Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Foot In The World

The girls take gymnastics at an old school turned community center. The gymnastics academy shares a hallway with a yoga place. I laughed when I got there last week and saw a sign on the yoga door that said: "Quiet Please, Class In Session". You can smell the incense burning and they are doing what they can to relax, but all afternoon and evening there are over 100 aspiring gymnasts running, rolling, flipping and screaming up and down the hallways. Add to that the younger siblings waiting with their parents and it's total choas. I don't think the sign or the incense is going to make one bit of difference in the noise level!

I think trying to raise kids to be disciples of Jesus Christ in this culture is like walking around with a sign around my neck that says "I Love God" while the world rages on around us. It won't take too long to be overpowered by the noise. And although I say I am raising a "christian" family and we go to church, am I really truly cultivating an authentic relationship with Christ away from the pew? I mean, come on, I have at least 10 different bibles and I've read every James Dobson book on the market. But often my thoughts are not fixed on the long haul, the hearts of my kids. It is consumed with the here and now. And I want the here and now to be fun and comfy - like a pair of Tweety Bird flannel pajamas!

The grim reality, however, is that in many ways I am actually cultivating and encouraging worldly values in my kids. It has become so engrained in my psyche that I hardly even notice. I want my kids to have the things other kids have, to be liked by other kids, and not to do anything that people would consider "unusual" (However, all things 7 year old boys do qualify as unusual - and I hear it only gets weirder). Unwittingly, I'm guiding my kids toward popularity, materialism, and in turn downsizing their relationship with Christ.

Last year, I was challenged with a situation one of our kids was facing at school. There was someone we know being teased by our kid's friends. My first reaction unfortunately was for them to just walk away or avoid it. Why put their friendships at risk or get out of their comfort zone because of another child? What was I thinking? Of course, I should be teaching them to stop them, intervene and befriend the other child. Am I so consumed with my kids sitting alone at lunch or being left out by a group of kids that I am willing to sell out Jesus' teachings? Obviously, I was on the edge of that.

But I think we all buy into that so easily. We should love Jesus as long as He makes us happy, healthy, wealthy, and popular. Kids need to learn that there is a cost to following Christ and that no matter what happens, even if your friends disown you, standing up for Christ, and in turn others is what God calls us to do. Maybe I should learn that myself! How much cost have I had in my cushy little church life?

To live with authentic faith, being focused on Christ in all avenues of life: at home with their siblings, at school with friends and how they act when they play sports is what I desire for them. Is it more important, even at a young age, to stand right before our Lord or have someone to play with at recess? Silly question, right?

So how do I train my kids to live for Christ and sacrifice for Him in this selfish and cruel world? I think part of it for me is looking at the big picture. We aren't just dealing with elementary school issues, these are character issues. We aren't just living for the here and now, we've got eternity to look forward to. They need to develop this kind of stuff in order to grow into a mature disciple of Jesus.

If I don't change my mind set, in 10 years when they are teenagers I might look back and think, How did this happen? How could they have walked away? How could they be acting like this? We are a "good" church family. We have Jesus plaques and bible verses hanging on our walls (literally we do!).

I know a lot of faithful Christian parents who have lived authentic faith and taught it to their kids and their kids have still walked away. We are not in control of the final outcome, but we are accountable to live for Christ and teach them to do the same. Not just at church and bible study or when it is convenient, but all the time.

It's all about God, glorifying and enjoying him. It is so hard to keep that in focus living in this world. But I think that's my problem, I'm focused on THIS World way too much!

Romans 12:1-2
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -
his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Dirty Word?

Submission just sounds like a dirty word, doesn't it? For some reason it seems to leave a bad taste in my mouth. You can almost hear the snarl in the way people say it, "submissssssion". Why is it that I have come to loathe this biblical concept?

I don't think I have only a problem submitting to my husband, in reality I just don't want anyone telling me what to do! But it always comes to a head in my marriage. There are the big issues like having more kids, schooling and discipline. Then there are the minor ones like buying a new back pack, monitoring T.V. time and involvement in "activities". Either way I find it exhausting and frustrating. Why does he get to make all the final decisions? Who made him the king of the universe?

Well, the true King of the Universe put him in charge! If I am unwilling to submit to my husband then I am ultimately spitting in the face of God and walking away. I don't want to disobey God and be distanced from his grace and mercy. He has called me to submission and I think one of his reasons might be that it will help make me more like Jesus.

When Mike and I are butting heads over a certain issue -- certainly we should discuss it, but ultimately I have to give it over to God. The result is not bondage (as I think it will be), the result is FREEDOM! I need to get to the point where I can say, this is how I feel and what I think, now that ball is in your court. Then my job is to pray and commit it to God. THEN LET GO! I have a pretty tight grip sometimes so that is really hard!

It's never pleasant to go against Mike, our marriage suffers, our family suffers and our relationship with Christ suffers. Here's an example from a few years back. We had 2 little kids. There were a lot of things that were difficult in our life at the time, one of the big ones was our finances (or lack of). The more I spent, the more Mike tried to control. The more control he yielded, the more I wanted to spend. So, one day the kids and I trotted off to the mall. (I can remember that I liked to go there and look at all the things I couldn't afford and pity myself.) I decided that we should go out to lunch. I went to the cash machine and took out $40 - a lot of money! I was doing it out of spite, I knew he would find out but there would be nothing he could do about it.

I can remember it so clearly, I was pushing the double stroller and somewhere along the way I dropped the cash. My heart sank! The humility of dropping it for some reason convicted me. I honestly wasn't worried about the money, I just realized how wrong I was and that I didn't want to keep going in the direction I was headed. Well, a gracious woman behind me chased me down and gave it back to me. I did not spend a penny of that money and took it straight home. That was the beginning of being able to let go for me. I realized that my problem wasn't with Mike, but it was my heart - selfishness, pride and more were at the source of this hiddeous teenage-like behavior.

I had this paper from college. I don't know who wrote it, but it was life changing for me in the way I looked at submission. So here it is:

A Summary of the Special Biblical Secret:

-I Submit to God. I'll ask Him, and wait for Him to meet all my needs. (Psalm 62:1, Phillipians 4:6-7,19)

-I realize how valuable I am to Christ because he gave his life for me. (John 3:16)

-While waiting for my needs to be met through Christ, I'll attend to the needs of those around me. I'll forget about my needs because God is taking care of them (Ephesians 3:19-20), and I'll focus on what I can do for others. (John 15:11-12)

Wow! It doesn't seem like such a bad tasting word to me now! And I'm learning that I can submit and serve with Joy, not duty (ok sometimes it's duty). There were times in my life when I refused to submit to God and Mike. I thought I knew what I wanted and needed. The things I was seeking were and could have been devastating and disastrous. God knows our needs and how to meet them. How foolish I am not to trust that!

We choose submission out of reverance for Christ, we don't have do it because we are less. Jesus was a humble servant and submitted to the will of his Father. Is there anything better than to be like than Jesus? I've got a long way to go in this area!

Don't tell me you didn't figure these verses were coming:

Ephesians 5:21-24
"Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."