Monday, October 21, 2013

Creating a Virtuous Life

What is it that scares us about living a "Virtuous" life?  I know that my mind always used to equate being full of virtue with being "perfect."  Let me tell you, as a semi-reformed perfectionist, you cannot be perfect!!!!  Try with your own will as much as you can and it will not happen.  The truth is, the only perfect human was Jesus! I am sorry to disappoint you, none of us can be Jesus!!

I thought I would touch on some things that will allow you to live a virtuous life and feel good about yourself knowing that you are not perfect. Take heart though, true perfection is coming for those that love Jesus when we go to be with Him in all eternity!

1 Peter 2:17
Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.

Respect!!! One thing I have learned over the years is to treat others with respect.  Do you know that you can disagree with someones values and belief systems and still be respectful? What better witness of God's love than to be respectful of those who just don't understand why we believe what we believe.  How did God treat us when we were not where we are today. Did he mock and laugh at us?  Did he brow beat us with endless verbiage or "Christianese?"  No, he put someone in our paths that was able to relate to us right where we were.  He gave that person or persons the right words and the right time to speak to us in love.  They shared with us through the example of a true virtuous life of respect and dignity.

Colossians 3:12
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

Compassion.  That is such a peaceful sounding word. So many people in this world are lost and don't even know it.  They need compassion.  Definition: a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it. Many people don't realize they need to make changes in their life.  If you take the route of listing their sins and what will happen if they don't stop, you will drive them away. The best way to alleviate the suffering is not by constantly leaving bible verses on their desk, or on their facebook page.  The best way is to be a compassionate approachable friend who will be there when they come and say, "I know I need to change. Will you help me?"

Titus 3:2
No insults, no fights. God's people should be bighearted and courteous.

Humility. Definition: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble.  May we all show true humility towards one another.  Have you ever seen another Christian fighting with someone about a choice they have made in their life that would not be a choice God would have them make?  I have seen the truly ugly side of this. I have seen insults all in the name of God. Some things I have heard are people being told they are going to "hell" if they don't change their evil ways. Or the reason they have cancer is because they continue to sin and God is punishing them. Personally, this sounds like a holier than thou attitude and I would just walk away from someone and want nothing to do with their life or religion.  We are to know scripture so that when someone asks us the reason for our believing we can tell them.  It's not to be thrown in their face to condemn them and make ourselves look better than them.

Romans 14:19
So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words

Peace-loving.  We should be using our love for Jesus and our knowledge of God's work to encourage one another. Our energy should not be wasted on endless arguments on doctrine.  That is so mentally tiring.  Let us use our energies to get along with one another.  So many people we come in contact with have qualities we need to learn, and if we are constantly looking to find faults with them, and be at odds, then we will truly miss the blessings that can come from that relationship.

These are just a few of the virtues we should display as lovers of Jesus.  The greatest virtue I desire for myself, family and friends is Salvation!

2 Timothy 2:10
That's why I stick it out here––so that everyone God calls will get in on the salvation of Christ in all its glory.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Unique Event"'

Some days, I wake up and just can’t seem to get a grip on anything. I need to rest my elbow so it will heal, but I have so many things to accomplish. I need to take some time with God, but my eyes seem to keep closing. So many things I want to do, yet I have physical limitations while trying to help my body heal. I start to become down as I can’t clean the garage, I can’t work in the garden, I can’t clean the floors. I am an active person and it seems like everything is a “can’t”  Then as I am reading some of my daily devotionals I remember; “Today” is a unique event, full of potential! “Today” only lasts 24 hours so I better make the best of it.

The question is, what am I going to do with that potential? With so much potential standing before me, how do I choose?  Right now, I am at McDonald’s.  What potential do I have there?  I have the potential to smile at each person I give eye contact to.  I may see someone who needs a cup of coffee and a kind word.  I have the potential to make the employees here feel like someone cares about the job they are doing.  I can clean up my mess showing people good stewardship.  I chat with a lady about losing weight, and we share tips.  She feels someone cares and I feel like I have contributed to someone else’s life other than my own.  

When I go home, where is the potential there for a “unique event?” Maybe I will try again to do everything left handed so I can get things done.  It’s more of a challenge there.  Today is “date” night for hubby and I.  Maybe I will go and get fresh shrimp and scallops and we will have a lovely dinner at home.  Everything at home focuses on something “physical” that needs to be done, and I have to limit my activity. I pray God leads me to the “uniqueness” within my own home.  It comes to mind that I speak many words while I am at home. Today's potential is to speak life into each and every person’s life that I am blessed to communicate with. Wow!  Words are so powerful.  You can bless people or you can curse people.  I will speak blessings today.  

Another thing I can do to make the most of my 24 hours of uniqueness is each time a person or situation comes to mind, I can pray.  I have always been more of  a spur of the moment prayer warrior, not a long list type of person who sits for a “certain” period of time daily praying.  I will be washing dishes, or folding laundry, and something will come to mind.  I stop for a moment and ask God to take care of the person or situation.  The Bible says he hears us, so I move along not taking hours to pray.  I am sort of practical that way.  If he hears me the first time, why labor on thinking a long prayer will work better than what comes to mind on the spur of the moment. God is good. Take time today to discover how you can contribute to your 24 hours of “uniqueness.”

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dreams Unfulfilled-Reality Misunderstood

Dreams unfulfilled.  Our lives are full of them. As a single person I dreamt of my perfect spouse, job, and home. As spouses we dream of our life and how to build our future. How do we fit God, family, saving, retirement into our lives. As parents we start our families with many dreams for the futures of our children. You know them all: a healthy life, marriage, education, a family of their own.  I am sure we could make a long list, but as time passes we realize that there are empty hopes, many disappointments.  For some of us the reality of life is not what we thought.  I call it, reality misunderstood.  

What shapes our dreams.  What influences our reality? For me, it is several things.  As I grew older and matured, my spousal dreams changed and my family dreams evolved.  My Christianity affected my dreams, then my home school relationships affected my dreams.  Every person, every relationship, every job, every church involvement, and yes, even my views of our government affected my dreams.  
Now, as I have pondered my experiences , I actually realize the great importance of every mental, physical, and spiritual influence that fell into my life.  One of the things I have learned is that I should have been more discerning about which of these experiences I should have allowed as part of my dreams. Although I am a great proponent of homeschooling, I have grave misgivings about some of the fringe groups of home schooling and some of the “gospel” they teach that we have “believed or bought” for a time.  Although I am a firm believer in Christianity and Jesus Christ, I am extremely leery of the “church” and its structure.  Although I believe in a small government, I also realize that there has to be “rules or laws” for the common good of the residents of this country. Although I believe that God’s laws should rule our hearts, I also believe we can’t legislate everyone’s morality.  In the end, we will all stand before God and give account for our lives.

I have four children.  Three boys and one girl.  Their birth order is boy, girl, boy, boy. Our homeschooling journey was 12 years long. The reason for stopping was that my husband became ill and I had to work to provide good insurance.  I tried homeschooling while working and no matter how I arranged my schedule, I just couldn’t do both and do justice to the education and life my children needed.  
My oldest son, who is now 28 years old, was always a challenge from the day he was born. He wasn’t happy unless he was moving or watching something moving.  At 3 months old he would sit in front of the TV and watch tennis.  I could see his head moving side to side watching the ball go from court to court.  I knew he was going to need lots of structure and a very disciplined life.  My other children were easy babies and just followed along with the program.  

So how would I implement my dreams for my children to be successful in their adult life.   Being a perfectionist I wanted to do it the “right” way.  I just figured there was a formula that would work.  What better formula than “God’s” formula.  My husband and I were very involved in a home Christian ministry that was very much a cult. At the time we were unaware. We decided that we would use the Word of God to raise our children.  Instead of reading God’s word and asking God for guidance, we listened to other Christians in our ministry and their way of implementing God’s word.  God’s word was very true, but the practical implementation of His truth was so wrong, but we were very naive. We were following a ministry’s idea of what God’s word said, and missing what God would really have us do.  I am sure this contributed to some of the issues we have with our children.  I also tended to be like my mom, I was going to yell you into obedience.  Good gravy, my how I have changed since then.  We got rid of the cult part of our life and moved on with God.

My two youngest started in public school. As time passed I realized this wasn’t working for us.  I tried working through issues with the system, but they just would help educationally.  Our adventure in homeschooling didn’t start for religious reasons.  It started because I wanted my children to have an excellent and safe education. I took the opportunity to give them God’s word in their schooling hoping this would help them as they grew older.  

Our homeschooling years were wonderful while we lived in a large metropolitan area.  There was diversity in the homeschool community.  We had a plethora of activities and organizations to help keep us active int he community.  We did AWANA, sports, and all the usual things families did with their children.  Sure, I was at wits end some days. We’ve all been there, but mostly, we were a happy crew.  Then one day, our lives would change forever.  My husband lost his job, and we moved to a small town.

It was a drastic change for our family, because even though they had a homeschool group locally, we lost all of the opportunities we had in large town USA for our children to be active.  We did have co-op day and for a season we could play sports at the Christian school, but things were different and I felt like we didn’t fit.  The only children my kids new were the local homeschool kids and some of them just didn’t like the way we lived our lives: TV, the books we read, computer games, you know it all.  

Doubt again crept into my mind about how were were bringing our children up.  By now, we had gotten rid of every Disney movie we owned, remember the fad that Disney was evil?  No offense if you still think it is, it just wasn’t right for our family. So I started reading things by the P's, B's, L's, and the likes.  I should have seen the red flag right away.  Very drastic parenting!!!  Very cold parenting done under the guise that doing it God’s way was loving.  Doing it God’s way is loving but their ways were far from loving. They were harsh.

I do want to clarify something. All these people did have something good to say about parenting, but not all of the practical application was wise.  I would buy all their wares at conventions and see them speak and start implementing their ideas as soon as I got home.  My poor children. I had them involved in a cult again.  I’m sorry if you find “cult” offensive, but that is truly what my heart believes.   I had bought into if you do A, B, and C your children will go from obeying you at home, and into their adulthood without rebelling.  That was truly “Reality Misunderstood.”

This was a critical time in the lives of my older children.  They were becoming teenagers and young adults and all my experimenting and being so rigid did a number on them.  Before I go on, I do not blame myself for everything that happened in my children’s lives.  At some point they need to take responsibility for their poor choices and move on.  I have apologized to all my children for my mistakes.  That said, the teen years and early adulthood in my two oldest were extremely tumultuous. 

One of the contributing factors to my children and their rebellion, was peer pressure from the “perfect”  homeschool family in our support group.  Everyone looked to them and their children were to be emulated. I felt pressure to live up to their standards.  What I failed to realize, was the their standards were right for them and our standards were right for us.  My children were ridiculed for games they played, books they read; you name it.  Foolishly, I tried to make my children conform.  I would get tired of the phone calls after overnight trips with the church telling me my son was reading a book they found in appropriate.  Mind you, no one in church leadership was complaining, just this one family, I will call the the “Smiths”. 

The dream of a well educated, godly family was a worthy goal, but the reality of guiding my family in the best direction for us was really misunderstood.  There are so many things I could tell you.  I spent years trying to be like the Smiths while my son was being arrested and in jail for various things, and my daughter was sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night.  We have fought, drugs, promiscuity, pregnancy, alternative lifestyles, rape, alcohol addiction; you name it we have seen it.  

We eventually left that small town and moved back to the large metropolitan lifestyle.  By then my hubby was ill and I was sending my two youngest to public school.  Also, by then, I had realized that I had made a drastic mistake of buying into the “cult” side of homeschooling.  I was reformed from the rigid side of things, but things got much worse for us.  My oldest became a meth addict, my daughter became a felon, drug addict, and an alcoholic, and my youngest became a juvenile felon along with dabbling in drugs.  Child number three had his issues, but nothing like the other three.  

We do have some praises to give.  My oldest son spent 6 years in the Airforce and is now attending college full time.  Praise God.  My third child finally decided to go to college and we are helping him.  Child number four, who is 20 is still dangling a bit, but I do see hope.  My daughter struggles horribly! My kids have chosen the scenic route in life.

If you have one child who does not seem to be able to come out from their addictions and behaviors, you may find there is something else you do not know about.  After many years my daughter finally told me she was molested as a four or five year old by my best friend’s husband that we lived next door to.  I had no clue or we could have gotten help.  By the time we found out she would not do anything the counselor would say and is still now falling down a slippery slope.

I do not want to give a total  story of what we have been through as it reads like a soap opera. What I want to say is God has a plan for your family, and if you follow that, no matter what paths your children take, you can rest assured you did your best.  As adults your children are responsible for their own choices.  The “dream” is not to “follow the formula” and have a June Cleaver family.  The promise is the rewards you will get for being obedient to God. The reality is you can only bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”.  You can’t force them to do what is right.  It is their choice.  Our job is to love them, nurture them, guide them, help them pick up the pieces when it all falls, and to support them when they want to come back to God and their family. What I am learning is forgiveness, mercy, longsuffering, patience, meekness, and showing the love of Jesus above all. 

Reality is not a perfect family as a result of following God.  Reality is resting in his peace that you have done your best and will stand before him having been forgiven for the mistakes and rewarded for the godly changes you made in the life of your family. Let us all have dreams to pursue, but understand the true reality that God doesn’t make our children perfect, but he forgives us and them for mistake when we repent and move forward with Him being first.