Tuesday, September 20, 2011

False Advertising

A few weeks ago I was in a grocery store and saw a harried mom with her out of control kids. I have four kids, I have learned to not assume things based on the moments of behavior I happen to witness. I don't know if the children are ill, or have unseen disabilities, or are simply having a bad day.  I've been there, done that, and know that reproachful looks and not-so-veiled comments really don't help.  I try to offer an understanding smile and not stare.
But this... this was different.  The kids were running CRAZY, the mom was yelling, I mean YELLING at them, and in the few short encounters I witnessed, she gave at least 4 empty threats.  The worst part?  the whole family was wearing matching T-shirts that proclaimed "I love my church" on the front and had a religious message on the back. Ugh. Poor mom, poor kids, poor church!

My pastor recently shared that he was driving in heavy traffic (the only kind we have around here) and a fellow driver grew rather irritated with him and shared those feelings via various gestures. Only thing, the car was plastered with stickers for one of the very large local churches. Again, ouch, slightly embarrassing.

Today I went to Walmart with the intention of using their price match policy to score a great deal on some Christmas gifts. While I was in the store shopping, I heard over the store sound system, in between the canned music, advertisements for Walmart, including those touting the "easy price match policy, available at every register."  Guess what? I got to the register and they refused to honor their own policy.  Asking management to intervene did not resolve the issue and I ended up leaving without making a single purchase. I have to be honest, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not a fan of this particular mass merchandiser anyway, but I made a special trip specifically because of their price-match policy.

My husband got a postcard in the mail promising him that he had won a "free" Bahama Vacation for 2, simply call this number.  It went so far to assure him that it was not a land-sale or time-share deal.  

I think we all know better than to believe the post card; I threw it away without even calling.  I'm sure they somehow skirt the legal boundaries of false advertisement, but I didn't even bother to find out what all the clauses were.
 However, what about the other examples?  Should we expect different  behavior from people who advertise that they are Christians?  I certainly expected the store in my example to follow their own printed policy, but they didn't.  

As for the mom in the store and the driver in the car... I know that in stressful times we all cling to that saying, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven," (although, try as I might, I have never been able to find what scripture that is supposed to be based on...)  but really, shouldn't we try to live up to our advertising? 

I claim to be a Christian, I am open with this, as I believe we are supposed to be.  What I need to examine is whether or not my life and my reactions and my relationships are living up to my advertisement.
How sobering to know that my children's ideas of what a Christian family looks like is based on how I behave towards them.
For the people I interact with, even in passing, is my "written policy" one thing but my follow-through something else?
Am I leaving people disillusioned?  do they have a bad taste in their mouth about Christians when they have walked away from me?

I ended up taking my coupons and my competitor's advertisement to a different store (Target) and getting my extreme deal. They didn't even hiccup at doing the price-match. I know it was not convenient for them, and they didn't make any money, but they followed their advertised policy.  I left happy and with the decision to frequent their establishment again and to tell others about it.
I want to do that. I want to live up to my Christian "advertising" even when it's not convenient.
I want people to walk away from me wanting to know more, wanting to find out more about my Christianity.
I want my life to be good advertising for the Lord.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I understand that the following post is completely political. I understand that my opinions are mine alone and as such should not be regarded as the opinion or position of any other person or entity. I say the things that I say not to be popular but to be truthful and honest about what is in my own heart. I love the United States of America. I am a patriot; I am not blind. Our nation has always had flaws and always will, but I believe that we should purpose to improve every time we have the opportunity.

I suppose it is de rigueur to write about 9/11/01 today. To be honest, I was going go against the flow and write about Grandparents Day instead, but, obviously, I changed my mind.

First, like everyone else, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day.  I was active duty military on 9-11. 
I remember. 
I remember rushing home to grab my deployment bag, not to deploy but because we were told that we may not get to leave base for days. Almost my whole shop deployed immediately. The attacks were in the morning, by 2 pm my hospital was a ghost town. I didn’t deploy because I was 6 months pregnant with our first child. I did however get to work 16 hour days for the duration in order  to keep the place running. The teams we sent weren’t gone long. They were set up for rescue and recovery and medical care. There wasn’t much rescue to be done. Our pathologists did stay a bit long for the recovery and ID, but not very long because there was not enough recoverable remains. 
I remember calling my mom and telling her I was ok. I remember hugging my husband before heading back to base with my bag.
 I remember knowing that my base was a prime target and knowing that we were under a very real threat. 
I remember being finally being released from duty and getting home about 2 am and us holding each other more tightly than ever before.
I remember feeling the baby kick in between us, protesting being squashed, and wondering what world he would be born into. 
There are moments that are burned into my memory and then so much blur.
I remember driving home past flag-wavers in the weeks after the attacks.
I remember driving home past protesters the following month when Operation Enduring Freedom began. 
I remember the promises that "we will not let them win!"
I have been hearing similar promises for 10 years. 

I'm afraid I disagree. 

It is difficult to obtain a stated goal of terrorism, but poking around a bit I've found that terrorism is generally agreed to be acts of crime and violence intended to invoke  and provoke a state of terror or fear.  The goals of terrorists are varied, but include, the intent to force a change in government policy and create both instability, shame (government can't keep citizens safe), and create tension between government and citizens by forcing the government to infringe on civil liberties. 

If these goals are even partly accurate, the terrorists have won. 

The lengths to which our country has gone since 9/11 to bring about security are astounding.  I don't have time to go into it here, but take some time  to read about the interment camps for Americans of Japanese ancestry after Pearl Harbor.  For two full years, our government kept free citizens in detention camps based solely on their ethnic heritage. It was not only Japanese blood that was targeted, but they bore the brunt.  One thing that strikes me about this is that in many cases the camps were set up on Native American Reservations and the Native Americans were paid by the government for having the camps.  To rank below Native Americans on the government's hierarchy?  that is pretty low.    
My point is, you would think we would have learned from that.  Obviously not.  As terrible as the detention camps were, at "least" they were only taking away the freedoms of a targeted population. 
 Post 9/11, we have signed away our freedoms as a whole. The scary thing is that because we haven't been rounded up and made to live in tar-paper shacks, we really don't find that it matters in our day to  day lives; it is very easy to ignore. 

Our population living in fear?  check.
Our government unstable? check. 
Tension between citizens and government? check.
Loss of civil liberties imposed on us by our own government? check.

We have stooped to policies and behaviors that are a shame to our National pride. 
 We have attacked and invaded independent countries when those countries did not first make war with us.  
We have captured and imprisoned 1000's of foreign citizens who we have no jurisdiction over, to the point where we will not even  imprison them on our own soil lest we then have to extend the protection of our constitution to them.  
We say, "we are doing nothing compared to what was done to us."  Since when do we hold ourselves to a standard of, anything better than terrorism is ok?
We have squandered lives and resources of our own military. 
We have contributed to the spilling of the blood of thousands of foreign civilians. 

Almost 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks. The number of US military deaths in the "war on terror" passed that 5 years ago. The number of Iraqi, Afghan , and Pakistani civilians has passed that number over, and over, and over.  If we are trying to match blood for blood, surely the debt has been paid?

What happened on 9/11/01 changed our lives and our nation forever.  I hear much rhetoric about not letting those deaths be in vain. 
No normal person would tell their loved ones, "Keep my memory by living in grief and hiding from reality." and yet, that is the burden that we are placing on those who died if we insist on living a fear driven life. 
Fear, anger, and revenge have been hallmarks of our nation's existence over the past few years
I cannot speak for those who died and conjecture whether or not they would say that the price we are paying for our guise of security is worthwhile.  
No one can. 
What we can do is say that the America that they died knowing, has not also died.  
We can  continue to live and live freely.  
We can begin to act, as a nation, in ways that will let us hold our heads high. 
We can reclaim our freedoms and tell the terrorists who hate our way of life that we have always paid for our freedom with blood and we will continue to do so, but we will NOT sign away our liberty for the guise of security!   . 
I think it is time to be done. 
It is time to not only remember, but rebuild. Not only the physical structures, but the heart of our nation.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life on Hold

I'm not trying to go all "woe is me" on you, nor am I trying to play, "my life is harder than your life."  Because really, my life is not bad, it's just...difficult right now.  My real purpose here is simply to show you that when I say, "Girlfriend, I feel you!"  You know that I really do feel you!

Our house has been up for sale for over a year now. Literally half of our belongings are in a storage unit--you know, all that, "a cleared out house shows better" stuff.  I'm not the greatest housekeeper on a good day, so trying to keep the house show-ready for a YEAR?!?!  I'm about to lose my mind. Add to that the house in question is also under construction, (umm, sure you can see the house, please understand that there is no wall on the kitchen right now though). And now, just to add to the fun, my wonderful mom has come to live with us. So, seven people in a one bathroom house.

I'm a flexible, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal, so really, living life in upheaval like this is probably much less stressful on me than it would be on some of my uber-organized sisters. Or, (here's a thought!) if I were  a tad more organized, perhaps my heaved-up* life wouldn't be quite so chaotic?

Truthfully, the worst part of  all of this is feeling like we are living life on hold.  Months and months of telling the kids, "You can have that toy back when we move."  or "We will do this after we move."  "Sorry honey, that <insert child's favorite item here> is in storage."  Even the baby has picked up on this.  I asked him the other day to bring me his shoes so I could finish dressing him and he replied, "I got no shoes, they are in storage."

As you would imagine, we did a bit of painting and wallpapering to freshen up the house for sale. Now I look around and my "freshly" painted walls are dingy with the stray mark here and there.  My "new" wallpaper has the lovely addition of blue marks ALL over it, courtesy of the 2 year old.  The truth is, in a house this busy, paint and wallpaper that is a year old is not in any way, shape, or form, new.  I did try, for the first few months, to keep the walls clean by removing  access to writing instruments.  That was an exercise in folly.  Four children and we home-school; life without crayons is just not worth it.

I suppose in the grand scheme of life, being without toys or crayons for a while isn't cataclysmic, but when you are a child, a year+ is actually a long time.  And due to other circumstances and decisions that I've had to make during the past year, they have actually missed out on more than just a season without crayons.  Soccer seasons, dance classes, joining community theatre, signing up for various other lessons...always with the, "but what if we sell the house..."

Seriously, I am so OVER waiting!  I am tired of not living today but always thinking, "when we sell the house; when we move; in a new house we can..."

 Life is short, my children's childhoods are even shorter. Walls be hanged, the kids need to be able to color!
My goal right now is trying to prioritize,  what are the most important things to work into our "life on hold" and what can go on waiting?

-I've made the last few birthday cakes for the kids, even though my decorating supplies are, you guessed it, in storage. I've had to get creative and do what I can with a $9 beginner kit I picked up, but really, they only care that mommy made them a cake.

-I've let the girl's start scrapbooking again. Our bin of "nice" supplies is...not currently accessible. But we have discovered that with a little creativity, they can still have a lot of fun and make meaningful memories of their friends.

-I've broken out of my , "I'm not a good enough housekeeper/hostess," and we've had more people over during the past few months than we have in the previous 6 years all together.  You know what?  Either it's not as horrible as I see it, or I just pick really kind friends who are too polite to tell me about it.

-We filled the pool this summer.  We weren't going to, I mean, what if we sell the house?  But the kids were beside themselves with excitement and watching them swim like little otters all summer has been worth it.

-I've accepted that I might need to loosen my death-grip on unschooling and I've, gasp, ordered curriculum for the two older kids. Who knows, maybe they will not only survive the structure, it might even do them some good.

These things are just baby steps, I know that, but I do not want to realize a few years from now that I have wasted my kids' childhood days waiting for a better time to do things.

What is in your way?
What is causing you to look at someday instead of today?  
Do you need to re-prioritize things in your life?
Are you going through the motions and living life on hold?
Yes, we do need an eye toward the future, but not at the expense of the present.  God wants us to live an abundant life today.

*I was trying to work off of "upheaval" in the previous sentence. Instead it sounds rather Jonah-ish.  Words are funny sometimes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Course Adjustment

I've been thinking a lot the past few weeks and realize that my blog needs a course adjustment.  I began thisone so that I could have a place to keep my articles separate from all my personal stuff, kids pictures, and potty-training stories. Since this is also ostensibly a place to point potential publishers (see, people DO read my ramblings!), this separation is important. However, I really feel like I've lost my voice and instead of my postings being real, from my heart, what I'm really living, they are becoming boring and decidedly didactic. I have 3-4 drafts saved that I haven't posted for this very reason... they are just not me being real.
I believe they are accurate and that I did appropriate study, but to put it bluntly, they simply aren't from the heart.

So, that being said, brace yourselves because when I write from the gut, sometimes it isn't pretty, I will present problems that don't have answers, and I might even cry; but it will be real, it will be life as I'm living it, and most of all, I desire that it will glorify God as he walks me through it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Parenting on Purpose

I had a "come to Jesus" moment recently which caused me to take a hard look at specific aspects of my parenting. Please note that I am posting this as a reminder to myself and my peers, not as a parent who has successfully accomplished their goals and is a mentor.
Ok, disclaimer over, it occurred to me that the phrase, "You are X years old, you should be able to ------," has been coming from my lips recently.  The problem is, it has been coming as a scolding and accusation, not as a statement of fact and an invitation for learning.
If my kids are now X years old and unable to perform a particular task or display a particular attitude or character trait, who exactly should I be talking to and scolding?
I guess I need to go spend some time in front of the mirror.

Too often I feel like I'm living life in survival mode.  Sometimes survival mode is where we are, believe me, I know this, my family has been living this out for a while now.  The thing is, it falls on me to make sure that while we are surviving the upheaval that is  our current circumstance, I am not neglecting the things that are necessary to achieve my goals for my kids.
I'm not going to wake up on my son's 18th birthday and be blessed by the sight of a well-adjusted young man who has a good work ethic unless I put the time in NOW.  I'm not going to be blessed by a kind and loving daughter who has a heart to serve unless I develop that character NOW.

If you know me at all, you know I'm a creative, let-it-flow, fly by the seat of your pants, kind of person. This works well for my crafts, ok for cooking, not terribly well for housekeeping, but would be simply terrible for parenting.  I (we) need to have well-defined goals if we are ever to reach them.
I don't just mean general goals like, " I want my child to be nice, successful, and love God."
 I mean that  as the Lord reveals my child's particular strengths and talents to me, do I have a plan to train them up in the best way possible for them? The goals may be changing and the methods to achieve them may be fluid, but they must always be definite in the sense that they exist and they are being referred to.
I've been drifting along, haven't measured my children's progress up against the long-term goals in a while. Too long.
It was brought to my attention and I looked, and wow, Pretty far off course in several areas. Thank God that his grace and my children's youth are on my side and I have determined to make some course corrections.

Let's look at this together.

  1.  Do I know my child?  What is their personality? Is this child laid-back or "type A?"  Are they social? Do they have obvious talents emerging?  Are they physically differently-abled? Are they neuro-atypical? 
  2. Do I know about the the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent with their personality type? Am I willing to learn about it?
  3. Do I feel the Lord leading me in any certain  way concerning their training? Have I asked the Lord for insight into this specific child?  If I do not share their personality type do I know a successful adult who is of the same personality who I can approach and ask for guidance?

Examples work best for me, so I will share a few personal things. 
 My son is exactly like me.  He is laid back, easy going, and a peacemaker.  He also tends very much to be lackadaisical and lazy about anything that he is not interested in. this is me. I was able to get away with it for the majority of my life because the one thing that usually gets kids into trouble is if they are lazy in school and I wasn't. I enjoyed it and excelled in school. I studied hard because I enjoyed it, not because I had self discipline. I chose lines of work that I enjoyed (which of course I would advise anyone to do) and was always successful because it was something I chose to work hard at, not because I had good self-discipline.  Now as a wife and mother, this lack of self-discipline is hurting me. I am determined to try my best to not let this become the same life-long problem in my son as it has been for me.  Because he is like me, I can identify and help build his strengths, but I also know the weaknesses he will likely face with this personality and hopefully, with God's guiding, work on those as well. 

My daughter is just like both my husband and my sister. She is hard working and has high standards. This is great. However, it also means she is prone to be demanding and judgmental.  She recently declared to me that  "so and so always does such and such. I'm just not going to give them another chance because they don't deserve it."  I was able to gently talk to her about what a huge thing it is to decide that someone else "doesn't deserve" another chance. Of course this was on a very childish level of someone not playing they way she thought they should, but the principle is one that I want to teach her now. 

One last thing, we are not in this parenting thing alone. I firmly believe that God intends for parents to raise their own children, but he didn't say we had to do it alone. I think it is prudent and wise to ask for advice, especially from people who have proven wisdom to give (hence my disclaimer at the beginning, I'm still in the middle of this race). And don't forget the best resource of all, God. The only person with more at stake in your children's life than you is God. He cares, he gives wisdom. We need to ask, and then be willing to listen. Sometimes it goes against the grain. Just today I had an incident with the daughter mentioned above.  I set about to come up with a fitting punishment and an idea crossed my mind. I went on past it because it broke a "parenting rule" I'd heard before and thought was right, but the thought came again and with it, the impression that it was from the Lord. So, not having any better ideas, I did it.  I've always said I wouldn't make a child read or write scripture as a punishment so as not to give the Bible a negative connotation in their mind. Today, I broke that rule and along with a letter of apology, I had my daughter copy several verses about being kind.  Well knock me over with a feather... the lecture when it comes from me is met with defensiveness and unwillingness to admit fault. The Scripture telling her to put away wrath and practice kindness was met with conviction and repentance. Where I can't reach her heart, the Lord can.  For another child, copying out scripture verses might be very wrong, even for another situation for this child it might be wrong, but for today, for this situation, it was right. 
I don't say that to glorify myself or show how wise I am, I really want to show how when we are out of ideas, God can usually pull out a really good one for us to use!
As we endeavor to raise our children for God, let's remember to encourage each other and ask God to reveal what each child needs so that we can truly parent on purpose.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beer Truck Musings

The other day as I left a parking lot, a large beer truck was turning in and as he barely missed my bumper, it got me to thinking about how much I love my husband.

I'll let you take that in for a moment. :-)

Ok, a short (ish) explanation. Many years ago I dated a guy whose dad was an alcoholic and got hit by a beer truck and got a large settlement and moved to Florida to never work again.  When I saw the beer truck and wondered if he was going to bump my vehicle, I thought of the nice settlement, which led me to think of Danny which led me to think of our brief relationship, which led me to think of my other, even more brief relationships before I met and married my husband.

I never really dated much at all but there were a few guys I thought were pretty nifty and I wished and wondered what it would be like to marry one of them.  Some even made me think I was heartbroken, although in retrospect, I realize I was not.

Now, 15-20 years later, I am SO GLAD that I didn't end up with any of those guys!  Don't get me wrong, many of them were great guys who turned into nice men and I'm still friends and in contact with them. And this  is where men all over the country wonder if they ever broke my heart.  
My point is, the things I was so sure that I wanted, I see now that I truly did not.

 My husband is far from perfect (sorry honey) but after 11 years, I am more sure than ever that he is the one I want to be with forever. He puts up with my quirks, I still laugh at his dumb jokes, we balance each other out in a variety of other ways, not to mention, I can't imagine giving birth in front of anyone else.
There is a a country song about "sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers" and while I disagree with the theology, I truly appreciate the sentiment.

Happy Anniversary Jeff, I love you so much.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It is what it is.

It is what it is. We are who we are. We do what we do.  (via Facebook status shuffle)

Well if this isn’t just about the saddest thing I’ve ever read, I don’t know what is. 
What’s worse, it was categorized under “wisdom.”  Ok, so I wasn’t expecting Solomon-esque utterances, but wow.

Thing is, people believe this and live by it.  
Life without hope; no hope of change, no hope of becoming better, of growing in grace and love, wretched in the knowledge that we are who and what we are, and that simply isn’t good enough.
Day after day, not expecting anything different, resigned to the fact that “it is what it is.”

Oh to tell them all that Jesus came precisely so that this would NOT be true!

He broke the curse.
We can be born again.
We are no longer chained by sin.
We can be filled with his spirit.
Our minds can be renewed.
We can be transformed.
He brings new life...
And it is Abundant life.

John 10:10 I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Jealousy (emotions part 3)

William Shakespeare called jealousy the green-eyed monster.  Countless books and songs and even movies have been made about suspicious minds and wandering loves.
What does jealousy mean to us as Christians?

Interestingly, anger and jealousy are both ascribed to God in the Old Testament but we are warned about them in ourselves. I think that since we are made in God’s image, he built these emotions into us, but they are now fallen. God speaks of how jealous he was over his people, specifically who they worshiped.
In our common English usage, jealousy and envy have become synonymous. This is not correct. Envy wants something that someone else has, jealousy is when someone gets (or tries to get) something that is ours (or that we think is or should be ours).

 Definitions of “jealous” boil down to feeling resentment toward another either stemming from rivalry, or because of desiring their success or achievements which we think should have been ours. It also covers fears of rivalry, and finally, being solicitous or vigilant in guarding something.
It is this last bit that applies to the verses in the Old Testament telling us that God is a jealous God.  He is not putting up with any rivalry over the worship and affection of his people.
This is what jealousy was supposed to have been.  However, as we have previously discovered, we humans are selfish.  Our default setting is to skip right over careful guarding and go right to suspicion and rage. 
Jealousy is an emotion that can quickly turn to sin, and what a sin it is. Suspicion, anger, rage, and hatred, all stemming from the oft-times false belief that someone is getting on our turf.

Origin- In  my opinion, I think that our usual form of jealousy often comes from insecurity. Jealousy can arise from us wanting what someone else has or  that we think should have been ours (a promotion at work, a position in church), or from our fear that they are going to get something that is ours (rivalry).  Both of these can come from being insecure in who we are and what we have.  The proper kind of jealousy, such as God displays, does not come from insecurity, but rather a sense of guardianship.

Purpose- “Good” jealousy should drive us to protect what is ours. We should be jealous of our marriage, jealous of our children’s’ minds and hearts.

Appropriate Response- Are you feeling protective or suspicious?  Are your feelings based in insecurity or in a sense of guardianship? Is the threat perceived or real?  Is the threat over something that is truly yours (your children) or over something that you wish was yours (a promotion)?  If our jealousy is carnal, then it needs to go. Scripture tells us this multiple times.
 This topic would easily provide fodder for an entire book, but to keep this article manageable, I want to focus only on what would be considered a “good” jealousy.

I’m jealous of my children’s hearts and minds and affections. I want to be their first source of comfort, of advice, and of companionship.  Obviously this is not a crazy, flowers-in-the-attic, type of guarding, but it makes me careful of who and what influences them.  It causes me to decide against entertainments that paint parents in a bad light or that would teach my kids that they should have secrets from their parents or that kids should handle big life decisions without parental input. It compels me to carefully choose other adults to speak into my children’s lives, those who will understand and reinforce our values.  I do recognize the importance of my children having other mentors, but my husband and I should be first on their list.

I’m jealous of my marriage.  Now, this gets a little stickier, jealousy in a marriage can easily get out of control and destroy the very thing it was meant to protect.  I must remember that I can’t control other people, I can only govern myself.  I don’t get to control how much time my husband has to spend at work.  I DO get to control (to a certain extent) how badly he wants to get home after work. I do control how much effort I put into my marriage. I do control whether or not I’m available and fit to be a great helpmeet.  Ladies, dear sisters, I’m not saying that if a marriage breaks up, it is because you did something wrong or didn’t guard it.  Please, please, that is not my intention here at all. I’m speaking to those of us with basically healthy relationships, who need to jealously guard what we have.  
The wrong kind of jealousy will tear apart a marriage faster than we can imagine, the right kind of protectiveness will spur us to make an effort when we simply don’t feel like it.

One more idea that hits me right where I live is being jealous of my walk with God. If God is jealous of his people and their worship, then shouldn’t I also be zealous about guarding my heart and mind from things that will distract me from Him?  Shouldn’t I be jealous of my available time instead of squandering it on useless things?  If I were as jealous of my time with God as I am with my knitting or sewing or reading or computer time, how much of a difference would that make in my life as a whole?

If jealousy is born of insecurity, what better cure for all of the wrong jealousy in my life than to spend more time with God and learn who I am in his eyes and how secure I am in his love? 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Anger (emotions part 2)

Yelling, dishes flying, quiet seething, festering rage. No matter how it manifests, anger is destructive.
I’ll tackle anger first in this series because, to be honest, it is one of the trials of my own life.  I have a temper and a half.  I may try to laugh it off and blame it on my heritage, my “Cuban temper,” but to be real; it is something I have struggled with for years.
The negative aspects of anger are pretty obvious; it leads to rage and wrath and eventually to hatred and violence.  

The origin of anger is usually that we didn’t get our way or we feel disappointed in some manner, let down or upset that someone did not act in a way we think they should have. Frustration (to have plans and efforts defeated, or made worthless) often leads to anger. We decide to give of ourselves in some manner and then things don’t turn out like we hoped. It feels personal, we get angry.
Injustice, this is a big one, and perhaps one of the only bona fide “excuses” for anger. Most of the time though, the person we are trying to protect from perceived injustices is Me.   Share the wealth a bit hey? Let’s spread some of that “righteous indignation” around and champion for people who don’t have a voice.

The purpose of anger would be to spur us to action.  Unfortunately since most of the time, anger is ignited by an outside source; just exactly what this action should be is quite limited.
To be honest, while there are things in this world that are worth being angry over, many of the things that drive us to anger are not.  You should be angry at sin.  You should not be angry that your spouse (fill in the blank).  

The appropriate response is first to not let the anger get a foothold in our minds (that’s where the “sin not” part comes in). The hard part is understanding that since we can’t control other people, the only way to work around the disappointment is to adjust our expectations.  Can I say it this way? You can’t change others so you’d best just change your mind. (is that a country song? Or did I really just come up with that?)

There are so many variables but I’ll address the ones that apply to me and hopefully they will help you as well.

-         Spouse.  I can’t change him. Anger only drives wedges and ruins harmony. My only appropriate action is to change my expectations. This probably also applies to parents, church, work, and road rage.  I know this is easier said than done. I’m married to the perfect man, but the rest of you sometimes have to deal with… Ok, I can’t finish that sentence even as a joke. He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. There are clashes. Thunderstorms if you will.  I can’t change him. And when I’m very honest with myself, I really don’t want to change him. God made him and He is far smarter than I am. What if one of the things I decided to change was one of the things God put there on purpose?  So even if I could, I shouldn’t, and since I can’t, it’s all a moot point. Instead, I have to change my expectations or I’m going to be in an repeating cycle of frustration and anger.
-         Children.  If I’m angry with them, it is more than likely because I should be training them differently or more consistently. Anger begets anger and the scripture specifically tells me not to provoke my children.  When I react in anger to my children, it sets of a chain of emotions that are all quite harmful. I don’t want that. I need to change that. Not next time. NOW.  If my kids are up for the eleventy-seventh time since they were sent to bed, it is almost certainly because I have let them know that I don’t really mean that they have to go to bed. If I don’t mean what I say, where on earth do I get the right to be angry at them not doing what I say?  I have not taught them to obey. MY problem. Needs to be dealt with, not get an angry reaction. And when the angry part wins, I need to immediately apologize, because doing so trains me.
-         Sin. Let me be blunt, human trafficking, child abuse, genocide… these should make us angry.  I am very guilty of simply choosing to not think about things that I find abhorrent. They are too big for me to fix and they are emotionally exhausting to even think about. I realize that the Lord gives burdens for different issues to different people, but ignoring things because they are yucky to think about? Just as unacceptable as fruitless anger.  These are the true injustices that are supposed to make us angry and goad us to action.

Eph. 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Matthew Henry says that we should be sure to not try and turn the “be ye angry” into a command, for God knows we are apt enough to be plenty angry on our own.  Instead the imperative is on the “sin not.”
The other very interesting thing (for me at least!) is that doing a word study on anger in this verse show us that it means to show a “settled opposition” –as in an opposition to sin. A sinful anger would focus on the offender rather than the moral content of the offense. to have a proper response, this is a vital distinction.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the verse for us to obey is  the part that tells us to not let the sun go down on our wrath.  So you find yourself aquiver with agitation over some injustice, don't make stew with it. Deal with it now. Anger that sits, festers. Just as pain in our body needs to be considered, and taken care of,  so does anger.
What caused this emotion?  
Is it something I should be angry over?
Is it something I can change outside of myself (make a donation to an organization that fights human trafficking) or does the change need to occur within me (adjust my expectations of my spouse or co-workers, train my children more consistently)? 
What is my plan?  Not just, “oh I need to do better on that.”  I’m here to say; telling yourself that you will do better next time is useless. It is almost always followed by the thought, “but not this time, because they deserved it.”

I wish I could write a glowing report about my full deliverance from all anger issues. However, I believe that emotions are part of us and since God created them (and he also feels emotion), he’s not likely to remove them any time soon. What he can and will do, is change our response.
I do want to give you hope though and I would never want to be cliché and tell anyone to “just pray about it.”  I firmly believe that there is a good bit that we have to make the effort to do. However, God is not leaving us out on a limb to deal with these potentially destructive emotions on our own. I do urge you to make it a matter of prayer; ask the Lord to show you a specific plan of action. Romans 12:2 tells us to renew our minds. That word literally means a change or new development. The goal isn’t to never again feel anger; to do that, we would lose the ability to see injustices. The goal is to gain a proper understanding of how these emotions are supposed to function and get a handle on how to let anger be a call to action rather than have it turn to rage and control us.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I posted a few days ago about a “good” kind of fear. I used purity as an example, but hope that my message was clear that Godly fear can keep us safe from a variety of harmful practices while we (or our children) are still too spiritually immature to obey out of respect and honor.

I’d like to continue to address emotions that we commonly view as being negative. I’ll do this as a series of posts over the next few days and I invite you to come with me and explore our emotions.

Culture tells us that negative emotions are always bad and to be happy, we must rid our lives from them.
I disagree. More importantly, I think that scripture disagrees.

A healthy person will not enjoy negative emotions (I do recognize the element who seek emotional lows so that they can get the “high” of positive, however this is beyond my scope), but we need to understand that just as pain is an indication that something is amiss in our physical body, negative emotions can be a sign that things are wrong in our minds and spirits. Therefore, to get the whole story, we need to determine the origin of the emotion, the purpose of the emotion, and the best way to deal with the emotion.

Emotions come from our perception of reality. Two people may experience the same emotion (fear, anger) but they are based in different origins and thus the appropriate response is going to quite different!  Two people fear a bear attack; both feel that there is a threat to their safety.  One is in Alaska in the summertime; another is walking a sidewalk in Miami Beach.  For one, the fear is a call to action, for the other… well, the fear probably warrants a call to a therapist.  Same emotion, different facts, equals different appropriate actions.

Some emotions I’d like to look at include:

Whether we like it or not emotions are a part of our humanity, so the more we understand them, the less we have to struggle with them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Healthy Kind of Fear

Fear is a bad word?

Warning: Adult content, if your kids were just looking over your shoulder seeing the cute pictures, now is the time to have them go do something else.


On a message board I frequent, many of the moms recently got into a discussion about the things our kids face today, specifically becoming sexually active in lower grades, down to 5-6th grades, and also the increasing popularity of having group slumber parties that are expressly for having same-gender sex. I don't even need to explain my stand on all of that, but what really got me thinking were the comments about how inevitable it is and how all we can do is talk to our kids and hope they will be open with us and make good mature choices, blah blah blah.

Here's the deal. I don't think that even in this current, twisted,  world  that this type of thing is inevitable! I refuse to accept that. However, I also know that if their plan consists of talking and hoping, they are right. Let me be blunt. I was not a sexually active teen. In fact, I married so late, I was hardly a sexually active 20-something. In my case, it wasn't because of talking and hoping. It was because instilled deep within my very being, there was the sure and certain knowledge of being immediately struck down by God and the fact that no matter if I was 15 or 25, my Mother would somehow KNOW. 
What I'm saying is that trying to reason with hormones is a losing battle. You can "know" all about STDs, you can "know" about pregnancy, you can "know" about the emotional ramifications...but that isn't necessarily going to do the trick.

Again, back to that discussion. There were a few comments about how they were going to give their children "all the information" so they could make "right decisions" and not rely on Bible-thumping or fear.
That sounds great doesn't it?

Let's apply that to, oh, a 2 year old. "Honey, this is an electric outlet. I know you are very curious and your curiosity is your strongest drive right now, but I want to let you know all the information so you can be smart." You would then proceed to tell him about electricity, how good and powerful it is, but how it must be kept in wires and only accessed properly. You would tell him of the dangers and even how it could kill him. (so far so good, right?) You finish off by telling him that if he really must stick a hairpin in the outlet to please use these insulated gloves and if he ever has any more questions, to come have another talk with you.

I do of course realize that the above is exaggerated. But come ON... you know what my kids know about electricity? that it is BAD! HOT! NO! OWIE! that if you even go close to an outlet or a plug Mommy materializes out of thin air and SWATS that hand. 
Perhaps I go too far because now when the older two are big enough that I might actually tell them to go plug this or that in, they stare at me as though I just told them to drink poison and remind me that they are NOT ALLOWED to even THINK of touching a power plug! 
Now, since Jeff is an electrical engineer, they do know a bit about the actual workings of it, but allow me to lay it out plainly; It is NOT their knowledge about the power and potential of electric current that keeps them conditioned to not touch it, it is their FEAR. 

Personally, I like that fear. That fear kept them alive long enough to reach the age where they CAN learn about AC/DC and wattage and amperage and voltage.

I'm not advocating that we don't educate our children about sex. I am saying that just knowing the facts isn't enough to keep them safe (and by safe, I mean abstinent). The drive is far stronger than the ability to reason. When faced with those choices, they need enough good old fashioned FEAR to keep them from getting into the place of temptation.

I've heard people say that they don't want their children to obey out of fear but out of love and respect.

Well Duh.

Brilliant deduction there.

Unfortunately, humans are selfish beings; must be a design flaw, take it up with God. 
In the meantime understand this; a respect that has enough weight to overcome selfish urges takes a while to grow and a certain amount of maturity to develop. I love (and as far as I can remember have always loved her) my mother. However, the deep respect and honor for her developed along the way, and dare I say, is still growing? If my obedience to her was based on my ability to respect her and defer to her wisdom, I wouldn't have obeyed her until I was about 23. That's a bit too late. I'm talking about a fear that is a precursor to respect and honor, a fear that keeps us within the walls, so to speak, until we are mature enough to love the walls and what they protect us from. Proverbs 1 tells us that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.

When and why did fear develop such a bad rep? You don't think it could be part of a diabolical plan to keep us from getting wisdom... nah, surely the enemy of our souls wouldn't do that, would he?

Personally, I think bit of the right kind of fear is a great thing. And I plan on using it to protect my kids from things far more dangerous than the electric outlets.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

To Tell the Truth..

Seeing as we have children of a certain age, we seem to go through stages where we have to really emphasize telling the truth. As our children have gotten a little older, we have begun to discuss telling the whole truth, not trying to deceive by adding to or leaving out some of the story, and even lying by exaggeration. 
They are all pretty bright kids and seem to be "Getting" it, and if there is a question, they can get a "freebie" by asking first, "If I say such and so, is that a lie?" 

I'm a stickler for truth. I won't abide lying... I'll put up with all sorts of other mischief and even disobedience, but do NOT lie to me. Jeff feels similarly, so in our home, lying is about as bad as it gets. Lately I feel like I'm being bombarded with lies. Oh, not outright, "the sky is green" lies... but deceptions, partial truths, exaggerations. 

When I think of the reasons why my kids might lie (to get out of trouble, to gain attention, or to sway favor to their point of view) and then I see all the grown-up lying that is going on, it seems like we never quite outgrow all of those reasons. 

I wonder if some of us as adults might need a refresher course in telling the truth? 

Why is lying so wrong? 
First and foremost, God abhors lies and deceit. 
Second, when you lie, you ruin your own credibility. Even if 98% of what you say is true, I will not have confidence in it if I find out that 2% was a (purposeful) lie. 
Finally, whatever change or decision you were trying to get from people may come undone if it is for the wrong (not true) reasons. However, even if you ARE able to effect a good decision based on untruth... that does not absolve the lie! 

In the interest of telling the (whole) truth, this line of thought is a result of the many politcal discussions, emails, articles, etc. that have been going on for the past few years.  
I'll be blunt; to stretch, disort, hide, or otherwise color the entire truth of the matter even for a "good cause" is lying. It is not honoring to God, it does nothing for your cause, and perhaps most scary of all, small exaggerations seem to pave the way for larger and larger distortions until I am recently seeing things that are just outright NOT true, being spread (perhaps not originated, but spread nonetheless) by people who ought to know better and do better. 

There is no such thing as lying for a good cause. This includes exaggerations and partial truths put together for the sole purpose of eliciting a strong emotional response. Truth does not need embellishing. 

I challenge you to very closely take stock of your manner of communicating. I understand that the political issues on the table right now are such that do inspire a strong emotional feeling... some of the issues are incredibly important and many people feel that our country is at a turning point right now. I agree, and it is BECAUSE the issues are so incredibly important that I implore us all to proceed with carefulness, thoughtfulness, and attention to morals and ethics. 
Do not be drawn into the mud that often surrounds "certain topics."  Be responsible for the information you spread even if it did not originate with you. 

Take a moment to consider, "If I say such and such... is that the truth?" 

Friday, July 29, 2011


 Pardon the re-run, but I was looking over posts from years ago and thought this one was good enough to share again.

Jessi is convinced she can fly. Remember that ANNOYING song from the mid-late 90's? I mean the girl truly believes she can fly. She spent quality time this summer jumping and jumping off of the little playhouse to see if she could ever go up instead of down. Yesterday she was doing a job of straightening the pantry, which like any good job involved the use of the step stool. Once she lost interest in arranging the boxes and cans, she turned around and began making mighty leaps from the pantry into the kitchen. I tried to convince her that people couldn't fly, that if they could, everyone would be flying around. She will have nothing of it, and demonstrated that SHE flaps her wings, err, arms, just perfectly and she CAN fly. 

I decided that other than the possible trip to the ER, it was harmless fun and let her continue jumping while I prepared dinner. After one particularly HUGE leap, she picked herself up off the floor and with the brightest eyes, her voice full of faith, exclaimed, "Whoa, I have to be careful, I almost fell!"

You see, in her mind, she WAS flying; that wasn't a long jump ending in a fall, it was a successful flight with a slightly rough landing. It's all about perception.

Do you still believe you can fly, or have too many rough landings made you lose sight of your dream?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Letting Go

On a beautiful spring day, the kind where you simply can't bear to be inside, I took my two toddlers outside to play.  After a short time of pushing them in the swings, I thought that such a perfect day as this one deserved a bigger and better playground!  I grabbed my keys and loaded them in the car.

Well, I loaded one.
My daughter came to me when I called and willingly climbed into her car seat to be buckled up. My son on the other hand... He clung to his swing, both hands tightened around the ropes, legs clenched tightly so that I couldn't lift him out of the bucket-type baby swing. I pried him out deftly avoiding those strong toddler kicks and wrangled him into his seat.

Our yard was nice enough, lawn, flowers, and two baby swings hanging from a simple swing set, certainly nothing wrong with it and big enough for two young toddlers. However, the playground I was headed for was better; ladders, platforms, stairs, slides, a hanging bridge, and fire pole. New, beautiful, and right on the beach, in short, paradise.
Driving the short distance from our house to the park, I listened to my little boy crying about his swing and tried to reassure him that we were going somewhere so much better!  He was far too focused on losing his swing to listen to my assurances that we were about to have super-big fun.

How many times does God have to pry our hands off of something and carry us kicking and screaming to the place he wants us to go?  We are SO sure that what we have is just fine and if we let go it will never be the same.
It's a matter of trust.
Yes, it is hard to give up your swing... but until you let go of the ropes, he can never take you to a better place.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Clearing the Air

As I sit and listen to the final raindrops from this storm, it occurs to me that while one normally wouldn't welcome and even long for a good, loud, thunderstorm, something about days on end of 100+ degree heat can change what you wish for!
The air has been so hot and so thick, oppressive and hazy, that last night when the thunder rolled in, I was hoping we would get some of the storm. It was not to be, thunder, lightening, even wind, but no real storm broke. Today dawned just as hot and hazy as the previous days.
Tonight the storm followed through on it's promise. Thunder, lightening, wind, and finally, rain.
The atmosphere feels lighter already. The oppression is gone. The air is clear.
Not to get into a physical science lesson, but did you know that thunderstorms happen because two masses of air are trying to be in the same place at the same time? They butt heads, block out the sun, make our vision hazy and often give us headaches with their  pressure.
Ever have times in your life like that?  Even butt heads with your spouse or friends or other family members?  When it goes too long, we can't see or think clearly.
Eventually, it all has to go somewhere and we have to face a storm and clear the air.
My suggestion?  do it sooner rather than later.  An empty thunderstorm with lots of noise but no completion is no good for anyone.  Deal with the situation, clear the air, and then rest in the gentle rain of reconciliation.