Thursday, May 17, 2018

Do I Love God?

"When I look to the mountains, I can see YOU there..."
Jackson Hole, WY
It is easy for me to forget that loving God isn't about my feelings. Most of the time, I feel a deep love for Him, but once in a while when I get busy and haven't had time to contemplate His goodness, my feelings grow dull, and I don't like that! But I was reminded last Sunday:

Loving God is to care about God. We do what He cares about if we love Him.  ~C.K. Bailey

This truth comforts my heart yet also motivates me. I'm trying to do what God cares about every moment of every day. Feelings are unpredictable and undependable. Life gets busy, and since I can't see God and can't constantly think about how good He is, I'm thankful loving Him is not about my feelings!

I hope this is helpful to you as it was to me!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Parenting: The Influence of Self (Feelings, desires, thoughts, and images)

In the last post I was grappling with helping our children recognize and deal with the influence of self in how we treat others. By nature, we don't think of others first.

In this post, I'm thinking more about the internal aspect of the self where desires, feelings, thoughts, and images are produced. We can respond to these in different ways. We can embrace each one that comes or bring it into the light of what Jesus revealed and learn to reject what He would reject, embrace what He would embrace. We can train our children by modeling this reality and by building this truth into their understanding.

Let's say, my child expresses something that reveals she is feeling jealousy. How do I help her reject that feeling?

First, I have to establish that it is safe to admit it. She can be honest and talk to me about it. Then, we discuss Jesus. How did He think about feelings like this? Next, we discuss how, at the root, this is about our inborn selfishness, that this feeling is ugly, and that Jesus wants to help us be beautiful like He is. In order to change, to do what is right and become more like Him, we go to Him in prayer. "Lord, you know what I'm feeling. I want to give you this ugly, selfish thought. I know how you would think about this situation, and that's how I want to think. Please help me." 

Friends, I don't know how He does it, but step by step, choice by choice, He transforms us as we choose to trust Him and submit to His way of thinking, and our children can experience the power of His transforming grace just like we do! The ugly thought might try to come back, but we train them not to panic: just keep taking it to Him, rejecting it, placing our mind on His way of thinking, and it loses its power! Thanks be to God!

Do we ever totally stop feeling the force of "self"? I don't think so. The scripture says we die daily, we crucify it. From my understanding, it's what we DO WITH the feelings, desires, thoughts, and images that we are responsible for, and the longer we walk in trust and faithful obedience, the quicker we recognize what to do with feelings and desires that would push us a wrong direction. We understand it is possible to question our thoughts without having our sense of worth destroyed. We know how to pinpoint and reject images that would control our mind and take us away from Christlike thinking.

There's a good chance our children will follow in our footsteps if we model this abundant life faithfully before them and train them in the way.

How good our God is!!! So worthy of our trust and our children's trust.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Parenting Thoughts : Influences - The Digging

In my last post, I said, "the digging begins." What are we digging for?

We are digging to understand the influences on our children so we can sort through which ones should be encouraged and which should be eliminated or dealt with in an appropriate way.

The first influence our children experience is their own selfish nature. It is an unavoidable influence that has to be brought into submission and hopefully, eventually surrendered to God. 

(I know it's a bit unusual to talk about "self" as an influence, but just go with me for now... if you will. I think it works.)

George MacDonald, in his story, The Wise Woman, says in his delightfully insightful way:
"The only thing that could save the princess from her hatefulness was that she should be made to mind somebody other than her own miserable somebody."
The Bible teaches:
"...he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matthew 10:39)  "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Rom 8:13)
How do we help our children deal with the influence of self? What are we specifically watching for?

But before we go there, I must tell you one thing Curt and I learned. As we modeled a continual rejection of the influence of self in our own lives and were transformed for the better, it was a powerful influence that helped show our girls how the process works and helped make it real. It also showed them we are in this thing together and that there is a higher influence that each of us is answering to and dependent upon.

We were admonished to not punish our children for selfishness if they responded appropriately when we discipled them. We modeled, taught, and trained. Of course, if they resisted and were willfully refusing to walk in the right path, then other discipline had to be administered. But we found the more consistently we showed them how wonderful life is when we don't allow self to rule, the more they wanted to walk in our footsteps! Who doesn't want abundant life?! We believed it so fully and lived as though it was reality, and we assumed they'd realize and embrace the truth, and they did!

We had a saying when the girls were little, "Think of the other person first." We started saying it early on, and as I was with them all day long, day after day, I was watching and listening. The moment I saw the selfish nature starting to lead them astray, I sat them down, made them look me in the eye, and talked with them. I made them think through what the beautiful and good heart (like the heart of Jesus) would be in the given situation, and I insisted they choose His way of behaving.

Over and over, I had to be there to watch, listen, and insist... until one day, I started noticing it was becoming a habit! The habit gave me some relief from constantly having to be the will behind the good and beautiful choices, though I realized it wasn't necessarily fully in the heart yet. So I kept watching and listening from a distance.

As they matured, we had deeper discussions about the self, the instincts, the way the flesh will push you around if you let it, and as their understanding grew, they each - Thank You, Abba, for drawing them! - made a decision to personally pursue a relationship with God and embrace His influence over all others.

More on influences to come...

Parenting Thoughts That Helped Us Along the Way: Recognizing Influences

Consider the influences on your child.

What they DO tells you what they are thinking and what they value. If they're too young to DO without your permission, then you must analyze what they WANT to DO. What do they ASK to DO? What upsets them or excites them most? How do they want to spend most of their time and energy?

Answers to these questions tell you what influences they are embracing. Once you realize the greatest influences in their lives, then the digging begins. 

May God grant you wisdom as you disciple your own,