of this in my purse so whenever I start doubting my value I can pull it out and pray through this.  What a life changing difference this is making in my life!

Before we lived in Colorado Springs we use to fly out here for leadership meetings.  Now Navigators love to “get time with each other” one on one, so it’s not uncommon to find people at these meetings setting up lunches and breaks to do this.  At one particular meeting there were a number of people I was hoping to get time with so I was really excited when I learned we had a two hour break before dinner one night.  Now it was going to be a special dinner and what I didn’t realize was most of the women wanted time to get ready so as I went around asking if people could get together, one after another told me no.  And I found myself starting to feel down…

Now another couple who lived out here invited us to come wait for the dinner at their house.  On our drive over I pulled out this bookmark and started praying through it.  What an incredible reminder it was – I’m not a loser, because of Jesus I am blessed, chosen, holy, without blemish, adopted…  I felt my spirits begin to lift as my heart spent time giving thanks.  Especially as I prayed “Thank you, Father, that I am wanted”  the pain I was feeling from rejection dissipated (and please note it wasn’t that anyone was rejecting me, they just had other plans, but do you know how you can go there and still feel this way?!)

Now I was sitting in the back seat and since I can’t hear anything in that setting anyways, I spent the whole drive (about twenty minutes) silently praying and giving thanks for who I am in Christ.  By the time we arrived, my heart was soaring and a smile was on my face.  We enjoyed a lovely time and learned a bunch from the things they shared with us.  Truly the Lord had other plans for that time!

Fast forward two hours and we head to dinner.  On the way in I stop to talk with the son of a friend, seeking to encourage him.  By the time I go in to where the dinner is being held nearly everyone else is seated.  But then I spy an open chair right next to one of the women I’ve been hoping to get time with.  I’m so excited!!!  I race over and ask, “Is this seat available?” only to hear, “No, it’s saved it for…”  Then I spy another empty chair next to someone else I’d hoped to get time with… only to discover that was already taken too.  In fact, the only available chair was all the way at the back of the room.

Now normally by this time my insecurities would be kicking in big time. No one saved a seat for me.  So easily I could’ve withdrawn into myself and eaten my meal in silence.  It takes a lot of energy to interact when you are hearing impaired, energy that if I’m feeling rejected, discouraged and down I usually don’t have.  But after praying through all those truths of who I am in Christ, I thought, “Jesus must’ve saved me this seat at the back for a reason!”

I ended up sitting across from a woman I didn’t know very well and as we talked over dinner our hearts connected in a powerful way.  Did that evening ever turn into a HUGE gift from the Lord!

But so easily I could’ve missed out if my soul hadn’t been fortified right when I needed it by remembering who I am in Christ.

It’s one thing to know these truths in my head or even to do a Bible study on them, but I’m finding these truths are making the biggest life changing difference when I am intentional to apply them by praying through them while my value is under attack!

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Seeing Myself The Way Jesus Does…

I am in Christ

Thank You for immersing me in Christ. Thank you for grafting me into the true vine.

I am blessed

Thank you for continually speaking well of me and favoring me in every possible way.

I am chosen

Thank you for picking me for yourself, like a groom marrying the bride he desires.

I am holy

Thank You for setting me aside for yourself, just like the best silver is set aside for special occasions

I am without blemish

Thank you that when you look at me, you do not focus on all my failures. Thank you for focusing on the best part of me, the part You have perfected, my innermost being.

I am adopted

Thank you, Father, that I am wanted. Thank you for coming to me, extending Your hand, pulling me to Your side, and making all the necessary arrangements to make me Your very own.

I am God’s child

Thank you for making me Your beloved child, in whom You are well pleased, for allowing me to bear your likeness, for making me your pride and joy.

 I am free from sin’s power

Thank you for liberating me from my old master. Thank you for saving me from my enemy.

I am forgiven

Thank You that You now hold nothing against me. Thank you for not expecting me to make up for the ways I have failed you.

I am favored

Thank You for making me one of Your favorites. Thank You for hovering over me with a special loving attention, like a parent with a firstborn child.

I am wealthy

Thank You that as Your child I have an inheritance that provides all I need. Thank You that I will always have more than I need.

I am secure

Thank You for enveloping me in Your love so that I am sealed, secure and safe. Thank You for shielding and sheltering me by Your Spirit.

I am called

Thank You for giving me an exciting, fulfilling direction. Thank You for showing me why I am here and where I am going.

I am praiseworthy

Thank You for filling me with Your glory. Thank You for bragging about me as Your prized inheritance.

I am capable

Thank You that You love to show Your extraordinary power in me. Thank You that I am therefore qualified & able to do all You want me to do.

I am alive with Christ’s life

Thank You that since You came into my heart, I am born again – born from above and bursting with real life.

I am seated with Christ in heaven

Thank You for placing me with Christ in a position of extraordinary privilege and authority.

I am God’s masterpiece

Thank You for making me Your personal work of art. Thank You that I am the work of a Craftsman, not a mistake.

I am close to God

Thank You for not holding me at arm’s length. Thank You for pulling me to Your side in a prolonged embrace.

I am an insider

Thank You for making me a true citizen in Your kingdom. Thank You for making me a true member of Your household, no longer an outsider.

I am God’s mobile home

Thank You for moving into my heart. Thank You that I am now Your house, Your temple, Your tent.

I am promised great things

Thank You for making such priceless commitments to me. Thank You for letting me experience what others strive to obtain.

I am loved

Thank You for loving me the way I long to be loved. Thank You that I can’t wear out Your love. Thank you for continuing to win my trust by convincing me of the depth of Your love.

I am a new creation

Thank You for completely remodeling my innermost being, my spirit. Thank You that all things in me are truly new.

I am righteous

Thank You for making everything right in my innermost being. Thank You for placing the holy and living Spirit of Your Son in me.

I am the light of the world

Thank You for making the light of Your life shine in me. Thank You for making me Your flashlight, shining into the darkness around me.

I am nourished

Thank You for satisfying my thirst and hunger. Thank You for the Bread of Life that fills me. Thank You for the Living Water welling up in my soul.

I am cherished

Thank You for adoring and treasuring me, like a parent marveling over a newborn baby.

I am Christ’s body

Thank You that although You once lived among Your people in an elaborate tent, and then You walked among us in a Galilean body, now You truly live in me. Thank You that I am actually a member of Your body.

I am united with Christ

Thank You for becoming one with me, as a husband becomes one flesh with his wife.

I am strong

Thank You that with You living in me, I can face anything. Thank You that every battle, test and victory belong to You.

 from David Lyon’s booklet Now That I Am Born Again

Where The Rubber Meets the Road…

One of the worst decisions we ever made was the purchase of our first home.  We started out with a realistic perspective on how much we were going to spend, but as the realtor showed us different homes each one was more expensive than the previous one.  When she finally showed us a home recently featured in our town’s Parade of Homes, containing everything we’d ever dreamed of and more, we were hooked!  When we asked, “Can we really afford this?!”  She smiled and assured us we could.  That night we signed a contract… which left us “house poor” for the next five years!

No one told us the realtor was working for the seller, trying to get us to spend as much as we possibly could.  We had no idea you can get approved to borrow more than you can really afford.  Now Jim at this time was a very successful salesman.  It was a pretty heady feeling seeing how his income kept increasing dramatically each year.  Little did we know a recession would start almost as soon as the ink on our contract dried greatly reducing his income.

So we lived in a gorgeous home… barely scraping by.

To get by I started couponing like crazy.  Each week I would spend at least 2 hours doing this and hitting all the grocery stores to take advantage of deals.  When we purchased our next home, we paid almost half of what our first one cost and discovered the joy of having “extra money”  …to give, to save, to pay extra on the house to get it paid off quicker.  And I thought, “I never want to go back to being poor again!”

But then the Lord convicted me of my extreme couponing, pointing out how this was based on fear, not on following Him.  Instead, He led me to do all my grocery shopping at one store.  Of course I’d still take advantage of the sales they offered, but it was amazing the opportunities I had to share Jesus and see His gospel advance as I spent more time in one store and developed relationships seeing the same employees each week.  And instead of spending two hours a week couponing and shopping for deals, He led me to use that time to disciple another woman.

Then when the Lord called us to go on staff with The Navigators and we had to move, necessitating the purchase of our third home I gave strict boundaries for how much we’d spend, refusing to look at anything costing much more than the house we’d just sold.  But one night the Lord convicted me I was reacting out of fear, fear of being house poor again, fear of living off support which varied from month to month, fear of not having enough, rather than following Him and He challenged me instead to trust Him. Eventually He led us to buy a home that cost more than our first home!  But every single part of it proved to be a vital part of the ministry He had for us!  And He provided what we needed to live well and love well in that home.

You see, in Titus 2:3-5 the third reason Paul says older women are to train the younger women in what is good is so they can be σωφρων.  Different versions translate this to be self-controlled, to live wisely, to be sensible, to be discreet, to use good judgment, to be temperate.  Historically this word was the mean between license and stupidity, frivolity and covetousness.  Paul considers it a virtue describing the Christian life in the world where “faith manifests itself in a proper attitude to the world and its goods,” one of moderation and content.*  As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:18, “Whoever is wise will avoid extremes.”

What a difference it can make when older women will come alongside younger women and help them learn what it looks like to live out a life trusting Jesus in practical matters.  It’s so easy to focus on shared quiet times and Bible study, but we also need help learning how that translates into our everyday living – and this doesn’t look the same for everyone!

For example, I’m not saying couponing is wrong!  But as Romans 14:23 says, “anything that does not come from faith is sin” and for me this was not coming from faith!  But if the Lord leads you to coupon by all means do!   But can it ever be wise to ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?  Is this motivated by fear or by faith?”  In the area of our finances this is vitally important for as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

“House lust” is what we call the insanity that sets in when you go crazy “falling in love” with something more than you can afford.  When you’re young, in your first job, experiencing the first tastes of success, with money in your bank account it’s so easy to get sucked into the American dream… until it turns into a nightmare!  Can it ever help when older women will walk with those younger helping them traverse through this critical time.  Conversely, others may be more prone to become hoarders – and I don’t just mean with packed garages, but with packed bank accounts, storing up treasure on earth rather than making eternal investments!

To take young believers through a Biblical course in managing money can be such a help!  But remember there needs to be a focus on following Jesus even in this.  When a young woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet the disciples rebuked her for the waste, but Jesus rebuked them saying, “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”  And while the Bible has much to say on the wisdom of saving, we also see Jesus telling a rich young ruler to “go sell all that you have and follow me.”

Remember discipleship is about helping someone live as a disciple of Jesus – as a learner and follower of Him.  And that’s not just concerning things traditionally considered “spiritual” but in all of life, including our finances and financial decisions!

But please note the word σωφρων is much broader than just relating to money.  It literally means, “to be self-disciplined in one’s freedom; self-restrained in all passions and desires.”** We’ll look at another aspect of this in the next post!

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*Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Geoffrey Bromiley, editor, p. 1151.

** The Complete Word Study Dictionary:  New Testament” Spiros Zodhiates, editor, p. 1363.

Loving Your Children

When my son was finally born after three hours of pushing, I was utterly exhausted, but nothing can begin to describe the love that flooded my heart as I took him in my arms!  I could sit for hours just looking at him in wonder!  If anyone asked me, “Do you love your son?”  I would’ve said, “You better believe I do!”  And I do love him tremendously, but that doesn’t mean I always love him well.

Love as the Bible defines it is not a feeling.  And caring for children is one of the hardest jobs you can ever do!  Remember 1 Corinthians 13:4 – the measure of your love is not how you feel for your child, but how patient and kind you are to them… and not just in your “best” moments, but even when you’re sleep deprived and they are fussy and nothing you do can satisfy them or they’ve just learned the word “no” and are being off the charts irrational!

And being patient and kind is just the first part of this description!

When Paul instructs older women to teach what is good so  younger women will love their children, he is implying that younger women need help learning to love their children.

Note he doesn’t say older women should instruct “some” younger women to do this!

It is so important younger women understand all women need help learning to love their children!

Yet there seems to be an unspoken belief that a “good mom” should know what to do, should instinctively know how to love her child, and know what’s best for her child.  But this is a dangerous way of thinking ~ if you think to be a “good mom” you’re supposed to have this figured out, when an older woman approaches to give advice, it’s so easy to take it personally and take offense, walk away and miss out.

The truth is we all are deficient as moms and we all need older women to speak into our lives, teaching us what is good so we can love our children.

I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite part of discipling because it’s often like traversing a mine field.  I never know when someone is going to get upset or interpret what I’m saying as “she thinks I’m not a good mom” or if they do hear me out, start making excuses, “you just don’t know my child” or  “I’m already doing that.”

Like one time I was talking with a young mom about discipline and while holding her toddler she said, “But I do I discipline my child, I say no” and as the child started playing with the earring she was wearing, she said, “No” and pushed the child’s hand away, then “no…no….no…” again and again as the child continued to play with the earring until finally she exclaimed, “Oh all right, here” and she took the earring out of her ear and gave it to the child saying, “but don’t put it in your mouth.”

Now it’s easy to read a story like that and clearly see there’s a problem, but when you’re in the middle of life it’s not always so clear, is it?

But if you realize this is something no one “naturally” knows how to do, can that ever help you remain teachable.

And if we realize this is something we all need to learn and something God wants older women to help us learn can that ever spur us on to take initiative asking for input!

When our son was young we started actively looking for older couples who seemed to have done a good job parenting and we asked if we could take them out for dinner and hear their advice.  Did this ever prove to be a gold mine!

I’ll never forget one couple who met with us a number of times as our son was growing – they had three boys who all grew up to love the Lord and still are actively seeking to advance His kingdom , something we highly value – now these were active boys who were far from perfect – oh the treasures those parents passed onto us and the ideas they gave for parenting and loving active, strong willed, often mischievous boys well!

But here’s the kicker, despite seeking out input from older women and being committed to parenting our son as best as I could, I still fell short in so many ways.  One of the best things I had to learn to do was to confess to my son when I blew it and ask him to pray for me.  Did that ever model the gospel for him.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – including his mom!

So even getting the best advice doesn’t mean you’ll do everything perfectly – we all have blind spots, times when we feel like we’re loving our child but maybe our motives are totally off and we’re just doing what feels good for us at the moment.  This is why you don’t just need advice occasionally but it’s so important to invite those around you to keep giving you feedback, to ask, “Please would you let me know if you see me doing something that doesn’t seem to be loving as I parent my child.”

This is one area of discipling where it’s so important that younger women take initiative, simply because so many older women have been hurt when trying to do this.

And the best way to start doing this is asking the Lord to bring older women into your life who can help you learn to do this. Can this ever help you receive correction and instruction when it does come – so you’re seeing it as an answer to prayer and not a rebuke or imposition.

Yes, not all advice is going to be helpful!  So ask the Lord to give you wisdom to know what to accept and apply in your life and what to forget!  But what a difference it can make when you realize people giving you advice, even correcting you is an act of love.  Even if the advice isn’t the best you can still be thankful for it.

The book of Proverbs is filled with verses related to how a wise man invites, listens to, and appreciates correction.  Does this ever speak volumes to how hard it can be to receive this – it takes wisdom to receive correction well and appreciate it!

It is much easier to give and get input before you start doing something.  So for older women, let me encourage you, make the most of the time you have investing in younger women before they have kids, to prepare them to love their children well.  There tends to be much more openness during this season than after the baby comes out!

And one of the best ways you can help prepare her is to alert her to this trap of the enemy.  Help her understand that loving her children is something she needs to learn (I’m still learning and my baby is 23!), that all women need to learn and it’s something she’s going to need ongoing input from those around her to do well.  Helping her come to grips with this and even doing a word study with her on correction to help her learn to see it as a gift, can help you continue to disciple her well even after kids come!

This is such a critical part of discipleship, which is why the enemy works so hard to reinforce these lies, incite pride and isolate women regarding this!  But truly one of the best ways women can love their children is by being teachable!

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Two other key implications flowing from the reality that loving our children is something everyone is deficient in and needs to learn to do:

  1. Asking God daily to help you learn to love your child can really help! (we don’t pray for what we don’t see a need for!  But can praying this daily ever serve as a reminder this is something we need help with!  And what wisdom it is to go to the Lord asking for the help He so delights to give!  I still pray this!  And you wouldn’t believe the ideas and insight He gives in response!!!)
  2. Remember love is a fruit of the spirit and Jesus says in John 15:5 “He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”  This is sooooo key!  I remember when my son was a baby he was up at 5:30 am like clockwork every morning clamoring to be fed so I had to give up having my quiet time before doing anything!  So I committed to taking the first opportunity I could to get time alone with God.  And you have to know during those days, the time he spent napping was so precious, so many things screamed at me to do them and you better believe the temptation was intense to do them, but I committed that I would seek first to get time with the Lord as soon as I could – and what a difference it made.  I cannot underscore how thankful I am for those daily decisions to make getting time with the Lord a priority.

What’s In Your Pantry?!

One of my friends has an amazing pantry!  It’s so big you can walk into it!  But the best part of all – there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.  When she needs something she knows right where to go!  Even better, when someone pops over unexpectedly she can go in there and get the goods to whip up something delicious right on the spot for she keeps her pantry well stocked!

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What a difference a pantry can make!  If you don’t have one, you end up sticking things wherever you can!  And if you have a tiny one that’s not organized, it’s so easy to lose things, forgetting they are even there!

Do you have a pantry?  If so, what shape is it in?  And what impact does this have on your life?

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And what does this have to do with discipling women?!

There’s a fascinating verse in Matthew 13:52 “And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Oh how I encourage you to spend time camping out in that verse asking the Lord to open your eyes so you can see wonderful things in it!

I’ll never forget when Barb Choat was discipling me she shared this verse and challenged me to take time to create a “pantry” writing down in an organized way the treasures that have helped me in my walk with the Lord.  Now I am not God’s gift to organization, but I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this was… and continues to be!

There’s not one right way to organize a pantry.  In fact, if you google “organize your pantry” or go to youtube you will find tons of articles and videos on how to do this.*  This isn’t about getting it right, but getting it down!  And getting the stuff that’s benefitted you into a usable format, where you can remember it so you can pass it on to others!

For example, on my “prayer shelf” I have prayers from scripture, the ACTS acronym, 100 Descriptions of God handout, Praying for My Husband handout, a daily prayer journal featuring quotes from E.M. Bounds that really spurred me on in my prayer life that I condensed into a booklet I can share with others, an article on rewriting Psalms in the first person, a video by Philip Yancey on prayer… and a host of other treasures!

I always start with asking, “What’s helped me?”  I don’t put in my pantry things I haven’t used.  What a difference it can make when you minister out of the overflow of your own life!

When I first start meeting with women who want to learn how to disciple others, I will often ask them to compile their pantry.  First, it helps them see they really do have a lot more to offer than they ever dreamed!  It’s just behind the couch, in the hall closet, under the bed… metaphorically speaking!  But once they start praying through what’s helped them grow and start filling their pantry shelves, its neat to see their excitement realizing they already have stuff to share!

Secondly, it helps us see where her strengths and weaknesses are – especially what areas in her life might need strengthening.  And keeps me from planning something for our one on one she’s already done!

One other benefit in compiling a pantry is it gets you remembering what helped when you first started out.  What’s helping you today may not be the best thing to help a new believer get started.

On each “shelf” I include everything from articles, to videos, to books, illustrations and stories, to handouts and tools I’ve created or picked up along the way that help me.

Here are some ideas for categories or “shelves” you could use to organize your pantry:

You could organize an entire section calling it “The Word” and have a shelf for scripture memory, another for Bible study, another for meditating, another for application, another for quiet times and also extended times with God…

You could also have a section dedicated to character:  with a shelf for patience, another for perseverance, another for humility, another for kindness…. and place on each shelf things that help you grow in each area.

And speaking of that last shelf be sure you include shelves for each of the categories listed in Titus 2:4-5!!!  Remember this is a key list revealing what the Lord wants older women teaching younger women – so you could have a shelf for loving your husband, another for loving your children, one for being self controlled, another for pursuing purity, as well as one for being busy at home, kindness, and submission.

If you’re not a visual learner or artistically inclined, your “shelves” can be lists!  In fact, even if you are artistically inclined you may find starting out with lists helps you know how much space to allot for each section.

And it’s ok to have empty shelves!!!  The Lord may actually use these to spur you on to grow in new areas!  And yes, empty shelves can be humbling too… serving as a great reminder there’s always room to grow!

And just like with kindness, some of your shelves may overlap!  That’s always the tricky part for me in putting a pantry together!  Just remember, you don’t have to do this perfectly!  The idea is to know what you have and be able to find it and be reminded of it so that it’s even more usable!  When you’re praying about what to do with the woman you meet with this can be such an incredible help rather than just hoping God will bring something to mind from out of the blue!

Other shelves can be for evangelism, fellowship, obedience, assurance of salvation… as well as conflict resolution, forgiveness, love languages, personality types… whatever is of value to you in growing as you follow Jesus!

But I will say one of my favorites and most used is “Trusting God” which is filled with God’s names (“those who know your name will trust in you”  Psalm 9:10) as well as His promises and creative ways to help a woman learn about these and incorporate them actively into her life so she experiences how very great and precious they are, and so they help her grow in trusting the Lord (for more on this see the article in the “Helps” section entitled “Promise Based Follow Up”)

Just as each person’s journey is unique so are the materials the Lord uses to help her grow – and you grow!  This is why every woman’s pantry is going to be distinct!  I have a huge prayer shelf!  Prayer played a key role in me coming to Christ as well as in my daily walk with Him.  I don’t have as much on that busy at home shelf…

This is why it can also be helpful to encourage those you disciple to get time with other women too! For example, if someone you’re meeting with was sexually abused but you never were, ask the Lord to bring into her life another woman who can share with her what’s helped her deal with this – that may be through a book or in person, but don’t feel like you have to be the only one pouring into her!

And note how it says in Matthew 13:52 “new as well as old!”  Don’t let your pantry get static!  A disciple is a learner!  We are to continually be adding to this!  When I come across an area where someone I’m meeting with wants to grow but I’m deficient in that area I often arrange for us both to meet with someone who is strong there – so we can learn together!

And this has always been one of my favorite things about conferences and summer training programs as that provides a time when a bunch of disciplers come together and you can ask “What’s in your pantry?” learn from each other and exchange treasures!!!

Now some tools you may feel like you have a better grasp on than others so when creating your pantry, you may want to pencil in things you’d like to get more practice with and then put in bold those things you use regularly and have down pat.

Like my quiet time – I’ve been doing that nearly every day for 3o years so it’s bold on my chart!  But a new tool I’m currently learning is coaching, where you ask questions rather than tell – I know, sounds pretty basic, but it’s opening up whole new opportunities in helping “adolescent” and more mature believers who have a good foundation but are still in need of some guidance.  I’m still very much in the early stages in learning how to do this well so I’m just penciling that in on my pantry.  I can pass it on but not in the same way as I can quiet times!

See your pantry as a work in process, a lifelong work in process!

So what’s in your pantry?  Let me encourage you, if you don’t yet have one, create one!  Has this ever been of benefit to me and those I meet with!

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*Taking time to consider a real pantry can help you create a written discipleship pantry!  One person who has helped me learn how to organize is Susan Stewart.  You can see her video on “Organizing your Pantry and refrigerator” here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY9GVH3a7VY

And here’s a link to a fascinating article with links to 14 pantry makeovers!  One key thing that stood out to me while reading through some of these… it wasn’t easy and they didn’t always get it right the first time, but kept trying until they found something workable!

http://www.homestoriesatoz.com/decorating/14-inspirational-kitchen-pantry-makeovers.html

Discipleship Lessons from the Christmas Story ~ The Blessing of Each Other!

Luke’s account of the Christmas story begins with failure.

After years of disappointment Zechariah receives an angelic visitor telling him his prayer has been heard and his wife is going to bear him a son!  But instead of joy, he responds with disbelief.

“How shall I know this?  For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years…”  and he ends up voiceless for the next nine months as a consequence.

Fast forward ten verses and the angel Gabriel makes another visit, this time to a young girl.  When he tells her she’s going to get pregnant without ever having known a man, and before she’s even married, she responds, after a little clarification, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  What faith!

But here’s the question ~ was Mary more spiritually mature than Zechariah?

Remember, Zechariah is introduced as being righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  That’s a pretty incredible intro!

Now we can’t measure spiritual maturity on the basis of this alone, but here’s a thought ~ it’s one thing to trust the Lord when you are young and have no idea what you’re getting into.  It’s a whole other to trust him after decades of disappointment, when you’ve finally resigned yourself to the reality your last opportunity passed years ago, when you’ve hoped and hurt so many times…

Does this ever illustrate why we need each other!  Why the Lord tells older believers to invest in younger ones!  Not just so the young will benefit but so those older will too.

Yes, when you’re older you’ve had more time for your roots to grow deeper into the Lord – no amount of excitement can ever take the place of that.  But, well, I guess I should say each season of life brings challenges in trusting and following Jesus.

Younger believers often have a harder time persevering because their roots aren’t as deep so there can be much benefit for them having someone older come alongside encouraging and helping them hang in there when life turns out far more difficult than they anticipated.

But for those who are older, there is something so invigorating about the optimism of youth, when you are with someone and they’ve first experienced Jesus and can’t get enough time with Him! When they’re ready to go anywhere in the world without a second thought or do whatever he calls them to do, no matter the cost!  It can be so infectious!  And spur you on to do the same!

I remember shortly after I became a Christian writing a poem that began…

I’ll climb the highest mountain, I’ll sail the roughest sea

I’ll travel to any distant land and live life dangerously

I’ll brave the harshest winter, pushing onward through sleet and snow

I’m ready Lord.  Do with me as you will, just show me the way I should go…

And I spent my years in college sleeping on a reed mat on the floor of my dorm room getting ready to do pioneer missions, to take the gospel where it hadn’t been before and meeting with anyone who showed any interest at all to share with them about Jesus!

I remember someone commenting once I was a gift to the woman I met with because I was so excited about anything that had to do with God, at a time when she was wrestling with the reality she was probably going to be single the rest of her life and discouraged over shattered dreams.  I better understand this now.

As I approach 50 it’s not quite as easy to climb those mountains, and after having endured this past week’s negative zero temps, I’m not certain how eager I’d be to push onward through sleet and snow – that’s not only cold, that’s wet!!!

We had a national staff conference a couple weeks ago and were so blessed to have Jim Downing and Jerry and Jane Bridges join us.   I got to see first hand – It’s a whole lot harder for them to come to these conferences than it is for someone 80 years younger!  But how blessed the younger staff are to have them there – and what a delight to see the joy on their faces as they interact with new staff!

If the Lord keeps me here I so hope to follow in their footsteps.  I want to follow Jesus however, wherever, whenever with whomever, but I’m much more aware of the cost now.

Do those I meet with ever keep me on my toes, challenging me to go out of my comfort zone.

Here’s one other thing – note where Mary heads right after she gets this news…  Straight to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house!  Can you imagine the incredible one on ones she shared with Elizabeth during their three months together?  And what a blessing that was to her, too?!

Don’t you just love how the Lord works things out so we all get blessed as together we follow him?!