Monday, January 20

I Was Wrong.... And, I'm OK With That!

Yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday. I know many churches covered the subject of abortion in small group and corporate settings. At our church, we did. Abortion has been a hot button topic for most of my life. I can remember choosing abortion as the subject of a persuasive essay I had to write in high school. Obviously, I was/am pro LIFE. But, I can remember (even as a high school student) being so very confused by the many others that shared my regard for the life of the unborn babies but had obvious DISregard for the human lives carrying those babies. Back then, it was over the top. You know.... the crazies who carried signs against murder of the unborn while they BLEW UP abortion clinic?

I was very happy, yesterday, to see that our small group material took sanctity of life further than abortion. Over and over, the authors were asking us to ponder how we can value ALL life... young/old, handicapped, neglected, etc. Sometimes, we focus on the unborn, and they are important. But, we damage and disregard other lives in the process. It's confusing, and it sends a terrible message.

I couldn't read the material without remembering Christ's words very early in the New Testament...

You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. But, I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.  Matthew 5: 21-22

This passage of scripture is on my mind, because it makes it clear that, in His coming, Christ did fulfill the Law. But, He also raised the bar. No longer are we accountable ONLY for the external activity. We are held accountable the inner works of our hearts and minds.

The purpose of this blog post is for me to be able to put in print something that has REALLY been on my heart lately. This is a topic that I've gone over a million different times. Each time, I seem to come away with more questions than answers. So, I'm just going to mull it over publicly! :). That's normal, right?

Another area that God, through His word, set apart as holy is marriage. Over and over, the scriptures give instructions for marriage. It starts in the very beginning. And, God's first instructions for marriage go MUCH deeper than, "Do not divorce." He says,

For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh,...  Genesis 2:24

Let me just go ahead and say it.... Here is my concern, my question, my confusion. Why have we made our argument against divorce alone? Why do overwhelming numbers of husbands and wives stay together but with total disregard to God's initial instruction for marriage.... leave Father and Mother and CLEAVE to spouse... become ONE FLESH?

If I follow Christ's New Testament instructions, He's taken everything to a higher level. Our external activity is important, but God looks at the heart. The inner workings of our marriages, I believe, are important to God. "God hates divorce." But, does that mean He is pleased with couples going through the motions of marriage... staying together for the children.... living like roommates in a house?

After Scotty's betrayal and confession, I can say that I was ANGRY. I know I was devastated in spirit. But, as I've said before, I did not feel despair. I had not lost all hope... not even for a second. God spoke to me, as clearly as possible, and told me that He REALLY could work this out. I felt that our marriage could be even better than before. I relayed all of these thoughts to Scotty in those early moments. I shared my hopes, my affirmations. But, then, I said something to him that I still can't believe I said,

"I know that God can use all of this to make something better than we've ever had. But, I'm not sure you're man enough to do the kind of work that's necessary to get there."

Ahhhh.... the memory of that statement still makes me cringe. I'd NEVER said that kind of thing to Scotty before. NEVER! In our relationship, my role was building up! Sometimes, in order to "build up" and encourage, I had to cover up and make excuses for negative behaviors. Our marriage was full of barriers to living as one flesh... defensiveness, secrecy, lack of appropriate marriage skills, etc. But, I never wanted to "rock the boat", so I'd given up hope for any kind of true intimacy. Without calling it this, I'd settled for a roommate instead of the Biblical definition of a husband. And, what I'm saying is I don't think that pleased God. The mere fact that we'd not divorced STILL didn't mean we were living obedient, Christ following lives. And, our marriage did not speak of our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

Do you know that one statement made to Scotty woke him up? To this day, I cringe when I remember saying those words. But, he is happy that I said them. I was fearful that he wasn't going to be able to let his guard down, humble himself and cooperate with the Lord in repairing our marriage. I was FINALLY being honest, and Scotty remembers that honesty as being a catalyst to his making the commitment to do whatever it took.

(**Let me also insert that statements like that only have positive outcomes if they are spoken in love with a true desire to see the best in the person to whom they are spoken. Difficult conversations can still speak life. But, that statement could have easily been used to cut!)

In our opening session as the Marriage Institute, our therapist made a statement that let us know he did not have a "stay together and do not divorce no matter what belief." At the end of the week, his recommendation may NOT be to go home and stay together. That was odd! I'd never heard anything like that before. But, today, I realize that he was actually saying that marriage is a BIG DEAL. It's a holy matrimony! We are to take it seriously! He was not going to encourage 2 people to go home and stick it out. He wasn't going to recommend staying together just to avoid a divorce.

Why? Because, that does not demonstrate a commitment to the sanctity of marriage! We've got to start calling our situations what they are. It's hard. Even 2 1/2 years later, I shutter a little at my honest words to Scotty. But, they were important. And, I believe we MUST stop making excuses for not living the instructions God gave for marriage.

Even with the fallout we've experienced, the NATURAL pull is to go through the motions in marriage and family. It seems so much easier to do this on our own, not to find the time to really bear soul with Scotty, to get caught up in a busy schedule. But, the NATURAL pull never leads to the Godly life.

My challenge to anyone who's still reading (you're a trooper) is that we seek God's guidance in REALLY honoring His marriage standards. We are to be partners with our spouse. Our marriages are to be holy, set apart. We should enjoy one another, confide in one another, experience intimacy on every level with one another. And, to settle for anything less is sinful. Hmmm.... Ouch?!?!

Ladies, we have a tendency to cover up, to make excuses, to do whatever is necessary to make less than ideal circumstances seem o.k. That's not always a bad thing. But, if that is THE WAY of our lives, I'm suggesting we start being honest with ourselves and with God. We MUST begin to ask for more and be willing to cooperate to achieve it. Maybe we'll need help. And, there's great help out there.

I don't have all of the answers. But, I know this.... Fourteen years of trying to be the one to build Scotty up, to make light of the difficulties, to pretend that our marriage was wonderful did not achieve what those few seconds of real honesty did for him and for our marriage.

Thankfully, I was wrong. Scotty IS proving to be "man enough" to seek the Lord daily in doing this walk of recovery. Honest confession was our first step. Scotty's confession of his sin was important. But, the very important next step was our JOINT confession of need... together, we had to confess that we need an infusion of the Holy spirit daily to live an intimate, God honoring marriage.

Let's VALUE the sanctity of marriage by not settling for less than its designed purpose!

Monday, January 6

Confessions From THIS Homeschool Mom

I know my last post was about JOY. But, I'm just going to come right out and confess....

I was not ready to start school today,

not ready to look at the blank stares,

not ready... not ready.... not ready!!!

So, look! If I had any pride left, I would not admit this. I know (because I used to be this person) that there are people just waiting for me to throw in the towel, realize that school is a better choice for everyone, and say it's just too hard.

Well, some days, it's really, really hard. And, after 3 weeks off, major house renovations going on for months now, and FREEZING cold temps outside, it was really, really hard to think about homeschooling.

On top of that, I really thought I'd get this wild motivation as this day got closer. I'm not kidding... I thought I'd magically wake up one morning and have this sudden urge to jump out of bed, clean out the school supplies, and write beautiful lesson plans for January. So, when that didn't happen by this past Friday, I started questioning everything. Well, maybe not EVERYTHING. But, I sure started questioning ME.

Yesterday, our pastor began a new sermon series on living a life with no regrets. Thankfully, the Lord & a sweet homeschooling friend/mentor (thank you, Dee Dee) had already begun to pull me out of my funk, because this sermon reminded me of every reason we'd decided to homeschool our children last year. In other words, I was convicted (AGAIN) that this isn't about me. 

In fact, it was during another sermon series at our church that God began to pull at my heartstrings and open my mind to the possibility of making a change. We were doing a series on the family. It was awesome! We studied so many areas of family life. One Sunday, we were in Deuteronomy 6, and I began to realize that God's command to parents that we TEACH our children LOTS of different things is a serious command.... one that I'd not been taking seriously. Along with that truth, I began to recognize that God has great expectations for families. The way we live and operate at home will play a large part in how our children grow up and live and operate in their own homes. The reality set in that OUR family has A LOT to heal from if we are going to set our children on the path towards healthy marriages and families. True healing just couldn't happen in the average one hour a day we had together as a family (that's an honest calculation... I did the math). 

So.... yesterday, Whit asked how we would live differently if we knew we had one month, three months, etc. to live. What would we do? 

I would study the Word (Christ, the Word) like it was my very breath, searching for guidance in living abundantly. I would find ways to leave imprints on the lives entrusted to me so that they'd remember my love for them after I'm gone. And... I would teach my children to do the same. But, I wouldn't teach them with an attitude of "I HAVE to do this!" 

I wouldn't half heartedly plan out lessons to mark objectives off of a list. 

And, I certainly wouldn't wish that I had LESS time with them! 

I'd cherish every moment, and I'd teach them important lessons like their very lives depended on it... because I'd realize that they do! 

Whew! Am I ever thankful for God's timing! I needed these lessons this weekend. I needed to be reminded that my children deserve my best! ALL of the time... not just when I'm "on duty". They are gifts. And, thankfully, God did this work in me prior to this morning. I REALLY was ready for school when I woke up today. I was HAPPY to be a homeschooling mom!

But, just in case I wasn't, God carefully planned for another great reminder. He's so wise! Here is our memory verse for this week in Claire's writing....

This is what we'd do if we knew when life was going to end! We'd do EVERYTHING to the glory of God. So, why wait? 

Saturday, January 4

I've Got a Word....

Once again, I'm out of the loop, uninformed, behind the times.

This week, I noticed on Facebook that resolutions are apparently outdated. In 2014, people are choosing a word for the upcoming year. I think it's interesting. Typically, I come up with a word in December that summarizes the year ending. But, I can get on board with speaking a word over the year to come. I'll consider it a practice in being proactive.

So, here's my word.... JOY! I'm talking about visible joy, HAPPINESS.

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but there aren't many expressions of true happiness in our world today. In our world, I see a lot more anger, bitterness, UNhappiness, and fear. And, I live in the "Bible belt", so most of the people that I come in contact with are proclaimed believers, Christians. Truly, we DO live in a world where events happen daily that are far less than desirable. However, I continue to be confronted with these words from Jesus; which, I believe, call us to joy in spite of our circumstances.

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.  John 10:10

The definition for abundance in the concordance uses words like; superabundant, superior in quality, excessive, exceeding abundantly above, beyond measure, and superfluous to describe its meaning. So, it seems to me that Christ came so that we can live with joy. But, how do we live abundantly (fully of JOY) in a world that regularly provides less than joyous news? For me, I feel there are a couple of ways.

First, I have to be FULL of the One who gives joy. Now, this seems simple. This fact is what we've been hearing since childhood. But, many times in my life there has been space between my knowledge of this truth and my experiencing this truth. The question is HOW do we fill ourselves with the Giver of joy? And, the answer, I believe, can be found by looking at the lies the thief has tricked us into believing could provide joy. Money, material things, relationships, fitness, etc. have been pursued for the sake of happiness, and all have come up short. But, not before much time and devotion was given to them. All of us have spent countless hours devoted to a job, an exercise program, a person, or the acquisition of some thing and thinking, "I'll be happy when...." None of these are bad things. But, they all fail to provide joy. Christ came to give us joy, abundant life; so, why don't we pursue Him with the fervor we pursue these worldly things. What would be the result if we were as devoted to personal time alone with Jesus as we have been devoted to worldly pursuits? More knowledge of our Savior which would lead to....


So, joy is between God and me through Jesus Christ. No matter what's going on, no matter where I am, no matter who I'm with, I can have joy and be happy. That's salvation, and it's meant to be shared. I don't want my joy to end with me. I want others to see it. And, this is where my 2014 "word" will collide with a resolution.

I'm going to focus more on what I am FOR rather than what I am AGAINST so that others can see my joy and where it comes from. Sound easy? It seems it is NOT.

In parenting our children, Scotty and I have noticed how easy it is to be ALL about what they CAN'T do. Some days, I realize that I've said "NO" more times than I could count. At home, this creates an atmosphere of oppression and a real lack of joy for our children. I don't want them to feel this burden, because there are LOTS of things that they CAN do. Why wouldn't I focus on those things?

This isn't a new problem, but I see a lot of this going on in our churches and in the way we've chosen to present Christ to the world. Sadly, Christians are viewed as a bunch of boring, legalistic, unhappy people in constant denial of anything that could create pleasure in life. And, honestly, I think this is a pretty appropriate view. Somehow, we've decided that "good Christians" are in a constant state of self denial... sacrificing all that is fun in an effort to live a holy life. And, then we wonder why non believers won't repent and follow after us! I'm not against holy and righteous living. But, I think true holiness and true righteousness are born out of TRUE joy.

I've read a portion of a sermon preached by C.S. Lewis that states much more clearly what I'm trying to say. He's speaking to the notion many believers had that desiring good and earnestly seeking enjoyment was a BAD thing. He says,

"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

There's JOY in following hard after the Lord. There's great pleasure in a life devoted to Him. And, when I realize this truth, there's no sacrifice in turning away from the things of this world, because I know that these pleasures are limited. The joy and pleasure offered through salvation are limitless, eternal & abundant.THIS is the picture I want to portray to my family, my community and anyone I'm given the opportunity to meet.

My sophomore year at MC, a fellow classmate was killed in a car accident. It was incredibly tragic. I didn't know him well at all. Everything I knew about him I learned from a distance and from mutual friends of ours. But, from my perspective, he was one of the most joyful people I'd ever encountered. His life exuded joy. At his funeral, I remember praying specifically that God would lead me to the kind of joy that Campbell had. I've never forgotten it. See, he wasn't an uppity believer pointing out all of the ways the world was "making mud pies in a slum". He didn't have to. From the outside looking in, his life looked like a "holiday at the sea." And, I wanted my own.

Joy is contagious, inviting and, I believe, holy! It's found in only one place, one Person. My only resolution for 2014 is to find more of Him in every area of my life, and I believe this mission will result in my "word".


Happy 2014! I pray it's your BEST yet!