Friday, August 31, 2012

Grasping Grace

Her name is Mia Grace.  In Italian, that translates "my grace".  In other words - "You will need to show her My grace A LOT", is what God is was telling me in naming her, though I didn't know it at the time.

We had a run-in after bedtime, she chose to disobey, she received consequences which would show themselves the next day.  She then proceeded to write how she felt about me for those consequences, and display them all over my bedroom, before finally turning in for the night.  (From what I've heard, this is a healthy way to deal with this issue, so I was fine with it when I discovered them later that night).  I thanked her for my "love notes" the next day.  Then God said, "you need to write back to her and show her what grace looks like".  So, I took each note and wrote back "I love you" on the bottom, then arranged them all over her room.
I loved this idea; I loved doing it; and I'm not taking credit for it because God told me to.

We usually define grace as "unmerited favor".  Eugene Peterson describes grace as "aggressive forgiveness".   That's what I felt like I was doing (and I liked it!).  Jesus did that for us - loved us when we hated him.  And, he still does.  I think it's really hard to do that for others unless we know what it feels like to be the recipient of it.  And, more importantly, He helps us do it.  We can't really do it on our own.  I am learning that the more we do this, the less depressed and grumpy we are.  He also defines it (in Romans 5:19) as a wildly extravagant life -gift; not just getting us out of trouble, but getting us into life!  Who wouldn't want to give this kind of gift to someone?  It's awesome.  God loves to give it to us, and the more we are filled with the Spirit of God, the more we love to give this gift of grace to others.

Tullian Tchividjian explains grace similarly;
"The only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God's radical unconditional acceptance of sinners."  (You may want to read that a few times - it's big.) This is a great parenting tip.  God radically, unconditionally, accepted us into His family when we deserved the boot.  If we can get our kids to understand the amazing, appealing, magnetizing greatness of God's grace by displaying it to them as they grow up; it can help them obey out of love AND really live!

Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us:
"Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us.  He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ.  He did all this on his own, with no help from us!"  (MSG)
I soooo need God's power in me to do this with my daughter.  Embracing her from knowing how much God loves me and shows mercy to me can help take her "sin-dead" life and guide her to the One who can bring her life!

"Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us to life - a life that goes on and on and on..."  Romans 5:21 (MSG)

Do you see it?  Grace makes us come alive!  It's God's gift to us, that if we grasp - taking hold of with all our might, and reaching out to others with that same love, will show us what it means to have life to the FULL!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Finding Yourself

"One of the things plaguing our generation is people trying to figure out who they are."  - Israel Houghton

I heard on the radio that a large percentage of men die within two years after retirement.  The reason for this, primarily, is because their identity is wrapped in their work - and they no longer have it, so they feel lost.  They see their worth by what they do rather than who they are.

This rung another bell with all the moms I saw at school drop-off who were really sad.  For so long we have been "mothering", that it's easy to get that stuck in our heads as who we are.  No.  It's what we've done for so long, but it's not who we really are.

I used to describe myself as an athlete.  Then God, in His infinite wisdom (and grace) relieved me of this image by allowing me plantar fasciitis, a herniated disc, torn menisci, IT band syndrome...  got the point?  He began to chisel away at my heart the things that I thought were making me who I was.  But that's just what I did, it wasn't who I am.

"Boasting in Jesus Christ frees us from the chains of all our other identities." - Matt Chandler

This picture is from Jason Gray's video of "Remind Me Who I Am".  In it, he eloquently displays that the labels we have allowed to be put on us do not describe who we are in Christ.  I tried to upload it, but can't figure it out...

"But you are a chosen people, 
a royal priesthood, 
a holy nation, 
a people belonging to God..."
1 Peter 2:9

When our identity comes from God, nothing that we lose can take away who we are.  Whether it be a spouse, a job, a child, our health, a home, or whatever.   (This truth has been a lifeline for me)

I've heard people to say that all they want for their kids is for them to be happy or successful.  What I want for my kids is to know who they are in Christ.  Because when we know this, like Punchinello, in Max Lucado's children's book, You Are Special, - the stickers don't stick.  What people think of you or do to you doesn't matter; all that matters is what your Creator thinks of you - and He thinks you're pretty awesome.

When we know the One who made us, we will no longer be in a relentless pursuit of who we really are.   We will know our Creator and He will reveal to us our worth!

"... and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Mt. 10:39

Friday, August 24, 2012

For My Married Friends

I heard on the radio that married women are beginning to learn from their married-no-longer friends about, what else... marriage!  It kinda makes sense.  Like the orthopaedic surgeon who wears knee braces to ski, even though he's never torn his ACL, we can learn from the mistakes/blunders/failures of others.  They often know what doesn't work, and will advise against those things.  So, here goes.

I found "Leave It To Beaver" on TV, and watched it with my daughter, I was pretty baffled at how marriage, rather, family life, has changed.  Yes, it is TV, but I understand it to be a decent representation of how families were.  Correct me if I'm wrong, or just go with it.
Here's what I saw:

Wally advising June on how to parent the Beave.

Ward and June leaving in the middle of the day to go to the grocery store, together.

Wally showing up well after school was over because he had a baseball game, and June and Ward didn't even know about it.

June and Ward had no idea where the boys were half the time.

I'm not discussing June's dress code.

Ward, always home for dinner, never brought business home with him, whatever that was...

My aunt and I were chatting the other day about how much more parents play with their kids now-a-days, rather than when she was a young mom.  She was complimenting that, as most people of that generation do.  BUT, and it's a big "but", it's not working.

Yes, we're playing more with our kids, but half of our marriages are ending.  Which leads me to believe, being so much more involved in the lives of our kids may not be such a good thing.  Who will you be with for the rest of your life?  Who will be with you when your kids graduate high school and leave?  Who are you going to be hanging out with when your kids get a social life?  Who should take care of you when you're sick?

While it looks like June and Ward were really neglectful in their parenting, they didn't neglect each other.  While I did not see them go out for many date nights, they hung out in the kitchen or in the living room chatting up a storm.  Heck, they even went upstairs to wake up the boys together!  They left Wally and The Beave to figure things out on their own (some might argue, too often).  While we don't see if they ended up as dysfunctional people themselves, they seem to make pretty good decisions on their own, or, at least, learn from their mistakes.  Eddie Haskel's mom probably hung out with him a lot more than her husband.

According to Scripture, a parent's job is to teach, discipline, and guide.  A spouse's job involves love, respect, cleansing, uniting, submitting, and giving up yourself for them.  It seems that today, this list is played out a little backwards.

Yes, there are faults to the Cleaver-style of parenting, for sure - I'm not saying they are the go-to model.  My point is just this;  Who are you playing with more?  Who are you giving yourself up for?  Wally and Beaver didn't need as much involvement as we do today because they had stability at home.  The best thing you can do for your kids is to love your spouse!  Happy Friday, friends.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Today, I Crossed The Jordan!!

Today, I woke up before my alarm went off.  I have it set pretty early, and I beat it - why??
First day of school.
I love them dearly, but it's time.  I'm not one of those with the tears in her eyes.  I'm the one holding back the scream of becoming unchained - in a different sense, of course.
I feel a little like the teenager whose parents have left for the weekend.  I don't know where to start!

I realize that some of my neighbors are sad today.  We have entered a new territory.  A new phase of life.  Our youngest child is finally in full-day school.

"It's not always easy to trade the comfortable security of the known for an uncertain future."  This was said of the Israelites as they left Egypt and headed towards the Promised Land.  I love being at home with my kids, not having to work outside the home, and I realize this was a secure place.  Each day life pretty much revolved around taking care of my kids, and now it's uncertain (not that life as a stay at home mom is routine).  But, there's a time for sowing and a time for reaping!

In Numbers, The Israelites were told to get up and take possession of the land (13:28).  They had been wandering in the desert for forty years, among grumbling, defiance, and discipline (sound familiar).  And just as they had to wait for the entire old generation to die off and a new one to begin in order to enter the Promised Land, I, too, feel like that's what the last twelve and a half years have done for me.  The old me has slowly died off (and still is), and a new me is beginning.  If God takes us across the Jordan to take possession of the land before our old selves (the old generation) are gone, then we aren't ready for it!  But now that there was a new generation, now that He's been able to work on me, refine me (at least a little), He has me way more prepared and excited to enter this new phase.

I feel unchained.  No, my kids aren't chains.  I don't really feel guilty for being excited - so I guess I'm not supposed to.  I think chains are sometimes necessary for character to grow during restraint.  We can't always get what we want when we want it.  If we did, we'd be miserable.  I will try to be sympathetic towards my friends who are grieving during this time, and hold back my victory cries; but inside, this is what I hear:

"Awake, awake, O Zion,
clothe yourself with strength.
Put on your garments of splendor,..
Shake off your dust;
rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck!"   Isaiah 52:1-2

God reserved a book for me that was written in 2008 by Erwin McManus, called Wide Awake.  If I read it any sooner, I would not have been able enjoy it half as much as I am now.  I'm not done with it, pretty much because I don't want it to end.  Here's what the back of the book says:

"He called you to live as Jesus did - a heroic life, void of monotony, teeming with danger, adventure, and the unknown.  Living wide awake is about realizing that the world desperately needs you to live up to your greatness."  

Isn't that cool?  It's extremely motivational to read that there is a hero within you waiting to be awakened, isn't it?  So, as my neighbor explained through her tears that now she didn't know what she was going to do all day, I thought in my head - I don't know what I'm NOT going to do!
And, yes, I will be ready with arms open wide to help with homework, give hugs, and especially snacks to those not-so-little cheeks!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Field Trips - Part II

I have a new favorite book.
I have been wrecked by it (in a good way) - The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne.  If you aren't familiar with him, you might want to check it out.  In this book, he portrays the life of an 'ordinary radical' that is actually quite appealing to me.
In my experiences with the poor, his words are ringing very clearly.

Here are a few:

"I long for the Calcutta slums to meet the Chicago Suburbs - 
for lepers to meet landowners and for each to see God's image in the other...
I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning.
And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end."

"Don't choose issues, choose people -
Fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering, and then you won't have to worry about which cause you need to protest.  
Then the issues will choose you."

I took my youngest to "work" with me on Thursday again.  This is something I really wish I did with the older two, but it wasn't a priority to me then - it is now.  I'm thrilled with what God is doing in her heart.  We couldn't get in to our original building, so we drove around a bit and she said "why don't we just do some random acts of kindness?" - Who was this child?  Seriously, did that just come out of her mouth?  I'm holding that one in my heart the next time she screams at me for not letting her have dessert.

When we did arrive at the building that our ladies had moved to that day because of a power outage in their original spot, we had no weights, so they used my 65 lb daughter on their backs - their sweaty backs - and she didn't care!  She was actually thrilled.  The one who forces me away from her when I get home from riding my bike was joyfully hugging these 'glistening' women.

I have started to fall in love with a group of people who are marginalized and suffering and the issues are choosing me.
This is as close as I can get to the Calcutta slums, and I love it.
I am learning that Katie Davis isn't so odd for living in Uganda and adopting fourteen girls - she has just been converted.
I am realizing that loving others is something that is more Christian than excluding a people group. Hopefully, as we come together, riches will have no meaning. Hopefully, poverty will eventually come to an end, and maybe we could have something to do with that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Field Trips 2012 - Best and Worst

I took my oldest daughter downtown to walk around Michigan Avenue - window shopping (I was very clear about that one), and lunch.  I did this, not because it is something I enjoy doing, but because it is something she enjoys doing.  She is twelve (and a half) and into this type of thing; I, however, am not. But I tried to be into it for her, and came to the realization that one day she will be the one taking me downtown and showing me around this bustling part of Chicago because it is clearly not my comfort zone.  After forking over $30 plus for parking, we left.  I felt depleted (and we had just eaten).   I tried to keep a conversation going in the car so it would feel like a great bonding experience, but not sure that happened this time.  She is an awesome kid - responsible, mellow, good student, and good friends, but she's a night owl who likes the busy city, and I am an early bird who is more of an introvert.

I honestly think I'd rather live on a farm.

My youngest and I went to another part of the city last week.  The parking is free here.  There's nowhere to buy lunch, so we ate first.  She is the daughter who increases my patience, teaches me to love those who act unloveable at times, shows my lack of self-control, forces me to get up while it is dark to prepare for her early arrival every day, and makes me laugh.  "Mellow" does not define her.
As we entered the Homeless shelter, she felt at home, and so did I.  She did not need my presence to accompany her everywhere, as she usually does, I think she knew who was in her.
She wanted to come with me to "work" that day.  This was our field trip.
Arloa Sutter says in her book, The Invisible, "Joy comes when we practice the discipline of engaging regularly with those who are less fortunate."
My youngest daughter was reminded what joy feels like.  She had experienced this in the Appalachian area we served at in 2011, and at the Boys and Girls club we went to earlier in the summer.  As she exercised with some of the women and made friendship bracelets with others, she didn't want to leave.

Luke 10:20 says "The Great Triumph is not in your authority over evil, But in God's authority over you and presence with you...  It's not what you do for God, But what God does for you - that's true rejoicing." MSG

She was learning that with God's presence, there is triumph, and what He does for us in that time, brings true joy.
As we left, it was quiet.  We were not depleted, but filled, I think with a silent awe.
Half way through the quiet car ride, she said,  "I want to go next week, too."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gluten Free - Why??

So, there's lots of talk now-a-days about the whole gluten-free thing.
Reasons that are not longer medical.
Mine is one of those; and I'll get to that in a minute.
I was reading a blog the other day by a woman whose writing I really respect, and still do, but I really wanted to add something and I couldn't figure out how to post a comment, so I'm just writing my own.

She was kind of slamming the Daniel Plan (basically, no whites - flour, sugar...), which I really like.  It's the eating plan designed from Saddleback Church and Dr.s Oz, Hyman and Amen - for anyone looking to get healthy.  The whole idea probably started because Rick Warren wanted to lose weight.  And he noticed that he wasn't the only one in the church that wanted to do so - then he noticed that there were donuts everywhere in the church, and a lot of church functions centered around eating...  unhealthy things.  I agreed with her that this is not for everyone.  It does seem like the Daniel Plan founders think it should be for everyone, and I don't really agree with that.   I think there are plenty of people out there who are not affected by gluten, have no food issues, and can leave a piece of pizza half eaten and be okay with that.  I, however, am not one of them.

I am the one that opens a box of Nilla Wafers and leaves none.
That's why I've been gluten free since I detoxed my body of vicodin (herniated disc) a year and a half ago with fruits and vegetables for a month and felt amazing.
Here's the Bible verse to back it up:

"If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away... And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell."  Matthew 18:8-10

To me, this says - if you want to really live life, get rid of the stuff that brings you down.  Certain foods were causing me to sin - the gluttony one.  Apples and chicken don't really cause me to sin.  Neither does broccoli or salmon or oatmeal for that matter.  I don't go buy gluten-free packaged foods because I would eat the whole bag.  I have simply chosen to get rid of some of the things that caused me to sin, and it is AWESOME!  I feel great (emotionally, spiritually, and physically).  No, it's not for everyone, other people have other things that pull them down, but, for me - and probably for several other people that are not medically deemed to be gluten-free, it is a great reason to eat clean and treat your body with really good stuff!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How To Fly!

My favorite part of the Olympics is watching the parents in the stands.  They are hilarious.  Out of the whole crowd, you can tell whose kid is racing by how the parents are or aren't watching.  My favorites have been the moms and dads in gymnastics.  They are so nervous for their kids.  I'm sure there's a lot more nervous parents in the stands but they don't show them - they should; it's great entertainment, better than table tennis.  I remember my mom having no one that would sit next to her when I played goalkeeper because she would elbow them if they were every time the ball got near me.  They say as a parent, it's like having your heart running around outside of you, and I think that's what this shows - their hearts are either going to beam or break in these situations.

I kinda think that's why God gave us free will.  He gave us the ability to choose His gift of life with Jesus or not.  He gives us the opportunity every day to make His heart soar or sink.  Yes, He loves us no matter if we fail or flourish,  just like any parent does.  But it sure would be boring for God if He just made us like robots that always please Him and can't choose to do so!  Yes, a perfect kid would be nice, but it would sure get monotonous.  Where's the excitement in that?  He wants our hearts, not hard wiring.   I realize that your child flying or flopping on the high bar is not a matter of choice for them - they would choose to fly every time.  But if they did, every time, no one would watch, and no one would get the glory!

On the flip side (no pun intended), this nervous mother is not at all what God looks like when He is waiting for us to make a choice that would either make Him look bigger or smaller in someone else's eyes.  He is BIG no matter what.  He will be glorified no matter what.  He has a ton of children that will draw others to His greatness, but He doesn't need them to do that in order to be great.  He knows that when we make choices that ultimately bring Him praise - it's our hearts that soar, too!  And, as any parent would, He wants us to fly.