Friday, September 30, 2011

The "Inconvenience" of Parenting

Every now and again I get this burning within my spirit, and I know I need to write down what God is teaching me. Today is one of those days. Over the last several months people have sought to give Chris and me some “advice” regarding parenting. The advice normally sounds like this: “Enjoy this stage because it all goes downhill from here.” “This is when they are sweet, and then they grow up to be a three-year old, a pre-teen, and a teenager.” “I remember when mine were this little and now they are a pain.” Most of the time this “advice” is given right in front of their children and my heart breaks. What this precious child hears is that they were once valued, but now they are an inconvenience. We live in a world where we despise being inconvenienced. We eat fast food; we drive fast cars; we talk on fast cell phones; and we live in the fast lane. We even DVR our TV shows to watch when it is more convenient for us. If something does not go our way, we throw a grown up temper tantrum by holding a grudge against someone, gossiping or seeking revenge. Over the last few months I think what I’ve seen more than anything is the “inconvenience” children cause in their parent’s lives, and once again, my heart breaks. Motherhood is a new role for me. Makaylan is 5 months old, and I’ve learned a lot about being “inconvenienced” in the last 5 months. For example, I used to get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but now I count it a blessing when I get 4 hours of sleep. I’ve also learned that just because your food is ready to eat does not mean that you will be eating it anytime soon. I laughed with a friend of mine the other day when she said, “I think my little girl hears the “ding” of the microwave and decides it’s time for HER to eat.” Any way you look at it, motherhood (parenthood) is inconvenient…and that is exactly how God designed it!! Did we really think our precious children would come into our lives and not change things? From the moment you hear those amazing words “You’re pregnant!” God begins to mold and shape you into the parent who resembles His fatherly love towards us. But this shaping can only happen as we give over our rights to ourselves and allow God the freedom to shape us. The problem I’ve noticed, in myself and others, is that, often times, we push against His molding. He wants to produce within us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), and the tool He frequently uses to teach us these virtues is our children. But, when we see and treat our children as individuals who have interrupted our nice, cozy life, then we disrupt what God desires to do in us and in them. I am saddened when I see parents (especially professing Christian parents) handle their children with contempt. God has given us children in order to serve them, mold them, disciple them, and show them Christ’s love. The Bible speaks over and over again about the blessing of children (Ps. 127:3-4, Ps 128, Ps 139:13-19). God calls us His children, and He delights over us (John 1:12). I am SO thankful that God does not see me, His child, as an inconvenience. Instead, while I was still a sinner He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for me (Romans 5:8). When I have come to Him in need, I have never felt Him roll His eyes at me. He delights in my need of Him, and encourages me to come to Him…with anything and at ANY time. He does not demand that I wait until morning, or that I grow up first, or that I get a grip. He offers Himself, and delights as we come to Him. My prayer is that my little girl (and any future children we are blessed to raise) will always know and feel that her parents prayed for her and still find her valuable…even when she is three years old! Written by Amanda Walker, Cultivating Hearts Editor and Women's Ministry Advisor

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Silas' Reflections on the Midnight Hour

After a period, the blows stopped. I don’t know which was worse, the anticipation of the blow or how I felt after it stopped. Slowly, my mind began to focus back in this world and I realized we were being taken to the prison. Every nerve in my body pulsed with pain. I kept shaking my head hoping to refocus my vision. I heard them talking around me, but my thoughts were not lucid yet and I could not tell you where they were. I remember coming to as my face hit the ground. Overwhelmed by the stench of human waste my thoughts cleared quite quickly as that scent reached the inner recesses of my brain. My body racked with heaving so intensely I did not know where the pain was worse. Finally, squinting through throbbing eyes I saw Paul on the ground next to me just starting to come to as well. Blood crusted dirt caked his body. Discerning where his wounds began was impossible. He was one raw mess. I then heard the jailer shout at the guard, “Take extra precautions with these two!” I remember thinking. What kind of precautions? I heard him coming before I saw him. The ground rumbled under his weight. He grabbed both of us simultaneously, lifted us by our arms and dragged us down a long descending corridor that went deeper and deeper into the recesses of the earth. He was a large man and he smelled of sweat and dirt. Firelights hung on the wall on the path he carried us. The shadows the light created made the place appear eerie and gloomy. Men in stocks lined the path moaning and reaching with their fingers hoping to grasp a hold of the life above. He threw us before the stockade— a large piece of wood the length of a man. The width ran the length of a foot and as thick as a man’s fist with two holes for the feet to be inserted. It split lengthwise down the middle so he could lock our feet in. He enclosed it around our ankles and then took leather straps and secured the enclosure. I expected him to whip us with the straps, so I braced for more blows only to hear his feet retreat. As he left, I realized he had not put our hands and necks in the stockade and this gave me some relief. I don’t know if my back could take the bending over with all the wounds still so fresh from the flogging. I looked over at Paul and he looked at me and we both fell into prayer. It was all we knew to do. Our voices lifted up to Heaven the cries of our hearts. We confessed the mighty miracles of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY. As our voices carried, throughout the tavern within the earth every ear could hear our cry. Our cry was not of our agony or of our pain, but of the glory of the LORD and His strength. How His strong arm carries His children and avenges him against his enemy. How he brings salvation to those who need it. Slowly as we became one voice in the midnight hour our prayers turned into songs. We began to sing the hymns of our faith and our souls were soothed and our voices carried to the highest heights as we contemplated our GOD and King.” Not a body in the room moved. Excerpt from REDEEMED TO PRAISE p. 159-160.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Impregnated Pause

The email came so unexpectedly, "Tara, we will you to lead one of the morning devotions." "Yes, thank you." Excited, but also nervous at one more opportunity to share Jesus. I awoke the morning after the invite at 4:00 am with a start. "Story the seven moments Jesus prayed. Challenge ION attendees to pray like My Son." "Okay. it makes sense to me since that is what I am studying and writing about now." The LORD has caused me to meditate on these seven moments now for about a year. I stopped all aspects of my ministry and only focused on this one endeavor; painstakingly choosing the words, telling, re-telling and re-crafting the story. For two entire weeks all I did was listen to, read or tell the story. I timed and re-timed the presentation. It took 19-23 minutes with most of the times resting at 21. Coinciding with the preparation time at ION (International Orality Network), I began the fall session of women's Bible study at my church. One of the action plans in our study focused on an eight week fast of asking God for anything. I walked a fast of asking. I was not allowed to ask GOD all the things that I might ask, "O LORD, please do not let any words fall empty to the ground. Make my teaching like the dew that ministers to the tender shoot..." However, I was re-learning a process of only praising the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Obviously, He become my WORD Giver, Presenter, Speaker, Spokesmen. Two days before I presented, I remained secluded all morning in order to practice. As the stories unfolded from my lips, the power of GOD's message sent shivers through me. Finally, the story became mine. I left my room with a buoyed step knowing that God was up to something. But, then something happened! On the day before I presented, I could not tell one sentence without confusion. "What is this? Why can't I remember the story? Deliverer!" As the day progressed the confusion increased, passages that I knew well and could tell so easily, suddenly became foreign as if I sought to muddle through what felt like a Greek text. "Father, You make all things clear! You give to us the words we need in our time of need. You tell us to go and tell." I asked my friend if I might share the story with her in order to ease my mind. Yet, the confusion increased. I could not even speak the first sentence without messing up. I couldn't even muster up anxiety. "Sustainer, I do not want to fail you or the ones I seek to honor." My sweet friend even seemed frozen as I tried several times to tell without messing up. As I storied the thought came to me, "ASK and it will be given." "But, I am fasting asking. I know YOU will provide! I trust YOUR character and YOUR WORD! You know what is best and You know my heart. I simply want to tell the story so people will pray like Jesus prayed." At dinner, I shared with Jan and Nancy that I was struggling. I asked them to pray. On the night before the presentation the LORD awoke me at midnight, so I storied. Sweetly, it rolled off my heart and mind like a comforting friend. Sleep peacefully overtook me. "Thank YOU, Father." On the day of the presentation, I progressed through my morning routine knowing that the Holy Spirit would be faithful to complete what the Father began. I skipped breakfast in order to draw nearer to the Father. Yet, as I entered the sanctuary, a spirit of confusion confounded me. As worship progressed, several moments of shear panic overtook me. "What is the story? How do I tell it? What were the points I hoped to communicate?" I could not recall so many details. It was gone. My mind was blank. "Glory, YOU reign! All over the world YOUR glory resounds! Jesus is our victory." As Jerry, our emcee introduced me, he asked me to share about myself when I came up. With clarity I heard in my heart, "Do not introduce yourself! This is not about you. Just tell the story!" I stood to tell and felt the story begin its process of unfolding from the depths of my soul. AND then it happened. It was gone! NOTHING! GONE! I told myself, "Pause, don't say a word! Just pause!" I did. Still nothing. "What was I to say? Where was I?" It even occurred to me that I needed to pause in order to teach how to mess up. A thousand thoughts, but dead silence filled room. The familiarity of the story no longer lulling experienced Bible tellers to distraction. A PAUSE! The impregnated pause gave me time to look out at the people. Heads were bowed. Eyes squinted shut... praying. And I couldn't even pull out of myself a prayer. I couldn't find it. Only by the grace of God my mouth opened and the story began again. Not where it was supposed to, but the comfort of its familiarity sent obvious relief to the group, but I could tell some were still praying. As I storied, I let the pause go because there was not time to dwell on such things. My secondary thoughts kept shouting, "Tell! I must tell!" AND then it happened again, but this time with greater confusion. The Spirit warned, "No! That is a woe not a blessing." I messed up and as much as I tried I could not tell the difference between a blessing and woe. Was I living a blessing or a woe at the moment? I did not know! Once again, the pause gave me opportunity to see the bowed heads and squinted eyes of prayer. Love and comfort oozed into my soul, "Tell, Tara. Tell!" Humbled, I finished the story. The incredible sting of shame covered me as I thought, "They trusted me! But, LORD, even in this YOU can glorify YOUR SON!" The room was quiet and sober. No one, really knew how to respond. One of our own failed today. This could be me some day. Rick immediately rose and came to give me a hug. His hug felt like my earthly daddy's arms and I felt safe, secure and loved. As I left the sanctuary, the spirit of condemnation wanted to sweep me away. I knew in my heart I needed to go to the prayer room so I could have someone help me to lift my head and make sense of the situation. All things happen for a purpose with the children of God. Who am I say what God intended? The prayer room was filled with dialogue about spreading the gospel and how to tell the story as well as dialogue about personal griefs that I had not right to interrupt. I sat and listened. Again, that impregnated silence. I confess I felt so selfish that I felt so desperate for prayer. I left to go to the next conference and as I walked into the room Nancy, the speaker, washed me with public encouragement as only Nancy can. And that is when the dialogue began. "Why LORD!" I know I am not to ask GOD for anything. Somehow this felt right because I did not want something for me by way of a gift. I wanted clarity and understanding. His gentle reminder came, "Was it not your heart for people of ION to pray?" "Yes, LORD. We can't do this apart from YOU!" "What did the people look like when you could not tell?" "They were bowed in prayer!" Ha! Really?! "But, LORD, that is not what I meant!" But, I laughed inside! God showed me the humor of my situation and my burden lifted some for the people did pray. There were many good conversations about the impregnated pause, yet all I could think about was how I might grow and improve. While safely home enveloped in deep sleep beside my beloved, I awoke with another start. Instantly this thought came to me, "Did you notice the two moments you messed up on?" "Yes, Beth helped me remember. I forgot to say, 'Don't think you can say your are Abraham's children. For, I tell you that God can take one of these stones and make children for Abraham.' And, 'Blessed are those who go hungry now for they will be satisfied." "Think on these two!" "Well, it might be easy for one of us to become so religious that we think that by some form of tradition, practice or method that we have it made." As shivers coursed over my body, I sat stunned as I thought of how we at ION can allow these three to destroy the story! O GOD, forgive us... no, forgive me! Immediately, my mind remembered faces of those that are starved for Jesus. And I remembered, "Satisfaction will come!" Finally, peace came upon me. No story is complete for me until I pen it. My literacy breaking through to bring relief to what will be a spiritual marker in my life on the importance of prayer. I do not write it to shame anyone. I write it as a note of remembrance and ask that it be used often as we train. In this, God will redeem that which was not spoken. Father, could it be that the enemy did not want these two particular statements not spoken? Or is it that YOU just wanted us to reflect further on these two? O LORD, whatever the reason. I am ever so thankful because I will never forget! The impregnated pause is a spiritual reminder that I will not quickly forget. Please teach us to pray like Jesus prayed. Tara Rye 4:32 am 9/16/11

Friday, September 02, 2011

Love Never Fails
(1 Corinthians 13:8)

I arose early hungry for my personal quiet time. I love traveling and our vacation proved to be full of rest and renewal, but every moment was filled with people. Coming from me that is an odd statement because I love being with people. Greg left the trailer to go down to the public showers. A sweet friend offered her trailer at Elim Christian lodge in Canada to us for a trip. What a gift! The lush green surroundings and lake provided eye catching moments that gave my heart a lift. I am a country girl at heart and this setting fed my soul. The kids were asleep so I nestled into the couch with my Bible and a cup of chai tea.

A few months back, the LORD revealed to me that my Bible study time had become perfunctory. I now begin my time by simply praying, "LORD, help me to draw into Your presence and know You are real as I read Your Word." In my daily reading, I was to be in Mark, but somehow without noticing I began reading in 1 Corinthians. Chapter 11 and 12 so captured my attention that I began chapter 13 without even realizing I was not in the gospels. And then I read, "Love never fails." In an instant, I was stopped. What? Really? "Love never fails!" How did I not catch this before? Suddenly, streams flowed from my eyes as I realized the power of God's love. As a fresh look at His love penetrated this ole' heart of mine.

I began to visualize various moments that I faced in the last six months and prayed "Love never fails" on each situation. First, my thoughts carried me to my marriage. How many times have I allowed something other than love to try to fix, heal, or work on my relationship with my Greg. Father, You are love. Your love never fails! Write love on my marriage! Then I thought of my parenting to two teens and how quickly I am to preach or teach when they just need a listening ear. Father, You are love. Your love never fails! Write love on my parenting! Then the LORD reminded me of two beloved friends coming to tell me that their teenage children were pregnant. I felt so helpless in what I could give. Father, You are love. Your love never fails! Write love on my friends and their families! Then I remembered various circumstances that dealt with change at my church and how a simple change will cause brothers and sisters to fight. Father, You are love. Your love never fails! Write love on my church! My heart wrenched as I remembered the face of someone I spent six months discipling to only see that she chose to walk back into a lifestyle that did not honor the LORD. Father, You are love. Your love never fails! Write love on the disciples You give me and let love be evident on my face and in my actions! In brokenness, I thought of our country and the choices that are taking place on various levels that grieve God. Father, You are love. Your love never fails! Write love on my nation, especially in the dark hidden places!

Beloved, do we really understand that love never fails? I must confess to you that I do not grasp it fully and I have not lived it out as I should. But, I sure want it to be evident and real in me. Jesus' love covered every sin that has been and ever will be. Who am I to not love? The thing that hit me the most about this particular moment with the LORD was that the places I lack the most love tended to be with other believers or perceived believers. I had to confess that I lacked love with the ones the LORD calls my siblings.

Beloved, love never fails! Where does it need to be written in your life today? Beg God for love to be written on your face, life and ministry.

Simply, Tara