Secondhand Faith

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Point your kids in the right direction— when they’re old they won’t be lost. (Proverbs 22:6)

I saw a quote this morning by Joyce Meyer that really spoke to me:

“You can’t get buy on secondhand faith. It doesn’t matter what your Mama believes. You have to find out what YOU believe.” -JM

It’s true that I am praying my guts out that my kids grow up to believe in Jesus Christ like my husband and I do. It is also true that they have the choice to believe in whatever they want.

I believe it takes so much more than words to leave an eternal impression on our children. We need to be living examples of God’s truth and love. We need to pray without ceasing for their salvation. We need to share with them the wonder of the miracles that God does in our lives; both big and small.

I was raised in a bible-believing, faith-based home but I made my own decision to serve Christ at the age of thirteen. I was surrounded by generations of family that simply lived their faith in Christ out loud every day. Their faith stirred up a craving for a relationship with God – a relationship of my own.

This is what I so hope to be for my children; a living, breathing example of faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t simply want to pass down my faith to my kids. I want to live in such a way that my children are inspired to embrace an authentic journey of faith of their own.

God gives us lots of opportunities to share in his realness and goodness. Will you embrace these opportunities?

Jesus, thank You for my precious children. I pray for their hearts, that they would seek You with all of their might. That they would turn to You at all times. That they would live in Your truths and share those truths with their children, and their children’s children. Jesus, I pray for my friends with young kids- please give them wisdom as they raise their children to serve You. I also pray for my friends with older children who are running from You……Jesus, I pray that You will give them peace and perseverance to continue living an example of truth. I pray for those kids who are running, please help them to see the truth and turn back to You. I pray these things in Your holy name, Jesus, Amen.

A Pile of Dirt

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Imagine a beautiful garden.

In my minds eye I picture a beautiful cream coloured cement deck overlooking a large body of water that spans as far as the eyes can see. All around me are beautiful bunches of luscious red and pink roses. The sun warms my face as a soft breeze wisps my hair around ever so gently. I almost need to squint when I look out at the water because the sun bounces off so radiantly. It’s beauty at its finest.

Out of the corner of my eye I notice a flower garden with a vacant spot. A space that is void of the beautiful roses I see all around me…..a space that is just soil. It almost seems to be out of place; a distraction from the magnificence of its surroundings.

Do you ever feel like that pile of dirt? All around you are beautiful roses (successful business women, really awesome ‘got-it-all-together’ moms, amazing wives) and you just feel like the dirt…. Like you never could compare to their greatness? You feel like you give your roles as wife, mom, friend, etc your best and you still feel like everyone else is ahead.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

Sometimes our God sets us on a journey of growth. That doesn’t mean that we are destined to be dirt until the end of eternity; it just means that this season is for growing. Sometimes situations we face make us feel like we are buried underneath the dirt…..but I believe that If we give God the reigns He will give us deep roots in Him, and in His timing we will see the beauty of the harvest.

Sister, don’t waste your time looking at this one or that one, comparing your lack-of to her abundance. Look up, thank God for the very place He has you and let Him rain down on you, filling up your soul with His love and beauty.

Don’t worry about how long it will take to get to the harvest, instead enjoy all he has for you during this time of growth.

 

Six Ways To Encourage Your Husband

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:10-12

I forget sometimes, just how important it is to encourage my husband.

I too often take for granted his need for affirmation and assume he knows my heart. I remember back to moments full of gratitude and joy when my husband affirmed me, and feeling hypocritical for the times my expectations for such praise were unmet and I was anything but kind.

How can we do a better job of encouraging our husbands, friends?! I have come up with a list of six suggestions on how to do just that:

1) Affirm him.
Tell him just how much you appreciate his hard work for your family. Compliment his looks publicly and privately. Tell him often the things that you appreciate and love about him.

2) Appreciate him.
Thank him often for helping you, for sharing life with you; for loving you.

3) Ask him.
Ask for his advice and for his wisdom. I think its easy to assume that you “know” what your husband will say or what advice he will give, but “ask him” anyway. You might get the response you were thinking, but you might just be surprised by his answer instead. I’ll bet either way, he will be encouraged that you asked.

4) Admire him.
Appreciate his leadership over your home and your family. Stray from the desire to solve every problem yourself and respectfully follow the guidance and decisions that your husband suggests.

5) Assist him.
Ask him often how best you can help him. Is there something a little extra that you may do to share his load and lessen his burdens?

6) Always pray for him.
Always pray for him. Ask if there are any specific things he needs prayer for, and if not, pray peace and joy over his life everyday!

Father God, thank You for my husband. Thank You for the fun times we share, for the love that grows daily and for the romance you’ve ignited between us. Please, constantly show me as his wife how to best cultivate and grow my relationship. Please remind me everyday of ways that I can best bring encouragement to him. I ask all these things in your precious name, Jesus, amen.

Chapter ELEVEN: Gotta Have The Last Word

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” — Psalm 139:4

My two oldest children are often found in a debate of some kind or another. You know, who was last getting out of the van and left the side door wide open, draining the battery? Or who cheated when playing monopoly? Or who spit a large piece of unused toothpaste into the sink and left it there for our maid? (We don’t really have a maid, but I am seriously starting to wonder if the rest of my family thinks that we do!) Nevertheless, there is usually an argument or two a day that ensues at some point between the two of them.

By the time these arguments reach my ears they are usually being explained at decibels only dogs (and Mom’s) can hear. I usually try to talk them down off the ledge by giving them the opportunity to share their side of the story —with one stipulation: they must also hear their siblings side of the story without commenting even one word during their turn. If they fail to obey this rule, a consequence follows.

One of said kids (no names, of course) has a fairly difficult time with this rule. He usually comments over or cuts into the story when being told through his sisters eyes. Recently, when going through this very routine regarding a monopoly mishap, my boy decided to practice ‘keeping it shut’ while his sister shared her story. He didn’t at any point cut her off, or talk over her, or share his perspective during her story. He simply listened. I praised him for this noted change afterward and he shared that it was actually a lot more fun to listen instead of his usual behaviour.

When we talk much, we miss much.

That seems like a ridiculously simple statement but it is oftentimes forgotten. When we are always doing the talking we miss incredible opportunities to hear what is on a friend’s heart. We miss opportunities to give space to a friend as they muster the courage to ask for or extend forgiveness. We miss out on opportunities to hear parts of a situation that have been missed; a part that perhaps makes all the difference in how you view that situation entirely. The bottom line; when we talk much, we miss much.

The people you want to listen to most are usually the people who have the least to say.

Proverbs 10:19 —The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.

Week FOUR: Love Prompts

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Here we are in the LAST week of our Online Book Study — week four! I can hardly believe we are already wrapping things up here on the blog. This week we will take a closer look at chapters eleven and twelve and unpack some of our favourite concepts from both of these chapters. Next week, we will be back to our regular writing team — with a couple of brand new writers joining us. We hope you’ll stick with us.

If you flip to page 172 in your book you will see a box containing several Love Prompts. Karen starts off by saying this: “Got a minute? Grab a pen! Use any of these prompts to get you started on jotting a note, an e-mail, or a text to a loved one in your life. For some, the statement stands alone. For others, elaborate on the thought that is given. Your words are sure to bless your recipient.”

I LOVE these!!! In fact, I am going to choose one statement from each and share them with you to help you get started on your own. There are four sections with four types of people in whom to send some love. Your spouse, your child(ren), your parent, and your friend. I will include mine below.

To Nathan:
Here is what I appreciate most about you…you are generous and trust God without wavering to provide for our family. You have inspired me so much to give more and to be more generous with our resources. Your kind and generous heart is one of my favourite things about you and I am proud to be your wife.

To my children:
Being your mom has taught me…how precious life is. Having you is like wearing my heart pinned to my shirt. From bumps and bruises, casts and stitches, incubators and ventilators— you all have had one scary situation or another happen to you. I have learned during these times that I cannot make the pain or hurt go away, but I can, I have, and I will most certainly always be able to pray for you. The Lord has given each of you precious life, and I trust Him with your every breath.

To my parents:
I’m not sure if I ever told you before but thank you for…loving me. I never ever doubted that you did for a single moment of my life. You have always been for me, supported me and loved me unconditionally. I think that is the very best thing that a mom and dad can do for their child; love them. Thank you for loving me so well.

To Cindy:
You remind me of Jesus when…. I am discouraged, hurt or struggling. You not only pray without any need for details but you do not allow me to stay in those unhealthy places. You are always encouraging forward momentum and a spiritually healthy life. You truly exemplify ‘iron sharpening iron’ as the scriptures instruct and I am so thankful for you and our friendship.

Please check out those love prompts on page 172 and love on your people. Words are such a huge blessing to me personally so I get excited about the potential here to bless others in a big way.

Let’s chat:
1. Have you ever been sent a text, e-mail or Facebook message from a friend/spouse/child/parent that filled you right up with blessing? How did it make you feel?
2. Who do you plan to bless with your words today?

Chapter EIGHT: Encourage, Don’t Flatter

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“…I am very skilled at wielding the clever tool of flattery. It has been said that gossip is saying something behind someone’s back that you would never dare say to their face. However, flattery is the opposite. It is saying something to someone’s face that you would never say behind their back — usually because you don’t really believe it is true.” — Karen Ehman, ‘Keep It Shut: What To Say, How To Say It and When To Say Nothing At All

Flattery. Do you know a flatterer? I do. And I have learned from watching this woman in action two very important things. Number one, people are desperate to be encouraged, complimented and praised. A flatterer will always have an audience. However, the second thing I have learned is that it doesn’t take people very long to sniff out who says things genuinely and who says things just because they sound nice.

For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. — Romans 16:18

When I first read the verse from Romans 16, I was taken back a little by its harshness. A flatterer does not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites? Yikes. A person who serves our Lord Christ must serve Him even with the words that they speak. It is a tall order for us humans. (And if we are honest, an incredibly tall order for us ladies!)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:11

There are so many ways you can genuinely encourage people – please don’t flatter. Choose words that speak life. Let the words you speak be laced with grace and kindness. And, most importantly – let you words be genuine.

Is there someone who could use some genuine encouragement from you today?

Week THREE: Beautifully Broken

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“A gossip betrays a confidence so avoid anyone who talks too much.” — Proverbs 20:19

This summer I shared some exciting news in confidence with a lady I felt I could trust. My husband and I accepted a new ministry position in his hometown and were moving back ‘home’. We asked that the news be kept confidential until we told both our children and our current church family. A promise was made that this lady would not say a word — but I soon started to receive text messages from a few that she too had told our news in ‘confidence.’

At first, I was very angry. This wasn’t her news to tell, it was mine. I soon realized the part that made me the angriest was that she had betrayed my trust. I had specifically asked her to keep my news in confidence until we were able to tell a few other very important people in our lives and she simply dishonored my request.

“A gossip betrays confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” — Proverbs 11:13

One of the number one things I have learned over my years in ministry has been that a listening ear is invaluable and a trusted friend, priceless. I make every effort to be both of those things to those God puts in my path, because I know the effect that it has on me when both of those qualities are not present in a friend. It is difficult to experience any depth with someone who talks non-stop and/or betrays your trust.

Let’s pause and have a little discussion:

  1. Have you ever been hurt by someone who betrayed your trust?
  2. How did you handle that breach of trust?

You may have noticed that I called this post, “Beautifully Broken.” I want to explain in this second part why I have given this post that title.

Admittedly, I was hurt when the person I mentioned above broke my trust. But, I chose to give my hurt to God and allow Him to heal those angry feelings toward her. When we allow God to put our brokenness back together, we still remain imperfect— but with His grace we become beautifully broken. Without God’s help we will eventually overflow those fragments of our brokenness and hurt others in the same ways we have been hurt. With God’s help and healing power we are often given beautiful opportunities to encourage and speak life into others who experience similar hurts to us.

That being said, I want so very desperately to be beautifully broken. How about you?

Chapter FIVE: Tenderhearted and Tough Skinned

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I like this to a phrase my pastor often used when I was a teenager. He said that most people tend to have hard hearts and thin skins, but we as followers of Jesus should be different. Instead, we should be tenderhearted and tough skinned.Such wonderful advice. When we harden our hearts and let every little offence poke a hole in our happiness, we only hurt ourselves. We are slurping on a smoothie of poison and don’t even know it. But when we soften our hearts with love for others, and toughen our skins against their barbs, we are better equipped to show the compassionate love of Jesus to a watching world.” — Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut, pg. 93

Believing the Best
The paragraph just above the quote I shared with you is such an important perspective to live by. Karen shares a rule that Lysa TerKeurst has implemented in the offices of Proverbs 31 Ministries and it goes like this: “…When a conflict arises or our feathers get ruffled, we shouldn’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the other person meant us ill, but give them the benefit of the doubt. Not assume the worst, but believe the best about their motives.

Now, I don’t know about you…but there are days when I have trouble with believing the best about people even in the absence of conflict. There are just some people who’s personalities do more colliding with mine than meshing, you know? That doesn’t mean that I ever blurt out the worst that my heart conjures up. But, that’s just it. My heart has conjured up the ugliness, and the ugliness is not righteous or Godly.

I know I need God’s strength and help to overcome those thoughts and help me to work towards having a heart that instead believes the best. And, I believe it’s that simple. The bible says that Jesus is as close as the mention of His name. (Psalm 145:18) When I recognize that my heart is believing the worst, I will ask God to help turn my thoughts to the best instead.

We Must Be Diligent to Weigh Our Own Hearts
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23
In addition to calling on Jesus when we recognize that our hearts are producing things that are not Godly, we must do our own homework as well. We must, must, must guard our hearts. What we consume when we eat affects our physical bodies. In the same way, what we are (or are not) consuming in our spiritual lives affects our hearts. It is imperative that we spend time each day with the Lord, making every effort to guard our heart. What flows from my heart is certainly indicative of what I have been putting in to it.

Give Grace to Those Who Speak Ill of Us
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:6
If you’ve believed the best but the worst has still been the reality — please, give more grace. It feels backwards, I understand that, but it is truly what the Lord requires of us. And, Jesus lived this example beautifully time and time again. It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it.

If you can’t remember anything else from today’s message, remember this: Just give grace.

Week TWO Teaching: Cyberspace Playground Rules (Ch 4-6)

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Good morning and welcome to week two, WAHD OBSers!

In the case you are just joining us, let me first say that we are journeying through the book “Keep It Shut” by Karen Ehman in our little online community and there IS still time to join us. Last week (September 4-10) we discussed chapters one, two and three. This week (September 11-17) we will take a look at chapters four, five and six!

Last week in my post I shared some practical ways in which keeping an appointment with Jesus every day has helped me to live a life that is fuller and more at peace. I shared some face-to-face moments with you in a video that I recorded from my bathroom because my house was booming with the laughter of over a dozen children (No, not all mine) thus proving the reason I very much need to be intentional about claiming my time with Him.

This week I would like to draw your attention to chapter six, specifically. Starting on page 102, Karen shares with us ‘Rules for the Cyberspace Playground’ and they are SO good, I wanted to make a point of going over a few of the ones that have grabbed my attention personally.

First of all, let me start by saying that I believe the internet and social media has and does serve as an invaluable tool on such a large scale. The people my team and I have been able to reach with the messages that God has given to us would not have been a possibility if it weren’t for both of these resources. But of course, if not used wisely, the internet and social media can be as dangerous than the largest and most powerful weaponry – or worse.

Our words. They hold great power and responsibility, friends.

Let’s review what Karen shares with us in chapter six about the rules for the cyberspace playground:

  1. Pray before you post
  2. Imagine the recipient sitting next to you
  3. Remember when you’re online, you’re also on stage
  4. Ask yourself if you’ve earned the right to address the subject at hand
  5. Ask yourself if you have a close enough relationship with the person to warrant offering your opinion
  6. When you do speak, let your speech be laced with grace

Let me zone in on number two for a moment. Imagine the recipient sitting next to you. I think that thinking otherwise is where so many of us get into trouble. It is so much easier to have your speech laced with grace when you are face-to-face. Just having the person in front of you provides a sense of accountability of its own. Likewise, it seems we get careless and clumsy when speaking to each other online. Intention and tone are missing when we speak via a screen, so we need to be ever-mindful of our reactions when responding to others online.

Number five really resonated in my heart as well. Ask Yourself if you have a close enough relationship with the person to warrant offering your opinion. Let me say this as kindly as possible: Being Facebook friends does not give you permission to speak into someone’s life. It just doesn’t. There has got to be a greater depth before you offer your opinion. If you spend time with the person on a regular basis, then perhaps your opinion should be voiced, but do put a voice to it. Take the person out for a coffee and share your heart in person, not online.

Karen has hit a home run with these six cyberspace playground rules. Thank you, Karen. If you haven’t read them over yet, PLEASE do! They are useful for anyone who uses social media or communicates via a screen.

In the comments below, please share TWO things:
1.  Which cyberspace rule you plan to work on?
2.  Which cyberspace rule you find is most often broken in your online community?

Chapter Two: Squabbles, Spats and Such

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Before we open our mouths, we need to think about not only to whom we’re speaking but also what they may be dealing with at the time and how the news may impact them.” — Karen Ehman, Keep It Shut, pg. 31

In chapter two Karen reminds of of the story of Joseph and how simply sharing his God-given dreams with his brothers caused them to stumble. She shares some incredibly wise points to think about when sharing our dreams and failures with family, friends and other necessary people in our lives. To recap those points:

  1. Beware of bragging — and the impact your good news could have on others.
  2. Say what honours God, not what other people want to hear.
  3. Realize that lies are the minuscule snowflakes in a monumental snowball.
  4. Give God credit where credit is due.
  5. Watch your words in the workplace.
  6. Just because you have a reason to retaliate does not mean you’re justified in doing so.
  7. Don’t be God.
  8. Do be nice.

The quote I shared at the beginning of this post is something I have had to learn myself over and over again. I’ve learned the art of obeying to the Holy Spirit on whether to share or not to share a piece of information with the person I am speaking to. There have been times when God has placed something incredibly exciting on my heart, but I was not given the green light to share for a time. Other times, when I have had personal struggles, he also has impressed on me specifically who is safe to share with and to whom I must steer clear.

Three things I know to be true:

1. You need to know who you are speaking to.
Yes, it is true. You must know your audience. If you’re telling information that is not supposed to be shared, simply put — don’t tell someone with loose lips.
“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” Proverbs 26:20

2. You don’t know what the person is dealing with or how your news will impact them.
Be so careful to share only as the Holy Spirit leads, friends. Even good news can crush a person’s spirit. Be in tune with the Holy Spirit in such a way that you know when He is giving a green light to share as well as when He is giving the red light to withhold.
“They are dismayed for they have heard bad news. Their courage melts because they have heard bad news.” Jeremiah 49:23

3. You may never know what a person is dealing with, and you need to be ok with that.
The Holy Spirit may not give you the ok to share your news with someone because of a personal struggle that only He knows. We need to do better at being ok with not knowing all the details of others lives and simply following the leading of His Holy Spirit.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own within them. In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11

Let’s use our mouths to honour God and our people. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment but let’s do our best to be better. Being intentional about first checking with the Holy Spirit on what or what not to share could make all the difference in someone’s life.