Thursday, July 22, 2010

Raising Up My Kids

I love it when God gives me a peek into my children’s spiritual walks.

While on Mission Navajo during spring break, my friend, spunky, sweet, redheaded Lindsey, prepared a beautiful devotion about thankfulness. Her dramatic reading brought the Living Word into focus, particularly for our daughter, Daphne, a sixth grader at the time.

“What would it mean if we truly lived thankfully,” Lindsay asked to spur discussion.

As a grown-up I was thinking about the poverty on the Reservation and the spiritual needs, but a middle schooler up past bedtime responded to the question. “Well, then we would be thankful for our troubles even. You know,” Daphne said.

Her response left me gaping, and teary. And proud. The moment sowed my own thankfulness for the Holy Spirit’s work in my daughter’s heart, and for the opportunity to take part in a family mission trip.

My girl understands. In some way, God captured her heart with this lesson, and she knows one part of life that God uses to build us into people of integrity — difficulties. Praise God for that lesson in my daughter.

Cry out for insight,
and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the Lord grants wisdom!
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
Proverbs 2:3-7 NLT

Summer brought my son’s ninth birthday. This kid loves ramping bikes with the older neighbor boy, trying back flips on the diving board, listening to music on his MP3 player, and playing basketball and soccer. School’s cool, too, in his eyes, but if all learning could take place at Running and Gunning Outdoor University, all the better.

But last week at lunch he showed his spiritual thinking cap, and popped up with a comment that came out of nowhere. “Why do we even have B.C.? It doesn’t make any sense, because Jesus has always been. I don’t get it.” Then he returned to feasting on his quesadilla or pizza or whatever the fare was.

I confess, I considered explaining the concept of measuring time before Jesus walked on Earth. But I just shook my head, and not a sound escaped my mouth. “You’re right, David. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Why correct a boy who understands the eternal nature of His Lord and Savior? What a moment. What a gift.

Then there’s the teenager. Oh, boy! (Insert smile, not grouchy face.) Jessica’s dad and I have watched her during the last year as she has developed a passion for social justice. Since she was little, she has tended to stick up for the little guy, been moved by the perils of the weak and wanted to help others.

Jess has been incorporating major world problems into her reading selections and discussing the issues of fair trade, childhood slavery and more with her school and church friends.

Jess attended a missionary presentation this spring at our church home, Prairie Ridge Church, Ankeny, Iowa ( A New Zealander shared the story of a Christian mission business, a slave-prostitute rescue operation in Kolkata, India, called Freeset (

The missionary told stories of women rescued from a dirty, urban, miles-long prostitution line. She explained the abuse they endured, the emotional scars and healing, the skills the women developed after their rescue and their spiritual paths.

Jessica and her dear friend even talked with the speaker, one of the Freeset founders. She blessed them with encouragement and answered their questions. I watched as she spoke to them and listened to them in truth and sincerity, with grace and gratitude.

Encounters and landmark moments like these show me how important my mothering role is. How much it matters to open doors in my kids’ lives to allow God to work in them, and show them His work in others. It brings to life the realization that my children belong to God, and he has graciously loaned them to me. What a difference they can make. What praise they can bring to Him, as they allow Him to work through them.

The loving, the teaching, the praying, the playing, my husband and I, along with many others, pour into my kids — and you into yours — matters. It makes an impact. It is not in vain. Praise God. Together, let’s keep raising up our kids for Him.

We are not preaching about ourselves. Our message is that Jesus Christ is Lord. He also sent us to be your servants. The Scriptures say, "God commanded light to shine in the dark." Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ.

We are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us.
2 Cor. 4:5-7 CEV

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What-Ifs of My Salvation

Sometimes I think about how glad I am that I accepted Christ when I did, as a child. God showed His love for me, drawing me to Him waaaaay back then. He gave me the very faith it takes to reach out for the grace He extends.

As an adult, I’m skeptical and suspicious. I sometimes live hardened. So I wonder, would my heart ever be softened to Him, if I wasn’t saved yet today?

But then I think about Psalm 139.

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
Before a single day had passed.
(Verses 15-16, NLT)

The Holy Spirit moved me to accept the Son at a young age – and He knew I would choose to come to Him.
Sometimes I wonder if I was born in the days of Noah, or in the days of Moses, or Nehemiah, would I have followed the one true God, and looked forward to the Messiah? If I had lived during the days Jesus lived fully God, fully man, and walked on the dusty roads of Israel, and preached in the temple, would I have fallen in love with Him as my Lord?
But He called me, and showed Himself to me, so how could I turn from that love, regardless of His timing in creating me? I remember the lessons God has taught me. How many times have I studied Old Testament books, and delighted in seeing God as Savior long before Jesus came down for us? I can’t count the beautiful, holy-love revealing times.

I saw the remnants of His people and His plan protected time and again through studies of Israel and the Minor Prophets in Bible Studies Fellowship, and in my studies in solitude of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Ruth and more. And I know, I just know, that no matter when or where He put me on this earth, I would belong to Him.
Even if I lived in the days when I would have been drawing water from a well in a town in the ancient Middle East, I can trust Him that He would have given me the gift of faith and salvation through grace. Even through a time of arranged marriages and bloody animal sacrifices at a temple, He planned for me to be His. God is the Savior, eternally, not simply beginning at the Cross.
Sometimes I think dwelling on the what-ifs of my salvation and of when God gave me life, is silliness. Far-fetched. Reality dictates, after all. God created me in the 20th Century.

God settled the salvation part already, in this lifetime that he really did give me. That’s not a dreamed up scenario. He planned in advance good works for me to do. He truly took and uses difficult, sad events in my life for good, and will in the years to come. I see His new mercies every morning. He blesses me immeasurably each day. So, why dwell on what-ifs?

My thoughts return there, because this spiritual imagination and these heart-thoughts, increase my gratitude. Through the humility developed picturing different scenarios in my life, I appreciate my salvation more. I credit my God more. I let Father, Son and Holy Spirit work more deeply within me. I am honored and thankful to belong to the Almighty.

Photo: Public Domain, Cross on Mount Royal, Montreal, Canada

©Helene Bergren. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lessons from Mommyhood

Random lessons from 15+ years of motherhood

Children are a blessing and gift from the Lord. Psalm 127:3 CEV

1. Imaginary cookies,pies and cakes are delicious and slimming.

2. Some children just need to have bells attached to their belt loops at all times.

3. (Mommy + Wounded Child) X (Bully Child + Passive Parent of Bully) = Grizzly Bear Mommy

4. God gave us Bible verses that apply to every parenting occasion, but it takes awhile to look them up.

5. Mom vs. child light saber duels delight, but result in injury.

6. God gave me a Mommy swimsuit for a reason — a very, very good reason.

7. Bypassing a rule just this once = regular, future trouble.

8. Seeing my children sing to Jesus, pray for friends and share good lessons makes my heart soar.

9. When you’ve rushed to the ER with your child, and she tells the nurse everything looks wavy, she will receive attention immediately.

10. Watching your children sleep is a sweet gift.

Some people brought their children to Jesus so he could bless them by placing his hands upon them. But the disciples told the people to stop bothering him.

When Jesus saw this, he became angry and said, “Let the children come to me and don’t try to stop them. People who are like these little children belong to the kingdom of God. I promise you that you cannot get into God’s kingdom, unless you accept it the way a child does.”
Matthew 19:13-15 CEV

Thursday, July 1, 2010

God Provided OBX Time

In January, Rod and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, but we wanted to mark the time in the summer, and enjoy a new destination as a family. We considered cruises, Caribbean island trips, even Europe, because we have friends living in Germany. Then we talked budget.

We started researching destinations that would involve water, always a hit for our family, but would also offer activity options appealing to all of us. The Outer Banks rose to the top, with ocean, educational historic sites about a lost colony, The Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, quaint shopping districts, wild horse tours and the Wright Brothers first flight national park site.

As it turns out, Rod and I didn’t go out on an anniversary date while on vacation, and we didn’t mention our anniversary to our children while on the trip, but the OBX vacation will likely stand as the overall family favorite for some time. Situations don’t always happen how we plan, but God’s generosity remains.

What of the privilege of a vacation in the first place? What of living in a country where it’s safe to travel 1,350 miles from home? I credit God, for income, employment, great deals and good budget planning for our trip.

God provided generously when He orchestrated a good deal for us at our inn. We stayed in connecting rooms, an efficiency room for the kids with a small kitchen and bath, and a standard room for us. The bargain on the room with the kitchen saved us a great deal of money, and calories, eating out. Praise Him.

The vacation, for me, stimulated my mind in a new way, too. Times of considering history on the Atlantic Coast, as related to wild horses, the Wright brothers and the first flight, and time to read a novel, a Christian apologetics book and study His Word during down times in our room, were precious to me.

The children’s creativity at the beach, with sand castles and games like jumping the waves made me smile. Sand chairs, sand cities, and the lessons of the tides’ power over such creations. Oops.

At the Elizabethan Gardens, they enjoyed photography and seeing trees and flowers unusual to them. Our 11-year-old pretended to play with deer sculpted of plants, amusement at my son’s awe at a nude - female – statue. Sorry, had to share that, little buddy. Our daughters waltzed in an open grassy area encircled by live oak and magnolia trees. Our teenage daughter posed the kids on a bench, depicting see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Cute.

On the return trip, we stopped to see family in Fayetteville, N.C. Rod’s nephew and his wife live there, with him stationed at nearby Ft. Bragg. They’re actually our age, so our children, whose ages our close to our kids’, got to see each other after about seven years.

We had hoped Rod’s nephew would be back from Kuwait in May, originally even sooner, but he remains in the Middle East. So we got on Skype and chatted with him a great length of time. What a blessing, from our Lord.

His wife welcomed us into their home, and barbecued for us, truly sweet. We learned of events happening in their lives, saw their children’s fun and kindness and their typical kid ways. That brought me joy. And we can picture them at home now when we think of them. God gave us all of that.

Paul, the apostle, wrote the following words in a letter to the church in Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome for Christ’s sake. He writes that his response to his troubles is to get down on his knees in praise before God. Certainly our vacation was no imprisonment, and I’m praising God for a blessing on top of my salvation, whereas, Paul is praising the mystery of Christ. But we’re both talking about experiencing Christ’s love. While we were on vacation, I felt very much the way Paul talks here:

14-19My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

20-21God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!

Ephesians 3:14-21, The Message (

My husband and I shared different perspectives on sights we saw while on vacation. His enthusiasm at the brilliant minds of the Wright Brothers tickled me. My enjoyment of the ocean and jumping through waves for the next shell amused (maybe perplexed, too) him.

I loved driving through the mountain tunnels. He fed his GPS addiction, I mean, electronic cartography hobby. The children relaxed. God gave us those moments.

What a giving God I follow.