The refining pot of marriage

There’s a book I’ve been wanting to read ever since I first heard about it: Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas. The tagline for the book is ‘What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy’.

Wow.

After writing about Dating, marriage and lists last month, a friend of mine made a great comment,

“I strongly support the idea of having a list; you’re certainly right that it keeps us focused on what’s most important. But I also have recently learned the value in having a list also for myself if I have a list for my potential spouse. Who do I want to be to my future wife? Can you write one sometime on who you’ve striven to become before and in marriage?”

These ideas about marriage being an opportunity to refine our own character, and not simply a selfish ‘get what I want out of it’ union, is, I think, exactly what God intended.

Wedding

Young, in love and ready to be refined!

If we look right back at the beginning of time in Genesis we see that Eve was created not simply as a companion but as a helper for Adam. And so that the men reading this don’t get to full of pride and power, God clears up any confusion in Ephesians 5:35 where he says: ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her’. The love referred to here is 100% sacrificial, guys – to the point of humiliation, torture and death.

One of Satan’s biggest, most successful lies is that being selfish (i.e. focusing on what I want before what I can offer others) is the way to happiness. Now there are many opportunities in life to find out that this is total rubbish, but perhaps none so effective as marriage. When you live with someone every day for the REST OF YOUR LIFE; when you are confronted with all their ugly character traits which you never saw during dating life (because don’t we all put on our best behaviour on a date?); when you are so vulnerable that you expose all your own ugly character traits – this is when true love kicks in.

Proverbs 117:3 says, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts.” God is reminding us of the extreme value he places in making our hearts right before Him  And 1 Peter 1 tells us why. In verses 24-5 he says “All flesh is as grass,and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (Emphasis mine.) We need to go through the refining pot because the spiritual is foreverThe physical – marriage – is ultimately temporal but it’s value in refining our hearts is eternal.

Eleven years older, wiser, and more in love.

Eleven years older, wiser, and more in love.

Perhaps the most famous love passage in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I once was told to read through this passage, replacing the word ‘love’ with my own name. Yikes! It was sobering. We are free with the words “I love you” to our spouse. But do we really know what love is? What if we measured our love against this description? We say, “I love you so much I would die for you.” But do we love our spouse enough to live for them? In the everyday frustrations of opposing opinions, of different priorities, of conflicting personalities? That is where we really learn to lay down our life.

Marriage is not there to ‘make us happy’, but when we let it make us holy, happiness happens. Take it from me – in my eleven years of marriage I have always been happiest when I have lived closest to God’s definition of servanthood. When (if!) we can conquer selfishness, there we find true joy.

Go read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 with your own name. Pray for true love. Live it out.

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Dating, marriage and lists

Recently I’ve had some conversations with single friends about how to choose someone to marry. Of course, it’s not so simple as ‘choosing’, as we all know. But even so, we agreed that within one’s own mind, there should be some set ideas about what qualities we feel are important when thinking about who to date and, eventually, marry.

I am so blessed to have been married for over eleven years to my very best friend. Before we dated, though, I had written out a list of things I believed were important in a man. I knew from experience it was all too easy to get caught up in the dating trap (going on dates without the goal of potential marriage) with just anyone I felt attracted to. Being single can be lonely, and it’s tempting to let go of ideals in the desire for intimate companionship. But after reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris, I decided to write out a list to help me keep my focus when tempted by pointless dates with people who I knew, ultimately, I would never want to marry. (By the way, I definitely recommend this book to all teens. I disdainful of it when my Mom gave it to me, but after reading it I completely changed my mind! The next boy I dated after reading it was my husband 🙂 )

So what was on my list? Well, here it is:

Qualities of My Perfect Man

He shall…

  •   Be worthy of respectTitus 2:2
  •   Have a strong faith in God1st Corinthians 16:13
  •   Be able to rule his house wiselyEphesians 5:23
  •   Have a happy disposition1st Thessalonians 5:16
  •   Be romantic!
  •   Love me as himselfEphesians 5:28
  •   Be willing first to listen, then to talkJames 1:19
  •   Be good at communicating
  •   Commit his heart, life and soul to GodMatthew 22:37
  •   Understand me
  •   Be able to pray with meJames 5:16
  •   Be thoughtfulProverbs 21:29
  •   Be considerate1st Peter 3:37
  •   Love my family as his own
  •   Fear GodProverbs 1:7
  •   Be a zealous Christian – Romans 12:11
So glad I've got this man in my life.

So glad I’ve got this man in my life.

Obviously this is a personal list. But that was the point. I had this printed out and kept in my Bible, where I could be reminded of it often, pray about it, and use it to keep my focus.

One thing I didn’t write on my list was that he should be my best friend. In hindsight, I can see that this is one of the major reasons that our relationship has stood firm through the trials we have gone through in marriage. Our solid foundation of friendship has made commitment, forgiveness and perseverance so much easier when they were called for. And believe me, they are called for in every marriage.

Writing a list may seem picky, idealistic or closed-minded to some. I beg you to think differently. Rather, it is freeing, helpful and keeps you focused on things of importance. If you are single, please consider the value of writing out your own list of qualities you’d like to see in your future spouse.

And yes – I did find someone with all of the qualities on my list.  And yes, I do know how blessed I am.

The window to your heart

“And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire.”
James 3:4-6

Words. Many lessons have been written on the power of words. The tongue has been called the strongest muscle in the body, and the Bible speaks of its power in the book of James, likening it to a rudder which can steer the whole course of a ship, or a fire which can cause devastation.

wordsAs a homeschooling Mama my kids hear a lot of my words! We talk about everything from history, to meals, to Lego, to toilet habits… I’ll stop there 😉  Being with my kids more than your average UK parent has made me think carefully about how I speak to them. I have noticed that it is easy to slip into the ‘I’m busy but I’ll nod and say “uh-huh” even though I have no idea what you said’ mode of conversation.  There are plenty of comic strips and Facebook images which joke about this. It seems to be a universal Mom thing. But it’s not funny. Now I know that you and I are busy people. But what do our conversations tell our children about our hearts… and their value?

When we speak to our children, we are showing them a little of our heart. Our words are a window. Not just our words, in fact, but our tone of voice, eye-contact, expression, and all those other non-verbal communication attributes. If I am staring at my computer and say the glazed “uh-huh” when Prince comes to tell me about how the latest GUP is the coolest thing, what are my words and actions telling him?Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  • I am selfish
  • I value other interests above him
  • I have no self-control
  • His effort is unimportant
  • He is not interesting to me
  • He is not high on my priority list
  • Computers are a god
  • It’s okay to ignore people

These are pretty shocking messages. Even more scary is the fact that even if I was doing something REALLY important, he is still getting these messages. As I see it, if I don’t want him to get these messages I have two options: 1) Put him first whenever possible: Stop, look at him, smile, appreciate, ask more questions (rather than hoping he hurries up and finishes talking), hug him, praise him. OR 2) if what I am doing is pressing and important: Stop, look at him, explain “I’d love to hear what you’re saying, but I’m just in the middle of something urgent. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, and you can tell me all about it, OK?” Now he knows that he is valued highly, but sometimes other issues need to take priority for a time. (Side note: we should balance this advice with make sure our children learn the importance of not interrupting, that they are not the only thing in the world which matters, etc. But in my experience this is a far less common problem, and what most of us really need to work on is giving the message of love and value.)

The busy mom syndrome is just one example of the way we talk to our children, but here are some other messages that our words & non-verbal signals may be telling our children:

  • I don’t like you
  • I’m impatient
  • I value obedience more than a right heart
  • I am inconsistent
  • You are stupid
  • You are insignificant
  • You should be perfect
  • My desires are more important that yours
  • You don’t deserve love
  • Anger can be expressed without love
  • What you do is not important
  • It’s okay to be rude
  • Self should be valued above others
I want to be my kids' best friend!

I want to be my kids’ best friend!

Again, a shocking list. And again, it’s even more scary when you stop to think that it’s not just the ‘bad’ parents out there giving these kind of messages. It’s us. We need to stop and take a good look at what we say and how we say it when we talk to anyone – but especially our children. We must not assume “they know that I love them”, but rather SHOW this in the way we talk. We must let our kids know that we respect, like, love, and appreciate them. How many kids would choose to be friends with someone who preferred the company of Facebook over them, who lost their temper with them on a daily basis, who expected them to be perfect and never thanked them for a job well done? I sure want to be my children’s best friend. And one step to this I believe is learning to speak to them in love all day long, as a friend, mentor and mother.

Our words are a window into our hearts that our children look through each day. Sometimes this window may not reflect accurately what is inside, but it is still what our children see. And sometimes this window is more accurate than we like to admit.

The God of Second Chances

 ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
Ezekiel 33:11

I love this verse. I remember the first time I read it, printed on the back of our bathroom door where my Mom regularly put up prayer lists and encouraging Bible verses. What stuck me then, and continues to strike me now, is the desperate love God has for His people. He desires so much for them to take strength and try again, and He wants more than anything to show them mercy.

God's love and mercy are endless!

God’s love and mercy are endless!

I also love the Veggie Tales movie Jonah. It does a fantastic job of bringing out the themes of compassion and mercy, and uses the story of Jonah to demonstrate that God both shows these to us and desires us to show them to each other. As Christians we know that God is forgiving, and that His love is never-ending, but I think this head-knowledge doesn’t always translate into heart-knowledge. The Bible is full of examples of human failure followed by Divine forgiveness:

  • Adam & Eve brought sin and death into the world – yet the world has been saved through Jesus
  • David committed adultery and murder – yet is a lasting example of a man after God’s own heart
  • Nineveh was a city full of wickedness – yet it is a story full of hope and forgiveness
  • Paul was an infamous persecutor of the church – yet he became an honorary apostle and prolific church-planter

With such a heritage of sinners and such examples of forgiveness, it should be easy for us to remember that this grace is for us, too! But sometimes, it isn’t easy. Perhaps we have a tendency to get too bogged down with the sorrow of sin. We dwell on the wrong we – and others – have done for too long. Whilst sin is always serious and requires repentance, when remorse inhibits joy and renewed enthusiasm to ‘try again’, I think we are falling into another trap which Satan puts in our path.

There are many things I fail at frequently. Some of them may not even seem important to others, and some of them are more obvious.  A personal example:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.

I was thinking the other day that it has been too long since I incorporated prayer into my devotional time with my kids. I know how important it is, yet it had been months since we included that aspect into our devos! So yesterday, we started again. It is great! Do I wish I’d never stopped? Yes. But God is a God of second, third, fourth, fifth…. chances. So when I realise my mistakes, I have joy in knowing I can be forgiven yet again and move on with renewed intentions.

So if you have let your housework get out of hand and feel a little guilty – say sorry to whoever needs to hear it then stop feeling guilty and take the chance to try again. If you have forgotten to read your Bible in weeks… months… years… – pick it up and thank the Lord for another chance to read. If you go to bed tonight and realise that today, like most other days, you have not been patient with your children, don’t dwell too long in the sorrow of this – ask forgiveness then praise God for His grace and for a new chance tomorrow.

And if you see someone who seems to have it all together and you start to feel guilt and jealousy creeping in – remember they are just another David, Paul, or Ninevite, who has taken another chance from the God of grace. May we always take joy in the steadfast love of the Lord, and His new mercies each morning.

Guest Post: Laying Strong Foundations

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Matthew 7:24-25

Hi! In this family I am known variously as Sinead, Sineadanne, Tobe (pronounced ‘Toby’) and Aunty Tobe – I think that covers it! We have been so blessed by God to have one foster son (adult) and four precious princesses (ranging in age from 7 to 12). We love God, family, music, nature, being creative, food & laughing together!

I was thinking the other day about some basic concepts it is helpful for children to know. It was a useful process for me: taking a step back to survey our parenting focus from a ‘big picture’ viewing point. Below is what I came up with, vaguely grouped but in no particular order of importance.

I thought I would share these ideas in the hope that God may be able to use something to help someone somehow 🙂

RELATING TO GOD

Laying strong foundations is important in parenting.

Laying strong foundations is important in parenting.

– God loves them and desires that they love Him
– Our value comes from the unchangeable fact that God made us and loves us; we & God belong together
– Jesus is a friend like no other they will ever know – even us, their parents – and He demonstrated this on the cross
– When we do wrong things, we deserve to be punished by God. God keeps a record of every wrong thing every person does – but Jesus’ sacrifice means that a Christian does not have to take their punishment as Jesus has already taken it for the
– Following Jesus includes:

  • Putting God first
  • Putting other people before ourselves
  • Showing grace (a simple definition = undeserved favour)
  • Being humble
  • They can talk to God about anything

– Sometimes things are hard/bad things happen – this is actually good in the end as God uses these situations to train and strengthen us

RELATING TO US (PARENTS)

– They can talk to us about anything
– We love them and like them  (Note: these are connected but different things and they need to know BOTH)
– God has given them us, their parents, to look after them and teach them about His love & His ways – THAT is why it is wise & beneficial for them to listen to us
– Our love is unconditional and we will support & encourage them through the ups and downs of their lives
– Unlike God and just like them, we make mistakes (this gives us an opportunity to role model humility, repentance & the joy of God’s grace)

PURPOSE

– Our purpose on earth includes:

  • to love God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul
  • to love others as we love ourselves
  • to fear God
  • to serve God
  • to praise God
  • to honour God

– Our lives (time, words, actions) are created by and for God, not ourselves

Take joy in everything!

Take joy in everything!

JOY

– God will take care of problems and help us cope in hard times, which means there is nothing we can’t get through in life with Him = JOY!!
– Christians go to heaven = JOY!!
– All good gifts come from God and He gives us many every day = JOY!!
– God wants us to look out for these good gifts all the time and be thankful to Him and others for them = JOY!!
– CHOOSE joy – in the end it is always better to look on the bright side

RELATING TO OTHERS

– God will meter out justice (so they don’t have to!)
– Do good to others as much as you can, especially if they are unloving to you
– Imagining what others might be thinking/feeling is useful in knowing how to bless them
– Show grace & forgiveness as you have been shown grace & forgiveness
– Wisdom is seeing things as God sees them & it is something good to desire
– Think BEFORE you speak or act
– It is great to be an encourager/helper

  • Everybody needs one
  • It is good for everyone involved e.g. helper & ‘helpee’.

– People make mistakes – including us and them – it doesn’t make the people less lovable: God forgives them (and us) so we should forgive them (and ourselves) too

Wow – that ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be! This may seem overwhelming to some of you but let me encourage you; when I start to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the responsibility of parenting, I have learnt to remind myself that there are THREE parents: God is working tirelessly to lay strong foundations in our children’s lives – we are just His helpers! Furthermore, we have surprisingly many opportunities in the day to gently teach & reinforce these foundational concepts.

I am sure there are others, too – probably some obvious & important ones – this was just a mind dump with a little revision. Can you add any ideas on foundational concepts children should know? I’d love to hear them 🙂

Brick image courtesy of Kai4107  www.freedigitalphotos.net.

Ten ways to pray with your children

Having an active prayer life, and inspiring one in my children, is something I desire as a mother. I need daily help to teach my children the ways of the Lord, and I want them to know that they do not have to rely their own strength – God wants to help them. I like to keep prayer times fresh, natural and organic.  We use a combination of routines and unique ideas in our prayer life. Here are ten ideas for ways and times to include prayer in each day, with and for our children:

  1. Pray before meals.  This a traditional time to pray, and it provides a regular reminder for us to thank God for His blessings.
  2. Have a ‘circle’ prayer.  Named the ‘circle’ prayer at our house, this is simply a way to pray where one person opens the prayer and each then takes a turn saying what they are thankful for, or what they are requesting of God. It goes around a few times and then someone closes it.
  3. Pray before bed.  Another traditional prayer time, which I think is very helpful in creating a peaceful, loving, positive routine. In our family we each have a turn to pray (or sometime do the circle prayer), and my husband and I try to include prayer for the spiritual growth of our children at this time, as well as requests for peaceful sleep and sweet dreams.
  4. Pray when a need becomes known.  Sometimes we get a call or message with an urgent request for prayer. At these times it is good stop what we are doing, call the family together and pray.
  5. Learn the Lord’s prayer.  While this is not something we have done (yet), Jesus provided us a sample prayer which we would to well to acquaint our children with.
  6. Pray when they are scared.  Whether it is bad dreams in the middle of the night, or stage-fright before performing to an audience, we should pray with our children whenever they are scared, teaching them that God both comforts and strengthens us in times of need.
  7. Use a prayer list.  Whether you keep a list on the fridge, in the lounge or on the back of the toilet room door (as my parents did when I was growing up), keeping a list of ‘prayer fodder’ around helps us and our children to remember to pray for “all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18).
  8. Pray alone.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, spending a personal time with God praying for your children is nourishing to the soul, and I could not get by without this time to ask God for His grace, wisdom and Spirit to be poured out on me and my children as we teach and learn together.
  9. The ‘Three Things’ prayer. Quite often during our daily Bible time the kids and I do a ‘three things’ prayer. We each choose one thing to be thankful for, one thing to pray for ourselves (with a spiritual emphasis) and one thing to pray for someone else.
  10. Pray when the impulse arises.  Princess has been an inspiration to me on this last point. Quite often when we are in the middle of doing something she will pipe up and say, “We should have a prayer!”. Yesterday we were out for a walk at a local National Trust property, enjoying the beauty surrounding us and the special time together as we all walked hand in hand. During this walk she gave this sweet-voiced suggestion, and so as we walked we said a circle prayer of thanks for the lovely time we were having. I hope she never loses the desire to pray spontaneously, and that it infects all she knows with a love for talking to God.

Dear God

As each day of my motherhood journey passes, I am more and more convicted of the need for prayer, in two key ways.

1)  Fervent, deep prayer.  Daily – or at least, regularly – we need to set aside time to go into our room, close the door, and pray to our Father who is unseen. There is no way that any of us are capable enough to raise, teach and fulfill children on our own. We may have gifts, talents, commitment and love, but we are still not enough. I don’t say this to tear us down; I don’t want to submit to false humility or self-deprecation. I just want us to be honest – and the honest truth is no matter how good we are, we are not perfect. We will fail as a parent – and often! The truth is, we need to appeal to a power greater than ourselves to raise our children up in faith. We need to beg God to fill them up with His Spirit, to strengthen their souls, to draw them to Himself, to lead them in His paths, to teach them His truths and to instill in them a life-long love and passion for Him, and an unconditional love for all others.

Not only is this deep prayer an intercession to God on behalf of our children, but it is also rejuvenating and nourishing for our own souls. Spending time with God is like drinking a fantastically healthy fruit and veg smoothie – only better! It builds us up and strengthens us to resist Satan’s attempts to bring us down. Spending time in deep prayer is the best motivation I have found for helping me put into practice the ideals and ideas I have for my children.

The prayer jar, and a faithfully answered prayer 🙂

2)  Sprinkling prayers throughout the day.  It is important to include prayer throughout the day for both our own and our children’s sake. In our house, we try to pray in lots of different ways: together at our Bible snuggle time, stop what we are doing to pray if we hear of a specific need, pray at meal time, and pray at bedtime. Paul, in the book of 1 Thessalonians, says we should pray ‘continually’. I think what he means is that we should have a prayerful mindset. Prayer should be a first reaction to both good and bad situations. Thanking God and asking for His help should be second nature as we go about our daily activities.

There are also many creative ways of adding prayer into your daily life. I particularly like this idea as a way to help our children remember to pray for others. Another idea that we use is the ‘prayer jar’. Anyone can write a prayer or ‘letter’ to God, and put it into the jar. It is fun to look at them again later and see how faithfully God has answered the prayers we have prayed.

What ideas to you have to keep prayer a central part of your and your children’s lives?

Don’t forget

Over the last couple of weeks my husband and I have been watching Band of Brothers. It is a second world war series that my my brother-in-law lent it to us, saying he thought we would enjoy it; I was sceptical. War movies are not generally my favourite, and this one looked like it might even be black and white (the horror – I cannot watch such desaturated entertainment!). However I agreed to give it a try, and to my and my husband’s surprise I was hooked.  Wow.  What a powerful movie.

In my school years I detested history, and when I started home-education I was allowed to drop the subject, much to my relief. I appreciate my parents’ respect for my personal interests, and now I am older I find I am increasingly self-motivated to learn all I can. Watching Band of Brothers coincided with an Open University course I am doing, the current topic of which is war poetry, so the timing was particularly good for me. I soaked up the history of the war, as told through the eyes of the courageous men who fought in it.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Band of Brothers follows the story of the US paratrooper unit ‘Easy Company’, from their drop behind enemy lines on D-Day to their capture of  the ‘Eagles Nest’ and the end of the war. Directed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, this is predictably an excellent series. I would warn those who watch it that the language is very excessive, and there is, unfortunately, one sex scene that we skipped. Being a war film it also has some pretty shocking violence, although this is not as bad as it could have been. Despite these aspects though, I thoroughly recommend the movie. It is a deeply moving true story of men who willingly volunteered their lives – even to the point of death – and gave everything they had to do what they believed was right. That is worth watching.

The last disc of the series has a commentary and other extras which are also very interesting to watch, including comments from several Easy Company veterans. Again, this section is moving as you see the men cry for their friends and recall horrors of battle that I cannot imagine having had to live through. But there was one line that stood out to me more than any other. At the end of ‘The Making Of’ section one of the actors who plays an Easy Company soldier makes this comment:

These guys lived hell for years, for the betterment of the world. Doing a movie like this is hopefully a small shred… a sliver… of a thank you. And a little piece of information that we can pass along to other people, and go, “Don’t forget.  Don’t forget.  It was really hard, and these guys did it so that you don’t have to.”

When I heard this, I was stuck to the core. Certainly after watching this movie I won’t forget what they did, and I do hold them in high esteem. I think there is not a person in the world who could watch and understand what Easy Company did and not regard them as heroes. And yet, they can’t hold a candle to Christ. What they did – mind-blowing as it was – is nothing compared to what Jesus has done.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, truly did go through hell – for the betterment of the world.  He did it not just for His friends but also His enemies. He took upon himself the sins of the entire world, even though the world scorned Him. He died in the ultimate battle for the salvation of our souls. And glory to God, He rose again and conquered!

Let us share this good news with the people in our lives, and tell them of the greatest hero who ever lived – and lives still today!

And let us not forget.  Don’t forget.  It was really hard, and Jesus did it so that you don’t have to.

From the lips of children

My precious Prince - my gift from God.

Yesterday I was working on my computer at the table in our lounge. My kids brought out almost all of their cars, and set them up near me in rows, like a large audience. Prince had one car at the front, facing all the others, and up on some kind of makeshift platform.  Then he put on his ‘car voice’, and began the announcement:

“Everyone, I have something amazing to tell you: Jesus died on a cross.”
[shocked gasp from the audience]
“No, don’t worry – you don’t need to gasp.   Jesus died…”
[another gasp]
“…but then after a few days he came back to life again!!!
[cheering from the crowd]

Amen.

Pressing on

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-14 (NIV)

Paul had his priorities right. He valued Christ above all else.  In chapter 1 he says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (v21)  Here in chapter 3 he says that if anyone has a right to boast in the flesh, it is him – and yet he considers his worldly advantages to be as “garbage” compared to belonging to Jesus.  This is Paul’s goal: to attain to the resurrection from the dead, which Christ Jesus has offered him.

“There is nothing I want more than for my children to love God and give Him first place in their lives.”

I, too, have this goal.  But as a mom, it is not just for me, but for my children also. There is nothing I want more than for my children to love God and give Him first place in their lives. Yet daily I mess up. I fail to live up to the opportunities given to me; I make selfish choices; I prioritise worldly values; I model sinful attitudes. I am sure you fail too. And God knows this. He knows we are helpless – so he gave us a gift: infinite grace.

Because of grace, reaching our goal does not depend on us achieving perfection here on earth. We will not be saved on the merit of our motherhood, our ministry, or our self-imposed laws. We cannot save our children, either, no matter how many hours a day we spend teaching them of His love (don’t mistake me here – we should teach them this, it’s just that we cannot save them). We, and our children, can only gain the prize of salvation by accepting it. Christ Jesus came to offer us freedom and eternal salvation because of His perfect life. When we begin to understand this concept, we are blown away.

None of us have reached this goal yet, but there is hope. I want to encourage us all, to forget what is behind, and press on to what is ahead. Start each day – even each hour, each minute – anew.  Accept the grace of God, and look forward. Don’t dwell on the mistakes and failures of the past. Persevere in your faith; pray for your children. There is hope in the future.

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