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Monday, September 9, 2013


The old-school thinking was along these lines: My private life is private.  I keep it to myself.  I don't share much of my struggles or burdens.  No-one really wants to hear about that.  People want to hear what's positive.  So I'll share what's positive of myself, of my life.  That way, everyone can get along and enjoy life.  Blah blah blah.

New-school thinking is more along these lines:  Everyone is interested in me.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  So what if there's more of the bad and ugly?  I'll just share it all - hellooooo world!  Here I am - warts and all!  Like what you see?  If you tell all like me then you can join me in my misery, self-absorbed, how-open-I-am kind of life!

Now let's talk about transparency.  Let's make that TRANSPARENCY.  With CAPITALS.

I wanted to title this 'integrity' but thought 'transparency' fit better.

Transparency means allowing people to see us as we are - even if that includes some of the struggles we face, some of the besetting sins in our lives and some of the better things - like what we're good at or how God has enabled us to grow.  Transparency means I'm really not hiding anything.  There is a dignity to transparency - we don't share every little thing or every failure.  But if someone came across our path who witnessed or knew of one of these moments, if we are transparent, they wouldn't be surprised.

We shouldn't be afraid of being 'told on'.  What do I mean?  Well, in families sometimes one person is nasty to another.  Someone is hurting and cannot confront the nasty person.  So they share it with someone else for their help.  Then the nasty person is all offended and feels 'told on'.  The point really is - shouldn't we live in such a way that there are no nasty secrets?  That if we do treat another poorly, that we repent and apologize?  That if we are 'told on' it is not the telling one's fault, but the fault of the offender for being slow to listen?

Transparency requires something the UN-transparent don't get: an understanding of, and reliance upon GOD'S GRACE.  If I felt I had to perform for you and keep my nasties hidden from you, I would be relying on my need of your acceptance.  I would be fueling an idol - the idol of my reputation - how you think of me etc.

If I rest securely in God's grace it means I know I need it.

It means I am willing to let the world hate me because I have Jesus, and He is all I need.

It means I know I am a sinner and have fallen on His Grace for Redemption.

In knowing this, in resting in this, I can be transparent.  It means I still have nasties in me that are shameful and embarrassing.  But because of Grace, I can let that be seen - I can turn from it and repent and apologize.
I can rest in God's acceptance and love even if you reject me.

Often we fail to be transparent because we are keeping hidden idols.  But idolatry is hard to hide.  It creeps out into the open and we'd like to pretend we love God most when really we have all this other stuff we hang onto and woe to anyone who gets in the way of our idols!  Idols tend to be more along the lines of control - control of stuff, time, energy, resources.  I want my stuff and don't get in my way - it's my idol and no I won't be transparent with you if you want to talk me out of hoarding my stuff - go away - I don't want a lecture from you... etc.  These are the messages of the non-transparent.  Those who hide.  Those who sacrifice anyone and anything that gets in their way.  These are those who cannot rest in the merciful grace of God.

I have these issues - don't we all?  I am not always transparent.  Sometimes I want to hide.  I'm embarrassing in my failures.  But how can I enjoy the healing and joy of Christian community and fellowship if I don't share these?  How can I bless others and become healthily interdependent if I don't share these struggles?

God didn't design His body to function as little islands where we promote positive thinking and anything negative will suck bad energy from the room.  He designed His body to be fueled and energized by our mutual cares, failings, struggles and victories.  We are meant to function transparently so that the body can be strengthened.  We are supposed to be transparent so that accountability can flow into our lives in a natural way, so that we are reticent to live as if no-one is watching.  It should be a joyful thing to know God always sees us - and sometimes a fearful thing.  Knowing He sees me lose it with my kids should send warning flashes through my mind.

 I shouldn't fear the unleashing of His wrath upon me (though I deserve it) but I should be reminded that He paid dearly for my sin of lack of self-control and do I want to abuse His gift by continuing to sin?

So, be transparent.

Don't live in fear.

Treat others as if the world is watching.  Even if they aren't, God is.

If you aren't willing to be transparent, just watch idolatry grow in your life.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Yes, Jesus Loves Me

Hannah has been slow to talk.  This is no surprise as all but one of our kids was behind.  But she seems to have perfect pitch.  Before she could say a word we knew what song she was singing.  It was unmistakable.

When we went to the airport when she was about 10 months old, to pick up Grandpa from Hong Kong, she would not settle.  She didn't like staying in her seat.  She squirmed and began to cry.  Her cries escalated.  At some point Grandpa decided to sing her his favourite song.  She quieted immediately.  Every time he stopped she'd start crying again.  So he sang and he sang and he sang.  Somehow that song has bored its way into her memory and we continue to have to sing it to her, over and over.

She now can talk some and has some of the words - which are barely recognizable.  She will sing when she's bored, when she's doing something, when she's sick and weary.  She will sing the same lines over and over.  And she will be singing truth to ears that need to hear - like mine.

When I'm stressed out and overwhelmed, I hear a little voice singing, "Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!"

When I'm frustrated and annoyed I hear a little two-year-old voice reminding me: "Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong."

When I'm ready to throw in the towel and wondering why God has put certain things in my life at this moment Hannah will wander through my wonderings with: "Jesus loves me this I know,  For the Bible tells me so."

Last night she had a fever of 102.  She was lethargic and whimpering all day.  I had to hold her most of the time.  She was half asleep and snuggled in bed with us.  Sometimes she would groan.  But then she started to rasp in her weak, frail voice, "Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus love me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so."

Until the last day or two I've just seen it as a cute passing phase - this singing of Jesus Loves Me.

Sometimes my ears are slow to hear, my heart is reticent to understand.  Sometimes I miss the messages of love God is sending me.

It is as if He couldn't shout it any louder:  You are loved!!!  You are weak!  I am strong!  Listen to the voice of your child, who doesn't know, who doesn't understand but who speaks truth!  Listen, and hear.

So, I share this message with you today.  Maybe you don't have  two-year-old wandering through your days declaring this truth.  But in case you miss other reminders, let this be one to you:  Jesus loves you - this I know.

Jesus loves me when I'm good
When I do the things I should,
Jesus loves me when I'm bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.

Jesus take this heart of mine,
Make it pure and wholly Thine,
On the cross You died for me,
I will seek to live for Thee.

I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus likes to hear me say
That I love Him every day.

Jesus loves me this I know -
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong -
They are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me He who died -
Heaven's gate to open wide.
He will wash away my sin -
Let this little child come in.

Jesus loves me He will stay
Close beside me all the way.
He's prepared a home for me,
And someday His face I'll see.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Discipline of Children

Whenever we hear the two words 'discipline' and 'children' in the same sentence we immediately think about all the ways in which children are under or over-disciplined.  We think of the debates raging on forms of punishment, punishment at all, training, nurturing and the like.  We get tied up in knots over the best and right way to discipline.

Recently I was reflecting to myself on all the things having children has done for and to me.  All that it has taught me - how it is shaping my life.  And the phrase that summed it up for me was 'The Discipline of Children.'  Having a child, or many children has instilled in my life certain disciplines that were near next to impossible for me to learn in any other way.  Many people learn these disciplines without the aid of heel-nippers.  But for me, these were a necessary part of my on-going education in the art of living.

The presence of children in my life has introduced many aspects of discipline into how I function.

Having children has disciplined my time, eating, spending, speaking, work ethic, entertainment choices, temper, habits, cleanliness, order, sleep, priorities and values.

My children, by God's grace, are disciplining me.

My nature is to eat, sleep, spend, and while away the hours however best suits ME.  When you have children, that model doesn't work so well.  Especially if you love them and long to see their lives formed into vessels of grace.

Before kids, I viewed all waking (and even sleeping) hours as my own to do with as I saw fit.  If I wanted to shop, I would.  There were no time constraints.  I could peruse aisle after aisle in search of a perfect pink blouse.  I was never in a rush if I didn't have to be.  Shopping was a pleasure.

I could go to social events and hang out until the wee hours.  I could read books at the library or at home after it closed.  I could watch movies, talk on the phone and surf the internet.  I could do all these things in the disposable hours of my days in whatever order I so desired.  Children don't suit that model.

I learned the discipline of time usage.  I'm not saying I've mastered it.  Or that I've arrived.  Or that the presence of children magically instills this discipline.  But it sure helps.

On my own I would eat whatever I wanted.  I wouldn't cook proper meals, except on the rare occasion that I felt like it.  It just doesn't seem right to drag kids into this kind of model.  Who serves chocolate chip cookies to kids for dinner?  Nope - never done that.  Being a Mom means some of our sloppy habits have to be waylaid - at first I thought 'for a while'.  Then I changed my mind and decided eating cookies for supper should never be a way of life.  It took me having kids to learn some of these obvious things.

Without kids I would sleep in late and go to bed late.  I would take naps if I wanted to.  I would enjoy my sleep and probably over-indulge.  Not possible with kids.  Unless you have some kind of miracle child(ren).  I have had to learn the discipline of going to bed whenever I get the chance.  And of waking up early enough to fix lunches and get them out the door.  This Mom thing is like having a full-time job.  Oh, wait.  It is a full-time job.  It's more than that.  There are hour limits to most jobs.  Being a Mom means you never clock-out.  Like being a Dr. on call.  Except you are counsellor, medic, dietitian, tutor, laundry-maid, cook, and policeman all at the same time.

Oh, and lest I forget, the discipline of children in my life has meant that I spend money in ways I never would naturally choose.  I have spent precious dollars on diapers, happy-meals, juice boxes, toy-treasures, art supplies, shoes, kid books, doodads and trinkets, fire engines that make blaring noises, legos that I'm going to step on (barefoot!), kitchen snacks and treats, dress up clothes, birthday junk food...the list goes on.  Spending money on some of these things has hurt my frugal feelings.  But it has been a joy and pleasure to grow in thrifty-ness and to delight my children with some of these material blessings.  Spending on me has become less of a priority as children have wiggled their way into my heart shifting my desires to theirs - no matter how small or ridiculous.  (And in this matter, haven't I grown to see how an abundantly gracious Heavenly Father must delight to lavish gifts upon His children?)

How I speak has come under some heavy-handed discipline.  My temper rages at times.  And children can raise my ire.  I come unglued.  I lose it.  I blow up.  But after this happens I reflect in shameful remorse and realize I don't want my kids to live with this kind of Mom.  I don't want my nastiness to be a shaping influence in their lives.  I want my speech to be more disciplined.  My temper to be tempered.  If kids were not in my life, my temper and speech would probably go untested and also un-disciplined.  The discipline of children has taught me repentance, humility and the need I have for a Redeeming Saviour, every day, every hour.

I am not very clean, orderly or organized.  But I am far more than I ever was before.  And I am always growing in these things.  Having children has pushed me to be more clean and orderly.  And I'm still miles from where I should be.  They are teaching me the need for discipline in my home.

Yes, the discipline of children is indeed a marvellous thing.  Just look at all the discipline I'm learning.
On a daily basis.

Won't you join me on this adventure of parenthood - where our children are gifts from God, in part for the disciplining of our hearts?