Michelle Buck

A little peek at things I love

Walking Humbly

prayer

Humility is hard. I’m finding moments in my day where I spend way too much time talking to myself than to God. The things I say to myself aren’t very good either. Maybe this is what the Bible means when it says “Take every thought captive”. And when you “preach to yourself” a gospel that isn’t true (believe lies, trust in yourself instead of God, glorify sin, ect…) you are no longer a servant of Christ, but a man pleaser (see Galatians 1:6-10).

Our thinking is damaged. It’s influenced by our upbringing, what we have been taught, what we have accepted as truth, and what we treasure. It’s shaped by trials and circumstances and what we have decided to take from those things, good or bad. There are some who think all feelings are bad. There are some who think all feelings are right. Lately, when I have a feelings, I have to stop and think about what it is telling me. Our feelings are gauges into our hearts–what drives us, what we love the most.

I got an email today and almost instantly it made me sad. The email was about Karate and competitions and since I have a child with special needs, I often can’t get past the simple. “Compete? Yeah right.” is my usual reaction to things like that. I just can’t grasp the impossible. Along with that comes a whole bunch of sadness for how I want things to be. It is so easy to get discouraged when your kid struggles to simply do life. I was driving in the car and I quickly realized that I was sad about it, that the root of it was wanting to have comfort and a “normal life” with “normal kids”. I decided to pray and just pour out my sadness to God. No one else understands the trials I face with my children, the hopes and dreams that I feel have been squashed, and the constant comparisons I construct in my own mind. It’s a daily reminder that my plans are not God’s plans. What I want for my kids won’t look like what God wants. I’m not God, so this makes sense, but it’s hard when you see other kids her age doing things that she can’t do.

I never used to understand prayer. It seemed selfish to me. It seemed like God had his own agenda and what was the point of prayer? Lately, I realize that prayer changes my heart. It changes me. I’m not going to change God, mold him into what I want him to be, or move his hand. But when I do pour out my heart to God, I am saying “God, you rule my heart. These other things don’t. Let your will mold me in this situation.” So when I have prayed, I have seen God work. Before, I would just do my own thing and my eyes would be closed to what God was doing. Now they are opened and I see Him in every situation where I’ve humbled myself before Him and let Him rule my heart and mind. Today when I prayed, I found myself being flooded with the reminders of God’s goodness. “Yes, this is hard, but God you never leave me.” or “God my heart is sad, but I am so thankful your promises are true.” God has an outcome I just can’t see–and maybe I won’t this side of things. But until then, He brings peace to my life through His word that He’s given me.

And when feelings come, as they often do, I have to stop myself and ask God for clarity. How easy it is to lose sight of what God is doing. And I am learning to put my own agenda aside and pray for God’s to be clear. That takes putting away pride (thinking I can handle it) and bowing in reverence to the One who knows all things and can do all things. And as hard as humility is, not submitting is harder. Pride is spiritual suicide, but humility brings life–even in the midst of the hard things of this life. God never promised this life would be easy, but He did promise we’d never have to walk alone.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I Have My Pride

Last night I read a Desiring God article about Greed entitled “All I Have Is Christ“. I started reading it and became intrigued. I liked how it was written and I learned something about myself. But at the end of the article was a blurb about a new book called “KillJoys: The Seven Deadly Sins“.  My joy has been squashed lately, so I thought I’d read a chapter and lucky me! It was available as a free download!

I ended up not reading the first 20 or so pages, but landed on the chapter on Pride by Jason Meyer. The chapter was so convicting to me. I never thought of myself as extremely prideful. In fact, I tend to think I am humble because I don’t elevate my worth in any way. I tend to degrade myself most days. So I was shocked to find out that even that is pride!

So, in a nutshell, this chapter talked about how there are really two ways in which pride tends to rear it’s head. It shows up in the building up of self and in the tearing down of self. I will talk about that in a minute, but first, I think defining pride is a good thing. So what is pride? Here are some notes I jotted down from the book:

  • Pride elevates the sinner above God (where other sins tend to lead the sinner away from God)
  • Pride is self-fixation
  • Pride is spiritual suicide
  • God opposes the proud
  • To kill pride, we must learn humility

What is Humility?

  • God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5)
  • Humility pitches its tent “under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:5)
  • We can be humble, when we “cast all our cares on Him” (1 Peter 5:6
  • Humility puts our eyes on Christ – “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” 2 Chronicles 20:12
  • Humility is not obsessed with putting ourselves down
  • Humility is a form of self-forgetfulness

Back to the issue of pride: Here is the breakdown of Building Up and Tearing Down that I mentioned earlier.

Building Up: Self-Exaltation, Self-Promotion, Self-Justification

Building up of self happens when we succeed

  • Self-exaltation is taking credit for the good in our lives
  • Self-Promotion is an extention of Self-Exaltation because it puts those good things forward so that others will give us credit for them (people pleasing)
  • Self-Justification takes credit for being in the right. This causes us to blame others for being the wrong. It is an acute awareness of others failures. It is treating others with contempt. (i.e. self-righteousness)

Tearing Down: Self-Degradation, Self-Demotion, Self-Condemnation

Tearing down happens when we don’t succeed and others do

  • Self-degradation tears down the self
  • Self-demotion publicly shows that we perform worse than others, have it worse than others, or we have less than others. It can be a disguise for self-promotion because it fishes for affirmation and reassurance which we think we deserve. It is a funeral for our ego.
  • Self-condemnation passes judgment on ourselves when we don’t measure up to our own standards. It is self-preoccupation.

The chapters further explains 3 ways in how we, as Christians, can kill pride:

  1. Conversion. Seeing the cross with new eyes defeats pride. Why? Those who see the cross rightly also see themselves rightly.
  2. Sanctification. We are transformed from one degree to the next by “beholding the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). It is a struggle to see rightly. We need to see how great our need is and how great His grace really is.
  3. Glorification. All must be torn down so God alone can be left standing. On that final day, we will see Christ as either a terror or a treasure.

The bottom line: We cannot think of ourselves less until we think of something else more. That something else is Jesus.

Pride is the biggest sin we are all guilty of. In my life, I waiver between being self-righteous and being self-preoccupied. Social Media doesn’t help either: Selfies, status updates, updating twitter feeds, and generally being preoccupied to death with our own self. Even if we don’t use social media, we tend to think we are better than others for our sacrifice of computer time, our devotion to God, and then we judge others for using social media! We are obsessed with ourselves.

Lately I have been pre-occupied with how much sin I have in my life, how I will never be the person God wants me to be, and generally just degrading who I am in Christ. This chapter helped me to see things better–that when I’m beating myself up over past sins, I am taking God’s place. I am saying “I am God and you are not” and I’m trusting in my own judgments. I am saying, “God you can’t handle my sins”.  And when you put it like that, wow, that’s so arrogant! So I am thankful today for God helping me see through my own heart so I can know His. He can take something as ugly as pride and He can kill it.

 

We Fight On

alone

Photo Credit: http://morguefile.com/archive

It’s hard not to think of God as I think of people. It seems as if every relationship I’ve ever had has been a dysfunctional one. Even marriage is dysfunctional because I’m dysfunctional. We are broken people trying to fix other broken people. So it’s not hard to see where sometimes I, as a person who is broken and has had to deal with other’s brokenness, can sometimes think God himself is going to deal with me in a broken way.

I had a situation come up where I was told a few things about my character that I knew wasn’t true. This person had one good point which was that I had a bad attitude, but the rest was wrong. She told me in the wrong setting, in the wrong way, and with the wrong motives. When we tried to settle the matter, she said a few more things about it that I felt were really unfair. While she was talking about these things, I thought to myself, “I don’t need to defend. God is my defense. It doesn’t matter what she thinks of me. It only matters what God thinks and I know I am not what she says I am.” So I let her think what she wanted about me and carried on with my existence.

I was struggling today with forgiving. In general, I struggle to forgive. People haven’t been supportive of me, nor have they loved me through thick and thin. People have tossed me aside on whim. My “bad attitude” would be grounds for dismissal for most people. I do complain. I have a negative outlook (hard not to some days when you have deep losses such as I have had or failed relationships as I have gone through–not an excuse, but it’s a battle). Do people really think I like being me? Because I don’t most days. I wish I was a perfect version of myself, but I can’t change me by myself. There lies the mystery some days for me: How do I change when I can’t change myself? People act as if I can wave a magic wands and poof! I sin no more. That’s where I start to look inward and become depressed. Because the thing everyone wants me to be, I can’t be right now…not until God works on my heart and changes me. It starts to feel a bit suffocating at times, especially when people are so quick to judge you without getting to know you. And I have to put my focus back on Christ, not people or how they make me feel.

I sat in the arm chair next to the sunny window. I read a devotional which spoke about the heart and actions coming from our hearts–Until we deal with our hearts, our actions won’t change. I leaned my head against the chair, letting the sun into my eyes. I prayed, asking for God’s forgiveness and for Him to change me. I gave him my pain that was hidden in my heart–the hurt of the words that were said; the sting of not being accepted or understood by people; the agony of feeling so alone in this universe. The tears came and went as I felt the wave of forgiveness come over me. I prayed one last sentiment, “God thank you that you correct me in gentleness and you don’t deal with me like people do.” After my prayer, I checked my email. There was one from the Pastor at my church with this song in it:

I’ve seen the lightning flashing,
I’ve heard the thunder roll.
I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing,
which almost conquered my soul.
I’ve heard the voice of my Savior,
bidding me still to fight on.
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone!

Refrain

No, never alone, no never alone,
He promised never to leave me,
He’ll claim me for His own;
No, never alone, no never alone.
He promised never to leave me,
Never to leave me alone.

The world’s fierce winds are blowing,
temptation sharp and keen.
I have a peace in knowing
my Savior stands between—
He stands to shield me from danger
when my friends are all gone.
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone!

Refrain

When in affliction’s valley
I tread the road of care,
My Savior helps me carry the cross
so heavy to bear;
Though all around me is darkness,
earthly joys all flown;
My Savior whispers His promise,
never to leave me alone!

Refrain

He died on Calvary’s mountain,
for me they pierced His side.
For me He opened that fountain,
the crimson, cleansing tide.
For me He waiteth in glory,
seated upon His throne.
He promised never to leave me,
never to leave me alone!

After the week I had with sick kids, harsh judgments, broken dryers, laundry to the ceiling, stress headaches, and all the rest–I could rest in the fact that my Savior knows me, loves me, and understands me. He never corrects me unlovingly. His heart is always for me. His words are always timely. And He never leaves me alone…

There are some who continue to walk with me, who try to know me, who love me through my ugliness. It’s because of those people that I am here and that I continue to be encouraged to look to the cross.

journey

The Silver Lining

Grey_Hair_by_Basistka

I love this!

I have always struggled with beauty. I think most woman would admit this. When I was a kid, I was compared to my sister a lot and many times, people compared our looks. One was prettier. One was thinner. One had longer hair. One had bigger eyes. One had bigger feet. The comparisons never ended. To this day, I still get compared to my sister. It goes with the territory when you are a twin or triplet.

I’m 37. I’ve spent the last 30 some years of my life trying to be pretty, accepted, loved, and cared for. The problem is, I have thought being beautiful was the thing that was most important and the thing that would get me what I wanted (love, acceptance, ect).  It’s a vicious cycle really. Vanity says I will be loved if I am pretty and have something of beauty to offer someone else. Love says I accept you and love you no matter what. Vanity says your worth is tied up in your beauty (or lack of it).  Love says you are worthy because God made you and loved you as you are. Nothing you do can make you worth more in His eyes.

But it’s a difficult thing for other people to accept when you don’t chase beauty, especially other women. They cringe at the thought of you not spending time on your looks. I have seen 80 year olds who still dye their hair. They want to look young. They want to still be considered beautiful. There is something very wrong, in the eyes of our society, with a woman who isn’t thin, trimmed, dyed, clipped, waxed, and fashionable.

I decided a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going to dye my hair anymore. I have had this thought many times over the years and every time, I feel like vanity gets the best of me. When I tell people I don’t want to dye my hair anymore, they tell me I’m too young for grays (this is silly–I obviously get them, so I’m not too young).  They think I’m letting my looks go. They think I am being ridiculous.

You want to know what is ridiculous? Being a slave. This is slavery, in my humble opinion:

  • Every day looking at my hair seeing if a gray is popping through, then plucking it if it is
  • Counting down the days and weeks to when I need to rush in and get my hair done again
  • Getting upset over faded dye jobs because the grays have popped through after 3 weeks and then feeling “less than” because I have a few grays
  • Feeling bad about myself because I let my hair go “too long” without dying it and now it looks awful (faded dye looks worse to me than gray hairs)
  • Spending $100 or more to get my hair dyed every other month
  • Spending 2 or 3 hours of my day soaking up chemicals into my scalp and down my sink (polluting everything including my own health)
  • Having my hair fall out and look dull from so much dye
  • Never being satisfied, never happy because it fades after 2 weeks
  • Having my moods go up and down with my hair color

That, my friend, is utterly ridiculous. As is caring what other people think of me and defining my worth from the color that goes on my head.

So I am choosing to not dye my hair. I am trying to be confident in this decision. It’s not easy. There is a phase where you grow out all the dyed hair, cut it off bit by bit each month, and also letting the grays grow long (so at first they look stupid springing up all over your head). I’ve tried to do this before and got sick of it and went back to dying it. But this time, I’m giving it more time. Who knows. Maybe I will end up dying it again, but for now my mind is made up to be free of the madness of vanity (at least in the hair department).

WP_20150221_015

Grays, roots, and dye job that needs to grow out

I am learning to love who God made me.  I am not “letting myself go”. I still believe in hair cuts, lip waxes, and taking care of myself. I talked with my husband about it too and he laughed and said, “I don’t think it will look as bad as everyone thinks it does” which means “I will still love you–grays and all”.  That’s really all the motivation I needed.

I will share more later. If you see me donning a head scarf, you’ll know why!

You Deplete Me

puzzle

On Facebook yesterday, I wrote “You deplete me“.  It was a joke, but the way I’ve felt lately with people–my kids, my marriage, friendships, and trying to relate to others. Whenever I try to look to someone to fulfill a need, I am met with exhaustion and soul-sucking disappointment. People cannot fill any void or complete anything. We are very much incomplete and incapable of being a savior to anyone, let alone ourselves. Could this “incompleteness” be a good thing?

Awhile back, I was putting together a puzzle. I had the border all done and some of the inside pieces, but I noticed the puzzle was taking me a really long time to put together. The piece I held in my hand was similar to most of the other parts of the puzzle. I’d try it in one section of the puzzle which I thought was where it went, but it didn’t. Then I tried to put it in another section with similar colors and again, it didn’t fit. It was a difficult piece and I finally just lost my patience and gave up on that puzzle. All of the pieces looked pretty similar, but they all went in hard-to-find locations.

I feel like most of my life has been like that puzzle. Growing up, it would make sense that being a triplet I would “fit” in, but most of the time, I never felt as if I did, even with the common bond of siblings who were born the same day. I didn’t feel like I fit in at school because I was introverted and shy. I didn’t want to be around my parents as they were always fighting, which often resulted in my dad leaving. As I got older, I didn’t fit in high school either. I tried to keep my head down through all of it, hoping I could just go by unnoticed and unscathed. Like the puzzle piece, I kept trying to “fit in” but the places were always wrong. Or I was wrong. Either way, it never seemed to flow.

Over the years, I’ve tried to develop friendships with people, but that too has been awkward at best. I have little problems making friends, but keeping them is another story. I just rub people the wrong way. I think people are attracted to my honesty, until I use it on them and then they want me to shut up. And honestly, I lack patience and can be judgmental in my friendships so I have driven more than a few people away because of it. Because of this, I tend to fear rejection which causes me to become more introverted. Sometimes I wonder if I’m meant to be in the puzzle at all.

Over the years, people have accused me of having faith in God with being brain washed or somehow buying into what “they” say because “they” accept me. “They” being other Christians. It’s completely laughable as an argument. People, including Christians, don’t accept me generally. They tolerate me. And having faith does not make me more popular. If anything, it has made me a lot less popular; dare I say, hated.  Even in Christian circles, I question things and rock the boat and I’m not generally agreeable except on foundational stuff. I’ve had my fair share of debates over marriage, women, and child raising–to name a few issues. And most of the time, I still feel like the puzzle piece that can’t find its’ home.

Maybe that is on purpose though. I’m not suggesting we make ourselves feel bad or get our kicks off being victims, but what if I have it backwards? What if that ache and loneliness is meant to be there? What if all the failed relationships and the times I’ve strived to be liked (only to be met with utter disappointment) is really God trying to tell me that I can’t? What if all the love I try to seek from my marriage, kids, and friendships that end in disappointment was meant to be there? Maybe things end–people die, friendships fail, jobs are lost, things are broken–because God meant for them to be.

Why would God do that? Why would God bring pain like that? Why would God make us ache for love and for understanding? Why would He want us to be empty? Why would he want us to feel as if our hearts would burst with loneliness? The simple answer: We can only find what our hearts ache for by submitting and trusting in Him. I don’t think God is a sadist, enjoying our pain. I think it hurts Him when we don’t look to Him because He knows that we will only ever know true happiness when we stop looking everywhere else and look to him. Who can fill our empty hearts? Who is our friend until the very end? Who brings us peace in our suffering? Who remembers our tears, every one of them? Who mourns over our sins and rejoices when we find truth? Who has our best at heart? Who knows every detail about us, yet loves us as if we have never done wrong? Who could be that, do that, and love like that? Jesus. It is only when we find Him and learn to look to Him for everything that we find our place–we become a puzzle piece that fits. No, we won’t fit in on this earth–and I think that is intentional. God thought it better that we make our homes with Him to be fully loved, fully cared for, and fully understood. Who else could do that but the God of the universe?

1 John 2:14-17 (NIV)

I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

 

Never Stop Searching

Photo Credit: http://morguefile.com

Photo Credit: http://morguefile.com

I stared for a bit at the flying snow today. It would be easy to complain about the cold and snow, but for some reason today I admired the white, fluffy, floating flakes that seemed to be hurrying here and there across the sky. I thought about how when I was a kid, I always wanted to hold a snowflake, but then it would disappear in my hand the moment it touched my skin. It never stopped me from trying though. I would catch one, it would melt, I’d giggle and run off to find another one. Sometimes I wanted to know how it worked–how did those flakes seem to fly across the sky and why did they melt when they touched my face and where did they come from? Such mysteries seem silly now, but as I was thinking about them, God reminded me to stay child-like when it came to who He is too.

We try so hard to understand God–or at least I do. I try to grab hold of him. I think I got him. And then the thing I thought I knew about him is wrong. He melts in my hand as if to say, “You cannot hold me in your hand”.  He is God. He is infinite – I cannot measure him, compare him to anything else, or understand his magnitude. He is a omnipotent – able to do more than I ever ask or think to ask, powerful beyond the scope of my own abilities and what I could ever imagine. He is omniscient – He knows everything about my life and the lives of everyone in the universe, as well as knowing what has happened and what will happen in the future. No detail is too small for God and no circumstance is too hard for Him. He is patient and loving – He loves this sinner not because of what I’ve done, but because of who He is. His attributes go on and on. We think we know him, but we know so very little. We get to see glimpses of him as we try to reach out our hand to hold him, but we never can fully grasp everything He is. That is what makes God, “God”.

When I think about how God loves me, I can’t help but be thankful. Lately, I have felt saddened by things in my life–things I have to see about myself and things I have been hurt by from others. I look around at all the hurting people and I wish there was some way for me to make their lives better. I spend so much time thinking about myself and trying to make this or that better, but lately I’ve had to stop chasing so many vain things. It’s all meaningless and fleeting. Sometimes when you stop filling the void with “things”, it is painful. You have to face the person you are and be humble. You have to let go of what you think is right and ask him to give you wisdom. And trust has never been my strong suit.

So you let go and see what happens. I know God is just and takes sin seriously, but I also know that God corrects his children in love. And when He corrects, it’s less painful than when I beat myself up or allow others to beat me up with their words. It’s a constant reminding of who God is and a constant refocus of where my eyes should be–on Him. Without the cross, his punishment would be death. Because of the cross, His corrections bring life.

I’m going to keep chasing after God like a child because that’s exactly where He wants me: reaching for Him, delighting in the search, and wanting more. Yes, sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s messy, but I’m learning all these things were hand chosen by the One who made me. It’s as unique as a snowflake–hand picked circumstances that lead me closer to Him. I’m learning to complain and be irritated less with life’s up and downs (I will spend my whole life learning this lesson, I think) and be at peace with His plan.

 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.                    

James 1:22-25

All the World’s a Stage

InstagramCapture_af58f12f-b3d6-4be9-8ee8-65c6b2d28514If all the world’s a stage
And my part is in this mysterious script
Where I see some of the lines,
But others remain hidden
Until just the right time
When the Creator decides to reveal
The finer details to His chosen;
Then I beg you–
Help me remember
Teach me the words
Ingrain in me my part
Do not let me wander
Without insight
Give me practice
So I keep them in my mind
And on my heart
And upon my lips
Let these be my life
Until I boldly play the role
You created just for me
When in the beginning
You planned this performance
To honor your Great name.

Shine

winterpath

I laid my head on the pillow, wrapped the blanket up under my nose, and closed my eyes to tears that just wanted to be set free. Sometimes it feels wrong to let tears flow. Sometimes it feels as if I might drown in them. I find myself crying over everything lately. Maybe it’s because everything feels like a failure. Or maybe it’s because I see the failures around me and hold myself responsible.

It’s more than just “having a bad day” or “I am PMSing”.  It’s like my spirit is crushed from within me. I know nobody understands or can. I know I feel guilt and crushed by things I can’t undo. I feel like a failure on so many levels. Then there are things done to me that I can’t undo or make right either. I can’t change other people. I have to somehow not let what they say ruin me. I have to somehow accept the things I cannot change.

Then I’m reading over books and scripture and realizing how short I fall as a human being. I know that Christ paid for my sin at the cross. I know that I can’t earn a thing. I know that God has redeemed me. But I still get angry that I can’t somehow be a better person. I can’t be a better mom or a better wife or a better friend or sister. I feel as if I will always be a fighting not to mess up the world around me.

I’m told to preach the gospel to myself. I’m told to put off sins, put on righteousness. It all feels so very hard. It feels suffocating at times because there are all these things I’m “supposed to” do and in the moment, I can’t think to do any of them. My head is clouded by anger and hurt. But somehow I’m supposed to pull my boot straps up and say a prayer, or somehow love the person hurting me, or to think of everyone but myself. It seems impossible.

It all seems like a mountain to me. I’ve thought many days about how pointless it all is to try to climb myself. I’ve wondered why on earth God put me in this place. I’ve wondered why I am still here. Everyone else seems at some pinnacle point where they are ministering to other people, witnessing, being a light to others. I’m still sitting here at ground zero looking through the rubble, trying to find my bearings, and wondering if I will ever be normal again. And it all seems as if I’m under some microscope. I just want to start over and go somewhere else where no one knows me and wear a plastic smile, pretending my life isn’t hard. Then people wouldn’t treat me like a charity case.

But I’m here–for what purpose, I cannot say. I’m tired of all of it. I close my eyes and wish for heaven. I close my eyes and wish for family that loved me. I close my eyes and wish for real friends who genuinely liked me. I close my eyes and wished I could undo all the things I’ve done that has hurt others. I close my eyes and wish that I could love myself the way God does.

A gem, like you, is made beautiful by being polished. It’s not an easy undertaking, but a stone that exists undisturbed among others just is…but the most beautiful stand out because they face being alone, endure hardships and learn from what challenges them. Suffering purifies and makes beautiful, but only if the gem can shine

Donna Lynn Hope

Parenting to Connect

Lily copy

I’ve been really enjoying Connected Families, a Christian organization that puts out blog posts and Facebook statuses teaching parents how to discipline their children biblically. When I say biblically, I don’t mean corporal punishment. I mean heart training. I mean grace. I mean looking at yourself as a sinner first instead of trying to control your kids and make them into robots that behave well and have to earn your love. The framework for Connected Families really makes a lot of sense to me. Here is a graphic, or read more on their site:

 

ConnectedFamilyFramework1

Note the “Common Approach” and the “Thoughtful Approach”. The Common Approach never works!

 

I signed up for their newsletter and got a free e-book that I’ve been reading over the past few days.  The basic idea are simple messages we want our kids to hear when we discipline. They are simple to remember and they produce real results. In fact, I’ve been implementing it at home and I’ve seen my kids open up to me instead of shut down and they are now willing to listen to me because they trust me. Here are the 4 Messages kids should hear:

  1. You are safe with me
  2. You are loved no matter what
  3. You are God’s Workmanship
  4. You are responsible for your actions

I was at the store yesterday and I witnessed a mom and her son, about age 9, arguing with each other. The boy wanted something and the mom didn’t want to give it to him and so they started this back and forth argument in the middle of Target. The first thought I had was that neither of them cared about the other–they just were reacting and being selfish. I have seen a lot of parents do this though. The child doesn’t act the way Mom or Dad wants, so the parent is harsh and acts insulted by their actions then doles out a punishment and says something like, “I’m the mom. I get to make the rules“.  Most of the time, this just makes the child resentful. It also sends the message that they are accepted and loved when they act like good kids. Shouldn’t we instead want our kids to know they are always loved and that even if we don’t agree with what they are doing, we will forever be for them?

I feel like most parenting books I’ve read have always been about control. If you want well-behaved kids, control them with spankings, power words, and consequences. It’s never about holding them responsible for their actions, letting them make choices, or empathizing with their problems. It’s always about enforcement and “You are the parental figure. They must respect you.” Over the years, I’ve found parenting to be a struggle as I listen in the church and in “biblical” books about how to parent. Some of them stress dealing with the heart, but most deal with punishment in the form of physical force. Some of them use addressing the sins of the heart and discipline with the rod. The point is, everyone has their own idea of what discipline should look like either in the form of an actual stick or rod, or in the form of questioning, or in the form of consequences with no real heart change. I feel like Connected Families addresses real heart change and grace, just as God himself wants heart change and loves to show us grace.

Yesterday my son was running in Karate class and his dad pulled him aside and reprimanded him. He said that if he ever did that again, he’d not go to his next karate class. The karate teacher was upset about the running because another kid had joined in and it was distracting. This was during a break. So the solution that my husband decided was best was to be harsh with him. When they came home, my son was downcast. Dad was upset and irritated. My son had discouragement written all over his face. So when I called him in my room to speak to him, he said “I know. I always mess things up.” I knew this was not the message I wanted him to go to bed with, so instead I asked him what happened and he told me. I said “I bet it was fun running around that room, wasn’t it?” He shook his head. “I bet it wasn’t so much fun being told to stop. I wouldn’t like my fun ruined either. That would make me kind of sad.” This was me empathizing with my son, trying to see things from his point of view. His demeanor changed when I started empathizing with him. Suddenly, he was more talkative and less downcast. His mom understood him. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be understood?

I told him I loved him, even if he made a mistake and through our conversation, I realized that he had never been told not to run in class. No one bothered to tell him the rule at all. So I told him that now he knows, I’m going to expect him not to run in class next week and if he does, then he should expect not to attend the next lesson because we had this conversation. He was responsible because he knew the rules. I also didn’t want to usurp my husband, so I kept the consequence that he had given to him even though I didn’t particularly agree with it. Sometimes you have to work around the hard stuff.

I also said, “You know what? I think you are really good at running. I think you have lots of energy and you make people laugh and you know how to have fun. Is there a way that we can use that to do good?” We discussed him using his energy to do well with his Karate moves and to work hard in class the whole time, but not to run around and be a distraction. Instead, he could encourage the other students by having fun with karate and doing a good job. He seemed really excited about this option. So he told me next week, that was his plan. I think it’s easy to point out negatives in your kids, but when you point out the good–even in a bad situation (there is always something good if you look hard enough), the child is given the grace to use that energy towards being a blessing to others instead of being rude, unkind, or disobedient.

I’m still working through all the steps, but I wanted to say one more thing: Yes, the message I want my child to hear is grace, but I still want them to understand their need to be forgiven. Of course that means that we have to see our sin as sin.  I’m not at all suggesting we sugar coat our sins and not face the issues of lying, disrespect, and on and on. We do need to call sin what it is. I think the child already knows they are sinful otherwise they wouldn’t feel so terrible. I tell my kids when they feel like that it is because of conviction, brought about by the Holy Spirit. If we feel bad, we need to ask for God’s forgiveness. With that said, I know there are better ways to parent than acting like an authoritarian and bossing our kids around. That is why I am so glad I found Connected Families and will continue to address these issues with much grace, prayer, and discernment. At the end of the day, God is patient towards us, slow to anger, abounding in love, empathetic to our needs, and correcting us with grace and mercy. If our children never experience grace from their own parents, then how will they understand God’s grace? How will they give grace to others?

Liar, Liar

adam-and-eve-apple1

I’m reading the Excellent Wife by Martha Peace, but I really can’t recommend this book. My main issue with the book is not that I don’t agree with MOST of what she says, but the way she makes her points are very weak.

Before I say what I want to say, let me begin by stating that all my life I’ve been fed lies. As a kid, I was given a version of God that was not biblical or correct. I grew up thinking God hated me and wanted the worst for me. I thought Jesus was a nice story, but didn’t even get the point of his death until I became saved at age 28. So whenever someone gloats about this author or that speaker, I don’t ever jump on the bandwagon of groupies and jump all in. I’m a skeptic by nature. I question everything. I put it to the test. And then when I’ve worked it out–me and God, wrestling and searching, then I am the biggest supporter of the truth. Or one of the biggest anyways ;)

So with that said, I have been wrestling with her book. I’ve read Chapters 1-7, and I’m convinced she is very black and white and very opinionated. Her main points are made by picking and choosing bible verses about random topics and using them for marriage. Maybe she is correct in her assessments, but her explanations do not jive with me. I need concrete. I need firm foundations. I need to be able to convince another person I believe this stuff. And her book just doesn’t do the topic justice.

Here is an example and as you can see, I argue on the sidebars:

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Her first point is why women need protection is because of the influence the world has on her. She states 1 John 2:16. This is true of men too, not just women! If you are going to make a point about why women need protection (from men) but then use a verse that is applicable to all people, it makes very little sense.

I agree with her assessment that I fall victim to the influence the world has on me, but last I checked, so does my husband!

On the next page she says this:

2.) The Devil

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you maybe be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-11, 13

Satan is against everything that God establishes. So he tries to undermine the home and the wife’s role….One biblical requirement of your obedience is for you to graciously place yourself and remain under your husband’s authority (unless he asks you to sin). If you do not, you are out of God’s will and have not done everything biblically to “stand firm”.

Overall, I don’t disagree with what she is saying here. But again, she using this as evidence for why a husband needs to protect his wife. Does not the devil also attack the husband? Is he immune to Satan? I think not. Doesn’t really convince me that I “need” protection from my husband. It just shows me I need to seek God’s protection.

Last and my least favorite is point 3, in which she states that a woman is “often more easily deceived” and she uses 1 Timothy 2:12-14 to make her point. I have no idea which Bible version she used because I tried to look it up and I can’t locate it. But this is what the books says (i.e. The Bible according to Martha Peace):

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived fell into transgression. (underlining and emphasis courtesy of Martha Peace)

But look it up in the NIV or even the ESV or the NASB and you will get this kind of language instead:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (NIV)

So from this simple verse about church leadership, she makes the assumption first of all that women are  quite deceived, more so than a man. Secondly, she jumps from church leadership to marriage. When I first read this, I said to myself, “How do you get all of that from these few verses?” because I didn’t see one thing in here about marriage. It was all on church leadership. And the “quite deceived” version is new to me. Nice additions though, Mrs. Peace.

Thankfully, our universe has people who CAN write and explain and even teach well and unfortunately it isn’t Martha Peace (but I don’t know–everyone on Facebook seems to worship her, so guess I’m the problem). John Piper states things differently and I tend to agree with him, if only because his logic makes sense and hers doesn’t:

We summed it up with two definitions: of authority (v. 12) and submission (v. 11).

  • Authority” refers to the divine calling of spiritual, gifted men to take primary responsibility as elders for Christ-like servant leadership and teaching in the church.
  • Submission” refers to the divine calling of the rest of the church, both men and women, to honor and affirm the leadership and teaching of the elders and to be equipped by them for the hundreds of various ministries available to men and women in the service of Christ.

These definitions are intentionally parallel to the definitions of headship and submission and marriage which we learned from Ephesians 5:

  • Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.
  • Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

The reason this is important to see is that both in the case of church order and family order Paul is basing his teaching on God’s original order in creation. Paul is not arbitrarily choosing roles for men and women, nor is he simply adapting to the cultural expectations of the day. He is saying that there is something about the way God set things up in the beginning that makes this kind of order good. In other words true manhood and true womanhood mesh more effectively in ministry—they are better preserved and better nurtured and more fulfilled and more fruitful—in this pattern of home and church than in any other pattern—because God made it to be this way. It is part of his gracious design for the good of men and women.

He goes on to state things further in this way:

The second point from verse 14 is this: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Now most commentators in the history of the church have taken this very simply to mean that women are more vulnerable to deception, and therefore should not be given the responsibility of leading and teaching the church. My guess is, from what I have read and experienced, that women are more vulnerable to deception in some kinds of situations and men are more vulnerable to deception in other kinds of situations. (Source: Desiring God, emphasis mine)

Then sums it up, for us non-assumption makers in the room:

I think this is what Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:14. Let me try to paraphrase it to bring this out. “Adam was not deceived [that is, Adam was not approached by the deceiver and did not carry on direct dealings with the deceiver] but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor [that is, she was the one who took up dealings with the deceiver and was led through her direct interaction with him into deception and transgression].”

If this is right, then the main point is not that the man is undeceivable or that the woman is more deceivable; the point is that when God’s order of leadership is repudiated, it brings damage and ruin. Men and women are both more vulnerable to error and sin when they forsake the order that God has intended.

So Paul’s argumentation in 1 Timothy 2:11–14 is that men ought to bear primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in the church (that is, be the elders):

1) because in creating man first, God taught that men should take responsibility for leadership in relation to woman; and

2) because the fall of Adam and Eve shows that the neglect of this divine pattern puts men and women in a more vulnerable position and leads to transgression.

(emphasis mine. Source: Desiring God)

Whether Piper is right or wrong, at least he makes some valid points. That’s my biggest complaint about the book “The Excellent Wife”.  Anyone can state anything they want to, but if you are going to back it up with weak arguments, you are going to lose a lot of people. For me, I am not drinking the Martha Peace kool-aid. She has some good points and I tend to agree with most of what she says, but her points about women and her interpretations of scripture bother me. Did she search these verses out before writing this book? I just don’t know. It seems opinionated, not truthful.

I suggest doing your own digging and come to your own conclusions based on prayer, searching the scriptures, and conviction by the Holy Spirit. It’s been assumed by most that I just am prideful and don’t want to believe what Martha Peace is saying because it goes against my ego. Maybe. But maybe I’m just not wanting to stand on man-made truths and instead, want to stand firm on God’s word–not man’s opinion. Not everything that is questioned is a bad thing. I have found the times I question are the times I grow.

It’s going to be a long 21 Chapters…

Read or listen to John Piper’s sermon in full here: Affirming the Goodness of Manhood and Womanhood in All of Life

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