Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Perfect Parent

Yesterday, my oldest daughter and I had what someone might call a "Come to Jesus Meeting". She has gone over and around my rules regarding makeup more times than I can count and it was time that I stop shielding her from the consequences of her actions. She's only twelve - old enough to follow instructions but not quite old enough to make her own rules, and of course she thinks she knows what's best for her better than I do. Her excuse was something like, "I did it because I don't like the way I look when I do it your way." Before I go any further, this story is not an attempt to call her out but to share with you what I've learned from my circumstances.

Although I've explained on more than one occasion that my rules are there to help her-- not to put a damper on her life in any way, she chose to ignore them. As I thought about how to show her what she has done, it came to me - she disobeyed me in order to follow her own desires. Then it occurred to me that I recently did this very thing to God. And although I didn't think about it that way at the time, it was mere disobedience.

Anytime we choose our own selfish desires over what He tells us to do is nothing less than disobedience. Many times, it's something directly contradictory to His word but quite often we disobey direction from His Spirit as well. If we know the right thing to do and do not do it, we are doing (to Him) the very thing that many of us refuse to tolerate from our children. Isn't it time that we walk the same path that we set before them?

You might argue that there is a difference but I totally disagree. Disobedience is disobedience no matter who the subjects are. The very worst kind of disobedience, I believe, is disobedience to our perfect, omniscient God. He knows better than any of us what is best for each of us. He commands us to do or to avoid certain things because He doesn't want to see us hurt. Doesn't that sound exactly like our reasoning for the rules we set forth for our children?

Oftentimes, we tend to think we know better than God what's best for our lives. We pray for things WE WANT and we think if He doesn't give us the exact thing we pray for then He isn't listening or that He doesn't care. There have been many times that I failed to ask His will as I pray, and instead I ask only to be granted what I want. But isn't that merely another manipulation technique that our kids use on us?

Who are we that we should tell God what to do for us? Who are we that we think we know better than the God of the universe - who can see all things, knows all things and can do anything? When are we going to realize that it's NOT about what we can do, what we want or what we feel? Emotions have led humans astray for centuries and you'd think that if we are as smart as we like to think we are that we would have this lesson down pat.

Obedience requires a sacrifice. Part of that sacrifice means trading in my way for His way. The Bible is very clear on the importance of obedience. We cannot be Christians and live life our way - we just can't. How can you have faith without obedience? You cannot separate the two.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
I am a firm believer that our children mirror us and if we aren't careful to live what we believe, it will produce rebellion in the hearts of our children. He also showed me that as I punish her actions, I can and should handle her with kindness, mercy and love as I expect her to do to others- but at the same time I must be firm. I have to get her attention somehow, someway. I showed her mercy by finding a more appropriate punishment for her actions. I showed her love by reminding her that I still love her and always will but part of loving her means that I have to reign her in when she goes astray. I'm convinced that He chastises us in the same way.

I hope to model His way of parenting and I pray that He will help me to be conscious about being obedient to His commands. Afterall, the we are called to live intentionally. I pray the same for each of us because our God deserves our obedience.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It Takes Time

I fall on my face A LOT. And when I get back up and try again, it isn't long before I fall again. Again and again I fall and become wounded and again and again I get back up and wonder how much more falling I can take. Thoughts creep in causing me to doubt and I grow weary.  I get frustrated because these things God commands of me seem to be the hardest things to do.

I was telling my husband just last night about how I grow frustrated with myself for not getting it right and for taking so long to learn the things of God. Somehow I have it built-in my head that He expects me to get it right --right then. Although the Christian walk requires a heart change and isn't something we can just do on our own, I recognize my need to be what He has called me to be and I tend to rush it. I grow impatient and my frustrations do nothing but land me in a puddle of discouragement.

This morning, I was reading the Parable of the Sower in the book of Luke, in which Jesus spoke of three types of hearers. First, there is the hearer that never really hears and instead Satan takes the seed (God's word) before it can be planted so that the person can never be saved. Then there is the hearer who hears and receives it with joy but since he or she is not rooted in it, they only believe for a while and fall away. Third is the hearer who hears and accepts it but the seed is later choked by riches and cares of the world. Lastly there is the hearer who not only accepts the word but endures wholeheartedly with steadfastness....they "bear fruit with patience."
"As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." Luke 8:15 ESV
It takes time. There it is..the answer to my frustrations straight from God himself and His timing couldn't have been more perfect. It takes time and patience to grow and bear fruit-- I'm not just a slow learner afterall. It's not expected that change come overnight and that idea is merely a lie from Satan- meant to discourage us from enduring. It doesn't come easily because if it did, we would all be doing it and no one would ever fall away.
Living in the flesh while being led by the Spirit requires constant focus, dedication and endurance and if you take your eyes off Him for a split second you run the risk of falling. If you don't guard your mind and capture every thought, you wind up with a mess in your head that eventually makes it way to the heart. I've heard many people say that you can go overboard with your faith but that tells me that those people were never serious to start with.
Even though He is working in us always - we still battle the flesh. The human side of us wants to come out and run the show. It's inevitable that we will come out with cuts and scrapes if we try to go against the flow. But over time, if we endure, the hope is that our flesh gets a dose of discipline from the head disciplinarian Himself.
"But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Matthew 24:13
Notice it doesn't say, "He who tries" or "He who endures for a while". He calls us to endure until the matter how hard it gets or what it takes. He also promises to walk with us if we follow Him, meaning we constantly give up what we want for what He wants.
For me it's reassuring to know that He doesn't expect me to get it right immediately, and to be changed in such a short time. Changing doesn't depend upon us, and if it did the change would only be on the surface--superficial change. Since He works on His own time and He knows what He's doing, we can rest assured that true change will come in time---IF WE ENDURE. I'm quite sure that if He worked too fast on us, we would suffer from shock of seeing all our junk at once. And I'm not sure that my heart could take it all at once.

Therefore, I appeal to you to to endure and persist. Keep getting back up because it's in those falls that we grow character and learn humility. Never give up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Every Little Thing Counts

Do you ever ask yourself, " Does it really matter if I do the right thing, no matter how small?" I think we all must do that from time to time, especially in dealing with those mundane daily tasks like making supper or bathing your kids and putting them to bed. We get tired, we lose perspective and wonder if it really matters if we do this "small" thing after all.

Recently, I found myself in this very place. I'll be honest. After working a 40 hour-a-week job, growing a marriage, maintaining a household of five and providing for the needs of three kids- I don't need many excuses to skip out on some of my responsibilities. My marriage has been through some challenges, everyone in my home has had a turn at being sick and we're always battling stress from other areas of our lives. We're  tired and we're each facing days where we just want to sleep until it's all over. I highly doubt we're alone in this.

Last week, as I found myself making excuses to neglect one of my duties, I could hear myself say, "It won't matter if I don't do it just this once." And as I heard it, a great truth was made quite real to me--Every single  thing we do matters. Why? Because God says so.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." I Corinthians 10:31 NIV
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 NIV
If it all matters, that changes a lot for me. Even if other's don't notice all our hard work--it matters to Him. Every single act, even those that are in the quiet of our hearts, speaks volumes about our character and who we serve. Every thought we think, every word we speak, every task we complete is an opportunity not only to build our character (diligence, patience, unselfishness, etc.) but also to build up those around us. Even if it just encourages others to endure to, reminds someone that they are loved, or simply serves as quiet proof of your faithfulness--it counts.

Sure, it may not matter if you skip it once or twice but the whole point in Christianity is that that you endure, you put others first and you become a selfless servant. When others have needs, we have the opportunity to live what we believe. During this incident. I happened to be experiencing some heart changes and it's critical during these times that I endure.

I read once that character is defined by what you do when no one is looking. And because it has proven so true, it reminds me that even those things we do that go unnoticed do matter in the grand scheme of things. Those "little things" are proof of who we really are inside. 

In some sense, mundane is a safe place to be. And we often overlook that mundane is a drama-free opportunity that we shouldn't squander. The mundane things are as much a blessing as anything else. They provide opportunities to encourage our spouses, kids and others with enduring love. They offer us intimacy on a whole new level if we dare to find joy in them. And they prepare us for the non-mundane.

It is in the little things that the big things are made. I realize that it's important that I be more joyful in the mundane and look for the treasures. For me, knowing that it all counts changes everything.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cry Baby

The pressure is on us everywhere we go to be something we're not. We put up a strong exterior when we're falling apart inside. We hold back our tears, convinced that if we let anyone see them we're weak. Somehow we convince ourselves that it's wrong to show emotions, and we bury the pain as we force ourselves to believe that it's the right thing to do.

Sometimes we put all this pressure on ourselves. Sometimes Satan sneaks in a lie or two--that's what he is good at. And then there are times when people just put pressure on each other, whether it's been spoken or not. I think we humans cause each other at least as much harm as Satan does because even in our own efforts to look outside ourselves we take some extreme approach. We're hard on each other and we show little compassion. We refuse to see past the stuff on the surface, clenching our own narrow-minded ideas.
" Jesus Wept." John 11:35
It's becoming more and more uncommon for humans to show emotion to each other. We see it in marriages and families all the time. Many husbands think that their wives only need to see their strength, which couldn't be further from the truth. And many of us wives convince ourselves that it's wrong to be vulnerable to anyone, even our husbands. We fear telling our husbands about our feelings and mindset struggles because we fear that our husbands will think we're weak. And so, we miss out on opportunities to grow together as one.

We even teach our children, through our actions, that it's best to build a hard exterior towards others in order to protect themselves. We teach them that trusting anyone aside from us will do nothing but get them hurt. And then when they harden up towards us we stand there dumbfounded. Sound familiar?

I'm forced to ask myself some hard questions: What if my someone thinks ill of me for revealing my heart? What if they abandons ship once they see the ugly things in my heart?

Those questions force me to ask myself yet another question. "Who do I really serve?"
If I seek to please someone more than Him, then I have a bigger problem and it's called "idolatry". If I disobey God in order to serve  man, then I have created nothing more than an idol before God.

My effort is not to slap anyone's hand because, if you've read my blogs, you know that I only talk about areas where I've been myself. Last night, as I watched the show "Hoarding: Buried Alive" and as I sat there with my mouth hung open to the things I saw, God spoke to my heart about something He's been working on me for quite some time now. I often hide behind an emotionless exterior because I fear what others will think of me. And that fear just has to go, if I'm going to grow any further. Here are some things He showed me about the fear of showing others what's on our hearts.
There is no strength in hiding. Faith calls us to have courage to believe and obey, no matter what seat you have in the arena and the view it provides. Courage is refusing to hide and challenges us to overcome our fears. Courage brings us out from behind the rocks that we hide behind as it brings about entirely new mindsets and thought patterns. Courage starts with transparency in our Christian walk and transparency is nothing more than complete honesty, to ourselves and to others. We, as believers, are called to be courageous. If we are led more by our fears than by Him, we're missing out on the blessings of faith.
If other people think we're something that we're not, and that we're stronger than we really are then it's not just their problem. There is real danger in hiding who we are / our struggles from those around us. I've seen more people give up on something because they had the perception that no one else struggles like they do, therefore they conclude it must not be meant to be. Others grow angry and bitter with the other person because they perceive the lack of emotion as a lack of concern.

That being said, I'm not advocating that we say whatever we want to others. That's not Biblical either. We're called to be compassionate, yet firm. I'm not advocating that we focus on only our struggles either and become a bunch of whiney babies. The Bible commands us to have self control. That does not mean we lie about who we are, it means we control ourselves from sin as we practice transparency.We have to learn to look beyond the opinions and expectations of others and realize that other people need to know that we struggle too.