For those who don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain a bit. For a long time I've thought that it was tragic that as westerner's, we have no real "ceremony" or "rite of passage" where we welcome our young people into adulthood with lifelong mentoring, intentional blessing and rites of passage. Most cultures of the world have these ceremonies, and it is a time to mark the transition from childhood into adulthood. So many of our young people end up floating in adolescence for an extended period, trying to define their adulthood in really destructive ways such as drinking, drugs and sexual activity.
For years, I had wanted to have a rite of passage ceremony to mark this transition, and I began talking to people and reading up on what happened in other cultures. I thought about doing something like a Christian version of a Bat Mitzvah, etc. Finally, I took bits from different sources and made something that worked for us. A book that was a huge help to me was "Boy's Passage, Man's Journey" by Brian Moliter. I know it's focusing on a rite of passage for boys, but I was able to glean a ton of information from it.
So, to begin with, I had to prepare Sierra for it, really taking time to invest in what it means to be a godly woman, how to walk that out, etc. She rose up to it in such a beautiful way, it was really amazing. Then, I also had to teach people what it was we were doing, and trying to accomplish - this wasn't meant just be a birthday party or something (in fact, it wasn't even close to her birthday!).
The day itself was a dress-up affair and everyone looked stunning! This was a day meant for women to pass the baton on to another young woman, so it was just us girls. Sierra's grandpa made a guest appearance at the end to extend his blessing over her.
We all gathered together on a Saturday afternoon, starting our day off with some fellowship and h'orderves, followed by a bit of worship. After this, I shared some teaching on what we were embarking on and challenged the women with the gravity of what we were undertaking. A few ladies shared some relevant stories and we had a few skits that had a dual purpose of being a whole lot of fun, while also teaching valuable lessons about our choices in life, and also about the importance of asking for help. Finally, we all had an opportunity to share with Sierra.
When I was putting the celebration together, I prayed specifically for who it was God wanted to be there to extend blessing to her. As I said previously, this wasn't meant to be just a party, but really a rite of passage. I wanted people there who really understood that. I asked each of the ladies to write a letter to Sierra, imparting both knowledge and blessing. It was not meant to be a preachy time. I also asked them to bring a small, symbolic token for her, indicating something meaningful. Everyone was so creative and really invested themselves into the letters and gifts. It was priceless! Someday I think it would be awesome to put the letters into a book! All of the insight, wisdom and love shared that day will continue to unfold and gain significance and deeper revelation throughout Sierra's life.
Below I've put together the stories we read, as well as the two teachings I did on the Titus 2 charge and the significance of extending a blessing to our children. I hope you'll enjoy them - please let me know what you think!
Diamonds Are Formed Under Incredible Pressure - read by Doris Wilkison
I'm wondering where we ever got the idea that if we turned our lives over to the Lord things were going to be easy. I know there are times when it seems as if the world is crashing in around me and I look up at the Lord and say, "It's not supposed to be this way!" Really? If I take an honest look at the Scriptures, it seems to me that God's greatest leaders have always gone through times of intense trial. Look at Joseph - sold as a slave and thrown in prison through no fault of his own, Moses - ripped from the luxury of Egypt's palaces to tend sheep in the desert, David - hunted by Saul because of Saul's jealousy, Daniel - thrown into the lion's den because of his devotion to God. So, who am I to think that I should bypass the trials in life?God never promised that there wouldn't be trials. In fact, He says the exact opposite - "in this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33. And David says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." Ps 23:4 I think that means we will walk through valleys, because valleys are part of the journey. But as we are walking in them, we know that God is with us in the difficulty, using it to accomplish His purpose in our lives. In fact, we know more than that. We know that God uses our trying times to forge our character into what He intends. Trouble has a way of refining and defining us. It's in the heat of affliction that our true character shines through. What is our first thought when trouble comes? Do we turn to God, fall on our knees and recognize that He is our only source - our sole sufficiency, or do we complain, curse and whine? Really, what is your response to testing times? A diamond is only formed under intense heat and pressure. It's through extreme conditions that the molecular structure of the diamond melded into place. And it's the molecular structure, the bonds at the very core of the stone that make the diamond what it is. The bonds of a diamond have such integrity of purpose that it's the hardest substance known to man. A diamond can cut through every other substance. I think God longs to form an integrity of belief and faith in us like those that are formed in a diamond. And the only way He can accomplish that is to let us go through times of intense pressure. Because the hardships in our lives are the only way He can remake us in the most elemental part of our being. He longs to form such an integrity of conviction and faith that we will be impenetrable. As we are formed in this manner, I also believe that we become brilliant to behold ~ just like a diamond. So that we can "...shine as lights in the midst of a dark and perverse generation." Phil 2:15.I believe we are diamonds in the rough. Some just beginning to become diamonds in the midst of intense trials, some have an internal structure formed, but now must go through the mining process, and some are ready to be cut and reveal the brilliance of the lessons learned in the times of trial. It really doesn't matter where we are on the journey. What's important is to know that God is at work, even when we don't see how He could be in view of our situation. When we understand that God is at work in the trials of our lives, our troubles will take on a different meaning for us and we will be able to "give thanks in everything."So, don't be surprised at the great trials and pressures in your life. God is using them to create something wonderful in you. For a while it may seem unbearable, but the results will be beautiful to behold!Lord, help us to realize that in the midst of our trials, You are working. You are forging in us integrity of character that cannot be overcome by this world. You are causing us to become more than conquerors, because we choose to acknowledge you as Lord in every circumstance and situation. Take me as a diamond in the rough, and do whatever is necessary to create a brilliant reflection of Your glory in my life. I love You, Lord. Amen
Refining Fire – Malachi 3:3 (New King James Version) - read by Gloria Coburn
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the LORD
An offering in righteousness.
"There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three they came across verse three, which says, "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. That week the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that, in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot - then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part -- when I see my image reflected in it."
The Importance of Training
God gives us many instructions in His Word. Today I want to focus on a few scriptures that have to do with training.
Proverbs 22:6 (New International Version)
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Corinthians 9:24-26 (New International Version)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly...
I particularly want to focus on our next scripture:
Titus 2:3-5 (New International Version)
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Ladies, we have been given a mandate by the Word of God – that is, we are to “train the younger women…” Today’s celebration is a walking out of that mandate, although it does not end here.
One of the sacred duties and privileges we have as older women is to come alongside younger women, walk with them, and mentor them as they move through their lives. We have the honor of sharing with them our experiences and the things we’ve learned in life, with the hope of seeing them fulfilled in their high calling of being a woman who fears the Lord (Prov. 31:30 – “charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised).
We may share with them practical advice – how to find a properly fitting bra, or how to walk in high heels, perhaps even how to make a pot roast.
We may counsel them in relationships – how to guard their heart, how to deal with difficulties in friendships, or maybe even how to relate to young men.
We certainly talk with them about emotions – the importance of forgiveness; having the freedom to cry when necessary, and how to handle anger in a positive and healthy way.
And let us not be hesitant to also share with them spiritual truth – the importance of a God-centered life, of the need for grace, or of God’s sufficiency in our lives.
The list could go on forever – and this is our charge. To continue to walk alongside our young women; lifting them up, encouraging them, admonishing them, loving them and training them.
I have asked you to be here today because of your commitment to God, to Sierra and to our family. It is no accident that you are here – this day and this moment has been ordained by God and blessed by His hand – we are a generation of Believer’s who are committed to God’s Word and all that it contains – committed to loving God first, and then others. This is not an easy task. It takes time; it takes commitment. It takes investing your self, heart and soul, into another person. However, that is exactly what God has asked us to do, and has modeled for us himself through the example of Jesus.
Thank you so much for your willingness to be here, and for your commitment to Jesus and to us. I believe with all of my heart that God will bless your efforts and your investment into this very special, very precious young woman of God.
I also did a teaching on blessing...
Genesis 27 – The Covenant of Blessing
Genesis 27 is the story of when Jacob (at his mother urging) dresses up like Esau and tricks his father Isaac into giving him Esau’s blessing (read Gen. 27).
Genesis 48:8-16 is the story of when Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons.
Just then Jacob noticed Joseph's sons and said, "Who are these?"
Joseph told his father, "They are my sons whom God gave to me in this place."
"Bring them to me," he said, "so I can bless them." Israel's eyesight was poor from old age; he was nearly blind. So Joseph brought them up close. Old Israel kissed and embraced them and then said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face again, and now God has let me see your children as well!"
Joseph took them from Israel's knees and bowed respectfully, his face to the ground. Then Joseph took the two boys, Ephraim with his right hand setting him to Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand setting him to Israel's right, and stood them before him. But Israel crossed his arms and put his right hand on the head of Ephraim who was the younger and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the firstborn. Then he blessed them: The God before whom walked my fathers Abraham and Isaac, The God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this very day, The Angel who delivered me from every evil, Bless the boys. May my name be echoed in their lives, and the names of Abraham and Isaac, my fathers, And may they grow covering the Earth with their children.
There are a few things that are notable about this story – most importantly is the concept of one person blessing another. The Hebrews understood this blessing to be much more than the Gentiles comprehend.
The Hebrews believed the blessing to be equivalent to a vow (covenant, pledge, treaty, alliance) made in the name of God. In ancient times, the Hebrews did not use the name of God casually. They had such a reverence for God, that they only used His name in the most serious of circumstances. In fact, they would not even write His name out! They understood that God is a covenant God, that He is utterly true to His Word, and that this undertaking – giving a blessing, making a vow or covenant – was absolutely binding because God is absolutely faithful.
I express this because I want to emphasize the seriousness of what we are doing here today. We are giving a blessing over Sierra that is binding in the heavens. What we speak over her today through our blessings and prophetic utterances, I fully believe that God hears and holds fast to. This is not a casual time of wishing her well, but a time of calling her into spiritual maturity and Godly womanhood.
Unlike the story of Jacob and Esau, there will be no stealing of any blessing spoken over Sierra today! We know this is true, because Matt. 18:18-20 tells us "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
So, in that vein, I just want to pray over this time – Jesus, we thank you for the work you did for us on the cross. Lord, we honor your Holy Name and we surrender our lives to you. We thank you for being here with us today, and for taking part in this special ceremony. We just declare our faith in You and in Your Word – we know that you are a God of your word, and we thank you for that. Lord, we loose your Spirit to reign over this day, and we pray for you to guide us. Lord, we stand in agreement over the spiritual blessings you have poured out over Sierra today, Lord, and we thank you for all that You have done in her life already, and all that You have yet to accomplish in her and through her. We praise You that You want to partner with us. Father God, we pray that you would bind these blessings in heaven and on earth. We pray that the words that are spoken today are Your words, God, and that they would sink deep into Sierra’s spirit and take root. Father, we pray that the seeds planted today would take root in healthy soil, Lord, and that they would grow and bear much fruit. Father we pray for your Holy Fire to rain down on us, Lord! We bind the enemy and his tactics – we say he cannot snatch even one word that is spoken today, that his plans against Sierra will fail. Lord, we honor You, and we praise Your holy name. Thank you, Jesus! We pray all of this in the binding name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen!