Friday, November 1, 2013

Worthless Worth

  Tonight I found an old prayer journal from 2004. I was reading through it and kind of laughing at some immaturity, thanking God for answered prayers, marveling at things I wrote then that still surface in my life now. I am in awe at the things that seemed so hazy then are now clear as day. 

  There was one particular entry that jumped out at me. It's subject is one of those threads that I see has woven itself in my life through every season, every change of location, every storm. And every time I look at it I see something different. I see with more clarity than I did the last time I looked at it. 
The Journal entry starts with the story from Luke 7:36

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet,he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
 my journal entry after wards reads on: 

" The woman in this story, a sinner, went in and began to wash Jesus' feet with her tears and anointed His feet with oil. The Pharisee who had invited Him got upset and said to Jesus " Don't you know who she is?!" Jesus told the pharisee, " This woman has not CEASED to kiss my feet, to worship me". He forgave the told the woman that her sins were forgiven her

  This woman KNEW who she was. She had done things she wasn't proud of. BUT... she knew who HE was. She recognized her Lord, her deliverer, and she begin to worship Him. Whether we are worth or not ( none of us are), HE IS WORTHY!"

  This dilemma of worthiness is one I have come face to face with time and time again. And every time I hear Him say.. " But I AM WORTHY". Regardless of who I am and what I have done...He is worthy. 

  Tonight as I read again, I saw things through the lens of a friend and pastors wife who has seen countless people who are struggling with their worth. I have sat across a table at coffee shops from women who were despairing and depressed, I have hosted families in my living room who are dealing with the aftermath of controlling and spiritually abusive leaders from their past. Teenagers and adults alike who have made mistakes and have been condemned by the authority figures in their lives. All struggling with their worth. 

 And I have ZERO experience with what they are going through. 

  Here's what I say to them, as a christian, as a sister in the Lord and as a pastors wife... Jesus loves you. Jesus knows you and He loves you. 

   Let me just tell you right now... any person I have ever talked to or counseled that was struggling with sin... they knew they were sinning!! No one had to tell them so. Though, people did anyway and instead of driving them into the arms of Christ, I saw many people covering and hiding in shame. 

   I believe STRONGLY in accountability and speaking the truth in love, but that's referring to brothers and sisters who are in Christ. This scripture is referencing "sinners", those who do not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and savior.  

  When we tell people who Jesus is, it doesn't matter who they are. The woman in the story did not worship at Jesus feet because she was clean and pure and Holy. She most certainly did not have her life together. She knew who she was... AND SO DID HE!! She poured herself out to Him because, upon recognizing JESUS, she could not contain herself. She did not do it to attain worth, she did it because she recognized His worth. Right there before all of the snooty, self-righteous religious jerks, she found herself totally abandoned in worship of the One who had the power to cleanse her and forgive her. She worshiped not out of religious ritual or compulsion... she worshiped out of deep gratefulness. God saw her, HE KNEW! Yet He received her worship because "a broken heart and a contrite spirit He cannot deny". Psalm 51:17.

  The greatest day of my life was the day that I finally accepted that Jesus knew me..REALLY knew the ugly, bitter, twisted, depressed, despairing, striving me and He accepted me any way! He could see the darkness in my heart and He STILL received my worship. He said to me " Monica, I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Do you know who I am?" 

 There is no need to shame and condemn a sinner. Chances are great that they know they are sinning ( I know I do) and are struggling under the heavy burden of guilt. Rules and harsh restrictions never changed a person. But I tell you from personal experience, the Love of Jesus will reach into the deepest darkest soul and touch them in an eternal way. If we will only present the Jesus of the Bible, push people to a relationship with Him, then there is no need for mans words. They ( we) know who they (we) are, but do they (we) know who HE IS!! When people see Jesus in us, when we live in such a way that our selfish motives don't get in the way, they too will worship in gratitude and abandonment. They will bring their best, they will come as broken and cracked vessels and lay it all at His feet. Oh how beautiful is that picture! 
Just give them Jesus. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Who's In Charge?

 Yesterday after I picked the kiddos up from school and we were driving home, Nathaniel asked if we could go to Sonic and I said no, not today. So, we all continued talking about our day and a few minutes later he asked again, " Mommy can we puhleeeeeeese go to Sonic??". Before I could open my mouth, my oldest says to him, quite authoritatively, " No, Bubby... we cannot go to Sonic". Now let me just tell ya this... to THIS mom... tone is everything. And I wasn't pleased with the tone she used with her brother.  I said " Excuse me, are you the mommy?" I received a big sigh and possibly an eye roll, though its hard to know for sure since I was driving.
 It should probably be said that this is an issue we have been having for quite  awhile now. This is a repeat offense. I finally decided to call her bluff when I said , " You know what, Em.... You're the mom. From now until bedtime you are in charge.. You have to get their snack, help the with homework, make sure all of their chores get done, field all of their questions, comments and concerns, all while still managing to do your homework and chores and cook dinner. ...So what are you cooking?"
 I have to say.... for a while I was beginning to think my little plot had backfired on me. My little booger of a 5 year old who LOVES to pester his sister, thought this was the greatest game ever. On a typical day, the little stinker resist her bossiness at every turn, even when she legitimately is trying to help him. But today... oh today he was the most compliant and pleasant 5 year old you could ever meet. He was helpful and funny and did whatever she asked of him. In return, she was patient and kind and thoughtful to him.... the kind of behavior that is usually reserved for special occasions, like Christmas morning and birthdays...
 Dinner was cooked with some supervision from mom ( tomato soup, chicken nuggets and potato chips..not the healthiest, but at least she's resourceful), homework got done and the bedtime routine went off without a hitch. I was consoling myself with the fact that at least they were getting along and that this showed me it was possible for them to do so when they chose to. So, not a total loss, but I felt like the bigger point I was trying to make was being missed. She requested to continue being "the mom" the next morning, so I thought...  gotcha ," That means you have to get them up in the morning. You have to set your alarm, wake them up, get them dressed".  She says " CHALLENGE ACCEPTED" . I think what she actually said was... "ok". But I caught the gleam in her eyes....
 This morning I am shaken awake by my son who is fully dressed at 6:30 and he says.. " we are making our lunch!" Apparently the wake up routine went down as effortlessly as the bedtime routine. Emma did say however that Jillian was kind of hard to wake up and that she kept whining and messing up Emma's bed that she had made up and that Nathaniel woke up ok but then was just laying there in the bed. So she bribed them both with stickers.... ad she said "and I'm going to give them to them.. I'm not just sayin that". Well ok then.
 At this point I take my concerns to Nate and he agrees that he is seeing a leeeetle bit of arrogance on Emma's part. She's pretty proud of herself and she's done a good job... but it's been pretty easy so far.
 So.. I say to her " hey, you need to be thinking about dinner tonight. we have haircuts from 4-5, voice lessons from 5:30-6 and then church at 7. Somewhere in that time frame we need to eat." She walks over to the menu I keep on the side of the fridge and says " oh... its says "out", so we are eating dinner out!" I reply with, " great! What are you buying us?".  Annnnd game over! " Moooom! I have like $6!! I can't buy food for the whole family!!". " You're the one in charge", I say. "you need to think of something". At this point she is getting flustered and frustrated and panicking. So I take my window of opportunity.
 " Emma, being the parent means that you take the responsibility along with the privilege, the good with the bad. You stick around when it is uncomfortable and you don't leave when it gets hard. You have managed to maintain this responsibility for 4 hours last night and an hour this morning. You have had unusually accommodating kids and a full nights sleep. Within 30 mins time this morning you managed to bribe two kids under your charge to do a menial everyday task...waking up. and yet, you didn't address the deeper issue. Rewards are great, but in order for them to have an impact that lasts they should be reserved for special things. If you reward a child for something as simple as getting up, you rob them of having a sense of self worth and instill in them a sense of entitlement. Waking up is part of life, everyone does it and if they don't, it's because they are dead ... The reward is.. you're alive. You have had one morning of a whiny kid... one morning.You found a way to get her up... but is it sustainable long term? What about when she gets bored of stickers, will you have something else to offer her? What are you doing to foster her sense of contributing to society and personal responsibility?   Do you think that you could deal with that attitude from her every single morning and not blow your top every once in a while? Now multiply that by 3. One morning of the week, one or all of you are crabby and not wanting to wake up. And usually every morning out of the week, I am crabby and not wanting to wake up! It's not a good combination. You've maintained this for a combined total of  5 hours with a full night sleep in between. Now imagine being woken up to clean up puke, or because someone had a bad dream or they wet the bed. Could you keep your cheery disposition with all those circumstances? Not to mention, the second things are no longer in your favor, you're ready and willing to bail and let someone else pick up the tab. "
 I went on to explain that being a parent is 24/7 job. And you are a parent until you die. It does not get easier because it is a job that pulls from you physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means having your heart walk around on the outside of your body. Our whole lives are consumed with protecting that heart and nurturing it and fussing over it. We want to see it thrive and grow. As a parent, we face the challenge of having to think towards a place in the future, where your child is an adult contributing to society, while still maintaining realistic expectations here in the present. It's a balancing act that is forever in danger of tipping too far one way. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is risky business that is not meant for cowards. Every thing you do, even with the best of intentions, could be used as ammo at a later date. Yet, we soldier on. Because that's what a parent does. We don't walk away, we don't quit when it hurts, we don't lay down when it gets uncomfortable ... and believe me at some point EVERY PARENT contemplates walking away or at the very least thinks to themselves " WHAT have I done?".
BUT...and I explained this to Emma too.... God gives a special grace and anointing to parents, especially moms, that He doesn't give to everyone. Its not a grace for ALL kids...just for mine. It is because of this grace that I can stay and trudge on after sitting up all night in a hospital chair with dried puke and snot on me as I watch monitors glow on my sleeping infant. After cleaning ALL DAY and within 5 minutes of kids being home my house looks like an episode of "Hoarders". And if you are not the mom to THOSE kids, the grace is not there and you will surely snap. Sometimes, when you are the mom to THOSE kids, you still snap. But then you apologize and you make it right with them...and God's grace is sufficient.  Its grace that sends us back into hostile territory, facing a kid who throws everything we have done back in our faces and rejects our love over and over. It's that love that has us relentlessly pursuing a relationship with our child even after numerous rejections.
 I'm sure some of you are thinking, wow... she really took that seriously...maybe a little too seriously.  And that's ok. If I REALLY was that concerned with what other people thought... I wouldn't be writing a blog. :P But really... As parents, Nate and I were seeing some things we wanted to bring to light in our daughter. As I said, this wasn't our first go around with her. She was able to hear what we said and I believe that it gave her something to think about. I hope so, anyway.
 The REAL lesson though was for me ( big sigh.... isn't it ALWAYS). I am amazed at how God uses my kids to teach me and love on me... and rebuke me. The parallels I see with Emma and myself and God and myself are amazing. Only now, I am the child. In my limited understanding and short field of vision I think I have control, I think I understand how things work and are done. I walk around with an air of pride that can be pretty off-putting but I don't see it. So, God, my Father, allows me to continue on until I hit a wall or squirm uncomfortably and seek a way out of the mess I've made. Or worse, I lash out at the One who loves me most. I reject Him and His efforts to set me on the path He has for me.I am hostile and angry and throw a fit because I can't have what I want. Until I finally break and remember that He loves me.   He gently sits me down and shows me my arrogance and how it's blinded me.  I am so heartbroken and shamed over my own pride and thinking I could handle things. Then I remember, HE is the parent. There are things I can't do and I'm not capable of because I'm not anointed for that. There are things coming my way that I could NEVER forsee happening..but He does, because He is wiser and bigger and stronger. So in His LOVE for me, He allows me to encounter temporary unpleasantness or doesn't give me what I'm asking for because He sees an end result that I can't fathom. And because I understand that He loves me, I trust Him. I trust his heart for me. Sometimes, even if I don't start out trusting Him, I get there eventually. ;) His heart for me is good. His plans for me are good. Jeremiah 29:11 says " I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future".
 So, you see... this desire we have as parents to see our kids prosper, The hope we have for their futures, This didn't originate with us. We think this way because we learned it from our Father.

Psalm 25:4-7
Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.