Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Cure for a Darkened Heart & a Depraved Mind

 I read a story this week about a 25 year old woman in Pakistan who was stoned to death (via bricks) by a crowd of 20 men, many of which were her relatives...her brothers, her cousin, AND HER FATHER. 

Her supposed crime was that she was choosing to elope with the man she loved rather than marry the groom chosen by her family.  In their eyes her actions were unforgiveable and would have brought shame and disgrace upon the family.  Her father later admitted to killing his own daughter and expressed no regret stating, “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it.”

Regardless of cultural or religious differences, it's hard to even fathom that any father could so brutally kill his own daughter. 

As I read the article and reflected upon the horror of it all, the only words that I feel appropriately describe her father's action and attitude are HEARTLESS & RUTHLESS.

And I asked myself, how does one become so unapologetically heartless and ruthless?

I recently studied the second half of Romans chapter 1 in which Paul writes about individuals whose hearts are darkened and whose minds are depraved as a result of exchanging the truth of God for a lie and worshipping anything and everything but Him.  As these individuals willfully suppress God's truth, they become filled with every kind of wickedness...heartless and ruthless attitudes and behaviors included. 

 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

The Message version translates it this way:

28-32 Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

In the original Greek, heartless means without love or affection; brutal.  The word ruthless means without mercy, lacking compassion, unconcerned with the plight of others.

To be so utterly heartless and ruthless to his own daughter, there is no doubt in my mind that the heart and mind of this Pakistani father is depraved.  He has exchanged truth for a lie and worships himself.  And worst of all, just like the Scripture teaches, he shows no remorse for his wicked actions.

Yet before I judge this father entirely, this verse (and the previous verse in Romans 1) remind me that any time I worship and serve anything other than my Creator God I am making myself vulnerable to a depraved mind in which any of the 21 vices listed could ensnare me. 

When I worship myself, my relationship with Keith is full of strife.  When I worship success, my actions are arrogant, boastful, and greedy.  When I worship the perfect female body image, my mind and actions are senseless and envious (and sometimes even slanderous toward other female body types).  When I worship humans, desperate to please man, my mind and actions are deceitful and senseless.  And yes, when I worship "religion," my mind and actions are sometimes even heartless and ruthless toward those who aren't as "holy as I am." 

Bottom line:  When we exchange the truth of God for a lie & worship and serve created things, our hearts will become darkened and our minds will become depraved.  And when this happens, we will absolutely do "what we ought not to do."

Sometimes we cannot believe the wicked actions of others, but we mustn't forget that there is "no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10).  We ALL need the saving grace of Jesus to pierce our darkened heart with His light and to heal our depraved minds with His truth.

Our kids need Jesus just like anybody else, just like that Pakistani father.  I'd like to pray for their hearts and minds today.  Will you join me?


I pray my kids would consider it worthwhile to know You.  I pray they would not suppress the truth nor exchange it for a lie.  Would you draw them to Yourself and fill that hole in their heart that longs for meaning and purpose.  May they faithfully serve and worship You, and You alone.  I pray You would protect them from the slippery slope of idolatry.  May their hearts never become so darkened and their minds never so depraved that they become full of every kind of wickedness.  And Lord, when they do struggle to keep You at the center of their hearts, may You open their eyes to the depravity of sin.  May they trust that obedience to You brings freedom and peace like nothing this world has to offer.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Good Friend Doesn't One-Up

The more time my kids spend with other kids, the more natural opportunities I have to talk with them about what it looks like to be a good friend.  I'll observe an event or behavior while they play with a friend and I make a point to pull them aside later and talk about it, focusing in on what a good friend does or doesn't look like in the observed event or behavior. 

Just recently we had one of those how to be a good friend conversations in which we talked about "ONE UP'ING."

In my observation, Grayden's friend had something he was excited about sharing.

"I got a 100 piece puzzle!" he said.

Grayden's response, "I have a 300 piece puzzle."

Granted I do not think Grayden understood that his ONE UP'ING response was a form of bragging.  I'm certain he just said the first thing that came into his head.  But therein lies the problem:  He thought of himself first.  Instead of rejoicing with his friend with an "Oh, that's cool!" and then showing a kind interest by asking "What's the puzzle of?"... he didn't even acknowledge his friend's statement AND just turned the spotlight on himself.

Like the Penelope character on SNL, I see kids ONE UP'ING each other all the time.  One kid shares about something he has done or perhaps something he has and another kid (a friend) turns it right back to himself stating what he has done or what he has.  And most of the time the friend's response has a bragging, ONE UP'ING tone and nature to it.

This is not just a kid problem, there are adults who have a tendency toward ONE UP'ING.  I confess I've been guilty of it many times. 

I especially see it in conversations between parents.  One mom shares with another mom an accomplishment her child has achieved and the other mom one-up's her with a, "Well my kid can do this" kind-of response. 

The ONE UP'ING isn't always in relation to success, adults can try to one-up each other's difficulties as well.  I often hear a stay-at-home mom share that her day with the kids has been especially hard and another mom instantly chimes in about how her day has been worse.  "Well you're never going to believe what happened in my day..." she says.

This ONE UP'ING can ruin friendships.  When one's habit is to one-up, it shows a complete lack of interest in another's life and shines a spotlight on one's selfishness.  And frankly, who wants to be friends with someone who doesn't care about anyone but themselves. 

I believe the ONE UP'ING I see in my young kids is more the result of immaturity and not having been shown or taught how to be a good friend than it is that they are just downright horrible friends.  Though I do recognize their sinful nature makes them innately selfish.  Thus, part of my responsibility as their mom is to make them aware of their tendency toward selfishness in friendship and to teach them what God says about being a good friend. 

So what does He say about the topic?

First, we must take a look at Jesus, THE greatest friend that ever lived.  Jesus taught:  "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  John 15:12-13

While they may not be dying for their friends, we can teach our kids to follow Christ's example by dying to their selfish the self-seeking inclination to one-up their friends in conversation.  

Secondly, God teaches that wise living includes practicing the art of listening.  He says to be "quick to listen, slow to speak." James 1:19  Furthermore He teaches that, "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." Proverbs 10:19  

We can teach our kids the value and wisdom in listening to others rather than just jumping in to give their two selfish cents.

Third, God teaches that we are to "rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Romans 12:15  This is the exact opposite of ONE UP'ING. 

We can teach our kids to rejoice with their friends by letting them have their moment, as well as showing a genuine interest and celebratory joy in what they are sharing or doing.  We can also teach our kids to mourn with their friends when they are sharing that life is tough and not to try and "take the brownie" by instantly sharing their own difficulties.

Fourth, and finally, God teaches that "Love is does not is not self-seeking." 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 

We can teach our kids to be kind listeners.  We can teach our kids to refrain from boasting in friendships.  We can teach our kids to think of their friends before themselves. 

Friends, we need God's help to teach and encourage our kids to be good friends.  So let's pray for that help.  And let's also pray that our kids wouldn't get into the habit of ONE UP'ING and that they follow the example of Christ and die to their self-seeking desires in friendships.

Lord Jesus,

Will you help me teach my children the art of being a good friend.  I pray for more of Your wisdom and discernment as I talk with them about following Your example in friendship.  May my own words and actions in friendship be selfless and kind.  Empower my listening skills.  Make me keenly aware when I am ONE UP'ING and give me the strength to refrain from self-seeking comments in conversation. 

And for my kids Lord, may they love others like You do.  I pray they would learn to die to their own selfish desires in friendship.  May they learn the value and wisdom in being quick to listen and slow to speak in friendships.  I pray they wouldn't succumb to the selfish habit of ONE UP'ING.  Rather may they be empowered by Your Spirit to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to mourn with those who are mourning.  Give them the strength to resist the temptation to make everything about themselves.  May their love for their friends be kind and free from boasting and self-seeking behaviors. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry can be a nasty, destructive force. 

Recently I have been praying a lot for Cole regarding this.  Being only 23 months younger than his older brother I worry Cole will end up in Grayden's shadow more often than not.  Already I have noticed Cole struggling to keep up with his brother's skills and accomplishments.  At this point, they enjoy similar things and his brother is usually better, faster, stronger, and smarter. 

Grayden scores lots of goals on his soccer team, Cole doesn't score any.  Grayden wins in monopoly (and most other games) every time they play.  Grayden can stuff Cole whenever he wants when they play basketball.  Grayden was swimming like a fish by 5, Cole is still struggling to stay afloat.  Grayden was riding his bike without training wheels by 5, Cole is just getting used to pedaling.  Cole's friends that are closer to his age want to hang with Grayden sometimes more than Cole.  Grayden communicates better with people, while Cole still struggles to get out what he wants to say (a result of ear infections stifling his ability to talk before the age of 3). 

Sooner or later this will get old for Cole.  I worry he will shut down and grow discouraged.  And I fear my two boys will develop jealousy toward one another, sparking an unhealthy dose of sibling rivalry that could destroy their relationship.

There are so many Biblical accounts of sibling rivalry fueled by jealousy that ultimately destroyed relationships.  Cain killed his brother Abel out of anger and jealousy.  Jacob stole his brother Esau's birthright out of jealousy and a spirit of entitlement.  Leah was cast aside by Jacob for her younger, and more beautiful, sister Rachel.  I can only imagine what jealousy did to their relationship.  Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery because of jealousy.  Countless brothers fought over kingship to the point of death during the divided kingdom years.

I am not na├»ve to think that my boys will never rival each other.  Nor that they won't have moments of jealousy.  I had two siblings and I can remember rivaling and being jealous of each other.  Yet those moments of jealousy I might have had or those times of rivalry never took root nor became a destructive means to ruin our relationships.  To this day I sincerely love my brother and sister.  I am genuinely full of joy when they excel and achieve, even when I don't. 

Me, my sister Ruth, and brother Eric
I've spent a lot of time lately asking myself what it was that protected me from having a jealous and unhealthy rivalry with my siblings.  While my parents' equal and unique way of loving each of us individually had to have played a great part in protecting me, I also know that my brother, sister and I shared a common ground that ultimately served as a great wing of protection over our relationship.  And that common ground was (and is) Jesus.

While each of us have had different journeys of faith, we all remained steadfast in trusting Jesus.  While imperfect, together we had the same goal: to live lives that glorified Him.  My brother and sister were (and are) better than me in a lot of things, but it never became a source of division because Jesus unified us.  We were imperfect in our love toward each other, but we were covered by grace.  Our love for each other grew out of our love for Jesus.  He taught us to rejoice with each other, to forgive one another, to encourage one another, and to protect one another.  By the grace of God in our lives, jealousy and sibling rivalry never wreaked havoc on our relationship. 

I cannot express how thankful I am to Jesus for my siblings.  I cherish their friendships above most.  This is no coincidence nor did it happen accidentally.  I firmly believe that as we individually walked with Jesus, He shepherded our brother-sister relationships and protected us from jealousy.  The enemy never got a foothold because Jesus was our common ground. 

I know Cole and Grayden will compete with each other.  I know one will always be better than the other at something.  I know they will hurt each other.  I know they will have twinges of jealousy toward one another.  But my hope and prayer is that Jesus will trump all of that and that they will find common ground AND UNITY in Him.

The New Testament solidifies over and over again the importance of unity among believers.  Unity with Jesus as the common ground. 

Romans 15:5-6 reads,
"May the God who give endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Philippians 2:1-2 reads,
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."

These verses are my heart's prayer for Grayden and Cole!

Will you join me today and let's pray for our children's relationships with their siblings (and cousins, friends, etc).  Let's pray that jealousy and rivalry will never take a destructive root in their relationships.  Let's pray that Jesus will be the common ground that unifies them together in brotherly/sisterly love.

As my kids follow after You, may You give them a spirit of unity so that with one heart and one mouth they may glorify You.  I pray they would be like-minded having Your love.  I pray that You would be their common ground.  May they be one in spirit and purpose as they follow after You.  Protect them from sibling rivalry that breeds jealousy and hatred.  Keep their hearts tender toward each other with a love like Yours. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Disrespectful and Ridiculous Arguing

Our oldest Grayden has entered a new phase in exerting his will...arguing.  I should be clear that the arguing he is doing isn't the "let's have an intelligent and friendly adult-like debate about a legitimate and significant subject" kind of arguing (if that even exists anymore...but you get the point).  His arguing is generally disrespectful and over ridiculous things. 

A perfect example is when he accidentally hurts someone in the house and supposedly mumbles an "I'm sorry" but the victim doesn't hear it.  So I kindly ask him if he has apologized for accidentally inflicting harm and his response is,

"I already said sorry."
"Well, I'm not sure he heard you."
"Well I said it.  How am I suppose to know if he hears it or not?"
"Well out of kindness, wouldn't it be fair to say it again just to be sure."
"But I already did."

Or here's my favorite,

Grayden has been sent to his room for stirring up trouble or disobeying.  He stomps up the steps yelling, "How long?"  

I respond, "For as long as I decide.  And if you ask me again, I'll make it even longer." 
"But how long?" 

He'll keep asking this question even as he begrudgingly continues to stomp his way into his room.  He'll sit in his bed and keep yelling to me, "But how long?" 

So with as much patience as I can muster, I will walk to his bedroom door and tell him he will be sitting in his room for longer now because of his arguing. 

"But mom, I need to ask you something?  Mom!" 
"Right now you need to sit in your room until your quiet and I'm ready to talk to you about what you've done." 

It is at this point that I walk away knowing that he will argue this "how long" bit for as long as I engage him.  And in case you're thinking I should just tell him how long from the start, I've tried that and he just finds something else to argue about, "But mom, where in my room?"  "But mom, I didn't mean to do it."  "But mom...but mom...but mom."  Anything to avoid his punishment.

I'm sure many of you reading have your own fantastic and ridiculous stories of your kids' arguing antics.  And perhaps many of you are also still trying to determine your best parenting action to remediate the arguing.

So, what does the Word have to say on this topic?  How can we pray? 

In 1 Timothy 6 Paul describes what I've begun to see brewing in Grayden, "an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk..."

At the root of disrespectful arguing is a rebellious heart with an unhealthy interest in trouble.  So of course much of our praying should be focused on asking the Spirit to soften their hearts toward obedience. 

But I also love the truth seeping from Proverbs 20:3 regarding this subject.  This is one of those verses we should be not only praying but putting on the doorframes of our houses, "It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." 

Such truth!  Those who are wise enough to avoid strife keep their honor in tact.  Let's pray for this together, shall we!

Would you empower my kids with Your Spirit to avoid having an unhealthy interest in arguing.  I pray they wouldn't habitually become foolish and quick to quarrel, resulting in strife.  I pray You would continue to soften their hearts toward You and obedience.  May they avoid strife to the point that their honor and integrity trump their desire to stir up trouble or to be right.  And Jesus would you give me wisdom as I teach and counsel them.  Help me not to exasperate them with my own foolish arguing.  Equip me with wisdom and patience as I parent and deal with disrespectful and ridiculous arguments.