Stories of Remembrance

Throughout the Exodus God maintains a delicate balance as he raises up his chosen people.

First he seeks to be known, punctuating each display of his might and miraculous provision with, “Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

Second, even as the story unfolds in the back-and-forth struggle of God’s faithful love for a stubbornly faithless people (who bear a uncomfortable resemblance to us today), the Lord is intentional about archiving stories of remembrance for the generations to come.

After they cross the Red Sea and escape the Egyptians God tells Moses that when they reach the Promised Land, the Israelites are to consecrate their first-born sons, and the first-born of their flocks to the Lord as an act of remembrance:

In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Exodus 13:14

When he provides manna in the desert he again preserves a remnant:

Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”

Exodus 16:32

Reflections on Remembrance

God does not wait until the Israelites’ journey is complete before instructing them to capture and share their stories. Our walks with God are never complete. We always are inadequate in our faith, and continually learning and growing in our walks with him.

Our children — and every child of God with whom we engage — need to hear about our journeys, perhaps even more so than the destination.

I tend to shirk this responsibility by leaning on the fact that I lead a pretty ordinary life. God moves in my life in ways that I find to be spectacular, but there is no parting of the sea or manna showing up on my front lawn. Will others be moved by my mundane stories?

The honest answer is, “Who knows?” Faith is a gift of God; it’s not the result of our works–or our stories themselves. God simply teaches us to be obedient in sharing what he has done and is doing in our lives…as it unfolds.

Finally God makes an interesting point of preserving physical signs. God told the Israelites to save some manna so they could show future generations God’s handiwork. This is a little tricky, but it got me thinking about what physical artifacts I can preserve.

Steps to Remembrance

So let’s get practical. If the faith of our children — and our children’s children — depends on these stories, how do we get about it in earnest? What can we do right now?

Here’s a list I’ve come up with; feel free to add your thoughts in the comments to this post.

  • Share your stories. My in-laws rode a tandem bicycle cross-country when they first retired. They arrived home with two storylines, one about the people and experiences they encountered, the other about God’s protection and presence throughout the journey. One of the stories I remember to this day was that they were almost out of water with miles to go, and my mother-in-law prayed from the backseat for God’s help. A few miles later  a random car rolled up, and a stranger offered them water bottles.

Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.

Exodus17:6

Practice spiritual discipline and talk about why. My sister-in-law used to read her Bible on her phone during her morning quiet time. Then she realized that to her children it looked the same as if she was perusing Facebook or reading email. So she reverted to her physical Bible so her children will see God’s Word in her hands each day.

When our children see us read the Bible daily, come to worship with us on Sundays or serve others as a family, it is good and right to talk with them about why we do these things and for whom.

Share God’s Word. My kids tease me about it, but I am shameless in pointing them back to Scripture on questions of right and wrong, problems they are facing or as an encouragement of their infinite value and worth. I write them letters about who they are in God’s eyes, personalizing the verses with their names. I text them verses weekly.

God speaks to us powerfully through his Word, reminding us of his truths, but the seeds must be planted in order to bear fruit.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Keep a journal; write in your Bible. When I study the Bible I make notes in my journal. An effective technique I’ve adopted recently is to read and and then answer three questions (Anne Graham-Lotz’s 3-question study): 1) What does it say? 2) What is God saying? 3) What is God saying to me?

This photo is of the Bible owned by one of the most passionate Bible teachers I know. BibleIt is testament to the truth that, “When your Bible is falling apart, you are not.”

Consider creating a priceless treasure for your children in your well-worn Bible, filled with the record of what God is showing you, even if it means leaving a broken down, dog-eared, highlighted and cross-referenced tome.

Make and preserve symbols of your faith. It took me a few minutes to even think of symbols equivalent to manna in my life, but I have them…so do you. One that came to mind is the wedding band I gave my husband for our 21st anniversary. I had it made because I had come to deeply treasure his faith leadership over our family. Since two of our four children are adopted from Korea, I had the band inscribed in Hangul with the citation “Joshua 24:15”:

As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The ring serves as an instrument of witness for him on a daily basis, and one that I hope our sons especially will preserve and remember as they enter into their own seasons as heads of their households.

The message God teaches us throughout Exodus is to begin today to be intentional about the legacy of faith we are planting in our children.

As a result of Joshua’s bold witness, Scripture tells us he created a legacy of faithfulness:

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.

Joshua 24:31

The Daily #2

Reprinted from Church on Morgan’s “The Daily,” Dec. 19, 2016

 

Hello Friends,

Three years ago, a close friend’s son went off to college. His father had died when he was 14, and now he was headed alone into the cold, cruel world. Even though he didn’t know me well I wanted to find a way to create a connection that would let him know our family loved and supported him and so did God.

As I considered what I could do, the Lord prompted this question in me: “How might this young man’s life be changed if you were faithful to send him a scripture verse each week for all four years of college?”

I created a weekly reminder in my iPhone and set about to find out.

A year later, my own son graduated and with him a group of boys who had become like sons to me. So, I added them to my weekly texts. I text them individually and sometimes add a personal note, but mostly I let God’s word stand alone.

At the end of last school year I texted, “Okay, last quote ‘til fall.”

My friend’s son responded: “If you don’t mind, I actually love getting them.”

Needless to say, I didn’t take the summer off from texting him.

What do I hope to accomplish through the sustained rhythm of this micro-ministry?

1) I didn’t learn the power of God’s living Word until mid-life but perhaps these boys will discover it sooner via 200-some texts.

2) Maybe they’ll encounter a dilemma or issue, and a verse will come to mind to guide them toward God’s will.

3) Or best of all, perhaps each of these men is sharpening his sword as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:13-18

13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, 16 and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

How might you create a weekly rhythm around sharing God’s word?

Have a blessed week!
Nanette Kirsch

Each week’s email will be written by someone in our community and provide a few thoughts, insights, or experiences that have come from their own morning, meal time, and evening practices. If you would like to learn more about our “Shared Rhythm” you can read about it online or pick up a set of our “Daily Rhythm Cards” at Church on Morgan.

Give a Gift that Lasts

Our family has adopted a birthday tradition that I’ve watched bear fruit in the lives of those we celebrate, making it too good not to share. I hope you’ll consider incorporating some version into your family celebrations…and share your own traditions in the comments section below.

For many years now our family has taken turns, during the pre-meal blessing, to offer thanksgiving for one trait of the birthday boy or girl that has blessed our lives. Recently, my sister-in-law improved on this idea by buying a bunch of mylar balloons, and tying index cards to them with a variety of words written on the front, linked to scripture passages written on the back, each representing character traits she saw taking root in my eldest son.

So encourage each other and build each other upToday that has evolved into a ritual for significant birthdays in which we reach out to friends, family and others who are influential to our children, and invite them to share “one encouraging word” they associate with him or her, along with a brief explanation of why they chose that word. We make just one ask and then trust the Lord to put a word on the hearts of those He moves to respond.

As we’ve repeated this tradition with a variety of people in our family I’ve seen God move through this simple, powerful gift in the lives of adults and children alike. In preparing to do this for one of my children’s birthdays this week, I realized three reasons this is a gift #worthimitating:

  1. It is a great reminder of how many people love and care about you and are invested in your good. This is particularly helpful to young people with extended family who may be far away, godparents and others who care deeply for them and relish an opportunity to speak positively into their lives.
  2. This world tears us down much of the time; we receive criticism, negative labels, rejection and hurt. What a beautiful thing then, on the day you were born, to be reminded of the good your life brings to those around you, to take a moment to see what others see and treasure in you. For parents, who serve their families with no expectation, it is a blessing to have the fruit of their labors returned to them as loving kindness. For children, it is a great anchor to help them define themselves by their strongest character traits.
  3. Finally, in my vocation of marketing, when I brand a company I never use a cross-section of all customers; I seek to engage “evangelists,” those who are most passionate about their experience of the company and its products. In a very personal way this gift does the same thing: Sharing with others how they are seen and valued by those who care most about them helps (or reminds) them who they are in God’s eyes, how very loved they are and how greatly their lives matter.

I invite and encourage you to adapt this idea in a way that fits your family. It is never too late to start a new tradition. For ours this has made birthday celebrations something special, much more personal, meaningful and rich, and strengthened the bonds across our family and extended family by reminding us that over all these virtues [we are to] put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

 

Woman’s Work

Today is Mother’s Day; it’s the day we celebrate, remember, thank and love our mothers, mother-in-laws, aunts, grandmothers and the other women who helped shape who we are and who we are becoming.

From Biblical times through today God consistently uses women to lead His children home. So today’s post is offered in gratitude for the gifts given to me by the women in my life, and by their Biblical sisters who modeled it first.

Praying on your knees. From as early as I can remember my mother knelt with us by our bedsides each night to recite a prayer she created, a prayer of thankfulness for our families, our country (she’s always been deeply patriotic) and for the blessings of each day.

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Spiritual discipline. My mother took us to church every single week of our lives. I don’t remember ever missing a Sunday, whether away on vacation or out on Lake Erie, our weekend itineraries were structured around it. Sometimes all of us, including my dad, would resist and cajole her to bend “just this once.” She never did. And today it’s a habit we’re instilling in our own children.

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

The Word. I didn’t grow up reading or studying scripture outside of church. So when my sister-in-law brought her Bible on vacation I watched, wondering what she was reading and why. Her daily habit and out-loud thinking about Biblical principles seeded an interest in me that grew over time.

So love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Pray without ceasing. My mother-in-law prays all day long. She “has fun with God” as she likes to say, engaging Him in every aspect of her daily life. She seeks Him and finds Him in everything. (Learn more about mothers-in-law here.)

Miriam, Hannah and Mary all have prayers of praise recorded in the Bible.

Commend your children to the Lord. One of my dearest friends walked a long, lonely road with her child through nearly a decade of rebellion and struggle. Her faithfulness and selfless love were an inspiration and are now a well of wisdom for my own times of struggle with my kids.

Hannah prayed fervently for a child and when she conceived Samuel she commended him to the Lord before he was even born, giving him to Eli to become a priest and serve the Lord. (1 Samuel 1-2)

Steadfastness. Another friend of mine was recently called “steadfast” by her son, who as a young adult is beginning to see the many ways she built and sustained a wall of protection around him and his siblings through the tumult in her life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women I know who live Proverbs 31 with courage, beauty and grace:

She takes good care
of her family
and is never lazy.
Her children praise her,
and with great pride
her husband says,
“There are many good women,
but you are the best!”
Charm can be deceiving,
and beauty fades away,
but a woman
who honors the Lord
deserves to be praised.
Show her respect—
praise her in public
for what she has done.

Am I [_____]Enough?

 

In the eighth-grade spelling bee I nervously spelled learner with an extra “er” even though I am a good speller. I got second place in science fair after I dropped the index cards with my presentation notes (and didn’t have them numbered). I was the runner-up to my classmate in a statewide reading contest, so I traveled to Pittsburgh and watched her compete from my seat in the audience. And despite my passion for writing I failed in my initial bid to become editor of my high school newspaper.

There is perhaps no worse feeling than realizing that your best is not good enough.

 

The Lie: “You are not ____ enough.”

 

However your mind fills in the blank most of us have heard those words echo in our minds at different times in our lives. As I shepherd my second child through high school I’m now watching my children confront the same thing. These are the years in which they are compared to their peers in just about everything: GPA, standardized test scores, athletic prowess, physical appearance, friend groups, to name just a few.

As they move toward college the differences become defining, determining who gets scholarships and who does not; who gains admittance to the schools of their dreams and who does not; ultimately, who is superlative and who is not. Yet by these worldly standards half of us are necessarily average, and even the exceptional are average at some things. 

The problem comes when we respond to this realization by deciding to dream smaller; little dreams risk less and hurt less when they don’t come true. The temptation is to resign ourselves to living a small, safe life. Yet that’s not what Jesus did, nor what He calls us to do.

3 Truths that “You are Enough.”

Here are some powerful truths from the apostle Paul that will equip you to combat the lie and relentlessly pursue the big dreams and big life that God had in mind for you from the very beginning (Jeremiah 29:11):

Your life is an essential part of God’s salvation plan. 

Saving is all his idea and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2: 7-10, The Message)

In God’s economy weak is strong.

Paul explains it like this: So I wouldn’t get a big head I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me:

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size — abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, The Message)

We were not saved to be safe.

Jesus did not come to ensure that life is safe and comfortable. He came to save us, as many as possible, and He enlists those of us already saved in His epic, world-changing work. How? First by recognizing and using the gifts we have been given with this end game in mind:

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. (1 Corinthians 12: 14-24, The Message)

Jesus warns us that, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” He knows what the thief is after: your life, if not in whole then in pieces. The whisper that “You are not ____ enough” is designed to rob you of abundance and leave scarcity; to kill your grandest dreams of what your life can be and point you toward something smaller and safer; and to destroy your confidence in your significance to your Maker by redirecting your focus to the world’s fickle standards.

I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

  • Are you pointing your children faithfully toward God’s economy and their infinite value to Him, or do you allow them (and yourself) to get caught up in worldly comparisons?
  • Where in your life are you living too small and too safe?
  • What big dream have you been too afraid to pursue?
  • How are you filling the blank: You are not [______] enough? Try filling in this blank instead:

…but the Lamb will defeat [my _______], proof that he is Lord over all lords, King over all kings, and those [of us] with him will be the called, chosen and faithful.” Revelation 17:14

Lured by Bright and Shiny Things

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

IMG_9497I sit before our Christmas tree, sparkling with lights and adorned with bright and shiny packages, waiting for my kids to wake up this Christmas morning. And I’m stressed out.

I worry that instead of joy and love my children will unwrap perceptions of inequity or lack of consideration or lack of effort. Gift giving is not my love language; in fact, I’m barely fluent. So with an occasional exception the experience of shopping for people, even those I love most, creates more feelings of insecurity and frustration than excitement.

Even as I wait I know that the reality behind the wrapping is less that perfect. The one gift I actually ordered early, and was most excited to give, didn’t arrive; so an empty box with a photo serves as a disappointing placeholder. And while we spent the same per-child, one has a dozen gifts to unwrap while another has just two. I know they are now teens and young adults, yet my desire to keep Christmas magical fuels guilt about these shortcomings and others.

I would like to believe I am a Christian who has not sold out to the commercialism of Christmas; in fact, I do a great job living in denial for about 350 days a year. And then in the two weeks before Christmas I succumb, driven by love-drenched guilt, and rush around like every other American, trying to express my love for my children by miraculously fulfilling some unfulfilled wish or desire.

And yet I know it’s a mirage not a Christmas miracle that they are most likely to experience; first, because I already work really hard all year round to help meet their real needs; and second, because in my heart I know that the things of this world never can satisfy the longings of our hearts.

Other than the brown Huffy bicycle I received for Christmas when I was 10 (which was stolen less than a year later), I would struggle to recall any other gifts I received as a child. The things I remember of Christmases past are my grandmother who spent the night in my room just once a year, my brother proclaiming every gift he received to be a “turtle” before he could undo the wrapping, and my mom delaying Christmas until she could swig down at least one cup of coffee. All of my memories are of how I felt being surrounded by the people I love and the simplicity of just being together.

It saddens me as an observer (and a now-confessed reluctant participant) that we celebrate Christmas — God’s daring attempt to rescue us from enslavement to the deceit of this world  — by literally buying into these false promises. Media cover God’s great love for us not with headlines of love exchanged, peace spread or hearts filled, but instead with stories of retail spending thresholds met, people fighting over the year’s hottest toy and the brokenhearted among us whose isolation is magnified during this sacred holiday. And yet:

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2: 15-20

I don’t have a bow to tie on this end of this post, but I will be looking for a way to turn this Christmas inside out.

 

 

 

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

It is less exuberance than a sense of completeness I feel with [my son] home. ‪#‎grateful‬

Just a few more hours … he’ll be back from college and our home will feel complete again. It’s just not the same when [my child] is away.

The first is a quote I wrote on my Facebook wall at Thanksgiving; the second is a quote from my friend’s Facebook wall as she awaited her son’s return for the holidays.

This experience of completeness has come as a surprise to me. I thought it would be different — joy, excitement, giddiness perhaps. But that’s not it at all. It’s  a sense of restoration, that feeling of re-orientation when things are back in place, as they should be.

We Can Go Home Again

My teaching leader in my Bible Study Fellowship astutely observed that our role as earthly parents is to send our children out of our homes and into the world to make them independent; God’s goal as Father is to draw his children back home, back into full dependence on Him.

Perhaps the peaceful tranquility we experience when our children are all under our roof is intended as a foretaste of our eternal home. Just imagine what God has in mind in drawing His children home:

But, as it is written,

“No eye has seen,

nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for

those who love him”

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2: 9-10

The Long Road Home

BSF’s study of Revelation this year has focused on God’s loving patience in withholding His righteous wrath from his beloved, if rebellious, children. This is made profoundly clear in Revelation 6: 9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters were killed, just as they had been.

At first this sounded horrific. What kind of Father would stand by and allow his children to suffer and die? But, God knows that the temporary suffering of these faithful ones and their witness to the Word have the power to draw a few more rebels into eternal life .

Now that is quite a different picture, isn’t it?

Yet I wonder who these souls are. Aren’t we all rebellious sinners at heart…indeed, all but One. Perhaps this is why John’s  verse is as ubiquitous as it is inescapable; consider anew that:

God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.

Yet Paul makes it clear that those of us who have been given some ability to see and accept God’s amazing love and grace are called to All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5-18become witnessing souls to our brothers and sisters:

It wouldn’t be the same this holiday without all of my children home. Fortunately for us God feels exactly the same way.