Friday, November 30, 2012

Not Seeking Soma, but accepting God-Given Relief

(This is Part 5 in a series. Read Part 1 part 2, part 3, and part 4)

There’s a difference between seeking soma and accepting relief.

By seeking soma, I mean seeking to fill oneself with the good things in this life.  
Pleasure gluttony, in all its various forms.

When I seek soma, when I approach my life intent on bouncing from one pleasure to the next, I find myself irritable when any of those things are taken away. I think I have a right to naptime, to a night’s sleep, to an uninterrupted cup of coffee. I feel injured when those things are stolen from me.  I consume all that I can out of the pleasures around me, and I still find myself unsatisfied, wanting more, not numb enough, not happy enough.  I am inconvenienced, interrupted, and put out all day long.

And the law shows me my sin, and reveals my heart for the selfishness that is in it. And still I whine that I deserve a break, I deserve a little comfort cheese, I deserve a day off. And yet, even as I whine I know I do not deserve, not from my God whom I have ignored while seeking my own happiness in other places.

Before God, I have no rights at all.
I have no right to have an easy day today.
I cannot whine if He asks me to suffer, to sacrifice, to deny myself.
I do not have a right to wake up healthy today.
I cannot demand another day with my family.
I have no right to any pleasures, any joys, in light of my sin.

The wages of sin is death- that really means, for our sins, we deserve to die.  This minute of life is pure gift. We are not entitled to it, or to the next one.

And then we see Jesus—Jesus who gave up his legitimate rights and became man; Jesus who emptied Himself, for us, to pay the wages that are too much for us to pay.  Jesus who did the thing we struggle to understand- who chose suffering.

It’s simply not natural, not for us.  And yet, for us, it has already been done.

And we, His children, get to rest in His love for us, His strange love that is so unlike what we find in our own hearts. 

Sitting there with him, His love rubs off on us.
Our hearts grow, and ache, and suffer as His does.  This is the life of the Christian, called to be God’s hands and feet to serve others, called to be God’s grace with skin on for the sake of others.

He does not give us soma, he does not give us numbness, or heartless happiness as we follow Him.
And when we see ourselves for who we are, and Him for who He is, we know we cannot demand it. 

How can we insist on being free from suffering, when God himself suffered for us?

And yet, he has mercy on us.
He does not give us soma, but He does give us relief.

Relief.


Not by right, but by gift, the sun shone on me today.
I was not entitled to it, but even so, He gave me a moment of laughter.
And a healthy body. And the energy to mop the floors.


All good things from above, they are also gifts of grace from our Father who did not even withhold His Son.

How then shall we live?
Not vainly clinging to imagined “rights,” gorging ourselves on the good things in this life.
But seeking our contentment in Him, learning to suffer and to love and rejoice, learning as He teaches.
And keeping our eyes open, intentionally noticing the manifold gifts of grace that He sends from heaven.

Sometimes, I can really see it, His hand in the gifts all around me.

Lord, open my eyes, and open my hands.


By grace, God gave me Jesus.
AND, by grace, he gave me coffee.
And He gave me television, to help us through sick days.
And He gave me the blessing of a hot, quiet shower.
And He gave me the kind words of a friend.

And He gave me daily bread, and it was sticky and sweet, and it made my children smile while we ate it together in this place where we live by grace.


Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. 
His mercy endures forever.

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What kind of relief did God send you today?

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Messy Monday link-up returns again this Monday!
As you pull out the holiday boxes, take pictures of the chaos!
Send them to me this weekend, or prepare a post to link-up!





Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cling to Jesus while you swing

What is the opposite of happiness-chasing?

Love.

“Our soul fluctuates between thoughts and feelings we don’t like and thoughts and feelings we do like, and we don’t like those fluctuations… we try to stop that swing, because our soul’s fluctuations are unpleasant to us… We think that Christ maturity is getting that swing under control.” Dan Stone, as quoted in Grace for the Good Girl, p. 57

We try to stop that swing.
The swing, of my emotions, and the circumstances of my life, makes me nauseated and unsettles me.
I don’t like it, so I try to stop it.

I try to stop the swing by taking my soma, be it food or sleep or the distractions of technology.

And (sin upon sin) I even ask God to stop it for me.

I want to use Jesus like soma.
“Grant me peace,” I say, when I really mean, “free me from having to care about something that makes me unhappy.”
“Help me trust you,” I say, when I really mean, “let me stop aching, stop worrying, stop caring about this suffering person, because it hurts too much.”

Jesus, be my soma. Numb my heart for me.

But… what if those difficult emotions are symptoms of the love of Christ in us?

Jesus, who gave up the perfection of heaven to be God with us, in this place of suffering; Jesus, who has compassion, who wept, who sweat drops of blood; Jesus, whose body and blood are broken and poured out for you and for me.

Jesus, who has seen our lack of love, and yet (grace upon grace) still welcomes and pursues His children with their hard hearts.

Jesus, whose love for us is seen best on the cross.
His love fills me, and it unsettles me.

And I don’t want him to let me numb it away, not if it is His love in me, growing me, moving me to be His hands and feet to love others in this broken place.

Jesus, fill me with your love.
And hold tight to me, as your love unsettles me.

---------------


(This is Part 4 in a series. Read Part 1 part 2, and part 3)
See more Grace for the Good Girl Posts here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Anything for a happy heart?

(This is Part 3 in a series. Read Part 1 and part 2 here.)

One man complains about the “brave new world,” and they call him a Savage.
But, he asks, without emotion, without suffering and conflict, where is the nobility? Where is the heroism?

Read the description of a world without such things:

"My dear young friend," said Mustapha Mond, "civilization has absolutely no need of nobility or heroism. These things are symptoms of political inefficiency. In a properly organized society like ours, nobody has any opportunities for being noble or heroic. Conditions have got to be thoroughly unstable before the occasion can arise. Where there are wars, where there are divided allegiances, where there are temptations to be resisted, objects of love to be fought for or defended–there, obviously, nobility and heroism have some sense. But there aren't any wars nowadays. The greatest care is taken to prevent you from loving any one too much. There's no such thing as a divided allegiance; you're so conditioned that you can't help doing what you ought to do. And what you ought to do is on the whole so pleasant, so many of the natural impulses are allowed free play, that there really aren't any temptations to resist. And if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there's always soma to give you a holiday from the facts. And there's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears–that's what soma is.” Brave New World

So, what’s wrong with this? It’s a little difficult to sort out. Of course we want to avoid suffering, and in theory, this is not a bad thing.

But let’s see where this avoidance of suffering, or chasing of one’s happiness, leads: both in the Brave New World and in your own life.  Does chasing your own happiness lead you to a growing love for God and for others?

Or does it result in a smaller heart, one preoccupied with itself, and easily closed to the sufferings of another?

Part of me would love to achieve some sort of inner calmness. I’d love to be the one who can handle all things with a smile, with wisdom and cheerfulness. I’d love to be free from stress and grief and heartache.  (And I’d love to do this with my own willpower, but if I could use a magic pill instead, I’d probably do that too.)

But here, in this place, that sort of thing is simply not possible without making some major changes. For me to achieve that, I would have to snap my heart shut, and numb it. I’d have to make it harden, so that it could never be unsettled by the tragedies of this broken world.

As Emily P. Freeman writes, “Trying not to experience the whole spectrum of emotions is like trying to be inhuman.” p. 57 Grace for the Good Girl

So, do you agree?
And if so, what else is there besides chasing our own happy feelings?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Soma


Yesterday, we talked about the fictional drug, soma (like alcohol without the side effects.)
(please note- I refer to the fictional drug from Brave New World, not this drug.)

And I asked you, if soma were for sale today, would you take it?

What would you do to escape your bad days, your trials, your emotions?

Now, let me ask a more pointed question… 
Is this kind of thing available, and DO you take it?

Because I do. 

As I read Brave New World, I judged the infantile people in the story who lived life in their comfortable bubbles, soothing any negative emotion with a dose of soma.

How could they? Don’t they see that by living their lives in a state of numbness, that they are missing… something? How can they be content to simply live life going from one pleasure to the next? How could they be happy by simply using each other, and letting themselves be used?  How could they possibly feel content with small, numbed hearts, capable of shrugging off any suffering or trial in themselves or others as if they were nothing?

Now at this point, I am tempted to rant and rave about our culture and how it encourages the same kind of numbness. Did you know they legalized marijuana here and there? Have you heard how people try to control their kids by drugging them?  Have you heard how easily doctors prescribe anti-depressants?!

(*Please note- In no way do I mean to criticize those who take medicine for medical problems. I take anti-depressants, and they are God's gift to me.)

But I can’t complain about our culture, without telling you what I found at home, right here, in my own heart.

Numbness. Calm happiness. I like these things too.
In fact, I like them so much, I often find myself seeking them, ALL day long. And then when little people get in my way, I become frustrated. So I treat myself to a candy bar. And when my body complains that I have not rested it, I grab another cup of coffee.  I prop myself up with food and drink, not using it as fuel to help me do my job, but using it to make myself calm, happy, or numb.

I turn off the news because it makes me sad. I avert my eyes from those who suffer, and I go on facebook instead. 

There are many things that turn to when I am unsettled, like an addict to her drug.
Suffering is simply not natural.

What kinds of things do you use like soma?
What do you do to escape your bad days?

Read Part 3

Monday, November 26, 2012

Soma: A Prescription for No More Bad Days

Soma. 
Don’t you wish we had a drug like soma?

It’s like alcohol without the side effects. It’s an instant good mood, a cure for any negative emotion. It is a holiday in a bottle, with no consequences. And, in Brave New World, it is socially encouraged, accepted, expected.

"One cubic centimeter cures ten gloomy sentiments."

It’s an easy way to reset any bad day. It’s a way for people to stop feeling weary and tired and angry, and instead become cheerful, functional, and productive again.

“Punctured, utterly deflated, he dropped into a chair and, covering his face with his hands, began to weep. A few minutes later, however, he thought better of it and took four tablets of soma.”

Poof. The bad day is gone. The bad mood is melted away. He is “himself” again.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
So let me ask you, if soma were for sale today, would you take it?

What would you do to escape your bad days, your trials, your emotions?




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Life, here. (and Happy Thanksgiving.)

In a tree outside my window, there is a nest.
The next is empty.
Quiet.


Life grew there, I think to myself.

And I turn around and I see my house.

Life grows here.


Life is growing in this house, with noise and bold colors, with music and mess.  

His blessings are so abundant that I cannot even see them all to count them. I breathe them in, walk on them, wear them, eat them, rest in their arms, and dwell in them.




"It’s almost too much this passing of time, the dying of dreams and the budding of new ones, this growing of babies into children and children into women and hearts to maturity. And I cry because I want to hold it all forever, His goodness in this place. I run fingers over knife-worn counters and time runs too fast. And people are sent out from here. People heading home and people heading off to new futures and one day, these girls, too. I serve meals in this kitchen but I want to serve them what counts. I want to offer them the living bread, the only food that truly fills.

I have laughed here, I have wept here, I have created here, oh, I have prayed here. And here in this place, I have known Him more. I haven’t always done it right and some days I feel that I haven’t been enough, but I know that He has. He has. Right above the oven are painted the words of Acts, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and generous hearts… and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” and I know it like I know my own breath and the warmth of the sun on my skin, time passes, and they will go, and only He will remain.

My eyes find the trail of footprints leading to the door, and through bated breath I ask it, beg it, “Lord, if I could have just one thing, could I have served them You?”"  ---- Katie Davis


Read the full post here. It is well worth your time.



Giving thanks with you this weekend, for abundant blessings,
 and for the love of God we have in Christ Jesus.

Happy thanksgiving.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where are the rules? Cleaning rage, law, and gospel series continued


Did you miss the first part of my series?
Let me summarize (though I encourage you to go back and read for yourself- see links above.)

First, I found myself in a messy basement having an enormous fit of cleaning rage. Picture garbage bags, yelling, and stomping.

Second, I realized I was annoyed not only with my children and their irresponsibility, but with our abundance, and the fact that it sometimes inconveniences me. And even so, God was gracious to this mother, and again gave me grace instead of what I deserve.

Third, I passed the lesson of law and gospel on to my children. I made an enormous list of their sins and I read it to them, one by one. Then, I surprised them with a fresh picture of grace, and we watched a movie under blankets.

Part 4: Underlying theology of Law and Gospel

I had cleaned the basement "for them," in large part because I was running on rage and adrenaline. This is an obvious example of the way that even my best attempts at loving my children are mixed with sin!  I promise you, it was only by the help of God that the evening did not end with a lecture and a mommy-fit!

But as we sat under blankets of grace, and they had no consequences for their irresponsible behavior, I wondered,

Wait, did I just teach my children that they get to shirk all responsibilities, and let mommy take care of their messes forever, all because of Jesus???

Grace feels risky, doesn't it? As if it could nullify all rules and order and responsibility?

Let’s go back to the beginning.
What is it that we are called do as Christian parents?
We are to love our children with the love of Christ.

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Yes. So how then, exactly does He love us? 

That's a big question. We know His love is not like our love, His ways are not our ways.
Here’s what we know for sure:

The Law
God hates sin. Sin is wrong and evil and leads to death. He never, not once, pretends that it is something less. God’s Word condemns each and every one of us under the Law. The wages of sin is death, and all are guilty.  Our sin is so dreadful and pervasive that we could never hope to atone for it, and all of our attempts to earn our own pardon serve only to trivialize the gravity of the situation. Our works are filthy rags.

If you think the Sin List I wrote for my children was harsh, just read the Ten Commandments, and make your own itemized sin list. Bitter medicine.

The medicine is bitter, but it is necessary. The law is given to us so that we can rightly see our sickness. As Paul explains,

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom 3:20)

Why in the world do we need to become conscious of sin? So we can try harder, do better, and fix ourselves?

No. Read the verse above again. The law does not make us righteous.
The task is even more overwhelming, more impossible, than a messy basement is to a four-year-old.  You will not become righteous through the law, through the lists, through self-effort, through moralism, through sincere and whole-hearted attempts to follow the law.

The Gospel
We continue reading in Romans 3
But now, a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22a)

Do you see? Sinners crushed by the law, sinners with unclean hearts and hands and an impossible task, are not therefore turned away. 

They are given Jesus.
Jesus, God with us, God taking on our sins and carrying them to the cross.
Jesus, God in us, God filling empty sinners with His righteousness.
Jesus, God for us, God dying in our place, and giving us life.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Rom 3:22b-24)

Justified freely.
The gift is free, unconditional, and complete.  He first loved us, with a love that is so strong it seems irrational, seems impossible, seems too much, too easy, too risky.

And we can stop here. We can rest here, under blankets of received righteousness.  We can set up camp, here, dwell here, abide here.  We can live and move and have our being here, in the safety of God’s love for us in Christ.


-----------------
Where are the rules?
They are excluded, and have been replaced with grace.

Where is my pride?
It has been melted by love.

Where is my gold star?
It has been forgotten for something much better: mercy.

“Where, then, is boasting?
It is excluded.
On what principle? On that of observing the law?
No, but on that of faith.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:27-28)

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Coming next: The proper context of works

Or, if I make them clean the basement someday, will I just cancel everything I just taught them about grace?


Monday, November 19, 2012

For some of us, it is part of life.

Welcome, to Dana Lambert, a fellow blogger and mother of four.  
 Today she shares her thoughts with us on living with epilepsy.

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Dana Lambert
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. I have to admit when I was approached by Emily Cook from Weak and Loved to write this guest post I was a little unsure.  I've never written a guest post, much less shared about our life with Epilepsy outside of my own blog.  But in the hopes of making others aware, I knew I would certainly give it a try.

Epilepsy has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember.  My Great-Grandfather, Grandfather, Mother and I all have had it and now both of my daughters, Emmalee and Laycie, share this disorder.    For us, it is familial, meaning it has traveled directly through generation after generation, never skipping.  More than likely at least one of each of my daughter's children will have Epilepsy, too.

I know both sides of life with Epilepsy – the side of the patient and the side of the caretaker.  I, personally, cannot remember much about my seizures but I do remember many trips to the Medical University of SC (MUSC) for check-ups, EEG's, blood tests and more.  I never expected to be going through the same things with my own daughters.

Emmalee 3 months old
Baby’s first seizure
Emmalee, my oldest daughter, was 3 months old when she had her first seizure.  I was assured by our local medical staff that it was simply a Febrile seizure, though she hadn't been sick beforehand, nor was she running a fever.  She simply had a seizure for no apparent reason.  A few days later she had another one.  It was then that the doctors decided perhaps she should have an EEG and see a specialist.

There was no Pediatric Epilepsy Specialist in our area at that time.  The local neurologist didn't work with infants as young as she was.  The hospital was ill-equipped to give an EEG to an infant.  Finally, I insisted our doctor refer her to MUSC where I had been treated myself for my Epilepsy.  Her first appointment was set for a month later but was quickly rescheduled as soon as her medical information was faxed over and reviewed.

Emmalee was 3 ½ months old when we first saw a neurologist.  She was on medication for her seizures for 4 years.  This year, at age 9, Emmalee was tested with her last EEG showing results of having officially outgrown her Epilepsy, no longer requiring treatment.

Emmalee today
Laycee, 4 months, at the hospital
Not her, too!
I never thought I'd be going through the battle with Epilepsy twice as a parent.  Laycie is my baby girl and she began having seizures at 4 months.  Her seizures also began out of the blue, for no apparent reason.  Thankfully, with her, we were better prepared and more experienced.  I knew we weren't dealing with Febrile seizures – this was definitely Epilepsy. 

Laycie was originally tested at Greenville Children's Hospital, near where we were living at the time.  It was immediately assumed by medical staff there that she had been abused and she was tested in every possible way to be sure I hadn't done something to cause her seizures.  I wasn't allowed to hold her, barely allowed to touch her and I was watched like I was a criminal while I stood at her side in tears. 

Laycie had an EEG, EKG, MRI, Cat Scan, X-rays and more done – if there was a test, she went through it.  As results came back showing no signs of trauma or abuse, staff attitudes changed from condemning to concerned.  Eventually the staff had to admit that I was right and she had Epilepsy.  She was placed onto medication and 3 days after coming to the hospital she was sent home. 

I was happy to have my sweet baby back to normal.  Her medicine was controlling the seizures.  Two weeks passed and suddenly her medicine abruptly stopped working.  There was no warning signs that it was coming.  She just began seizing and this time she didn't stop. 

Setback
Between the hours of 6:45am and 7:30pm, at 4 ½ months old, my sweet Laycie had 9 Grand Mal seizures and multiple Petit Mal seizures.  I was terrified and I thought surely my baby would die.  I cannot recall a time when I prayed so hard in my life as I did that day.  Nothing the doctors did would stop the seizures.  When she seized, she would stop breathing.  I just knew the end was near.

Finally, that night the medication kicked in and the seizures became controlled.  Laycie was so lethargic that she slept for days afterward.  She was not herself for quite some time.

Laycie is 4 now.  She is amazingly smart.  Her seizures are controlled.  Her EEG shows spikes mostly at night.  This year she was diagnosed with an official type of Epilepsy – Rolandic Epilepsy with BECTS.  She is the first of our family to have an actual specific diagnoses.
Laycie now, with little brother Jackson
For us, Epilepsy is a part of life.  It is a part of who we are.  We have never experienced life without Epilepsy.  I tend to say we are blessed, simply because I know we could have a much worse disorder to deal with.  I can deal with this disorder easily most days because it's something I know well.  It's a part of me and of my girls.

I advocate for Epilepsy.  I spread the word for Epilepsy Awareness, to make life easier for my daughters and others like them.  I share what I know with other Mothers and have been blessed in my friendships because of my connection with Epilepsy. 

You can do the same.  You can start by learning more about Epilepsy.  You can share links about this disorder to help break the stigma that surrounds it.  You can simply talk about Epilepsy to others you know.  Spreading the word is simple, you just have to take the steps to do so.

To learn more about Epilepsy visit the Epilepsy Foundation online at www.epilepsyfoundation.org.  Remember that Spreading Epilepsy Awareness starts with you!

The four Lambert children
Visit Dana's Blog: www.luvnlambertlife.com 


Please say a prayer today for the Lambert family, and for all who fight with epilepsy.

Please also pray for Halie Brumley, a little girl from our church who is having epilepsy-related surgery today.

To Learn More about Epilepsy
What is Epilepsy 
Epilepsy Center at Cleveland Clinic

Have you read Aggie's story?
Weak and Loved: A Mother- Daughter Love story
Available on Amazon.com

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Law, Gospel, Cleaning Rage, series continued.

This is part 3 in the series. If you missed it, read part 1, and part 2.

--------------------------------------------

PhotobucketI slammed the basement door for effect.
“Children, meet me in the living room. We need to have a talk.” I spoke in a firm voice.
I met them there with eyes unsmiling, and papers in my hand.
“What’s wrong mommy?”
“I just went downstairs, children. Do you know what I found there?”
The younger ones shook their heads.
The older children sat silent, with guilty eyes.
“It was A MESS.” I said. “I could not beLIEVE what a mess it was downstairs.”
“We’re sorry, mom,” said one little girl in a small voice. She stood up, read to begin the huge job of cleaning up.
“Hold on a minute,” I said. “You are not dismissed. We need to talk about this.”


They sat, avoiding eye contact, half listening to my lecture. They have heard it before. They know that big messes can push mom over the edge, and then she starts talking about “ungratefulness” and “stewardship” “materialism” and “how much junk we have.”
But this time, I pulled out the list. Their eyes got wide.
I listed, item by item line by line, my case against them. I had printed out the list, and it took up eight pages (with large font of course.)  


I read, and read
and read,
and read.
Then finally, I stopped.


Silence.

“What do you think should be done about this, children?”
“You should throw all the stuff away,” said one, knowing my tendency for garbage bag grabbing.
“No! We should have to clean it up!” said another.
“But it’s SO much! We’ll never get it done!” said the youngest.
I nodded. “It is a huge job, and it is going to take you a very long time. Let’s do it this way. Each of you can take two pages of this list, and you are responsible for cleaning up those things.”
What could they say? They took their pages and slowly walked towards the basement stairs.
“But, I thought we were going to watch a movie tonight?” said one in a small voice.
“So did I,” I said sadly, “but it looks like you will be working instead.”
They moped down the hallway with their lists, and I followed.
Sad feet tromped down the stairs.

Then, the oldest stopped.
“Mommy?! It’s done already!” she said.
They all stopped on the stairs and looked in amazement on the clean basement.
Not a thing was out of place, and the clean smell of bleach filled the air.

“Did you clean up our mess for us mommy?” They couldn't believe it.
I smiled, but I squirmed, and I tried to move out of the spotlight, not wanting to build my children’s hopes on my own awesomeness, but His.
“Yes, children, I cleaned up your mess for you. Do you know why I did that?”


“Mom, it’s kind of like Jesus,” said the big one with the big heart, and I smiled because she understood.


“Exactly,” I said. “Did you know that Jesus cleans up MY messes too? Mom sometimes has a heart messy with sin, and it’s so messy I can’t fix it myself. But Jesus forgives me cleans me up, and then fills me with His love.”


I told them about my own bad attitude as I was cleaning, and I told them that I have a big long list of sins, too.

And then, again, we spoke of the cross and gospel.  And we recalled together the shocking grace of God that gives us His righteousness when we only deserve the consequences of our sin.

We hugged on the stairs, and they joyfully crumbled up the lists, the Law, the charges against them, and threw it all in the trash.



And we breathed grace and hugged grace and smiled grace and watched a movie under blankets of grace.

Because of Jesus.

It is good to be a child.





--------------------------------

Wait, did I just teach my children that they get to shirk all responsibilities, 
and let mommy take care of their messes forever,
all because of Jesus???

What do you think of this object lesson?

Read Part 4 (Where are the rules?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cleaning Rage, Garbage Bags, Law & Gospel Part 2

This is part 2 in the series. If you missed it, read part 1 here.
------------------

As I angry cleaned, I fought with the children in my head.
And I fought with myself.

Come on, Emily, what are you really so annoyed about?
How much junk we have and how they treat it!  They have NO idea how blessed we are, or how many other kids in this world would love to have even ¼ of what they have.

How much junk you have- your abundance? That’s what’s got you angry?
Well, not the abundance but the way they TREAT it. They don’t take care of anything, they break stuff, hide stuff, ruin stuff just for fun. For FUN!

Oh I see. They have not learned gratitude, or stewardship.
Right, and they have NO idea.

These lessons--Gratitude and stewardship-- are harder to learn, and harder to teach, when living in abundance. Kids who live in want learn these things more quickly. Your kids want for nothing.
Right, nothing all. And they don’t appreciate what they have.

So who will teach them? Whose job is this, Emily?
I pushed the broom around angrily.
I threw away another junky little toy just because I didn't want to walk across the basement and put it where it belongs.

As I cleaned and complained, the law laid down heavily on my back.

I can’t teach them.
I don’t know what we have either!
 I’m just as whiney as they are!
I whine about this, this having TOO MUCH, because it gets in my way!
I get mad when managing it takes time and effort, when it inconveniences me.
I get mad that they have not learned to be grateful, and then I get even more mad when I remember that I am the one whose job it is to teach them!

I want to throw it all away. Why? Because it inconveniences me. It is in my way. THEY are in my way.

I have better things to do than to teach them how to live in abundance.  If I could just simplify our stuff, I could simplify my life, and my job, and I could finally have time to breathe again. Time for ME.

And the mirror of the law again revealed my lack of love. My infraction list was long, longer than theirs, and yet...

There I stood in a basement, now clean. I stood surrounded by God’s provision, poured out on ungrateful hearts, theirs, mine. The toys, the hand-me-downs, the abundance of material blessings.  God didn't burn it all up to teach our ungrateful hearts a lesson. Instead, He gave, grace upon grace, stuff upon stuff.

And as for this mothers sin-list, He gave grace upon grace for that too. He gave me Jesus.  My sins again I hid in His wounds, the only place they can go and be swallowed up forever. And his bloody grace washed the anger, the sin, and the guilt off of me.

Under the relief of His grace I found air to breathe again, and I exhaled gratitude.

My God is gentle with sinners. He is kind, and He is good.


I must tell the children about this, I thought.

And so, the angry cleaning of this day, this time, did not end with a mere lecture, but with a passing on of grace.

Come back to hear how I shared both law and gospel with my children in the basement.

I’m curious to know if you think this strategy was a crazy one.

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Do you ever find yourself angry about the blessings in your life because they inconvenience you?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Cleaning Rage, Garbage Bags, Law, and Gospel (Part 1)

Upstairs was somewhat tidy. 
I’d been working to the point of sweat, and I was almost done. 
This was good, because I was tired.

I felt accomplished, but utterly exhausted.
Then, I went downstairs.


I saw what I saw, and instantly, my face turned ugly and green, and I became a gift-hating small-hearted Grinch.


But it was not just Christmas I suddenly hated. It was Easter and Valentine’s Day and Birthdays and ANY hallmark-created occasion for a person to give stuff to my children.
I grabbed a trash bag and considered cancelling all gift-giving holidays for the rest of my children’s lives.
I hated the gift bags and the small pieces and the disorder.

I slammed the Lincoln logs into the box, and I threw the Little People into another. I pitched the matchbox car with a missing wheel, and I seethed at too many toys, toys ruined and unappreciated and in my way.
At least once a year I become this person. I am driven to the edge by the clutter and the mess and the sheer amount of STUFF in this house. I seriously consider throwing EVERY thing away.

They can play with stick and rocks. I've had it.

I fight clutter constantly. I encourage my children to give. We donate our extra things often, and still, still our house bursts with mess and stuff.
 You've got to be KIDDING ME!” I yelled to nobody, as I discovered a pile of cotton fluff, ripped from the insides of the couch and used for baby bedding.
I cleaned.
No, I angry-cleaned.
And in my head I made a list.
I listed the infractions the misdeeds, the evidence of ungrateful selfishness, the inconveniences to their dear mother, the irresponsible thoughtless behavior.

So here’s the thing.
My list?
It’s not wrong.

This is a problem, and they are ungrateful, and they need a good lecture about this. They need to learn to work and appreciate and care for their things.

I often end days like this with a firm lecture and a huffy attitude and a few bags for goodwill in the van. Then I sleep it off, and the next day when they come home from school with another plastic spider, I just add it to our collection.

But this time, my angry cleaning did not end with a mommy-rant.
This time, it turned into a lesson on Law and Gospel, first for me, then for them.
Come back later this week to find out what in the world I am talking about.


-------

Do you ever run around your house with a trash bag and a crazed look in your eyes?
How do you fight clutter in your home?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Faith is not the most important thing.

Does your faith help you through hard times?
Are you eager to tell others about your faith?

Let me challenge you with this:
Faith is not the most important thing.

Faith can, in fact, be misplaced.
It can be nothing other than empty optimism,
or a neat mental trick.

How do we know?
We know by the object of the faith, or the content.

Take 60 seconds, and hear this:
 What is the content of faith?



Friday, November 9, 2012

Pain Redeemed


Get it here
Hear Natasha, as she wrestles with her pain:

Isn't this the story of life? I want to be joyful but I’m so full of sadness and I can’t escape it. I want to be whole but I feel so empty. I want to be strong but I wallow in weakness. I want to be beautiful, Oh, God, how I want to be beautiful, but I’m ugly with sin and aching pain.

So there you have it. The ugly, nasty me, angry at the perfect, loving you.
Pain Redeemed, p. 6

In her book, Natasha gives us a glimpse into the life of one struggling with infertility and depression.  She is achingly honest as she recounts her battles with her body and with God.

As she recounts her journey, she gives us a glimpse into her soul- into  longing, and need, and selfishness, and doubt, and depression.  And yet, it was right in those places of pain where God met her, again and again.

She offers no simple cure for the trials of this life, whatever they are. But she points to God who is faithful, to Christ who has overcome by His grace.

She clings to Him, even as the battle still rages.

And He is faithful.

Buy Pain Redeemed here.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Refuse to get up. Remain.

Hear this invitation from Jesus, to his dear children,
to you,
to me:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
John 15:9



To remain in him means to refuse to get up from his lap.  

When it seems like the situation calls for me to stand up and take charge, 
Jesus gives me permission to remain still, 
if only on the inside, 
to trust deeply and fully that he will be strong on my behalf. 

Even when it seems impossible. 
Even when it’s counter intuitive  
Even if it means I will look weak.  
(Grace for the Good Girl p. 147)


Today, you have permission to climb up in the Father’s lap, and to stay there.
Think about the most important things, the true things, the Solid things.
Rest in Him. 

Father welcomes all His children to His family through His Son,
Father giving His salvation, life forever has been won.
(LSB 605)

This is a post in the book-club series Grace for the Good Girl 
Read more

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Night

What are you doing tonight, as the votes roll in?

Just now, I was inspired by this post, and I've decided to make this a family event.

This evening is an important, historic event.
Why not spend it close to family, eating in the living room, and learning about our country?

If you need some inspiration, some ideas for keeping little hands busy this evening, start here:

Tracking electoral votes activity
Election Day Coloring Pages
DakotaPam's Election Day Tips

Why is daddy leaving? 2004

Election Day Prayer

Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage. 
Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life. 
Save us from violence, discord and confusion; from pride and and arrogance, and from every evil course of action. 
Make us who came from many nations with many different languages a united people. 
Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there might be justice and peace in our land. 

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful; and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail. 
We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(LSB p 313)





Earth, hear your Maker’s voice;
Your great Redeemer own;
Believe, obey, rejoice, 
And worship him alone.
Cast down your pride,
Your sin deplore, 
And bow before
The Crucified.


And when in power he comes,
Oh, may our native land
From all its rending tombs
Send forth a glorious band,
A countless throng,
With joy to sing
To heaven’s high king
Salvation’s song!


Hymn # 500 
Lutheran Worship
Before you Lord We Bow



Monday, November 5, 2012

Forget the beach- go to Michigan!

Mackinaw City, MI
My cheeks are red and wind-whipped, and my hair is wet and scraggly.


The children are huddled in a small, dark room, watching a movie under blankets, and it is quiet.

It is only 4pm.

We've been here for only two hours and we hope to stay here a week.  As daddy sleeps and the kids rest, I shake my head and laugh, wondering if the entire vacation is going to be as ridiculous as the first hour.

We went for a walk to explore our campground. October in Northern MI.  The grounds were quiet. The colors were gorgeous. The wind was cold.

I made the kids wear hats, mittens, and winter coats for our walk. They climbed a big rock and then we found a playground, and one by one they handed me their mittens and hats, not needing them as they had been warmed by play. Perhaps they didn't need to dress so warm.

We turned down one path, then another. “Kids, look at the wind, the way it whips the water back into the air,” daddy said. And we looked. And we smiled. And we leisurely walked along.


The wind whipped, faster now, and suddenly the Mackinaw bridge was nearly invisible.
 He and I realized it at the same moment. 
We need to move, now! 
Back to the cabin, back, back!  

Drops fell on us, just a few, then many, then what was that, rocks?
 HAIL! You can’t be serious, I thought.
I took Peter off my shoulders. He was screamin’ mad. I put up his big winter hood and put his back to the wind. The hail could not harm his puffy coat.  Still he screamed, angry screams giving fury back to nature.

RUN kids!
(Six kids, shocked, cold, horrified, determined or angry or panicking)

I said, RUN!
(more hail)
Run backwards!
Eldon curled into daddy and bounced along uncomplaining.
Marcus refused to put his hat down or walk backwards.  He walked, and he yelled, YELLED at the hail that smashed into his cheeks. 

The other big kids pressed on.

The whole thing was just... ridiculous.

But I couldn't help it. I took this picture.


Those faces after the rain run...  Those wind-burned, wet, accusing faces.

Our parents call this a vacation?

-------------------------
Have you had any ridiculous vacation moments with your children? 
Or with your own ridiculous parents?
------------------------
** Despite this rough start, we had a fantastic time in Northern MI. We stayed in a cabin at Camp Mackinaw. I recommend it. But, Northern Michigan is not for wimps, not in October.
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