Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grab that umbrella!

Obedience training around my house has slipped.  Oh, let me be honest - it has fallen off the map.  My half-hearted efforts at first-time obedience and joyful obedience have resulted in a grumbling, delayed, questioning, bargaining, group of uprisers.  It's a full-fledged revolt of the "Disobedient vs. the Disenchanted".  Sometimes it is easier to let them grumble and complain rather than correct and discipline.

I know, I know.  I am doing them a disservice by allowing them to skate by.  I know the Bible tells us:

  • Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

  • Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord

  • Titus 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work

  • I know too, that whenever I allow disobedience to plant a seed it will grow into a sequoia.  Quickly.  It doesn't take long for a snowball of "Can I do it in a minute?" and "I can't" to escalate into an avalanche of "I don't wanna!" and "It's not my turn!". 

    Then, guess who is angry?  Me.

    And, guess who's to blame?  Me.

    See, God gives us this giant umbrella of protection, an umbrella of obedience.  Psalm 91 tells us that He provides us with protection and safety.  He shields and shelters us.  This umbrella deflects "terrors of the night" and "dangers of the day".  It repels evil and wickedness.  His desire for each of us is that we remain beneath His Umbrella of Obedience, where we are safe.  Step out from under obedience to Him and who knows what will rain down! 

    Besides, there is something comforting about knowing that our obedience to Him gives us shelter with His feathers, shielded by His wings (Ps 91:4).  His word also tells us:  "Those who love your law have great peace and do not stumble" (Ps 119:165).  We are assured of peace, a discerning mind, sustainment of joy, becoming wiser than our enemies, being revived, and comforted in all our troubles.

    I not only want the protection of His umbrella for my children but I want and need it for myself.  I haven't been exclusive in my half-hearted attempts at obedience training with my kids.  Those lazy attitudes and delayed responses were learned from me.  How convicting and hopeful all at the same time!  If I can have such a negative impact on them, how much more of an impact can I have with the Lord behind me, supporting my desire for ALL of our obedience?!

    So, here are the New and Improved Obedience Goals:
    1. Obey the FIRST time, IMMEDIATELY - no delays or objections
    2. Obey joyfully - We'll be mimicking Chik-fil-a's response "It'll be my pleasure!".
    3. Obey in small things and big things - disobedience in small things are more likely to lead to disobedience in all things.
    4. Obey with a whole heart - using all our energy and determination
    5. Obey based on the truth of God - learning to obey without blind obedience, understanding God's truth and authority 
    Are they realistic?  Yes!  Will it be difficult and trying?  YES!  Can we do it with the Lord's grace, wisdom, and instruction?  YES!  We'll be grabbing that Umbrella of Obedience with both hands!

    "The best measure of a spiritual life is not its ecstasies but its obedience." Oswald Chambers

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    A Glimpse of Guilt and Grace

    That sweet child of mine that God gave me as a constant reminder of a need for mercy and grace?  That girl that exposes my every weakness and strength?  That 6 year old fire cracker that has struggled with an "appropriate attitude"?  I witnessed a bending in her spirit of self today. 

    Picture an afternoon of a tired and cranky mom trying to juggle kindergarten with an almost 5 year old and the book of Daniel with the girls.  And, the kicker - trying to be joyful and not tired or cranky - in my own strength.  As I am being pulled this way and that for attention, all I can think of is wanting to indulge in a giant spoonful of chocolate frosting cooling in the icebox.  I know, I know.  Some of you are disgusted by the thought of that chocolate treat.  For me, it is a creamy, rich sampling of manna God sends me as a daily fortifier.

    Sorry for the bunny trail.  Chocolate frosting can have that affect on me.

    Anyway, the stress is mounting, the 4 year old is frustrated and studying Daniel is becoming less and less attractive.  I glance at my sweet second daughter and notice her head in her little dimpled hands.  Tears streaming down her brown cheeks.  A devastated look in her eyes. 

    "What is it little Brown Bean?" I ask.

    "I feel so guilty and am so MAD at myself.  I am so embarrassed!" she cries.

    "What ever for?" I ask not sure where this is going.

    "I have been so selfish and ugly the past two days.  I am so MAD at myself!" she admits while continuing to cry.  "I have been mean to Sophia and Hank and Shelby and everybody else!  I am so angry!".

    "How do you think it makes others feel when you treat them that way? How does it make YOU feel when you treat them unkindly?  Do you think God is pleased with you?"

    "They feel awful and I feel like an ugly, brown troll.  Mean and hateful and I just can't stop myself.  And God probably doesn't want to see my mean 'ol face!".

    Although my heart was sad for her and I wanted to brush it all away, it was an opportunity I had been praying for.  An opportunity to see how the Lord is transforming her heart, bending her steel will.  An opportunity to show her and her siblings (and a reminder for myself) the grace and mercy of forgiveness.  We halted all school work and the pretense of Bible study and prayed.  We thanked God for the opportunity to see His forgiveness, repented for all of our ugliness, and asked God to restore our relationships.

    What a beautiful, guilt-free face that looked up at me from her steepled fingers!  It was a face that felt the forgiveness of our Lord and the beginning of a new day.  As we watched, she was able to actually experience the weightlessness that comes along with repentance and forgiveness. 

    She picked up her pencil and said "Now what was what it you were saying about Daniel?"

    A glimpse of guilt and grace in the span of 10 minutes.

    Psalm 139:23-24
    Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
    And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
    And lead me in the everlasting way.