Thursday, February 14, 2013

It Will Not Be Taken

On the first and third Tuesdays of the month, I sit in a room full of circular tables surrounded by folding chairs with women surrounding me. Moms from my church seeking spiritual growth and moms from town who just came to have a place to sit down and chat with friends while someone caring watched their kids. We sit together in that fellowship hall with the school tile floor but much better snacks and we listen to someone teach from God's word.

And then we sit with those verses. We sit, quietly. A room full of women all silent, contemplating what we just heard, what we read. Some writing. Some just thinking. A few just sitting, enjoying the quiet of the room. God moves in that space.

This past week we heard from Martha, as in Mary and Martha. Here is the passage and the thoughts I wrote down during those minutes of reflection.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38 - 42
Martha was distracted - pulled away. She was missing what was important.

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. 

It will not be taken.

But why does it feel like it is. Why are we always so anxious that our life, our way of life, our relationship with God will be taken away.

Thrown away. Maybe.

Walked away from. Possibly.

But taken -
     Is this Jesus' assurance that we are His? That we cannot be pulled away?

But then what is distraction but just that. Pulled away.

Distractions -
    Circumstances that happen.

I though get to decide how I respond.

Pulled away? No. Not if I choose to let my circumstances not become distractions.

Oh but that is hard... so very hard.

What circumstance has become a distraction in your life? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

"If ya can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."

"If ya can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." - Thumper in Bambi

It makes sense doesn't it. If you don't have something nice to say, then it is probably a good idea not to say it.

But here's the rub. While I have gained some control over my words, I often err on the side of saying nothing at all, at all. As in I squash the feelings behind the unkind words up and shove them away. I get rid of them, or let them go, or more likely, I put them in a box on a shelf up high. Not because I want to keep them. I don't. And yet, I have boxes upon boxes of things left unsaid on my shelf.

Because while I want to follow Thumper's father's advice and keep my mouth shut when I don't have something nice to say, but what do you do when you are upset? When you have been hurt or are wanting something to change but you know it will only cause pain to talk about it. What do you do when what you have to say may hurt someone, but it is the truth?

I am one to hold my tongue. Too much, maybe. At least when it comes to being angry, or hurt, or frustrated about something someone close to me has done.

And it is probably best for me to walk away when the thoughts in my head just want to shout and swear and point fingers. It is probably best for me to calm down, to think through why I am angry.

But then what?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Guest Post - Don't Feed the Fears

I was talking with my friend Jennifer the other day and I asked her if she would be willing to share her thoughts on my blog. Thankfully she said yes. Here is her post, my first guest post.
Psalm 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.
Parenting is rough.  I don't have to remind you of that if you have children of your own.  Being that you may be blessed with little ones, and you are reading this blog, you are probably the type of person that cares about the quality of your parenting.  I am one of those parents as well. I care greatly for my kids as we all do, yet I am just as concerned about how I am parenting: is it Godly, is it effective, and is it "right"? On any given day, you will hear my brain going through its checklist:

1)  Model the type of behavior that I want my children to exhibit in themselves. - “check”
2)  Control my response to my children, even when my feelings are not neutral. - “check”
3)  Let the balance fall on the side of encouragement and praise rather than criticism. - “check”
4)  Remember that before I know it they will be leaving my care to venture into their own adult life. -“check”

I know for a fact, that I do not want to kiss my last child goodbye as he moves out of the house and spend the rest of my empty nest regretting how I "could have done it better". Because of this concern, I have a constant drive to critique how my parenting is progressing, if at all.  Of course, most of this is self-inspection, but at times it may involve loving, wise friends to help with the task.

Recently, I was having a conversation with one such friend who, not by her own will, but rather by the power of the Holy Spirit through her, exposed an aspect of my parenting that I hadn't brought before the Lord. It isn't that I hadn't recognized it before, but I realized the magnitude of my weakness as I continued the conversation with my friend.

As we chatted, we lamented about how parenting three boys is tough in today's society where immorality and impurity are the status quo. The morals that my husband and I uphold and teach our children make our family vulnerable to mockers and doubters, because they seem to come from a parenting hand book from days gone by. Perhaps my sons are a bit too naive to some observers, and that is fine with me. As far as I see it, "fitting in" means compromise. However, the tugging of the Spirit began during our conversation when I realized that I cannot forever keep my children from situations where they will have to choose where they stand; how they will or will not fit into the current popular trend of morals.  

Duh, you say. Yes, I agree.

It is pretty obvious that I can't keep them innocent forever. Of course I know there comes a day when we are all tested, but the difference is that I have been very fearful of these coming days for each one of my children.

Then it hit me. WHAMO! That was my parenting weakness. The Fear Based Parenting Syndrome.

I realized at that moment that my focus has been hyper dialed in to the fear of what my children will have to deal with, rather than the acceptance of the fact that they most likely WILL have to deal with it. I have been more propelled by fear rather than focused on preparation for that divine allowed situation and the steps to help them be ready if and when it comes.

I know I am not alone when it comes to fear, heck, we are in good company:

Luke 1:30 says that when Gabriel the angel visited Mary when she was pregnant with Christ, he said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God."  (He must have known she was afraid or he wouldn't have said it!)

So, what does God want us to do about fear? He knew it would come, he knew it would tug on us like a toddler tugs on his mama’s skirt, yet He lovingly told us what to do:
Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10
Through introspection I realized I have been afraid for my childrens' future and it has affected my parenting; afraid that my children will have to live through the same pain that I have, afraid that my children will make my same mistakes that have, afraid that they will not realize the magnitude that sinful choices can have on their life, afraid that I will fail to prepare them (or shoot, there is another weakness-pride! Do you see a vicious circle forming here?) and most importantly afraid that they will not understand their value in Christ.

As a result, I nag, I yell, I enable, I worry, I fear. What positive result has this brought to my children? None. Don't get me wrong, I believe God did a pretty good job putting together my three sons and they are actually quite honorable despite me, but my influence on them could be so much more positive if I could stop and face the fear tugging at my heart.

As I saw with more clarity my faulty position, I asked the Lord to show me where change needed to be made; what to do to make the tugging stop. As I asked, I realized the shift needs to be in the object of my fear.
The Lord is for me, I will not fear; What can man do to me?  Psalm 118:6
Will I choose to fear what man or woman may bring to my children: betrayal, greed, selfishness, unfairness, impurity, people's evil intent? No.
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.   Luke 1:74
My parenting is just an extension of service to my Lord and I will not fear what will happen as I serve.  I will serve without fear even though the object of my service is so dear to my heart.

I have decided I will pick up my armor and fight because I will shift the object of my fear...I will only allow myself to fear one thing: I will fear the Lord. (Respect, revere, understand His authority over my life and children).
His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear him.  Luke 1:50
If I continue to function in the Fear Based Parenting Syndrome, I will be modeling that we must fear circumstances and "things" that can happen to us. Is this how I want my children to function in a society such as this? Will I yield to the Spirit and banish fear with faith in my own Daddy God, who has the protection of my children covered 100 percent? Yes!

Hopefully soon my children will see their mother functioning under the righteous appropriate fear of the Lord, and they will learn responsible faith-based actions in the face of temptations that WILL come. I will teach Godly responses to racism, hatred, lust, vanity and pride that WILL come. I will not wrap them in bubble wrap and stuff in the closet to protect them.  I will walk with my children in the freedom of the Lord and hold that flashlight of truth which is the Word of God, as we maneuver the potholes of life together.

Since this conversation with my friend and deeper insight into my parenting motivation, have I changed what I say to my children? No, not much….yet. Does it change the emotion behind the parenting, absolutely! Well, I am working on it.  And that, my friend makes all the difference doesn't it?

In the days to come, I will attempt to grow in feeding the faith, through only fueling the fear of the Lord. And, if you happen to walk past me and I am yelling or nagging at my children, feel free to ask me what I am so afraid of, because syndromes don't want to be squashed when they have been given a home for so long!!

Thanks Jennifer for sharing your heart with us.

So now the question is where am I parenting out of fear? 

Friday, February 1, 2013

And Then Came the Blood Clot...

So if you read my post the other day, you know that I have been challenged by my husband's broken toe. And if you read the earlier posts, you know that my stress level has been rather high. So you can imagine my delight when I found out last Friday that my husband developed a blood clot that is sitting behind his knee, ever threatening to move to his lungs.

You know that saying that God will not give us more than we can handle.

Yeah. I don't believe that.

I used to. And I used to use some version of that phrase when trying to comfort friends.

It might be my hopeful nature. Or the stoic in me that knows that bad things do happen to good people. Or bad theology just being repeated.

But the truth is that God gives me more than I can handle all the time.

And He does it on purpose.

He does it so that I am forced to ask for help from friends that may have expertise and knowledge of my issue even though I don't want to be a burden or a nuisance.

He does it so that I say yes when a friend offers to make me dinner to relieve some of my stress, even though I hate to appear needy.

He does it so I cannot stop the tears that flow sitting at lunch with my small group from church. Tears that remind me that I do not have it all together and that it is okay to be a little broken. It doesn't mean I am turning into my mother and becoming suicidal or depressed beyond measure.

He does so to bring me to my knees in prayer. Ready to beg for his help because I cannot do this parenting thing well without His help.

He gives me more than I can handle alone to remind me that I do not need to carry it all alone.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  
Matthew 11:28 - 30
And sometimes I do not know why I am carrying a load too heavy, a burden too much to bear, a pain all encompassing.

Too much to bear.


It is never too much if we cling to God. If we take it to God.

It might still feel like more than we can handle.

But He's bigger than we can ever imagine.

Where do you need to let God carry some of your load?