This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
Picture by: Photography by Vicky Campos

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Heck Yes!

"Heck yes!"

This was the answer my son gave tonight as they asked him whether Jesus was his Lord and Savior.

He gave it without thought, without consideration, without hesitation.  He didn't look around the room to determine if it would be the right answer.  He did not contemplate how his energetic answer might make him look.  He just answered "Heck yes!"

Then he was baptized.

My parenting approach to all things Jesus is this, if my kids don't have a relationship with Jesus, I don't want them to fake it to make me happy.  Though I am ever eager to figure out what each of them is going through and what they think about, well, most everything, I choose not to force them to say or do things for the sake of saying or doing them.  Yes, I believe in making kids go to church, but church is not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about choosing Jesus and choosing to follow Him every day.  Those are two different things.

The Bible says I should train up my children in the way they should go so when they are older they will not depart from it, it doesn't say manipulate them to stay on the path.  It doesn't say force them to train themselves, all the while I sit on the side lines yelling at them.  This idea of training brings to mind a person out there in the field or on the track, coming along side the athlete correcting positioning, illustrating their tried and true knowledge and encouraging them to keep going.  Most people who train others are qualified based upon their own past performances and continued practice.

So, when God tells me to train my children up, I know He's calling me to a higher standard of living, so I can show them how life should look.  Then after I've trained them, they can run their own race of their own accord, not at my mandate, and this process starts early.

Tonight, when my 8 year old son stood in front of the church and shouted "Heck yes!" in front of a few hundred people, I know his answer was his own.  We show him how life should look by our example, we show him how it should not look by pointing out where we missed the mark, we provide correction, we provide encouragement, then we watch as he continues to grow into a man who knows the path God has for him.  The path from which he will never depart.

Then we celebrate...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why Trouble is Good for You

I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world.
John 16:33 The Message Translation

Photo By: Simon Howden

Dear God,

You created the universe.  You created every planet and every star.  You designed the layout of the universe.  You pieced together my human body, creating every last chromosome.  All of this, You did with just the sound of Your voice.  So, why can't you just pay my bills?  Get me a job I love?  Make me feel better?  Make my children just listen to me?  Make my life easier? 

I acknowledge that You are smarter than me, but these seem obvious.


Your Daughter Brina

If I wrote a letter to God today, that is pretty much what it would sound like.  As a daughter of the Most High, my Father created EVERYTHING and yet I have issue after issue after issue.  Currently, I would say that I'm facing more difficulties than I have since becoming a Christian.  The sheer quantity of the difficulties could be best described as a tsunami, wave after wave.  I can see the issues for what they are, I can see where they come from and that I can choose to climb to higher ground catch some perspective, or I can stay frozen and be overwhelmed.  I'm choosing to climb.

While praying on my drive to work this morning, God brought to mind various human fathers who find themselves rich and powerful, and more importantly He brought to mind their children.  Now, I don't actually know any of these people personally, so I've only got public reports to go off of, but if you think of people that were simply given whatever they wanted, every problem solved for them, no need unmet, the result is never good.  Minimally, they seem to be inconsiderate, operate outside of the law, and have no idea what life is like for everyone else in the world.  In the worst cases, they have no regard for the value of other people or life, itself. 

I know that people like to use the term "spoiled" lightly and interchangeably with "well taken care of", but if you look up the definition of spoiled, this is what you will see:  

a. To impair the value or quality of.
b. To damage irreparably; ruin.
c. To impair the completeness, perfection, or unity of; flaw grievously: spoiled the party.
d. To do harm to the character, nature, or attitude of by oversolicitude, overindulgence, or excessive praise.
a. To plunder; despoil.
b. To take by force.
a. To become unfit for use or consumption, as from decay. Used especially of perishables, such as food.
b. To pillage.

None of that is good.  Often times people like to "spoil" their children and almost all of the time, their children will pay for it.  It's a hard adjustment when you find out that you are not THE most important person on the planet, that you have to wait in line, that you won't get your way, and that you don't always get what you want.  Even the best parent of all time is not perfect and yet would know this; since we find ourselves with a perfect Heavenly Father that already knows this, we can expect not to be spoiled.

Though I think I would like it better if I never had to struggle or sacrifice for anything in life, somewhere, deep down inside, I know that's simply not true.  Never requiring your children to work or mature is bad parenting. 

Sure, God could swoop in and save the day, and I believe that He will if need be, but I know that there are valuable lessons to be learned in the struggle:

1.   Trust - You can't have trust if there is never an opportunity to doubt.
2.   Responsibility - Just sometimes, there is work that I need to do. 
3.   Confidence - God blesses me with the opportunity to do things successfully.  Cheering for my toddler as she puts away her toys is a blessing to me, but it also makes her feel proud!

There are lots of reasons that I allow my children to struggle through situations in their life, but it's only ever the situations that are not detrimental.  Sometimes they get through it themselves and sometimes I have to swoop in at the end and save the day, but I always let them try.  As they get older and more mature, the areas that I let them work a little harder expand.  There are things that I will do for my 6 year old that I would never do for my 10 year old, and by this time next year, that list will have grown and shifted.  Sure, it might make me feel like the hero if I never let my kids do anything for themselves and keep them hobbled, but I'm not that selfish.  Neither is God.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How Jesus is like Ross Geller

I must confess that I like to watch reruns of Friends.  Admittedly, I never really got into watching it when they were running fresh episodes.  Though, I may have seen the final episode when it aired.  Honestly, I can't recall, since I'm sure I've seen a rerun on more than one occasion. 

Well, unless you've made it a point to not watch Friends, on some level you must be aware of the episode where Rachel discovers that Ross has wuved her since she was in high school.  If not, here's how the scene basically plays out (forgive me for any inaccuracies, but I'm not going to go watch it right now, so it's based on my poor, poor memory):

The gang is watching a video recording of the night of Rachel and Monica's senior prom.  Basically, they catch on camera the fact that Rachel's date flakes and that Ross, at his parents suggestion, changes into a tux and heads down the stairs to save the day.  The next thing that the camera catches is Rachel and Monica happily leaving with their dates, then flashes to Ross' sad, sad face.  Once Rachel sees this, she rushes to Ross and they live happily ever after... well, not really, THEY WERE ON A BREAK!!!!

Ok, back to Jesus. 

I think that if we were to all sit down and watch playbacks of our lives, in the moments when we needed Him the most, He was there ready to save the day, but we left with the jerk. 

In our lonliness or in our pain we turned to drugs and alcohol, but He was there.

In our financial distress, we turned to credit cards and loans, but He was there. 

In our heartache or feelings of abandonment, we turned to casual sex, but He was there.

In our grief or anger, we turned to food, but He was there.

In our shame, we turned to violence and rage, but He was there. 

He was there waiting, ready to grab our hand and help us; to love us.

Picture the worst moment in your life, it might be an instant or a decision stretched out over time.  But, you know the moment.  The moment that you can instantly go back to if you want to feel bad.  You may have more than one, I know I do.  But I have one in particular.  It's the place that in the midst of feeling like God might have a plan for my life after all, my mind goes to that moment and instantly I feel disqualified and unlovable.  It's a trump card.

This past weekend, during praise and worship, God pulled the trump card.  He'd never done that before, but in an instant, He took me back to that place, that moment all those years ago.  In that same instant, I felt defeated, confused, ashamed, sad, unlovable, disqualified.  Just as quickly as those emotions rolled in, Jesus held back the tide with just His nail scarred hand and said STOP!  Once He had my attention, He said "I was with you in that moment and despite your failure, I loved you then just as much as I do now, in this moment."

I cried.  Heck, I'm crying now as I recall that moment and type these words. 

And no matter how crazy all of this sounds, it's true, you know.   

I challenge you to pull up that moment or all of the moments where you feel you failed the most and see Jesus in that moment, standing with you, loving you just as much then as He does now.  You may be reading this and realize that you're still in that moment.  I want you to know that He's with you now and He loves you more than you can comprehend.  That He still sees you the way you were intended to be and He's just waiting for you to turn and run to Him.

I can't say that if Rachel had looked up to see Ross the day of her prom, that she would have rushed to him and dumped her boyfriend, she was in high school after all.  I also can't say that if someone would have caught my arm that day and said "He loves you, you know.  You don't have to do this.", if it would have changed anything in that moment.  What I can say is that knowing that now makes His love that much sweeter and poignant.  Most importantly, it has torched the trump card.