Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A New Perspective

I recently had an opportunity to read back through some things I've written over the last couple of years. I was really struck by a post I wrote two years ago regarding Romans 7-8. I was surprised by the amount things I seemed to understand. Then I realized it was all head knowledge, which I chatted a little about yesterday. This passage is so much richer and full when I look at it after the experiences and learning I have gone through in the last month or so. 

When I was hanging out with Christians as a non-believer, I started reading the Bible. After I accepted, Christ, I started over. I'm feeling the same need to read it all over again from this new heart's perspective. These two chapters from Romans are absolutely amazing! I really appreciate how things are phrased in "The Message" version. Certain sections are really standing out to me today:

 17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
 21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

For the whole of my Christian life, this is how I've lived. I know what God's asking, I know what a Christian is "supposed" to do. I can't manage to make it work in my life. I want to be a kind, compassionate, faithful person. Instead, I've been an angry, bitter, controlling person. There's something deep within my soul that gets the better of me every. single. time. 

I'm tripped up. It's so predictable, it's disgusting. 

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

When I read this two years ago, I almost started crying. I'm at the end of my rope. I've read books, I've asked for help, nothing seems to work. Can anyone help ME find answers?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Jesus Christ can and does. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." This isn't about getting all the answers in the moment of salvation. This isn't about having everything fixed in one fell swoop. This is about allowing Christ deep within my soul and allowing Him to heal the hurts. This is about choosing to believe the Truth about who I am rather than the lies that are the result of the influence of sin. It's not about me changing behaviors. It's about me changing my beliefs. 

1-2With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

A new power is in operation! The Spirit has set me free from a life of sin and death. This isn't just for eternity. This is for the here and now. My life is no longer a low-lying black cloud, the Spirit has come and cleared the junk from my soul. My heart can feel and believe it. He has come for me! 

 3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
   The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

I love this picture of the law as a Band-Aid for sin and Christ is a deep healing of it. Living by the rules isn't going to get me anywhere. Trying harder isn't going to get me anywhere. Embracing what the Spirit is doing in me will allow Christ to set it right once and for all. As long as we're alive, this will be a continuous process. We will continually be facing new challenges and new situations which will hurt us, or cause old hurts to resurface. Each and every one of them is capable of the deep healing that Christ brings, if only I will let Him in to those places.

 5-8Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

Doing it on your own only leads to comparisons and measurements. Doing it with others leads to doing it in real life. Real change can be accomplished if you're willing to open up to a community! If I simply let go and trust in God, I'll find He's been there the whole time, and working away on my heart- turning my heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Giving God some attention (rather than ignoring Him) leads us into an open, free, life.

9-11But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

I didn't know what Paul was talking about! Even though I was a Christian, I was not opening my heart to the full measure of what He had to offer. I have the ability to experience life on God's terms...not a life limited by sin. I am delivered from the dead life that I had. He dwells within me and He is moving in me.

12-14So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

I am done with the old way of doing things. There's nothing in it for me at all. I am ready to get on with my new life. I feel like I'm starting over and I want to experience the fullness of His grace and glory. Things to do! Places to go! Life's an adventure worth living!

15-17This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

The biggest thing I received at Grace Adventure was a confirmation of I really am. I know who He is. I know who I am. I know that there's a bright future walking with my hand encased in His. "What's next, Papa?"

 29-30God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

God knew what He was doing! He had a plan for ME and MY LIFE. The outside forces of the world- the things that happened to us, the culture, the pain, the sin, the hurt- have caused my life to look different, it has caused me to respond in a mode of self-protection and that way of living is not working for me, anymore. I can now see that there are things that happened that were not what He wanted. (That doesn't mean that He's not sovereign, or that He doesn't have a purpose.) He is truly saddened when any of His children suffer from the pain that is caused by sin. Now I can see that, and I can see that the way He made me and what He wanted me to be like. He calls me by name, and gives me a solid foundation in Him. And even better is the fact that He doesn't just leave me there! He stays until the end. He brings glorious completion!

31-39So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
   They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
   We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

So what DO you think? God is on my side and I can not lose! God Himself put everything on the line for ME, there isn't anything that He wouldn't do to help me out of the tangle of these sins and lies. NOTHING can come between me and my Savior. I am within the loving embrace of my Jesus. There is no better place to be. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's for freedom...

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." ~Galatians 5:1

This is the theme verse for my group at Grace Adventure. ( It's amazing to me how much my life and my views have changed in the last month. The things that I have experiences at GA- the exercises, the relationships, the Lord- all have worked together to cause so many "T"ruths from my head to transfer to my heart.

I became a Christian in the fall of 1998. For me, there was a heart change, but there was also a lot of just finding the religion that was true. Head knowledge. Head knowledge is great, but it does not change too much about the way you live your life. The Christian life is very much a set of rules if you only have head knowledge. Christ came to give me a key to heaven, because it was only head knowledge.

I have gained a heart knowledge about Christ and what He has done for me. Yes, He came to restore that relationship so I can spend eternity with the Lord. But there's more to it than that. There is freedom in the here and now. Whatever junk is in our past (whether committed against us or by us) is fully within His hands. My freedom comes from not having to live out my own personal coping mechanisms, but from truly walking out who He created me to be.

This song is actually about the day when the whole Church becomes the bride and enters heaven. But when I heard it, I was taken back to the moment at GA when I met the Lord face to face and asked Him what He thinks of me. What He thinks of the things that have hurt me. What He thinks of the ways I have hurt others.

"When love has come and finally set you free." In that moment, I was set free. Free from the pain of my past. Free from all the masks and defenses I use to protect myself. Free to be a me that I never even knew existed.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Teaching our Kids to be Responsible

A friend asked me if I had any ideas for teaching kids about responsibility. I think she asked me because we have fairly high expectations for our children, and I'm always trying out a new chore chart idea. :) I think she was looking for a list of things that kids are capable of at different ages. But my mind has gone somewhere else with these thoughts of responsibility. But if that's what you're looking for, I'll have a few resources at the end!

To preface all of this, I have five kids. Zachary (8), Quinlan (7), Veronica (5), Eleanor (3), Roselyn (2). We homeschool. That means that they are home all day, making messes. This family only functions when we are all working together. Otherwise I would go insane being responsible for everything. I need to delegate some areas of responsibility to my children. For kids in an away from home school setting, there may be things you would adjust so that you could spend fun family time with them rather than an afternoon full of chores. The principles are the same, the amount of time you spend on something like household tasks would be different than they are for my kids.

Your kids know more than you think they do.
They really do. Even before my kids can talk, they're speaking volumes with their eyes. There little minds are already working out ways that they can throw the blocks across the room instead of putting them in their bucket. Age appropriate tasks and responsibilities may be more and bigger things than you are currently thinking.

Real work challenges kids. It makes them feel valued, important, and part of the family. For example, when our toddlers can walk and carry things at the same time they become responsible for putting their dishes in the dishwasher. Along with this goes a phrase I heard when my oldest was still an infant. This has been the guiding principle for teaching our kids household jobs "The youngest person capable of performing a tasks should be responsible for doing it." From something as simple as putting dishes in the dishwasher for a tot to my seven and eight year old boys having complete responsibility for their own laundry- if they are capable, it's theirs.

And this doesn't just go for household jobs, this also applies to behaviors. My two year old knows she shouldn't throw her toys. That means she needs to accept responsibility for the consequences of her behavior. Whether that's discipline for disobedience, or apologizing when someone gets hit in the head.

Expect great things from them.
This is a continuation of the previous point. Give your kids REAL responsibility. Allow them to feel the consequences (positive and negative) of things you've placed into their realm of responsibility. Allow your four year old to make the mashed potatoes and thank her for it while you're eating dinner. When my boys first took on the full responsibility for their own laundry, I allowed them to run out of underwear (on a day we were staying home).

If you give them a job to do, let them do it their way. And don't follow behind redoing it (In the spirit of full disclosure, I do rearrange the dishes to make sure they are facing the right directions. I do not tidy anyone's clothes that they put away.) which leads us to...

It won't be perfect.
When they are first learning how to do something, it's not going to be done as well as if you were doing it yourself. Accept it. Let it be. Some jobs may need to be done more frequently. For example, cleaning the bathrooms is a daily job in our home, simply because it's not really done very well. I could do the job, do it well, and do it once a week. But I choose to accept the job at the quality that my children are capable of and allow them to clean their bathroom their way. I figure that over the course of a week, every spot will be cleaned at least once or twice :)

Start with the end in mind.
As they learn and grow, expect more. A two year can say "I'm sorry" A three year old can say "I'm sorry for___." And a five year old can say "I'm sorry for ____, will you forgive me?" There's a progression for just about anything you want to grow into your children. How do you want your teenagers and adult children to respond and behave? Start now.

Own your stuff.
"Who was supposed to____?" Is a common question in our house. There's no hiding, the kids need to own up to a job poorly done. Try not to blow up when you see that your kids aren't doing/behaving the way you want them to. Whether it's how well the table was wiped off, or an angry response when wronged...let them feel the weight of it, then help them grow into it.

We also have a "no paybacks" rule in effect. It's important to understand what's not your responsibility. It's not my child's responsibility to make sure his sister receives punishment for a wrong she has committed. He needs to bring that to me and trust that I will take care of it. Later on in life, he'll have plenty of things that He'll need to place in God's hands. Practicing that now, will help my kids out a lot.

I also think that allowing your children time for free play allows them to grow into this. Learning how to take care of conflict is a huge lesson that will be with them forever. 

Practical Help
Montessori- I don't know much about this school of learning, what I do know is that they encourage putting things on kids levels and making things easier for kids all around. For our family it looks like plastic dishes, short coat hooks, baskets and bins (instead of shelves), and vinegar water (instead of chemical sprays)-things that make it easier for them to perform the tasks you're asking of them.

Chore Charts/Reward Systems- There are as many of these as there are families in the world. I would like to caution you that a chore chart isn't going to teach your children responsibility. It will provide accountability as you go, though. You can purchase one, you can make. I recommend Pinterest as a great resource for some inspiration.

Age appropriate-ness- This also is as individual as each family. I would challenge to pray and consider where each child is at. Here's a chart that was pinned on pinterest. And here's a book that I reference yearly to see how we're doing.

Circles or Responsibility- I had all of these things in mind, then this weekend I learned about these circles. Understanding responsibility- those I've taken myself compared to those actually assigned to me by God, is already a huge benefit to my life. I haven't yet read this book, but it comes highly recommended by some folks I really trust and respect.

This is a pretty long post. If you've made it this far, I hope that there's something in here that you can apply to your own family life. And is there anything I've missed? What other components of responsibility should we be building into our children? What are some practical helps that you've found useful?