Thursday, May 26, 2011

They question everything...

As a teacher of middle school students and the mother of two teens, I have noticed something...they question EVERYTHING! I can almost feel all the other teachers and parents out there nodding their heads in agreement. At times it is so exhausting...mainly because there is a fine line between questioning and disrespect, but I think I may have a way to tell the difference.

This blog started the other day when I attended the graduation ceremony of one of our local High Schools. I was so proud of those young men and women that I knew who crossed the stage into the next part of their lives. I wanted to cheer, but they had asked us simply stand in recognition and not "get out of hand". They, of course, did not use that wording, but I think we all understood what was meant. The young man in front of me questioned why they had that rule and I answered the best way I knew how by saying it was so that EVERY parent could hear their child's name when it was called. He didn't agree with the rule, but said he'd take my word for it.

Later on in the ceremony, a few groups, most of whom were NOT teenagers, decided to disregard the request and were escorted out. I had to notice, however, it was not simply that they cheered - but the cheers went on and on and then when the participants sat down you could hear comments from them daring the security to come and tell THEM to move. There it was - the difference. They questioned not because they felt the rule was wrong - they questioned because they didn't want anyone telling them what to do!

At the very end of the ceremony, once hats had been tossed and people were starting to leave, another young man that I know personally celebrated by doing a back flip....and again I was struck with the difference. This young man had obeyed and respected the rules, yet found a way to be uniquely himself in the process simply by waiting until the ceremony was over. I hope I am not the only one that sees the difference.

I, like most parents and teachers, don't want to raise mindless robots who simply obey without thinking. (Behavior like that led to Hitler's rise in power and some of the segregation laws in this country.) I want to raise citizens who THINK and who question when things aren't right. However, in doing this, I am also concerned that we have taught an entire generation to question simply when they don't like the rules because they want things their way...sort of a Burger King generation - have it your way, have it your way. We forget that our rights end where another person's begin.

The Bible talks about this in Proverbs 29:18 - "Without a vision, the people perish." One version says "Without revelation the people cast off restraint." The second part is equally important, "but happy is he who keeps the law." Most versions say "blessed is he who keeps the law." I want my children to be blessed.

So how do I help my children question without being disobedient? Simple - I first teach them God's law. What is that? Well, the ten commandments of course; but since kids have such a short attention span I'll narrow it to the top two - just like Jesus did for us (who also have very short attention spans!) #1 - Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and spirit. #2 - Love your neighbor as yourself.

Now - look at what you are questioning. Is it something that challenges #1? How about #2? If it's not challenging either of these, then you should obey. You can ask questions, but ask yourself if you are questioning because you don't understand, because it breaks one of the top two, or because you want to have things your way.

I believe this next generation holds greatness in them if they catch the vision that God has for their lives. If not, I'm concerned we'll raise yet another generation that is singing, "It's all about me, it's all about I, it's all about Number One oh my, me my! What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see." (Paraphrasing Toby Keith's song.)

I believe this generation deserves more. I want to spend my days helping them catch the vision of what God has for them...not simply answering a whole lot of "me" questions.

And at the next graduation, I will follow the rules...and keep my eye out for the kid who does the back flip at the end.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Frankenstein Fear

I used to love to watch the old monster movies like Frankenstein, The Blob, and of course a multitude of Mummy movies. I would rush home every afternoon to watch "The Big Show" and an endless supply of movie monsters guaranteed to make you jump at sounds in the night. Of course, those monsters never really scared me...they moved WAY too slow to frighten me.

I always wondered about the girls in those movies. They were all young and healthy and yet they invariably would fall, turn an ankle, get their clothes caught in something or simply stand and raise their hands toward their face and scream. I never could understand why these healthy young women didn't just high-tail it out of there! After all, the monsters moved slower than my grandma - why not just run?

I didn't get it...until yesterday. I was thinking about the fact that summer is only a few weeks away and how I am determined that THIS summer we'll find ways to have some fun. Last year we did the "bummer summer" and I really didn't want to go that route again. You see, last summer was the summer when my husband was out of work. We were okay, and we knew God had promised to provide for us...but I look back now and realize that I went into "shut down" mode. The fear of the unknown absolutely paralyzed me. That's when it hit me - the monster of fear had lumbered toward me and I just stood there. Okay, so I just SAT there and did nothing. I didn't even run! (Not figuratively on that part - I literally didn't even run! My training program took a serious back burner.)

I'd always liked to believe that I was a fighter, but fear had stopped me in my tracks. I started thinking about the differences in fear and faith (other than the obvious ones) and decided to share a few of those parallels in this blog.

Fear paralyzes, but Faith propels.
Fear guards, but Faith gives.
Fear hoards, but Faith helps.
Fear trembles, but Faith transforms.
Fear withdraws, but Faith welcomes.
Fear hates, but Faith hopes.
Fear barracades, but Faith busts down walls.
Fear begs, but Faith believes.
Fear forgets all that God has done, but Faith...well, Faith faces the storm knowing that God has saved before and He can do it again.

Looking at my list, I have to wonder how many areas of my life I have allowed fear to stop me and keep me cowering in a corner.

Fear is that lumbering monster that truly has no power over us unless we give in to it and give up. For fear to succeed, all that is required is that we do nothing....just allow it to creep in and overtake us. For Faith to win, we need to put on our running shoes and get back into the race.

So now I finally get all those old movies....they weren't really about the monsters, but about how we defeat ourselves. To quote FDR from his inaugural address, "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Some may not realize this quote comes from a speech was made in 1933 - a time of economic hardship and seemingly impossible situations. It wasn't just a bummer summer - it was a bummer decade!

This year, I think I'll get off the couch and tie back on my running shoes....and leave that ugly monster in my dust. God has a race for me to run....and I won't win it by just sitting here. Care to join me?

Hebrews 12:1 - " Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"
2 Timothy 1:7 - "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mistakes and Mother's Day

Today was Mother's Day and a perfect time to share something that happened this week.

I don't know about other moms out there, but I know that I have made a LOT of mistakes in raising my children. Just this past week, I had one of those weird moments when I woke up and it seemed that my mind was FILLED with memories of times I had failed. So many moments that I wished I could get a "do over," so many decisions I wished I'd handled differently. I wanted so much to give my children the perfect Christian upbringing and instead....they got me.

As you can imagine, it was not a morning that filled me with great faith....until I got on facebook that is. When I sat down with my morning coffee to browse updates, there was one of my daughter's statuses that had about 17 comments. I had to see what had caused such feedback! What the topic was is not the point, it  was the way she handled the discussion that ensued on the page that made me catch my breath. As I read, I was amazed at how eloquent she presented her arguments and how level headed her responses seemed to be. I almost cried when I saw a glimpse of the young woman my precious child had become. I could almost feel God's hand on my shoulder reassuring me that no matter what mistakes I'd made, He was still in control.

Later on in the week, a mother came to me to share a discussion she had with my daughter. She shared how impressed she had been with listening to my daughter as she told those around her why it was so important to listen to your parents' rules when it came to being allowed to use the car. (She is a newly licensed driver.) She also shared why it was so important to pay attention to that "inner voice" that lets you know when something is wrong. Once again - I was floored! I knew this was NOT because of me....this was in SPITE of me!

Why share all this? Simply because on this Mother's Day I am reminded more than ever that whatever good there is, it's not because of me. I have made WAY too many mistakes to ever think that the steady walk my daughter is developing is because of me. I also remember very distinctly the day I went for a run and cried as I prayed for my child. I was at such a loss....I finally reached the point where I said, "She's Yours, God. I completely give her back to You." (I can even take you to the very spot on that run when I felt God lift the weight from my heart.)

Now, mind you, I had dedicated her when she was just a baby in my arms. We'd had the whole family come and share the moment as my pastor held her before our church and prayed....but this was different. I guess in some ways I felt a bit like Hannah turning over Samuel and knowing there was no turning back. I gave up any illusion that I could really do anything other than pray....and pray I did. Make that, pray I DO...but honestly not enough. No, I can't even take credit for prayer.

God is so good. On this Mother's Day, I am reminded that He gave me the joy of being able to watch this precious child grow into a beautiful young woman. He allows me to catch glimpses of His plan for her life. He sends comfort and correction when I completely mess up. He loves my child even more than I do....and I am amazed.

Happy Mother's Day to you from one mom who has made plenty of mistakes - and one good decision. I turned my child over to God and though it isn't always easy, I know it's the one thing I got right.

1 Samuel 1:24-28  After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Crossing the Finish Line....

This is a repost of an article I wrote almost two years ago. Not sure why it has been running through my head, I usually forget what I've written....but evidently there is something in this blog that I need to be reminded of. Maybe there is something there for others as well.
Today I ran in a local 5k, the first race I've run in a really long time. I'd love to say my "time" was unbelievably fast, but to be honest it wasn't. Still, I crossed the finish line...and that's where today's blog comes from.

There was a time when I ran much faster. I still wasn't as fast as some others, but I wasn't ashamed to tell anyone my "time". After a layoff from running of about two years, however, I'm finding it really hard to make a "come back." To be honest, it can be discouraging at times and I feel like quitting...until today.

As I watched others run past me, I found a great joy in cheering them on. When we made the turn at the half-way point, I began to cheer for all those who were behind me...okay, so there weren't that many behind me, but that's beside the point. I started thinking, this isn't just about running the's about doing my best as I run toward the finish line and encouraging all who come after me. Yep, there it is...the random thought.

This race is a lot like life. In life, I'm running....the question is am I running from something or am I running TO something? Proverbs 18:10 says that the Lord is a strong tower and the righteous run to it and are safe. In my life, I want to run TO the Lord.

I may not finish the race as fast as someone else, and I may look a little funny as I run along, but as long as I don't stop and keep going toward that finish line - I've won! That's the key...don't stop! Don't take a side road. Don't get discouraged because others seem to be doing a better job with their "run" than you are. Look at those who have "gone before" and learn from them. Then look at those who come after you and encourage them. Run along side others and motivate them to keep going. In all of it, keep that finish line in is what we are running to. Maybe I should say, it is WHO we are running to.

As I approached the finish line, I looked to those who had already finished (and were sitting around drinking sports drinks...I told you it took me a long time.) I called to them..."Come on! Cheer me on! I'm working hard here!" Of course they all cheered and I finished...maybe with a little more spring in my step than before. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses doing the same for us (Hebrews 11) and we don't even have to tell them to cheer! They've been cheering us on every step of the way.

When I saw my final "time", I was a bit discouraged. I realized if I had run just a little harder and shortened my "walk breaks" I could have finished in the time I wanted. Guess I could have used a bit of encouragement too. It makes me want to look around and see...who seems to be faltering in their run today. Maybe they haven't stopped, but they look as if they need that word of encouragement to keep "running" toward the Lord. Can I be that voice?

So let's keep running.....I want to hear that "Well done." from my Father God when I finally cross the finish line. How about you?