Monday, July 16, 2018

Respect, Love, and Raising Kids

Our daughter and her son, age 10 (and #10!).  
My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 14 years ago, but to this day, when she gives me a word of correction, I listen.  The Lord still uses her to speak truth to me.  She has a wonderful way of getting to the heart of a matter.

When I've gone on and on about some problem or another: "Just trust in the Lord!" she exclaims.

"Pray about everything!  Jesus is always with you!  Don't worry about anything!"

It's surprising to me how often these pithy little statements bring me back to the center of trusting the Lord. And this makes me wonder about how to establish a parent/child relationship that will lead to the lifelong respect that enables me to "listen to my mother" to this day.

This morning I was talking with my daughter about my concerns with the plethora of teen literature that inevitably begins with kids being out on their own for some reason or another.  Adults can't be trusted or are absent, so the protagonists have to rely on their own powers to succeed.  This makes for thrilling stories that are fun for a young person to read, but I worry that it feeds the feeling that after a certain age (12?  13?) the advice of parents becomes archaic and even foolish, and it is best to trust in oneself and one's friends for guidance.

Here is my counsel to my daughter for words to speak to her 10-year-old (going on 16) son:

Short version: 

Satan is going to try to discredit your parents in your eyes.  It won’t be hard to do, because like all human beings, we are imperfect and sinful.  The devil knows that we are the best you’ve got because of the deep love we have for you. No one on earth loves you as much as we do, and no one on earth prays as much for you as we do.  And so you can trust the Lord’s love and guidance for you as it flows through us.  

Additional words to speak as the child can receive them: 

The Bible says no one has ever been able to keep doing what is right, that’s why God had to send His son to take the blame for our sins.  It was God’s love that saved us from ourselves.  When, as your parent, I do something sinful or foolish--when you see I’m wrong about something--the devil will try to get you to ignore everything I say because of those things I do or say that are wrong.  He does this because he wants to destroy you.  If he can shut you off from the wisdom that flows through me as God speaks to you through me, he has a better chance of putting you on the path that will lead to your destruction. 

No one likes to be told what to do.  Discipline is uncomfortable and sometimes painful (no one likes to pick up trash from the yard on a hot day).  It is natural to resent having to do something that someone else tells you.  Satan will use this resentment to try to get you to rebel against authority God has placed over you.  It is discipline that God uses to sculpt you into the person He wants you to be.  It is discipline that enables you to lead the life that He wants you to lead, the life that will bring you great blessings of peace of heart and mind.  In God’s plan, learning to receive His discipline begins with learning to receive our parents’ guidance and discipline. 

Satan will tell you “Why can’t God just speak directly to me; why do I need to submit to the wisdom of a parent?’  Here is why. Our physical senses overrule our spiritual senses as we are growing up in Christ.  For a long, long time, we can’t trust that what we feel is true, because we can’t see spiritual truth clearly or understand God’s guidance as we will someday be able to do.  During this time of training, we learn what faith is.  Like a soldier follows his captain, like an employee follows his boss’s rules, like a child follows a parent, we have to have faith that the guidance of our parents and others God has placed in authority over us is in our best interests. 

Inside info: 

Our challenge as parents is to become spiritually mature, trusting in what we cannot see, believing what we have not experienced with physical senses, placing our hope and trust fully in the invisible God whose visible works surround us...

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...*

When we grow in faith to the degree that we can say, ...but I trust in you, oh Lord, I say, you are my God, my times are in your hands**...even when the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine***...then our hearts are set right.  And when our hearts are set right, the rest follows.  Until this point in our faith development we need wise counselors and guidance from those God has placed in authority over us.  And when those counselors fall away, well then... though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.  Another version says though my father and mother drop me, the Lord will pick me up. ****

Our goal as parents is to make believers of our children, and yes, that rings with dual meaning.  Discipline makes a “believer” of a child—he believes you will do what you say and he respects you for it.  Respect is synonymous with love in the child/parent relationship.  You teach the child to believe you.  You teach him to respect you. 

You teach him that discipline is for his good.  You teach him about real love and you become your own best PR person: perhaps not proclaiming “after all I’ve done for you” (not because it isn’t true but because it won’t be well-received) but “I have loved you from before you were born and have prayed for you every day of your life.  You can trust the Lord in me because He flows through this love channel that is unequaled by anyone else in your life.”

***

*Hebrews 11:1
**Psalm 31:14-15
***Habakkuk 3:17
****Psalm 27:10

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Right Decisions

Isaiah 61 promises the Lord's comfort to those who mourn, provision for those who grieve, and a heart that can praise rather than a spirit of despair.  And then, at the end of verse 3, we are promised something a little bit unexpected.  It says that we who have received all these wonderful comforts from God's hand will then be called "oaks of righteousness."  We've done nothing but to receive God's good gifts, but now we are called righteous!

As I've made difficult decisions on my mother's behalf it has comforted me to know that when I couch every decision in prayer, it isn't my own "rightness" I'm depending upon, but the Lord's. This has helped me to be a little less fearful about making mistakes.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Seek Ye First...

My grandmother was a loving, hard-working farm wife who, in her later years, feared a diagnosis of cancer above all other prospective ailments.  Following a severe attack of diverticulitis, she relaxed in her hospital bed when she received the news that all biopsies had been negative.  She sighed deeply. "I know I'm dying," she said, "...but at least it isn't cancer."

Her loved ones chuckled gently at this, after all, if one is dying what difference is made by the name of the malady?  But, like many of us, the dreaded "C-word" had assumed monumental proportions in her mind, and her fear was such that to die of some other illness seemed a blessing by comparison (by the way, she recovered and lived another dozen years in relatively good health).

Fears such as Grandma's terror of cancer and my own deep fear of developing Alzheimer's disease are powerful.  We research ways to avoid the thing we dread.  We may enroll in exercise classes, buy brain-healthy cookbooks, and relax just a bit when we are able to follow self-imposed rules for better health. I'm reminded of my dad, who harbored a deep fear of the colon cancer that killed his own father. And so Dad underwent regular health screenings, ate a raw onion a day at the recommendation of his gastroenterologist (this is a remedy I've never heard elsewhere...) and insisted on having two salads at both the midday and evening meals: one green, and one of seasonal fruit. His efforts paid off.  He did not die of colon cancer.  Unbeknownst to him he had been exposed to asbestos in his youth, and he died of Mesothelioma, an asbestos-specific lung cancer.

I do not have a "what's the use" attitude toward efforts toward greater health.  The Bible says that physical disciplines are good, but it also says that spiritual exercise is better (1 Timothy 4:8), and that if we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first, then other things we desire will be given us as well: given, as gifts, not as something we are able to achieve or earn on our own (Matthew 6:33).

It is so important to focus our energy on initiatives that will reap eternal rewards. The state of our physical bodies should concern us less than the state of our hearts.  If we nurture spiritual health, focusing our minds upon God's truth as revealed in Scripture, the rest of the good gifts we desire for ourselves will follow according to His perfect will (Matthew 6:33).  As we trust in His love, we come to peace in the understanding that it is safe to put God first. In fact, our only true safety comes through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, because of the perfect love of Father God.

The world would convince us to place our efforts behind human empowerment based on human understanding. This is backed by two, difficult-to-get-around forces:  1)  Our human need to avoid suffering and death and 2) The enemy's subtle attempts to nudge us just enough off-center so that our strength is spent on goals that will not yield fruit that will last.  One of the devil's favorite strategies is to lead us down a wrong path with promises of escape from some fate we fear, and then to blindside us with some awful thing we didn't know enough to avoid. Seeking God first thwarts this strategy.  As Matthew Henry says, "The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest." 

If we can trust God enough to put Him first in everything, we have His promise that our fears will recede and our eyes will be opened to the blessings He provides.

~<>~

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust."
Psalm 91:1-2

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Crabgrass or Blessings?!

I am perfectly capable of looking past the very great blessings in this photo while focusing on the crabgrass.  Praise changes my mind and heart. 

I am ashamed of my reluctance to give the Lord the praise that is due His name.  I hate to admit that my self-talk probably runs like this:  I'm so sad about Mom, and weighed down by worries about the future, and I don't feel well, and things haven't worked out the way I thought they would,  And thus I avoid the sweetest portion of focused time with the Lord, because nothing but praise brings us more expediently into His presence. Our worship of God has nothing to do with who we are, or our circumstances; it has to do with who He is: perfect, beautiful, unchanging, faithful, and praiseworthy in all seasons of our lives.

Yesterday morning I drug my tired self over to stand in front of the picture window in Mom's apartment, the now silent space she inhabited for 12 years following her Alzheimer's diagnosis.  There is a sweet peace in those rooms, and it is a good place to read my Bible and pray. On this morning I determined I would lift my hands in praise and, thinking the green beauty of an early June morning would fuel my worship, I reached forward and pulled the window shade open.

Branches from the elm tree had blown down in the night.  The container I'd used as a water play area for my grandsons had been flipped over and lay at a haphazard angle in the unmown, patchy crabgrass.  The weeds in the ditch had become untidy and overgrown due to recent rains. As I stared at all of this a vulture flew overhead, his shadow casting a dark, foreboding path across the scene.

I burst into laughter. I'm sure this is not the response the devil might have anticipated; I laughed so hard that I had to sit down to recover. It was so awful it was funny...overkill, Satan!   And when I stood back up I burst into an enthusiastic song of praise to our Lord.

Sometimes, our circumstances don't appear praiseworthy, but this has nothing to do with whether we ought to praise God as He has asked us to do. Our God is beautiful, perfect, and always worthy of our praises. The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to praise the Name of the Lord, not only because it is good, right, and pleasing to Him, but also because it is very good for us.  Yesterday praise changed my perspective from how irritating it is to have the yard in such a mess to how grateful I am for rain and, most especially, for my precious grandsons.

Praise the Lord!


Sunday, June 3, 2018

God Is With Us in Every Present Moment


Although  I rarely attempt to make my phone photos look better than life, I do sometimes edit them in an attempt to more accurately reflect the beauty I saw in the moment I captured the scene.

Even a professional photographer would have struggled to accurately record the photo above, because scents and sounds were a part of its beauty. The vastness of the sky overhead, the waning sun's rays permeating every leaf and blade of grass, the haze that formed beams of light through my phone camera's lens: oh my it was lovely.  The photo also could not accurately show the true color of the old-fashioned roses, and I hadn't even noticed that pipe from our waterline intruding in the foreground.  And so I cropped, adjusted exposure, and applied filters, and although the edited photo still isn't nearly as beautiful as the real-life scene, it is a closer approximation.

As I was editing this photo, it came to me that it is important to allow the Lord to edit my memories of upsetting events in my past.  I've been struggling with memories of an emergency surgery I endured a few months ago.  I hate anesthesia, and the drugs I was given for pain caused hallucinations.  I do remember  I wasn't afraid during that long dark night immediately following the surgery, even though each time I closed my eyes, weird hallucinations began like a film resuming play.  I felt immobilized by the drugs and was unable to tell anyone what was going on. 

As I was praying about all this, it came to me that it isn't that the events surrounding my surgery weren’t as bad as I remember, but that I was more helped, more sustained through the ordeals, more loved than I remember.  Our memories can't be trusted because we remember facts, but the beauty of God's comforting and sustaining presence, although very real in the moment we are in, is more difficult to recall later on. This is probably because our physical senses have trouble recalling spiritual realities. Just as my phone camera doesn't pick up the full depth of beauty of the real-life scene, our memories have trouble "seeing" the very real comfort God provides through every ordeal.

As Micah Taylor's song, Never Been a Moment says, "...there's never been a moment I was not held inside Your arms, never been a moment You were not who You say You are..."

Dear Lord,  we release our memories of those hard things we've endured to You.  Help us remember with the eyes of our hearts Your love, Your sustenance, and Your strength that have seen us through every moment of our lives. 





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Care for the Dying


I rarely link to other sites or articles. This is because, having written 5 books, I'm hypersensitive to broach of copyright issues.  My books have been pirated and offered "for free" from numerous websites, and this is upsetting.  I don't know whether someone who clicks on these sites actually receives one of my books, but I'm certain a virus or malware comes with the download.  That my books would be used as bait for people who could cause my readers harm is just...so upsetting.  The takeaway from this is that if something sounds too good to be true, don't be drawn in.

But this isn't like that.

I found a little article at caring.com today that addresses an issue so important that I want to bookmark it for myself and share it with others.

It is a brief, easy-to-remember summary of the main wishes of someone who is dying (although it omits the #1 need of all who are at death's door, which I address in the next paragraph).  It's something for me to keep in mind for when my mother's time comes, and I'll share the link with you here:  The Four Main Wishes of the Dying, by Paula Spencer Scott.  

(Our very most important need as we are dying is that we are unafraid of what happens after death.  My referring you to this article assumes that your loved one has peace in the knowledge that death takes us to be at home with Christ. For those uncertain whether their loved ones have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I refer you to this post: What if My Loved One is Not Saved. 

I'm praying right now for those of you who are providing care for someone diagnosed with a terminal disease.  It's a difficult journey, but I am continually reminded of the Lord's steadfast, enabling presence. "The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything" (Deuteronomy 2:7).

God remembers our labors on behalf of our loved ones, provides for our needs, and sees us through even the most difficult of times.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Hope

In the Little House books, Pa Ingalls always says, "There is no great loss without some small gain." Through a loved one's Alzheimer's disease our gain can be an increased awareness of God's compassion, provision, and grace as He guides us safely through.