But I Didn’t Hear the Call of Parenting!


Little girls play wedding with their Barbie dolls, and as they grow up, for many of them, that desire becomes real. And if those dreams are finalized, a new wish is planted deep within their souls – the yearning for a child to complete the picture. Boys, on the other hand, do not dream of one day changing diapers or picking out blue or pink clothes. But as men, the need to spread their humanity to future generations is encouraged by the joy they feel when told they are pregnant.

But what about the rest of the world? What about those who never touched Barbie dolls or felt the need to permanently couple before the eyes of God and man, and then to further complicate their lives with children? For heaven’s sake, a dog or cat are hard enough to deal with!

What about those of you who feel so totally inept at parenthood to even consider having children, married or not? These are the three types of possible parents born every day into this world, who grow up to be adults from a myriad of backgrounds, socioeconomic families, Christian or not.

Even for those people who never wanted kids, finding out they are going to have one turns out to be pure satisfaction – in most cases I would say. I believe this. A child has a disarming factor that you can’t understand until you hold the one you birthed or created.

I’m sure that’s how Eli felt when he first set his eyes upon Hophni and Phinehas, his two sons who grew to be Levitical priests like himself. And then he realized something about his children that should have (and maybe even did) stopped him in his tracks: they were inciting anger in the Lord by the sins they committed against His people.

Can you relate to this? Are you so different from Eli?

*You berate your child’s teacher for punishing him or her despite knowing your child deserved it.

*You spend money you don’t have, on things you don’t need, to make sure your child is keeping up with the Joneses.

*You know you don’t discipline your children when they need it but you can’t stand to “hurt” them by erecting boundaries and enacting appropriate punishment.

*You would rather enjoy the church service than deal with a bored child causing disruption, and having to teach that child to sit still and be quiet during the sermon.

*You want your home to be neat and tidy and don’t want to spend the time it would take teaching your children to clean it, because you know they won’t do it right until they are taught to, over and over – ad nauseum.

These are just a few common problems parents face. Maybe you don’t take your kids to church, although you believe, because you spend the week and weekends carting them around and working and come Sunday, you just are too tired to face getting them ready and taking them to church.

What did God have to say about this? Tons, of course! But what I read today reminded me of my own failures at godly parenting. 1 Samuel 2: 27-36 says, in part, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat (emphasis mine) with the best of the offerings of Israel My people?…But now the Lord says, ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed…Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.”

So, that’s pretty clear. Now let’s get back to my original statement: what if you never had the desire for children but ended up having them anyway? What does God want you to do? He wants your daily, loving, affirming commitment to those kids. Here’s what I think happens when you give that to them: your heart is opened wide, and a love you have never known – for there is nothing that compares to the fierce love you have for your kids – is available to you. It’s that simple and that complicated.

Now what? What if you did want your kids, and you already know that powerful love? Are you still guilty of honoring your children more than God? For 99% of us, I’d say yes! Yes, I am guilty of it. I urge all us parents to get into the Word and find out what it says about godly parenting. This is not a comprehensive list, but it’ll get you started! One of my pastors also recommended 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid: Leading Your Kids to Succeed in Life by Tim Elmore. I haven’t tried it yet but it’s on my list!

The Chariot of Victory


Streams in the Desert has been a God-send in my life. I would like to quote a passage from today’s lesson, which is incredibly timely, this, the day before Easter:

“This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and one another: Lord, open our eyes so we may see. We are surrounded, just like the prophet Elisha was, by God’s horses and chariots of fire…[E]ven the smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair if we allow it. The difference then becomes a choice we make. It all depends not on the events themselves but on how we view them.”

If, today, you are in the right frame of mind – the place – to hear these words; to let these words speak to your heart and your very soul – then they convey a powerful message. It’s a two-pronged offense.

1. We are surrounded by God’s horses and chariots of fire! Forget a sleeping, peaceful angel – we are surrounded by power. There isn’t a sniper in the world who can compare to God’s protection. Even former Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown can’t provide the victory in the place of Christ. Imagine what Satan thinks and feels when he sees a godly person stand his or her ground, surrounded by God’s vengeful horses and chariots blazing.

It’s comforting and peaceful to think lovely thoughts about God. But we don’t need that facet of God when we are facing down Satan; facing down circumstances that threaten to plunge us into deep despair. We need a vengeful, avenging God, and we have it at our disposal every moment.

2. We have a choice. When we can only hit our knees in prayer, we have a choice in how things go forward. The baby we didn’t believe we were prepared to have until we lost it; the wife we took for granted until she left; the husband who was unfaithful and isn’t repentant; the child who broke our heart when she became addicted to drugs in high school; the job we lived for until we were fired; the loss of the parent who was our best friend; the day we can’t stand being beaten another moment; when we watched the Twin Towers fall and knew our wife was trapped inside – the possibilities are absolutely endless.

Not only that – the myriad ways they could play out are mind-blowing. I have figured out that this is one of many instances in life where the advice is simple and practically impossible to follow. At first. We have to choose to lay that baby at Christ’s feet and thank Him for it – and then for days and days and weeks and months we have to do it again and again, and thank Him for the doing of it! We have to choose to face that husband and either accept his leaving or offer forgiveness, day in and day out, for as long as it takes, and thank the Lord for His love and mercy and grace, and remember that time we were tempted to cheat on that man and didn’t – which doesn’t make us better than him – it only makes us understand how he got there in the first place. We have to choose to move forward despite the loss of our livelihood and we have to thank God for giving us the job and have hope that we will gain another just as great or better. And when money gets tight and the nightly glass of wine turns into two or three, or that lonely neighbor starts to pique your interest – in those moments, you have to choose to hit your knees, raise your eyes to heaven, rent your garments – but choose to believe in the hope of Christ.

There truly is nothing new under heaven. Human beings have been facing crises after crises just like these since the beginning of time. It doesn’t even have to be something monumental – it could just be the growing desire to do more with your life that has you down in the dumps. Maybe you’re bored with your spouse, or your job, or your friends, or your church, or just your life in general, and you know you need a change, and you feel so stuck. Maybe that just starts to eat away at you, day by day, until you have totally lost the person you once were. Little things, we know, can snowball awful quick.

It’s the choosing that’s so hard. Because it isn’t one choice – it’s choice after choice after choice, day after day after day, and no one can tell you how long you will have to do it! But if we do not choose to allow God to take us under His wing behind that blazing chariot, and consent to follow His will regardless of what our flesh is positively screaming to have or do, we have no hope.

That’s not true for you, is it? Oh no – because you have implemented control mechanisms into your life so that whenever something falls out of balance or goes sideways, you have something to hold on to. But guess what? That is the very thing God will take away from you if you persist. He will rip it painfully out of your life and leave you with nothing.

Right? Wrong! Oh, so wrong – because you will be in the position I was in, five years ago, as I knelt on the floor of my apartment with my two-year-old sleeping soundly in the next room. I was devastated. I was a single parent, didn’t have a job or way to support my child, and had never felt so alone in my entire life. I had no family there, few friends, and literally did not know what to do. So I made a choice –  to stay there on my knees until I was able to rise with hope and faith to overcome my fear.

It was in that moment that my “nothing” became something greater than I’d ever known – when that sense of nothing became a sense of purpose and peace and calm. Yes, of course – it had become God’s love and hope. That fear is still here, and I fight against it most of the time. Meaning, there are few moments in my life ever since that time when I feel at peace without having to work at it. I am married, have all I need, and have a great life. I have another beautiful child. I have a church home and have been working hard at mending some seriously dinged fences. But that fear surfaces often, and I have been hoping and believing God for a long, long time. It is a choice I make, and every time I have left that decision to choose up to chance, I have experienced extremely painful times of loneliness, despair, and anger.

Gracious, by the Lord picks me right back and up and sets me on those shaky feet! I look so forward to having no suffering, only perfect peace. Right now I have the peace that passes all understanding, and it is more than enough. Blessings to you and your loved ones this Easter season. Sunday’s coming! Be ready!

Sarcasm = Anger?


As I was scrolling through Facebook a few days ago, a thought hit me: the people in my newsfeed employ sarcasm on a regular basis. Usually I find it funny, but lately I’ve been offended. Sometime I even agree with what’s said, but I don’t think it’s the right “place” to say it.

We’re sarcastic about politics, religion, how people treat us, how people treat our perfect little angels, how much we love our jobs – the list is endless. But sarcasm is just another way to express anger, and therefore I propound a theory: we express anger through sarcasm – a lot. Being a rather sarcastic person myself, I feel authorized to propose this theory. I know when I use sarcasm, although I prefer to think of it as “biting wit,” I am definitely angry or frustrated. But where does all this anger come from? For me, personally – well, that’s none of your beeswax, if you please! But it comes from somewhere. And  I am not the only one going about my day feeding caustic statements into the minds of others.

You know what else? It’s not attractive at all when it’s made in poor taste, at an inappropriate time, and to the wrong audience. Unfortunately, when sarcasm is used it’s usually done so with all three of those parameters in place. I mean, are we really “friends” with all our friends on Facebook, for example? No! They’re mostly acquaintances. Most of them may know me my whole life, but knowing what someone was like in grade school and who they grew up two be are often to totally different things.

I shouldn’t bash Facebook so much; if I’m seeing it all over my newsfeed I am positive the people using it are doing so at work as well. Not everyone at work is your friend; many of them will find it immature and obnoxious, not to mention unprofessional.

One of my idols growing up was Julia Sugarbaker. She was amazing. Smart, successful, beautiful, and just one of those women who champions the underdog, even when it’s her shallow and slightly stupid sister. The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, anyone? Dadgum. Now that is an appropriate use of sarcasm! If you listened to that video, you would hear no curse words; you would hear no threats to poor Marjorie, no epithets on her intelligence or opinions. But Julia put her in her place, and rightly so.

Yes, Julia was the best at employing wit and sarcasm to get her point across. Those of you raised on Designing Women would know that she did it often, and it was more than entertaining; it made you stop and think. About race; about culture; about family; about loyalty; about them damn Yankees. Ah. I miss you so, dear Mrs.  Sugarbaker. But if you were a racist white person, a human being unfortunate enough to be raised above the Mason Dixon, or just a plain old uppity you-know-what…you would find her sarcasm offensive and I wouldn’t blame you. Designing Women wasn’t written for Yankees! They knew who their audience was.

Why don’t we just stop being so sarcastic to begin with? Why don’t we try to listen more and talk less, to be kinder even when we don’t feel like it, to stop automatically assuming we are so much smarter than everyone else, and to think before we speak?

Life in Mayberry: The Slow Lane


Technology was supposed to be the answer. Computers and cell phones were designed to save time and cut labor costs. I’m reminded of an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford when an invention was created to cut the time and manual labor of men in the fields. The residents of Lark Rise and Candleford had mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was amazing and efficient. Yet, it would cost countless jobs of poor men who had no other skills and no way to earn them.

All the things that man has made to save time or money, such as cars or computers or plastic – have done their jobs, but in return we get pollution, non-biodegradable landfill fillers, and people sitting in a chair staring at a screen that hurts their eyes, keeps them from sleeping because they’re all over our homes, and the use of the mouse causes carpel tunnel. There are consequences to everything.

I heard a sermon Sunday about hurrying up in this fast-paced world, and how technology has created more hurry, not less. How many times have you been stuck waiting somewhere and have been madly typing a Facebook update when something malfunctioned for a moment on your smartphone and you went absolutely berserk? The same is true during your day at the office. E-mails have replaced lovely letters. No one north of the Mason-Dixon cares much about thank-y0u notes, and even this time-honored Southern tradition is fading. I’ve actually been told not to write these notes.  Why? Because we don’t want to take the time to read them, or because the reader assumes we don’t want to take the time to write them? Since when did expressing thanks take up too much of our time?

According to Dr. Mike Long, head pastor at RUMC, here is what hurrying up in a hurry-up world has done to us:

  • We don’t see clearly. Our days are full of things that are really not that important, but even if we are doing godly work, we don’t even pay true attention to it.
  • We don’t listen carefully. That’s for you people out there who carry your cell phones to the dinner table. We can’t even eat, much less listen to those around us. Whether it’s status updates, e-mails, or television, we don’t take the time to listen to others.
  • We don’t think deeply. We don’t reflect. For some reason, we assume that we don’t have time to do it. Here’s my thought on this, not Dr. Mike’s: it’s not that we don’t have the time. It’s that our priorities are totally out of whack. I hate it when Christians say that we can even learn about the word of God in just a few minutes. Just read one chapter a day! When we were in college, did we just study and read for a few minutes a day, expecting to get a reward for that? Then why do we relegate the word of God to a few minutes a day or only on Sundays? Isn’t the Word much more important than anything else? This principle of thinking deeply applies to other areas of our lives, as well. We need to think more deeply about the people and situations going on around us, and not lead shallow lives.
  • We don’t take time to celebrate! We don’t savor life fully and take time for fun, laughter, and friends.

What is the solution to all this hurrying up? It’s amazing how we think this fast-paced stuff is only part of the world we know, but even back in the day,  God knew He needed to give us an out. As a matter of fact, read your Genesis. God Himself needed an out! That’s what the Sabbath was for! As Dr. Mike told us, it’s there for us to use to recharge and renew ourselves. I love those words. They sound so peaceful to me, but they may be energizing to you. We also need the Sabbath to worship! We Christians have moved it to Sundays, but all that matters is that you pick a day where you do no work (try minimal at first!) and rest in the arms of the Lord. It sounds divine to me! It will likely take some practice and work for those of you who are thinking, “I would go BONKERS!”

 

The Sabbath gives us rhythm. If I don’t go to church on Sunday, I feel off at the start of my week. Worship gives me a very comforting sense of peace. If I don’t do my quiet time with God every day, I feel off as well. My rhythm is gone. It’s important, also, to remember that we may think we are indispensable, but we are not! We try so super hard to do that at work. We do not want to lose our jobs. We try that as mothers and wives. But the truth is, the world will keep turning for most people on this Earth if we are down for the count. Remember that we are allowed to rest, and that if we do not, we are not performing at peak capacity.

What does the Sabbath look like? Is it sitting in a corner reading a book all day? Sure. For you. For someone else it could mowing the yard, taking a walk, singing, a trip. What relaxes and refreshes one person does not work for another, so you need to make sure your motives for doing whatever it is are purely about Sabbath rest. Spend your day in reflection. You may have already set goals and resolutions for the year, Dr. Mike said. But will they add to your hurry or take it away? Adam Hamilton said, and I’m paraphrasing, that we should look for one or two things to stop doing to get out of hurrying up.

Find something that energizes you. That excites you about your walk with Christ. You will have to work at it. Anything that becomes a habit takes a conscientious  decision and work. But oh, how God will bless that day! When you make Sabbath a habit, it becomes more than restful and restorative – it becomes holy!

Cosmic Fame


There are so many reasons to admire famous people. Excellent entertainment skills; astonishing athletic ability; exceptional leadership. Even great business sense.

I like reading about the accolades of celebrities. I like when they use their fame to good end. It shows a human side to people we so elevate.

However, it is that elevation that causes such trouble. CNN did a story about a woman who stood up to former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

As regards the Sandusky debacle, Vicky Triponey had this to say:

“The culture is deep,” she said. “The culture is making decisions based on how others will react, not based on what’s right and wrong.” It focused on the interests of those at “the top of the chain,” she added. “Others at the bottom didn’t matter.”

She had nothing to do with Sandusky and wasn’t aware of it happening; her problem came when she tried to institute penalties against football players who broke the rules, and she came up against a solid brick wall: Joe Paterno.

The names of celebrities who committed true crimes are endless. I won’t even mention any others. I just want to express that it is nice and normal and good to have people to look up to and admire. It gives us a goal as well; something to strive for. Something we want.

It’s when that gets out of hand – when the hero worship is taken way too far – that we need to take a serious step back and stop excusing famous people who commit crimes. I can promise you that whoever out there you would let off the hook for a critical wrongdoing would not do the same for!

Spanking in Pulic School? Sign Me Up!


Hallelujah! A Texas high school, recently under fire for allegedly aggressively spanking a sophomore, should be praised in my opinion. Why, you ask? Why would a mother in the 21st century approve of spanking, or paddling, students?

Because when used appropriately, corporal punishment is very effective. I myself was paddled once. I was in the fifth grade and was wrongly punished. The paddling itself didn’t hurt, and I wasn’t embarrassed so badly that it scarred me for life. The true punishment happened about thirty minutes later when my Daddy got to my school and gave me his own version, which was a lot worse.

I’m not helping my case, am I? That may be your opinion. But it isn’t mine. Although I didn’t deserve punishment for that “offense,” I do see the value in paddling. There is a level of embarrassment involved, and sometimes offenses are so wrong that a detention isn’t enough.

However, I just believe in corporal punishment in general. Time-outs and groundings may not work. But a spanking does. There was wording in the televised interview, though, that muddied the waters. The mother of this girl agreed to let the school paddle her, and then called it “hitting” because a man administered the spanking and she had “welts.”

Um, excuse me, but I have some of those myself, and this girl was moving too quickly and well, and sat down too easily, to have been “hit.”

Overall, I am just relieved that in some  places across this country, public schools have adopted the tradition of some private schools with corporal punishment. Good job!

My Preference? That I’m Right, of Course!


Sometimes we feel like God is really trying to tell us something, or that a problem we struggle with (or might not even realize we struggle with) is really popping up in our minds. Yeah. How come it’s never a positive?

Well, for me,  it’s personal preference versus gospel  truth, and last night at my small group meeting we were discussing it as well. This is actually something I’ve been wrestling with for months.

Photo courtesy of theorthodoxgospeltruth.blogspot.com.

Some believe “gospel truth” means whatever issue is at stake is clearly laid out in the Bible. Others,  like myself,  have elevated a belief to the status of “Biblical” even thought it’s not, technically. Here’s where it gets murky – there are a lot of things we know we shouldn’t do, like view porn, even though the word “porn” is located NOWHERE in the Bible. This is, in my opinion, the gospel truth. Get it?

Anyway, here’s what freakin awesome about our own gospel truths: they’re different! Yeah. Huge cosmic joke.

In 1 Corinthians 9: 19-22, Paul wrote about this. He adapted to all sorts of people. Meaning, he didn’t change his core beliefs, his morals, his values – he just became malleable so he could get along with different types of people.

People have different beliefs. They behave differently. It is a fact of life, and no matter how hard I  or anyone else tries, we cannot fit people into Cosmo-quiz boxes. People are complicated. And I have got to stop resenting people who are different from me. By that I mean  people who come across to me as amoral, immoral – just blatantly ungodly. It’s such a stupid waste of time!