Monday, December 29, 2014

New Seeds

For the past couple of years, my husband and I have made it a priority to get a way during the month of December to spend some time together.  It's a hectic, crazy time of the year to try to carve out a couple of days, but we are discovering it's actually a wonderful time to do it. 

Because disconnecting from the noise at the end of the year makes it easier to start fresh in a new year.  We've had some late night talks, a romantic one by a fire and a humorous one by a space heater, where we've emptied our souls of the clutter and kindled some new dreams.  We've asked each other uncomfortable questions, laughed together, and prayed together.  And somehow, on the other side, we were ready.  Ready to plow into a new season, confident we're playing on the same team.

It's been a blessing to see the fruit of this simple act in my marriage, but I was even more surprised to discover that for the last couple of years, the same thing has been happening in my relationship with my God.  Somehow in the turning of the calendar page from one year to the next, He speaks.  And I have learned to treasure standing under the spigot of words that flows from His mouth.  Just as Mary "stored up all these things and pondered them in her heart," I want to take each word that comes from the Father and tuck them away in the storehouse of my soul, to take them out again and turn them over and over until they become more than words, but seeds.  Seeds for new things. 

Because the Lord loves new things.  He loves to take the tired and worn out, the cracked and broken, or even just the familiar and comfortable...and breathe life into them, turning them inside out, and calling forth a new work from an old vessel. 

And so my prayer is that I will not cling to the lifeless shell of last season's seed, but allow Him to bury within me a new one. 

And then for Him to do it again.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  - Isaiah 43:19

Author's Note: If you are looking for some resources for the new year to deepen your time under the spigot of His voice, I would recommend these.  I have provided links for where they may be purchased online.  Have a blessed and fruit bearing 2015!

  • The "Quiet Times for the Heart" series by Catherine Martin.  There are several books in this series, but the one I have linked to at Amazon here addresses specifically how to grow in intimacy with the Lord.
  • "Road Signs" Bible Study, an 8 week DVD course that is written/produced by my friend Paige Allen (she was a guest speaker here for us last year).  Our ladies' lifegroup just completed this study, and it was a big blessing for many women.  The link will take you to the order page.  You can toggle to choose one book or one DVD/book.  (If money is tight for you, you can purchase just a book and borrow a DVD from me!)

If this an area of needed growth, please don't delay in pressing in.  Whenever my time with the Lord grows a little distant, I find that being aggressive and, often, finding a new resource, will bring fresh life and clarity to my ability to hear from Him.  Don't let your love grow cold!  Invest in it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Four

Author's Note:  This is last of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 4 Advent Devotional - "Protection"

Opening Question: What trip have we taken as a family that you enjoyed that most

During our time together today, we are going to look a trip Jesus took with his parents when He was just a baby.  Mary and Joseph didn't have a car seat, or even a car, but they packed up their tiny baby and traveled over 300 miles for a very important reason.

READ:  Matthew 2:1-12
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” 

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene."

[NOTE:  for very young children who may not be ready for a discussion about Herod's killing of children, parents may wish to not read the bold print aloud.]

Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he was afraid of another king taking his place.  He didn't realize that Jesus was not coming to sit on the throne in Jerusalem, but to save us from sin.  So, he wanted attack Jesus because he did not understand who Jesus was and what he was doing.  Herod did not feel secure and safe as a king, so he was jealous of anyone else who might be a better king than he was.

A lot of times when people hurt us our hurt our feelings, it's because they don't feel good about themselves. 

ASK:  [younger children]  When someone hurts our feelings, how can we pray for them?  (that they would understand they are important to God.)

ASK:  [older children] Have you ever hurt someone or hurt their feelings because you didn't feel good about YOU?  How can you make sure this does not become a pattern in your life?

God protected Jesus from Herod by sending Him to Egypt.  This was the very place God's people had been slaves hundreds of years before, until God called Moses to lead them out! 

ASK:  Why do you think God would send Jesus THERE?  (Younger children should be helped to arrive at the conclusion that no one would think to look for Him there, but older children can be helped to find the deeper truth that God was making a statement that Jesus had come to lead us all out of the slavery of sin.)

If God had not protected His son as a baby, Jesus would not have been able to die for us on the cross.  God could see the whole, big picture, and He knew just what to do.  When God protected Jesus, He protected US, too!

Closing Question:  What things does God want YOU to do in the future?  How is He protecting you even now so that you can do those things?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Three

Author's Note:  This is part three of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 3 Advent Devotional - "Provision"

Opening Question (Option 1): If you had a thousand dollars to spend on a present for someone, who would you buy for and what would you buy them

Opening Story (Option 2):  Parents, take a few minutes to tell each child about the day they were born.  Where was it?  What was happening that day?  How did you feel when you got to see them for the first time?

During our time together today, we are going to look at the place where Jesus was born.  If one of us was going to plan where Jesus would be born, we would have probably picked Jerusalem because it was the capital city  and the most important city in Israel.  But, that's not the city God chose.  Let's read a Scripture from the Old Testament that talks about what city God chose instead.
READ: “But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter—From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel."  - Micah 5:2 (The Message Bible)

ASK:  [younger children] What does it mean to be the "runt of the litter"?  So what kind of city was Bethlehem?

ASK:  [older children] What message do you think God was sending when he chose a small, insignificant city like Bethlehem for Jesus to be born in? 

ASK:  When have YOU felt small and not important?

The enemy loves for us to feel too small for anyone to notice us.  He especially loves to tell us that we are too small for God to care about us.  But, that is not true.  Even the city that Jesus was born in is sending a message, that He came for all of us because He loves all of us, right down to the tiniest of us. 

He also knows every one of our needs, the big ones, and the tiny ones.  He saw Joseph and Mary every moment that they were traveling to Bethlehem, and He was already preparing a place for Jesus to be born.  It may have been just a dirty stable to some people, but to God, it was a safe place, away from the people who wanted to hurt baby Jesus (we're going to talk about that next week!), and it was exactly what Joseph and Mary needed.

ASK:  What is something you need right now in your life that we need to pray about?  It can be a physical need, or something your heart needs.

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to emphasize to your children that God sees each of them individually and knows every bit of their hear needs.  But, He still likes to hear our voices when we talk to Him.  And He also likes to speak to us in return.  Make sure you lead your kids in a time of listening as well as praying.  You may want to play a worship song at this time and encourage your children to write down what they hear God saying to them (younger children can draw a picture of what God is saying) so they learn to treasure His voice.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week Two

Author's Note:  This is part two of a four part Advent devotional series for families here at Treasure the Ordinary.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 2 Advent Devotional - "Security"

Opening Question: What is something you don't like to do alone?  (Parents, with younger children, you can go first to set the tone.  Example:  folding sheets, going to the dentist, etc.)

ASK [younger children]:  What are some of the names we studied last week that Jesus is called?  (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace)

ASK [older children]:  Has the Lord done anything else in your heart regarding names/labels after we talked about it last week?

During our time together today, we are going to look at one more name Jesus is called.  It was prophesied in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah, chapter 7.  It's mentioned again in the book of Matthew after Jesus was born.
READ: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:22-23

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it meant that He had left His Father's home in Heaven and come to live with us here on earth.  He chose to put on a body like ours and come live here with people so that He could show us how to become God's children.  

After He died, He went back to Heaven to stay with God there.  But, He really didn't leave us, because He sent someone to stay with us here until He comes back to get us.
ASK:  Who did He send to stay here with us?  (the Holy Spirit) 

[Older children can read John 15 with you at this point in the discussion.  Help them make the connection that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, who lives within us 24/7.]

ASK:  If God is Emmanuel, and His spirit is with us at all times, are we ever truly alone?   Why do we FEEL alone sometimes?  (we forget He's there, we don't stop to listen to His voice, we have trouble seeing/understanding what He's doing, etc.)

No matter what we feel, the promise of God is that Jesus is "God with us."  This means He was with us years ago when we were born, He's with us right now, and He will be waiting for us in our tomorrow.

ASK:  [younger children]  How can we remember God's promise that He's always with us?  [Consider having each child make a poster to hang close to their bed that shows God is with them, even when they feel like they are alone.]

ASK:  [older children]  Which one of these means the most to you right now?  That God was in your past, that He's in your present, or that He will be in your future?

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to talk to your children about the fact that God will always be with them, and that you are also available to them when they need to talk or when they feel alone.  Let them know that is why God puts people in families, so that they are not lonely.  (Ps. 68:6)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Devotional, Week One

Author's Note:  As a mother of four children, spread out in ages by 7 years from the oldest to the youngest, I have often felt that family devotionals either speak to my younger children or speak to my older children.  It's sometimes difficult to engineer a discussion that involves them all.  So, this Christmas, I would like to provide my readers with an Advent resource that can potentially spark dialogue with all the people in your house, no matter what their age! 

To that end, I will be posting a family devotional, one for each week of Advent, throughout the month of December.  May you be blessed as each of you find ways to prepare your hearts for the celebration of our King's birth.  Merry Christmas!

Week 1 Advent Devotional - "Identity"

Opening Question: What is your favorite nickname you’ve ever been given?

Begin by showing your younger children the two sections of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

ASK [younger children]:  Which part of the Bible do we find stories about Jesus?  (New Testament)

ASK [older children]:  Which part of the Bible is your favorite to read, the Old Testament, or the New Testament?  Why?

It's true that the stories of Jesus are found in the New Testament, but the Old Testament talks about Him, too!  It may not use the name Jesus, but it does mention other names that Jesus goes by.  Just like you have a nickname (refer to your child's name here), Jesus has other names.  And when they are mentioned, we know God is talking about His son, Jesus.  See if you can find His names in this Scripture from the Old Testament.

READ:  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”  Isaiah 9:6-7

WRITE:  Let the children write the names of Jesus down on a piece of paper as they find them in the Scripture.  They may enjoy decorating it.  When you're finished with the devotional, hang this in a place they will see it throughout the week.

ASK [younger children]:  Were these good nicknames for Jesus?  How is He these things?

ASK [older children]:  Which of these names of Jesus is meaning the most to you in your life right now and why?

*  If you have younger children, this could be a good place to pray out loud as a family, giving thanks for the way Jesus is these things in your lives.  Older children can continue on with the following discussion.

When people give nicknames, it's often meant to tease or poke fun.  When God gives nicknames, it's to build people up.  He changed Abram ("Father") to Abraham ("Father of Many").  He changed Jacob ("Deceiver") to Israel ("Prince of God").  He changed Simon ("Reed") to Peter ("Rock.")

ASK:  Is there a label you've been given by the world that makes you feel small?  It might be a nickname, but it might also just be an attitude that you feel other people associate with you (i.e.  lazy, nerdy, etc.). 

READ:  "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it."  - Revelation 2:17

There will be a day when God will let you know your name that He has for only YOU!  You may not know exactly what the name is right now, but you can get to know His heart for you and what He thinks about you.  Let's pray and ask Him to speak to us tonight about what He calls each of us.  Let's allow that to take precedence in our hearts over anything the world or other people might try to label us.

Close with prayer over your children.  Parents, this is a great opportunity to bless your children with words of life!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Mama's Thoughts on Short-Term Missions

My husband took our second son to Guatemala for 10 days.  It's a rite of passage in our home, a mission trip with dad.  We had waited a while for this one, wanting the right trip at the right time.  And we knew when this trip came along that it was the one for our fifteen year old.  Sometimes, when you're listening for the still, small voice of God, you struggle to hear it.  Sometimes, you hear it so deeply, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what God is communicating.  This was a "beyond a shadow" kind of knowing.  The right trip at the right time.

The first day, they landed in Guatemala City and then drove 12 hours up into the mountains, along the Guatemalan-Mexican border.  The next two days were spent constructing a home for a family who was in need.

A home.  My son just helped build someone a home.  With a machete.

And that's why I love world missions.  Because a fifteen year old just got his world rocked when he watched a family of five beam with pride over their new home of wood and tin that could fit inside his bedroom.  And he now knows that the home he helped build with his own two hands is a vast improvement over their previous house, a mud hut that dissolved every time it rained.  A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

I know because I've been there.  When I was 18, I spent two months in the jungles of Peru, doing my best to minister to the people there who poked at my freckles and called me "leopardo" with eyes filled with wonder. 

I slept in a mosquito tent on the ground.  I washed my hair in the Amazon.  I bought a machete (a South American staple, I assure you).  I used an outhouse in the dark.

And then one day, I ate something unrecognizable in the home of a local pastor.  Something that was so tough and greasy, I couldn't imagine what it might be.  I finally turned it over with my fork and realized the truth.  I was eating a rodent.

And I thought I couldn't do it.  I thought I was done.  Done with my dinner and done with missions.

Until I looked up and saw the pastor, his wife, and their ten children had circled the dinner table in the one room hut.  Their faces were beaming, so proud that they could share their food with the missionaries.

And that's when I realized that those children would probably not be eating that night.  It was their dinner my mind was rejecting.

So, I closed my eyes, asked the Lord to help me, and I ate it.

A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

Because there have been a lot of times in life that I thought I needed something, but then remembered I already have everything I need.  And there have been a lot of times in life when I thought I was done, but then remembered that the Christ who lives in me is never done. 

I have heard some people question whether short term mission teams, particularly teenagers, are an effective use of resources.  They wonder if it would just be better to send money, instead of people.  My answer to that is, send both.  The money will get used once, and be a blessing.  The missionary will get changed, and be an instrument of blessing for the rest of his life.

My own missionary will be home in three days.  I look forward to wrapping my arms around him (and his dad), but more than that, I look forward to watching what happens next.  Because a man who knows how to build a house with a machete and obey God?  That can only be a recipe for greatness.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hold That Baby Tight

A friend had a baby today.  The picture she posted was precious, and made this mama do what I always do when I see a newborn.  I closed my eyes and remembered what it felt like to hold one of my babies for the first time. 

The relief. 

The joy. 

The fear.

The fear that I wouldn't get it right.

And those memories drove me to finish a song I started writing a few months ago.  My kids and I had taken an impromptu trip to the park at the lake, a favorite place to go to just be by ourselves and enjoy each other.  My oldest had brought his guitar that day.  He started strumming, and I started humming, and before long, a song was birthed.

I finished it today, remembering that beautifully terrifying moment when you hold a perfect bundle of newborness in your arms and realize you are responsible for so very much that is important.

And so this song, still in a raw recorded version and done in just a few moments today when I could get the kids quiet enough to be able to press record, is my gift to the mama who holds her newborn tonight.  It's also a future gift to my daughter, as it's something I want her to know someday when she holds her own little one and experiences the fear that she won't get it all right.

Because the truth is, you won't. 

But, you'll get a lot of things right. 

Like loving.  And loving again when it's hard.  And loving some more. 

And that goes a long way in this thing called motherhood.

To listen, click here.

"Hold Those Babies Tight"
Mindy von Atzigen copyright 2014

My little girl became a mom today,
The baby I held is holding her own.

And if there's one thing I could give,
If there's one thing I could say,  I'd say

Honey, you might not always get it right,
But there's one thing, darling, that you can do tonight,
Just hold that baby tight.

You're gonna sing a lot of songs,
Teach a lot of lessons,
Cook a lot of meals,
And clean a lot of messes.

And honey, you might not always get it right,
But there's one thing, darling, that you can do each night,
Just hold those babies tight.

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