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Keeping a Record of Rights

20 May

The hardest part of homeschooling (or–schooling at home): learning how to live and work together well.  Anyone who knows me in real life can testify that I am not patient at all, about anything.  Secondly, it’s hard for me to breathe with my house this messy.  Both of those things continually rage against me, as we’re living in here together, perpetually, with no breaks.  

But impatience and filth are not my biggest challenge.  The solitary thing that puts me on my back at the end of any given day is the endless chastisement, re-directions, reminders, and corrective training.  Over time it builds up.  It feels like my words are all negative, all the time.  It absolutely takes its toll on the children; and before long, it feels like I am the one who is actually failing at everything.    

I have felt desperate, thinking, “Oh my GOSH!  I never see any good in them!”

Love keeps no record of wrongs, and this seems like a paradox for parents raising wayward children.  For years, I’ve earnestly prayed for the gift of encouragement, especially within my own family, which should be automatic, considering how much I love these people!

We know what we want it to be, but neither they nor we can keep it together long enough to rise out of the cycle of negativity.  It can feel we are stuck in the same place day after day.


My family has found a simple but concise practice to counteract some of the negative, critical talk that inevitably permeates our daily speech. 

As much as possible, I try to keep a running “record of rights.” 

I jot down anything good I have observed from each child over the past day or days: their kind words spoken, their helpful actions, loving gestures, and taking initiative.  I look for instances they produced any of the fruits of the Spirit!  I try to record as many occurrences I can think of, and God brings many to mind. 

Some days I just have one for each person.  If it has been a while, I think back over the past week or so, and I record five or six per person.  At the end of the day, usually at the dinner table, my husband or I read the list aloud.  Every child receives a round of applause and a decent dose of positive affirmation. 

They are tremendously pleased to be acknowledged and thanked for the good things they have done. 


What an aroma of grace over our family!  For one thing, it verifies that I am, in fact, encouraging and seeing the good in my kids.  And it warms my heart toward them when it’s beginning to grow cold.  It infuses reassurance, approval, and praise into each of our relationships. 

Kids adore the recognition.  Because they know there’s potential for commendation, this is also a great way to foster in them a habit of thinking, “Have I done something good for someone else today?”  (Then again, they should do it whether anyone notices or not.  Different lesson.)

Encouragement is a gift of the spirit and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is within reach. This builds a framework for just how to intentionally and quantifiably give this gift. 

Try it out!  The fruit of this will multiply in your home and out your front door as everyone in the family has their spirits lifted—they will be filled enough to potentially fill others.  It models and demonstrates the art of encouragement in just a few minutes per week.  It will brighten the spirit in your home…and, you can lay your head on your pillow at night knowing that not everything you say to them is negative or critical!

We are all doing our best!!  Stay safe, and continue your pursuit of spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional wellness!

Let’s keep track of everything good,
Leigh

The Other Guys. Best movie ever.

When God’s Sovereignty Feels Mean

21 Apr

A friend of mine recently asked me to be a guest speaker for her Bible study group.  They’re in a series on the attributes of God, and my assigned attribute was sovereignty.  Since I was in the middle of an international move, I shot her a text on the fly, “yeah NP.”

Later, I took some time to think it through and I realized—oh DANG.  The entire concept of the sovereignty of God is… touchy.  I don’t think my friend realized the cosmic irony for ME to be talking about sovereignty, because I have been been stalled out on “God! You have no idea what you’re doing!” for quite a while.


Sovereignty.  God is the ruler of the Universe, and is free to do whatever he wants. He is in complete control over everything that happens here on Earth. God’s will is the final cause of all things.

Hmph.  Well, that kind of divine sovereignty feels fantastic when paired with all the good stuff.  Health, wealth, success, comfort.  Of course He loves to make all that happen for us!  God’s sovereignty is easy to receive, very comforting, and preaches real well off of this podium.

But what about the bad stuff?  Where is He in all of that?

Some of us have been through some things.  You know what I am talking about.  Those things live just under the surface of our paper-thin facade, and the associated pain drips continually through our veins.  And when you hold the bad things up next to the concept that God is sovereign over everything, it makes you want to back away from Him very, very slowly.

It’s painful to accept the sovereignty of God when you despise what has gone on in your life.  It hurts.  It feels like He has been disloyal to you and indifferent about your joy.  Worse, it seems He is disinterested in the health of your heart and mind.


A couple of years ago, I was hurt—deeply.  Not in my marriage, and it wasn’t disease or the death of a loved one.  Honestly though, it stood fourth in line behind those three.  We can call it a house of cards that came tumbling down.  At first, it was easy to point fingers at exact people who caused this.  But over time, my anger grew, the pain ballooned, and slowly the wires got crossed.  I started pointing my finger right past the culprits.  I pointed it straight through…to God.

My flow of thoughts went:

They didn’t cause this…God caused this…because He could have prevented it and didn’t…He actually wanted this to happen…sovereignty is cruel.

When this whole thing went down in my life, I just could not reconcile it with the continual thought, “Why would God want this to happen?!!”

I essentially kept telling God, “This is not loving of you.”  Then He essentially told me, “You’re right.  And the BAD THING…that was not me.”  But I got stuck there.

The domino effects of my calamity caused my pain to grow exponentially over the course of the subsequent years.  So many dominoes kept falling, to the point that I actually told God that I thought He was mean, and I didn’t even like His earth.  Yeah.  I said that.  To God.**  

 

I stood behind the 1,000-year-old church behind my house in England, and I told Him that He was mean. **

I think the Lord allows us just to feel our feelings.  Throughout our lives, our humanity and our spirituality clash.  They will continue to clash until completeness comes.  Even though I said those horrible things to God, He mercifully stayed nearby. After I felt everything…a lot…I became quieter and less distracted.  Then, I did hear something:

You don’t feel peace with sovereignty because you don’t have the right view of sin.  You don’t perceive sin properly.  You don’t cower to its magnitude, its enormity, or its capacity.  Until you have the right view of SIN, you will not feel safe with the Lord’s SOVEREIGNTY.


We cannot reasonably categorize all the bad that has happened without having the right view of sin.  Sin absolutely trashed the world.  All these bad things going on were not His plan.  His plan was perfection, paradise, health, longevity, serenity, love, fellowship, communion.

None of this…none of the atrocities that have happened to me or you or anyone throughout human history should have happened. 

Most importantly, God did not “want” this to happen.
But He can do something with it.

He isn’t sitting up there happy this happened so He can pay you back for the bad things you’ve done, or to give an angel the wings it earned, or to remind you continually that you deserve it and it could always be worse.  No.  The world He created had none of this.  God did not want these bad things to happen, and He certainly did not cause them to happen—because He is only Love.  

Yes, He allows it, because he doesn’t change the nature of sin’s impact.  And He isn’t going to crack open the world every time some effect of sin is about to touch our lives.  None of us get out of these dreadful effects…not even the Messiah himself. Let’s not forget that He was the victim of the worst sin ever to be committed in human history.  We humans obliterated him.  The Messiah came to instruct us how to love one another and live our best life…and we tore Him to pieces.

Jesus knew it was coming.  Still, he double-checked with the Father by essentially asking God whether or not He knew what He was doing!  So it’s okay to ask.  It’s okay to hate your circumstances.  It’s okay to grieve and writhe, and question. But it’s not okay to blame God for the sweeping consequences of sin.  It is not God’s fault that we chronically forget the actual source of all pain, and that none of us under the sun, not even Christ Himself, get a free pass. 

Actually: Yes we do!!  We all get a free pass!! He did crack the world open!  He reached in.  He began the restoration of humanity through the first cosmic domino, a complete undoing of sin’s permanence: the resurrection of Christ and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 

That’s sovereignty. 

Sovereignty is when despite our best efforts as humanity to kill His Messiah, we could not undo His plan of healing, resurrection, and restoration.

Just as God resurrected Christ and restored him, He will, in his timing, restore the dead places in your life both now and in the world to come.  

This restoration is where the notion of His sovereignty feels safe, loving, and healing.


 

Sovereignty.
It is in the nature of God to bring restoration to us, at all costs.
Good will overcome, He will see to that.  

 

Out of the awful, non sensical, outrageously unfair crap that happens, he brings restoration to our heart, mind, and soul.  That’s sovereignty OVER the bad things.  We must be watchful for how He resurrects that bit of death in our lives.  In a lot of ways, this is a matter of humility.  Are we willing to wait for it, see it, and accept it?  It requires willingness to let go of the bad thing, place it in His hands, and allow Him to convert it into something good. 

I am guilty of saying I don’t want to be used as a testimony of His goodness…I don’t want this sad thing to be part of my story, even if it brings good at some point.  I only want the atrocity to never have happened, for the pain to go away, and for the bad stuff to come untrue.    Actually, I get to have that too, on the other side.  This is the opposite of mean.

I am starting to see some good things.

Leigh

 

 


**Testimonial: I guess I was expecting some kind of catharsis; or that I was going to feel so relieved to get that all off my chest.  Unfortunately, this kind of rage had no escape and only continued burning and festering.  It went nowhere.  So, yelling at God does not, in fact, release the steam valve.  If anything, it was more exasperating to be on the other side of that outburst and feel no reprieve whatsoever.

All I Ever See is this Manna

24 Jan

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”  Numbers 11:4-6

Most Judeo-Christian believers know the story of the manna and the quail.  While the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years, nourishment was scarce.  Conditions made it impossible for them to cultivate anything for themselves. God, in order to prove to them that he sees and sustains, fed them every morning with a miraculous wafer-like substance they called “manna.” The whole thing exhibited His limitless power over nature, all while repetitively nourishing them.

And in just a few paragraphs, they are over it.  This wasn’t a quiet objection, either.  It was a complete uproar: “Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents.”  Wailing.  “We never see anything but this manna!”  Paraphrased, they thought: miracle or not, this food is so boring and monotonous that we would rather regress.

This story has always stumped me!  They had come out of Egypt via spectacular, supernatural, showstopping miracles.  On top of that, God performed a DAILY feeding miracle for them.  And here they are objecting?  His sustenance was delivered to them without a drop of individual or collective effort, and they are not impressed at all.  This is preposterous!

What a picture of humanity.  What a picture of me.


The physical story of the manna represents a spiritual reality.  Manna each morning sounds familiar… sounds like our daily bread, from the bread of life, Christ, who taught that man does not live on bread alone but from every word that comes from the mouth of God.  In a great mystery, He himself is the Word become fleshChrist even calls himself the Manna.   

HERE IS WHERE I AM THE ISRAELITE.

When I wake up in the morning, I look at my Bible and my prayer journal and think, “Meh.  Blah.  This again? I know all about it.  The Word, your love, and the security of salvation?  Bo-ring.  Yawn.  You know what would be interesting?  Fixing the thing.  Getting me out of this dang desert even if it means going backwards.  I am totally fine with backwards in this case. 

I have been in a dreadfully long season of pain and disappointment in a certain area.*  Emotional desert.  I have years of built-up head knowledge to rationalize every emotion that I experience in this wilderness…but all the knowledge and striving in the world doesn’t extinguish even one drop of the heartache.

I know everything I need to know to overcome all of this.  I know God works everything for the good for those whom he has called.  I know he uses the pain to shape us into His creation.  I know He will be faithful to complete his good work in me.  I know that in this world we will have trouble, and that these fiery trials come to prove our faith to be genuine.

I know all these things; I have the manna in my hand.  But I crave other things…glory, prosperity, significance…elusive stuff I had in the past and stuff I see all the other people enjoying.  I have to move through my day in these disappointing circumstances…and THAT’S IT.  No change in events.  New day, same feelings, same Lord. 

This manna is boring!  I want more.  I want the thing.  

The Israelites decided they were bored with the manna, but they could not have gone long without eating it.  Even though it was boring, it physically sustained them so they ate it anyway.  In my own desert, I can willingly go for ages without taking my daily bread portion, but at what cost to my spiritual health? 

There is a sermon in that.  Eat it anyway.


So, this is an impasse.  What do we do with this?  What do I do with this same ol manna? 


Humble yourself.  Who the heck do I think I am?  Look at the words spoken to Job: Brace yourself.  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Does the shorebreak of the ocean obey you?  Can you trace the path of light all the way back to its source?  You wouldn’t dream of approaching the nest of a simple cobra in the wild—but you sure seem to have enough courage to question its Maker.  Do you think you are going to get out of the consequences of living in a sin-shattered world?

Bad things happen.  Yes, even to you.  Not exactly a devotional Sarah Young would include in Jesus Calling, yet helpful to maintain correct perspective on dreadful circumstances.

Acceptance.  Acceptance isn’t natural.  It’s equated with quitting/giving up, but it’s not.  Americans in particular have a hard time with the concept of “there is nothing we can do about this.”  Acceptance is hard, it’s a personal journey, and some arrive sooner than others.  Still, try.  Go through the motions of saying you accept it.  Be willing to say, “I can’t fix this, but HE can.  I am willing to step out of the way and let Him work.”  Improved feelings will eventually arrive.

Ask this question: If Jesus comes back tomorrow, does any of this matter?  We are so bad about living in the future, and getting so bummed out about that notional hypothetical possibility.  (I am 100% stuck on this right now.)  Let’s keep our head down and eyes on today.  Is His bread of love and salvation enough for you if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow?  If He comes back tomorrow, His bread feels a lot more significant and valuable right now.

ID what is not boring, and thank Him for it, because all those things are from Him too.  They are part of the daily bread.  This goes back to mindful thankfulness, healthy distractions, exercising your creativity, and the myriad of other things that He puts in front of us day after day.   

Then abideEat it anyway.  Sometimes the Word is exhilarating and we come away supernaturally recharged.  Other times we open and close it with no change in feelings…but it never goes down without taking root.  Lysa TerKeurst said it best just this week: Scripture, like rain, brings us immediate nourishment and refreshment for our present circumstances (Psalm 19:7-10), but it also plants seeds to sustain us in the future (Isaiah 55:10).


It is okay to admit the manna is boring, we are human. But just because something is boring, doesn’t make it irrelevant.  Just like bread, we can’t go long without it.  Take and eat.

 

**Don’t worry your pretty little head about me.  It’s not any of the big four D’s: death, divorce, depression, disease. 
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