Sunday, June 26, 2011

It is never right to be haughty

So my last two posts on being busy are snotty and conceited.  I reacted in pain and judgmentally to receiving several blows in the name of busy-ness in the last couple of weeks.  While I think there is truth to what I said, it was wrong of me to make blanket statements and condemn anyone who is busy just for being busy. 

I know there are people who are seeking the Lord faithfully each day and deserve support and encouragement, not condemnation from a sister in Christ.  Even those who fit my descriptions perfectly wouldn’t have been positively affected by my words.  Many would likely react defensively, further entrenching themselves in their current lifestyle. 

I have developed a habit of avoiding my blog when things are hard or I am frustrated because I don’t want to put into permanence those sentiments which are transient.  My love for the Lord is lasting.  My family is lasting.  Our days full of adventure and blessings are worth remembering.  I like to blog about those topics.

I gave in to temptation and blogged about something that really bothers me.  I will try to stick to more positive fare in the future.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

OK, So I am not quite finished

“My kids want to do it all!” “My kids love it!” “The kids aren’t happy unless we have a full calendar.” I don’t even know how to respond when ladies say these types of things to me. I wouldn’t know where to start!

In regard to the Busy Dilemma, there is one aspect I didn’t address.  The kids.  This is huge and is multifaceted.  Some use kids as a justification because all the activities are for the benefit of the child.  We have just got to give the next generation the best.  How else will they be able to survive in our competitive society?

Some use kids as the excuse.  They run themselves ragged because it is what the child wants.  OK?  So who is the boss? Where is the responsibility of the adult in this situation?  Why are they blaming their children for getting overwhelmed by all the obligations?  I mean, it isn’t as though the child is running around signing up for soccer, violin, piano, drama, Sunday School and softball.  The children aren’t writing the checks or arranging transportation.  Even if the child is truly given the authority to dictate the calendar, the parent is allowing for it and is ultimately responsible—not just for the calendar but also for abdicating authority.

And since when is a parent measured by how well he or she gives in to the child’s every desire?  Since when is it a parent’s job to keep children happy above all else? When do we teach our children temperance?  When do we teach them delayed gratification?  Does anyone remember the word moderation?  What about the very important life skills involving time and money management, or appropriating ourselves and our goods in accordance with our priorities?

Maybe that is exactly what is happening.  Maybe the priority is to be Busy.  If so, then the message is coming through to the next generation loud and clear.  Last night my daughter asked about something that was on our calendar.  I told her that it would not be happening after all because the people we invited no longer were able to make it.  She came over and sat very close to me.  She said, ‘I think we are losing friends because they are all so busy.  It makes me sad because we have such very nice friends.  I really miss them.’  Again, I don’t even know what to say…

Should I sign her up for soccer and give up 3 days of the week running her to games so she can hopefully see some of those friends who are too busy to come for dinner or Bible Study?  Maybe we should join the VBS circuit, too.  I can name more friends who are on it than not.   

I wonder….  What else is being taught to our children as they run from class to game to practice to show.  Can they ever be quiet with the Lord?  Can they ever wait on His timing?  Can they be comfortable with stillness, with themselves?  Will they be inclined to sacrifice?  These skills and enjoyments must be practiced and modeled to be acquired and appreciated.  These skills are what move baby Christians to carnivorous believers.  How can one hear a Still Small Voice amid the constant bustle?  How can one bear to make a decision that would be detrimental to one’s own desires if wonderful Mom never did?  And if we can’t let go the things of this world, how will we ever hold the things of the next?

I wonder still at the vicious cycle that is produced in this lifestyle. 

I fear that as these loving moms and dads strive to give every good thing to their children, they are robbing them of the best thing: dependence on the Lord.  As their tangible lives fill, their spiritual lives are depleted.  As moms live vicariously, serving each need and whim, children will grow to believe that they have a right to feeling fulfilled.  They will also stuff their own children to overflowing, gorging on the material, never understanding just WHY Johnny isn’t happy unless they are on the go.

I think parents today know better than to live a life that is self-serving.  Which is another reason why the kids are such a convenient excuse.  Parents do what they want, even if they claim it is the child who wants three destinations each day.  The small degree of separation from serving self to serving child soothes the conscience.  The mind-numbing running, the false sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing another appointment off the list and the convenience of being unable to sit and really talk with someone are all salves for the nagging feeling that they were meant for more. 

God has called us all for something greater, something that will build the eternal Kingdom. But to answer that call, we must surrender control.  We must obey and be unsure of just about everything but His goodness.  That is scary.  We know it is wrong to say no.  So instead we say, ‘not now.’  We say, ‘how about this instead?’  We say, ‘I’m too busy.’

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Busy Dilemma—I Just don’t get It

This concept of Busy-with-a-capital-B is so complicated I can write a whole book on it.  A single post is going to be a challenge.  I have always been frustrated by lives devoted to being Busy.  I used to believe it was a plague of stay-at-home-moms and homeschooling moms.  I would hear them guffaw at the title, claiming they are hardly ever home.  I wondered if there was some overcompensating going on, justifying not earning an income by being Busy, which is often confused with being productive.  Contrary to popular opinion, the two are not in any way synonymous.

Overcompensating may be the source of the problem.  But recently I have begun to feel that there is an insidious element of deceit hiding somewhere in the Busy life.  I can’t really put my finger on the source of the deceit, or just who is in on the lie. 

Maybe the lie is fooling the busy mom herself; maybe she is the victim.   She feels this long list MUST be done for her to qualify as a good mom/teacher/wife/Christian.  Sunday School, VBS, sports, homeschool groups, shopping, cleaning, cooking, schooling, AWANA, 4H…. The list seems to always be growing.  The kids need music, performing arts, sports and spiritual activities.  Don’t forget academics and life skills!  Sign them up for that!  And some families bother with community service, though none in my local circle are involved with that.  It is just another on the list.  If the list is not fulfilled, she has failed the man and children depending on her to ‘get it done.’  Homeschooling moms seem especially susceptible to the burden of exposing their children to everything needed to be fully formed adults by the age of 18.  Actually, many aspire to get their children in college by 16, so the pressure compresses further.

But there is the matter of the chicken and the egg.  Which comes first?  Is the pressure to do it all from the outside or from the inside?  She might feel the need to please all those she perceives are sitting in judgment of her.  Or she just might feel important and needed when busy.

So maybe the lie comes from the frantic mom.  As she is running from place to place, apologizing for being late and unavailable, is she sorry?  I was told by a busy mom this month that I had her heart if I wanted it, but she didn’t see how she could fit another activity (namely the one to which I was inviting her) to her busy schedule. I have her heart?  What does that even mean??  Another told me her heart broke to tell me no when I invited her to the same activity.  She went on to thank me profusely for all my wonderful work and couldn’t imagine where she would be if it weren’t for all the hard work I did.  Really?  But she had just backed out of the three things I was offering her.  Is her heart really broken?  Can she really not imagine what life would be like without me, even while she lives without me?  It is just silliness.  I was thankful the conversation took place on the phone, because I didn’t have it in me to put on an accepting face.

Frankly, I was insulted.  Am I expected to believe I own someone’s heart when she is running so fast she can’t even listen to my answer regarding how I am doing?  Why would I want to own her heart in the first place?  Am I supposed to believe that this lady actually thinks she can’t live without me?  Nobody believes that!  That wouldn’t even be healthy!  When exactly do we get to call ‘good manners’ flat out lying?  And when does an unbelievable lie qualify as polite?

Ladies list their activities with slumped shoulders and always end with exasperated sighs.  The game goes on all around me.  The appropriate response, I have learned from years of observation, is sympathy followed by your own slightly longer list.  To this the first speaker adds three more items she had forgotten to mention.  They are so put upon.  Sleepless, fighting illness, missing spouses and hardly able to remember what they did last week…This is the life!!  Right?

I know the common complaint is that ‘I just can’t say no!’  This is bunk, because I hear them say no all the time.  It is their own choice to engage in things that consume hours and days out of their weeks.  But it is part of the lie—woops, I meant life—to declare that ‘I have to be there because we can’t let the team down, I committed for the year, they need me to ….’  You fill in the blank.

Would you approach any of these ladies and share that you were sad?  Nothing tragic, of course, because these are fine Christian women who will diligently add you to the prayer list at church, the homeschool group and Bible study if anything so serious as cancer were the problem.  But what about just being a little down, maybe even lonely? 

Maybe that is it… The inordinately busy have so insulated themselves with bustle that there is no room (but there is a valid excuse) for service or meaningful relationships.  I could be wrong.  I got off the ride years ago, so I see blurs of color streaming past me.  Perhaps if I were to hop back on, I would see more.  But as it is, all I see is people coming and going, offering a prayer and a joke on their way.  Maybe a promise to get together soon.  It is crazy to me.

For a while my husband and I removed ourselves from the suburban rat race successfully. Our plan was to be consistently present at the few things we did attend and invite people to join us when they could.  We asked nothing of anyone, but hoped our own steadfastness would make us available for people’s needs.  Honestly, I think we made ourselves irrelevant because we had slowed down so considerably.  No one needed us.  No one even knew us.

So this year we have made a concerted effort to get back out there.  Not by joining 101 things, but by inviting people to get together.  We work around their schedules, since ours are comparatively empty.  It has been nice.  We are ‘out there’ more now than we were six months ago, while still in charge of our own calendars.  If any actual need arose, we would be able to drop or reschedule everything to prioritize that need.  I like that.

I don’t know that anyone will ever need us, though…  I don’t know that any of my friends would recognize a need if they had one.  I worry they are moving so quickly that they wouldn’t miss a lost limb until they’d made several revolutions on the ride.

Well, I said I had a lot to say.  I started writing angry—never a good thing.  I think I got it all out for now, until some messy-ponytailed momma laments being unable to spend time with me since I am so freakin’ awesome but she just can’t fit another minute into her monumental schedule. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011


A long time ago a theory had been presented to my husband and me.  It wasn’t delivered in full seriousness, but enough to be considered. The idea was this: since salvation means you get to live forever free of all that brings you suffering, it is in your best interest to accept Jesus as your savior.  But since doing so means you are really only serving yourself, it is just another sinful act of selfishness.  So taking it to the extreme, the act of saving yourself is damning. 

Because the ultimate consequence is so excessive it is easy to disregard the entire theory for being ridiculous; still I have pondered the idea off and on over the years.  This morning my husband brought it up again.  He mentioned an analogy by CS Lewis that would answer the question. 

CS Lewis bring the matter straight to the heart—where all things should be considered—and compares it to a military man in battle.  If he wins the battle and saves his comrades, he will win medals, a promotion and accolades in both military and civilian circles.  Knowing this, he could work to win and save for these ends: glory and fame.  But he may also genuinely work to protect his brothers (and sisters) in arms during battle for the greater good of protecting family, friends and citizens back home.  Glory and fame will come his way, but his goal was to serve bravely and truly to his sworn duty.

I think this is a fine idea and targets motive, which I agree to be God’s primary concern.  If we live life to serve ourselves, even in doing the right thing, our hearts have turned inward and we worship self.  This is what the Pharisees were accused of doing.  It is legalism at its best and God sees right through it.

But there is another point that is missed if we stop there. Up to the moment of salvation, we are doomed creatures, drowning in our own sin.  Another analogy could be that we are parched with sins numbering more than grains of sand in the greatest desert.    You know you can’t make water—you’ve tried.  You know you can’t find water—you’ve tried that, too.  You can only make more sand… and the sand is killing you.  Your skin is raw from its rubbing.  The sand is in your hair and between your toes grating at you with even the slightest movement.

Jesus offers living water.  Is it selfish to take the water handed to you freely?  Well…sure!  You are serving yourself, saving yourself, by accepting help from the only One able to give it.  It is a selfish act to drink, to do whatever needed to stay alive.  But we had that written on our hearts by God—seek Life.  We must remember the heart that accepts salvation is already dead.  How can we expect nobility from it?

It is God who transforms us after we have had that life-giving drink into a new creation who can grow in maturity and act with a servant’s motivations.  He makes us noble.  To think we can do it ourselves lands us back to works-based salvation, which is utterly hopeless.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I will Praise the Lord

I am doing three different devotions right now.  Two will take a year and the other will take three.  I am enjoying the time each morning reading the Word enormously. 

This morning for my last reading I was in Genesis 27-29.  This is where Rebecca and Jacob deceive Isaac for the blessing.  As I began reading, I could feel that I was rushing; I have read this so many times before.  So I stopped myself and prayed that the Lord would reveal to me something new, then resumed at a slower pace.

God is so good!  It wasn’t until the very last verse of today’s passage, but there it was.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Genesis 29:35 showed me something new.  Jacob has married sisters Leah and Rachel.  Jacob plainly prefers the younger sister over Leah, who was only married off through the deception of her father; Leah is the first to bear children as consolation for her lot in life.  She has Reuben and says, “Surely my husband will love me now.”  Next she says that because she is unloved, she birthed Simeon.  Levi was born and she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me…”

There is desperation here.  She is defined by her unloved status.  Then comes the final verse.  There is a marked change here.  Her focus has shifted, at least for the moment, from Jacob to the Lord.  She stops looking at what she has-not, and praises the Lord.

What a mighty message!  When we seek fulfillment from other humans, we will be disappointed in a very personal way.  It affects how we see ourselves.  Leah actually calls herself and considers herself to factually be UNLOVED.  She owns this as her defining identity.  UNLOVED. 

People let us down.  They are flawed and fickle and circumstantial.  God is faithful and unchanging.  And He is love.  If we can only remember to seek our identity in Him, we would be saved from ever owning the ‘unloved’ status.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Last night I had a very disturbing dream.  It was long and I can’t really remember the whole thing.

I am so very confident that homeschooling is right for our family.  I rarely struggle with doubt.  But the point of the dream was that I am failing my son hugely in regard to equipping properly with life skills.

At one point we were in a store and a man approached my twelve year old son.  My son ran to me (he is almost as tall as I am) and began crying uncontrollably.  He is not the least bit shy or timid in real life.  I had to calm him down and show him what to do.  I was trying, later in the dream, to get him to perform this simple task in the store.  It was with a big pole, so he had to be aware of not knocking anything over.  I gave him a guide for his foot so that he would be in a safe place.  Each and every time, much to the frustration of everyone in the room, his first move was off that marker. 

It was such a public display and so frustratingly hopeless.  I remember determining that I was going to have to buckle down and ‘grow him up,’ as soon as possible!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The enigma of church

It seems an epidemic right now: the churches in our area are really struggling to get people to BE the church.  I am not talking about signing membership papers because I don’t really care about that myself.  The Bible never mentions this being a part of church life.  What I am talking about is involvement, emotional investment…being the body of Christ.  A body with parts that doesn’t communicate or would rather be somewhere else isn’t much of a body.

Why is this?  One answer I have received was that we are in the End Times.  I was told that I really need worry only when people flock to the church.  Ok.  Maybe…  But I think this answer is just too pat, too easy.  It is a nice answer to give because it removes all responsibility from our shoulders.  Eh, end times, waddaya goin’ to do?

But that isn’t the whole picture.  There ARE Christians out there.  The lack of church attendance does not accurately reflect the number of Christians.  So, why are Christians not coming together as the body of Christ?

This is my random thought theory postulating one factor.  I think there is not currently a lot of room in church meetings for people to work within their own gifts.  Think about what happens at a typical gathering:  there is the set up, the music, the technical stuff in the back (if your church has PowerPoint and a screen and a sound system), there is the sermon and possibly snacks, then everyone cleans up and goes home.  If you have such a church, a prayer ministry and children’s ministry may fit into the day, as well.  So, we are talking about the gift of helps or service for the set-up and clean-up.  One or two might be privileged enough to be trusted with the expensive performance equipment.  Children’s ministry is always looking for new workers, regardless of gifting.  Only an elite few get to sermonize.  There is the music team and people in charge of food. 

Is that everyone?  What about people with other passions and gifts?  Do those in charge even know what the gifts and interests of the people are?  Does it matter?  Often, there is simply no place for them.  So, people go to church just to be good.  It is the right thing to do.  It saves them from guilt.  But they have to go somewhere else to be themselves. 

And that is the crux.  I go hear to be good, and go here to be me.  There is what initially may be an unintentional and unrecognized separation there.  “Me” and “good” are different.  Talk about guilt!!  And resentment.  The church seems to separate me from being good?!  Why invest in that?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Exciting Week?

Well that week is over.  We had some excitement, all right.  My son went to the astronomer’s convention and had a great time.  The weather wasn’t great, so there were not a lot of people willing to pull out their expensive telescopes and expose them to the 50+ mph winds.  But that didn’t stop the boys from having their fun.  I am still processing something that happened on the trip, so I don’t have much more to write at this point.

While he was away, we girls stayed at my dad’s.  We hadn’t known just how tenderhearted my step-mom is toward mice before we got there.  I saw one skitter across the living room our first night and let her know.  I assumed—we all know how that is spelled—that she didn’t know about the mice and would want change the living situation if she did.  I was wrong, and I think I embarrassed her by bringing it up.  She is so sweet and I am sorry to have put her on the spot.  Turns out she did know that a whole colony of mice are living in the house and she is of the opinion that they need to eat, too.  Whenever she sees evidence of them in the pantry, she just avoids those areas.  And that is where we stayed for three days.

This whole time, my little girl had been coughing.  But when we were at my dad’s things got worse.  And my sister’s two kids were coughing, too!  We really didn’t belong out and about, but we did hop over to the mall real fast with what sounded like a battalion of TB patients.  It was ridiculous.  So, we just went back to the mouse-house.

Friday, my hero picked us up and my sister went home.  My daughter got even worse.  We survived memorial weekend holed up trying every treatment for cough I could find.  We almost skipped out on the last leg of the week, but we joined our friends to visit my sister.  The TB patients were re-united!  Thank heaven for non-germ-freak friends!

We had a blast hanging around the house, admiring the blooming garden, playing games and catching up.  We came home, got the girl to the doc, who said she either is asthmatic or has bronchitis.  We are treating for both. 

We had skipped the sewing session the previous Saturday because of sick, so we went on over last Saturday.  With the help of our more-than-we-deserve friend, my girl made the cutest skirt from some jean shorts.

Now, if we can just get her healthy, we will get back to life!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another Exciting Adventure

Brian and I are starting something new. We are starting a young marrieds group.  That means we are inviting young married people to come over for dinner, games and outings.  We want to get to know them and let them get to know us.  In fall we may do a study to apply a more focused effort in strengthening marriages, but for now, it is just about forming friendships with other married couples and developing a commitment to uphold marriage.

This is new to us, and in a church where not many in that age bracket know us.  It is possible no one will even come.  We shall see.  I pray the Lord is in charge of the whole things and brings who He knows needs to have the relationships.  I pray our own marriage is made stronger as we become more purposeful and mindful of our love and commitment.