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First posted March 1st, 2012 :

Two days ago, my husband made a surprise delivery of budding lilies to our house. I was totally not expecting him, so I was really surprised when he handed me the lilies and said, “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.” Song of Solomon 2:2 and then he kissed me. It was amazing! I was shocked and so blessed. Talk about a romantic gesture! After kissing him and kissing him, our daughter said something like, “When I am married, I want my husband to bring me flowers.” Then her daddy said, “When you are older, I will surprise you with flowers, like I surprised Mommy.” Then she said with a shy head tilt, “Could you bring me flowers when I am a little girl, too?” And he nodded and gave her a kiss, after saying, “But not today, because you wouldn’t be surprised.” (Because he knows our girl well.) That little girl is so in love with her daddy. It’s a beautiful thing to watch how much she loves true romance because of watching him romance me and also experiencing being romanced by him. He is so good about making her feel like a precious princess. He takes her on dress up dinner dates and quick Slurpee dates and spends lots of time cuddling with her. They read the Bible together every night – starting on her 5th birthday. They started at the beginning and I heard them talking about King Saul the other day almost a year later. He is such a fabulous teacher. Later that night, our little boy said to his daddy, “Did you bring Mommy some flowers today?” (He, of course, already knew the answer :).) “Yeah, Buddy. When you are married what are you going to do for your wife?” His daddy responded. “I am going to surprise her! I will bring her pretty flowers, too, just like you, Daddy.” He was really proud of his correct answer :)! We were, too! Talking about training our kids at home, training children how to have a marriage that is real and romantic and worthy of time spent, is SO important. Marriage is a representation of Christ and the church: “21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:21-33 So, whatever your spouse’s lilies or roses are, be intentional about surprising him or her with them every once in awhile. Do different things for, with, and about him or her. Love him or her well, so your children will know how to be a good spouse and how to find a good spouse! Love, Lily

Follow Up:  Today my husband and I took our daughter on a date to Red Lobster!  It was SO romantic and fun!  We’ve not done something like that in a very long time and it was so wonderful.  You should totally take your little ones on dates!

 

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First Posted March 2nd, 2012:

One morning, I was doing my quiet time/hang out with God in Daniel’s Park after the Hayman Fire and looking down on The Sanctuary Golf Course and the ashes of the fire. The Sanctuary’s course was lush and green and the forest just to the west of it was destroyed by the fire. It really impacted me, because I was studying Hebrews (or Deuteronomy) at the time and it was about God being a Consuming Fire: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29 I realized that I wanted to live a life that is marked by God. When you see ash, you never wonder if it’s been created by fire, you know it’s been touched by fire. Ash became a symbol for me, reminding me to pray that when others would see me, they would see God’s affect and touch on my life. Ash. I hung a note to myself in my office that same day that said: “ASH” and “He must increase, but I [must] decrease.” John 3:30 One of my sweet high school students, ASHley, came to see me that day and asked a little concerned, “Why do you have my name written in that paper?” 🙂 I explained it to her and she was moved. She and I have both been through some difficult things in our lives. Part of the result of those difficult things was not veiwing ourselves as beautiful. A verse that stuck out to both of us at the time was one Jesus quoted in Luke 4:18-19 from Isaiah 61:1-3: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Over the years, we have both grown so much. She is gorgeous, brilliant and a gifted youth minister. I have accepted that God made me His beauty, as well, and enjoy the way He’s made me now :). He has truly bestowed on us beauty instead of ashes, though I know what His ashes symbolize – not mourning, but healing and His powerful presence. At Ashley’s wedding a couple weeks ago, she was breathtaking. Tears kept rolling down my cheeks remembering all our heart to heart talks and all the pain we walked through together. As she and her groom were wed, her sisters, brother, and a friend sang “Beautiful Things” by Gungor. As I listened and watched, my heart bowed before the God of all beauty who alone can truly give us a crown of beauty instead of ashes and make beautiful things out of dust, out of us. Today, as my precious five-year-old daughter was playing in her room, she was singing that song and dancing around. She had heard the song before, but has been singing it regularly since the wedding. Today, I realized anew how important it is to realize the importance of living out and influencing God’s beauty. Someday, I will share the ash story with my daughter, but today, I am treasuring all these things in my heart and being grateful for my Ash and all I’ve gotten to see God do in her life. Mrs. Ash, you are beautiful. I love you. Always have. Always will.

Image result for heroes of the faithThis is a list of heroes of the faith that I want to do a study on.  You can find these people in various devotionals and children’s ministry curricula, so it may not need to be written, but in case you are looking for a Character Study focus for your child for a Theme Week, here’s a workable list to start with.  There are many heroes of our faith missing from this list, but it was just the one I was going to start with :)!  This might be a fun list to evaluate your Biblical knowledge with… do you know why each of the following people have the characteristic beside his/her name?  If not… it would be fun to Google them 🙂 and find out why! Hope this inspires YOU to write and train your child to be a hero of the faith!

Noah – perseverance

Abraham – faith and obedience

Joseph – integrity

Moses – friendship with God

Joshua and Caleb – bravery and courage

Deborah – leading

Josiah – righteousness at a young age

Gideon – becoming a warrior

Ruth – loyalty

David – passion

Jonathan – humility and serving

Solomon – wisdom

Nehemiah – leadership

Esther – calling

Job – patience

Daniel – holiness and prayer

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – positive peer pressure and faith

Elijah – strength and trust

Elisha – vulnerability and following

John the Baptist – power

Peter – repentance

John – love

Barnabas – encouragement

Paul – redemption

First posted May 19th, 2011:

Numbers 16… a chapter I read a lot when my husband was in the band. Reading it again as a cross reference to 2 Timothy 2 about being cautious to stay away from deceptive leaders and teachers.

It’s known as Korah’s rebellion. There were three other men who stood against Moses and Aaron’s leadership. They were Dathan, Abiram, and On. When God confirmed His choice of Moses and Aaron as His people’s leaders, however, On was missing from the picture. He is not preached on, but he definitely has a story to tell and for us to learn from.

Korah incited a rebellion against his leaders. I believe it was to claim the leadership power for himself. Dathan, Abiram, and On joined him. They convinced 250 leaders (Levites) that they were all holy and deserved to lead as Moses and Aaron did. You can read the details of the consequences of their decision, but On is not included in their demise. Sometime between the four men stading against Moses and Aaron and God’s confirmation, On changed his mind and made a good choice. Because of his change of heart (and mind), his family was spared and his name was cleared as one who stood in rebellion against God’s leadership. (As least as far as we read now.)

The 250 leaders decision to silently stand with the rebels (and not even speak their doubts or concerns) is a good reminder that silence is a form of agreement. If you have a concern about something a leader is doing (especially something that could be an afront to God) speak up!

We definitely worship a God of second chances! Doing this study (using David Guzik’s insightful commentary on http://www.blueletterbible.com) was like eating steak! Sometimes we get comfortable just drinking carnation instant breakfast for a meal… which is really just milk with some nutrients added in like vitamins. In Hebrews 5:14, it says, “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

I am not mature. I am maturing. I cannot eat steak for every meal, but I no longer only drink milk. It is refreshing to find myself longing for and rejoicing in challenging lessons from Scripture rather than just wanting to read things that directly apply to me and my circumstances (mothering, keeping house, teaching, etc). It’s also encouraging to realize we can ALL learn from the Word and all God teaches.

I LOVE treasure hunts and adventures. God is all about that. He hid Mr. On in the Bible long, long ago, in part so that I might stumble upon him, admire him as a hero, and learn that one good decision can affect our entire family’s lives. What we decide affects everyone in our lives.

On made a bad choice to rebel. On changed his heart and mind. On and his family lived.

Be like On.

I just posted a new devotional blog for mamas (and daddies) who are grieving the loss of a child through miscarriage.  Please pass it along to whoever you know who needs it:  3 you can see… 1 in my heart

Blessings,

Beth

100_7000This afternoon I was blessed by getting to go to a Journey of Life Celebration for one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known.  I wanted to write a little bit about her because I feel like everyone who knows me should know her (and not just through the huge impact she’s had on who I am)!

Anna Ratliff is my mentor and my dear friend.  She adopted my husband and me when we were working side by side with her at Smoky Hill Vineyard – where she still faithfully serves and prays and loves.  She and my husband had an instant connection and at that point we were adopted.  I immediately wanted to know her more, but felt like a waste of her time.  She quickly showed me how special I was to her and sacrificed her time to meet with me weekly for mentoring time together.  Life changed and our times together got more and more infrequent because of God calling us to help plant a church 40 minutes away, so our times are mostly families time together and phone calls, but each moment is precious.

Anna has a way of making everyone I’ve known in her life feel important to her.  She is one of the strongest women I have ever met.  She is also great at submitting to authority even in living out her strength and leadership.  She honors leaders and empowers them.  She is a prayer warrior and God speaks clearly to her for others and about others and she trusts Him enough to lead her in each relationship.  She is a real person – not just someone who is made up in my mind like a friend suggested one day when I was describing her.  She sins and makes mistakes like everyone, but she surrenders to God and He uses her to bless and bless and bless.

Anna’s story is one of grace, loss, pain, hurt, blessing, and suffering… much suffering… and mercy, forgiveness, and redemption.  I hope that my story will someday show as much light and glory to God as hers does.  She is a child of God, wife, mama, grandma, great-grandma, friend, and pastor to many.  God has used her to reach thousands.  But when you meet her you will just see class, humility, and grace for others not self-importance and pride.

Her latest struggle has been to battle cancer… again.  To watch her fight this thing is so painful, sad… and inspiring.  A friend said of her today that she is a beautiful example of what suffering should look like and that watching her deal with this suffering helps us all learn that not all suffering is punishment.  She has taught so many of us what it means to worship God and lead others in the midst of pain, suffering and confusion.  She is a beautiful servant.

Anna has to start chemo again on Monday.  She looks stronger than I’ve seen her in awhile, but she still needs our prayers.  I know you would (or do) LOVE this amazing woman, so if you could stop for a moment and pray for her, I’d so appreciate it.

We have the privilege of having her and her amazing husband, Brent, as the leaders who dedicated both our sons with us.  It was precious.

The battle is not done for sweet Grandma Anna.  She’s still in the thick of it, but may you be inspired, as I am, by all that God has brought her through.  I simply want to honor her and her romance with her Savior and encourage the rest of us to become people who others want to write about and become like and teach others about!

This was read to her at the celebration today and it really does sum up who she is.  Be inspired and encouraged.  There really are woman like this out there!

Proverbs 31:25-29

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.
26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
    and she gives instructions with kindness.
27 She carefully watches everything in her household
    and suffers nothing from laziness.

28 Her children stand and bless her.
    Her husband praises her:
29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
    but you surpass them all!”

I love you, Anna.  I always have and always will.  Thanks for being a beautiful example to me and the rest of the world!

Update:  It’s been about a year now, since Anna passed.  She fought long and hard and finally went to be with her Savior.  All of us who know her have her fingerprint on our hearts and she is dearly missed.  The last thing she said to me when we went to visit her was, “I’ll see you soon, dear one.”  So, with that same eternal hope, I celebrate her life once again.

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My 7 year old just started emailing back and forth with a pen pal who lives overseas.  It’s a sweet thing to watch two young girls from different cultures try to get to know one another and to relate simply on being of similar age and gender with a huge language barrier.  Girls like to have friends and to know one another.  It’s so beautiful.  There is something divine about the longing to know someone, something in us that longs to know and be known.

As I was finishing up my Bible study for today, I realized that I have a pen pal, too.  Quite a few years ago I learned that the best way for me to stay focused in prayer is to journal.  So, after years of journalling my prayers – I have a rhythm (that varies… like jazz).  I start by praising God for some aspects of Who He is, then I thank Him for something specific – sometimes about Him, sometimes about something He’s done, and sometimes for someone.  Then I confess my known sins, and ask Him for forgiveness and to empty me of me then fill me to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.  THEN I get to the petitions and intercession.  When I have the time, I love to pray until I feel empty of worries and burdens – sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes 5 minutes, but it’s like pouring out my heart to Him – being fully known.

Similar to knowing 9 hours of sleep is my optimum sleep time for the night (which will happen again another season of my life), I know my optimum daily time with God includes my journalling prayer, my prayer cards (I pray for specific things for each of my family members on different days of the week and for specific people on different days of the week from our church and those God has knitted to my heart), and my Bible study.  Now that I have 3 kiddos, often those things come at different times throughout the day (or week!), but I loved it when I could spend an hour and a half with God a day.  I never in my wildest imagination envisioned myself as someone who would be spending that much time with God – or someone who would be ABLE to.

My Bible study each day is when God writes me back.  I love to actually write out questions to God in my journal and then look back to see how He’s answered those questions.  Sometimes He answers them that day and with some questions I’m still awaiting His reply.  I love the picture of Him being my Pen Pal, because, like Snail Mail Pen Pals, sometimes it takes awhile to get a response, but oh the joy of seeing mail in the mailbox and your name on the letter your Pal has written you – that happens to me when God highlights truths and shows that He knows me and wants to be known by me.

If you think writing letters back and forth to God is a silly concept, just think of how many books of the Bible are actually letters from someone to someone else God used to speak His truth to us.  So, if you are having a hard time connecting to God – open up the love letter He penned for you long, long ago just awaiting your reply then write Him back!

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God

so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  

1 John 5:13