He taunts me.
The Goliath that stands before me.
Oh he knows whose I am and the army that surrounds me. But he doesn’t care. He knows that one simple stone of fear cast my way could paralyze my senses.
His voice has threatened my security in days past. I have responded by resisting his efforts to bring me down. But recently, remembering the source of my power and identity has been challenging. Repeatedly, he has crossed my path and I am tired of fighting him. My body holds the tension of stiff muscles and a cautious mind.
What if he appears again?
The size of my Goliath appears daunting. From an earthly perspective, I appear as a grasshopper to his massive size. With what resources could I possibly defeat him?
His appearance morphs. Sometimes, he is disguised as financial difficulties. Other moments, he pops up as expectations or disappointment. Illness, both physical and mental have resembled him. And then when he really wants to wield power, he looks like guilt.
But what all encounters have in common is the threat to hold me captive in fear. To keep my eyes focused on the problem and not my power. When that happens, I lose hope. My throat tightens. My chest feels heavy. My arms feel paralyzed.
How did David do it?
“The Israelites, to a man, fell back the moment they saw the giant—totally frightened. The talk among the troops was, “Have you ever seen anything like this, this man openly and defiantly challenging Israel?”
David names what he sees. ““Who does he think he is, anyway, this uncircumcised Philistine, taunting the armies of God-Alive?” (1 Samuel 17:26)
Reality check: Goliath is not as powerful as he appears. His strength lies in intimidation; from outside not within.
.David is reminded that God is enough.
“God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36)
God reminds me of previous encounters with him. He is enough
David was fit with the assumed armor and weapons that others believed would help him in the battle. However, in his complete faith, refused what was offered to him, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this.” And he took it all off.” The weapons the world offers to me look enticing but they are not what God desires for me to use.
David looked his Goliath in the face.
So must I.
“David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46)
As I look my current form of Goliath in the face, I am choosing to recognize the armor I bear. It’s the same one that David chose: God’s word; living and active.
“11-14 This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!” (Deut. 30:11-14)
We are not guaranteed a battle free life. But we are assured we are not alone as we fight. When we ask for God’s help, we, like David show others where hope is found.
“…the whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel.” (1Samuel 17:46)
How can Goliath win?
“You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 1:18-19)
First Ask Why by Shelly Wildman.
Though not an actual “devotional,” this book pushes parents to create a framework for how they can engage in faith growing experiences with their children. In the first pages, she describes her own beginning attempts to nurture her daughters’ faith. Some of those attempts went according to plan. Others ended in the frustration familiar to many parents who encounter the reality of intentional teaching among restless bodies. The story drew me in as I resonated deeply with her desire to reconcile God’s commands for parents and the reality of trying to implement a plan. Wildman proposes that asking “Why” we do what we do as families will lead to organic opportunities to for discipleship. It does not mean intentionality is forgotten but asking “why” pushes us to prioritize the ways a family uses their time, energy, and resources. There are a lot of “how to books” but families have different shapes and no one model can adequately help. As a parent myself, I found the information, grounded in scripture, practical. It felt as if a friend was sharing wisdom gained from experience. The questions at the end of each chapter challenge reflection and implementation.
Pray A to Z by Amelia Rhodes
This book transforms the way you see others in your community. If you are familiar with a prayer walk, this book takes that concept to the next level. Arranged in alphabetical order, each page offer a brief introduction to a topic of prayer including: alcoholism, cancer, divorce, depression, estranged relationships, law enforcement, Jehovah-Jireh, Truth, and Wisdom. Our family uses each topic as our weekly them of prayer. Something holy happens when you pray for those you randomly see in your daily interactions. God opens up our eyes and the Holy Spirit puts a nudge in our hearts as we encounter those for whom we pray.
No More Fear for Kids by Johanna Reardon
Finding a family devotional book that speaks in a language that draws kids in is challenging. “Fear” is a common issues children face. The stories that introduce each lesson contain elements of situations that children will most likely have experienced. Bullying, staying overnight away from home, and fears of earthly disasters are common sources of children’s fears. Rather than dismissing them with a scriptural platitude, the author confronts them head on. Questions are offered at the end of each lesson which help the family members engage with one another and gives them a chance to listen to one another. In addition, the scriptural support and prayer places hope in their hearts. In addition, a characteristic of God becomes the theme woven through the whole lesson. I wish I would have had this book when my children were younger. It’s aimed towards the 8-12 year age group.
The Teenage Prayer Experiment Notebook by Miranda abd Noah Threlfall-Holmes.
I picked up this little gem at a writing conference. The book stands out from traditional devotional books for kids/teens for two reasons: 1) It is written by a mom and her teen son. 2) Hands on application involves some really creative and culturally relevant methods of prayer. The introduction sets the premise: “This is not a book to teach teenagers about prayer. It is a book to encourage teenagers to try out prayer for themselves.” Each experiment includes an introduction (including its, the experiment itself, space for notes, and comments from other experimenters (including Noah). Ideas include creating a prayer space in a virtual world, bedroom door prayers, coloring the Bible, modelling a Bible passage using legos, and Nerf gun confession. Although this book is intended as an individual devotional book,it can easily be used as a family or youth group resource. http://teenageprayerexperiment.blogspot.com/p/running-prayer-experiment-workshop.html
The Bible Project https://thebibleproject.com/
The digital age is reality so it makes sense to incorporate Bible teaching venues into it. Founded in 2014 by friends Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins, “The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated videos to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. ” The videos fall under five categories: series, themes, word study, old testament and new testament. Compelling story telling and creative animation draws the audience to watch these short clips (most are under five minutes). My family has found this resource to provide a springboard for discussions that normally are challenging to initiate with your kids. (ie: hey, what do you think about praying the Shema? How about those Covenants?). You can watch these videos on the site as well as youtube. I guarantee your kids won’t be the only ones gaining Biblical knowledge.
Why would anyone be upset with God when their prayers were answered as they had hoped?
For years, the Israelites served the Egyptians under oppressive conditions . But God was aware of their suffering and the deliverance they longed for was about to take place.
“The Lord said, “I have seen how my people are suffering in Egypt. I have heard them cry out because of their slave drivers. I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to save them from the Egyptians. I will bring them up out of that land…” (Exodus 3:7-8)
Getting what we wish for can be a dangerous thing.
Lately, I find myself resonating with the Israelites’ frustration and perspective. Recently, our family received deliverance. For over a decade, we sought release from financial, work, and medical burdens. It seemed that every time that an impending release appeared possible, another problem arose to counter the feeling of freedom.
Finally, we entered into a new place. After years of praying for respite from a continuous string of unexpected stresses, we felt rescued and embraced the peace found within it.
For the first few months, we rejoiced. We knew it was God’s hand that brought this blessing. It’s not that we didn’t thank God for anything during the previous years, but this dramatic transition brought physical awareness for where we had come. Truthfully, some of the sources of worry had disappeared. Health had stabilized. Financial issues were resolved. My husband was released from a long difficult job experience. Celebration commenced.
When the Israelites were finally released from captivity, they too praised God. There had been many close calls that seemed to threaten the fulfillment of God’s promise to them.
“They said to Moses,’Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” (Exodus 14:11-12)
When it happened, they celebrated. They sang, danced, and relished in the gift of a respite.
““I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my might,[a]
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him…”(Exodus 15:1-2)
But, unbeknownst to them, the release was not without it’s own set of challenges. They were not done moving.
Our expectations of how God will work and preconceived notions of God’s character can result in disappointment. We look at our narrative unfolding through human eyes.
“ The Israelites said to them, “We wish the Lord had put us to death in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat. We ate all the food we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert. You must want this entire community to die of hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)
God was moving them to a better place. But the in-between space did not match what they envisioned.
Couldn’t the comfort have lasted a little longer?
Currently, we are moving toward a new place again. Not a new home but new jobs. Our transition doesn’t feel as euphoric as it did in the beginning. God’s hand doesn’t seem to be moving as quickly as we wished. The feast has ended. The provision is appearing in forms different than what we planned. Our bodies are growing weary.
The journey seems long and, at times, discouraging. But we know that God never forgot the Israelites. And we are not forgotten either.
We are aware that the vision we hold is not complete. And we will keep trusting (clinging at times) to the promises given to the Israelites along their way.
Because God always wants to lead us to a better place than we were in before. Even if we don’t understand the stops along the way.
I can hear the voice beckoning me forward.
By all Heavenly accounts, I have nothing to fear. Have I forgotten the miracles Jesus has performed in front of my eyes? Do I believe the testimony of wonders shared throughout scripture?
By all Earthly accounts, I have everything to fear. Voices of “reason” echo in my head. Don’t I know where I should be securing my feet?
My husband was laid off in March. Our severance package ended. And we held onto expectations for the way we would be rescued from our boat in the midst of this abyss.
But currently, we wait.
I glance down at the “water” that surrounds me. Wide and cloudy. No clear path is yet visible.
But Jesus stretches out his hand and keeps calling.
Does Jesus not realize what he is asking? How on Earth can it happen?
“Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here.”
I cry out, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
Jesus replies, “Yes, come.”
So I step out of the safe confines of my “boat.” I dip a toe in. Fear holds me back from putting my whole weight on one foot.
The implications are not lost on me. I know people who have stepped into this place that is unknown; unpredictable. Didn’t some of them sink?
But this moment isn’t about them. It’s about me. There are plenty of human based reasons to refuse to walk toward Jesus’ voice.
But what will I lose if I don’t?
Ironically, I cannot walk forward if I remain balancing on one leg. So, slowly, I move the other foot in front. I can’t believe it! I am walking toward Jesus!
And then the winds begin picking up speed. Keeping my balance and my eyes focused on Jesus’ outstretched arm becomes difficult.
Another job prospect fell through. Our car broke down.
I didn’t expect this challenge. If Jesus is inviting me to come, why am I being knocked around as I make my way toward his reach?
What if I plunge downward?
Save me Lord!
Jesus grabs my attention.
A week long contract appears out of the blue. A side job appears. Our every need is provided.
Jesus calls out to me, “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”
Truthfully? Because I’m human. Like Peter, who laid out the path ahead of me, I lean toward what my mind can grasp. It cannot comprehend the divinity which intersects in our Earthly moments.
Of course, I have witnessed wonders earlier in my life which can only be attributed to the works of a mighty God. Many times I have felt Jesus speaking to my heart and providing clarity. And, like Peter, I am no stranger to the accounts of miraculous activity in the lives of others. Scripture gives no shortage of those interactions. Both of us share the witnessing (he-personally; me-through scripture) of Jesus feeding a multitude with a few loaves and fishes. And what about that storm that abruptly halted upon Jesus’ command?
Still, fear lingers.
But I walk forward in faith. Because I simply can’t refuse to remain stuck in a false pretense of security. My current place of refuge may appear secure because it’s where I have found comfort. But ultimately, it only brought security because Jesus led me to it at one point.
Now, I’m being led to trust him once again. He has never let me down.
Peter, surely found security in following Jesus otherwise he would have abandoned him.
Jesus did not promise safety and predictability then and doesn’t now. But he does promise living abundantly.
So I walk to embrace it; legs wobbly but headed in a straight line toward him. And should the winds threaten to throw my balance off, I know that Jesus will grab me. Again.
His presence in the doorway, caught me off guard. Normally, I observed him shuffling up and down the hallway with his walker. ” During my visits to my grandmother’s room in this assisted living facility, this elderly man and I routinely passed each other. Often, his facial expression spoke of anger and his sharp outbursts to others to “Move out of my way!” convinced me that avoidance might be best. In fact, he was known in my head as “cranky man.”
So on this particular day, I was startled when I spied him pausing in the doorway of my grandmother’s room. The door had been left open to the main hallway because my mother, sister, and I were cleaning out her room. A few hours earlier, we had laid her to rest. Her death brought an end to a deterioration of her health; culminating in a recent diagnosis of bone cancer. It was a day full of emotion, pondering and celebration. As we focused on going through the items during what was already a long day, “cranky man” wandered in to ask how things were going. I must admit that two thoughts came into my mind upon his greeting: 1) “It’s the cranky man who tells us to be quiet” 2) “I just want to finish”.
Ironically (and I’m convinced divinely appointed), my young son came running in the room which caused the conversation to turn to the energy of a 10 year old. Being polite, I asked our visitor where he grew up. To my surprise, he answered, “Chicago.” Well, of course, that drew me in. On top of that, he had been a pastor. Who knew that we shared two common elements in our stories? For the next hour, I was engaged in conversation with this man who I merely knew as my grandma’s neighbor.
I listened as Bob (no longer the “cranky man”) shared the most amazing story of his childhood. Placed in an orphanage as an infant, he was later adopted by a couple. His parents, both followers of Christ, added two more sons through adoption. As Bob told his story, his eyes conveyed the love he had for his father; a man whose life radiated Jesus.
Bob’s father was a physician and felt a tug to leave a potentially comfortable place in life to a small town in Illinois. The size of the town wasn’t an issue of adjustment. However, it didn’t believe in medicine! Despite the very real possibility of being ostracized from their new neighbors, moving plans proceeded. As a young boy, Bob wondered how the family would be treated. Would people befriend them?
Perhaps church would provide a place of welcome and refuge for this family of five. Boldly, they made their way to worship one Sunday. What would happen if anyone knew of his father’s occupation? Bob fearfully waited for reaction…..A man suddenly stood up; pointing at Bob’s father. News travels fast in small towns. The rumors of a physician coming to the town had been realized. The man; recognized. A demand to leave followed. Apparently, the perception of medicine was correlated to evil. Firmly, and bravely, this physician responded that his family was staying.
To three young boys, one had to wonder if they perceived that action as a blessing or a curse.
However, in telling me the story, his eyes lit up as he shared the courage his father showed in choosing to stay despite the church praying for him to leave. What would give his parents the courage to make such a choice? Where are they finding peace in this tension?
What Bob so powerfully witnessed was the hand of God moving beneath the scenes. This physician brought healing to wounds of the flesh but also restoration to wounds of the soul. The knees of three young boys ached from their nightly prayer routine. Patients names were added to other list. Sometimes, the prayers lasted an hour. Despite the admonition to keep the information confidential, the manifestation of the hand of God appeared before their eyes.
The transformation that took place in that town as a result of his father’s legacy continues to reap fruit. In fact, with tears in his eyes, Bob recounted the day his father died suddenly. The entire town shut down for the funeral.
The conversation morphed into lighter substance. We laughed about his rebellious antics which resulted in being kicked out of a prominent Christian college. We agreed that we would meet up again. How could I not? I longed to be blessed more from his gleanings!
In one hour, Bob let me into his soul.
How many other times have I tuned out such an encounter? What more of God’s character and works would I know if I learned to open my eyes and my ears to the nudges of the Holy Spirit? What blessings do we miss when we don’t tread in the places resided by the “least of these?”
I would have never imagined that the most profound moment of that day would come after my Grandma’s funeral. God is Good.
Once upon a time, (which didn’t seem so long ago), my husband and I snuggled and watched “our” shows together after putting the kids to bed.
Truthfully, we watched about a half an hour of shows before we feel asleep too.
There was a pretty clear line between the content of the shows that our kids found entertaining and what we enjoyed. Dora, Diego, Wordgirl are fascinating….to a preschooler. But growing older, non animated characters and talking animals no longer hold our attention. (although, I still find my self belting out “We Did It!” at unexpected moments of conquest).
Our kids were not just plopped in front of a tv as a babysitter (most of the time..). I would usually try to fold laundry or accomplish some other small task while watching television with them. The goal was 1) to know the actual content before their eyes and ears and 2) find ways to engage them in conversation from the subject. I’m sure you are familiar with the subject matter-kindness, respect, friendship, wonder of nature, understanding your emotions. These topics are core values for most families-they are tenets of our society. And they reflect basic characteristics which, we as image bears, “wear” as God’s children.
The infusion of God’s word into our hearts and minds comes about both through intentional discussion as well as those teaching moments that occur in the daily moments of life as a family. One way to engage your older kids/teens in conversation about the intersection of faith and choices? Watching tv together.
The idea really isn’t as unrealistic as you may think. Because, there isn’t just a one size (or show) fits all method.
So what to do?
There are three questions that you may be asking:
1)How do you decide what’s appropriate? What you choose to watch is a decision based on your family’s dynamics.. What we feel comfortable letting our kids watch may not suit your family’s comfort level. There are so many factors that affect your decision. I trust that you are seeking discernment from the Holy Spirit in your parenting journey.
2) How would I ever get my teen to watch tv with me? Getting teens to watch a show with you may be like pulling teeth. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t need to be planned. Teaching moments often come through unexpected moments. We are fortunate because our one tv is in the living room- the gathering space where our kids hang out with their electronic devices. Yes, they do watch some shows on their laptops but they prefer the big screen. I know their favorites. Become familiar with a few. Catch a couple episodes with them. (It’s a great time to “pay bills” or “fold laundry” in front of the screen). When I notice that they are engaged in a segment of a show, I can utilize a few bytes for discussion at the time or later.
3)What could I say to my child that will elicit an actual response (not an eyeroll)? Sometimes nothing. Stories can speak for themselves. One of the shows my kids like is “The Middle.” The plots speak lessons for themselves. Who hasn’t wanted to crawl in a hole after experiencing something thoroughly embarrassing at school? Yet, everyone must face the choice in how to respond to those moments. Another one that my daughter and I used to enjoy is “Girl Meets World.” Yes, it can be a bit cheesy but the lessons are significant and address character in a way that hits home.
Take advantage of historical presentations
For our family, the miniseries “Roots” provided a visual account of slavery in a way that no verbal description could match. Admittedly, the graphic events were difficult to watch. But this is history and the events were real. The discussions that took place were initiated through my kids’ observations. Furthermore, we could engage them in identifying the effects of those events today.
The show “Timeless” (NBC) provides a fantastic opportunity for interaction. Set within the context of time-travel, the characters go back in time to various events in order to alter details which are seen as “destructive.” The twist is that the characters’ present lives are unknowingly affected by the outcomes as they are changed-and sometimes the tragedy still happens but differently. In the midst of it all, they are fighting against an antagonist who is seeking to destroy America by showing up at the same events and bringing about greater catastrophe. Not only does the show give you a real life glimpse into the complexities surrounding the events but the viewer is challenged to wrestle with the ways history impacts the present.
Though the values portrayed on some shows differ from those that we have instilled in our now older children, there is a point where kids must realize values, struggles, injustices, tragedies and consequences of choices in the world around them. The characters and stories emulate real life. Relationships are complicated, we all make choices we regret, tragedy can occur at any moment. How do you respond?
Engaging with our kids about these “glimpses” of the world around us offers opportunity to reinforce where hope is found, why following Christ impacts our choices, and how God’s Word navigates us through the wind-y paths of life.
It’s a modern context of the conversations between parents and kids that took place long ago:
” 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.7 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.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
What conversations popped up as a result of your recent viewing?
You might be surprised when I tell you that one of the sections of the newspaper that I glance over is the obituary section. What?! When I have this time to myself (which is precious), why would I spend a minute reading death notices about people I have never met?
Well, for a few reasons. I actually do come across the unfortunate news that someone I once knew has passed on. Beyond that fact, certain notices draw me in and remind me of that which we, in our culture, like to avoid: the reality that we are mortal. Everyone. Our families friends, and ourselves. At any moment, our lives may be affected in a very real way by the reality of death. Glancing over the obituaries reminds me to evaluate my priorities.
One of the rewards (probably not the right term) is learning about my companions on this journey called life. In those few words that represent a miniscule of someone’s life (and may not be fully representational of their whole character), I learn a lot about people. These are not descriptions of those who made headlines. Rather, these quick biographies belong to those with whom we interact and encounter in the daily rhythms of life. Sometimes, I am inspired to be a better version of myself; a more accurate image bearer of my Creator as I learn from them. Such was the case this past week.
As my eyes focused in on the tribute to her life, her career achievements jumped out at me. Margaret was a doctor who pioneered treatments for persons affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder in the 1970’s. Of course my heart skipped a beat because I am an advocate for families affected by autism and other mental health disorders. I’m always interested in those individuals who are seeking to make the world better for all of us by making new strides in this field of medicine.
It is particularly inspiring to know of persons who choose to work in a field that is a filled with cultural stigma; one that doesn’t result in immediate answers and demands a passion against the odds. And in the 70’s?
My gut reaction was, “Wow!” That woman joins the ranks of many people -both men and women; both prominent and behind the scenes-that put rubber to the road. They follow their passion to wherever it takes them.
The thing about courage is that the more we practice it, the more it shapes all areas of our lives. And that’s where the next few words seemed to jump out at me.
“She jumped fearlessly into pools deep in caves”
Anyone who has jumped into a pool spontaneously knows there is an element of mystery combined with freedom once that leap is made. The water’s possible chill may shock at impact. Your stomach flutters as gravity takes it’s course. Yet there’s something to be said for knowing the refreshment that is brought will be worth the experience. I(side note: I am not advocating for jumping into water without any swimming skills and not being aware of it’s depth/or elements) To jump into pools in caves sounds both scary yet enticing. Plunging your physical and emotional being into something so beautiful, majestic, and yet unknown takes courage.
Courage that manifests itself in every part of your life
If you can take great leaps into these amazing physical creations by our God, surely you learn to not let fear become a blockade. You see the other places that you are called to leap into-and you do it. You do it because you know that, in the end, the experience will be worth it. For you and for those in your circles.
That is why, after reading Margaret’s brief summary of her life, I said to myself,
“I want to be known for jumping fearlessly into pools in caves!”
We just must embrace it. We must believe it.
What about you? What fears are holding you back from seeking fully the passions that God has placed on your heart?
Let’s commit to working on this together. Share your stories. We all need encouragement to take leaps sometimes, right?