Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Greatest In the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 18:1-5 (NIV)

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."

I forget this - so easily. I am so busy trying to a good job of being an adult, that I forget that I am not actually supposed to be. And yet, all day long, I am surrounded by children and their ideas and their ways of looking at the world.

So I should smarten up and listen to them.

My nine year old has asked me three times in the last two weeks.

"Mom, can we just invite people to go to heaven with us?"

My 'adult instinct' tells me to launch into a lecture about how it really isn't that easy, how there are big important adult things to consider such as sanctification, justification, transformation and probably other 'ations'.

But in these last two weeks, as my mouth opens to begin the lecture, a smaller, quieter voice says, "SHUT IT, tell him 'yes'". And so I have, I have said,

"Yes, nine year old, it is the exact right thing to do. Invite everyone you love and everyone who crosses your path to come to heaven with you."

But here's the catch. His current circle of influence is fairly limited, due to the fact that he cannot drive, isn't allowed to walk by himself any further than the park on the corner and he doesn't like spelling. So for him to sit down and type this and send it into cyberspace would take about two years.  But not me.

My fifteen year old just finished her grade 10 humanities course, handed in the last assignment set this morning. We home school, so it is my job to sit with her and try and decipher the stuff neither of us are very good at deciphering. I have learned A LOT. The last unit was about 'recovering the voice of the marginalized'.

For me, the tricky thing about gaining knowledge is that once I have attained it, if I don't do something with it, I feel less than stellar. So I have these two pieces of knowledge that have collided in my head these last couple of days - we need to look at the Kingdom as a child would and we need to be the voice of the marginalized - and unless I do something with these pieces, I am going to feel less than stellar.

Right now my nine year old is in a marginal position. He has an important invitation to extend, but really no voice to extend it. So it is my duty to send it for him. If I had half the guts he does, I would have just sent out the invitation myself, a long time ago. But it has taken a child to wake this one up.

We had been discussing the return of Jesus, when He comes to collect the believers - and apparently, this is how a child would approach said situation. He would look at all his friends and the people he loves and he would ask,

"Hey, this is my God, He is alive, would you want to come to heaven with me?"

And it is as simple as that.

John 6:26-29 (NIV)

"Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”"

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Hey Country Girl

I have a secret to tell.  The reasons I feel it should be a secret are muddled to me:  probably something to do with being judged, a little bit of not wanting to put my heart out there where it can get kicked around, and a lot to do with wondering if anyone would care anyway. 

The reasons I feel like I should share my secret are more clear to me.  I believe that when we decide to share - it can help set someone else free who might think they need to keep secrets or stay hidden because they are ‘different’.  I believe it is powerful when we don’t feel like we have to stay hidden any more - then we can accept fully who we and are free to accept others fully for who they are.  And wouldn’t it be a lovely world if we could all accept each other fully just the way we are?  Kind of utopian. Heavenly even.

So here’s my secret:  Jesus speaks to me through music; and not just any music, but country music.  Gasp!  Oh no!  Zut alors!  She did not just say that??  Jesus speaks to her through country music?  That has got to be on the list of blasphemous things to say, somewhere, wherever that list is.

I am also a huge fan of contemporary worship music, quite regularly have to listen to Disney soundtracks (and can manage not to grimace) and have one or two 80s rock songs that bring back um…memories.  I appreciate the Lord of the Rings soundtracks and there is a smattering of other musical pieces out there that I can connect with.

But when I am struggling with life or self-esteem or something else deep, the answer for me is going to come from one of a few places, the Bible, a worship song or some country lyrics.

I didn’t even realize I was hiding this fact about myself until I was at a prayer meeting one night and the facilitator prayed something along the lines of  “Jesus wants to sing a new song over you, listen quietly and see if you can hear what it is.”  I didn’t have to listen quietly; I knew instantly what it was because I had been captivated by a song throughout the week that reminded me of how in love Jesus is with me.  

It had been blasting relentlessly; my kids were sick of it, I am sure the neighbors were sick of it, even the dogs and cat were sick of it.  But I couldn’t get enough of it. 

So then we were asked in the prayer meeting to share what songs we had heard, one lady mentioned a lovely old hymn, another, an upbeat tune from I am thinking the seventies, and on it went.  And there I was with not only a country song, but a country-RAP remix of the song that contains some inappropriate lyrics and has a video that I tell my kids they have to close their eyes to watch.  You can bet I didn’t share. 

I guess I figured it would be better to blog about it and potentially have twenty people find out than the ten that were in the prayer meeting??

But anyway -  this particular song SPOKE to the empty spot in my soul and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was trying to get across to me the intensity of His love.  For me.

He was beaten and died on a cross for anyone who wants to believe that - and that is more than enough to prove how intense He is, but at the moment I heard THAT song for the first time, He knew I needed a reminder.

I was worn down with the daily grind.  I had a bunch of first world problems; the most distressing one at the time being that I am a country girl trapped in town, on a busy road where I have to yell at my kids to watch for idiots driving too fast in a school zone and to hurry up and let the dog in before the neighbors call the SPCA and bylaw on us again.

So I knew I needed to pray.  I began by asking God to change my heart, change my attitude and at the time - I didn’t know it - but I felt like I needed to change ME.  “Make me a city girl God, let me be excited about being only a five minute walk from Wal Mart and thankful for the playground directly across the street despite the traffic.  Take the longing out of my heart for dirt roads and freedom and cabins in the woods.” 

And I expected to hear, “Thank you for admitting your bad attitude, let’s get that fixed up, we will get you ship shape and turned into a city girl in no time and you will LIKE it.  Now, don’t ever complain about that stuff again.” 

But guess what?  That is not what I heard.

I began scanning You Tube for appropriately sad country tunes to complement my woeful mood.  I had run through all the trusty stand bys and came across a new one; called Cruise.  Yes, that’s right, not only is it country rap song…it is a truck song with a swear word in it.  I know, it just keeps getting worse and worse.  Jesus spoke to me through a truck song with a swear word in it.  That’s probably on the blasphemous things to say list as well - if I could find that gosh darn thing.

It would be hard for me to describe exactly all the ways these particular lyrics moved me.  But hands down the ones that meant the most, that I felt coming directly from Jesus Himself were the last four lines.

My windows down, my seats back,
My music up, and we ride.
Her legs up on my dashboard,
And it's just the way I like.
Hey, country girl, this country boy
Like everything about you.
Don't change a thing, no way.
You stay the same, I got you.

It is difficult to explain how exactly I ‘felt’ it.  Imagine a massive, unexpected surge of adrenaline – that’s about as close as I can get.  But that’s how it is when Jesus speaks through the Holy Spirit – you just KNOW.

Yup, He’s got me.  Just the way I am.  And while that doesn’t necessarily mean I will be freed from town, it does mean I am free from the worry that there is something wrong with me if I don’t like it here or if I dream about pick up trucks and hay bales.  That’s just the way I like it.

Go ahead, listen, what is He singing over you?  Don't stress if it doesn't line up with what everyone else hearsIt’s okay…you don’t have to keep it secret.  He already knows; it’s in His heart too.

17 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zephaniah 3 (NIV)

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony…
                                                            Rev. 12:10-11 (NIV)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Because I Have To

In a perfect world, our picture of God comes from our parents.  This is not a perfect world.  That however, does not change the fact that God still desires for us to have a picture of Him.  And because He is God, He can come up with some pretty creative plans - B, C or ZZ - when plan A does not come to pass.

In my particular situation, God has used my kids to show me how He would parent me.  Somewhat backwards, but it is what it is -  plan B.

When you grow up in an abusive or neglectful environment, 99% of your life is spent 'doing what you have to do' to survive.  Usually you are not presented with opportunities to make sound and reasonable decisions.  So you develop a 'do or die' set of instincts.  You become adept at quickly choosing the lesser of two evils.  You learn to make 'right' decisions for all the wrong reasons.  You often end up doing things you really don't want to - but think you have to.

This is not how God the Father wants us to come into our relationship with Him.  And here is how that revelation just came to me.

My kids have grown up with maybe an eighth of the strife in their young lives that I grew up with.  I am not begrudging them that, in fact I am so grateful for it, it can bring me to tears at times.  But I have noticed in them lately this 'strange' attitude of 'why do we have to do this'?  It shows up everywhere; school work, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the dog.  A common saying around here has been, "Fine then, I'll do it if I have to."  It has been driving me nuts.

And then this week, everything kind of hit the fan.   Trying to spend vast quantities of time with people who only do things 'because they have to' is kind of exhausting.  I would much rather spend vast quantities of time with people who want to do stuff.  So, I gave my children all the appropriate lectures on the options they had if they just couldn't bring themselves to deal with the things I was asking them to do.  That is actually kind of putting it mildly.  I basically had a fit.  And my husband got an earful too, just for good measure.

Even God wasn't going to escape this tirade.

"Where on earth are all these people getting this crappy attitude from?"

But He, unlike my kids and my husband, was ready for me.

"They get it from you."

Well, that is a tirade stopper.

And instantly, no thinking, no analyzing required, I knew He was right and I knew where I got it.  And worst of all, I knew I had been approaching pretty much everything I do - the exception probably being Facebook Scrabble- with that crappy attitude.  Including my relationship with Jesus.  "I HAVE to serve people, it says so in the Bible."  "I HAVE to love my family or else God won't be pleased with me."

The craziest part?  Those statements have an element of truth to them.  We are commanded to love our God before anything else and with all our strength and then to love one another, those aren't suggestions, they are orders.  This whole have to syndrome exudes the twisted logic of our enemy.  The difference between doing it because we have to and because we want to may seem subtle but I have just discovered that it makes a monumental difference to how the people around you react to whatever it is you are trying to do.

Is God sitting in His throne room all disgusted with me because it took me so long to have this 'ah ha' moment?  Is Jesus at His right hand shaking His head in disbelief that I've wasted all these years locked in an unhealthy mindset?  Nope, not at all.  They know where it came from, they knew when they'd have to show it to me and how.  They are rejoicing that I get it, that I don't want to go back.  They will be there to remind me of the truth when I get stressed out and the old pattern struggles to reassert itself.  And they will help me beat it back again.

And here is the hope and assurance part of this blog post.  I did not put my hand up and ask to develop a crippling 'have to' syndrome.  I had no intentions of infecting my entire household with it.  Until three days ago, I didn't even know the thing existed.  God wants me to love Him because I want to, Jesus wants me to serve Him because I want to.  And I don't even have to have the strength to make that transformation.  I can just say, "I don't want to have to any more, I want to want to," and He will do the miracle.

If He can and will do it for me, He can and will do it for you.  Does life just seem like drudgery, day in and day out?  Do you drag yourself out of bed each morning because you have to?  It doesn't need to be that way.  Those thoughts that you will plod through life until you die are lies.  Let Him show you the truth.  Let Him slay that monster for you, let Him give you a real picture of Himself.  Let Him help you want to.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Why The Blog

ACOA technically means Adult Child(ren) of Alcoholics.  I am morphing it to my own meaning for the purposes of this blog.  Adult Children of Abuse.  And my range of abuse is quite inclusive.  Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.  For the purpose of this blog, when I speak about abuse, I mean abuse that happened when the person was a child, and for the most part, for a long period of time.  I am not denying that one time abuse, especially in the instance of sexual abuse, is not devastating.  And lots of what I write here will also apply to situations such as that.  But generally, I will be referring to abuse as prolonged dysfunction in a family situation, that significantly molds the character of a person.

I am no 'expert' in any of the areas that this blog may dare to go.  I have no degrees or doctorates in psychology, counseling or psychiatry.  In fact it took me about seven tries to even spell that last one.  But I have experience.  I am an ACOA.  I don't feel the need to go into details about that, suffice it to say I have first hand knowledge of how some of this plays out.

If I use any technical jargon it will have come from books I've read on the subject in my 'free time'.  I am not likely to remember which book exactly and may even mess up the technical jargon.

The entire purpose of this blog is to give people hope.  The most important thing you need to know about me is that I know that the true source of this hope is in and comes from Jesus.

This is my favorite scene from the movie 'Shrek'.

Shrek: For your information, there's a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example... uh... ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes... No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave 'em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs...
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
[walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. What about cake? Everybody loves cake!
Shrek: I don't care what everyone else likes! Ogres are not like cakes.

ACOAs are like ogres, they have layers like onions.  Thick layers, thin layers, layers upon layers.  Their layers are not like cakes.  The layers can be coarse, partially missing and are quite often rotten beneath a deceivingly smooth outer shell.

This is not to say that people who have not experienced abuse have perfect lives or are not complicated, by any means.  Every human being on the face of the planet is complex.  We were created to be.  Realistically in this day and age, in this fallen world, I would guess that the percentage of people who have not experienced some sort of soul damaging abuse is probably lower than that of people who have been abused.  More plainly put, almost everyone has been subject to some form of abuse at some point in their lives.  But again, in this blog, I will be mostly addressing prolonged, childhood abuse.

And I think I'll leave that there.  I want to keep these short and to the point as best I can.  So, if something seems incomplete, please let me know and I will do my best to modify.