Monthly Archives: February 2012

Glimmers of hope through the haze of immaturity

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I have a 13-year old son.

For those of you who have ever had one of those, you know how loaded that statement truly is.

For those of you who have not, be compassionate and kind in how you respond to those of us who do – please.

I love my son, as you would probably imagine.  But there are days when I could seriously consider options such as military school, residential care, long-term overseas assignments… you get the picture.  My sweet boy isn’t always, well, sweet.

But the other day, a glimmer of hope searched out a crack and shone through like sunbeams through the clouds.

Here’s what happened.

We were all furiously getting ready for a 4-day trip which required nice clothes (always a challenge for 13-year old boys), nice shoes (will he ever learn to keep the right one with the left one?), personal hygiene products (for that wonderful “man smell”) and the like.  All of the other kids were scrambling around getting their things together as well as helping to take care of the multitude of other details that needed to be attended to before we left.  But, sweet 13-year old boy was messing around, being his usual distracted self.

In my frustration I prayed.  “Lord.  Please help me to know how to parent this child this morning.  It seems like nothing I do or say works to get him to pay attention!  I’m about to lose my patience with him, which I know won’t help anything.  Give me wisdom, Lord, I need it desperately.  I know you have plans for him, but right now, he needs to find his shoes.  Amen.”

I then took his face (which I noticed is starting to get a few pimples) into my hands and calmly, but firmly said, “Son, there are jobs that need to get done this morning and you’re not doing any of them.  I’m going to give you one job at a time.  I expect that you will QUICKLY go and get the job done and then QUICKLY come back to me for your next assignment.  I don’t want to be upset with you this morning and I’m pretty sure you’re in agreement.”

While my hands were still embracing his cheeks, he nodded vigorously up and down in hearty agreement.

I sent him on his first task – to clean up the breakfast dishes.  He started well.  And then it happened – another boy entered into the room.

If you have only girls, this may come as a shock to you, but if you have more than one son, you can attest to the truth of this statement:   Two boys can almost never be in the same room without coming into physical contact with each other!  It’s as if they’re magnetized or something.

Older brothers are especially guilty, I might add, and it was an older brother that I thought would end my son’s one-minute streak of obedient concentration.

But God is a God of 13 year old boys, too.

What happened next stopped me dead in my tracks.

Instead of the usual tussle that normally occurs between two boys in the same room, I heard this come out of my 13 year old’s mouth:  “STOP DISTRACTING ME!  I’m gonna get in trouble!  I have a JOB TO DO!!!”

I almost fainted.

I could not believe my ears.  I cried.  Those were the most beautiful words I could have heard in that moment.

Not wanting to distract from his focus I didn’t go into the kitchen and let him finish the dishes (which he did), but my heart sang out in thankful praise!

You see, I prayed out of desperation.  I needed to know that this daily, grinding, toilsome discipline of this particularly challenging child was accomplishing SOMETHING in his life.

What I didn’t know, was that my son had also sent a prayer up to God as well.  He told me later that he prayed, “God, please help me not get distracted so that I can finish the jobs my mom wants me to do without getting into any trouble.  Amen.”

And he prayed out of desperation, too.  He needed to know that God could help him focus on something that he didn’t particularly want to do long enough to get it done.  He knew that he had tried, but had failed.  He needed to know that God could succeed where he could not.

And in one fell swoop God answered both of us.  And it broke through the cracks of immaturity like my son’s voice through his growing vocal chords – loud and startling and definitely noticeable!

Later in the day, while I was still basking in the warmth of the knowledge of answered prayers, this scripture came to mind and it seems especially appropriate at we disciple our kids:

“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”  Galatians 6:9-10

Never give up.  Never give in.  When you grow weary, take your cares to Him and in the ordinary parts of your day, He will not disappoint you, but rather will continue to surprise you with His faithful loving-kindness – even when you’re trying to parent a 13-year old.

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It’s not my job to raise kids.

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I know – that’s a shocking statement coming from someone who has given birth to seven children – but it’s the truth.  It’s not my job to raise kids.

And while I love being a mother and having kids – I want nothing to do with raising children.

I do, however, enter into whole heartedly the responsibility of raising men and women.  And to the degree that any of this depends on me, I take very seriously my responsibility to raise men and women who love God and want to serve him with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength.

It’s so easy to get lost in the millions of details in raising and discipling the next generation of men and women.  The truth is that there are many days when it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they will ever grow up and be men and women!

Diapers and tantrums, snotty noses and bedtimes and chores and curfews and rebellion and privileges and responsibilities – it’s exhausting!  I’ve often said that the years might be fleeting, but the days feel eternal.  Sometimes, in the midst of the heaviness of parenthood, it seems that the grinding, daily, toil of doing what looks like the same thing over and over and over again will never change.  We begin to believe that it is endless but childhood, in reality, is a very brief time in a person’s life.  Being an adult with the potential to influence our culture for good or for ill, lasts far longer.

If you are a parent who is weary, lift your gaze to the bigger things.  Will this issue that you’re currently in a struggle with your child over matter in light of his adulthood?  Or, more importantly, in light of eternity?  If yes, then drop everything else and on your knees and with God’s wisdom fight like it really means that much.

But if it doesn’t – if this issue isn’t a matter of where your child’s heart is – then let it go.

Here’s a newsflash that we often forget:  children are childish.  They are not mature yet.  They’re not wise.  They’re not prudent or discerning or judicious.  They’re childish.

And immaturity will eventually give way to maturity (I promise!) if you can keep sight of the bigger things.  Don’t stress about immaturity.  There is very little to be done for it other than time.  Childish-ness is something to simply accept while your children are children – so find ways to laugh and cherish the moments and know that they’ll be gone before you can believe it.

But, as Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

Being called foolish is not a compliment.  Do a word search for fool or folly in an on-line Bible program and you will be stunned at what is said about the fool.  My Microsoft Word Thesaurus doesn’t even come close to capture the weight of foolishness or folly.  Using words like, “silly, thoughtless, stupid, or irrational,” is not what the Bible means at all when someone is called a fool.  Unger’s Bible Dictionary puts it like this, “In Scripture the ‘fool’ primarily is the person who casts off the fear of God and thinks and acts as if he could safely disregard the eternal principles of God’s righteousness.”  Those are sobering thoughts when applied to our children.  Foolishness isn’t just not using our faculties well – it’s casting off all that God has set before us as good and going our own way.  And scripture tells us that this propensity is bound up in the hearts of our children.

It may take all the years you have together as parent and child – and there are no guarantees in this – but more than teaching them anything else, we need to remember that our number one priority is to teach them the Gospel – to make disciples of the future men and women in our homes so that they, too, can make disciples of the next generation.

Will the piles of laundry or dishes or homework still be there later?  Yes they will.  (Get those precious darlings to help you with all of that.)

Will you fight some of those battles again and again and again?  Yes you will.  (Get some of your wise and godly friends to pray with you and help you with all of that, too.)

But we have to keep in mind that there will be an end to our daily parenting.  Someday soon your children will be men and women.

Will they be faithful men and women?  Will you have trained them in the valuable things that really and truly matter?  Will you have given them the tools and the example of making all of life an offering of praise to their Heavenly Father?

Psalm 145 says this:

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.  

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness
.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations. (ESV, emphasis added)

The outcome of all of this is in the Lord’s hands, but whether or not you will be faithful to the task today is in yours.

Don’t raise children – raise men and women who may then raise men and women who love and serve God for generations to come.

I Want More

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I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but I want more – lots more.  As Americans, we’re a greedy lot.  We want stuff – and lots of it.  Houses, cars, clothes, food – everything in big sizes and big quantities.   We buy magazines that show us more, we watch TV shows that tempt us with more, we overspend for more – we’re consumed with obtaining more, more, MORE!   And yet we all know that more stuff never satisfies – it just leaves us hungry for more.  We want to be satisfied, but for some silly reason we think that “just a little bit more” will do it, even while time and time again, it leaves us lacking still.

I know – I’ve wanted all that stuff, too.

But I want more.

I want more love.  I want more joy.  I want more peace.  I want more patience and kindness.  I want to be good and faithful and gentle.  I want more self-control.  I want more faith – in short, I want all that Jesus offers us through the Holy Spirit – I want Him.

Rather than leaving me lacking, He fills me up and makes me satisfied.  Like returning to a wonderful feast I can have all I want by simply asking – taking – enjoying.

But like prisoners of war – starving and lonely – who think back to Thanksgiving feasts with loved ones, I’m so prone to simply remembering the feast with longing.  I know He “can” provide it, but I don’t believe that it’s really still there if I simply knock on the door to be let in.  Why am I so often satisfied with remembering the feast, rather than returning to it?

When we’re trying to sort out what to do in big situations my husband and I often ask one another, “Do we trust God or do we just say that we do?”  It’s often the question that uncovers our real problem – lack of faith.  We’re trying to control things so that our ease and comfort are disturbed as little as possible.  But is that what God has promised us – to maintain the status quo?  I don’t want to be satisfied with such a low standard!

He promises to give us more if we will only ask, seek, knock.

Have you ever seen the excitement in a hungry infant when he knows milk is just about there?  There is no doubt in his mind that he will be fed!  His whole being eagerly anticipates the filling, satisfying meal.  Is his mother indignant because her baby knows she is faithful to supply what he needs and wants?  No, she, too is pleased that he has learned that he can depend on her.  When we want God the most, we glorify him – it’s that simple.  And it’s that beautiful.

I want to be that excited about being filled to the brim with the soul-satisfying Spirit of God.

A few days ago I asked, “How much more?”

I believe I’d like to find out.

Prisms of Glory

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My Great-Grandmother’s house had a chandelier that had prisms dangling from its curved arms.  I loved watching the display on the carpet and walls of dancing sparkles of light and color.  Unable to catch the full radiance of the sun, these beautiful bits of glass were wonderful reflectors and refractors of it.

We, too, are unable to capture the full radiance of God’s glory – no one can see it and live.  Yet we are called to glorify God and display it to those around us.  I wonder, then, if those little prisms might be good examples.  Lovely works in and of themselves, prisms can be appreciated for the angles, cuts, shapes and sizes that they come in.  But if that’s all we ever know of a prism, it’s pretty unimpressive.  Prisms are best appreciated when they reflect and refract the dazzling brilliance of the sunlight.  We can’t look directly at the sun, but when a prism does its work, the resulting beauty can be fully taken in.

Many of us are reminded on a regular basis to give glory to God or to glorify God in all we do.  But I have to confess that there have been many times when I wondered what does it mean when people say we ought to “give God glory”?  What’s behind the admonition to “glorify God in all you do”?

Glory, splendor, grandeur, radiance – these are not qualities I possess.  How can I give them to God?  The Bible talks about glorifying God in death, in our bodies – in all that we do!  But what does it mean?

John Piper has been enormously helpful to me in this.  He’s famous for the phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  Think about the double-sided blessing that that is.  We do what we ought to do (glorify God) when we are most satisfied in him (content, happily doing what he knit us together and put us on the face of the earth to do).  That is a kind God.

We glorify God when we live in the grace and peace of the Gospel each and every hour.  We glorify God when that really can’t help but spill over into the lives around us (who doesn’t crave what a peaceful person has??).  We glorify God when our work is joyfully embarked upon because we know whether it’s a grand task or a small chore He’s given it to us to do and to do well.

Impressive global projects, demanding corporate negotiations, small business marketing or cutting tiny toenails or making peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches – all glorify God when done by the one who was meant and sent to do them by the One who created them for the task.  When we do what God created us to do we are content and satisfied.  When we are satisfied in what God has given us, done for us, provided for us – we glorify Him.

Have you seen dancing crystals that gleam and glimmer radiant light?  Have you seen the light revealed as rainbows of beauty?  That’s what we are to be – prisms of God’s glory back to Himself and also to the world around us.  No one can see God’s glory and live.  But we can all see the reflected, refracted glory that brilliantly shines as it works through His people.

I want to be a prism of Glory – a radiant reminder of a brilliance we cannot completely understand or behold, but one that is worthy of all our efforts.