Friday, December 21, 2012

Tis the Season.....

I have come to really look forward to my Saturday and Sunday mornings. We don't ever really "sleep in" anymore but 7:30 is a treat at the end of weeks when we've had late nights and early mornings. I mostly enjoy that we don't have to hit the floor running. Even on Sundays, we still have 2 hours to make it to the 9:30 church service. But some weekends....I need the sleep! This past Saturday night, I stayed up past 3 a.m. finishing up some online shopping. So, I was really planning to savor every minute of sleep until my alarm went off at 7:30. But, shortly before 7, I had that mommy sense that someone was up and in the room. I was right. There was Jude standing on her daddy's side of the bed....with a tambourine, just waiting on our eyes to peek open so she could really cut loose. I said, "good morning baby....watcha got there? A tambourine?" Jude says, "Yes, mommy...see??" And cut loose she did! A few short minutes later Doc, Peter's 60 lb Australian Shepherd, heard the performance and decided it must be time to get up and play. So, he came barrelling into our bed along with his toy dinosaur. A very few short minutes after that, all 90+ lbs of Peter was in the bed with us too. Steve laughingly said, "This is what we always dreamed of isn't it?" All I could do was laugh. There was a time when I would've tried to make Jude lay back down with us for a few minutes or told Peter and the dog to go play somewhere else because I needed my 30 more minutes of sleep!! Maybe I was laughing due to delirium from sleep deprivation but I don't think so. I think this past Sunday, I was just so thankful that I had them all here with me, that Jude is always with me and that I picked my boys up from school, safe and sound on Friday.

On Friday, I started my day with a mom's meeting that I go to at church twice a month. Our speaker this time gave us all a bit of a reality check. Her topic was on raising our children to be generous. After all, I think it can be said for most all children that they don't come into the world that way. Furthermore, just scolding them for not sharing does not make them generous at heart. She shared some really good ideas and made some really good points that are certainly worth sharing: We need to study our kids and see where their hearts are tender and then be intentional about giving them opportunities to learn to give in those areas; We also need to be intentional about our giving as well. Let them see us care for someone else. Better yet, let them get involved.....let them put the cookies in the bag and hand them to the sweet elderly lady. Let them see the smile and feel the joy; When our little one comes to us and says, I want to draw a picture for so and so.....try not to say, "Not right now, mommy's busy." If at all possible, drop what you're doing and help them. Let them know it's important and just how wonderful it is that they are so thoughtful. Then put their picture in an envelope and go straight to the mailbox with it.

All were great ideas and she had many more things to say about teaching our children to see needs of others and to give back to God. Her message was not to make us feel like bad was one of hope; Hope that they would one day be adults who are gracious givers with generous hearts... who make a difference in their world because they know the joy of giving all of themselves to God. As she said, Just as David from a young age had a heart and monumental trust in God that empowered him to pick up that one stone, face a giant, and make a difference in his world.....we need to teach our children how to pick up a stone too....equip them with the knowledge of God and then let them experience Him as they learn to give more and more of their time, money, and themselves.

Boy does our society need that message. A few weeks ago, as videos and headlines of the chaos that was Black Friday shopping in America came across our newsfeed, my husband said, "humanity has hit an all time low." Sadly, I had to agree. Now, I know there were plenty of dignified, smart shoppers out there trying to save the family money, too. But in a few instances, it was quite sickening to see the chaos and fights among grown people over saving $50 or the shooting over a parking space, to name a few. And all in the name of Christmas shopping?! Quite a stark contrast to the picture of hope we had drawn for our children as adults one day. Whether you're celebrating Christmas as a believer or not....I'm sure it still bids in your mind the age old question, "What is this world coming to?!" Maybe instead we should ask ourselves a better question.....what kind of world have we created? Who is to blame for the downward spiral we find ourselves in? Is it government? Is it parents? Teachers? This group? That group? This generation? That generation? In my humble opinion, I'll just say it's been a work in progress for decades and the ultimate mastermind has been pulling all of our strings like puppets with ever increasing finesse and I bet he is beginning to really enjoy the show. As a matter of fact, he's done such a great job that, in addition to pulling puppet strings, he has robot like souls now who blindly and willingly promote his agenda. Yes, he is having a good ole time right about now.

So, brace yourselves cause It's been a while since I posted. Thankfully the Lord continues to work on me and my issues and I've had words just brewing in some of them I go....this is my take:

Back to the question....Who is to blame? Here's a thought....let's stop blaming everybody else. Blame is a sickness in our country and it starts in the heart of each individual. Blame stems from the immaturity of avoiding responsibility and accountability, from the pride of not submitting to authority and of needing to be "right" always, and from the selfishness of justifying what we want or what we do, regardless of the consequences to others. To paraphrase my former pastor, Tim Bass (or as Jude called him..."the man"), "As goes the individual.... so goes the family, the church, and the nation."

We are quick to blame our parents, our school advisors, the friend who talked us into it, the husband who isn't doing his part, the ungrateful child, the company that doesn't work like we want, the government officials who aren't doing their jobs, the church that doesn't operate on our principles, and even at times...God for not fixing things the way we want. Exactly what are we blaming them for? For any ugliness that comes out of us. "If they had given me better advice....I'd have made better choices."; "If they would pay me more....I'd work harder."; "If this church member doesn't apologize to me....I'm going to have to go somewhere else."; "If my child would just listen and help out once in a while...I wouldn't fly off the handle so easily!", etc. See what I'm getting at? It's nothing profound and certainly not rocket science. In fact, it should be common sense that if we want change for the good, we can't defer the task to others that are deferring, too. We have to be a part of it. The problem is, though we say we want things to change, it's kind of hard for anything good to come out of a heart that won't take personal responsibility, is never in the wrong, won't submit to any authority....especially God's, and just simply wants what it wants. Oh, we can do some good. We can brighten a person's day. We can even help save a life. But, the world around us will never see lasting change for the better until we take a good look at ourselves and at our heart of hearts.

I love that movie "The Seige" with Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington. (If you haven't seen it, it's a great movie but watch it before you watch with kids....lots of adult content) It's an older, pre-9/11 movie about terrorism in America. There's a line that Annette Benning says to the good guy FBI agent, Denzel, when summing up her impression of him, "Catholic school, president of this, captain of that, work hard, make a difference, change the system from within...rarara." Well, that's exactly what I'm talking about. It's nothing new. Nothing profound. But it's hard and the concept of hard work has taken a beating over the last few decades, the last few years for that matter. "Change the system from within." Starting within us and within our families. lasting change will come though, unless there's been a true heart change.... Because it's HARD. It's hard to love people we don't love, think of others before ourselves, accept that some things aren't acceptable, admit that we were wrong, and ultimately.....go against our selfish nature and the flow of the rest of society. "Hard" is really an understatement. Therefore, any attempts we make to do good just to be doing good will prove tiring at some point and we'll eventually give up. So, how on earth, if we truly want one, are we ever to experience a heart change?
Ephesians 1:16-19  
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.
Sure, we may grow up and make better choices and be better people. But, there is only one way to experience the kind of true heart change as individuals that will redeem this country. That is by being honest with ourselves before God Almighty. Not by comparing ourselves to any other person, any church creed, any societal standards, or any of the latest trends that make us feel good about our place in the world. It's opening up God's living and active Word and studying His character, looking at the life of our Savior, and asking I look like Him? Do I love like Him? Do I love the things that He loves and hate the things that He hates? Can my kids believe I'm being real when I try to teach them something about Jesus or do they think I'm just trying to get them to conform to something that I don't want for myself? (because kids know when we're not being real.) Some days I think, "Poor God. He must really get tired of my thick head and hard heart." He has such a long way to go with me. Still, I am thankful for the ways that He has already succeeded in opening the eyes of my heart, in giving me a glimpse of the hope He has called me to, and in demonstrating the power that He provides me when I seek Him and His ways. He is faithful to reveal Himself if we are willing to open up our heart to Him.

If truth be told, we don't open up scriptures to examine where we stand but to try to find something that supports our stand. I've done it. We all have. Furthermore, we don't open up our heart before Him because we know it would require change and we don't really think we need to change. Yet, we have the audacity to look at the world around us in shock, pointing fingers, and even blame God for what we see or deny Him altogether.

Since the horrible school shooting in Connecticut last Friday, we've been doing a lot of finger pointing. Some say it's because we've taken God out of schools that this young man took the lives of so many. Some say it's because guns are too readily available. Some say it's because mental illness is not properly addressed in our society. It's likely to be a combination of all the above. I don't know why he did what he did. I had such respect for the dad of one of the little girls who spoke on camera and said he didn't know why it happened but that he was not mad. He went on to say that God gave us all free agency and he was thankful for his free agency to choose what to believe and how to act and he would never want God to take that away from him, even though others choose to exercise theirs for wrong.

Yes, taking God out of our schools has played a monumental part in the nose dive that morality has taken among our children in school and young adults graduating. The value of life itself has been lost on many of our young people as the value of self expression and actualizaton has taken root and taken over. School systems have thrown in the towel when it comes to issues that use to be basically nonexistent: disrespect for authority, laziness, foul language, blatant sexuality, etc because now they're combating drug problems, fights, weapons, and failing grades of children whose parents don't value education and hard work, etc. The God fearing teachers that are left in the system don't have an answer for kids as to why those things are bad for them because they aren't allowed speak to their hearts about the heart of God. Instead, discipline gets deferred to the home. There in lies the problem....back to the individual and their family.

[I really appreciated the link a friend shared on facebook of the Winthrop coach who used his time in the spotlight to share his heart....very interesting, blunt, and well worth your time to watch. ]

Could we use tighter gun control? Probably. I don't think the answer is to ban guns altogether, though. That would simply be blaming guns for the actions of people and that's beyond ridiculous to me. Yes, the availability makes it extremely easy to take the life of another. But, it doesn't fix the heart problem. It wouldn't have stopped a nurse friend of mine from being shot by her ex-boyfriend in front of her daughter. He would've gotten one somewhere. Or he would've made her life miserable until he came up with a way to act out what was in his heart.

Is the answer to provide more research and care of unidentified mental illnesses? I'm sure that is an area that should be explored further and support given to parents with unstable children. There are illnesses that we can not deny need treatment and continued research to improve outcomes. However, we need to be careful not to confuse lack of feeling, enormous temper tantrums when they don't get their way, or other seemingly odd behavior with mental illness. That again is blaming something, making excuses rather than getting to the root of the problem. We need healing.

As they always say, the first step is admitting we have a problem. I think it's clear to all that we do. Where we differ is on the root of the problem. I simply see all of it as symptoms of spiritual apathy. That's where the heart change comes in, though. That's the difference the Lord can make through a heart surrendered to Him and the difference it can make in our children and in the world they will enter as adults. Being givers is a huge component as it heals us of this obsession we have with self and into the awareness of needs around us as we become the hands of feet of Jesus. As our speaker reminded us Friday morning, we don't always understand giving because we don't need a lot here. It's hard for us to understand the hopelessness of mothers in other countries who hold their children as they die from dehydration from something as simple as diarrhea because they can't give them the clean water they need to live. It also seems to big of a problem for us to attempt to combat. But, the Lord can work through us and through our children as we allow Him to change and teach us and as we teach our kids to use their abilities, time, resources, and lives for His glory and His purposes.

Though not ALL sickness and brokenness we see will be healed until He returns, we can be the agent He uses to bring healing to many people and systems in this world. Starting today. Nowhere in scripture will we read anything that condones our pursuit of happiness while ignoring the tremendous needs of others. Our whole system is broken in this country. It's broken because we as individuals, families, and churches have tinkered with the foundational design He had for us, dismissing Him and His perfect ways as outdated and irrelevant. Now we find ourselves extremely weak in our self sufficiency. But, we have hope. Always. And if we're open to change....we can be strong again, this side of heaven.
Isaiah 58:6-11
"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am. ’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.

Our pastor reminded us Sunday that with the shooting last week being so shocking and heartbreaking, that there are many right now without hope at all or questioning God......others feeling guilty for celebrating Christmas with their families in a few days. He reminded us how dark and bleak it was for God's people when He went silent for 400 years while sin and oppression just abounded. Justice was nowhere to be found. Through Isaiah, He had given them hope....the promise of a Savior (ch 59). Sometimes we get so discouraged that we forget what He has done....He has fulfilled that promise for us all and we need not ever be hopeless again. It might even be a good devotional for us this season to read prayerfully read Isaiah 57-59 and compare to Jesus' life, teaching, and heart. If we are ever to throw a big celebration for anything....should it not be the fulfillment of God's promise of hope....a save us from chains of sin, oppresion, injustice, hate, and death....and ultimately from ourselves.
Isaiah 53:4-11
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Whether issues of the heart, mind, body, individual, family, church, or society.... there is nothing beyond the healing hand of God. 

Thanks to the birth of that baby boy....we are always in a "season of hope". May it also be a season of change. May you all be blessed and may we all BE a blessing this Christmas and in the New Year to come!

And can I just clear one more thing's Christmas....the Lord loves a celebation! So, it's ok to have 2 pieces of pecan pie. 2 whole pieces. Not just "slivers". I think that's in the Bible somewhere!:)

Merry Christmas y'all!!

Much love!!

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