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When Mother’s Day Isn’t So Happy

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Mother’s Day is approaching and not everyone will have a happy one. You may have recently lost your mom or maybe it has been several years but you still feel the sting. I know how it feels and I am “happy” to say time has made it better for me along with a few lessons from the Lord. 

I don’t often share about my mom’s “going home” because it’s always so painful. Grieving her was longer than I would’ve liked it to be but God taught me so many things through it. Now don’t get me wrong, I could cry at any moment about her not being here but I have chosen to see what God wanted me to learn through the grieving process. 

I’m not going to lie, the past seven years since my mom passed away have been really difficult. God has given me so much grace. Even though He didn’t take away my grief, He helped me through the process. I’m grateful that I have come to a place where I find it easier (at times) to share fun memories about her … and lessons Jesus taught me through those “dark days.”

Life Lessons:

1. After my mom went to be with Jesus, I was “obsessed” with exactly where she went. I had to find out about heaven, specifically, “Where is heaven?” I received some comfort from the movie/book “Heaven Is For Real” and the devotional by Todd and Sonia Burpo, “Heaven Changes Everything”. If you know me, then you know I’m a movie buff – reading, not so much. So, for me to have read the book and the devotional – it had to be good! 

Sadly, neither the movie, book, nor devotional told me where heaven is, so comprehending it became an obsession. I wasn’t close to becoming an atheist, but I could get a sense of why they are not believers. 

Before losing my mom, I never thought much about heaven. After she passed away, I was confronted with my disbelief – IS Heaven for real? I know He saved me, but will I truly go somewhere after I die? 

One day a friend, much younger than me, told me that you have to believe the whole Bible. She said, “You can’t pick and choose what you want to believe.”

Shortly after she shared those words with me, a good friend passed away. The skepticism crept in, “Is she in heaven, wherever that is?” You may not believe this, but I promise you, I felt the Lord loose His patience with me as He told me where Heaven is. Ready for it? He told me, “It’s where I put it!” I had to choose. Do I believe Him or not? Joyfully, it became clear that it’s a matter of F A I T H. Just like when I decided to believe that He died for me, I needed to B E L I E V E  that my mom is in heaven with Him (where He put it).

2. Honestly, I was angry with God. I thought God and I were close. I felt blindsided by my mother’s death. He could have “trusted me” by giving me some “feeling” this might happen. After all, when my dad passed away, I knew it would happen. Why not with my Mom?

This time the Lord spoke to me through the TobyMac song “Beyond Me.”

I listened to it over and over again.

Chorus:

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Call me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on makin' me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah, it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me

At Toby’s concert, when he sang this song, God spoke to me, “Faye, we are close – I get why you are angry, but no matter how much you learn about Me, serve Me, enjoy Me – there is one thing I always want you to remember – you have a deep need for Me.”  Once I heard that in my heart, the anger subsided and I got it. He wants me to always remember – I. Need. Him.  I cognitively knew I needed Him, but He wanted to cement that in my heart. I am “happy” He did.

I’ll end with a sweet word another young believer spoke into me. My oh-so-wise daughter, who was six at the time said, “I know you are sad that your mom is gone but we are your family now.” Oh dear – that swells my eyes with tears and makes me “happy” too. 

Even if Mother’s Day isn’t as “happy” as you think it should be, take time to let the Lord speak to you, hold you close, and show you the “happy” He has for you in His presence.  

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

Resources for Connecting the Dots of Passover, Easter and Eternity

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In Exodus 12 and 13, God repeatedly instructs the people of Israel to remember and commemorate their dramatic liberation. The Jewish families were “passed over” from suffering death because they sacrificed an unblemished lamb and marked the doorframe of their homes with its blood. Because Israel was spared the death of their sons and Egypt was not, the ruler of Egypt expelled them and they were granted freedom!* After 400 years of slavery, God miraculously won their freedom and told them to remember and annually celebrate this event that was called the Passover.

“This is a day your are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. … In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ Say to him ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.'” Exodus 12:14 and Exodus 13:14

The traditional celebration of Passover is a very interactive, fun and sensory event for Jewish families. It is focused around a special plate (seder plate) which contains food items that symbolize distinctive aspects of the first Passover. The uniqueness of the food creates questions and conversations for the family and guests to reflect on the miracles of God that won Israel’s freedom from a world power.

Though a seder meal traditionally has 6 food items, an ancient rabbi taught that the three main items of a Passover meal are the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread and the lamb. Interestingly, these three items can be used to tell the Gospel story, as explained below.

During a Passover meal, each person receives an herb (like parsley) swishes it in a bowl of extremely salty water, then eats it. The salty parsley won’t taste good at all but that is the point. This bitter herb in salty water is eaten to remind us of our bitter tears in life that come through our sinful condition. In Egypt, Israelite people were abused by those that enslaved them. But this is the condition of all people…each of us are like the Egyptians in that we have mistreated others in some way. Not one person ever escapes the humanness of being a sinful person or the bitter tears of being hurt by the sin of others. In this meal, the bitter herbs represent our bondage to sin, the sin of others against us. As humans, we are enslaved to our sinful condition, our bitter tears and brokenness in that no person ever lives without committing sins.

The second essential part of the meal is the bread. In most cultures, bread is an essential life giving food. At the first Passover, the Israelites prepared bread without yeast so they could depart with haste. They were instructed to be packed and ready to move, sleeping in their clothes. Yeast takes time to rise so unleavened bread was prepared with kneading, pounding, piercing and placing it in a furnace so the people could quickly have bread, a sustenance of life.

Similarly, in His final Passover, Jesus knows that His time is ebbing away. In 24 hours He will be lying in a grave after His body has been beaten, pounded, pierced, wounded and broken. He will endure His own furnace of suffering, but in doing so He will become the Source of life and sustenance for the benefit of others. Jesus takes the Passover bread, gives thanks, breaks it and shares it with His guests. Then He speaks to his followers in a shocking way, not focusing on the Israelites in Egypt, but telling them instead, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19. Jesus is redirecting the significance of the Passover bread as a marker of His body as a sacrifice. He foreshadows the meaning of his suffering to his disciples through this meal.

The third and final essential element of a Passover meal is the lamb shank. All four gospels describe Jesus’ Passover gathering, but no lamb is ever mentioned. Perhaps that is because Jesus and the disciples were celebrating the meal a few hours early and no lambs had been sacrificed and roasted yet. (They are eating the meal early because Jesus would die on the cross during the hours that the Passover sacrifices were being made in the Temple.) **

Jesus knows that He will be the ultimate and final Passover lamb required, so He uses the third cup of juice (the Cup of Redemption) to represent His (the Lamb of God, John 1:29) blood that will be the payment for our sin. When the lamb’s blood was placed on the door frames of the Israelite homes in Egypt, they were making the sign of the future cross over their homes. God used a Passover lamb’s blood to liberate Israel from their bondage in Egypt. In the same way, God provided Jesus as a sacrificed Passover Lamb to liberate us from the bitter bondage of sinfulness.

The Old Covenant practice of multiple sacrifices each year as offerings for sin would be replaced by a New Covenant. “Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood that establishes the covenant. It is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ Matthew 26: 27-28

Jesus also uses this final Passover to connect us with the future hope of his Father’s kingdom and anticipates a future celebration, a reunion and eternal blessings of those who follow Him. He said, “Mark my words, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Matthew 26:29. Though they could not understand His meaning yet, these words show us that Jesus knows that He will live again and celebrate with His family in a heavenly celebration. Despite his sacrificial death, He looks toward the joyous celebrations that will come (Revelation 19:9) and allows us to anticipate our eternal fellowship with Him in the fully realized Kingdom of God.

Many resources are available that can help you craft a teaching moment about God’s faithfulness through the Passover and how it foreshadowed the meaning of Jesus’ death as well as remembering the transitional last Passover (Communion) that Jesus celebrated with his disciples. Read or listen to any of these resources below for help in creating a celebration that will work for you family. Engaging your children in a teaching opportunity that will be fun, interactive and lead to conversation about the connectedness of God’s provisions throughout the scripture is the goal. Allow your children to see God’s pictures, His celebrations, His work among us as you experience His redemption together.

Notes:

The tenth plague the Egyptians experienced was the death of their first born sons. The plague was a reminder to Egypt and Pharaoh that the leaders of Egypt had killed ALL the male boys born to the Israelites during the time of Moses. Moses was spared death because his mother put him in the waterproof basket and floated him down a river where he was discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter and allowed to survive.

Passover Seders for Christian Families:

https://jenniferdukeslee.com/a-messianic-passover-seder-for-families-with-children/

https://annvoskamp.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/A_Christian_Passover_Easter_Meal.pdf

** A podcast for Christians about the Passover Meal:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-passover-meal-gospel-of-matthew-part-32/ id1271147429?i=1000426758522

Cynthia Thompson enjoys living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Larry. They have two daughters, two sons-in-love and two grandsons. She loves prayer journeys, coffee with friends, and mentoring early career pastors and their wives.

Connecting the dots…from Passover to Easter to Heaven’s Banquet

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Spring is here and who can’t be excited about refreshing green grass, budding trees and blooming flowers. Spring brings the major holidays of Easter and Passover. Holidays are wonderful times for family gatherings and celebrations that can create the best of childhood memories. Children joyfully anticipate special celebrations because someone in their family (usually a mom or grandmother) plans and prepares for these holy-days and their unique experiences.

While holidays are fun and exciting, they are also great teaching opportunities for families. Jesus modeled a celebration/teaching moment as he celebrated one last Passover on the evening before His crucifixion. As a child and adult, Jesus lived as an observant Jew who kept the holy days that Jewish families practiced in the Bible. He traveled to Jerusalem to observe the annual fasts and feasts and Jesus thoughtfully pre-arranged the room for His final Passover meal.

Passover is an ancient Jewish celebration to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in their homeland. It has been 3,500 years since the first Passover and Jewish people still observe it today. “Messianic Jews” are Jewish people who have followed Jesus as the Messiah. To maintain their Jewish heritage, they celebrate the Biblical feasts with the additional meaning of Jesus’ fulfillment of these holidays, all of which foreshadow His divine ministry. Passover was originally given by God to be observed from generation to generation. Children were meant to be an important part of Passover. (Exodus 12.14, 17b, 26-27)

Passover and Easter have always been connected on the calendar because Jesus orchestrated that His final week (what we call Holy Week) would be the week leading up to Passover. A week before his death, as Jesus made the rigorous trip from the Galilee area to Jerusalem, He may have been reflecting about His final teaching moment with His disciples. Jesus had spoken about His death several times, informing His disciples that He would die, but He had not explained why He would die.

When Jesus wanted to teach about the meaning of His death, instead of delivering a great sermon, He threw a meal.* In Jesus’ typical teaching style, He took the significance of the Passover meal that His Jewish disciples knew so well and gave new, expanded meaning and deeper vision to it. He did not focus His final Passover on looking backward at Israel’s history but on looking forward to the greater purposes of God. Jesus knew that within a few hours He would substitute His life for yearly unblemished lambs. His blood would become the new way of redemption and freedom available to all peoples.

“Jesus used the occasion of the Passover meal to inaugurate the New Covenant. The symbolism of the Passover meal under the Old Covenant was about to be fully satisfied through Christ’s crucifixion. In this historic moment, Jesus transformed the meaning of the elements of the Passover meal into New Covenant thought. The bread now represented His body, which would be given and the cup, His blood, which would be shed for the forgiveness of sins. The holy requirements and the Old Covenant were about to be forever satisfied. A new and living way into the presence and provision of God was being prepared through Christ, the Lamb of God. God was sovereignly inaugurating the new and ultimate covenant.” Commentary from the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, Second Edition, page 1242.

The evening’s images and Jesus’ unusual words about the bread and the juice would eventually make sense to His disciples. Jesus used the Passover to assign meaning and grounding to the approaching events that would be so disorienting for a time. Since this final Passover, sacrifices of animals have not been required by God of anyone. Christians have instead kept the remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God. For two thousand years the bread and the juice have been our symbols of the new covenant, Jesus’ body and His blood, called the Lord’s Supper or Communion.

In His final Passover, though His arrest and death are pressing in, Jesus also connects us with the future hope of His Father’s kingdom and anticipates a future celebration, a reunion and eternal blessings of those who follow Him, by saying,Mark my words, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Though they could not understand His words yet, Jesus is indicating that He will live again and celebrate with His family in a heavenly celebration. Despite His sacrificial death, He knows that joyous celebrations will come. (Revelation 19.9)

Easter is approaching. Passover is a significant backstory to Easter. One of the beautiful elements of scripture is how Jesus is intricately foreshadowed in the Old Testament. To connect the dots between the Passover, Jesus’ last supper, and our future joys in heaven, you can easily prepare a celebration for your family. You don’t need an entire seder plate or a long Passover evening. Instead, cook a meal that your family enjoys and include just three teaching symbols from the Passover that tell the Gospel story…the bitter herbs, the unleavened bread, and the grape juice. The bitter herbs dipped in salty water will be a new experience with funny reactions from children, (and adults) but what an experiential way to teach about the tears, sorrow and bitterness of sin in our lives. The unleavened bread and juice will represent the story of how God delivered Israel from slavery and the body and blood that Jesus gave on the cross to pay, once and for all, for our bondage to sin. Use a family meal, as Jesus did, to talk about the meaning of His death and the future reunion we will have with Him.

Chicks and bunnies and pastel colors make us smile that spring has arrived. But there are richer, deeper and far more beautiful symbols of redemption, forgiveness and freedom that accompany Easter. The bitter herbs, the bread, the juice….our lives intersecting with the Passover Lamb…these are the icons, tastes and symbols of Passover, Easter, eternity! Would you take the challenge to connect the dots with your children this Passover/Easter season?

Check out next week’s blog post which will give you simple explanations of the three items you can use in a Passover-like meal, as well as links to a few Christian adaptations of a Passover meal for families and children and a podcast to guide you. Just pick and choose what your children can understand and enjoy to make Easter more meaningful than ever!

* A podcast for Christians about the Passover Meal:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-passover-meal-gospel-of-matthew-part-32/ id1271147429?i=1000426758522

Cynthia Thompson enjoys living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Larry. They have two daughters, two sons-in-love and two grandsons. She loves prayer journeys, coffee with friends, and mentoring early career pastors and their wives.

How to Cope with the Mess

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My sweet, creative daughter filled every counter space, sink basin, and coffee table with EIGHT different craft projects in a single morning. Meanwhile, my oldest complained that he couldn’t find his shoes (they were in his room hiding under a towel, dirty clothes, and random school papers). My other two sons dumped out every single lego they own and spread them all over their bedroom floor. This would be fine, even understandable, except that I cleaned the house YESTERDAY and we were only an hour into the start of a brand new day! And my children aren’t toddlers anymore!!! I’m so over the mess! If you are a mom, even the mom of a fur baby, I know you feel me. 

The Lord knew our days would be like this. In Proverbs 14, sandwiched in between all sorts of wise counsel, we find this nugget: 

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Proverbs 14:4 (ESV) 

Mom Version: Where there are no children, the house is clean, but kids make life overflow with blessings. 

1. The mess is part of it. Be gentle on yourself. 

There has never been a spotless stable that holds big, stinky animals. There will never be a house that is ALWAYS clean where children live. Someone told us when our children were babies that “cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” And it is! Every. single. day. Be generous with grace towards yourself. You are not alone. Everyone else’s manger is a mess too!

2. The mess is worth it. Take the risk. 

Messes require hard work. Children and oxen remind us of the DAILYNESS of the task. I wonder if there is anything God is calling you to right now, that you won’t even consider because of the “mess,” the never-ending list of responsibilities associated with taking on such a huge task. Starting a business? Writing a book? Fostering a child? Count the cost. Know what you are getting yourself into, but then be ready to step out in faith. A farmer with a hoe works a small amount of ground in one day, but a pair of oxen plow about an acre a day! Oxen were not cheap and taking care of them was a huge undertaking, but harvest time made the investment worth it. Pray about where God may be asking you to invest. The outcome could yield greater rewards than you could ever ask or imagine. 

Let me take a moment to caution. This is not a guarantee or promise of success every single time. Farmers knew that pestilence or flood or hurricane could come along and wipe out an entire crop. But what did those farmers do when that happened? They planted AGAIN! Who knew COVID could come along and completely bankrupt your business or thwart your plans? Don’t give up if 2020 wrecked everything. God has a much bigger picture in mind. He will give you the strength to begin again. 

3. Give Jesus your mess. 

It’s hard to read a verse in the Bible about a manger and not have drifting thoughts to the nativity scene (like the one I may or may not still need to put away from Christmas). It would have been so much easier if Jesus would have stayed in heaven and told us he loved us from there. But Jesus wanted us to know him. He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10)! That’s the exact same word used in Proverbs 14:4. Abundant carries with it the picture of being full to the point of overflowing. He thought the mess was worth it then and He thinks your mess is worth it now. Let Him turn the everyday hardest of hard messes in your life to joy so full that you can’t hold any more.

Guys, I don’t have it all together. My house is still a wreck, but I’m ok with that. Today I’m going to love on my kiddos. I’m going to trust that the never-ending pile of dishes has a much bigger purpose than I can see. And I’m going to step out in faith when He calls me to do hard things. He’s got this and He’s got me. 

Can someone please resend this to my inbox tomorrow?! Thanks! 

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.

So Much More Than Crumbs

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Not too long ago, my five year old son, Aaron, wandered into the bedroom when I was reading my Bible. He asked me to read some of it to him. I stopped what I was doing and together we cuddled up to read Luke 9:10-17, the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Since we were reading from the actual Bible rather than a children’s story Bible, we read one verse and then stopped to talk about it. When we read verse 14, I explained that though there were 5,000 men present, there were also lots of women and children there too. We talked for a few minutes about just how large the crowd might have been and how hungry they probably were, when Aaron said, “I know what the kids got to eat! Crumbs. I bet they got to eat all of the crumbs.” “Oh, no,” I said, “Let’s keep reading and see what happened.” We continued and read those precious words, “Everyone ate and was filled” (v.17) and they even had leftovers! How many times do I make the same assumptions in my own life? How many times do I look at my circumstances and expect God to give me crumbs when His plan all along was to meet all of my needs even to the point of overflowing? He has more for us! So much more than crumbs! 

When we read this account of feeding the five thousand in the book of John, we get more insight into where the original five loaves of bread and two fish came from. In John 6:8-9 we learn that Andrew discovered a boy with food and reported to Jesus what the boy had packed for lunch. Before we can get there, we have to back up to that morning before the boy left the house. The Bible does not say who packed the boy’s lunch, him or his mother (my money is on the mom), but what we do know is that this little boy of all the little boys, men, women, and girls is the ONLY one out of over 5,000 people that packed lunch that day. Or was he? It is highly possible that there were at least a few others who brought lunch with them, hid it from everyone, refused to share and COMPLETELY MISSED seeing Jesus’ miracle of provision.  What’s worse is that they missed BEING the miracle of provision. This breaks my heart. How many times have I missed allowing God to use me because I was too busy taking care of my own needs and worrying about feeding my own family, when all along His plan was to use the very resources He has given me to reach the masses for His glory?

One truth God has been showing me lately is that in order to receive anything, He often first asks me to step forward and offer what I have. In some ways this feels counterintuitive. I would never throw out my old sofa, until I have the knew one delivered. I don’t want to be left empty-handed. I don’t want to find myself quite so vulnerable. If I’m really honest, I’d say this is my way of maintaining control of everything around me. Yet He often asks us to make the first move, offer up those few fish, and THEN He will provide the feast. This is so hard for me to do, but this is exactly what I teach my kids to do every day. When they want to be heard and want their way, I often find myself saying, “Right now, the thing you need to do, is make that first step of obedience. Go clean your room, then we’ll talk about additional privileges.” What first step of obedience is God asking you to take today? What one thing could you do to give God a clear indication that you are listening and are ready to hear more? It may be as simple as writing that note to encourage someone or being the first to say “I’m sorry.” Whatever it may be, make the move, read His Word, do the one thing that He’s clearly asked…NOW.

Whether you see yourself as a part of the crowd (hungry, yet suppressing the pain), or the little boy (offering everything you have to Jesus), or even the disciples (the event planners freaking out over lack of provisions and taking on the burden themselves), Jesus’ response is the same to each of them. He feeds them. He takes care of them. He has a plan and in His plan no one is left on the fringes to beg for crumbs. Each person showed up that day to see Jesus, to listen and learn, and find out who this man was. When we show up ready to see God, regardless of our current roles, responsibilities, or place of pain, He will show Himself…in His time. Jesus was not there setting up morning coffee and tea breaks for His all day conference. He had no problem with allowing people to get hungry. He had a plan, but it didn’t look the way anyone else thought it would. He orchestrated His plan in a way that made it apparent that only God could have worked in this way. Only He can meet our deepest needs. Take time, seek Him out, and let Him fill you today.

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.