It Starts With Spilled Milk

After my post the other day regarding lying, I had a conversation with several young moms about how to encourage an atmosphere of grace in their homes when they are more prone to be rule followers.

spilled-milkThat’s a great question. I think it starts with spilled milk.

Surely every parent, sometime in their parent life, has experienced a child spilling milk or some sticky drink either at the dinner table or in the car or on the carpet. Your reaction to these accidents helps set the tone for bigger mistakes in your child’s future.

Mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn.

Here’s what I suggest could be said in different circumstances.

Your child spills his/her drink.

Oops! Well, I’ve spilled my share of drinks, too. Let’s clean it up together and see what we can do to be more careful in the future.

Your child breaks a favorite item of yours on accident.

I’m sad this got broken, but I know you didn’t mean to break it. It’s just a thing. You’re more important to me than that [insert broken item].

You forget to do something you promised your child you’d do. 

I’m sorry I forgot to do [insert whatever it is]. I was wrong to not follow through on what I said. Will you forgive me?

These are all common circumstances that every family can relate to. Building an environment where your child is not afraid to tell you they did something is critical to helping them understand that grace reigns in your household. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for their bad choices, but choosing to do something wrong and having something happen by accident are different.

Open dialog happens from a very early age. Listen to your children with your full attention. Ask them questions. Help them come to their own conclusions about issues. Let them express themselves in an appropriate, respectful manner.

With my kids, I found that there was a little bit of a Catch-22: We had such a close relationship that they didn’t want to disappoint me, even if I had never made performance a priority. The notion that lying to me is more disappointing than the original act doesn’t seem to get through their heads!

The most important thing I think I do is to keep telling them, “I love you.” And it’s never the person I’m disappointed in, it’s the choice. That is emphasized time and again.

 

Amongst many other forgotten things, I’ve had countless items borrowed and lost, and a favorite bowl knocked off the counter and smashed, all accidents. All covered by grace because the lossshattered-trust was unintentional.

But I’ve also had my trust absolutely demolished like that favorite bowl by a child lying right to my face. Things hidden from me because that child knew those actions would grieve me.

But grace wins every time. God will deal with the sin. I’ve given consequences for the actions to my minor kids. But for my adult children, I’ve cried, prayed, told them truth over and over, but ultimately, their decisions are part of the journey God has them on.

And sometimes that journey goes through the stream of spilled milk. Will it be a sour experience or a sweet one, ending in a pool of grace?

Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave

img_7457I hate being lied to. As a parent, I’ve had it happen more than once.

It never gets easier to hear.

I am naturally one who likes to trust people. I want to believe that what you’re telling me is true. When I find out it’s not, something deep inside me dies just a little bit.

I think it’s my innocence. And after 55 years on this planet, I just don’t have much of that left.

I can’t trust commercials on TV. They’re just trying to sell me something.

I can’t trust politicians. They’re just trying to sell me something, too.

And lately, I can’t trust the media either. They have an agenda they’re wanting to promote.

Why is it that lies bother people so much? For me, it’s because it’s so opposite of who Jesus is. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” If we love and follow Jesus, we speak the truth. But the tangled web that deceptions demand dangle ever before us—ours and those of others—and they hide spiders ready to devour us if we let them.

img_7459When I was in 6th grade, I remember getting a piece of jewelry I already owned and telling my friends that a certain boy had given it to me. They were so impressed! I told that lie because I wanted to prove that some boy could love me. I was that desperate.

The lies I’ve heard from my children many times have to do with school. In these cases, it’s more often a lie of omission. They just happen to not tell me that they haven’t been doing their homework or turning in assignments or passing classes.

Other times, what it seems to boil down to is that my kids lie to me because they don’t want me to know that they’ve done something that goes against what they’ve been brought up to believe is wrong. They still want to do it, so they do it and don’t tell me because they don’t want to disappoint me.img_7457-1

But somehow, I always seem to find out. And the web begins to unravel.

I know the decisions are theirs, but I can’t help but wonder what kind of environment I’ve promoted that causes them to not want to tell me the truth. Have I put too many expectations on them? Do they feel pressure to be a certain way to please me?

I’ve done some pretty intense self-examination and can’t find where I’ve ever said to them, “I won’t love you unless you act this way.”

All I can do at this point is pray that the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin. And I can keep asking the Lord to show me where I am in the wrong.

I only wish discovering the lies of our politicians was that straightforward. I’ll keep praying for them as well.

 

Walk Your Talk

micah-6-8I’ve been in turmoil this week, as I know many others have, with what’s been going on in the world and in our own backyard. Criticism, hate, anger, vitriol. We’ve had it in spades. The message of tolerance and love and kindness and compassion don’t seem to be making a difference.

And we all seem to have so many questions.

What’s the difference between a protestor and a demonstrator? How can we keep our country safe and still have compassion on displaced people looking for shelter? Why are so many people looking for the worst in others?

I don’t have answers to these questions except a knowledge that the world needs Jesus. In the Bible, we are told that the prophet Micah wrote,”He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy,
 and to walk humbly with your God?”

Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

A friend of mine just asked the question, “I wonder how many of those protesting at the airports would welcome a refugee in their home to stay for a year until they get on their feet.”

Do you know any refugees personally? Have you sat with them and cried and listened to their heartbreaking stories? Have you bought them groceries and helped them navigate a new city and find a place to live? Have you been their friend?

Have you prayed for them?

If you can’t answer yes to even one of those questions, then I have my doubts about your sincerity when it comes to really caring about them. All of a sudden these people matter just because the current president did something he thought (whether wisely or not) would be a step in protecting our nation? Do you know all the facts? Have you checked every side? Why is this being called a ban on Muslim immigrants when Muslims from other nations are allowed entry? The rhetoric doesn’t make sense.

Those who use their very public soapboxes to decry the treatment of people they didn’t care two bits about in the past are showing their hypocrisy.  This crisis has been going on long before Trump took over. Where were their voices then?

It’s like taking your family to serve a meal at the homeless shelter on Christmas morning and then never stepping foot in the place until the next Christmas comes. Sure, it makes you feel better, like you’ve done something, but it’s more like a pat on your back than a hand up for the hurting of your city.

My prayer is that you will take what you don’t like going on and start getting involved, like, always. Not just when it’s a trending topic. Love mercy.

There are always 2 sides to a story. But Trump haters are more than willing to believe only one: whichever casts him in the worst light. Do justice. That means fact checking before sharing what you believe to be “news.” Take off your slanted shoes and walk humbly with God.

Seek to be informed yourself; don’t take the word of others, especially those with an agenda. Get involved with groups that are actually aiding refugees who are already here. Give to a reputable agency that helps people in country. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter on a regular basis, not just once a year.

Get out there.

And stop, just stop with the hateful words.

It’s A Matter Of The Heart

heartbeatAbout a week ago, I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. I have experienced what I thought were benign PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) for many, many years, but things had picked up in the last couple of months. Turns out, they were mostly PACs (premature atrial contractions), which apparently can be a precursor to A-Fib.

Great.

So now I have an appointment with a cardiologist in early January. My general practitioner doesn’t think I’m a very good candidate for medication because they pose more of a risk than the aFib with my current good health, so we’ll see what the specialist has to say. Meanwhile, I pay attention to what my heart is doing, rejoice when I have a good day and hope when an episode happens that it is short lived.

Would that I would pay as much attention to my spiritual heart.

There’s an old Amy Grant song called “Every Heartbeat.” Yes, the song is to a boy from aheartjesus_small girl, but I think it’s appropriate to say to Jesus as well: “Every heartbeat bears Your name. Loud and clear they stake my claim. My red blood runs true blue. And every heartbeat belongs to You.”

Are my words to others evidence to the fact that I belong to Jesus?

Do my actions show that I am His?

Is He embarrassed to have me bear His name?

As I monitor every physical heartbeat these days, I want to monitor every spiritual beat as well. No skips, no fibrillations, no arrhythmias. Every heartbeat is true.

So how do I do that? I wore a 24-hour heart monitor that detected my A-Fib. What monitor do I have for my spiritual heart? A few simple questions might do the trick. Is this where you want me to be going, Lord? What should I say to this hurting person? What would you have me do in this situation? Help me to see what I’m not seeing.
Honestly, the A-Fib symptoms concern me. They’re uncomfortable and disconcerting. But the uncomfortable symptoms in my spiritual heart concern me as well. Did I just ignore someone’s cry for help? Was I selfish with my stuff when someone was in need? Did I go a whole day without talking to Jesus?

My physical health is important, and I will do what I can to make sure it’s taken care of and controlled. All I have to do is make an appointment the-great-physician-400x400with a doctor and then make decisions based on the best information I have. Taking care of my spiritual heart is not as easy. Discovering what’s wrong is more difficult.

But that’s why another name for Jesus is the Great Physician. I think I’ll give him a call.

 

 

 

Jesus heart image from glorytogod.do.am; great physician from thelordspeople.org

I Met A Traveler From An Antique Land

ozymandiasMy class of 6th graders is in the throes of memorizing the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem “Ozymandias.” Amidst complaints about the length, I am trying to help them see the valuable lesson this classic poem teaches: Build yourself up and you will eventually fall.

“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—’Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’”

 

This poem was said to be about Pharaoh Rameses II of Egypt, also known as Rameses the Great. He ruled Egypt for 66 years and lived to an unprecedented 90 or 91 years of age. The average age for someone who actually survived childhood was only the mid-50s. So he had reason to think he was all that. He led great military campaigns, he built cities and monuments. But in the end, his mummy lies in  a museum in Cairo. Immortality was not his to be found.sandcastles-and-mudpies

You  might recall a story with a similar lesson that Jesus told. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

And this: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

We spend a lot of time trying to make a name for ourselves. Amass more riches, build a bigger building, create the next latest and greatest. In the end, none of that will remain.

So where should we invest our time and talents? People. Only people will remain forever. Love them well, teach them truth, show them kindness.

In other words, be like Jesus.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says this about serving those in need and being kind to others: “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Go and do likewise.

sandcastle photo by sandcastles and mudpies

What Will Wednesday Bring?

 

Unless you live in a deep, dark hole (and which of us doesn’t from time to time?), you know tamerican-flaghat today is Election Day in the United States. Usually, elections are a time of excitement and anticipation, of change and newness. This year, though, it seems that it’s a time of fear and anger and dread. So we hope and we pray.

And we vote.

For the first time ever, I participated in early voting this year. I wanted to avoid the long lines I hoped would be evident come Election Day. I’ve heard reports of both. My husband went early this morning and there was no line. Another friend in another state had to wait an hour.

Looming questions hang over us like Damocles’ sword. Will the election be fair? Will riots break out if one candidate — or the other — loses? What will life look like on Wednesday morning?

I don’t have the answer to most of these questions, but I do know one thing: God is still on His throne. And America, believe it or not, is not the center of the universe.

So Wednesday morning, I will wake up like I always do, to a praise song playing from myVersion 2

Before I leave my house I will take care of my dog and my birds and my cats and my fish. I will eat what I chose for breakfast. I will leave my mother-in-law to prepare for her day of homeschooling my nephew. I will keep my doors and windows open to the cool Florida November weather.

And I will go teach school.

I will say the Pledge of Allegiance in Latin with my students. I will grade papers. I will lead them in a devotion about the life of Joseph in Egypt. I will pray with them.

And we will probably pray for our nation.

Because Wednesday morning will be like any other morning in America, come what may, and God is still on His throne.

It’s our job to make Biblesure that while some things stay the same, the things that really matter will change. I will be kinder, more generous, more loving. I will listen more and speak less. I will be a catalyst for change in a world that will still be lost and broken after today. No election is going to change that.
Only Jesus.

And I will let my little light shine.

 

America, America, God shed His grace on thee.

A Person’s A Person

hortonMy thoughts are heavy as I sit down to write thinking about how the heart of God must be grieved by what He sees in the world today. But He is bound by His Word that He will not destroy the Earth by flood again, so we are constrained to live with what we have sown.

And we have sown the seeds of superiority and vulgarity far and wide in our culture.

In his classic work Horton Hears a Who!, about an elephant who gives everything he’s got to save a civilization living on a speck of dust, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel) sets forth the idea that “a person’s a person no matter how small.” To Geisel, who used to have very strong anti-Japanese sentiments, the importance of the individual was an exciting new concept after a visit to Japan post-World War II. His Horton story is a reflection of his new-and-improved attitude that, you know what? I was wrong. Everyone is important.

More than 1900 years prior to that epiphany, Someone else knew that those treated as second-class citizens held the very image of God in their being.

Collin Outerbridge, one of my pastors, said the following on Facebook just today:

jesus-and-woman“Jesus treated women like PEOPLE when culture did not.

He defended women’s integrity. (Luke 7:36-50)
He treated women as friends. (Luke 10:38-42)
He looked women in the eye. (John 8:1-11)
He included women on his team. (Luke 8:1-3)
He defied cultural norms. (John 4)

I want to be more like Jesus.

Christian Men,
Let’s OWN our part in the commodification of women in our culture.
Let’s REPENT to the women in our life.
Let’s LEARN from King Jesus—His Way is better.
Let’s SPEAK out and join the chorus that calls for justice.”

I have 2 teenaged boys (one is nearing the end of that era in the next couple of months).

I also have a teen daughter.

I also have a husband who treats me with respect, never belittles his mother and sister, and gives our daughter strength and confidence with his words.

I have never allowed my kids to say demeaning things to each other, but I will be more proactive from this day forward to make sure that they all know that they can neither speak of any person in a way that objectifies them, nor can they accept that kind of treatment from anyone else.

I will call them out.

And I will let them know that they are to call out others they hear or see doing the same thing.

It’s so subtle, we hardly even notice. But I’m not turning a blind eye or a deaf ear anymore.

I will tell my son that calling his girlfriend “hot” objectifies her.

I will tell my friends that drooling over the male judges on The Voice is not acceptable.

Women are not “eye candy.” You aren’t allowed to touch them if they don’t want to be touched. You are not allowed to refer to them by anything but their names or their official positions. If they say stop, you stop. End of story. There is no “boys will be boys.” No. That’s not acceptable.

Men are not “sugar daddies.” You can’t watch football because you like the tight uniforms. You aren’t allowed to buy the Firemen of Orange County calendar. Big muscles just show that a lot of hard work has been accomplished.

I am not an object. You are not an object. Nobody, no matter how they dress, no matter how they act, no matter what they’ve done, is an object that is fair game in the crude comment and demeaning acts department.

No one.

And no one is so important that they are exempt from these rules.

 

second image from shawnakersministries.com