Month: November 2015

Working Ourselves Out of a Job

I’ve read a lot of parenting books over the last two decades. Why? I had four kids to raise. That’s a lot of opportunity to screw up, and I didn’t want that to happen. In all honesty, I can’t recall a lot of the specific things I’ve read over the years, but there is one thing in particular I read once that has stuck with me. I think it was James Dobson who wrote,

“If you are doing anything for your kids that they can do for themselves (or should be doing for themselves) you are doing them a disservice.”

That hit me hard because I can be that kind of mother. I can be that kind of mother because I have that kind of mother. My mom did absolutely everything for me… And I loved it. When it comes to the people she loves the most, my mom has a servant’s heart. Her acts of service were how she loved on me, and it’s how I love on my people.

So when I read that quote, it struck me right between the eyes. My kids were still small then, but I was doing things for them that they could do for themselves. I tried to stop. It’s hard. I’m that mom. If I am completely honest, I still do things for my kids that they could do for themselves, and I continue to hear James’ words in my ear. I think it was easy for James to say those words because he’s a man. Men are wired differently.

I know we are trying hard to blur the gender lines in society today, but the truth is, men and women are created to be different, and that’s okay.

For instance:

My husband often tells me I coddle our kids too much, and my position is that he’s too hard on them. Wanna know something? We’re both right. But somewhere in the middle of all that is the right balance for our kids. He’s getting them ready for real life, and I’m the soft place they can fall when real life hits them too hard.

That little nugget I learned from Tim Keller’s parenting book called, Grace Based Parenting. Okay. Maybe I remember more than I thought.

I recently sat at a table and listened to some parents of young adults bemoan the fact that their kids were no where near ready to handle adult life on their own. Their kids had no goals, no idea how to handle their finances, and no plan for how to change any of that. It was a source of great concern for those parents.

In that moment, once again,  my husband was a champion to me.

Because of Matthew, our young adult kids are learning to pay bills, live on a budget, save money, give a tithe, use a credit card wisely, and finish college on time while holding down a job. Periodically, he has them write down their future goals… One year, three year, or five year goals.

He teaches them how to care for things they have, and how to handle repairs if something breaks. I can’t say they are always thrilled to learn these practical life lessons, but they are better off because of them.

If it was left up to me, they wouldn’t know any of those things. I’m more of the encouragement, relationships, faith, and character teacher… (In addition to teaching them how to wash clothes, cook a meal, and run a vacuum)

Our kids need all of it to succeed in this life. If any part is missing, they’ll have a rougher time of it. As parents, we can’t throw in the towel before we get them to the finish line. We have to hang in there, even when we are tired and even when they would just rather us not.

I’ll still finish up my kids’ laundry for them rather than making them do it sometimes, and to my husband’s point, I could certainly make them do more around the house.

But just this week, I was going to be delayed getting home one evening which meant I would miss being able to fix dinner. Worried, I said as much to my oldest son who said, “What? Am I six? I can handle dinner, Mom.”

That’s the trouble with raising capable children. You work yourself right out of a job.

“Your MRI is completely normal. Congrats”

I’ve been focusing a lot lately on the healing power of God. Like an old dog learning a new trick… I have faced some challenges here. I’ve been a believer for a long time. Some of you might think that I should have gotten this down by now. It’s okay. I agree.

But before we kick this old dog too hard, let’s think on this for a minute. I’m not the first to have these doubts about the abilities of our Lord. I’m really no different from the disciples who trailed closely behind Jesus. Those twelve guys saw with their own eyes what Jesus could do. They had witnessed the healings again and again. They saw how effortless it was for Jesus to restore sight to the blind or cause the lame to walk again. So they knew, and still they doubted.

After one really long day of serving alongside Jesus as he spoke to the masses, when he sent them on ahead in the boat while he went off alone to pray, it was then that their assurance in Christ’s abilities faltered. A storm came up while they were making their way across the water. It wasn’t an unusual occurrence, and the fishermen on that boat were not new to the situation. It was in the midst of the storm that Jesus decided to rejoin them.

No boat? No problem! Jesus chose to walk to them… on the water.

The disciples, paying attention to the wind and waves around them, saw this happening, but they didn’t immediately know that it was Jesus. It made more sense that what they were seeing was a ghost. Honestly? I don’t know, maybe they were used to seeing ghosts on the water. They were certainly used to seeing Jesus do the impossible. I can imagine that when they didn’t recognize him, Jesus thought, “Really guys? Don’t you know me? You of all people should know it’s me here. You have been eyewitnesses to what I am able to do.”

The very same could be said of me. I am like that father of the boy brought to Jesus (Mark, chapter nine) who had been possessed by a spirit since childhood.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
(In my imagination, I see Jesus lean in slightly with a small grin, and using air quotes when he said, “If you can?”)
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

As I said, that is completely me. Jesus, I do believe… help me to believe! Obviously that father trusted Jesus could heal his son, or he would not have brought the boy to him. Even though the disciples had failed in their attempt, this dad still knew Jesus could do it… and yet he still had lingering doubt.

I have stood where that boy’s father stood. Recently, one of my kids faced a challenging diagnosis. It was not one that I wanted for them. Tests had been inconclusive, but the doctor was sure, in the end, my son would face tough challenges. Honestly, sometimes being a nurse is a handicap. I knew what my child would face if the diagnosis proved true. I also knew that there is no cure and medical management is poor at best.

The only place I knew to turn was to Jesus. Like the disciples, I know Jesus. I have seen Jesus heal my husband in an ICU room. BAM. Done. I saw it. Not everyone gets to see that, but I did, and still I had doubt. I know. It’s crazy.

My problem was that I didn’t want to ask for this healing without completely believing that I could have it. See this: I was tying the outcome to my ability. How senseless is that? I hesitated asking for it because I wanted to fully believe. And then a gentle friend said, “I don’t think it works that way.”

It doesn’t work that way. So with tears in my eyes, the day before the final test, I asked my Father for the desire of my heart. I asked for the final, determining test to be normal. Completely normal. I asked that my son be spared this challenge.

The test was on a Friday, and on Sunday the email message from the doctor came. “Your MRI is completely normal. Congrats.”

BAM. Done.

To say that I was overcome would be an understatement. Tears of joy flowed all night. The struggle I had was real, but no more real than the ability of my Father to work his will in my son’s life.

I wish I had the answers for why sometimes God chooses to heal, and why he doesn’t at other times. I have certainly been on the flip side of that coin. But I know what I have seen, and this old dog is learning something new. I’m learning to rethink what I have always thought about who God is and of what He is capable, and the more I learn, the less He fits into my brain.

And I think that’s okay.

Red Cup Christians

I thought about entitling this post, “Much Ado About Nothing”. But that could be said about so much in our society today, couldn’t it? There is so much noise about pseudo-issues that it is so difficult for the real things to which we should be giving our attention to get any notice at all. When we stepped happily into the information age, it never occurred to me that we would not be able to distinguish the crucial information from the frivolous. With facts coming at us at warp speed, twenty-four hours a day, it does become a challenge.

As a follower of Christ I must ask for, and practice, discernment. Holy discernment is the only way I will be able to sift through all this clutter to find the things on which I need to focus my attention.

I don’t play tennis, but I’m going to use a tennis analogy anyway because I think it’s good enough that even a spectator like me can grasp the concept. You real players just be patient with me here. Imagine you are on the tennis court, and your goal is to practice hitting the ball back over the net… essentially the entire premise of the game, right?

So you set up one of those ball launching machines to send tennis balls your way so you can improve your returns. So imagine there are all these yellow balls coming at you, but you are only supposed to hit the butter yellow balls, not the lemon yellow balls. Sounds doable, right? But what if the balls were coming at you super fast? If you aren’t paying attention, and discerning the subtle differences in the balls, you might find yourself swinging at them all and failing at hitting any of them.

I think we are swinging at the wrong balls here. So Starbucks decides to have solid red cups this Christmas season and you’d think they had stepped up to Christians as a whole and slapped us in the face with a proverbial glove. Apparently, there are many believers out there who think that this last straw move by Starbucks will succeed in taking Christ right out of Christmas, and they are not going to stand for it.

My questions is why this issue and why now? Do we really think a plain red cup constitutes persecution of Christians in this country? I would imagine there are some Middle East Christians today who would like to sock us in the nose over that one. You know, the believers who are getting their heads lobbed off? The ones who would be aghast that this is what we want to protest?

thStarbucks has in no way ever made the claim that they are a Christian corporation. And with the actions by outspoken Red Cup Christians encouraging others to boycott them, they will likely continue in that vein. We are stomping our feet and once again asking non-believers to behave like believers. We aren’t happy enough that they at least recognize our holiday with a red cup? It also has to have a snowflake and a Merry Christmas wish on it, too? Have we forgotten that Christ will be in Christmas as long as He remains in us, cup or no cup?

We have some legitimate balls to hit these days, and the red cup issue is not one of them. If you want to stand up for something stand up for those Christian brothers and sisters in foreign lands who are suffering real persecution. Contact your government officials and put the pressure on for something to be done for them. Pour your energies into helping the poor, the homeless, or the victims of human trafficking. Make a stand for the unborn or for healthy families.

But for heaven’s sake, hush about the red cups.

It’s embarrassing.

Old Dog, New Trick

They say you can’t teach an old dog a new trick. The older I get, the harder it is to change learned behaviors, throw out old thought patterns, and grow into a better version of myself. Most of the time, I just want to say to the world, “Here she is… this is as good as it gets!” Sometimes, God has a problem with that position. I happen to think that at 48 years old, how much more work can He really do? And then He decides to show me.

DOGI grew up in a church tradition that didn’t really talk much about the healing power of God. We did recognize the all-powerful nature of God, but no one really talked specifically about it much. In fact, I think we were afraid to. I learned the stories in the Bible where Jesus healed people, even dead ones. Now that’s power. But when someone in our church fell ill, while we prayed for them to feel better and hoped really hard, I’m not sure there was a lot of prayer for real healing. It was as if that would have been just too much to ask of the Almighty God. We can’t really expect God to heal someone because we ask Him to, can we? Isn’t that going just a bit too far?

It can get a bit difficult to maneuver with shackles  like those on all the time. In this case, I’m talking about believing fully that God CAN heal, but holding back on believing that He WILL.

Fifteen years ago, my husband fell ill. We had just planted a new church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Matthew and I had three small kids with another one on the way, and quite unexpectedly, my otherwise healthy husband landed in the ICU with encephalopathy.

Doctors were telling me that “if” he recovered, it would be a long haul of therapy ahead. I was all alone. Any family we had was at least six hours away. I sat in the ICU and stared at my unconscious husband and wondered what in the world I was going to do. It was Thursday, and Sunday was coming.

I rubbed my stomach and thought of the baby growing inside. I thought of my other three kids who were with my neighbor and tried not to panic. With Matthew in the care of the nurses, I made a quick trip home to shower and check on my kids.

It was during that ride home that I wiggled out of my shackles and pleaded like never before with my heavenly Father. In all honesty, my first question was, “What in the heck are you doing?!” Followed closely by, “Don’t you remember you led us to plant this church? And what about our kids? They are telling me he might not recover from this!” And finally, “God you have to fix this. You HAVE to make him well.” I knew He could do it, and I was asking for it.

And about four hours later, He did.

After coming in and out of confused consciousness for about twelve hours, Matthew woke up, shockingly coherent, to the complete surprise and astonishment of his whole medical team. “This just doesn’t happen.” Said one.

Matthew stayed in the hospital for a couple of days just so they could make sure he was really okay. Aside from some headaches, he was.

I knew that God had heard my pleas and had healed my husband. Was God going to heal Matthew anyway, even if I hadn’t asked? I will never know the answer to that one. All I can say is that He did.

For lots of us, it’s just easier to say that God doesn’t do those sorts of things anymore. Many people, learned people, think wonders like healing were simply to get the attention of a new movement through Jesus; that God relied on sensationalism to jump start the church, and then He took all that away after the church had been established. I used to think along those lines, too. Honestly, it’s just easier to think that way. Safer. We prefer that God not be sensational. That’s just too weird for most of us. We like a predictable God; a God we can fit inside our brains. One that we understand. See how nicely those shackles fit? Most of the time, we don’t even feel them. th

I’d like to say this old dog learned her trick and left those chains behind, but it’s truly curious how easily we can slide back into them. I recently found myself in that place of need with God once again… only to find myself still bound by doubt and uncertainty. But that’s a story for another day. I will say this old dog is practicing a new trick and she’s getting better at it.

Maybe, like me, you can sometimes shackle yourself into believing less of God than He deserves. Or maybe you have shed your chains for good, and are witness to God’s amazing power on a regular basis. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled here…and each journey is unique, but the traveling is easier when we journey together. I’d love for you to share your stories of healing, and I imagine there are others who would like (and maybe need) to read them! Can we loosen some chains around here?