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Posts Tagged ‘children’

brat

My one year-old has begun to learn how to test her limits.  As she turns quickly into a full-fledged, card-carrying toddler, she has decided she wants to see just how much she can get away with and just how far she can go without suffering punishment or unfavorable consequences.

All babies do this.  All toddlers, children, and teenagers do this.  Young adults do this.  Even elderly people do this and many do it for the duration of their lives in relation to God.  It is not usually a good sign, but it can be a good indication of where a person is in maturity.

“Sonny, no, no!” I say firmly as she pulls my earring.

We’ve had this interaction before, many times.  I have taken out my earrings and showed her.  I have given language lessons on how to pronounce the word, “ear-ring.”  I have emphatically told her with as much clarity as humanly possible the word, “NO” on many occasions when her little fingers have purposely found these friends who take up residence in my ears.  Still, there is just something irresistible about giving a good yank and feeling the success and satisfaction of holding the shiny piece of metal in her tiny hand once she’s pulled it completely out of my ear.

Yesterday was no different.  All was well in the world of baby blanket peek-a-boo and near naptime nummies until Sonny saw the silver booty sparkling like a new stairwell to climb.  The promise of victory was simply too tempting.  How could she be expected to obey?

She pulled down and I, once again, calmly, but sternly, corrected.

“No, no, Sonny!  That is ouchy.”

She waited.  She played more blanket-boo.  Then, she decided she would see if anything bad really would happen if she deliberately disobeyed again.

This time she pulled much harder and it really was ouchy.  After my yelp of pain, I smacked her fingers and said, “No, no, Sonny!  That is bad!”

At that, she buried her face in the pillow.  She did not cry.  She hid.  She knew what she had done.  She knew better.  She was either ashamed or she was upset that she’d not gotten away with it this time.  She was embarrassed that she’d been harshly corrected because harsh correction, though sometimes very necessary, is never pleasant.  Nevertheless, when injury to another or potential injury to another or self is imminent and one has been repeatedly told and corrected calmly, there is no choice but to correct in a more severe way.  The goal is caution.  The purpose is to arrest repeated bad behavior lest it cause more severe injury and more severe punishment.

No one particularly likes to discipline their children.  It is not pleasant because the love we have for them causes us pain when they are hurt or upset, too.  Yet, we must be faithful to correct disobedience in order to protect and save them from future harm.

It is one thing when we correct our children.  It is quite another when someone else corrects them.

If I do not do my job in properly training, correcting, and disciplining my children – sometimes even if I do – others will find it necessary – other parents, other teachers, other law enforcement agents eventually.  If it is not pleasant for me to do so, consider how unpleasant it will be for me when someone else does it.  Now, not only is my child suffering for disobedience, I am as well, and both of us at the correction of a stranger.

We have all seen it.  A mother or a father pays no mind to the poor behavior of his or her child and then someone comes along and corrects that child for causing injury or chaos on the playground.  This is an unusually awkward situation.  Little Susie (AKA Captain Destructo) is under parental jurisdiction but the parent is AWOL.  It leaves no choice for the more mature and attentive parents in the vicinity of Captain Destructo Susie to step up and intervene before (or after!) their children become hurt or victimized by her bad behavior.

Often, this results in Susie’s parent becoming angry.  The reason Suzie’s parent is mad is the issue of pride.  They did not do their job so someone else had to.  They either thought Susie more valuable and important than all the other children she was hurting or they thought themselves more important than even their own child.  It is likely a little – or a lot – of both.  These things were proven true by their choosing to ignore her bad behavior and selfishly avoid conflict with the child and also failing to take personal responsibility for the correction and discipline of their own family member.

A humble parent, on the other hand, will be thankful and appreciative when their child is corrected by another concerned authority.  The reason is because we know that obedience to authority is protection for our beloved children and a training ground for God’s authority in their lives.  This is doubtless the reason the Word of God instructs us – His children – to exhort one another daily.  Daily!  Every.  Single.  Day.

Consider that next time someone exhorts you or a member of your family for pulling down and pain-making in someone else’s life.  It is not just children who need corrected.  It is not just children who repeatedly test limits, hurt others, and fail to listen to repeated warnings.  There is a time for alarm, caution, and increasing corrective severity when important warnings are not heeded.

Pride is angry when corrected.  Humility is thankful.

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Beauty-and-the-Beast1

Beauty and the Beast has been my personal favorite Disney story for many years now.  If you know my husband, it’s easy to see why I identify.  Kidding! Ok, maybe just a little truth there.

The truth is, about 20 years ago, we both started out as beasts.  It was nothing but the Lord who has made us more like the Beauty and less Beastly to one another over the course of time and trials.

A lot of reviews have already been written about this long-awaited real-life remake.  Rather than do that, I just want to focus on one particular aspect that many might miss if they are not paying attention.

Belle is trying to reason through how the living objects in the castle must feel about their sentence of not being human again.  She says something to the effect of, “I can see why he (the beast) deserved this, but you – you did nothing wrong.”

It is at that point that Mrs. Potts pipes up like only a talking tea kettle can do and, from my perspective, speaks the most important line of the entire movie.  She quickly responds without even a second to bask in the expected hesitation, groveling, or self-victimization and says, “You’re right deary, we did nothing…” (when the beast was but a boy grieving over the loss of his mother and became the victim of an abusive, self-absorbed father.)

There is so much to learn from the attitude that Mrs. Potts’ character displays in that one single exchange.  Here’s what we can take from it and perhaps teach our children:

Firstly, no matter what your circumstance or how desperately unfortunate it is, you must never think of yourself as a victim.  A victim mentality will always hurt you.  Personal responsibility and owning up to our own failures in all circumstances is the key to being a person of character.

Next, if it is clear that someone else has been dealt a very difficult hand, we must consider their stressors over their responsibilities and act appropriately towards them.

For ourselves, we overlook the reasons we have to claim a victim status and rise up responsibly.  For others, we look for those same reasons and empathize when they act irresponsibly.  We do not compare circumstances, ever.  We do not compare reactions, grief, or evaluate and/or determine how any other person should be dealing with their own circumstance from an emotional standpoint.  The most important thing to do is serve them.  That’s what Mrs. Potts does.  That’s what her child does.  And, while they do not always agree with or even obey the beast in his unkind and ridiculous demands, they always seek to serve and help him in ways that are beneficial to him.

Finally, Mrs. Potts’s profound statement teaches us the often neglected truth that what we do not do is just as damaging as what we do wrong.  She says, “We did nothing…” (when this little boy’s whole world fell apart.)

That was an admission of guilt – a taking part in the making of a self-centered, unkind, now cursed, beast.  What we do not do for those who we know are suffering and being abused right before our eyes is what will convict and condemn us right alongside them if and when they become beasts in their own right.

Again, this idea does not erase personal responsibility for the beasts of the world.  Each man is wholly responsible for his own actions, always.  What this perspective does is it helps us to understand and own our personal responsibility toward those in need – namely children within our sphere of influence – before they morph into individuals who kill, steal, and destroy just like their teachers.

In other words, we do not get to dislike and avoid people we do not prefer and then turn around and blame them because they are bitter about it.  Our job is to see only our own faults and look past the faults of others in as much as we possibly can and love and serve them despite those faults.

What a great perspective to have.

– Own responsibility no matter how difficult your circumstances.

– Empathize, don’t criticize when others fail.

– Recognize that doing nothing is just as damaging as doing wrong to others.

That’s as true as it can be.

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bible-time

“It’s MY turn!  It’s MY seat!  Get up!!  I want to sit there!  It’s MY turn!  My stomach hurts!  I have a headache!  I need to sit there!!!”

Even the baby mocks the crying and yelling of my passionately entitled seven year-old.  You know, the one who sits next to me each and every day while I read the Bible.  Every day she has that, as she sees it, privilege.  Every day she sits in, as she perceives it, the place of honor.  But any time one of my other daughters decides it is their turn to sit by me, she loses her mind.

I mean really loses her mind.

Somehow, because she has been given the privilege too often and been allowed by her sisters to not be challenged or rivaled for that place very much, she mistakenly believes that she owns the space.  She mistakenly believes that she is truly being offended when her sisters take the seat she covets.

That’s the point at which she makes certain that everyone on our block knows just whose place they are trying to take; just whose seat they’re trying to steal; just whose turn it really is – today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

This is not a frequent occurrence, but, the only reason it is not frequent is because her sisters do not often want the space next to me.  Which, of course, is another existential question of the universe.  I mean, how could they not want to sit next to the coolest mom on earth?  Nevertheless, anytime they do recognize the awesomeness of this girl, this tantrum inevitably happens and I have to give a whole sermon on putting others first, self-control, and obedience before I even begin Bible class.

“I can’t even read God’s Word until you obey, child.  Please, can we get started?  Do you really want punished?  I know you feel better when you are next to me, but God is not happy when we only think about what we want and need.”

“But what am I doing wrong?!  I want to sit by you!!!”

“You are lying by making up excuses about being sick to get what you want.  You are being very selfish.  You are using your feelings and your tears to control and manipulate.  These are not good things, babe.  You have to stop doing this.  Then we can all read the Bible and see what God wants us to do, too.”

She obeys.  We begin to read.  The girls pick Revelation for our next book.  We read what the disciple that Jesus loved wrote to the churches.  One common theme becomes evident.  He, in the wording of the International Children’s Bible, says in opening to all of them individually, “I know what you do.”

I know what you do.  I know what you are doing.  The first thing the Lord Jesus himself tells his church from the very beginning to be remembered until the present age and beyond is, “I know what you do.”  I see you.  I know the good, the bad, and everything in between.  And I am warning you.  Doing good things does not keep judgement from coming upon you if you refuse to stop doing wrong.  God knows.  Mommy knows.  Be warned.

Little wonder why God chose to use the parenting relationship to relate to us.  We are so much like little kids.  We can only see ourselves, our needs, our wants, and our desires.  We care far too little for our brothers and sisters.  The truth is, being a kid is hard.  Adults say it’s easy but I remember being little.  I remember feeling scared.  I remember feeling small.  I remember feeling powerless, helpless, and frightened many times.  Being a kid is fun, but it is hard.  And this God’s child thing is harder than I ever thought it could be.

Do you ever just get tired?  Tired of trying.  Tired of failing.  Tired of believing the best.  Tired of experiencing the worst.  Tired of ignoring the plain truth.  Tired of being ignored.  Tired of trusting and waiting and praying and being rejected anyway.

Little kids get tired a lot.  They need naps and blankies and bottles lest the fury of the unrested fly out in same manner as the seat-robbed.

I recently became a cheerleader.  Well, a cheerleader leader, as my husband calls me.  This is the effect the blankie and bottle babies have as they get bigger and bolder.  I am more tom-boy than hair-bow.  I am more football than pom-pom.  I am more fighter fists than flippy spirit fingers.  I am more grit-teeth game-face than cheer-up smiley-pants.  We will do things for our kids we wouldn’t normally entertain simply for their benefit.

The first thing I had to learn about being a “cheerleader leader” is that you have to cheer even when you are broken.  You have to encourage your team even when you don’t feel like it.  You have to learn a new dance when you would rather sit in the corner, cover your face, make up excuses, and cry instead.  You’ve got a half an hour to pull yourself together because the game is about to start.  The kids are counting on you to lead.

My own words repeat in my subconscious.  Surely it is the Holy Spirit.

“I can’t even read God’s Word until you obey, child.  Please, can we get started?  Do you really want punished?  I know you feel better when you are next to me, but God is not happy when we only think about what we want and need.”

I hold out my pom-pom prepared hand and I tell the Lord, “I trust you.”  I go and sit with the team and I give the instructions on how to smile, cheer, encourage, and lift the spirits of everyone around us.

He sees.  He sees the good you do.  He sees the fear, the pain, the injustice, and the helplessness you feel.  He knows exactly what you do.  Trust your Father.  Encourage your brothers and sisters.  Cheer for team Jesus.  We could all use some spirit power right now.  Holy Spirit power, that is.

Go!  Fight!  Win!  Amen.

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jehovah

God’s people had been blessed over and over and over again.  It seemed that the more they were given, the more they cried, quarreled, and complained. These are all the tell-tale signs of being spoiled, rotten children.

Daddy gives and forgives; they cry and complain.  The pattern was very clear.  Wah! Wah! Wah! We want more!  We want different!  We want it now and if you don’t give us what we want right now we will scream, Daddy!  We don’t even remember the good you do!  We forget!  Give us more or we will say bad things about you, Daddy!  Waaaaaahh!  You hate us!

No, kids.  I think it might be you who hates me.  Because you love yourself so much, you have no room for me.  Everything I try to do to prove my love for you just leads to more unbelief, complaining, and rejection.  I have never rejected you.  You have rejected me.

So, you want to cry and complain?  You want to quarrel?  I’ll give you something to cry about.  I’ll give you someone your own size to quarrel with.

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. ~Exodus 17:8

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Esau – the one whom God hated.  Esau – the one who valued temporary comfort over his very own future.  Esau – the rejected one; the hot-tempered antagonist; the one who thought more about a mere bowl of soup than the extravagant blessing of his very own father.  What a fool!

The Amalekites were the descendants of an utter fool.  They were the children of selfishness, impulsiveness, and impatience.  This is who God sends to quarrel with his quarrelsome, spoiled rotten children.  God, through this battle with the rejected ones, teaches his children how to trust him.

Well played, God, well played.

Moses sends Joshua out to choose an army and fight.  Moses, Aaron (his brother), and Hur (his brother-in-law), go up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle.  Moses holds up his wonder-working staff to signify God’s presence and encourage the soldiers.  Joshua is called to fight and Moses is called to pray.  Both are called to minister, help, rescue, defend, and deliver God’s people.  Simply recognizing differences in personality and calling go a long way in the fight against favoritism, superiority, and inferiority structures among God’s people.

These guys only have one problem.  It isn’t that they have an enemy.  It is that their leader is tired.  Moses’ arms are heavy.  He’s been holding the staff up all day.  Every time Moses gets tired, the staff drops and the enemy begins to win the battle.  When the staff is lifted, God’s people win.

“The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still.  We do not find that Joshua’s hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses’s hands were heavy in praying.  The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it.  Praying work, if done with due intenseness of mind and vigor of affection, will be found hard work, and though the spirit be willing, the flesh will be weak.  ~Matthew Henry

God doesn’t leave Moses in this weary state of trying and failing; working and wearying.  Instead, God uses Moses’ brothers to hold up his very arms; to give him rest on a rock.

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. ~Exodus 17:12-13

God held Moses up for the benefit of his people.  God loves his children no matter how bad their behavior becomes.  He often uses the sin and selfishness of those who are not his own in order to discipline and instruct his children on what it really means to trust him.  God doesn’t allow his children to be spoiled, rotten brats.  Sometimes he sends brats who are even more spoiled and even more rotten to confront them; to show them; to draw them back to their desperate need for him.

When there is quarreling and complaining among God’s people, we ought not be surprised when God sends outsiders to come in and quarrel with us.  Though we may, in our flesh, grow weary in well-doing, if we are seeking to serve God and encourage our brothers and sisters, God will send ample support.  He will give us rest.

God longs to be our Jevohah-nissi, “The Lord is my banner.” His very presence is our strength and he wants us to look to Him and trust in Him alone.  He is our warrior who fights for us.  He is our intercessor who prays for us.  No matter how poor and petty our behavior becomes, it never defines us in Our Father’s eyes.  Our identity is found in our citizenship within his family.  He is faithful to send discipline when we are bratty and rest when we are weary.  He is our Jehovah-nissi.  He fights for us and his very presence is our banner, our sword, our wonder-working staff, and our very strength.

“Let ages come to know that God fights for his people and he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.” Matthew Henry

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son

“Mom, why do we have lips?” asks my oddly inquisitive eleven year old.

“I don’t know. I guess God thought we needed them.”

“But why do we have them?  What are they for?”

“Appearance?  Well, actually they are for kisses.”

Cue awkward face of preteen disgust.  Moms do not talk about kissing.  Moms especially do not talk about kissing when said preteen was clearly asking a purely scientific question and attempting to formulate a very serious hypothesis based upon nothing less than observation and factual information.

But that’s my oldest daughter.  My youngest daughter has different ideas about both lips and kissing.  One year-olds love kisses.  Well, at least mine does…usually.

When I say, “kisses,” she leans her head towards me and waits for my kiss to be planted on the back of her head.  We are still working on the lips part.

Generally, Little Miss Congeniality loves kisses.  The only problem is that she turns her face away from me when I ask for them.  She only knows how to receive kisses.  She hasn’t mastered the art of giving them.

I try to teach her each day.  She is at the point where if I say, “kisses,” and I don’t plant one on the back of her turned head, she looks at me and sticks out her tongue.  “No, Sonny.  Not tongue; lips.”

It is an arduous process wherein her tongue stays out and I resort to raspberries all over her face because tongues are not easily put back away and the cuteness of one year-olds does not allow for any option wherein they do not get kissed regardless of their slowness or complete failure to learn proper methods and techniques.

We usually move on to blowing kisses once the emergent tongue enters the lesson.  She thinks it’s funny to watch me blow kisses but she hasn’t reciprocated yet.  Don’t worry, there will be a two hour video once this milestone is mastered and I am almost certain it will go viral.  I know you can’t wait either.

Babies are easy to love.  Babies are hard to love.  Children are easy to love.  Children are hard to love.  Just like kisses are more easily accepted than they are given by my baby, we children of God often need to be given repeated daily examples of love from our Father before we even begin to learn how to give love back.  We must feel loved and be shown how to give and receive love before we even begin to figure out that it isn’t about turning our head as much as it is about being face to mad about you face.   Finally, we realize it isn’t about turning our head at all.  It is about turning toward the other every time, and never, ever turning away from the ones we love.

We need so very much to be loved, to be shown love, to be adored by one who adores before we can even begin to learn how it is that we can possibly get Mister Slimy Slobber inserted back where he belongs and plant our very own puckered presents upon the proper people.

Learning how to love well does not boil down to a science lesson.  Learning how to love well does not emerge from a self-preserving, safe-staying cocoon of systematic daily lessons on proper lip mechanics.  (Although that may well be additionally necessary when delving into what comes forth from those sneaky pink gates.  In that case, just use emergency mom language: “Zip it, child.”)  No.  Learning how to love well results from being loved well.  It is not something we teach.  It is something we do.

Learning how to love well results from being loved well.  It is not something we teach.  It is something we do.

Brothers, sisters, consider your children.  Think about your babies – the ones you have been so graciously given; the ones you long to be given; the ones who were and are and will be.  Close your eyes and appraise their faces.  Reflect upon your deep, deep love for them, wherever they may be today.

Are you there?  Do you have their picture in your mind?

Now, open your eyes.  That is how God sees you.  That is how your Father loves you.  Go.  Love that much, always.  We are all but children in need of love and grace.

From one sister to all her siblings, please give grace.  I need grace.  We need grace.  Love covers a multitude of sin.  So, here are my hugs; kisses; love.  How I long to embrace you and let my tears fall upon your shoulder!  Written words are my heart on paper saying what my lips never seem to get out quite right. Happy St. Valentine’s Day.  There is much love in my heart for you all.

xoxoxo

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happy

I received a call recently from a lady who had looked my number up in the phone book. She told me she reads my articles in the Herald-Standard and she felt that the Lord wanted her to share her devotional reading with me because she thought it was for me. I was amazed both that she went out of her way to encourage a stranger and that people still use phone books. But this is not the first time someone has looked me up and called to encourage me.  People stop me in Walmart and tell me they recognize me from reading my articles.  I’ve received cards in the mail, too.  It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it is always so refreshing to see people going out of their way to be a blessing to someone they don’t even know.

It got me to thinking about how little we do this.  I am wondering why.  Is encouraging others really a difficult thing to do?  I do not believe it is.  The difficulty lies in getting our focus off of ourselves, our needs, our work, our desires, our busyness, and placing it on the needs, work, and desires of others.

I used to know a man who would actually tell people they were doing a good job consistently.  He would tell the server at the restaurant, “You’re doing a great job! Thank you!”  He would tell the choir, “Your voices sound beautiful together!”  He would make frequent encouraging comments to almost every person he came into contact with.  He always tried to make peoples’ day a little brighter.

Do I do that?  I know all too well how it feels to be discouraged.  I am no stranger to plugging along with nary a nice word from anyone – or worse – not nice words.  I want to be an encourager.  I try to be an encouragement to those around me.  If you ask my daughters, though, they may tell you a different story.  It might go something like this:

“Mom never likes anything.  She says, ‘Good job,’ then tells me five ways to work on my so-called ‘good’ job.  Just when I think I’m done and that I did really great, she sends me back to work again.”

I want my kids -and anyone whose life I have the privilege to speak into – to be the very best that they can.  I encourage their efforts, but often I also critique them. It is not to make them feel small, but to make them great.  I already see the greatness in them.  It simply needs pruned and shaped.  Therefore, words of encouragement often walk hand in hand with words of correction in my household.  Both are out of nothing but love. I have to remind myself, sometimes, that things do not necessarily always need to be perfect, though.  They are children.  Just the fact that they had an idea, took initiative to carry it out, and pursued it to completion should be more than enough to warrant words of affirmation with no strings attached.  And sometimes it isn’t a perfect job, but an imperfect one that needs the very most encouragement.

When my kids are trying really hard and just cannot seem to “get it.”  When they seem frustrated, tired, or exasperated, these are the times when I must be keen to give genuine encouragement without criticizing their attempts to succeed.

All of this takes discernment and wisdom.  It takes a heart that is purposeful and other-centered.  When I am wrapped up in my own agendas, I do not even notice what those around me are working towards and trying hard to accomplish.

We are all children.  We are God’s children.  As brothers and sisters, we must find creative ways to support one another.  Whether it is gentle constructive criticism, giving positive feedback on a frustrating job, or simply taking notice of the good work and goals of others, the Bible instructs us to offer encouragement and help to one another in every way we can.

  To that end I wanted to thank the lady who took time out of her day to encourage me – a perfect stranger.  It really means a lot to me when I receive encouragement. It inspires me to do better and to encourage other people.  Therefore, I  wanted to encourage you to go and do the same.  Find someone and build them up as best you can.

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star

“Mooooommmm!!! Addie’s on her ipod and she won’t take the dog out!  I took (the other dog) out and she’s just sitting there doing nothing!”

“Addie, did you take the dog out?”

Silence.

“Addie, are you allowed to play games before you get ready for school?”

“I’m not playing gaaaaaames.  I’m looking something up.”

“You know you’re not allowed to use your ipod unless you are dressed and ready for school, you’ve already eaten breakfast, and taken your dog out.  Give me your ipod.”

Said child runs away screaming and avoiding any and all responsibility for as long as humanly possible.  Tattle tale child gloats and reminds me of the contrast between her “goodness” and her sister’s “badness” including a sales pitch to take her shopping later.  Youngest child watches the drama unfold with concerned face but waits until later on when her compliance level is very high to ask once again, “Mommy, what percentage am I being good right now?”

Unfortunately this is not an unfamiliar or outstanding scenario in my home.  I have two who dabble in the art of manipulation through obedience and one all out rebel.  I guess it should be no surprise that two sinners managed to breed three more sinners.

Teaching my children at home affords me a commodity other parents do not usually have an abundance of – time.  I have lots of time to spend correcting, encouraging, punishing, rewarding, and teaching them how to be a respectable, responsible, literate member of society.  Well, those are my three main goals on this joyride anyway.

Still, more oft than not I find myself at a total loss for how to get there.  I’m realizing that it may be because I personally don’t always know how to get there.  I’m a sinner, too, after all, and why I ever expected to clone myself and end up with a better version is beyond me.  All I got were three, going on four, carbon copies.  Drat.  If I want to help them and retain my sanity, I have to figure out how exactly it is that God changes me.

We began a group study on the book of Proverbs.  Proverbs offers wisdom for life and godliness.  It got me to thinking, more or less, evaluating, what wisdom is practically in my life.   What does wisdom look like day in and day out in my relationships, my demeanor, and, especially, my parenting?  All I could think of was star charts and how much I hate them.  So I left Bible study scratching my head asking myself why do I hate star charts so much anyway?

I hate star charts because I am daughter number one and daughter number three.  I’m the recovering prideful obey-er who is ever tempted to manipulate Pharisaically.  My husband is more like daughter number two – the act first, think later out and out rebel.  Nevertheless, truth be told, we are both, both.

Therefore, I know star charts will only feed the already existing pride and arrogance of daughters one and three.  I also know that nothing short of prayer, fasting, daily Biblical instruction, and likely a few lost limbs and several nervous breakdowns will stop daughter two.  Ok, maybe none of that will stop her. But I have to try, folks.  God, help me.

Pastor says the way to avoid prideful, heartless obedience is to preach the gospel.  Everyday.  He says the way to avoid lawless rebellion is to preach the gospel.  Everyday.  Preach it to yourself.  Preach it to your children.  Yes and amen.  My question, and forgive me once again for my ignorance as an 18 year old Christ follower who should sure well know better by now, is still, how?    Practically, daily, how do I do that?

Because I do study the Bible daily.  (It’s a high ranking item on the star chart for me.)  I open “school” for the kids with “Bible class” and everyday we “talk” about what the gospel is, what it means, and the like.  We have Bible based history, science, reading, Bible study, Sunday school, Bible memorization, nighttime devotions, family prayer, individual prayer, etc.  I could go on.  Still, as five spoiled sinners we have a mind blowing capacity to learn and know without doing and living.

That’s why I no sooner begin reading the Bible lesson and a crayon fight breaks out.  It’s why I don’t finish the lesson for my anger over the said fight.  It’s why no one gets it even if I do finish.  My kids aren’t disobedient because they do not know the gospel.  They are disobedient because I am disobedient; because I am all too often not rightly applying the gospel I teach them in my own behavior.

I know what you’re thinking.  Someone needs a star chart.  Perhaps.  I think maybe the pastor is right, though.  In fact, I know he is.  But what kind of star chart follows the gospel?

I picture it looking something like this:

Love                  Hate

Joy                  Anger

Peace              Discord

Patience              Impatience

Kindness              Unkindness

Goodness               Evil

Faithfulness           Unfaithfulness

Self Control         Recklessness

Gentleness        Harshness

Now we have a usable chart.  I mean, maybe it’s ok to remember the good things we do.  Well, as long as we don’t tell our left hands. (See Matthew 6:3.)  Maybe the chart just needs another side.  It needs balance.  It needs a “bad things” side where we write those, too, so that we might remember, confess, and have to physically erase them afterward.  After all, wasn’t that the fault of the Pharisees?  They kept a record of rights they should have been forgetting and never considered their own sin they should have been remembering.  In so doing, they refused the gospel.  No one whose star chart is full on only the good side needs a Savior and no all out rebels care much about getting stars on either side anyway.

There must be hope for both kinds of sinners!  While the religious sinners are asking, “Why wouldn’t Jesus love me?  My star chart is full of good!” and the rebel sinners are asking, “Why would Jesus love me?  I don’t even have a chart and if I did it would be full of demerits!” we must be responding with grace rather than stars and demerits.  The answer to sinner number 1 is grace-filled correction and rebuke urging the consideration of personal failures, confession, and repentance until they realize how counterproductive and contemptible their good works are to their spiritual life.  The answer to sinner number 2 is grace-filled correction and rebuke urging the consideration of personal failures, confession, and repentance until they realize how counterproductive and contemptible their bad works are to their spiritual life.  Both types of sinners need the gospel, but giving it to them looks somewhat different practically because we sin differently.

Star charts don’t work but the gospel does.  Who knew?  Insert head into hands.

As I finish typing this little ditty ipod void Addie urges correction for her playing on her ipod before she got ready for school sister.  “I think she should get her ipod taken away like me because she’s doing the same thing I did.”  Rebel turned tattle; tattle turned rebel.  Can a girl even get some consistency around here??? Excuse me while I attempt to start preaching living the gospel again today.

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