Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Discipline Is A Good Thing!

I sit here in my quiet time reading my Bible. The Lord is admonishing me AGAIN! Not a bad thing, it’s just tough to face him as I realize that I have been disobedient AGAIN! I love how living His Word is. How he speaks so clearly to us through it, yet at times it seems so cloudy and confusing. I am sure that perplexity is my own weakness because God is not a God of confusion. Thank you for making it discernable today LORD! Thank you for using your word to correct me.

Sounds strange doesn’t it? Who appreciates correction and discipline? I have been around long enough to know that when the LORD is correcting me, I should pay attention. In fact, I invite him to do so because I am well aware that he knows better than I what path is best for me.

As many parents do, I have been praying for my children for a long time; Praying for obedience, integrity and many other qualities that I want for my children. Today wasn’t any different but as I was conversing with God and reading his word, he gently reminded me of my own sin in this matter through the unlikely story of a priest and his sons.

From the time Israel became a nation, the tribe of the Levites served as high priests in the temple. Eli, a Levite, was serving in the temple with his two sons whom the Bible says were wicked because they had no regard for the LORD (1 Samuel 2:12). They were treating the LORD’s offering with contempt, sleeping with women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting amongst other sins. Eli wasn’t ignorant to it; in fact he reprimanded them for it but the Bible says that they didn’t listen to their father’s rebuke (v25). The LORD reminded Eli that he had clearly revealed himself to Eli’s family and asked him why he honored his sons more than he honored God himself. Both of his sons died on the same day and Eli’s family never served in the temple again.

God used this unassuming story to remind me that he has already revealed himself to my family in the matter of obedience and if I don’t deal with the sins of my children correctly, my family will suffer for it. You see, parenting in a godly manner is a lifestyle, not something that you check off your list. For me, it ebbs and flows. I focus on godly discipline for a while, the children respond well and I slack off only to resort to reprimanding them as Eli did with his sons. Soon enough I find myself becoming the threatening and repeating parent that lacks godly discipline and I discover that my sons are disobedient again. Maybe one day I will become more consistent. I pray it is soon because reprimanding is not enough. It wasn’t enough for Eli and his family suffered the consequences. I for one don’t want my family to suffer for my disobedience and inconsistency. I am convinced this is one of the many reasons God hates divorce because there is no one to balance the other person when they are lacking. No one to remind in times of absent-mindedness. No one to give strength when the other is too weak and tired to discipline. But God always provides. He has graciously put people in my life who have the freedom to point out the sins of my children when I don’t see it. Who have the freedom to look at me and say “are you going to deal with that”. It’s easy to reprimand, it’s hard to discipline.

So now it’s time for the hard part. This is where the rubber meets the road. Will I take this word from the LORD and simply hear it as I have in the past or will I make a plan and put it in to action. I think I will choose the latter and not only that I think I will invite someone to hold me accountable to the plan. Thank God there are many friends in my GFI Community who parent the same and are willing to come along side me for accountability. Thank God there are people like my boyfriend Rob and my friends Julie and Kathy who love me enough to tell me the truth, even if it hurts. So in the midst of my own correction from the LORD, I am grateful. Grateful that he loves me enough to discipline me and for showing me that discipline is love!

Proverbs 13:24 ~ Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lessons From the Litter Box

As my children and I were doing our weekly chores this past Saturday my youngest son, Joshua, says to me “I am so glad that I don’t have to clean the litter box for my chores any more”. For those of you who have cats you know how revolting a litter box can be. My Pastor happens to believe that cats are straight from the underworld and if you have ever cleaned a litter box, you might agree. I went on to explain to Joshua that while it was difficult to train the cats to go to the bathroom outside and there were times I had to clean poop off of the kitchen floor, the training was well worth not having the stink of a litter box in the house. Now they come in and out of the cat door as they please and my house doesn’t smell like a dump.

I love it that God can use even the stinkiest of lessons to show us how his principles work. He used this conversation with my little one to remind me to continue the hard training with my children and I won’t have to clean poop off the floor when they older. Ok, not poop literally, but there will be a lot less messes to clean up if we continue to work hard on God’s parenting principles while they are still small. Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, two of my favorite people in the world, have taught me that if I do the hard work up front then the teenage years won’t have to be tumultuous and messy as most people expect.

There were times in the midst of training the cats that I wanted to give up. It would have been much easier to just let them do what they do naturally and continue to step in their own poop while carrying it on the bottom of their paws making a mess of my house. In the same way, sometimes I am completely exhausted and want to just stop training my children for a bit but I know if I do, my house will be a complete mess in a few years. They will do what they do naturally and sin, only if they don’t have the foundation that God provides for all parents, that poop won’t be so easy to clean up. So I, for one, will continue to train my children, even when it gets tough and I am pooped (pardon the pun), by relying on God for his strength and searching his word for wisdom. He is faithful if you just ask for help. His timeless principles are found in his word and in the godly wisdom of those who have already been there like Gary and Anne Marie.

Proverbs 22:6 ~ Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can God Really Use Someone Like Me?

Do you ever wonder if God can use you? Really use you? I mean it’s not ordinary folks like you and me that God uses. Its great people like Moses and King David, and Peter and Paul right? Truthfully, I have often thought “why would God use me”? I have a sordid past. A deep, dark history that has brought shame, embarrassment and degradation to the person I am now through Christ Jesus. Not to mention, I have often considered myself just an ordinary person, lacking in any of the extravagant gifts that I see God give to others. But here is what I want us to consider, especially if you have ever felt or thought the same about yourself. Acts 4:13 (NIV) says “When they (the rulers, elders and teachers of the law) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus”. Hmmm....Unschooled and Ordinary! Did you also know that Peter denied even knowing Jesus just as I have done in my past, yet Peter was the “rock” on which Jesus built his church!

What about Moses and King David? Now those are two extraordinary people who were used mightily by God but you and I…we are not even close to extraordinary, nor are we a leader like Moses or a King like David. But get this; Moses was a murderer who ran from the consequences of his actions and David was an adulterer who killed the girl’s husband to keep him from finding out. Yet God intervened in both of their lives and they became two people who were used in amazing ways for the kingdom of God.

Paul was a man that openly killed Christians until God intervened and radically changed his life on the road to Damascus. He became one of the biggest voices for the cause of Jesus and sharing the good news with others! So you see it doesn’t matter what your past is, what education level you have and how ordinary you think you are, when God intervenes he wipes out your past and makes you and your life extraordinary. He has a plan to use you in amazing ways just as he did these men and many other men and women. The only thing you need to do is come to Jesus with an open heart and empty hands. You will be astonished at the work he will do in and through you as he renews your soul and makes those of us who have been foolish, wise (Psalm 19:7)!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I Don't Want To Obey!

Last week was a tough week for my family. While it was full of amazing people and a production that changed many lives, the busyness severely interrupted my ability to parent my children the way I needed to.
If you know anything about personality, you know that children, even from the same womb, respond to situations differently than their siblings. Some are compliant and easygoing no matter the situation while others will spin out of control at the slightest change in your parenting strategy. This is my precious middle child Benjamin. His temperament is that of a choleric/sanguine which simply means that he is strong willed and loves to be around people. Obedience does not come naturally for these types of children (or adults for that matter). But I don’t think strong willed quite covers it. Benjamin is the kind of kid that could make Dr. Dobson cry! I think after some time spent with my sweet boy, the good doctor would probably consider rewriting a good portion of his book “The Strong Willed Child”. Benjamin is without a doubt strong willed10. 

 Last week we were participating in The Thorn, an epic portrayal of the passion of Jesus Christ! It was taking up a lot of our time which left little time to focus on parenting. While Cameron and Joshua, my other two children, adapt well to situations like this, Benjamin will pick up on it in a skinny minute and begin to push through those boundaries that the choleric personality abhors! I only know this because I too am a choleric/sanguine. Yes, the apple doesn’t fall too far from this tree! After a week of full out backwards emotional discipline, because that’s the way we parent when we don’t have time, Benjamin and I were at our wits end. We had been in a battle of wills all week and because I allowed the busyness to get the better of me, Benjamin was winning.

There are several things that I took away from last week that I would like to remember in the future:

1. There will always be seasons of busyness in our lives and if we don’t have a plan for our family, chaos will soon follow.
2. Anytime we parent from our emotions, the child will always, always win the battle.
3. While the child may have won the battle, we don’t have to let him win the war. We will not parent perfectly and when conflict ensues we must assess the wounds and mend the hurts because there is still a lot more parenting to be done.
4. There doesn’t have to be a battle if we follow rule #1.

After that week was over Benjamin and I had a chance to sit and assess the battlefield together. We walked through the process of repentance, forgiveness and restoration and he ended our conversation with this: “Mom, I understand why I have to obey God; I mean he is the creator of the universe. But you are human just like me, so I don’t understand why I have to obey you”. I reminded him of the truth that God’s word reveals about it in Proverbs 22:6. My job as his parent is to train him. God gave him to me for that purpose. His job as my child and more importantly as a child of God is to obey his parents as the LORD instructs him in Colossians 3:20. He completely understood, but enthusiastically made it known that he did not like it!

No one told me that parenting would be this hard. I often ask myself why people don't talk about how tough it is.  I think it could be for two reasons. One because if they did, no one would want to have children and two, I think the love between parent and child covers a multitude of sins!

Precious Benjamin has had a tough trip on the road to submission and we are getting closer every day. We might take a few steps backwards as we did last week but I am confident if we stick to the timeless plan of God’s word we will finish the race!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There is Hope in Suffering

When you are going through tough times do you ever feel like it takes forever to see any light at the end of the tunnel? Do you ever feel as if you are in bondage to your pain or suffering because it just doesn’t end? There are seasons in life. Some seasons feel as if we have reached the Promised Land, things are great in our world. But I think more so than not, in this world anyway, life in the desert represents the norm. It seems as if struggling is just a part of life. I think that is the reality of a fallen world.

In the midst of our desert, we cry out to God to stop the pain, stop the struggling and that’s ok. I think that is the most natural thing we can do. But have you ever stopped to consider that suffering may have a purpose? That God allows us to travel the long road for a reason? In Exodus chapter 13 God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt after 430 years; and if 430 years of bondage wasn’t a long enough road of suffering, God decides “not to lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter” (vs. 17). God knew that if they went the shorter route that they would face war and more suffering and return to Egypt and a life of slavery.

You see, sometimes, we can only see what is right there in front of us. We can’t see what is down the road a little further. But God can! Sometimes God allows us to travel what seems to be the long route through our suffering but in reality he is protecting us from more suffering just as he was the Israelites. I have unfortunately chosen the short route one too many times in my own life only to have more pain in the end. At times, it has been a relationship that I chose because it was right there in front of me rather than waiting on God’s timing for the right person. I don’t have to tell you the pain that a broken heart brings; pain that could have been avoided. Being single seemed worse than slavery at the time, but I could have avoided suffering by avoiding the shorter road.  Being single, I have learned, is not so bad!  In fact, if it is God's plan then being single is just perfect for me!  At times, I have chosen to punish my children out of anger or frustration rather than choosing the longer route of daily discipline. It is painful to everyone involved when discipline takes place through our negative emotions even if at the time it seems quicker and easier.

Another reason that we struggle is that God may be allowing us a Romans 5 moment in which our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope! I can tell you this with 100% confidence. I have grown more through my suffering and have learned a greater dependence on God in the midst of suffering than I have any other time in my life. Really, that is the ultimate goal or at least it should be; to learn to depend on him more and learn to be more like him and suffering does just that. It causes us to cling to God because there is nowhere else to turn. As we cling to him, we discover that it is producing character in us. Character that blossoms. Character that grows. Character that emulates Him and that my friend is where we find hope! The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. When we abide in him, we can’t help but become more like him and if our character looks like his, like the fruit of the Spirit, then our hope is strong and we can persevere no matter the suffering around us.

So the next time you are in the midst of suffering and pain, consider thanking God for protecting you from the short road and asking him “what can I learn and how can I grow to be more like you”? I promise you won’t regret it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inadequate For The Calling

Do you ever feel inadequate for the job placed before you? I know I do. I used to feel this way in my role as a parent until Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo taught me how to be a better parent. I still feel this way at times, but I keep going back to the truth of God’s word and the biblical principles that the Ezzo’s taught me. No matter how inadequate I feel, I am reminded that God entrusted these children to me and he is bigger than any feeling I have. He will either make up for my shortcomings or he will equip me more than he already has for the task. But this is what I do know. I am inadequate without him!

The season I am currently in is different however. This feeling of inadequacy seems to be where I live lately. God is calling me way out of my comfort zone professionally and I don’t feel equipped for the task. Our mission at Seacoast Church is changing drastically and while I am ridiculously excited about it, it brings with it a lot of unknowns. As the Outreach Coordinator I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with a lot of questions. As I was sitting with my Campus Pastor, Josh Surratt the other day, I began telling him how unequipped I feel. Honestly I thought he was going to confirm for me that I am not the right person for the job and fire me; or at the very least demote me. But as any great leader does, he encouraged me. He simply said “Allison, you are in a good place right now” (really, it doesn’t feel good). “You are right where Joseph was when he was sent to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph’s response to Pharaoh was I can’t interpret your dreams, but God can. Allison, you can’t do your job adequately. Neither can I, but God can”. I don’t think Josh even knew that he was giving me some encouragement. He was just sharing his heart with where he was and what God was teaching him.

I also feel inadequate and ill equipped to write this book that I know with every ounce of my being that God has called me to write. I can’t remember the last time I felt so confident about something. But feeling confident about God’s calling and feeling confident about our ability to accomplish it are two very different things. I was reading Exodus chapters 3 and 4 in my quiet time this morning. Moses is at the burning bush where God is calling him to go rescue the Israelites from Egypt. I am convinced that Moses was confident that God was speaking to him. How could he not be sure when the bush was on fire yet was not being burned by the flames, but Moses still responded with “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” Moses! One of the greatest men in history, responded with I am not equipped God! So I guess I am in good company. God then responds with several signs and wonders to show Moses what he will do in Egypt and Moses still pleads with God in chapter 4 verse 13: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” That is exactly how I feel sometimes Moses. While I am humbled that God would choose me to parent these children, to serve him in ministry and to write this book, sometimes it is so overwhelming that I want to plead with him to choose someone else because I just can’t do it, however as Josh reminded me, I can’t, but God can.

What is God calling you to do that you feel unequipped to accomplish? Is he calling you to parent, to be a great spouse, to go on a mission trip, to witness to your neighbor? I have been in this season for over a year now and what I have learned during this process is that if God calls us he will equip us but we have to respond. God equips us for our calling by allowing us to bear fruit as we become more like him, but we must stay attached to the vine so that our fruit doesn’t wither and die. No matter how we feel about the calling and no matter how much we wrestle with God about it, our answer should be “Here I am God”. That response still intimidates me but I trust that God will take care of the details in the midst of my obedience. I can promise you this. No matter how you feel about the task, if you obey, he will not let you down! God wants to use every on e of us to show others his power through the events and circumstances of our everyday lives. He is calling you my friend; the question is what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Will You Pray For His Will With Me?

Over this past summer as I was spending some quiet time with the LORD, I really started sensing that he was telling me to write a book. I have known for years that he wanted me to share my story of healing and redemption but honestly I thought that it would be shared only with those who have been a part of the journey like my pastor, my mentor and a few others. I wanted confirmation on this because I have never been the writing type. Sure, I made A’s in English 101 and 102 in college and I spent a lot of time writing in my journals but writing just wasn’t me. One August morning I was praying for God’s will and telling him that if this is truly what he was calling me to do then I would do it, even though I didn’t feel qualified, and not to mention my lack of time. Really God; you do know that I am raising three children on my own right? Within 5 minutes, God gave me the title of the book, all 8 chapters in the book and a huge confirmation in scripture that this was what he wanted me to do. So simply out of obedience I have spent the last five months writing my little hands off. I say that a little facetiously because frankly something miraculous happened. As I think back over the last five months I can honestly say that this process has not been laborious at all. I don’t feel as if it has taken any time away from my family, my work in ministry, or relationships that are important to me. For those of you that know me well and know how busy my life is, you know I really didn’t have anywhere to fit this in. But God did and the book is now finished!

I am not certain at this point what his plans are. Isn’t it funny how sometimes he speaks to us so clearly, as he did to me in those five minutes of my quiet time and other times we can’t seem to hear a thing? I think it could be several things. We are either not still enough to hear his voice or he just wants us to step out in faith and watch him work. It is probably a combination of both for me right now. I really don’t know what he wants me to do next and that is where you come in. I am going to send the manuscript to some publishers. If you know anything about the industry then you know that the chance of a first time author being published is pretty low. Here is how I feel about the whole thing: If God wants my book to be published then he will make it happen as I step out in faith and if he doesn’t then it won’t. It really is that simple. I would love it if you would commit to agreeing with me in prayer for God’s perfect plan in this situation. If this book was simply to further my own personal healing then it was well worth the time I have spent on it. If, however, he had me write it so that he could be magnified through it then I need his warriors to pray for his will to come forth. I am so excited about the possibility of him using me to glorify him in this way and remain hopeful in the knowledge that he is in control. Will you pray with and for me?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teaching and Modeling Values to Our Children

So this year I decided that rather than trying to make my children all things all at once, I would slow down and focus on one thing at a time. I have that personality where I want it all and I want it now but God is teaching me that just about everything in life is a process; especially if we want whatever it is to become a part of who we are. This year our family theme is respectfulness. I want my family, including myself, to learn to be respectful no matter the circumstances, no matter the choices of others, no matter what everyone else is doing, no matter what.

We all want respectful children but many of us aren't sure how to get there. Our children come in to this world as sweet, innocent creatures but give it a couple of years and it seems as if the devil himself has taken up residence. Just take a trip to your local Chic-Fil-A or children’s museum and you will see for yourself. The children cut in line, snatch from others, and hit their parents and that doesn’t include behaviors that are too unsightly to convey. Many of us even have children like this and if we were honest with ourselves, we could say that we have no idea how it happened or how to change it. Growing Families International, an organization centered on parenting, has a motto that they teach: “Begin as you mean to go”. It simply means to think about where you want your children to be in 20 years and begin where you want to end up. If you want your children to grow in to respectful, caring adults, then model for them a respectful, caring adult and love them enough to discipline them.

How do we model the behavior? Well, ask yourself these questions: Do your children see you disrespect authority by crossing the street when the sign says “don’t walk”? Do they see you being rude to the waitress because your order was wrong? Do they hear you say not so nice things about the person that just cut you off in traffic? These may seem like meaningless actions that have no relevance on training our children but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Think about it. When we cross the street at the wrong time, what we are really modeling for our children is that it’s ok to break the rules when it’s convenient. Ezra 7:25-27 speaks against this and Romans 2:13 calls those who obey the law righteous. When we are rude to the waitress our children see that it is ok to react negatively to our feelings even if it hurts someone else. When we curse the guy who cut us off in traffic, we are teaching that it is ok to talk behind someone’s back. Galatians 5:22 says that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If we want respectful children we must model respect in every area, even if it seems futile and the best way to do that is to be so connected to the spirit of God that you begin to exude the fruits of the spirit. You can’t help but grow fruit when you are attached to the vine. Jesus says in John 15:5 “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”.

But what about discipline? So many of us see discipline as negative; as something that could scar our children for life but I don’t think discipline, in the true sense of the word, is meant to have the connotation that many of us associate with the word. The root word for discipline is “disciple”. Disciple means to teach or to train. Sure discipline involves chastisement sometimes, but the majority of discipline involves training. So, if we want our children to grow up to be respectful adults we must be willing to disciple them with instruction, clear expectation, accountability, relationship and yes, sometimes chastisement. Deuteronomy 6 instructs us to make these values a part of who we are and what defines us as a family. We can’t just talk the talk; we have got to walk the walk.

So for me and my family, even when it gets hard and no one else is doing it, we will choose to glorify God in all that we do including being respectful, and when I mess it up, as I know I will, I will seek forgiveness; not just from God, but from my family as well, for being a poor example and model of Christ to them. Then I will pick myself up and keep persevering and reaching for the goal but more than anything I am going to become more intentional about staying attached to The Vine.

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