Monday, June 9, 2014

Learning the Hard Way

I wrote this back in October of 2000.  Found it just the other day.  It's a reflection of my son's attitude toward starting a new school in a place that was foreign to him.  It took place during our move to Puerto Rico, where we lived for a year and a half.  
What's crazy is that my son is now going on his 3rd year of college and traveling this summer with a music band for which he plays.  I am amazed at how God has brought him through and through, teaching him the hard lessons of obedience.  But blessing him as a result of his humble attitude.  Thank you Lord!

"I don't want to go to school! I want to stay with you", my son cried.  This was the second week of school, and this was the routine every morning right in the middle of the school's main hallway.  The other parents and students were becoming accustomed to this "daily show".  

I surely wasn't.  I was fed up.  I had tried everything.  I pleaded with him.  I lectured him.  I yelled.  I spanked.  I negotiated.  I cried.  Yet, nothing seemed to work that morning.  The worst part was that I knew exactly how he felt.  He wasn't just being a 'brat'.  He was experiencing separation anxiety, as well as, culture shock.  

He was in Kindergarten, and he was the only other boy who only spoke English in a brand new school and an entirely new neighborhood.  I knew he felt alone, scared, and lost.  And although I wish I could have just given in and taken him home, I knew that he had to go to school.  Yet on that morning, I finally said to him, "Fine, you want to come home, let's go home.  But you must stay in your room all day.  No games, no toys, no movies, no cartoons, no computer, no nothing.  That's your punishment for not staying at school."  And to that he said, "Okay."  I couldn't believe his response, but with that,  we headed home.  

Just two hours later, my son was dressing himself for school, and he asked me to please take him back.  "I'm going to listen to you now.  I want to go to school cause I want to be able to play with my stuff when I come home."  So I took him back to school, and after that day he continued to go without any more resistance.

It's amazing how children sometimes prefer to learn obedience the hard way.  Come to think of it, the fact is that it isn't that amazing, and that it is actually a natural tendency to learn things the hard way.  Furthermore, if we look at it from a spiritual point of view, we might realize that we so often try to negotiate with God and we end up learning obedience the hard way as well.  You see just like me on those early Kindergarten mornings, God too pleads with us-- the Holy Spirit tugs at our hearts.  God lectures us-- the pastor's powerful sermon.  He yells at us sometimes--the wise counsel of a good friend.  At times He even spanks--the consequence of sin.  He negotiates--the Holy word is made clear.  And He even cries at times-- the Holy Spirit quiets down.  

It's true God sympathizes with how we feel.  He has felt that way before.  And yet, He knows how essential it is for us obey.  And although He lets us make our choice, He also makes clear to us what could happen if we don't obey.  The choice, however, remains ours.  (Isn't God amazing?!)   What's astounding is how many of us still time and time again will resist God and what He wants from us.  And we follow our own will, only to find that it isn't truly worth it.  (the consequences of sin are no fun)

That's when we find ourselves at times quickly (or not so quickly) turning back to God and saying, "Okay, you were right.  Please take me back.  I'll do as you say.  I want to be able to enjoy my "stuff". (His blessings)    I'm ready to obey."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Secret to Changing Your Spouse

I figured I'd get some one's attention with a title like this one.  So let me quickly put it out on the table, there is no secret.  However, there are some truths that can make all the difference.

After 23 years of marriage, I know that many of us have gone through numerous failed attempts at bringing about a change in our spouses.  We've talked and fought.  We've cried and fought more.  We've issued silent treatment, only to fight some more.  In fact, there's a lot of fighting in marriage.  And not all of it is bad. I feel like I spent more than half my years of marriage fighting to keep it together.  I guess that's been good, but it came with a price.  Doesn't everything?

As I read over a pretty familiar scripture reference the other day, for some reason I gained a new and improved message from it.  To be honest, I've never really been a fan of this scripture.  You know the one that talks about how we as wives must submit to our husbands. Ephesians 5:21-22, 25-27, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you do to the Lord... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."  

I always wondered if Paul considered the type of men we women deal with when he wrote it.  And I'd even justify thinking, "Paul wasn't even married."  I mean how can a woman submit to a foolish man?  What's the point of submitting to a man who doesn't really lead effectively?  And so on, I can come up with many legitimate reasons why women don't always have to submit.

Of course, the verse that follows helps me to feel a bit  "off the hook", since it's directed to the men and their responsibilities.  And it always seems much more significant than simply "submitting to your spouse".  I mean the verse calls on men to love us women as Christ loves His church.  That is really big!

And here's where I found the "secret"! In other words, "truth".  As I pondered on this scripture a little longer than usual, I realized that there is a crucial relevance found.  Worded plainly, if the husband wants to see a change in his wife; if he wants to have a more loving and Christ-like wife, he should love her just as Christ loved us.  The secret (truth) is found in loving.  Loving will bring about change.

Furthermore, when we exercise this kind of love, we ultimately are submitting to one another.  We are letting go of our own "agenda" and our own plan and will.  Which brings us back to the first verse.  "Submit to one another," and "wives submit to your husbands".  Submitting, surrendering, yielding, is possible through love.  It is love because when we love, as Christ did, we are indeed trading in our own desires for the sake of the one we love.  And not only are we surrendering our own desires for their sake, but we are considering their best interest as most important.  We deny ourselves for someone else.  That is love.  And when two people are willing to do their significant part, there is a positive change in the marriage.

Now, I know it's easier to simply look at these truths the way I used to.  Simply looking to see what it is your spouse should be doing. Minding and reminding him that he's not doing his part.  But that  isn't enough.  The secret is found in You.  Have you ever seen the movie, "Kung Fu Panda"?  I love the part when the wise tortoise tells him to look in the mirror to find the secret power.  And he finally realizes,  it was inside of him all along.  That is exactly how it is with how we should apply these truths.  It is in us to love one another.  It is in us to surrender our will for his/her sake.  It is in us to change our spouse by loving them as Christ loves us.  It isn't easy, but if God has done it for us, then it must be worth it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Darkness is Light to Him

"If I say, surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." Psalm 139:11-12

When is it too dark for God?  When are we too far gone?  When is our sin too much for Him to bear?
We all know the answer to all of these questions will always be NEVER.  And yet, there are times in our lives that we feel as though we're in darkness.  Sometimes even after we've walked by His side or have faithfully followed His steps.  Even after having publicly claimed Him as our only savior and the light of our life, sometimes we find ourselves surrounded by the walls of a pitfall and we cannot see the light from above.
That doesn't mean that the light is not there.  Thankfully.

And is it possible that due to lack of light, we don't even realize we are in darkness?  It's no wonder so many us of live aimlessly through life, seemingly as though without a care.  Yet, in reality it's because of the lack of light that we have no idea where we are going.  And it isn't until we get a glimpse of light, that we begin to see the darkness we're actually in.  And most of the time, we want nothing more of it.  We run to the light.  For there is life in light!

What a beautiful visual for us to grasp the character of God!  To learn that light is a source of energy that allows us to see things for what they truly are.  I was studying the topic briefly with my 3rd grader the other day.  And if I got it right, I learned that light basically consists of  wavelengths of light, and every wavelength is a particular color. And so when we look at an object, the color we see is the result of the wavelengths that are reflected back to our eyes.  What a beautiful mystery!  Just like God's character.  He is that source that provides us with the opportunity to see things in life in the "colors" that reflect back at us.  Sometimes we see all of the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes the colors are so vivid and alive.  And we feel so full of life.  And then there's darkness.  What's there to see then?

But His word says that darkness is as light to Him.  There are no barriers, no limitations, no boundaries for God and His light source.  Therefore, even when we believe to be in darkness, He brings light.  He dwells in light.  And light always draws out the dark.  Always.  Therefore, whether you're in the dark pit today or slowly fading into a fog that leads to darkness, know that He whom gave His life for you remains always faithful.    And there is no pit dark enough to keep Him from you.  Call out to Him.