Saturday, July 23, 2011

Self-Fulfilling Prophet

In our home, much is made of attitudes.  It seems we deal with them so often, especially in the area of parenting, teaching, and training.  Sometimes I am sure that my kids, especially the younger ones, think that their Mom and Pop do not even struggle with moods and the wayward lure of a mind trip down a dark road.  While it is true that our life's experiences have served as tools of conformity to His likeness, we still have much work to do with our remaining years.

The other night during my prayer vigil, I began reading the book of Jude.  I was struck by how he begins this letter.  After loving greetings, he shares that his intentions had originally been to speak about the salvation they share; however his thoughts have taken a turn and he now feels passionately led to encourage them as defenders of the faith.  I appreciated how this displayed an openness to what the Lord would have. Have you ever been there?  Had an idea, a plan, a course set - and then you found that the Lord had other plans?

One of the areas in my life where I find this happens routinely is in my prayers, especially those middle of the night hours when I come before the Lord with my deepest matters of the heart.  Some years ago I had a meaningful experience with how this often works.  My heart was heavy as I prepared to unburden myself before Him.  I had so many fears for a particular child of mine.  The struggles we were having gave my agitated imagination plenty to work with as I looked into the years ahead; and the more I allowed them to tumble around in my mind, the greater their solidity grew and the stronger the element of reality they took on.  But I began with a time of thanks and praise, as much to calm myself as anything else, I'm afraid.  I have to admit that because of the heaviness of my concerns, I was less than fully engaged in this preamble to the 'main event'.

Coming up to the my crossover point where we could truly get to the matter at hand, I transitioned with, "... and Lord, I know that You have given me five wonderful children who I love so very dearly and I know love me..."

"Yes, I did," He interrupted me.

And I stopped right there, my entire path switched tracks as I got a sharp dose of what was actual reality.

The frightful inevitability of future horrors was all a concoction of my own thoughts.  And I realized suddenly that I had been working in tandem with my own worst enemy as an accomplice to terrifying self-fulfilling prophesy.  Not only had I gotten my stomach all twisted up in knots over this, I'd done my child no small disservice.  In every way, I was obstructing what good the Lord had planned, all because of my fears.  Maybe its not fears that do it for you.  Sometimes its the disillusionment of dreams gone awry, or discouragement in the journey, or simple dissatisfaction with the life you find yourself living. Any of these emotions can lead you quickly down a dusty road of ruts and wrong turns.  You can become your own prophet of doom and destruction, filling your heart and mind with barriers to His plans for you.

At that point of realization , I truly thanked God for what He'd given me, and I apologized for my wayward wandering into paths He had not called me to.  All that I'd planned on pouring out evaporated into thin air, and I committed the days ahead to His directing, this child to His safe keeping, and asked for the help I still so very much needed.  And He gave me a word for this child, "Draw her to yourself, and by this she may know Me."  Spun me around by my head and plunked me on my butt - and I couldn't have been happier.

This taught me a lesson in the danger of allowing my fears to govern my decisions and actions, one I sincerely hope to not soon forget.  So when your worries and anxieties threaten to overwhelm, go to Him; but be quiet enough that you can hear Him.  He probably has something to say as well, quite different than what you had in mind.

"Imagination frames events unknown, In wild, fantastic shapes of hideous ruin, And what it fears, creates."
Hannah More

God's peace alone...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Never, Never, Never Give Up

As a parent, my mind often travels back to my own growing up years.  So much has changed in the world since then, but one thing I know now that I did not then is that there are a vast number of things we share in common with our children.  I used to look at old black and white photographs of my Mom and try to imagine what she was like, tried to envision our meeting one another in her time or mine, wondering how we might connect.  Would we have been friends in this inconceivable time where she and I both existed as the same age?  I liked to think so.

My relating to my own children has revealed that the parent-child relationship has more to do with who we are, and even who I was, than the differences that have transpired in the world around us since I was their age.  There is a smoke screen purposed to generate the belief and feeling that we have nothing in common and just cannot "get" the other.  It can be very tempting to buy into this and believe the heart-breaking tragedy that tells us there is a natural season of estrangement and even dislike that will one day pass, oh we hope!  All too often, I see parents retreat from the rolling eyes and snarling belittlements in anger and self-protection. Sometimes their eyes meet another parent's, seeking understanding and a confirmation that this is normal.  

As a girl, when I first began perusing the pages of Teen Beat, Seventeen, and the like, I began reading about this 'Generation Gap'.  What they call it now, I have no idea. (I looked it up and couldn't find a clue to its modern day synonym.)  On a summer morning just before I turned thirteen,  I went to my father and joined him on the family room floor where he was reading the newspaper, light streaming in the windows as it only can on a Sunday morning.  I can recall the sound and feel of the paper crinkling a bit where my knees rested on the periphery.  Hesitantly, I reached out in words, expressing my fears for the widening distance the future held for he and I and my great desire for this to not be our fate.  I don't remember what his expression was or how his eyes looked back into mine; he must have been wondering how in the world he'd wound up with such a strange, emotional, and embarrassingly talkative daughter.  I do recall his laughter and quick hug, his somewhat uncomfortable assurances that this was not what would happen to us.  I wished our hug would have lasted longer, as well as our conversation.

We went through our years of chaos.  We began coming out of this wasteland period when I became a young mother and was out there in the world, struggling to be a mommy and wife.  My dad's compassion was reborn for me, and with the years I grew older and wiser as well.  We forgave each other.  We didn't walk away forever and we didn't give up.  Neither did He.  *And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

I don't know just when the morphing began which told the adults that disrespect from that segment of mankind younger than they was acceptable.  Some say the 60's - and they certainly didn't help.  But I suspect that this has been a lie that has been around for a much longer time.  Whenever one person feels free to look down upon another, nation towards nation, neighbor towards neighbor, brother towards brother, we are wildly off track from reflecting the design for which we were fashioned or the One who created us for so much more than that.  Calling it a Generation Gap just assigns the blame to our age inequalities.  It is our hearts that need to learn how to navigate these years, these times, these differences.  This is a timeless truth.
And when I look into your eyes, mothers and fathers, I am telling you, "Never, never, never give up."

In trying to choose a scripture to offer for this message from my heart, my eyes flew from word to word of the desires for restoration which the Lord calls to us to live into relationally, with Himself and with one another.

**And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey His voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and He will gather you again from all the peoples  where the Lord has scattered you.  If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord will gather you, and from there He will take you.

Be encouraged...

*I Peter 5:10
**Deuteronomy 30: 1-4

I am sharing this on Domestically Divine, Works For Me Wedsnesdays, and Simple Lives Thursdays.

Friday, July 1, 2011

He Sings Over Us With His Love

I have been considering this subject for some time now, wanting to approach it in conversation with my girls, seeking His counsel as to how to rightly present it so that I might have success in winning their hearts to His ways.  Music is, historically, a land of exploration and expression for the young where most adults cannot be heard, and most certainly not if you are a parent.  Commonly accepted "wisdom" is that the older generation just doesn't get the younger generation; it has been this way from time immemorial, or at least as far back as a few generations go.

The common practice is to accept this as harmless and even, in some fashion, right.   Hogwash.

Personally, I feel that line is one which had to have been concocted by someone of just such an age; the minions to whom this sounded good jumped on the band wagon and took up the battle cry.  It was probably an idiot from my own generation, who are now parents (or old enough to be) and have lived with this fable long enough to unwittingly accept it as the truth.  Plus, it gives you "cool points" to let children have their way -  for those who care.

As I began this conversation with my daughters, I informed them that they are entering into an age of personal freedoms, responsibilities, and accountability and would need to begin thinking about how they will be handling a great number of things.  We discussed a few, advancing towards this subject of music.  In our family, we have found it best to address the foolishness of youth.  The intention is never to insult them or this particular age-group, rather our designs are to alert them to the pitfalls of their new terrain and the mindfulness that will benefit their walk.  For better or worse, scientific studies and statistics prove out the precariousness of decision making in the young, from driving records to credit card handling to cognitive maturation.

We want our children to be thinkers, and our goal is not only to encourage them to do so, but to verbalize this goal to them so that it is deeply impressed into their hearts and minds.  Questioning, seeking, extending ourselves are all healthy endeavors to which we should willingly yoke our hearts and minds.  And to all this, we should bring the Scriptures to illuminate and see how everything bears up under its light.

I have been hearing these whiny complaints from my kids concerning the repetitiveness of Christian radio - true enough.  However, if we were to listen to secular stations, the same will often be found.  In perusing the lyrics of a number of songs by "popular" artists - Lady Gaga, Train, Justin Bieber, Matt Nathanson, Beyonce, Rhianna, Shakira, Alicia Keys... I found I didn't even want my girls to look upon these words. And yet, they are played on radio stations over intercom systems in dentist offices, beauty salons, and malls, and I am sure that my children are familiar with some of them despite our sheltering.  Rising above my reticence, I determined we should approach this squarely and head on.  So, I decided to read the lyrics out loud and ask if they recognized any of these songs.  While there were a few that I was certain that they would identify if they heard the beat, they drew blanks on their own.  And therein lay the key.

We all love catchy tunes and melodies.  If an artist succeeds in creating something that hooks us and remains bopping around in our minds long afterwards, he's attained success.  The problem we find usually lies within the words that accompany the harmony.  Here is where our discernment comes in and our decisions are played out.  Will we mindlessly nod our heads and hips to what we know is wrong because we like the beat? Or will we weed out that which is not edifying, and seek that which is?  The common and recurring themes of girls moving their bodies and guys being encouraged to watch them do so was unequivocal and embarrassing for us all to hear, but couple it with a jazzy groove and they'd very well have supped up without hesitation.

My girls asked for me to review the words for several other songs, and I quickly looked them up and read to them.  After a while, one would think of a song and the other would identify it as unacceptable before I even began typing.  We did find some perfectly fine ones as well, and I think it was good for my kids to hear that I am not opposed to secular music, just anything that tears away at the strength and resolve we need to walk in The Way.  This past Sunday's sermon (dated 6/12/11) tied in wonderfully by its explanation of how the psalms connected to the music of life for Jews before and during the days of Jesus. Our lives should be hymns of praise, crying out, and worship today as well.

*The LORD your God is with you, 
   the Mighty Warrior who saves. 
He will take great delight in you; 
   in His love He will no longer rebuke you, 
   but will rejoice over you with singing.

He sings over us.  What do we sing back in response?  What songs are on our lips?  In our hearts?  In our steps?  And even in our hips?

*Zephaniah 3:17