Archives for posts with tag: Bible
Ready to roll

Ready to roll

My prayers in anticipation of Harper starting Kindergarten have been both thorough and terribly incomplete. I’ve prayed for safety, for a smooth transition, for good friends, a patient teacher. I’ve prayed that she’ll be kind to the people around her and I’ve prayed that those people will return the favor. I’ve been anxious for several reasons: she’ll be exposed to certain words, attitudes, and behaviors that aren’t okay with us; she’ll be confronted with beliefs, ideas, and value systems that don’t align with what she’s been taught at home; she will at some point be left out, called out, or picked out in ways that make her uncomfortable or embarrassed. At some point last week, I noticed that when I was praying, I was praying from a place of fear and protectiveness, like I was on my heels or backed up against a wall. Fear is not from God and I didn’t want to remain in that place, nor did I want to pass that fear along to her. I started praying differently and it changed my attitude from mournful and leery to hopeful and eager.

I mean, doesn't she look hopeful and eager? ...uhhh

If that face doesn’t scream hopeful and eager, I don’t know what does…

I hadn’t been seeing this new chapter in Harper’s life for the opportunity that it is. In reality, this is where her Beautiful Journey starts. This is her ministry beginning. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY. She’s been safe in the shelter of our home, being nurtured, taught, fiercely loved, and, well, not confronted with serious conflict or challenges. Hers has been a good beginning. A solid foundation that will forever guide her path. We all have come to know Jesus personally in a countless number of ways. That relationship cannot be fabricated and it cannot be forced. If you took a survey of the people around you, I bet you’d find that most people really struggled in their personal journeys to understand and accept Jesus. Wouldn’t it be nice if we might all be able to surrender our lives and fall in love with a Savior without the motivators of tragedy, rock-bottoms, major frustration, helplessness and utter need? The truth is, most of us have to wade through the very worst of ourselves until we’re broken and finally honest in our failure. This slow, steady transition of starting grade school is where Harper steps in to her own faith. What a BIG, WONDERFUL DAY.

I wonder what Peter’s mother might have been praying or saying had she been in the boat during that storm. Surrounded by choppy water and swirling wind in the middle of the night – truly, a chilling scene. And then a ghostly-looking silhouette on the water. It’s our natural inclination as parents to try and shield our children from danger, hurt, and pain. What if she would have demanded or dissuaded Peter from stepping out into the violent storm? We would all say that reaction is entirely reasonable, intelligent even.  He might have stayed safe, but she would have let fear deny him of the moment when he locked eyes with Jesus himself. Pretend you’re Peter for a sec. Did time stop in those few seconds for him? Did he wonder if he was dreaming? Did the experience feel magical? Was it deafeningly loud or completely silent? Did it feel like immense failure when he started to sink? Was it immediate relief for both his body and his soul when Jesus gripped his arms, along with his heart, and he really knew: surely, this is the Son of God.

Hard times, being broken – those are the moments when we let our hearts be truly gripped by Jesus. I can dedicate all my time, energy, and focus on shielding my girls from danger, but then it’s a real possibility that I’m also standing in their way. I refuse to succumb to fear and so deny my children a moment like Peter had, locking eyes with Jesus. Being gripped by him mind, body, and soul. What I have come to accept is that Harper has her own story in which I am a supporting role. Egocentric, yes, but I tend to forget at times that the world still turns when I’m not masterminding all the twists and turns. Jesus found me – he pursued, was relentless, was patient – and he found me. He’s going to do the same with her. He’s pursuing, relentless, patient, and he’ll find her.

Sister love

Sister love

Over the last five and a half years, we have done our best to instill in Harper the values that we hold true: there is one God, one Savior Jesus. She has a lot of story left and, if we’re being realistic, steps along her journey may embarrass us as parents – may shock us, may scare us, may disappoint us, may hurt us. She won’t choose all the things and ways we would have chosen for her. But we’re in it for the long haul with her, as is the Lord. As hard as it is to just let it happen and not try to meddle or mourn, I do realize that Jesus is there with her, writing her story. I trust that she will take the foundation of faith she’s received and I am one of the lucky ones to have a front row seat to her ministry. It’s exciting, beautiful, and I have great expectations of the big things Christ will do in her. A mighty little light who is piercing the darkness.

PS: It’s okay if you shed tears over the first day of school, whether you have a Kindergartener or a Senior in college, because it’s okay to cry over beautiful things. And today was something beautiful.

Sass

Oh, the sass!

 

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One of the worst things you can be in America 2015 is someone who judges the actions or decisions or lifestyles of your fellow man. I am a person with conservative beliefs. But I go online and read some articles or blogs, what have you, and second guess myself because our culture hates intolerance more than murder or adultery. In our New Age era where we’re supposed to follow our hearts and accept everything, I am afraid to even own up to my dissenting opinions. And yet, I have this thing inside of me that pushes back and I realize: I have been grossly neglecting and underutilizing my most powerful spiritual weapon: the Holy Spirit living in me. I read comments by LOTR actor John Rhys-Davies yesterday about how we’ve lost our moral compass and what it means for Christianity. I had the bulk of this blog post sitting in my drafts folder, but that interview inspired me to finish collecting my thoughts on the necessity of judging.

In reality, not only do I pass a steady stream of judgments throughout my day, good judgment is essential to my health and safety. I stop at red lights. I look before crossing the street. I don’t eat roadkill squirrels in the gutter. I decide to wear clothes. And beyond myself, I actively instruct our children to make all these same judgments. To consciously weigh the benefits and consequences of the actions, thoughts, and words that fill their days. Of course, whether or not I walk into oncoming traffic is a matter of life and death – not a moral judgment. But if I saw a person walk into oncoming traffic, I would surely say that he is either blind, mentally ill, confused, or suicidal. Can’t the same logic translate over to our spiritual lives? I think it can and should. All around me, people are walking into oncoming traffic in their moral and spiritual lives, not believing – some not knowing – that they have put themselves at serious risk. They may be blind, sick, confused or depraved, but they’re there. In the middle of the road. Consequences manifest themselves physically and emotionally, of course, but the spiritual self is the part of the person most at risk…especially when those who DO know better are not warning about the oncoming traffic.  I get it, though. It’s hard to speak out when you know that your words could cost you. It can cost real money. See: the privately owned businesses who were court ordered to fork over thousands and thousands of dollars after refusing business to gay couples. It can cost real relationships. It can cost real comfort. From Jesus: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.” John 15.18. Sometimes when the world hates you, you’re on to something.

There’s a big flipside, though. Scripture is also clear about the dangers of judging each other. Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ “…and Luke 6: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Then there’s this really interesting little verse in John 7 (v24): “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  I really like the NLT version: “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” So, apparently there is a right way to judge, but also a wrong way. Instead of rejecting the popular notion that judging is wrong altogether, maybe we need to simply examine the way we use judgment. Are we doing it the correct way or the way that gets us into spiritual trouble?

The difference reminds me of a concept I learned while taking a parenting class called “Growing Kids God’s Way”. The lesson was about kids tattling/telling on each other. Bottom line: where is the heart of the tattler? Is he tattling on his sister because he wants to see her get into trouble? Because he wants to elevate himself as the better child? Because he thinks tattling will earn him some sort of reward? Because he wants her to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons and our kids get punished for tattling. The class taught that the only good reason a child would “tell” to his parents was because he feared for the health and safety of his sibling. Example: he saw his sister about to walk into oncoming traffic and ran to his father for help. That’s the good kind of “telling” and comes from a heart of love and genuine concern.

Adult application. Bottom line: where is your heart when you judge? Do you judge someone because you’d like to see them “get what they deserve”? Because you feel better about yourself when you can look down on someone else? Because you think judging will earn you some sort of reward or points? Or maybe because you want someone else to feel guilty and ashamed? All of those are, of course, wrong reasons. Is gossip involved? Is slander involved? If so, wrong kind of judging. Is prayer involved? Is getting to know someone intimately (“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly”) part of it? Do you feel compassion for your brother or sister? Then proceed with caution.

God gave me the Holy Spirit, who is my judgment-helper, to get me through life. All facets of life. Good judgment stops me from licking doorknobs. Good judgment keeps me from over-investing in relationships that drain me. Good judgment grounds me from throwing the towel in on parenting in the middle of super hard days. And if you’re someone who knows the truth and hears the Spirit prodding you, you need to speak up in private, heartfelt conversations with the people who you have love and concern for – the ones who are standing in the middle of the road, somehow thinking it’s safe there.

My kids were being pretty annoying in the car last week. Cortland has figured out Harper’s annoyance triggers, not that Harper hides them super well, but, in no time at all, Cort has become an expert in exploiting her sister’s weaknesses. Here is how it went: We were driving home from gymnastics and Cortland started saying, “I’m five! I’m five!”. Harper, who actually is five, became quickly agitated and started yelling, “You’re not five! You’re TWO! YOU’RE TWO!!” As any other parent can attest, Harper’s tantrum reaction only served to encourage Cortland’s insistence of being five. “MOM! Are you listening to her? She’s saying she’s five! She’s NOT five! She’s NOT! She’s two! She’s saying she’s FIVE!” Tears. Balled up fists. Screaming. Kicking my seat in frustration.

That's right. These angels.   Photo by Brighten Photography

That’s right. These angels.
Photo by Brighten Photography

I could not believe how ridiculous the scene had become. I talked Harper down eventually and somehow was able to reason with her. We talked about how I am the final authority on how old Cortland is. I was there when she started being a person. She wouldn’t be here without me. Just because Cortland says she’s five doesn’t make her five. She is completely, totally, and helplessly obligated to the same system of time and counting and aging that we are all tied to. She doesn’t get to skip ahead or fall behind. Maybe she wants to be five, but she is two. Maybe she says she is five, but she is two. Maybe she even really believes she is five. Know what? She’s still two. I am the final authority on this topic. I know the real truth, despite what anybody says. So, Harper, trust that what is truth will continue to be.

The whole conversation stuck in my thoughts later for quite some time. I noted that her behavior is not far from lots of adults I know, at times even me. We throw (super annoying) adult sized tantrums (typically on social media) when our feathers get ruffled over something another mere man says or decides. We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. He knows the truth. He was there when this all started and we wouldn’t be here without him. A man saying he’s a woman does not make him a woman. Legislation going into effect governs the law of the land; it does not govern the law written on our hearts. We look ridiculous with balled up fists, screaming, red-faced, kicking the back of God’s seat, “Did you hear that?! Do you hear what they’re saying?? It’s not true! It’s NOT TRUE!”

Maybe you’re not a tantrum thrower (and thank you), but you feel anxiety mounting when you hear unsettling news, whether it’s national news or a disagreeable set of views from someone close to you. Don’t stop after the first verse of John 14, but that’s what I’ll include right here. From Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” I have to include verses 16 and 17 because they’re so interesting: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” My takeaway here? If I’m getting all up in arms or letting worry nag at me and trouble my heart, I’m showing a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a fundamental distrust that Jesus is who he says he is.

Once more: We who are in Christ should know by now that God is our final authority. Not the President. Not the Courts. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not even our emotions with all their twists and turns. If you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, ask the One who is Truth to reveal it to you. You will waste a lot of time finding out the Truth if you’re sifting through talk shows and blogs and articles and newsfeeds. Just go straight to the source. God knows the real truth, despite what anybody else says. So, friends, trust that what has always been truth, is yet truth, and will continue to be.

Not my grandma.

Not my grandma.

Sorry to anyone who clicked on this to read an actual list, hoping you could maybe get a clue as to where exactly it started going south during your conversation with a former friend who happens to match that exact description. That’s a weird coincidence.

But have you seen these types of lists circulating? I’ve seen a ton. There is one for every group and sub-group of human being, from “pet owners” to “teachers” to “women who had a C-section.” I was seeing so many people post these that it started making me nervous to have a conversation with anyone who had any type of life experience for fear that I’d accidentally offend them.  I’d read through the lists and discover comments of two varieties: Genuine but mis-communicated concern OR evidence of plain ‘ole self-absorption (projecting personal or preconceived feelings or reflections onto the receiver of their comment). Even so, I kept thinking to myself, “Are people really getting all worked up over something like this?”. Not having ever been a teacher, C-section mom, and just barely a new pet owner (hey, Frankie!), I just took it on good faith that these were legitimately insensitive words. One day I saw someone post about 5 Things You Should Never Say To A New Mom. Finally! I have been a new mom, so I followed the link, prepared to be super angry at what calloused things some heartless goon would let pass their lips onto the delicate ears of a new mother like me. And then nothing happened.

Not my daughter.

Not my daughter.

I get how, “Are you breastfeeding?” could be too personal a thing to bring up, but one of the things on the list was, “Are you loving it?” Really? I’m sorry, but if someone asking if you are enjoying being a new parent makes you steam, then maybe you need to take a breather. Maybe the commentor can’t remember how hard this phase is or maybe the commentor has never actually been in this phase. And I’ll be the first to echo every mom out there trying to make the rest of the world understand exactly how insane parenting makes us (this blogger’s description of her “day” SO resonated with me!). However, after reading a list that I could identify with, my initial hunch was confirmed (at least in my own head) that maybe instead of presuming that all of our so-called friends are deep-down-mean, we’re sometimes just a little too easily offended.

Not being easily offended could be something you have to work on. Like the other attributes of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13, not being easily angered or irritated may not come naturally. I have to work like CRAZY on being patient and not being proud. Those are mine. But don’t let a well-intentioned comment mess with your head.

There is a flip-side. I’m definitely not advocating that there is no need to pay careful attention to your words; I’m not saying that being offended is always the fault of the person who got their feelings hurt. Two – no, make that three – instances are coming  to mind of times where I said something really insensitive and stupid. Cringe-worthy, in fact. Thankfully, the people on the receiving end of those thoughtless remarks were proficient at grace and forgiveness. Being on the goon-side of insensitive comments helped me overlook an instance when, in my third trimester, a relative told me that I “didn’t really look pregnant, just bigger all over”. Who knows why she said that! Ha, I mean, really. I think we could all probably agree you don’t say that to a pregnant woman. Be that as it may, the comment caught me off-guard, but it didn’t offend me because I know she loves me and her comment was certainly not meant to be an attack on my self-esteem. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I tend to assume that most people are generally well-meaning. Or maybe I should just say that I’m not looking for reasons to be mad or resentful toward the people I interact with. Because, for real, mad and resentful is no way to live.

I look pregnant to me...

I look pregnant to me…

Ok, here are some math jokes to win back your excitable, one-legged, former math teacher friend. Good luck.

New Year's baby Cortland and Aunt Shelly.

New Year’s baby Cortland and Aunt Shelly.

I am a mediocre resolution-maker, but hear this: Not because I’m a bum. One of the things I’m actually quite good at is setting a goal and achieving it. It’s an obsessive quality I have, so it’s not always helpful or healthy. Anyway, the point is that setting a New Year’s resolution doesn’t really make me any more or less inclined to reach a goal. I got 99 problems, but following through ain’t one.

Always appearing on my goals list are the following: Know God more, live more like Christ, read my Bible more, lose weight. So generic, I know. I got to thinking about the lose weight one because, for the first time in forever, it’s not appearing on my list. I started thinking about how I got here – at a place where I don’t want to weigh any less. It happened when I wasn’t obsessing about losing weight. I wasn’t counting calories or working out twice a day. I wasn’t adhering to any fad diet, but my eating habits over the last 3 months looks waaaay different than ever before in my life. Thanks to the wonky thyroid thing I’ve mentioned briefly on here, my definition of healthy eating has only a little to do with calories (to bring you up to speed, I’m trying to use diet changes to naturally stabilize my hypothyroidism and hopefully avoid medication). In short, after doing lots of reading and research, I surmised my best bets were to eliminate soy and wheat (and, thus, every snack, dessert, and good thing); and to add lots more fish and coconut oil.

I’m not here to talk about diet. I want to talk about the God goals. They’re always on my list and, until I’m in glory, they always will be. But I want to go about these goals unlike I have before – do things drastically different. Kind of like with my former “lose weight” goal; it wasn’t until I redefined healthy eating that I got to where I wanted to be. Of course I need to be in the Word. Of course I need to be in communion with Christ. Of course I need to be obedient to my Father. And what does that look like for me? Well, it involves more specificity and action than my generically stated goals allow for.

Know God more: How about, “Seek out people who are very unlike myself in upbringing, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, race, etc.. Develop real friendships with them. Talk about things that matter. Let our differences challenge me. Be firm, and still tender, and be patient.” Now that’s a goal that will inevitably show me more about God, His creativity, His pursuit of us, and lessons I will never have seen coming.

Live more like Christ: How about, “Resolve the tension you know you have in some of your relationships. Think outside of yourself more so that you can be a better friend. Ask for help when you need it and become a person that people seek out to ask for prayer.”

Read my Bible more: How about, “Day and night, the Word should always be on your lips. Teach it to your children. May Scripture be woven through the thoughts that circle in my mind and may my tongue speak it often in conversation.”

So, new game plan. Know God, live Christ, and read your Bible are all great goals – don’t think your list is lame if you have those. I just need a little more narrative to get me going. I hope you reach your goals for 2014 and, if you need prayer, I’m your girl!

Advent Day 7

Advent Day 7

Day 7: Jesus is Love

Read: John 15.9-17
Talk About: What is the command Jesus gave us?
                          What are ways that we can show love?
                          Why is it important to show love to others?
Activity: Write love notes of encouragement to give to three different people.
 

Harper answered, “What is the command Jesus gave us?” with an emphatic “Do your chores!”. She definitely confused me with Jesus right there. For the activity, she picked three people she wanted to send a love note to and then dictated to me her message. Followed by her own artwork creation covering the leftover blank space on the card. And scratching out what is now a recognizable H-A-R-P-E-R. Yay, preschool!

Smiling to herself

Smiling to herself

"Haha! Mama, I made my mouth yellow!"

“Haha! Mama, I made my mouth yellow!”

Examining her work.

Examining her work.

Writing notes of encouragement is something I love to do – and notes in the mail is something I love to receive. Isn’t it fun to find a “real” piece of mail in the middle of your pile of presorted standard ads, promotions, credit card offers and bills? It’s a lost art, I tell you! But not lost on this house…note-writing is a regularly scheduled program!