#23: Remorseful Hamster

The Lord reminded me (again!) that He is the root of success; without Him, there is none.

It seems every couple of months I lose sight of this and run myself in a laundry-cooking-cleaning-working hamster wheel–with the kids bouncing around in there with me–while my husband stands outside knocking every so often, wondering why I’m panting with fatigue. Finally, I collapse out of the wheel. Dirty clothes and dishes crash on top of me, because–let’s face it–they’ll always exist. After the metaphorical wheezing subsides, the Lord whispers to me.

He is the source of everything. The clothes I fold. The dishes I scrub. The food I cook. The butts I wipe. When I put the to-dos before spending time with Him, I’m putting creation before the Creator.

I’m thankful for my family–I have an amazing husband. And our daughters? Beautiful–inside and out.

I’m thankful for the dishes and laundry and cooking and butt-wiping that comes with the territory. (Not to mention our nearly-3-year-old’s 2 a.m. calls for water or blanket readjustments. I digress.)

I want to take care of them. That’s why I keep stepping in that stupid wheel. And that’s what I’m not thankful for.

Because remorse hurts. Going to the Lord–for approximately the 8,169th time since starting motherhood three years ago–and telling Him “I’m sorry,” hurts. Partially because the thought runs through my mind: Why is the Lord forgiving me again?

It is for His holy name’s sake that He continues forgiving and blessing us. (Ezekiel 36:22)

Because He loves us. (John 3:16)

Because He is God, and God is love. (1 John 4:8b)

#22: Perspective

We humans have a way of getting depressed over bills and money and things not going our way. We tend to forget how precious it is to have breath in our lungs and a beating heart and lips that can smile and tongues that can give words of cheer and souls that can feel such awesome depths of emotions. We are made in the image of God so that we are not like the world, but so that we can be like HIM in the world!

#20: You Shall Know Them by Their Fruits: “I Thirst.”

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Every detail of the gospel is important, so why is it mentioned that, when Jesus was thirsty, He was given sour wine? It’s unusual, isn’t it?  He was suffocating; why was His mind on thirst? And why did the Romans have sour wine there?

Jesus said “You’ll know them by their fruits. A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, neither can a bad tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. 7:18)

Where does wine come from? Grapes. What are grapes? Fruit. Jesus sipped the wine of bad fruit–the wine of sin! Scripture says that when He tasted it, He said, “It is finished.” He ingested sin. Mine. Yours. The sins of those before Him. The sins of those yet to be born.

And most churches practice communion once a month, and we drink sweet, tangy grape juice–the closest alcohol-free beverage to wine. We drink the good-tasting symbolism of His blood that cleansed us of our sin, and He drank the caustic representation of our filth.

#19: Hiding From God

The other day our oldest child, Chloe, was playing in the dining room while I was scrubbing dishes. She loves to play with the blinds on the sliding glass door. However, her parents–who don’t want to pay out the nose to replace the casualties of a toddler’s fun time–aren’t too fond of her love for destruction blinds.

She’s holding a blind in one hand, watching me for a reaction. I shook my head with an I-love-you-but-I-don’t-want-you-doing-that smile and calmly said, “No, Chloe, I don’t want you playing with blinds.”

What does she do? She lets go, squats down out of sight behind her sister’s playpen, and grabs it again.

My first thought was “Wow. She’s smart.” (She’s only 23 months.) My second thought was that her cuteness was not a license to disobey.

I believe we raise our kids to obey their parents not for the sake of Mom and Dad, but so that they learn how to obey God. That’s a tall order to fill, but I’ve found one way to go about this is to treat my children how God treats me. So as I walked to my daughter, I thought about times God has told me to do or not do something, and I’ve deliberately disobeyed Him. He’s always gentle with me, and even when my decisions landed me in grave danger, He’s rescued me from harm and was still gentle with me. In other words, He extends grace. A lot.

So I did the same.

I walked over to Chloe and leaned over the playpen. In a quiet but firm voice, I said: Chloe, just because Mommy can’t see you doesn’t make it right to do what is wrong.

The look on her face? Guilt.

She turned and walked away from me. I got on one knee, opened my arms wide with a tender smile, and called her name. She peeked over her shoulder, wondering if she was in trouble. But when she saw my face, she froze.

“Come here,” I said.

She walked into my embrace. I kissed her hair and whispered in her ear. I don’t want you playing with the blinds, alright? and I followed with another kiss. It’s been a few days, and she hasn’t touched them at all.

Everything has a time and a place. There are occasions for timeouts. There are times to spend in their rooms. But there are also times for gentle correction.

I love how God treats us with grace so we never fear coming to Him, no matter what we’ve done. And I love that He taught me such an important lesson for every parent:

If my kids are scared of me, they’re going to run to somebody else for comfort–and there are plenty of hungry wolves in the world, waiting to devour my children.

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#18: Secrets

Child sex predators are known for using cliche lines to cover up their evil. They say things like:

“Can you keep a secret?”

“Make sure you don’t tell anyone about this. It’s our secret.”

“I’ll make you or someone you loveĀ  hurt if you tell.”

“I’ll kill you or someone you love if you tell anyone.”

Sometimes the word “secret” is directly used, and sometimes it’s implied.

Naturally, my husband and I took the word “secret” out of our family vocabulary. We’ve substituted it with the word “surprise.” So when we go shopping for presents, we’ll tell our girls, “Don’t tell Daddy/Mommy/ Sissy. It’s a surprise.”

“Surprise” means the person we’re keeping the knowledge from will know in the near future, and surprises are (hopefully) something that person will like. Surprises are fun and light.

Secrets, in contrast, are dark and heavy. Especially “secrets” that are forced upon a child by a perverted sex predator.

Child sex abuse happens far too often. (One incident is one too many.) It can happen to anyone, from pro-ball player R.A. Dickey to rap star Lecrae to the girl writing this post.

We are raising our kids to come to us whenever someone wants to share a “secret” with them. The day will come when they report a classmate who wants to share something cute and innocent, and then we’ll have another conversation about it. But at this age, I want them to know secrets are bad, and that secrets that might get someone hurt are the most important ones to share.

I got this idea from God Made All of Me.

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#17: Go Ahead and Do It.

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Most of us have heard the Adam and Eve story so many times we skim the details.

But the story of sin’s origin into the human race is critical to understanding the origin of sin in our own lives.

In Genesis 2 God tells Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because if he does, he will die.

One chapter, one mate, and one serpent later, he’s chowing on the fruit. What happened?

When the serpent talked with Eve, she told him what the rules were–even adding in that she couldn’t touch the fruit.

But the serpent responds: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). Why Eve took a bite is for another day, but this post is about Adam.

Eve takes some of the fruit to Adam. He sees that she had eaten some and wasn’t dead. He likely doubted that God had spoken the truth, so he gave in and ate some, too.

And this is how the enemy gets us (or at least me): He says, “That (insert sin here) won’t offend God. Look at her; she’s getting away with it. So is he. And him, too. Nothing’s happening to them.”

Yet.

He caters to our impatience, and we forget that crucial and implied-but-left-out yet.

When God says there will be a consequence for something, sometimes it won’t happen immediately. In fact, consequences often take a while to come to fruition.

God wants what’s best for you, so don’t look at others who seem happy in their sin hoping for a free pass.

Don’t. Touch. The. Fruit.

#16: Cause and Effect

Preface: We are not responsible for anyone else’s salvation; however, in light of the Great Commission, I can’t turn a blind eye to what is happening in churches, Bible studies, cell groups, and church gatherings across the nation.

In the last few years, I have spoken to a number of people who are not Christian, and they have valid complaints for why they don’t believe. Their complaints are us.

Some have said, “All Christians do is bicker about stupid stuff, like whether or not tattoos and rock music are evil, and how much wine people can drink. Why would I join that for fun?” Others have said, “Churches are full of cliques. I visited a couple, but no one said hi or even noticed me because they were too busy in their circles.” Another person said she was judged. “Every word I said was critiqued. They analyzed everything I did. When I didn’t change how they wanted me to, they made it obvious they didn’t want me around anymore.” Another man said, “I used to believe, until my church found out I’m divorced and kicked me out.”

Please, nobody comment with the cliche, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” because this post isn’t about them. It’s about us.

We are the problem, not our church’s outreach team. Not our shortage of missionaries. Not our church’s lack of frozen mochas or child care.

We have fish bumper stickers and cut people off. We nitpick petty matters in public view, when some debates belong behind closed doors. We ignore new comers in favor of familiar faces. Some of those visitors never attend church again because of how we’ve mistreated them. And because of that, some people never find salvation because no one’s there to show them Jesus. We judge people instead of loving them.

Sanctification is a life-long process. Everyone is dealing with sin in their lives, but–for some reason–we act as if the Holy Spirit isn’t doing His job anymore and certain sins must be criticized by us and/or are too big to be forgiven.

We are supposed to be a cause for Christ, but instead we’re the cause of strife.

Analyze yourself. Are you a Christian or a Pharisee? Are you really a follower of Christ, or are you lukewarm water?

I have failed Jesus and other people a lot. And again, we are not responsible for anyone else’s salvation. But we are commissioned to make disciples of all nations, and we tend to turn our neighbors away from the faith as soon as we walk out the front door.

How many of you have prayed to God almighty to show Himself to someone and undo what damage had been done by you or anotherĀ  believer who poorly reflected Jesus’ character and set a bad example? Isn’t it an awful feeling?

Some of you may be thinking this right now:

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While this is true, it’s not a get out of jail free card. Jesus Himself asked us to represent Him to the world, and one day we will all stand before Him and give an account of every action and every word.

God is faithful and true. We should be, too.