Parenting

Giving Second Chances

Leslie and Kelly
Kelly and I in our freshman year, when we both still had a lot of growing up to do! So glad we were able to give each other a second chance and go on to enjoy a lifetime friendship!

We always hear about taking second chances–but how about giving them? We all know that first impressions are often behind firm opinions we make about others.

But what if your first impression is wrong? What if what you heard them say wasn’t really what they said? What if–in a moment of fear or anger–they said something they didn’t mean? What if that air of arrogance and pride is a wall of  protection that has been built by a deeply hurt heart?

But judging on first impressions means two things. First, we make a snap judgement that is often inaccurate and unless that person comes back into our world in a very profound way, we will keep that opinion forever. Second, we lose all opportunity to minister or develop a friendship because we figure they  are “too far gone” or “we won’t have anything in common”.

In my freshman year of college–over 25 years ago now– I ended up with a roommate who was about as different from me as you could get. I was the sheltered, opinionated girl from a Christian background. She was the worldly, new believer from a difficult past. We both made very serious judgements about each other, causing our freshman year to be extremely challenging for both of us. By the time it was over, we weren’t speaking much. In fact, all of our sophomore year was mostly spent avoiding each other. But at the beginning of our junior year, we ran into each other and just started chatting and we realized something– we had both grown up a bit. We had both changed. Ironically, and by the grace of God, we developed a strong, wonderful friendship that continues to this day.

That friendship developed because both of us were willing to give the other a second chance. We had to forgive and we had to believe that people can change.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that people can change? Or do you make a snap judgement that you never re-visit? Think about someone who just irritates you or maybe someone you wrote off a long time ago. Think on why you made that decision about them. Have you thought about them lately? Have you considered that they might have changed? Or that maybe…possibly…your original judgement may have been wrong??

Sure, some people never change. And some people make it difficult to give them a second chance. But– if we truly believe that God is God–then we have to believe that God can change people. We should never, ever write someone off as hopeless. And we should never, ever make a permanent decision about someone based on a first impression. But we all do it.

Do yourself a big favor–strike up a conversation with someone you decided you don’t care for–or maybe even downright dislike. You may be surprised. You may realize that you can get along with each other, after all. At the very least, you may gain insight into why that person behaves in the way they do. You may walk away saying you never want to do that again but at least you tried. At least you looked past that one bad impression to see the real person.

 

 

When right feels wrong

It is so much easier to do the right thing if our percentages for a positive outcome increase.  For example, drinking and driving leads to a much greater chance of an accident…succumbing to a fit of anger leads to strife within your family…stealing could lead to an arrest and jail time.

But…it gets a little harder to do the right thing when the percentages for a positive outcome look a little fuzzy…or even downright nonexistent.  What happens then?   When you have a friend who is living in sin, do you confront them in love, like the Bible tells us to?  Or what about a child who says they will “hate” you if you don’t let them do “X”?  Do you stand up for what’s right, even in the face of that heart-breaking statement?

You see, when we choose to do what’s right, we do not always have instant gratification.  We do not always see the benefit of that right away.  And, frankly, sometimes we never see the benefits.

Many, many years ago, I watched someone confront someone about something that was sinful in their life.  It was done with love and grace.  But it didn’t really matter…because that person’s heart was hard.  And the relationship between them was affected permanently.   To my knowledge, it was never restored.  So, did the person who did the confronting do the right thing?  Yep.  Did they have a positive outcome?  Nope.

But sometimes you just have to wait for awhile to see the positive outcome.  Like, take me, for instance.  I have written in journals since I was in 6th grade.  One day, while dealing with my own teenagers, I decided to read over what I had written as a teenager. What I found there was surprising.  I did not remember the anger…true anger…I felt towards my parents when I was not allowed to do certain things.   The anger was shocking!  But here I was, 30+ years later, and it had all faded.   The only feeling that was left in me was deep appreciation and a grateful heart for my parents’ solid commitment to be obedient to the Lord above all.

So often we find ourselves caving in to the “possible outcomes”  instead of doing the right thing.  We think through all of the possibilities.  And then we grow scared.  And we do nothing.   But, in the long run, we pay.   That friendship you are guarding will grow weaker as you and your friend travel in different directions.  That child, who is crying out for boundaries (no matter what their mouth is saying), will often walk away from God, figuring it just doesn’t matter.

But not everything needs a conversation, either.  After much experience, I have learned to speak up with much more hesitation and discernment.   Let’s be honest–some things…many things…are not worthy to be confronted.   And many people who are outside your intimate circle have no interest in listening to you (unless you are their pastor or another spiritual leader).  We need to be wise!

If we determine that we need to take the step for a conversation, here are a few other questions to ask that are helpful:  Is the sin I see habitual?  Is the person committing the sin truly committed to the Lord?  Will this sin destroy their life if they continue on in this path?

Doing the right thing is not always easy.  In fact, it is often the opposite.  But we need to strive to do the right thing in all circumstances.   Not just when we can rely on positive results.   Easier said  than done.

2 Thessalonians 3:13  But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

5 Things We Can Learn from Children

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The other night my daughter was babysitting a one year old. The adorable little girl came into our home, looked around, and made herself at home. She smiled at all of us, started eating the dinner that was being fed to her, and was content. It led to a conversation at our dinner table about how little children can just come into a strange home and feel right at home and how we, as adults, can’t do that. It got me thinking about a few things we can learn from children who are blissfully unaware of all of the social implications of their actions–

1)  No pretensions.  Have you ever talked with a little child? They are who they are. They are not strutting around pretending to be someone they are not. There is no wondering if the child is upset or happy or angry. We always know, don’t we? There hasn’t been years of wall-building and hypocrisy to dig our way through. While I am not suggesting it is healthy to express our emotions at every opportunity, I am suggesting that I think this world and our churches would benefit greatly if we would stop trying to impress one another. So many of us have built these thick walls around our hearts and lives. What would happen if we would tear our walls down and get real?

2) Live in the Moment. Have you ever seen a little guy dance to a tune that was playing? It is a joy to see the little legs bouncing up and down, as they try to move to the beat. But somewhere along the way, we forget to dance. We forget to enjoy the moment. We get wrapped up in taking kids to soccer, in paying the bills, in doing the housework. You know the old saying–Stop and smell the roses? Perhaps we should do that more often in life. Just stop and enjoy the moment. Enjoy watching the birds in your backyard. Enjoy petting your dog for a moment.  Watch your child chase butterflies and hunt bugs. Stop and really watch your husband wrestling with the kids. Grab a hand and dance joyfully to the song playing. These are beautiful moments the Lord gives us. Let’s not take them for granted. Those fleeting moments are what make up  the tapestry of our vaporous lives.

3) Eat until your full. Children do not continue to stuff themselves after they are full.  They only eat when they are hungry.  They obey the mechanism that God so intelligently designed and when their bellies feel hungry, they eat. And when they feel full, they stop eating. Somewhere along the way, many of us have stopped obeying that mechanism. It’s breakfast time? Then I have to eat, even if I am not hungry. I am at a party with a table full of delicious food? I have to try some, even if I just ate a complete meal before I came. I wonder what would happen if, as adults, we continued to obey our hungry and full signals?

4) Don’t Let the Fear of Others’ Opinions Rule You.  Some of my favorite “mommy” moments were when I could get my babies to start giggling. They would give this big belly laugh, filling my heart with pure joy. They didn’t worry what anyone was thinking about them.  They didn’t worry about if they were cool or look around, wondering if someone noticed that they “snorted”. Because it didn’t matter.  They were having fun! So often, we let the fear of others’ reactions dominate our choices. While I understand that we do need to be concerned about others and about our Christian testimony, sometimes we may be concerned about unimportant things. Does it really matter if the neighbor thinks you are crazy for catching fireflies at dusk? Does it really matter if you play a game and people make fun of how you run (personal experience on that one!)? Does it really matter if you fall on the ice? Or if your hair gets wet?  So often we let the fear of people’s opinions and reactions keep us from enjoying our lives.

5) Be okay with the way God made you. Ever see a baby wear make-up? Or get plastic surgery?   So, let’s be honest. If you are like me–aging quickly–you are not feeling so adorable. Many of us won’t even leave the house without make-up. But why not? Why do we feel the need to have something on our faces to face the public? Why do so many feel the need to enlarge or reduce areas of their body through plastic surgery? Why isn’t the way God made us good enough? Instead of being grateful for the incredible body God designed, we complain that our noses are too large, our hair is too curly, our legs are too short, our hips, too narrow or too wide. But children are not conscious of this yet. They just are.  Sometimes I wish we could appreciate the amazing body we have been given without the constant attitude of criticism that almost every woman (and man??) feels when they look in the mirror.

Unfortunately, real life takes its toll and, sooner rather than later, we all learn some pretty hard lessons. People can’t be trusted. The way I look isn’t good enough. You know the dialogue. But perhaps we can learn just a few things from the children in our lives.

Just a thought for today…

God isn’t surprised.

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The other night our family was on the back porch on a lovely evening. We were talking about something. I can’t even remember what it was. But our whole family was surprised about a decision someone had made or something someone had said when out of the darkness we heard a small voice say, “God isn’t surprised.”  Some of the wisest statements come from 12 year olds sometimes.

God isn’t surprised. So simple and yet so profound. God knows everything you and I will think–do–speak–accomplish–or not accomplish while we live on this earth. He knows when we will leave this earth. He knows absolutely everything about us and about everyone else. So nothing surprises Him.

The cancer is not a surprise. The car accident is not a surprise. The betrayal of a  friend is not a surprise. The lost job is not a surprise. The tornado, the tsunami, and the flood–none of these surprise God.

I know we all “know” this. But have you ever thought about what this means? It means that God is in control. God is Sovereign.  And if we believe what the Bible says–that God loves us–then we can rest in His will for our lives. It will not always be pleasant.  It will not always be easy. But we can trust Him. We have to trust Him. What else is there? What else is there for us to grab hold of?

We have a choice to make every day. We can respond to the trials of life, be them great or small, by trusting our Heavenly Father or we can grow bitter and angry. It is a choice. God will not force you into His will.

I would like to leave you with something that was written by Octavius Winslow from a book entitled Soul Heights and Soul Depths (1841)–

The royal path to glory is a divine mosaic paved with stones of diverse lines. Today, it is a depth almost soundless; tomorrow a height almost scaleless.  Now, a shadow drapes the picture, somber and rayless; then, a light illumines the camera, brilliant and gladsome. Here, the “song” is of mercy, sweet and entrancing; there, it is of judgment, sad and mournful. “When men are cast down, then you shall say There is lifting up.”  But, a divine Hand, veiled and invisible to all but faith’s eye, shapes and directs the whole; and, assured of this, the believing soul is trustful and calm.  “He led them about, He instructed them,” was the history of the Church in the wilderness; and each stage was a school, each condition a blessing, each event a lesson learned, and a new beatitude experienced, –learned and experienced as no other.  Variety, rich and endless, is stamped upon all God’s works and operations; not less is this seen in the circuitous path by which He is leading His people home to Himself.  It is this ever-dissolving, ever shifting scenery of the Christian’s life that unfold new views of God’s character, and brings him into a closer acquaintance with His own.

On Election and Education

Okay…so the two things have very little in common.  Except for one thing.  They are huge topics of debate in Christian circles.  Are we elected or does man choose God?  Should you public school, homeschool, or Christian school your kids?  Of course, there are many other topics and many other sides to arguments…too many to recount here.

While I believe healthy debate is a good thing and is instrumental in helping us to grow and think, we need to be careful lest we make our side of an argument the all important thing, while not caring that we make the other person feel like an idiot.

Now, of course, we have biblical principles upon which to stand.  The election of the saints is clear in the Bible (Ephesians 1).  It cannot be denied.  But if you search there are also some Bible verses that would imply that man has a choice (Proverbs 1:24).  I am unapologetically a Calvinist.  But the point of this is:  Why do we think we have to understand how it works?  Only God knows.  Why do we– in our finite human minds– think we have to get this?   Perhaps we should just submit ourselves to the fact that we can’t understand how the two work together?

And schooling…why do we have to preach that one is better than the other?  Yes, I have a pretty strong opinion on what I think is best for my family.  But maybe…due to circumstances unknown to you and me…a different option is better for another family.  Maybe for them, the opposite of what you are doing is the best choice for them.   Why does this choice have to be such a source of division among believers?

Why do we argue and debate on the things that we can’t understand (i.e. election)?  Or the things that do not have a biblical principle to support them (i.e. education)?

I know I am putting myself out on a limb because so many people have such strong feelings about these two topics.  And, again, I am not saying that there is no place for argument and debate…because there IS.  But not at the cost of broken relationships and hurt feelings.  Is it more important that we prove we are right than that we edify one another in the body of Christ?  Perhaps a statement given with dignity and love would actually cause a person to think much more about the other side than a heated statement that implies the other person is unintelligent for even holding their viewpoint.

And, lest I be misunderstood (if you know me, you already know this)…I do believe it is of utmost importance to develop biblical opinions about things…and to encourage believers to adhere to biblical principles.   But when it comes to the stuff we can’t quite understand or state with unequivocal certainty…well, perhaps we need to state our opinion with love and then walk away.

Growing Up

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My son wrote an essay for an English assignment the other day.  The topic was something like this: “something you have done for a long time and how it has changed as you have grown up”.   He picked the topic of a trade show that our family business participates in. In the essay, he shared how, when he was a little boy, he would stand in his company shirt and try to look official, desperately hoping that someone would take him seriously by asking him a question about our company. One day, someone did ask him a question– but he didn’t know the answer. He found out the answer and made sure to know it for the next time.

Fast forward to this year’s show. Not only did he get asked lots of questions, but he knew most of the answers, too.  You see, in the natural progression of growing up, he has learned about our company and about the trade.  He has become a young man who can talk with others about our company and even our industry quite knowledgeably.

Let’s think about that in light of our Christian walk.  How many of us are growing up in our knowledge of God’s Word? How many of us still squirm when we are approached by someone who has a specific problem or question, struggling to remember the location of the verse or even which  book of the Bible addresses the question?  Or we have a great chance to witness, but we are shy because we are scared we won’t know what to say. When it comes right down to it, we don’t know the Bible. We say we believe it, but we are like that little boy in the company shirt, standing around looking official, but not really knowing our stuff. We may look like grown-ups but we are little children spiritually.

We blame our memories. We blame our lack of time and busy lifestyles. We blame lots of things.  But maybe we need to stop worrying about why and just do something about it.

As I write this, I am condemning myself.  I have been a Christian, by the incredible grace of God, for a very long time. My knowledge of God’s Word is not in accordance with how long I have been a Christian. I have recently been convicted of this and have made some changes in my Bible study time.

I want to know God’s Word.  I want to be able to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (see verse below).  Because let’s face it–God blesses us by using us, but he can’t use us if we aren’t ready to be used. We need to take our focus off of our own agendas and our own busy lives and make some room in our lives to learn God’s Word. We need to stop relying on the little bits of knowledge we may have learned years ago–in Bible school or Bible quizzing or church–and start digging into the word, perhaps even memorizing some passages.

We need to start growing up in the Lord.

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Your kid won’t die if they don’t get a guinea pig.

Christmas week.  A wonderful time of food, family get-togethers, church activities, and...”Christmas Lists”.  Have you felt the pressure?  The pressure to try and do everything possible to give our kids their hearts’ desire at Christmastime?  We love our children.  It seems a natural outpouring of our love to give our kids what they want for Christmas.  But sometimes, they just do not need the newest, latest gadget.  Or sometimes you can’t afford what they want.

Well, I am here to tell you that they will survive!   Is that good news or what??  (I hope you hear the sarcasm in my voice as I write this!)  I know you already know this.  It just seemed like a good week to mention this in case you forgot…

A few months ago, one of my daughters desired a guinea pig with all of her heart.  She spent HOURS researching guinea pig cages and guinea pig food and anything else that had to do with guinea pigs.  She pestered me for about two weeks straight to let her have a guinea pig.  We have owned rabbits, fish, cats, and birds at various times in our household during the last 20 years.   We currently have two dogs.   I do not feel the need to have more pets at this point in my life.   But she would not leave me alone.  She pleaded.   She cried.  She begged.   I finally came up with what I thought was a pretty ingenious idea.   I told this daughter that if she could keep her room clean for a whole month, we would re-visit the idea of the guinea pig.   I had a pretty good idea that one of two things would happen.  She would A) either forget about the guinea pig or B) grow tired of trying to keep her room clean.

And guess what?  I was right on both counts.  I haven’t heard anything further about a guinea pig for a long time.  She made a decision that a guinea pig just wasn’t worth the work involved.

Sometimes our kids’ make it sound like they NEED to have the latest gadget…or that toy they saw on the commercial…or, in our case, the pet that their cousin has.  And sometimes we can find ourselves believing them.  But my little experiment showed me that, not only do they not need it, but that most kids will forget all about it eventually.

Isn’t parenting fun??

Expectations

Expectations

Expectations. Expectations that someone has for who they think you should be. But it doesn’t mesh with who you really are. I am not talking about sin issues here but opinion issues. Choices people make differently because God made them differently. And yet, because you might not make a choice the way someone else makes it, you are judged.

I have struggled through this recently with someone in my life who wants me to be someone I just am NOT. And I have struggled greatly with how to handle this (just for clarity’s sake, I am not talking about my husband here although we both do sometimes expect things of each other that we shouldn’t).

My first reaction was the desire to just start yelling at them. I mean HOW DARE THEY criticize ME?  Don’t I have the right to be the person God made me? Fortunately, I did not choose to follow through with the yelling! But bitterness and frustration did start to grow in my very soul. My next reaction was to write a letter and yes, I did write it–with full intention of giving it. Thankfully, I did not follow through with that, either.

But then I went running. It helps me release my frustration and it helps me to think.  And, as I was enjoying the beautiful day, my thoughts turned to this situation. I started thinking about how I should respond to this situation in a godly way. How would God want me to react?

First, I have to turn away from bitterness. When the thoughts come that cause anger and bitterness and the thoughts start spiraling downward (you know what I mean) I have got to stop them. I need to conscientiously choose to think godly thoughts. Sure, it’s hard. It’s hard like getting a root canal is hard.  But if you don’t do it, you pay serious consequences later. I don’t want to have rotten teeth OR grow into a bitter old woman.  And that is what happens when you get angry and dwell on things that seem unfair (or when you don’t fix your teeth!)

Second, I have to take an honest look at myself and really determine if the comments have truth to them.  Would I be a better person if I did “A, B, or C”? If I would be, then I need to swallow my pride and take some steps to improve some things (and, yes, in this case, there are some things I need to work on).  And then, I need to just let the other things roll off my back. Just roll away, never to be thought about again.  Okay, that might be pushing it. Memories have a tricky way of remembering unkind things people have said about you. But I at least need to make the effort not to dwell on them.

Jesus makes it clear that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). Now if I am supposed to love my enemies and bless those who curse me then how can I grow bitter against this person who is truly not my enemy but just someone who thinks they should decide who I am supposed to be?

Sometimes the Bible is like a surgeon’s knife in my soul cutting away diseased tissue. I guess there is a verse about that, isn’t there? (Hebrews 4:12) Oh, how far I have to go yet in this spiritual walk. Always learning and mostly I am learning that there is a lot I haven’t learned!

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