Friday, September 27, 2013

Discipline vs. Obedience


It's a tricky word for me.  My gut instinct is to say that I am an inherently undisciplined person.  And I think in my core this is probably true.

But as I  have matured I have learned to apply discipline to different aspects of my life.  

I have completed 2 marathons and 4 half marathons.  It has taken discipline to achieve these goals.  Well, that and 2 really obnoxious running partners who happen to be morning people -which I am not - who make me get up at insanely early hours to run whether I want to or not.  The only good thing I can say about these early morning runs is they have forced discipline into my life.  And allowed me to check a couple things off my bucket list!

Both my husband and I have a history of heart disease in our family and have been forced to become more disciplined about what we eat.  That doesn't mean we don't splurge every now and then but for the most part we are fairly healthy eaters.  For me, it takes discipline to back away from the cupcakes.

My husband also longs for me to be disciplined with our finances.  Alas, this one has not yet been mastered.  But hey, no one's perfect right? 

The other area in my life that takes more discipline than this little lady has, is in my walk with God.  It takes discipline to make time in my day to read his word.  It takes discipline to carve out time and quiet my mind for prayer.  It takes discipline to put Him first, when there are a thousand other things vying for my attention.  I guess that's why these things are called "spiritual disciplines", huh?

But some people also get these things confused with "works".  Ephesians 2:8-10 has been running through my mind for the past couple of days.  

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do."

There is no amount of Bible reading, sunday school teaching, choir leading, or even prayer that will get me in to heaven.  Those in and of themselves are works.  And they don't lead to salvation.  When done out of duty, because we have "disciplined" our body to do x,y, and z, they are nothing but a list of things people boast about.  And they do not lead to salvation.  According to this scripture, not even our faith is truly ours, it is a gift of God. 

But when that gift from God is received, nurtured, treasured and enjoyed it will lead you to complete works that God (no one else) has prepared for you to do.  When this happens its stops being discipline and starts being obedience.  These "works" may include sunday school teaching and choir leading, done out of obedience to God's plan but they also may not.  They should include scripture reading and prayer but only in obedience and response to His love, not because the act of doing them will lead to salvation.

Discipline is good but obedience is better.  

I made a decision a while back that I am sure many of you will whole heartedly disagree with.  My kids don't have chores.  They don't.  There is no task, job, "works" or "discipline" that they need to complete on a daily basis.  Now before you judge me too harshly let me follow up with BUT.  BUT... I do expect them to help when I ask.  I expect them to be observant of their surroundings and help when they see something that needs to be done.  And when I give them a task or a job to do, I expect them to be obedient and do it.  Trust me, there is something they are asked to do everyday, maybe help a sibling, put dishes away, clean up their room, put laundry away, set the table, whatever it may be. But it changes from day to day, and my needs and the needs or our family change.   My hope is I am teaching them a life skill.  To look around and help do the things that need to be done.  To be responsive to promptings and to be obedient.  Not just to be disciplined.

Don't get me wrong.  Discipline is a good thing.  It is a necessary thing in many, many aspects of our life.  It is even necessary in our spiritual life.  But don't confuse discipline with obedience.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Barbs In Our Eyes (Number 33:55)

"But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.  They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. "
Numbers 33:55

Hmm... It sounds a little harsh don't you think.

I mean essentially God is asking the people of Israel to destroy another group of people.  Drive them out of the land, don't let any remain.  No man, woman or child!  

It's a tough  passage.  I get why people have a hard time with passages like this.  This doesn't sound like a gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love kind of God.  He sounds kinda mean.

But don't miss what he is really saying.  

He is telling the people of Israel, "YOU are my chosen people, not them.  This is the land I am giving YOU.  It is no longer their land.  And if you let them stay, I know what will happen.    They will turn you against me.  They will lead you astray.  They will be a bad influence on you.  I have seen how this plays out and it's not pretty.  Drive them out of this land, for your own good."

But the Israelites didn't listen.  They didn't drive the people completely out of the land, they let them stay.  They thought they could handle living amongst these people.  The Israelites believed they were immune to their influence, after all they were God's chosen people. But it turns out God was right.  The Israelites couldn't withstand the influence of these people living in their promised land.  Eventually the Israelites intermarried with them, eventually the Israelites came to worship their gods and not the God of Israel.  Eventually their relationship with these people gave them incredible trouble.  Just like God said.

The same thing still happens today.  We are God's chosen people, children of the most high God.  But everyday we surround ourselves with things and temptations of this world that we simply think we can handle.  Things we know we probably shouldn't be around but, we don't REALLY believe will negatively influence us.  Things like the shows we watch, the gossip we participate in, the busyness that drives us away from God, the people we spend time with, the things we do for fun.  We think we can "handle" these temptations and that they won't influence us or impact us.  But I'm not convinced that is the case.  

I think just like the ancient Israelites, we are in over our heads.  I think these things that we surround ourselves with, things we don't even realize because they are such a part of the culture around us; materialism, violence and sex in the media, gossip, busyness - I think they influence us.  I think they are "barbs in our eyes" and "thorns in our sides" and I think they will eventually give us trouble if they haven't already.  And I think we need to steer clear of them.  I think we need to drive them out of our homes (our "land").  I think it's time.  

What do you think?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Down Time (Romans 8:5 and Philippians 4:8)

What do you think about throughout the day?

Honestly, being fully transparent with you, this is probably what I struggle with the most in my walk of faith.  

What I do my thoughts during the "down times". 

And yes I know it feels like we have very few of those down times, but really we do.  When we are in the car driving our kids to yet another activity, folding laundry, doing dishes, waiting in car pool lines.  It's not much, but we each have these little nuggets of time tucked away and we are free to think about what ever we want to think about.  Things no one else will know!!!

We can replay arguments we have had...  "Oh man, I should have said THAT!  And then she would have said THIS and I would have said THAT and..." Anyone else ever done that?

Perhaps we think of all the things that have annoyed us during the day...."I swear if he does that THING one more time..."  "She ALWAYS does THAT..."

Perhaps we make lists of all the things we want, desire, "need".  Things we need to do, need to buy, need to have.

Perhaps we simply sing along with the song on the radio, but what do those words we are singing really mean?  Would we want our kids singing those? Perhaps we think about the show we watched last night or the movie we want to see, are these the thoughts that SHOULD be running through our head?

I recently had this slammed in front of my face, and it was a HUGE wake up call.  Something I was reading (I can't remember what - that seems to happen a lot lately), was trying to be encouraging and the author suggested we would all feel a lot better about ourselves if what was going on inside of each of us, actually showed up on the outside.  If we were fully transparent.



I was APPALLED at this idea!!  I was mortified to think that someone would have access to what I am thinking, to what is going on in my mind! That others might see that!!!

Hmm, well, that's a pretty good indicator that my thoughts aren't where they should be, huh?

Romans 8:5 says, "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Sprit desires."  

Is your mind wondering to what the Spirit desires or what our sinful nature, our culture and our friends desire?  Are you not even sure what it is the Spirit would desire for us to think about?  Check out Philippians 4:8.

It says, "Finally my brothers, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE - if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY- think about such things."

That is a pretty long list.  Your mind can freely wander to anything that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.  These are things the Spirit desire for us.  These things are all in accordance with the Spirit.  They are down time acceptable.

It's not easy to retrain your mind.  It's not easy to stay positive, and grounded in the Spirit.  It is a hard thing to do, but it is so very, very worth it. 

What are you going to be doing with your down time?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Who Do YOU Say He Is?

"But what about you... who do you say I am?"

I have been thinking about this phrase for quite some time now.  Ever since my pastor first preached on it so many months ago, when he was in Luke chapter 9.  Nearly a year later he has finally made it to Luke 17.  There is just no rushing the word of God!

But back to my point.  In Luke 9, Jesus asks this question to Peter, "But what about you, who do YOU say I am."  The truth of the matter though, is I think he is asking this question to each of us.  And each one of us has to decide for ourselves who WE think he is.  

To many, Jesus of Nazareth is a prophet, a wise man of extraordinary morals.  He lived a legendary life and is no doubt someone to be admired.  But that is about it.  Truth be told, they spend very little time thinking about him at all.  And He has very little influence in their life.

The thing is Jesus never wanted to be admired.  I came across this idea in my reading for seminary this week.  It was never Jesus intention to be "admired".  That was never his desire, not when he was alive and walking this earth, and not now.  He doesn't want our admiration, he wants our devotion.  He wants us to be like him.  To be wise.  To be people of extraordinary morals.  Just like he was.  He wants us to be people other people admire.  Not only admire but want to be like!  And then when they ask us, what it is that makes us who we are, where our hope comes from, where our wisdom and light comes from, we point them straight to him.  That is what he wants.  Not admiration, but full, 100% devotion.  A life lived in relationship with him.  A life dedicated to him.  

Who do YOU say he is?

Is he someone you admire? Or is he more than that?  Is he someone you are willing to give your life to?  Someone you are willing to emulate?  Someone you are in relationship with?  Maybe he is someone you spend very little time thinking about.  If that is the case I encourage you to read through one of the gospels.  Really look at this man.  And then decide for yourself who YOU think he is.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Remember

I remember my mom telling me stories.

Stories of what she was doing the day President Kennedy was shot.  Or the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  Or the day Elvis died.

I remember her stories.

I remember wondering if I would have stories like that to tell my kids.  Would I witness history happening?  Would I ever say, "I remember exactly what I was doing when...".

I remember wondering that.

I remember the Challenger Space Shuttle blowing up when I a child.   It's a distant memory but it is there.

I remember President Reagan being shot.  It's a distant memory, but it is there.

I remember vaguely the Oklahoma City Bombing.

I remember the Gulf War, but I'm not exactly sure what started it. 

There is a lot of history I remember vaguely, distantly, almost a memory of a memory.

But I will never forget where I was, what I was doing or how I felt, the moment I heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Centers.  And then another one.  I was surrounded by preschoolers.  Other people's children.  We plastered smiles on our faces and pretended everything was okay as the towers fell.  As people died.  As lives were changed forever.

I will never forget a friend opening her Bible and reading scripture in the middle of the public school we were in.  

I will never forget the utter devastation I felt as more than 300 firefighters lost their lives doing what they are called to do.  Protecting others.  Precious firefighters that just as easily could have been my dad or brother.  

I remember.  And I will never forget exactly what I was doing the day the towers fell.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Lesson For Today

I believe God speaks in a lot of different ways.  

I believe He is that gentle nudge.  That feeling deep inside.  And that voice in your head.  

I believe He can speak to you through the words of a friend, the scripture He breathed, and the authors He has inspired.  

And any time I hear the same message or Bible verse from 3 different sources in a short of amount of time I start to pay attention, I  know God is speaking to me.  Unfortunately it sometimes takes that many times for me to hear him (huh, I wonder if that is where my children get that trait? but I digress!).

Today God has spoken to me the same message from 4 different sources - one of my Bible Study books that I am reading "for fun", one of my seminary books (not "for fun"), a post from Facebook (I think - I honestly can't remember where this one came from), and the scripture memory cards I have been reviewing one verse at a time day by day.  

Today God told me something that has lifted my spirits and freed me from my burdens in ways you can't imagine.  And I hope it does the same for you.

It started this morning in a book by Sheila Walsh.  She said, and I paraphrase, when God looks at you, He doesn't see the person you are, but the person you are going to be in Him. 


So God doesn't see all the ways I still get it wrong EVERY SINGLE DAY, He just sees the me I am going to be someday.  The me He is slowly (and I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y) refining me to be.  

Well, that filled me with such immense joy I flipped in my scripture card to the verse I knew I wanted to focus on today Phil 1:6 "...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus."  

God is not done with me yet.  The person I am right now is stronger and more confident than the person I used to be, but she is nothing compared to the person I am yet to become!  I can't wait to be that person.  

Of course then I began to wonder why I wasn't that person yet.   I mean, what was I doing wrong that I wasn't yet the person God wanted me to be?

And that is when the next lesson came.  I honestly don't remember where this one came from.  My guess is Facebook, but perhaps God just wrote it on my heart.  Perhaps I read it in one of the several books I was flipping through today and I just couldn't put my finger on it when I went back to review.  Either way,  I then realized... I can't yet be today who I am going to be tomorrow because I haven't learned those lessons yet.  

I know this may seems so elementary to you (or perhaps way too theological-depending on how deep you want to read it), but essentially this is God's way of saying, "Don't rush me.  I'm making something really great here, but it's going to take time."  Crock pot meals always taste way better than something thrown in the microwave. I don't want God to rush through making me the person He wants me to be.  Good things take time, and if He is in no hurry, than neither am I.  

The last part of my lesson came tonight as I was looking through one of my books for seminary.  The book is about Self-Awareness, recognizing your strengths and understanding your weaknesses.  To do this accurately one must balance two truths, "the knowledge of ourselves as we would be but for the grace of God with the knowledge of who we are and will be because of the grace of God."

The whole point of today is this...  I am not the person I was, I am not yet the person I am going to be.  And the only difference between those two people is God.  Who do I want to be?... the person I am on my own or the person I am with God?  I tell you what, I will chose God...EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Woman I am Becoming

I couldn't be more proud of myself!

I know, I'm not really supposed to say that.  But truly, I am quite proud of what I did yesterday!

I made JT some homemade cupcakes to take to school for his birthday treat... and they were an epic FAILURE!!!!!  Truly you have never seen nor tasted cupcakes as bad as these! He has a new friend in his class that has an egg allergy, but JT REALLY wanted to take cupcakes for his birthday.  So being the A1 stellar mom I am, I googled egg substitutes and proceeded to make my wonderful son some equally wonderful cupcakes that ALL his friends could enjoy!   Only they were a complete and total flop.  They didn't rise AT ALL.  They were one big lump of yuck that tasted even worse than they looked!!!!  Even if the cat and the dog were still alive, I am confident not even they would eat these cupcakes.

Why, you might ask, would I take any form of pride in this baking fiasco?

It's not the cupcakes, they truly were horrendous! What I am proud of is the way I handled it.  I laughed at my cupcakes.  I showed the kids my epic mistake and they laughed at my cupcakes.   And then I quite calmly asked my husband if he would mind picking up some cupcakes from the grocery store on his way home from the gym that evening, I didn't have time.

You might not fully understand but this is HUGE for me!  A couple of years ago, this would have resulted in copious amounts of tears on my part as well as a temper tantrum.  I would have allowed this, minor in the scope of life event, to make me feel inadequate as a mother, wife, and woman.  I would have told myself that a "loving mother" sends homemade birthday treats to school for her kids birthday.  A "real woman" knows how to bake, and NEVER messes up something as easy as cupcakes.  IF circumstances are beyond her control (something similar to the world ending) and homemade cupcakes are just not humanly possible than a "good mom" at least spends an entire day scoping out the healthiest, yummiest, best replacement cupcakes and picks them out herself!  She certainly doesn't send her husband out to find something at 8:00 at night!

Yes, a couple of years ago, this would have all been running through my head.  But it didn't yesterday.  I no longer believe these lies.  I now know the truth.  I simply can't do it all.  There are some things I am gifted at and some things I am not.  God made me with my strengths and my weaknesses for a reason.   Some days I might hit a home run, but somedays  I will strike out.  Yesterday I struck out on those cupcakes, but I'm pretty sure I got a hit on something else at some point in the day.

The truly ironic thing is JT LOVED those store bought cupcakes purchased at the last minute.  They were exactly what HE wanted for HIS birthday.

There are still a lot of days when I just don't get it right.  Where I am so far from the woman I want to be.  But yesterday, I was pretty proud of the woman I am becoming!