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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Steal

It must run in the family. Not just mine, the entire human race. Who hasn’t taken an extra 5 minutes for lunch? Taken a pencil/pen/stamp? Eaten a grape while in the produce aisle? Taken a pack of gum/a candy bar? Walked out of a store with too much change? 

Maybe you have done none of these things but it is a rare person who hasn’t stolen something from somebody. Think about it for a while I’m sure you’ll come up with something. But let me focus on my little corner of the world.


When I was a young woman I remember my father telling me about the candy bar he had taken from the country store at the end of his road. He had had money, just not enough, and he really wanted that candy bar. So he took it. He enjoyed his loot and didn’t give it a second thought. He knew it was wrong, and guilt plagued him a little. But as the years rolled by he never thought about that day. That is until he was born again. It took a while but that youthful misdeed came back to haunt him. One day he went back to that little country store and confessed his sin and tried to make restitution. You see the store owner was shocked, not that he had stolen something so many decades ago, but that he was confessing it now and seeking to make it right. The store owner all but refused to take the money my father was offering.

Fast forward several more decades to when my eldest son was five. My mother and I were at Wal-Mart shopping with my son. Everything went beautifully. Despite the late hour my son was very well behaved; we found what we needed and went home. Only after taking off our coats and unpacking the bags did I notice my son was chewing gum. When I asked him where he got the gum he told me it was laying on a shelf at the store so he picked it up. Shock and horror!! I had a thief on my hands. I explained to him that what he had done was considered stealing since he did not pay for it. I also told him he would have to go back to the store, confess his sin and pay for his booty. While my Mom got him ready to go back to the store, I called the manager, explained what had happened, told her we were coming back in, and asked her to read him the riot act. Half an hour later my son was standing at one of the checkout registers confessing his misdeed while hiding behind my proverbial skirt. The manager dutifully scolded my son and explained that she could have him arrested and thrown in jail. At this point my son grabbed my leg even tighter and began to cry. I wanted to end the whole show right then and there. My heart broke from his suffering. But I knew that if I rescued him the teaching moment would be lost for all time, so I let her continue. After explaining to him what stealing costs a company she made him promise to never steal another thing again. He promised, we paid and then went home. My son is 21 years old now and still remembers that night. And to the best of my knowledge has never stolen anything again.

Fast forward another decade and a half and my second son is four. My Mom and I are shopping for children’s clothes at the local outlets. Another successful shopping trip with children in tow. We settle in to have lunch at the Food Court. I reach into the diaper bag to get my daughter’s jarred lunch and discover a pair of purple sandals with flowers on the toe strap. I pull them out and ask my Mom where they came from. She of course did not know. My son did though! He saw them and wanted to get them for his cousin (the much beloved one). Here we go again. Another talk about stealing. Another trip back to the store. Another confession to the manager. Another lecture and more money out of my pocket. There were no tears this time but there was palpable fear. This time I was a little more callused. I felt bad for him but I knew the lesson which had to be learned. And I had already lived through it once; I knew he would remember this moment.

Which brings us to this Fall. We were visiting friends and having a lovely time. My three children played relatively peacefully with their six children all night. When it was time to go we made the clean-up announcement and proceeded to say our good-byes. We made sure we had what we came with and nothing else. At least we thought so. Unbeknownst to us my daughter slipped a Trio doll into her pocket and was taking it home to play with. We didn’t get out of the driveway before her brother ratted her out. Here we go again! We repeated the lecture, the return, and the confession. There was hiding behind Mommy, crying and much fear. But I stood my ground.

Some lessons I learned along the way?

Children want what they want. We are all creatures of the flesh, especially our children. Without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit we are selfish, greedy, sinful beings. And without Mom and Dad to discipline and disciple our children will fall deeper and deeper into the Adversary’s  trap.

It is not easy being a parent. And sometimes it is down-right painful watching our children suffering the consequences of their sin. Even more so when you know you are the vehicle by which that suffering is delivered.

Some sins are generational.

As I look back on these events, the Mommy in me thinks that perhaps I might have been too harsh. Surely there was a less drastic way to teach this lesson without bringing my children to tears.

The callused, judgmental side of me thinks I wasn’t harsh enough.

But the parent in me says that if I want to save my children from the snares of Satan then I need to do whatever it takes.
 
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just Because You’re Working Doesn’t Mean You’re Doing Your Job



December 16, 2012

This is the sad truth I had to lay on my son this week. We have been studying Scripture passages that deal with taking the initiative. Monday we defined what initiative meant, read Ecclesiastes 10:18 that says, “Through sloth the roof sinks in, and through indolence the house leaks”, and discussed what that verse meant to him.

On Tuesday, he made a list of everything he could do without help that now hangs on his wall as a self-reminder.

On Wednesday, he made a list of everything Mommy did in one day without being told to do it. He then made a list of everything he did that day without being told. The list as you might suspect was a bit lopsided.

On Thursday we read passages that talked about laziness and what happens to the sluggard. We then discussed how those passages related to our buzz word for the week. We then wrapped up our study with some life application. Because what good is a study of God’s word if you cannot apply it to your own life?

I asked him, “Do you think you took the initiative this week?” His answer was “Yes!”

“Okay. When?”

“When I fed the rabbit.” Okay, I had to give him that one. It was, and is, the one thing he does without being told.

“What about the rest of the thing on your list?” I had him now. I knew it. But more importantly, he knew it. Now for the life application.

“Let’s take Daddy for example,” I said. “His job is to process milk. Let’s say he has to process 400 gallons of milk today but he only processes 100. Was he working?”

“Yes.”

“Did he do his job?”

“No.”

“Okay. Your job is to do the things on your list but, you only do one of them. You’re working, but you’re not doing your job.” Sounds of tiny little gears turning in his head could almost be heard.

Something must have clicked for him because that afternoon he made a list for his sisters of things they could do without being told. Maybe I’m getting somewhere after all?!?

“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” –Proverbs 6:6-8

INI'TIATE, v.i. To do the first act; to perform the first rite.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

YUK! I Don't Like That



October 26, 2012

If you’re a parent you’ve heard this before. If you’re a human being I’d venture to say you have said this before. It is even understandable in some instances. Liver – ‘nough said! But is it right? God created us each to be a unique being fashioned in His image. We each have likes and dislikes that are our own. Some people like liver. Personally, I am a texture girl. I therefore do not like raw tomatoes, melons of any kind, guacamole, liver, etc.; but, I love berries, peaches, and a good beef steak.

My children are certainly not exempt from food preferences. Some children are. I have a good friend whose children will eat anything you put in front of them. At least it seems that way. Though, if I ask her maybe she could give me a list of things they won’t eat. It seems every night when we sit down to dinner on of my children is wrinkling up their nose and saying yuk. And seeing my family turn their nose up at a meal that I just spent an hour preparing is very upsetting; and, I have to confess angers me. Not to mention now I have to clean up after the ungrateful little ones.

So what is a Mom to do?

I could do what my sister-in-law does and become a short order cook; making only what I know each child will eat.

Um … NO. I simply do not enjoy cooking that much.

I could demand that they try a bite of everything on the plate and then go and get them something else to eat; hoping that if they try what I made enough times they will learn to like it.

Wait, that sounds a little too much like option one. Soooo NO.

I could demand that they try a bite of everything on the plate with the promise that they could have a snack before bed to quiet their hungry stomachs.

To be honest, I’ve tried this one. I just ended up with children who took one bite of dinner and then asked to be excused no matter what I made.

I could quietly pull their plate away and excuse them from the table. When they ask for a snack later because they are starving, I could put the dinner plate back down.

I’ve done this too but couldn’t manage to bring myself to serve that plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days on end.

So I still ask myself “What’s a Mom to do?” The answer for us was in what we are trying to teach our children.

We want our children to have a grateful spirit in all matters. So we are careful to thank God for everything. From protecting us when I had a van full of children and was involved in a three car accident to having all green lights when we’re running late for Tae Kwon Do. We want our children to understand we serve a living God who cares for and is involved in His children’s lives.

We want our children to be humble. They are not the center of the universe. Not everything has to be about them. This is a hard one for small children who haven’t developed the ability to think beyond their own needs. It is a concept that must be nurtured. To excuse selfish, ego-centric tendencies in a child can only result in an insufferable adult. So we discuss the act of dying to self and being in service to someone else. We show them how to prefer others over themselves by being in service to others, both as husband and wife and as a friend.

And we want our children to be prepared to answer God’s calling (and He will call). Whether it is to lead a Bible study at the local church or travel to the far reaches of the world He will call. So we look for opportunities to serve.

So how does this relate to what’s for dinner?

1. We teach our children that without God’s care and provision we would be without food. To turn your nose up at something God has given you in a sin.

2. We teach our children that everyone has different tastes. Everyone in this family likes watermelon except Mommy. Sometimes Mommy will serve watermelon because I know my family loves it. Sometimes they have to eat stuffed peppers because Mommy likes that.

3. We teach our children that one day God may call them to be a missionary in a village where eating raw monkey brains in a delicacy. And to have any chance of them listening to what you have to say about the Gospel you certainly do not want to insult them by wrinkling up your nose and saying yuk when they honor you with their delicacy.

My husband often tells the children about the chicken soup he was served while on a missions trip to Africa several years ago that still had the head (eyes included) and the feet floating in the pot.

We are starting to see changes in our dinner ritual. Now I just have to figure out how to deal with “Have I eaten enough yet?”

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. - 1 Corinthians 10:31-33

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lessons in Awesomeness

November 11, 2012

This Fall has been a season of change for our family. Daddy has changed jobs. Mommy has faced some health issues that I am still grappling with. And lastly, we have moved three households in two months. It is the last of these life events that has caused the most flustration (is that even a word?) in our household. Somethings have had to get put on the back burner for awhile. Somethings went by the wayside altogether. Though posting our adventures in discipling was put on the back burner, discipling itself did not go by the wayside. 

I wanted to be the one who had it all together. Moving three households while battling the loss of mobility, schooling, taking care of my family, and just generally keeping life normal was the goal. The lesson I learned? I am not the Proverbs 31 woman! I figured out early on that there was no way I was going to be able to school and shuffle between two houses cleaning, packing, moving, unpacking and then finding a new place for all our old stuff. So I called a break one month into our new year. Shuffling back and forth between two houses also meant this super mom was not making homemade meals any more. Chinese take-out, pizza, and Burger King became my personal chefs. We often wore the same set of clothes for a whole week. Which taught me that you do not have to face a mountain of laundry every week just because you have children. You simply do not have to wear a new outfit every day.

It was a trying time. Keeping tabs on three children while cleaning and packing at the old house was one thing. But doing it at the new house was something different. My husband sent me home in tears one evening lamenting to God the whole way that it just shouldn't be this hard. And you know what? It wasn't. I learned that I was simply asking too much of myself and my family. I needed to let go and let God as the saying goes. And hey, there aren't very many problems in this life a good cry can't make better - even if only a little.

The season is over now. My husband has settled into his new position. I am learning to cope with my limitations. And all three households are moved and settling in nicely. Looking back over the last month and a half I have learned another lesson. My children are awesome! Were they perfect? No! Did they roll up their sleeves and jump right in? They wanted to and whenever possible we let them. Did fighting break out more than it should have? You betcha! But that is a normal day in this family. So given how trying the past couple of months have been, for each and every day to be a normal day for my children scores them a 'High Five On You' from Mommy and Daddy.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven - Ecclesiastes 3:1
ENDU'RANCE, n. [See Endure.] Continuance; a state of lasting or duration; lastingness.
1. A bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without sinking or yielding to the pressure; sufferance; patience.

Their fortitude was most admirable in their presence and endurance of all evils, of pain, and of death.
2. Delay; a waiting for. [Not used.]

Sunday, September 30, 2012

See No Evil....



September 30, 2012

So a funny thing happened on the way to Sunday school (okay, it was actually in Sunday school) today. Our normal teacher has been away these past several months raising money for a Christian school our church is affiliated with and the substitute has been leading us through the book of James. For the past several weeks we have been studying Chapter 3; the part about the tongue being a little member but full evil and able to kindle a great fire. Today we discussed correlating verses from the teachings of Jesus that state that whatever goes into a man does not defile him (speaking of food) but what comes out does (speaking of the state of a man’s heart) and he asked the question “How do we keep our tongue?” The answer was “Have a change of heart.”

This led to a conversation about being careful what we see and what we hear so that we can be take care of what we say and he related a story wherein his child used the argument “But I hear worse in school.” I unashamedly put in a plug for homeschooling stating that we do not have to subject our children to those worldly influence but have the freedom to teach them truth and discernment from God’s point of view. Sadly, I regret my comment was acknowledged but swiftly dismissed.

Today did reaffirm why we homeschool/disciple. And though I know we cannot protect our children from the world forever, neither do we have to throw them to the wolves and hope they don’t get devoured.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8

PU'RITY, n. [L. puritas, form purus.]
     1. Freedom from foreign admixture or heterogeneous matter; as the purity of water, of wine, of spirit; the purity of drugs; the purity of metals.
     2. Cleanness; freedom from foulness or dirt; as the purity of a garment.
     3. Freedom from guilt or the defilement of sin; innocence; as purity of heart or life.
   4. Chastity; freedom from contamination by illicit sexual connection.
     5. Freedom from any sinister or improper views; as the purity of motives or designs.
    6. Freedom from foreign idioms, from barbarous or improper words or phrases; as purity of style or language.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baby Steps



September 24, 2012

I think I just realized what my problem is. I have been expecting too much from myself, my kids and my God. I had the silly notion that I would just have lots of Bible time with my children, do some character training and everything would just fall into place. Surely God would reward my efforts with instant gratification.

Then today we were studying the fear of the Lord in our Keys for Kids devotional. And I was explaining that we are not to be afraid of God but respect Him for the power that He alone has and that that respect should manifest itself in obedience. So I asked them “If you say you love God and do not obey Him or show Him respect, do you truly love Him?” The answer was easy for them, “No.” Next question, “If I say I love Daddy and then show him no respect and don’t listen to anything he tells me, do I love him?” Again the answer was easy for them. Next question, “If you say you love me and then show me no respect and don’t listen to anything I say, do you love me?” You could almost hear the sound of little motors turning and tiny little light bulbs flickering on as the dots were being connected. After a brief pause the answer… “No.” We ended the moment with James’ reminder that he could show his faith through his works; and, that you can say ‘I believe’ or ‘I love you’ but if you don’t have the actions to back it up your words are meaningless.

We breezed through our morning routine without incident (or at least none worth remembering). Getting the whole house cleaned so we can enjoy the rest of our week.

For our character training studies I read Deuteronomy 6 with my son (we’re still working on the qualities of a good leader). We all know the passage, we like to quote it as a homeschool mantra. I’ve even used it a couple of times myself. But as I was relating the events of our day to my husband I said something along the lines of “Every once in a while I see a glimmer of growth in him.”
That is when it hit me. This is going to take time. It has to be all day, every day. And I have to live it. God isn’t using all this Bible time to change just my children; He’s using it to change me too. Not all at once lest we break under the pressure; but in baby steps.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Love is a Battlefield



September 12, 2012

I’ve been hiding out. Mostly from myself since I can’t seem to hide from anyone else. Tonight as I sat in a quiet house catching up on my blog reading and just generally musing about the month that has just passed me by, the chorus of Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield are running through my head (I can’t remember the rest of the lyrics). Why? Because my life feels like a battle ground and I’m on the losing side. The stress was so great the other night I sat on the stairs and cried as my husband and children slept.

Our morning devotion time has been taking place like clockwork. We read our Bible passage and the shot devotional that goes along with it. We talk about how it applies to our own lives and we pray. With school starting at the beginning of the month we dove right in to our Plants Grown Up studies. And have been learning about what God requires for a man to be a good leader. And I have ear marked an hour each afternoon for personal Bible study (a new venture for me).

With all this “God time” you would think things would be flowing smoothly. Ha! Wait that wasn’t emphatic enough… HA!! HA!!

My son has become angry and bitter. He lashes out at any one and everyone around him spewing accusations of wrongdoing to justify his own wrongdoing. He has become physically and verbally aggressive toward his sisters. And has simply become unpleasant to be around. My husband and I used to feel that we had a budding young Revivalist in our midst, but I fear that if he continues on this path we will lose his soul. I pray almost nightly for God to get a hold on him. And prayer is all I have left. I have tried everything else I could think of to get through and it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

My eldest daughter has developed a habit of laziness and willful deafness, preferring to spend her time laying about with her blanket in one hand and her thumb in her mouth. If it is not something she wants to do it simply does not get done. When correction and/or discipline results she gets a scowl on her face and says the meanest thing she can think of at the time.

And my youngest has entered the “terrible twos” phase. A stubborn streak a mile wide has shown up to go with the “I don’t want to” and “You’re mean” phrases. At least she is still willing to help out wherever she can and she likes to tell you “You’re my best friend – I love you”.

None of them will stay in bed, preferring to fight Mom, Dad and sleep until, from sheer exhaustion, they finally nod off minutes before we do.

They have developed the nasty habit of turning their nose up at the food placed before them at meal time. Which creates another battle ground.

Chores have been neglected. And my reminders that they need to get done are met with “Yeah, yeah, yeah” or a mumbled “You just like to give orders”.

And my rebukes of their behavior are met with steely glares and a face meant to communicate utter disdain.

My life has become a battle. All day, every day, and I am tired.
I try to console myself with thoughts that this is just a phase and it too shall pass. But I wondered? Is my family under attack?

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.Ephesians 6:12

WARFARE, n. [war and fare.]
1. Military service; military life; war.
    The Philistines gathered their armies for warfare. 1 Samuel 28.
2. Contest; struggle with spiritual enemies.
    The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. 2 Corinthians 10.
WARFARE, v.i. To lead a military life; to carry on continual wars.
    In that credulous warfaring age.