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Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

It has occurred to me of late that during my lifetime I have asked some really huge things of God – physical healing, financial blessings, jobs, etc.  I asked these things of God without reservation knowing that He was more than capable of granting it all.  I understood the immense power of God and I believe I understood His great love for me.  I knew that He had made promises to me – promises for hope and a future, promises that He would prosper me and not harm me.  I claimed all of His promises as a joint heir with Christ. 

But what was I willing to do for Him?  What did He ask of me?  I did make sacrifices for His sake.  I led ministries.  I taught.  I studied sporadically.  I prayed occasionally.  I did some things God asked of me.  I even did some really big things that God asked of me – things that many other Christians probably wouldn’t do.  But was I living a truly disciplined spiritual life?

God doesn’t ask us to put a stopwatch next to us while we pray.  He doesn’t ask us to record every prayer we ask and keep count of each one He answers.  He doesn’t ask us to read the Bible cover to cover.  He doesn’t ask us to give up anything on His account.  Or does He? 

I think He wants us to be willing to do those things and whatever else He may ask us to do at any given moment.  I cannot presume to know the mind of God.  I cannot presume to understand why He asks things of me.  It is not for me to know or understand.  It is only for me to listen and obey.  Spiritual discipline exercises my soul.  It gets me in shape for the race set before me.  When athletes train for a race, do they not use a stopwatch?  It aids in their preparation.  It gives them a number – a goal.  It helps them to endure for a specified length of time.

If I use a stopwatch during my prayer time, does it not aid me as well? It gives me a goal.  It helps me focus for a specified length of time.  Many would argue that a stopwatch would impose an artificial time constraint on God.    No, rather it imposes a time constraint on me.  For a set amount of time I am making a commitment to focus on God.  I am committed to reading His words, seeking His wisdom, hearing His voice, interceding on others’ behalf.  I am roping off a period of time everday that is specifically set aside for God.  No excuses.  There is nothing else as important.  I am making a holy vow to God and keeping it.  How can I do anything less?  He died for me.  How can I not devote time every morning to spend alone with Him?  There is no one else who has paid such a price for me.  This world has nothing that comes close to the magnitude of His love for me.

It is time to be real.  God does not desire a half-hearted relationship.  God does not want what we have left over after we have tended to everyone and everything else.  He wants us fresh and focused.  He wants to give us power.  He wants to show Himself powerful through us.  He will not give us His all if we are not willing to give Him our utmost.  His light shines brightest when we have fully bathed in His holiness and reveled in His glory.  He offers us everything He has, and we take and squander and whine and protest.  It is time, He says, to be real.  Seek Him first.  Seek His best.  Bathe in His holiness and allow His light to shine brightly for everyone to see.  Set aside time for Him daily.  Carve out a special place for Him in your life as I do now in mine.

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This morning I taught a group of middle schoolers at our church. The lesson happened to be about where we stand in our relationships with God. An analogy was given that went something like this: Imagine that there is an ice-covered pond visible from your kitchen window. Standing inside the home and looking out the window at the ice-covered pond is likened to having a very distant relationship with God and not really trusting Him with any part of your life. Jumping up and down on the ice-covered pond is likened to totally trusting God with every part of your life – to the point that you are testing Him and His promises. This relationship type is every Christian’s goal, or it should be.

I remember as a young Christian hearing about how I should trust God to work everything together for my good and how God has a plan for my future. I knew in my head that these things were true; however, living them in my life was a totally different prospect. I thought that I could manage pretty well with my own plans for my future and that God would just follow me down the path I had chosen.

Now that I am mid-40ish and I’ve been through many trials and tribulations over the years, I can truly say that I am out there in the middle of that pond jumping up and down. My husband and I have been together for 20 years now, and we’ve lived through job losses and job changes several different times. This time of unemployment is different, though – the economy is horrible, many other people are out of work and competing in the job market, we have a high school junior headed to college soon, and there are 3 more kids following in step behind him. It’s downright scary! I should be scared. Right?! Shouldn’t I be panicking and worrying?

But I’m not panicking and worrying, and this is why. There comes a time when we get so overloaded with problems that we just have to throw our hands up in the air and say, “I give up!” Being unemployed is a very powerless situation, and to many it can be a very humbling and demeaning situation. You are totally reliant on someone else to choose you for a job. I figure – why not be reliant on God? If He really has a great plan for my future, then I say, “Bring it on!” If He really is working everything together for my good, then I’m ready for it. If He truly wants me to have an easy yoke, I’ll gladly take it.

Maybe that’s what God has been waiting for. Maybe He’s been waiting for me to wave a white flag in His direction. If a mortgage payment is made, then God will have to provide it. If my family has Christmas gifts this year, then God will have to provide them. And if unemployment is a part of our lives much longer, eventually God will have to provide every box and can that goes into our pantry. But isn’t He already doing that? Isn’t He the one who provided a steady income for most of the past 20 years? Isn’t He the one who provided our home? Isn’t He the one who has always had a plan for our lives, a plan for good and not for evil? Sometimes the only thing we really can do is just be still and know that He is God and that He has everything under control.

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At what point in American history did spending time with family become a bad thing?  In today’s society, it is the accepted norm for kids, especially teenagers, to not want to spend time with their parents or siblings.  In tv families, parents are portrayed as stupid and clueless.  They have their own interests, activities, and groups of friends that are totally separate from their children’s.  It seems that parents have no idea what their kids are doing, who their friends are, what they’re learning about in school.  As long as grades are okay and there seem to be no major problems parents pretty much stay out of their children’s lives.

Kids are viewed as somehow wiser than their parents and more knowledgeable in just about every area.  Kids turn to parents only in desperate situations when they can’t fix a problem by themselves or with the help of a few of their friends. At what point between the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hannah Montana did kids become smarter than parents?

When did family time become a bad thing?  It seems to me that all time used to be family time because kids learned from parents, worked with parents, ate with parents.   And siblings were playmates.  Families celebrated together, mourned together, and supported one another.  Was there one event in history that caused family life to change?

How about the creation and rise of public schooling?  Public schools took children away from their parents for hours during the day.  They were put together with other children, forming peer groups.  Parents gave up much of their responsibility to teach and discipline their own children, leaving that to public school teachers.

What about mothers working outside the home?    Kids began coming home from school to an empty house.  Parents gave up even more control and responsibility to schools and to television.  Because parents didn’t have enough time at home with their children, morality and character had to be taught at school.  Kids coming home and turning on the television in the afternoon meant that television had to also take some responsibility in child training.  All kinds of afterschool programs began to pop up to help parents with child rearing.  In these programs, kids began spending even more time with peers.  In fact, kids were spending most of their time with other kids their same age.  Is this when kids got together and decided that they were smarter than parents?  And because parents weren’t around the kids that much, did the parents not even notice what was going on?

What do you think statistics would show if we examined families with stay-at-home moms or  families that homeschool?  My guess is that we would find less divorce, less adultery, stronger families.  I also suspect that there would be less alcohol and drug abuse, less tobacco use, and less delinquency in the children.

Getting families to transform from the Ingalls family to today’s tv families was a slow process.  Getting families back to where they should be will be a slow process as well.  It will take a lot of work, a lot of prayer, and a really big God.  Christian families will need to lead the pilgrimage.  That means Christian families might need to rethink their priorities, their lifestyles, their ideals.  Since we do have a very big God, a very big responsibility sits on the shoulders of those who proclaim Him Lord of all.

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As a mother of 4 and having been a teacher of children for many years, I have learned a valuable lesson.  Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that I have been forced to learn over and over again throughout the years.  I suppose I had hoped that something would change; alas, to no avail.  I can only hope that by sharing what I’ve learned that I can save someone else from the frustration and sorrow (not to mention the bruises that come from banging one’s head on a wall too long) that I have endured.  The lesson is this:  You cannot make someone care about something he or she doesn’t care about. 

I had assumed that all people had a basic desire to wear clean clothes in public.  Wrong.  I have always examined myself in the mirror before leaving the house to make sure that everything is presentable and as it should be.  But everyone evidently does not follow that practice.  If I find a spill or stain on my clothing, it has to be dealt with.  Not so for all people.  Usually I am getting myself ready to leave the house right up until it is time to get in the car.  Not so for my children (not all of them, just a select couple – I don’t want to name names).  I can call out a 15-minute warning to my flock and no one seems to hear me.  I call out a 10-minute warning and still nothing happens.  At the 2-minute warning, folks head upstairs to get dressed in whatever they happen to find in the floor on top of their pile of clothes.  It can quite possibly be the same outfit that they’ve worn for the past 3 days.  Never mind hair brushing – that’s reserved for special occasions.  I may ask something like this, “Do you know that that outfit is dirty?”  Or I may say something like, “That looks like it’s been lying crumpled in the floor for a while.”  My offspring’s look says it all, “DUH!” 

You see, the point isn’t that they don’t realize their clothes are dirty and crumpled.  It’s just that they don’t care.  It may bother me to be seen in public with them dressed that way, but it doesn’t bother them in the least to be seen dressed that way.  Discussions about how they present themselves affects the way other people judge our family do very little.  When I hear the words “I don’t care,” I just need to simply step back and remember that I can’t make someone-who-doesn’t-care care.  However, inevitably, I foolishly believe that I might be able to get through to them this time.  They might actually listen to what I’m saying.

Sometimes my kids will tease me and make me think that they’ve turned over a new leaf.  Upon hearing me say that their clothes are dirty, they may actually acknowledge that fact and immediately go upstairs to change.  Ah, but no.  They will return with a fresh shirt on paired with the dirty pants from the first outfit.  Or the original dirty shirt paired with clean pants.  I may point out the fact that they needed to change both items of clothing, but then I get hit with, “It doesn’t matter” (which is basically the same as I don’t care).

I also am shocked at the state of their bedrooms when they ask to invite a friend over.  I would never invite company over to a filthy house with stuff hanging from the ceiling fan and stuff covering every square inch of floor (not to mention the state of their bathrooms – I’m too afraid to even look in those).  When I answer a request to have a guest with something like, “Your bedroom is nasty,” I am inevitably met with a blank stare.  It’s as if I’m speaking to my child in some ancient lost language.  To me, it’s like saying 2+2=4.   When my children tell me that their friends don’t care what their rooms look like, I am certain that that cannot possibly be true.  There is not even a clear path to walk on.  Then comes the dreaded comment, “So what” (which is just a fancy way of saying I don’t care).

The bottom line is this:  You can’t make someone-who-doesn’t-care care.  Just because something is important to me doesn’t mean that it’s the same for everybody else.  Just because I like to be clean when I leave the house doesn’t mean everyone feels the same way.  And just because I like to have a tidy home doesn’t mean everyone else does.  And just because I like to treat others in a respectful manner doesn’t mean everyone does.  And just because I believe that telling the truth is important doesn’t mean everyone does.  And just because I think everyone should have integrity doesn’t mean everyone would agree with me.  And just because I think people shouldn’t throw stuff out of their car windows doesn’t mean that everyone else thinks that.  So you see, you just can’t make someone-who-doesn’t-care care about something they don’t care about.

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In the foster care system any child 8 – 17 years old is considered a “special needs” child.  It may seem harsh that upon celebrating an 8th birthday a foster child would receive the label of “special needs.”  These children are more difficult to place with “forever families.”  Most families seeking to adopt want a baby.  Why a baby?  What about bottles, diapers, and lack of sleep?  An 8 yr. old child would be past potty-training, bottles, crying in the night . . . right?  What kinds of “special needs” could a healthy 8 yr. old possibly have?  Wouldn’t he simply need a bed, maybe a dresser, food, clothing, stuff like that?  “Special needs” children come with a monthly stipend to help pay for those types of things.  Love and nurturing affection would fix any other problems . . . right?  Here are a few things to consider before taking the plunge into older-child adoption.

  1. The child is probably living in survival mode.  That means he will likely feel a need to horde food – just in case he ever has to go without a meal.  He likely has had to lie, cheat or steal at some point in his past to meet his basic needs and may feel the need to do so again.  Granted, the foster care system has cleaned him up and told him that he will no longer need to do those types of things.  Most children never totally move beyond that survival mode.
  2. Because of past abuse and neglect, the child probably will be lacking some social skills.  Saying please  and  thank you will likely be foreign to him.  Patience and self-control will not be in the list of this child’s character traits.  Nor will gentleness, kindness, or generosity.  Likely the list would include selfishness, dishonesty, and gluttony.  After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world.  Good character doesn’t come naturally.  
  3. Any gifts will probably be met with suspicion instead of gratitude. 
  4. Bathing and personal grooming will likely be lacking.
  5. Physical touch may be extreme at either end of the spectrum.  The child may prefer a complete “hands-off” approach or a “never leave my side” approach.
  6. Most older children have been bounced from foster family to foster family and from school to school.  Thus, there will be learning gaps that if not rectified may cause life-long learning problems.  Lack of educational consistency leads to a vast array of troubles.
  7. Family traditions and norms will likely be eyed with disdain.  Abusive families tend to lack family traditions – unless one considers the abuse itself a family tradition.
  8. Many of these children come with 2 settings – over-the-top or none-at-all.  A child may “try too hard” to earn love and acceptance or he may not try at all.

Parenting is a 24/7 job.  Parenting a child with a lot of baggage and a lack of basic human qualities can break even the most admired and skilled of parents.  “Special needs” adoptions are truly only for the strongest of constitutions and commitment.  A hearty few will find parenting these children worth the enormous price they are called to pay.  May they have boundless strength and unending stamina for the journey.

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