December 2010

On a forum recently, in response to a question from a mama who finds the raising of children often fraught with difficulties and unpleasantness and not the joy she’d LIKE to have and expected to have….  Though it’s easy, as it’s a parenting board, to quickly sweep her response under the rug of “train better” I think we often fail or at least sometimes fail, to look deeper into the “souls of men” and see what is truly there….  Both in our children & in ourselves.  But it is only through recognizing what is truly wrong rather than a reliance through “do X” and “try Y” that we put prayer & effort towards the right kind of change… The kind that takes place on the inside rather than the outside.  Yes, it is important to train our children, to expect them to answer sweetly, to behave… But it is wrong to expect perfection and it is wrong to expect that if God has called us to this journey that the journey should be easy….

The response:

I think I understand what you mean.

Life, in general, would be very nice if we didn’t have to put up with unpleasantness, difficulty, or being tired, or frustrated.

We somehow have this feeling sometimes that if we didn’t have the children that we would be incredibly pleasant, sweet, cheerful, and lovely.

I think, though I know it to be wrong, that so many people wouldn’t have been the pinnacle of Christian loveliness had they been married with ten children. It’s wrong thinking and honestly, it’s only an excuse for us to not be what we are to be.

There is a quote:
“A cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” ~ Amy Carmichael

What if we were so filled to the top with Christ that when we’re jolted (as children DO jolt their parents on occasion) that the only thing we could spill on them was Christ?

Think about that.

That means that REGARDLESS of their behaviour we respond in a Christ like manner. It doesn’t mean we don’t correct, it doesn’t mean that they are PERFECT… It means that OUR response is NOT dependent on their behaviour.

Do I wish my children were always good and sweet and wonderful? Absolutely I do. But, if all things were truly wonderful and just so would *I* still get in a mood or have a snappy comment? Probably. Why? I’m human and I fail.

NEVER believe Satan’s lie that YOU would be a better person … If only….

If only the children were better.
If only the circumstances were different.
If the weather was nice.
If you could go to X.
If you could do Y.
If you could get a break for a bit…

It isn’t true. God tells us it is perseverance that leads to mature character.

~ James 1 ~

Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

What is mature? Being like Christ and responding like Christ.

How do we become mature? Through perseverance and testing of our faith.

The lie of Satan is that if everything around us was just right, then we would be the people of Christ we were meant to be…. Being like him.

It’s a lie. It’s the OPPOSITE of what is true.

It is hard for us to see the truth. But God tells us what IS true in His book so that we are not deceived.

You, darling, are deceived.
You have bought & paid for a bill of goods that is empty.

Imagine this:

Christ got frustrated because in his hometown they did not believe him or his miracles? Should He have stopped doing miracles?

Paul was aggravated from being thrown in prison, living like a pauper? What if He said, well, I’m doing X, people are responding not as they should, therefore I’m done with this racket.

Stephen – stoning. Surely that didn’t seem like a great plan.

Moses – if all of that was God’s plan, should it not have been EASY?

Daniel could not have been thrilled at a lion’s den.

Somehow we fall into this mythical belief that if God calls us to a task that it should be easy and that if it is not easy and is indeed difficult then it’s a not good plan or not the plan God has for us.

The truth is, look through your Bible. Would the heroes have been the heroes if they had not had HARD situations?

David’s sling and stone wouldn’t have been such a big deal if he’d been up against a little person instead of a giant.

Corrie ten Boom wouldn’t have been admired for what she went through if it had all been happy and easy. And she wouldn’t have been the woman she WAS, unless she saw God work and saw what ugly was.

Think on these things.

Because our children misbehave, because they are children, and human, and choose disobedience, it does NOT mean you have not trained enough. It means they are human and disobedient as we all are, IRL or in our thoughts to our heavenly Father and that you have an obligation to teach them right from wrong. But EVEN if you do your job perfectly & spot on they are STILL going to sometimes make a wrong choice. I see young mamas here believe that if they do everything right and correctly that you have the “recipe” for perfect children. There are no perfect children. There are well trained and well behaved children with hearts turned towards their parents and with soft & gentle hearts, but they are still NOT perfect. After all if we could maintain perfection, why would we need Christ at all??????

But I CANNOT use imperfect children as an EXCUSE on why I do not have to behave correctly myself.

My children can’t be my EXCUSE.
If they are sassy, I must still train diligently and SWEETLY.
If they are disobedient, I must still train diligently and SWEETLY.
If they speak or behave in some way that is not acceptable, I must still train diligently and SWEETLY.

You say that you have no choice but to become Ms. Nasty, but it isn’t true. Our behaviour is NOT dependent on the behaviour of others. Paul wanted to be content in WHATEVER situation he was in… He didn’t just be content when he was out of prison and things were going well… No, that’s NOT the way it works.

If you are “spilling” bitterness and anger it is because you are a cup filled with bitterness and anger. And the moment you are jolted and caught unaware, you spill it. You can fake sweetness and gentleness when prepared, but when jolted, what do you spill?

So what to do about it?

We must fill our cup with what we want to spill.

You can’t live for the world, or for pleasure, or for self, and expect to be a cup filled with Christ.

I wish you could. I wish *I* could.

I wish I could just sit here on the computer in cyber world where I can be “perfect” and not be in real life sometimes. Or that I could be not around children or situations where I am “jolted” into realizing that *I* am the problem… That my cup has bitterness, and ugliness, and selfishness all mixed ’round.

But how do you take a cup that has those things in it and then somehow replace it with goodness, gentleness, mercy, wisdom?

It is not by putting the cup on a prettier place setting. It is not by putting it in a museum where it will never be bumped or jostled.

It’s by filling it with goodness.
Read your Bible. Lots.
Listen to praise.
Redirect wrong thinking.
More importantly, RECOGNIZE wrong thinking. Your RESPONSE is NEVER dependent on their behaviour. Just because they behave “well enough” that you can fake your own good behaviour does NOT mean your cup is well filled. Remember the jolt….

And lest you think I’m being hard on you, you have to wonder how someone can understand this ugliness so well… Maybe it’s because she struggles with it and walks through it as well.

I pray the Lord would keep us BOTH choosing to fill our cup DAILY with goodness so that eventually all we can spill is sweetness and grace.


I Samuel

And the people said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied.  “You have done all this evil yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.  Do not turn away after useless idols.  They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.  For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject the people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.  As for me, far be it from me t hat I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.  And I will teach you the way that is good and right.  But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

I found this interesting this morning and it reminded me of how discouraged we can become.  It seems as though when we make bad choices in our lives against whatever it is God has convicted us of – whether it is to speak gracefully, act gracefully, do this one thing, or not do this other thing, that when we fail we feel as though, “Why bother?  Why bother trying?  I’ll go and do this other thing so I am distracted from not being this person I SHOULD be.”  We, as a people, as women, as mamas, as sisters, become a very discouraged people.  Christ has called us to this task, to do (or not do) these things and yet it seems as though we fail daily.   Yesterday a dear, dear, sweet friend quoted this quote from Amy Carmichael on her Facebook page:

“A cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” ~ Amy Carmichael

Oh would that I were so full of Christ, no matter how I was jolted that I wouldn’t spill out anything bitter.  I wish that were true.  I wish that when I was jolted by a bickering five year old, or a (fill in the blank) that I could still only spill  sweetness.

I thought about this much today and thought about how does one go about filling oneself so full of sweetness?  Well,  I suppose that that is a matter of what you put in your cup.   I can’t put both coffee and creamer in my cup and only have coffee.  That’s just silly.   I must continuously fill my cup with whatever it is I want to be filled with… Lest my drink be contaminated.    The picture becomes clearer, doesn’t it?

My friend Amy from Overweights of Joy posted this quote:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. ~Jim Elliot

To give up the world, bitterness, anger, frustration… To choose to continually fill our cup with Christ, with sweetness, joy, gratefulness, thankfulness…  This is the ONLY way we’ll ever spill goodness when jolted.

It is easy enough when we are experiencing the soft, easy, gentle things in life to spill sweetness upon those around us.   But, when confronted with something difficult, ugly, traumatic, saddening, angering, do we still spill sweetness?  We must fill ourselves with Christ to spill Christ.

Moreover, as Samuel assured these people, we can’t let discouragement over past failures turn us from serving the one true God.   We mustn’t distract ourselves by serving idols as they are useless.

And so, fear the Lord, consider what He has done for you, serve Him faithfully, and far be it for you to not pray for your brothers & sisters. Be encouraged, go fill yourselves this morning.