Archives for posts with tag: Christian

Apparently, I get a little agitated and unpredictable when I’m pregnant.

With my first pregnancy, I remember plotting for two hours how I might sneak into the back yard and use our chainsaw to cut down a limb that had been bothering me. Thankfully, even in my hormone-drunken stupor, a tiny voice told me that my husband would not be pleased to return home from work and find me perched on a ladder holding a dangerous tool.

The second time around, I had no cravings for destructive machinery, only Heath bars. I did, however, have to force myself to avoid becoming one of those parents who fights at the soccer games of 11-year-olds.

To be fair, I didn’t really want to hurt the dads who were telling the players on their team to foul so hard that they knocked our players over. I just wanted to startle them by tipping their folding chairs back until the dads landed on the ground. Then, I imagined I’d look down at them, wag my finger over my bulging belly and tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves – that is, until I heard that tiny voice of reason again. So, instead, I waddled over to the playground with my toddler, my swollen ankles and my thoughts.

We first put Jessie in soccer a couple of years ago as a way for him to have an outlet for all of that boy energy. Now, in this age bracket, the stakes are higher: The coach talks strategy; the team practices more than just kicking the ball down the field; and the fans sometimes get mouthy when their team is losing. We’ve gotten lessons on what it takes to be a man (or woman) of God on and off the playing field.

The topic comes up a lot at our house, especially now that we’ve added a third son. We talk about doing the right thing, even in tough situations. About standing up for people who need a little help. About being honest and asking for forgiveness. About sticking out your hand and pulling up your opponent when he has fallen – whether you’re winning or losing.

Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t knock those chairs over after all.

 

I love hearing why people love God. Won’t you send us your own video to share?

Listen as my friend Nathaniel Ferguson talks about the comfort he finds in God…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c0v_O6PHIE

On the day our two oldest sons were being dedicated, a wind storm knocked out power at our church. Suddenly, instead of electric guitars and drums, there was almost silence in a room of about 400 people.

Someone thought to bring out a couple of camping lanterns and put them near the pulpit while our pastor stalled for a few minutes, waiting for the power to come back on and our service to return to normal.

Still, nothing. So, he did something a little unusual for a Sunday morning: He asked if people would like to stand and share how God had blessed them.

There, in the darkness, they began to rise from their pews. One was thankful for help with finances. One was glad that God is helping her family make tough decisions. And several told how God had helped them through illnesses.

As each one of them spoke, it felt like the room got smaller, more intimate. By the time my little family went to the front, it seemed the world had stopped and given me a moment dipped in gratitude and grace.

By flashlight, the pastor read the words of the dedication ceremony. And it was perfect, especially for someone like me — someone who too often allows the noise of everyday life to drown out the whispers of God.

Apparently I’m not alone, though. Many of the people who come to see Sue Staropoli are looking for ways to lead a quieter, more prayerful and balanced life.

“We’re so activity focused,” said Staropoli, a spiritual advisor in Penfield, NY, who teaches classes on contentment and taking better care of ourselves.  “We under value the little things.”

Like an act of kindness. Like a crimson leaf falling. Like the sound of a sleeping baby breathing in and breathing out.

We can take note of those things, she said. We can train ourselves to slow down. We can change our lives a moment at a time.

I’m ready.

A few weekends ago, I had a rough night of prayer – the kind that has you awake at 3 a.m. straightening rooms and hanging up laundry just because you’re too unsettled to sit still.

For about a week I’d been having dreams where I was arguing with my 13-year-old son. In my dreams, Jessie was angry and challenging me and I was grasping for control. I was lecturing and clamping down on every wrong thing he did. I was all truth and very little mercy.

And I was driving him away. His precious heart was hardening.

Even when I was awake, I wrestled with those dreams and the truth that they might hold. Finally, those thoughts came to a peak one Saturday night. I don’t know what triggered it, but I found myself in tears, crying out to God for help.

Instead of praying for Jessie to have wisdom; for Jessie’s heart to heal from being separated from his biological parents; for Jessie to have courage and strength and joy… I prayed for myself to become the mother that Jessie needs.

That night, everything was on the table with God. If I needed to lay-off on the nagging, I’d do it. If I needed to give Jessie a little more space to make his own mistakes, I’d do it. Whatever it took for Jessie to know – really know – that he was loved unconditionally, I’d do it.

In the next few days, I started noticing more chances to reach out to Jessie, to snag a little fun time together. Things I wanted to teach him began to come up naturally in conversation. No lectures needed. And I was reminded that prayer does change things, especially me.

I love how author and pastor Bill Hybels puts it in his introduction to “Too Busy Not to Pray” ($15, InterVarsity Press). If we all prayed regularly, he writes:

“I believe hearts would soften. Habits would shift. Faith would expand. Love for the poor would increase. Positive, purposeful legacies would be built. And a ravenous hunger would rumble through us all to get usable….”

Now, that’s the power of prayer.

 

Join me at 7:30 p.m. EST March 16 for a live chat with Ann Voskamp on the Simply Faithful page on Facebook. She has graciously agreed to answer questions from readers and share more about her life of faith. I know you’ll enjoy your time with her.

For 30 weeks Ann Voskamp’s book has earned a place on the New York Times bestseller list – and her neighbors don’t have a clue. People at her church found out only because the pastor shared his congratulations the first week.

And now the mail lady knows because her niece told her about a book she was reading called One Thousand Gifts. The mail lady happened to recognize the name of the author as the woman on her route who rarely leaves her farm in southwestern Ontario. The woman whose life is intentionally the same as it has always been, except for the occasional interview with a reporter and a mention on national TV by Kathie Lee Gifford, who tells the “Today” audience that the book is life changing.

“I never thought anyone would read it,” said Voskamp, adding that she and her husband hoped her story of writing down 1,000 things she was grateful for would at least sell enough copies to earn the advance from the publisher. It did. Before the book was even released.

Now 337,000 copies are in print, and it recently won an Award of Merit from Christianity Today. A free One Thousand Gifts app helps people track their gifts on their mobile devices, and Voskamp’s blog – aholyexperience.com – is no longer a private way for the shy woman to process her thoughts and find quiet time with God. She suddenly has an audience.

Most of that audience adores Voskamp, her wisdom and her poetic writing. And they appreciate the glimpses into her life: her struggles with depression and anxiety after the accidental death of her sister; her joy of chasing a harvest moon; her learning to take the hands of God and to trust.

“In some ways, writing is my personal handicap” because I need it to process my experiences, said Voskamp. “Some people can live through experiences once and learn from them. I have to live them twice in order to unpack and unfold the lessons.”

That’s why the mother of six continues to write what she is thankful for, to slow down, to see God’s gifts. “Counting gifts makes me realize who I can count on.”

It also reminds her of lessons she learns and then forgets – something she calls soul amnesia. “My default is not Pollyanna,” Voskamp said. “My default is perfectionism. I see all the mistakes, all the holes.” But gratitude, grace and joy point her to a different way of life, one that is content and in communion with God. “I often think God needs my hands to work but what he needs is for my knees to bend in prayer.”

So, she practices. She finds time to write on the fringes of the day. She prays at set times and between gathering the eggs from the hen house and homeschooling the kids, between the 45-minute drive to the library and writing assignments.

“When you establish time for prayer, you establish who is the priority,” said Voskamp, who attends a non-denominational church and travels for Compassion International, where she contributes to a blog for the ministry that helps children living in poverty.

On one of those trips, she met a pastor who brought clean drinking water to children living at a dump in Guatemala City, and he had dreams of building a recreation and educational center with computer labs, an English academy and a music studio. That pastor can now break ground on the project, thanks to royalties from One Thousand Gifts.

One Thousand Gifts, a book about thanksgiving now becomes a story of thanks-living,” Voskamp writes in her blog.

And there it is. The woman who gets anxious about travel and about being in the spotlight, the woman who never mentions her success to her neighbors, is quietly changing the world. One gift at a time.

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