A Life Saved

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

As a child I swam every day in summer from morning until afternoon. One summer I had the opportunity to learn water safety.  I had to learn to save and be saved in the water and get the basics on CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation.  One of my favorite sessions was on using the life saving device.  The instructor would throw it to us and we would grab on and be hauled into safety.  As kids we begged him to “save” us so we could ride the life buoy in.  I am very thankful there was never a need for a water rescue in my life, but there came a point when I needed a different kind of saving and it was truly life or death.

As a child my parents took me to church every Sunday.  I participated in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, worked in the nursery and then attended youth group, as “good” Christian teens do.  All appeared to be just right on the outside but there was a battle raging in my heart and mind.  I liked the things of the world a bit too much and that went against what I was taught to believe.  In high school I started hanging with the wrong crowd and was being pulled away from what was right and good.  In my Jr. year I knew that I was going to end up in a very bad place if I didn’t make a change, that’s when the first rescue device was sent hurling toward me.

By God’s grace, I was able to leave the environment I was in and attend a different school, miles away from the things pulling me down.  It was hard for sure, but it was good and I was starting to feel like I would make it.  After graduating I went to a small, Christian college and knew I would be safe from the pull of the world by sheltering myself in the mountains.  I was wrong by thinking that a new location would “save” me and by my sophomore year had plunged into the depths again.  It was a relationship this time.  A man I fell for lied to me over and over again…yet I was determined to believe he was for real and would be the answer to my heart’s longing.  When I left school that year I had a gaping wound in my soul and was at the end of a dark road with nowhere to go.  That was when the second life-saving device came hurling at me and this time I grabbed it and held on for dear life.

It was at this time I realized that I could not stay in the water and be rescued from it as well.  I either had to hold on to the help being offered or be willing to drown in the deep.  This morning I was led to read John 3:16 and while reading it over and over, I had a vivid image of God sending me His life buoy, His one and only son, Jesus.  He threw His only son into the raging waters for my sake even though He knew it would result in the son’s death.   Jesus willingly died a violent death to give you and me freedom from the weight of the world and from its rituals and legalistic ways.  He was then raised from death after three days to give us eternal life.  I chose to hold on to God’s life buoy at that painful time in my life and I still hold on to this day.  When I think of the people I know who refuse to be rescued, who think they can go it alone and who are drowning in the torrid waters of life, my heart aches and hurts for them.  Being on this side of the Rescuer is not easy.  Life and all its ugliness still happens, but it’s sure and steady and there is hope that when life here is over that there will be everlasting freedom and joy.  When God offers to save you from the raging seas, the sadness of your life, the hurts inflicted on you, won’t you take hold of His son’s hand and choose freedom and life?  This is a free gift that God has sent our way.  We can’t earn it and we definitely don’t deserve it, but it’s there for us to take hold of and my prayer is that you will.

Grief’s Collateral Damage

Grief is a necessary part of human life.  Grief comes to us as we mourn the loss of a loved one to death, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a lifestyle, the loss of a prized possession or the loss of a job.  How we handle grief is what matters.  Do we take our pain and loss and become bitter or better about it?

This has been a year of deep grief for me and my family.  At first it was the loss of a job I dearly loved.  A month later I left my middle son at an airport hotel as he departed for a nine month journey around the world.  I had been with him nearly every day for nineteen plus years and the pain of not having him in my life for so long was deep.  A few weeks later my husband’s project came to a close and there was no work for him in the department.  He was unemployed.  We lost two incomes and we said good-bye to a child…how could we handle more?

November and December came and went and no one responded to the many applications my husband sent out around the IT world.  The new year brought few interviews, lots of calls and false promises, but no job.  The one offer he received was rescinded the day he was to fly out of town for training.  This was devastating and heartbreaking.  Every day for nearly a year, I have watched my husband suffer with great courage and an amazing attitude.

As he suffered the want of a job, I suffered the loss of mine.  My leaving was right but hard.  I went through the stages of grief and a year later still lament the loss.  It is hard as I continue to fight sadness with anger and depression.  What is worse is that in this journey I have also hurt those I love, which tears my heart to pieces.  In my anger and sadness I have incurred collateral damage and hurt my children.  Two have suffered silently (until now) and one has suffered vocally and has offered hurt back to me.  This was not my desire at all.  Being hurt was enough, knowing that I hurt others puts me over the edge.

I share this with you, the reader, because I have a choice to make.  I have repented to my God and children and now have to move forward.  I can choose to move forward with bitterness or I can make a choice to make our lives better.  Bitterness beckons like a siren, but I don’t want to listen to her luring song.  Better stands firm with a gentle hand outstretched to take hold of mine.  She doesn’t push but waits for me to decide.  She understands my desire to take hold of her hand and the desire to hold on to the pain that has become my constant companion.

I am going to choose Better.  I know this will not be easy as I am reminded often of what I lost.  I will trust God to help heal my wounds and the wounds of those I have hurt.  I move forward in confidence of my God’s forgiveness and His healing in this situation and in all of life.

Choices

Oh that I could go back and do it again.  I would make the choice to yell less, hug more and pray even more.  There would be fewer expectations, more training and much more grace in my parenting.  Going back is not an option but as a seasoned mother, I can move forward teaching and training those who are in the season of parenting young children.

Children are an immense blessing from the Lord, but sadly they are born with a will of their own and a bent towards that which is not good. In Psalm 51 the Psalmist says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”  Isn’t it lovely that God desired our faithfulness before we took our first breath?  Only He knew we would fail in our efforts to be faithful.  Nineteenth century Bishop J.C. Ryle, in his book The Duties of Parents, tells us to “Remember children are born with a decided bias towards evil, and therefore if you let them choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong.”  It is their nature to choose what is wrong, but sometimes it is our nature to give them too many choices and opportunities to do this.

Do you give your children too many choices?  My daughter’s pediatrician  called me out when I asked my then two-year old if she wanted to sit on the table to let him examine her.  He asked me why I would give her the choice.  If she needs to do something, don’t ask…tell her what you want her to do.  From this gentle man I learned that there are certain times when we are to tell them what we expect, not give them a choice. For the important things they need to be directed and taught, not left to their own devices to choose, because on their own they don’t know what is good for them.

Being a parent is hard and a huge responsibility not to be taken lightly.  Some would like to be permissive in this endeavor and allow their children to find themselves and discover their own limits.  If we don’t teach them what limits and boundaries are they will not find good ones as they are prone to choose that which isn’t good.  They will also choose to help themselves over helping others.  Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Parents, this is our job, our duty.  We are to be the ones to train, teach and disciple our children when they are young and then release them to the Master Trainer, God, as they grow into adulthood.

Overweight

It’s time!  I woke up this morning and another pair of my favorite pants didn’t fit.  I am using a hair band to fasten my clothes and  have to wear these ghastly “shapers” to hold in the fluff…this is not where I want to be.  I knew my girth size was creeping up these last months but didn’t challenge it’s existence…until today.

As I contemplated what I am going to do to alter my food intake and begin an exercise regimen, it occurred to me that I am only one of millions in our country who feels that added weight is a burden.  When I look around I don’t only see people carrying added physical weight on their bodies but I also see the extra weight of financial debt, the weight of too many responsibilities that inhibit them from enjoying their lives and the weight of too many activities that limit their time with family.  Okay, this was supposed to be a conscious decision to lose physical weight but now I am challenged by the weight of everything in life…why are we carrying so much extra?  How can we trim our excesses and get to a point where we are at peace in every area of our lives?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT), “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?  You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” This tells me to get rid of all idol worship in this body/temple.  I have never considered eating good food to be idol worship but I guess if I find more pleasure in it than in God I am putting food where He should be.  In Proverbs 22:7 Solomon says, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.”  I know too well that financial debt is a huge burden to me and many I know.  It is like a noose around our necks and we must try to pay our debts and owe no one.  As for activities, Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”   He knew we would be inclined to do more than we need to and take on more responsibilities than He requires of us.  I love that Jesus cares enough about us now that He said these words way back when.  We can learn from Him…learn how to let our souls rest in Him.

This exploration has gone much deeper than I intended.  Now am I not only considering what I need to do to lose weight physically, but how to trim the excess in other areas of my life.  There is a constant need to reassess our lives to see where we carry “extra”.  It’s not a one time fix but a lifelong pursuit to shed the excess so we can embrace all that Christ has for us in this life.

 

Finally, there is an answer for all of us moms and dads who have been waiting for someone to give them a formula to successfully parent a child.  The answer is: TRY, FAIL AND TRY AGAIN!!  That’s it folks.  After twenty three years on the job I have come to conclude that parenting is not about methods but is a process, it’s not easy and there is not a single thing that works for all children all the time.   This process will never be complete this side of heaven.

Whether it’s when and what to feed your baby, who the best pediatrician is, what would be the best school for your child, how to discipline your child, etc., the best way is to try, fail (or succeed) and keep trying.  We mustn’t think we are failures if something doesn’t work for us that worked for our friends, family or the professionals in our parenting books.  Every parent and child is different and the way to know whether you are doing what you should/shouldn’t do is to really know each child by heart and ask God how to go about parenting them.  Cease striving to be the best, the “parent among parents”. Cease striving to have the best child among children.  Parenting is not a competition and you will only feel defeated, discouraged and depressed if you are making it one.  Only God should have first place in our lives.

Isaiah 48: 17-18 says, “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.’”  God will give you instruction in parenting if you will listen and pay attention.  The issue most of have is that we are not willing to be still (Psalm 46:10), we are not willing to give up what we want for our children and we seem hesitant to let God show us what He wants for them. We tend to want to do what our parenting books and culture says we should do and not what He directs us to do in His word. His promise for obedience to His commands is Peace!  Oh how we need that in parenting!!

Please do not only look to your peer parents for answers.  Their answers may be right for their child, but not necessarily for yours.  Pray, try, accept failure in effort, rejoice in success and then do it again.  Do this every day for the rest of your life.  God did not give our children to us because He thought someone else would have the answers in raising them.  He gave us our unique children because He knew best that He could use us in their lives to grow them towards Him, and He will use them to grow us spiritually.  Cease striving to parent the way the world directs, daily ask God for direction and remember that “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Here is an equation to ponder in parenting your child and one you will want to remember.
R + R – R = R + R
Rules + Regulations – Relationship = Resentment + Rebellion
(June Hunt)