Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hands of Hope

After yesterday's entry about our inability to control our children's choices, especially their decision to follow Christ, I took to heart the comment made there. If you would like to request prayer online for your child--still in your home or out on their own--you can add a comment to this entry or visit the facebook page, "Hands of Hope--Prayer for Our Children."

Simply list first names (no surnames, please) or initials. Look at the two entries above your own and pray for those children--specifically for repentance and a vibrant, growing walk with the Lord Jesus.  You can add their names every week.

Together, let's join our hands and voices to bring our children before the One who knows and loves them, our Father God, Elohim. El Shaddai. The I Am.

"The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit." James 5:16-18

"But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:8-9)

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Hard Word for Parents

I'm a parent. A lot of my friends are parents--good parents who love their children. So when I visited Libby Anne's blog today, I was heartbroken. And fearful. I sat down and spun out hard, quick words; a reminder that, in loving our children and functioning in the midst of church circles, we may easily overlook this particular forest for the trees. The forest being that we do not, cannot, control our children's destiny. Each of us makes, and is responsible for, his own life choices.

Her biography begins, "I was raised in an evangelical family, was homeschooled, was taught to embrace courtship rather than dating, learned that women’s place is in the home, and was highly involved in the religious right." She speaks well of her parents, their values and home education. But after leaving home, her worldview changed.

Libby's writing flows comfortably, with depth. Her commentary is open and insightful and she welcomes differences of opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her through her blog, Love, Joy, Feminism.  As a result of her experience and voice, I am writing the following to those of us desiring to raise Godly children.

We can try to give our children the upbringing we never had; all of the good and none of the bad. But no matter how hard we try or what we sacrifice, they are real people. Individuals. They will make choices--wrong choices. And right choices. That's the free will of man. Sin happens. Sin is real. That's where God comes in. So let your children be who they are. Let them fail. It's okay if others see them make mistakes. And it's important for children to see their fallen-ness, to recognize they are sinners. Needy people. Let them struggle and get pinned to the ground and taste the grit of dust between their teeth.

Let your children see you fail.  Let them see you at the end of your rope, failing, apologizing, getting back on your feet. That's life. It's not wrong, it's reality. And reality, authenticity, in light of our glorious Redeemer, breeds hope.

Giving our children what we wanted for ourselves--public school, homeschool, Christian school, Tonka trucks-- doesn't solve their problems. It simply creates different ones. There is no magic recipe or set of 1-2-3's for raising Heaven-bound children. It doesn't matter if you homeschool because you missed out on a Christian upbringing or you want to mold them yourself. It doesn't matter if you work three jobs to give them everything you never had or plan extravagant vacations. The tragic piece of Libby Anne's story is that, despite living a God-centered life, she missed Christ. This is not to fault her parents--she shares wonderful, even admirable, experiences. But giving and praying and sacrificing does not create spiritual life. Regardless of my influence or goodness or gut-wrenching desire, I cannot instill a relationship with Christ in my children. I wish it were possible, but it's not. There is, however, one very important, comforting, necessary thing.

That one thing is me. My friendship with God. That's what I can do; it's what I have to give and model and share. By God's grace, I will discipline, instruct, raise, encourage and train our children--but the outcome is not mine.

It was during a one-on-one session with our 4-year-old Tasmanian Devil that the words came out: "I can't make you obey. I can set limits, I can discipline you, but I cannot make your choices. You will do what you will do." That was an incredibly freeing moment for both of us. In that moment I entrusted her to her Maker and acknowledged that I am no different. I confessed my sin, asked for her forgiveness and prayers. I am still confessing sin to our children, asking for their forgiveness and requesting their prayers. I don't like it. It's not easy. (My husband coaches me--one of the most humble, Godly men I know; an expert confessor.) But each of us is responsible for our choices. In that way, my child and I are no different.

In addition to fear for our children's future, fear of others is another motivator for trying to control our children's behavior and outcome. Those of us who are leaders or leader-wanna-be's must learn to acknowledge and deal with the desire to look good or spiritual if we are to guide our children with authenticity. When marriage, obedient children, an orderly home, successful ministry, appearance, career, etc. motivates me to do what is right, when other's impressions or thoughts of me and my children are more important than who I am before God--I am undone.

Parenting--it takes an incredible amount of grace. Wisdom. Patience. Love. And trust--trust that God will use me as He chooses, but these living, growing beings are not mine. So, parents (myself included), it's time to give it up. It's time to give up control, manipulating outcomes, tallying sacrifices, tucking thumbs behind suspender straps. It's time to replace fear of outcomes and fear of losing influence with a healthy fear of the Lord, one that trusts Him whole-heartedly.

Love your children. Respect them. Teach them. Free them. And be a living example of a heart set on loving God first and foremost.

With special thanks to Stuart Scott, co-author of "The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family." For a similar post that direct homeschoolers, but is helpful for all of us, read Reb Bradley's article, "Homeschool Blindspots" on Josh Harris' blog.

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut. 6:4-9, emphasis added)
(The point being--if you read the whole passage--not that our children are just like us, or that we experience wonderful things and amazing grandchildren--but that God is good. He is the keeper, sustainer, provider.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Today's choices were everyday-kind-of-choices with a twist. Illness affects one's plans: sleeping and eating and meeting and going. And although it isn't a rock-your-world change (as countless friends and family are facing even now), the wonderful thing about our God is that His all-encompassing plan works despite sick children, flat tires, inconsiderate people, and  unpredictable unknowns.

How does it work? I don't know. But over the years I have learned a few things about facing unexpected days and moments:

1) There are right and wrong choices. My discernment of what is right and wrong grows as I practice what God says (remember, practice means, "I will blow it") Hebrews 5:14. In the Old Testament, King David testified that we experience God's goodness as we obey/do what He says. It's not just a head-game, it's a do-game (Psalm 119:59-61). The unexpected moments of each day are an opportunity to practice what is right and learn what is wrong.

2) God is most honored when I depend on Him instead of worrying, manipulating or falling back on "plan B" (Psalm 131, Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:2-8). It's okay not to know what's going to happen next or how a situation is going to resolve. No one expects me to--it would be unrealistic to know the final play on the first down. Only one Person knows with certainty, and He's 100% trustworthy.

3) The uncertain moments of life are not so much about doing as being. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are character traits, not "thou shalts?" They aren't things you and I could conjure or cajole on our best days. They are fruit of the Spirit, not fruit of the me. My natural tendencies are quite opposite (Galatians 5:19-21, 26). But as I pray and lean on the Lord for strength, wisdom and guidance my response will be one of love (not anger), joy (not fear), peace (not anxiety), patience (not irritability), kindness (not selfishness), goodness (not spite), faithfulness (not flight), gentleness (not harshness), and self-control (not self-indulgence).

When uncertainty comes, plans change, and I'm feeling a bit confused, God has given direction for making choices--choices about 1) doing what's right, 2) depending on Him and 3) responding with His character. Change is a certainty; Christlikeness our destiny.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Not Enough Time

She and I bent over, breaking brittle stems of straw flowers and purple statice from her dusty Wyoming garden, mountains towering in the distance. Hands full, Melissa stood, pressed a fist above her hip and arched her back, "There's not enough time...”

A little boy, new to town, visited their Vacation Bible School. He was the kind of boy, she said, who trailed trouble like Pigpen trailed dust. “He and his family were killed in an accident that Sunday. It was Thursday when he trusted Christ,” her voice failed. 

When life swirls and it seems that those things which need to be done won’t, I remember Melissa's dark brown eyes, tears running down her freckled cheeks. "There's just not enough time to reach them all."

May we never lose the urgency of loving and serving, reaching others with the good news of Jesus' substitutionary death, trusting that He will sovereignly direct our steps.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!  And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (John 4:34-38)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's All Good, Even When It's Bad

I just finished reading Romans 8 and this is what I learned: it's all good. Even when it's bad.
Despite tribulation
It's not good because it's good. It's good because God says it is. These things will happen, expect them. But God is bigger; His plan is comprehensive. It stretches from eternity past to eternity future. His love is a certainty.
Your life profile will include a mind that was set on fleshly, worldly things. It will include suffering, living in a world subjected to futility, inward groaning for a redeemed body. God knows.
So He has already done a couple of things.
1) He sent a spiritual Guide and Compass to direct our prayers (Romans 8:26-27)
2) His past provision through Christ has eternal consequences (Romans 8:29)
3) His present and future provision for us moves from one into the other (Romans 8:30)
4) He sealed it all, proving His love and intent, through the death of His one and only Son, Jesus.
Because of this, nothing in our experience happens apart from God's sovereign hand. He loves me. He chose this path, today's path, for His purpose: that I would be conformed to the image of Jesus.  Other things would be more comfortable, more pleasant, more enjoyable, but not more Divine. What could be better?
So come what may, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved (past tense with present and future application!) us.