Thursday, August 22, 2013
We move our oldest daughter to college today. longer will she be under our roof and subject to our rules. No longer will we be in her physical presence to watch over her, guide and direct her. No longer will she have to do what is expected because she’s right under our noses.
She is free.
Free to choose life either on God’s terms or her own. Free to serve Him with all her heart, mind, strength and soul, or free to go her own way.
Doubts and concerns pepper my thoughts. What if she doesn’t like her university or major? What if the stress of adjusting to life on her own and a more challenging academic load is more than she expected? What if she and her roommate don’t get along?
My doubts aren’t about her ability to handle it, but mine. Really, underneath the outward circumstances of my concerns is a far deeper cry of a mother’s heart: Have we raised her in church or in Christ?
What will happen when she questions? When she doubts? When the Lord uses disappointment and hardship to make her more dependent on Him? To show Himself all He wants to be to her? Will she find comfort and assurance in Him when she returns to her room and is alone? Will she find in her heavenly Father so much more than her earthly father ever could be even though he’s daddy in the flesh? Will she “pick up the phone” and call on the name of the Lord in prayer?
My emotions are all over the place. I can only imagine hers are too.
Tears threaten even as I write. Not only tears of sadness, as I will miss daily having her here. I will miss her beautiful smile, tender heart, wit, and crazy questions. The way she calls me “Mother” when she’s exasperated with me. The drama in the stories she tells and the altercations with her sisters. Her sweet hugs. And yes, the tremendous help she is to me.
My tears are also tears of joy for this next season in her life when she will experience the challenge and thrill of what it means to walk by faith, totally dependent on the Lord because He is the only one there when she needs His answers. Joy for her knowing how exciting it is to follow Him and discover His faithfulness and His plans for her. Joy for the friends she’ll make, the experiences she’ll have, and how He’ll work everything together for good for her because she loves Him and is called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Joy for the thoughts He thinks toward her, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give her a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Joy that when she seeks the Lord, she will find Him.
I am not excited for her to be gone, but I am excited to see what the Lord has in store. Excited to see her moor herself to Christ because He makes Himself real to her outside of His realness to us. Excited for her to experience what it means to live directly under His authority because He has drawn her there, not because it’s what we’ve told her to do all her life.
It’s time to witness the result of the counsel I give any new homeschooling parent wrestling with making sure they make the right curriculum choices. My answer is spiritual.
Scholastics are important, and we adhere to a rigorous academic schedule, but to me, the most important measure of my children’s time under my instruction, whether they are schooled at home or in school, is what happens when they leave. Not in respect to SAT or ACT scores, class ranking, the college to which they are accepted, their GPA, degree or job. No, success to me is a child who leaves the authority of our home and transitions seemlessly to the authority of Christ.
One who leaves the nest but doesn’t leave their faith.
I can’t say I remember much about the day I moved away for college. I’m pretty sure my ruling emotion was pure elation at finally being free. Sadly, the freedom I desired only resulted in bondage to sin.
I can only pray the freedom she pursues will be true freedom: freedom in Christ Jesus.
Having never done this before, I don’t know much besides the logistics of getting her settled, being on the other end of the line when she calls, regularly refilling her check book balance, seeing her as much as we can, and loving her like crazy from a distance.
And I know to:
1. Trust in the Lord, for it is He who saves. It is His grace that will continually turn her heart toward Him.
2. Pray. Often and hard.
3. Listen. Answer her calls, her questions, her cries for direction and help.
4. Answer. Be there, not to give the answers, but to point her to Christ, who holds every answer.
I know she will do well. The question is, did we? No matter what, I thank God for His grace. It is sufficient.
Lord, as we learn each day to be more wholly Yours, overcome our shortcomings with the grace You extend our children, and make them wholly Yours, too.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Today ends my rant on parenting against cultural cancers that threaten our children’s spiritual health. Are you relieved? Have I beaten a dead horse? Please indulge me this last post, because what I have to say really doesn’t matter.
God’s word does, though, so let’s look at what He has to say: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (I John 2:15-16).
Our biblical duty is not to have kids that fit in; it is to train them up in the ways of the Lord, to talk to them about His word and His ways when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up (Deuteronomy 6:7). When they are old they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
We want to teach them to "enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). We can’t allow our kids to play on the wide road to destruction and expect them to enjoy a narrow road life. Why even entertain pleas to enter the wide road?
Scripture tells us to abhor evil (Romans 12:9), separating ourselves completely from all wickedness and anything that would create a life full of hardship and labor. Have no fellowship with it whatsoever. Don’t even let it be named among you (Ephesians 5:3).
That is the narrow road.
That should be our life.
One day they’ll have to choose to guard their hearts for themselves, judging whether something is indeed lawful but not beneficial or edifying (I Corinthians 10:23) and therefore not something they desire. Until then, we are their spiritual sentries.
We have a responsibility to keep our kids’ hearts with all diligence until they’re old enough to be diligent on their own. We’re the ones, as my husband says, who are accountable to the Lord for the environment in which they live. It’s our job to create a safe environment where they have the greatest chance to grow spiritually.
What that looks like may be radically different from family to family, and we are not sent to judge one another, “for judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). An unusually mature teenager from one family may be ready to live on the other side of the world for a summer of missions while a teenager from another family might not have the maturity to walk down the street alone.
What applies to every family and every child, though, is the truth as Jesus established in John 17:17:
“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”
We have to know our kids, but even more important, we must know what the scripture establishes as non-negotiable truth, and then each one of us must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in making decisions for them.
Maybe we don’t have to expose our kids to evil in order to teach them how to recognize it. Maybe we don’t have to compromise so they don’t rebel against us and reject everything we stand for. Perhaps we just take them to the word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them into all truth.
Perhaps we just show them how to find out what the scripture says about a particular belief or activity and let them measure it against the word of God.
And then we stand firm in the boundaries God gives us for their protection, teaching them to live Philippians 3:8-11:
I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Our lives are “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). We endure for a moment here on earth in order to enjoy eternal glory with Christ in heaven. Therefore, let us keep ourselves and our children “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
Lord, keep us and our children from the evil one and sanctify us all by Your truth, equipping us with discernment, grace, and endurance as we become wholly Yours today.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
As our daughters approach new seasons of life – one adolescence, one the world of 16, and another moving away for college – cut-and-dry, black-and-white answers about boundaries can be as clear as mud! Don’t get me wrong, there are some easy absolutes, but when it comes to protecting them from bad choices and bad influences, how little or how much do we shelter them? To what extent until what age? When does a tight hold become harmful to their spiritual growth or survival?
Arguments that appeal to common sense simply make things murkier. How can we be relevant to the world if we can’t knowledgably talk from experience about the same shows, experiences, books, music, plays, etc.? Isn’t it better for our children to experience temptation and even fall while they’re living under our roof and we can walk them through it? Will their faith become their own if we don't place them in situations where it's tested and they have to press hard into God to resist temptation or survive a fall?
I’ve never read or heard a scripture that tells us to expose our children to evil so they’ll be better equipped to stand against it when they leave. Not only that, but scripture doesn’t give a whole lot of weight to our common sense. In fact, it says the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. Conversely, the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. He says not to lean on our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths, not according to our thoughts and ways, but according to His.
That’s what I want. Not to check my brain at the door so I can bury my head in the sand, but to have God’s wisdom as it applies to common sense.
The bottom line is this:
Raising our children God’s way
is going to be foolishness to the world.
I recognize we can’t protect our children from everything, especially with the relentless onslaught of lyrics piped through speakers in retail stores, images and messages on billboards everywhere, conversations overheard and sexual behavior casually displayed in public settings, what once would have been considered R-rated television commercials and movie previews slyly slipped in with family-friendly programming and films, peer pressure to experiment and experience new things, and the general awkwardness when everyone is doing something you’re not.
We are in the world.
At the same time, we can do whatever it takes to protect them from intentionally participating in those things, even by proximity. We can point their eyes to the One more worthy than anything dangled before them as the moment’s must do or have.
We must desire something better than what this world has to offer, or what it offers will start to look pretty good. The heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter eleven endured because they desired a heavenly country. “Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).
Do we want this momentary home to be the best our children ever experience? Which do we value more, their temporary or their eternal? Which is harder, living with rejection in this world or acceptance in hell? Do I want my kids to be comfortable for the vapor they spend here or tortured for eternity?
“Oh, Shauna, don’t be so dramatic!!!” you might exclaim. Am I, though? Isn’t this all about their souls? Even if they are saved, the devil remains a formidable enemy against their usefulness to the kingdom of God and their availability to be effective.
So we must be their advocate.
That’s the reality we face as parents continually pointing our children to the cross. If we don’t, by default or neglect, we’re leaving them as prey for the devil, and we all know where he’s headed.
Am I going to let laziness or distraction or discouragement become a foothold for Satan to get a grip on their shoulders and pull them down with him? Or am I going to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5)?
The boundaries I set for my children are naturally going to expand as they grow older. As hard as it is, I do know there’s a time when we have to start loosening our hold. We are there in varying degrees with each of our children; have been for a while with the oldest. There is a gradual letting go to independence that must happen, a time when we do have to step back and let them live their lives directly accountable to the Lord. Ultimately, they are going to have to choose biblical convictions for themselves as the result of the work He is doing directly in their hearts.
The danger is the unrelenting pressure to widen the boundaries too far and too fast when our kids are too young to handle the independence successfully. When they’re too immature to make decisions in circumstances that require maturity. In a lot of cases, our “No” doesn’t have to be a “Not ever,” just a “Not now.”
Lord, challenge our common sense with Your wisdom even as it is foolishness to the world as we become more wholly Yours.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Even as I ranted my Dixie cup prayer last week, exasperated from endlessly bailing the swelling sea of cultural contaminants from my family, I received my answer: “In it not of it.”
I’ve heard it preached and repeated in Christian conversations a million times, simply accepting it as the way it is, but this time, I wanted to know more. What does it look like on a daily basis when the of it pulls on the in it with such force that the two become indistinguishable? How do I teach this truth to my kids in such a way that it gives them the strength they need to make unpopular choices? What does it mean down deep and in context with what else God says about living here on earth but being citizens of another realm. Strangers. Aliens.
The saying is based on Jesus’ prayer for believers in John 17:14-18:
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world (emphasis added).
When we are saved by grace and put our faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus says we are born again. A Pharisee named Nicodemus once questioned how this could be, wondering how a man could re-enter the womb. Jesus answers in John 3:6, explaining in it not of it:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
As grown men and women, we don’t pass back through the birth canal; we are born new in the Spirit and no longer come from or belong to the multitudes who live separated from God and opposite the cause of Christ. As far as world affairs and all things earthly, we don’t belong. We are not of it. We aren’t defined or driven by “the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, etc., which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ” (www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2889&t=NKJV).
Rather, He sends us towards the world to be among those who are alienated from God. Just as God sent Jesus into the world "to bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37), so He sends us, charging us with making disciples (Matthew 28:19) by following His precepts and instruction and then teaching others to do the same.
Our mission becomes impossible if we remove ourselves from the world or are too busy trying to fit in with it. Jesus went where sinners were and talked with them. In love and without condemnation, He told them what they needed to do to leave that environment or sin, but He didn’t stay there and participate in their sin so He’d be able to talk to them about it.
He was among them but not a part of them. He is our model. In it with the people, not of its things and pleasures.
To be in the world is to maintain our connection through relationships with people, loving them as Christ loved us in order that they will know we are His followers.
To be of the world is to embrace or partake in its way of thinking and living, enjoying what it offers as substitutes to salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
There is a delicate balance. Paul explains in I Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” With Jews, he would follow the law of the Jews; with Gentiles, he would not. He was a chameleon of sorts, relating to those around him in order to win them to Christ. But verse twenty-one holds the key: whether with Jew or Gentile, he didn’t do anything contrary to Christ, “not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ.”
We remain engaged with people; we disengage from things that draw our hearts away from God, and we never do anything contrary to what God tells us to do in order to fit in or relate.
It’s not going to be easy: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
That’s why we need each other. We are our peeps, “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
The people with whom we need to fit in are the children of God, together conforming to God’s word, not the world. Uncompromised.
We love, but we don’t belong.
Lord, give us wisdom and discernment, for us and our children, to live in this world without becoming participants. Reveal areas of participation, and give us strength to separate without severing as we become more wholly Yours today.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Can I whine for a moment, Lord? Can I tell you how weary I am of how hard it is to remain faithful in a faithless world? How exhausted I am with the unrelenting cultural campaign to turn our children’s hearts away from You? Can I just vent a little bit about feeling so inadequate to recognize the subtle ways Satan diverts their eyes to evil while they wear me down to the point where I can’t see straight?
Sometimes I feel like we’re in a sinking ship bailing water with a Dixie cup. No matter how furiously we get rid of what the world throws our way, another huge wave crashes onto the decks.
Why is it so hard to say “No” to my kids when they just want to be doing what every other kid gets to do? Like FaceBook and Instagram, “harmless” secular music, television shows and movies, boyfriends, books that glorify witchcraft, wizardry, and vampires. The list goes on!
Why does all of this appeal to us even as it repels Your Spirit within us? Why do we want what turns our hearts from You?
How in the world can I keep an eye on it all, screening every post, checking every friend, following who and what they follow, watching what they want to watch, reading what they want to read, listening to what they want to listen? Multiply that by more than one child, and it’s literally impossible. I can’t do it, Lord!
You tell us the wide road that leads to destruction is easy, and many will find it. Perhaps its lure is popularity. Falling into the trap of wanting my children to feel like they belong and to know the acceptance of others. Wanting that myself, including with my own kids.
The thing that gets me is that their desires for the things of this world aren’t only encouraged by friends outside the church; they are asking because it’s what all their friends from church are doing.
Lord, how is this happening? It makes the job of raising kids who are in the world but not of it so much harder!
You never promised easy, though, did You? In fact, You said we would face trials, persecution, and difficulty. I guess I’m just being a baby; I want it to be easier. You desired that too, didn’t You, in the garden, when You prayed to the point of sweating blood that the cup of the cross would pass by You?
Even as I whine, Lord, I know what I truly want. When my rant is exhausted, I am left with the truth that what I want more than anything is to walk the narrow road that leads to life with my family, no matter how sparsely traveled it may be. No matter how difficult it is to stay there. I want my children, when they no longer live under our rules, to follow You directly onto the narrow road of life because they love You and follow You there.
Don’t let me compromise Your best for my children in order to pursue a counterfeit Satan presents as better! Help me trust You exclusively to keep their hearts while doing exactly what You require of me as a Christ-following mom.
Thank you for James. He sees things so clearly. Where I want to waffle, he has no problem saying “No,” even if it makes him unpopular with our kids. Things that get so convoluted by popular thought in my mind are obvious to him. Thank you for his unwavering commitment to create a safe environment for our kids, even if it’s not the “fun” environment the world dangles before them.
Help us reject the temptation to check out for the night and instead invest that time in a safe and fun family culture. Help us muster our last ounce of energy to read a good book together or play a game. To take a walk or visit one of the many museums or historical attractions within an hour’s drive of our home. To have a family devotional after dinner. To swim together, serve together, give together. To have others into our home for games and dessert.
How can we tell our kids there are better things to do than watch television and zone out to electronics while we excuse ourselves to our bedroom for the evening to watch TV?!?!
Help me, Lord. Help us!
This fight is too great for me, Lord, but it’s not too great for You, and Christ within us, the hope of glory. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength and through the power of the Holy Spirit! We may be in the battle of our lives, but it is You who will win the war! Help me focus on how big You are, not how strong the pressures of the world feel against our family’s back.
I turn now to Your word to search out Your truth for myself and my family. Thank You that scripture holds every answer we need to live a life fully pleasing You. Lead and guide me, Holy Spirit, into all truth. Help us, Lord, to be unpopular and make unpopular decisions in order to be wholly Yours as parents and as a family.
In the mighty name of the only Savior, Jesus, I love You.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
My family will be the first to tell you that I am a lame nurse maid. When someone is sick, I’ll stick it out for a little while, soothing, doting, and responding compassionately to moans of misery and requests for all sorts of assistance, but once they are as comfortable as I can make them and only a touch from God and time will heal, I’ve got things to do! If they are well enough to do something to relieve their own suffering, I expect them to do it rather than indulging their misery and expecting pitied assistance with what they can and need to do for themselves.
If the saying was scriptural, it would be my mantra: God helps those who help themselves. (The Bible actually establishes the opposite, describing God as a defense for the helpless in Isaiah 25:4, NASB; calling it foolish to trust in our own hearts in Proverbs 28:26, and declaring a man cursed for trusting in his own flesh for strength in Jeremiah 17:5.)
Likewise, if someone is going through a hard time, I care, and I’ll listen, but at some point, if there’s no relief, we all have a decision to make: we can either trust God and obey His word, even if it’s hard, or we can wallow in our circumstances, focusing on why life is so hard and so unfair. I don’t want to see anyone in that place, and I genuinely desire for my friends and family to be free of suffering, but at some point, it’s time to move forward.
Clearly I’m not tipping any scales in the mercy department.
I’m actually embarrassed and uncomfortable admitting this about myself because it seems so hard-hearted. Honestly, I’m not! To a certain degree, it’s the weak side of the strengths God has given me.
According to Romans 12:6, we each have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us. Mercy with cheerfulness is actually a Spirit-given gift to promptly and eagerly extend kindness and help to the miserable and afflicted. This is the long-haul person who stays by someone’s side for the duration of whatever they’re going through.
In describing how God grants spiritual gifts, Paul compares followers of Christ to a physical body made up of different parts that all need to function in their given purpose in order for the body to operate effectively. If we were made up of all big toes, we’d be in trouble! The same goes for spiritual gifts. If all believers were strong in exactly the same spiritual gifts, the body could not do its job. Therefore, by God’s perfect design, some of us are stronger in certain gifts than others.
While this passage explains why we are legitimately the way we are, God is showing me I cannot use my weaknesses as an excuse to ignore scriptures that require a gift I don’t have.
I think God may be rewiring something in me, http://clicktotweet.com/kG28S though, as scriptures about justice and mercy begin to register with my heart and not just my head. I know I’ve read them before, but now, the eyes of my understanding seem to be cracking open. Conviction urges me to do something different. Something scriptural. Something obedient.
I’m seeing that mercy is more than just meeting a physical need. It’s showing kindness. It’s hurting when others hurt; grieving when they grieve. It’s coming alongside them and staying by their side until they have healing or breakthrough. It’s time. It’s investing emotions. It’s allowing my heart to be broken for another’s suffering. It’s being moved to a place where I’m willing to be inconvenienced and uncomfortable for the benefit of someone else.
God is piercing me with His word, speaking directly to my heart:
Be a doer of the word, Shauna, not a hearer only, deceiving yourself.”
(James 1:22, emphasis added)
If I am hearing and not doing, it’s because I’m deceiving myself. If I’m hearing what God has to say about showing kindness through sacrifice to those who are miserable and in need, and I’m not doing it because I’m too busy doing everything else I’m better gifted to do, I’m deceiving myself.
There’s more to generosity than money and things. Money meets a need, but it takes a person to show God’s love. To be Jesus to another.
Sometimes I’m so busy checking off all we’re doing right that I turn a blind eye to what we’re not doing at all. Or I justify what we’re not doing by focusing on what we are.
Either way, “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). As a friend I dearly love always says, “Slow obedience is no obedience.” I would add, “Consolation obedience is no obedience.”
There’s no substitute for giving God exactly what He asks in His word.
Shine Your light into our hearts, Lord. Elevate what’s important to You to a place of priority in us, that regardless of our strengths and gifts, we would all make a way to feed the hungry, give drinks to the thirsty, take in strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-40), and look after orphans and widows (James 1:27) as we become more wholly Yours, using the time and resources You give us to Your glory.