At All Times-Psalm 34:1

December 8, 2012

The War to Love: Three Spiritual Battle fronts for the Disciplining Mom

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Whitney Standlea @ 8:34 am
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Sisters, friends. I have been reminded of these things during the past week and share them in hopes that it will etch them deeper in my own mind and remind you of the weightiness of the task you have at hand. I have faced several rather difficult hours this week of back-and-forth disobedience between my two boys. Serious heart talks back and forth in the bedroom between the them did little to deter their behavior. When I returned to the kitchen (while food was long delayed in its journey to the oven and stove) I would immediately find the other one doing something foolish or disobedient.  These difficult moments this week reminded me of something that I loose sight of very quickly in frenzied hours like this: EVERY TIME I DISCIPLINE MY CHILD THERE IS  A SERIOUS SPIRITUAL BATTLE.

 

Let me briefly remind you of three areas of spiritual battle when you discipline:

Spiritual battle in your child’s heart
If you are disciplining a child it is because of the presence of sin: disobedience, rebellion, lying, anger, lack of self-control. Where there is sin, there is warfare. There is a battle in his flesh and in that moment flesh is winning over righteosness. The sin that controls that little child’s heart has a grasp on him that has “blinded his eyes to the Gospel of truth.” The sin being fought in that moment is part of the great war for his heart! Pray that the Holy Spirit would triumph over the darkness in your child. This is not just a battle for compliant behavior or righteous living. This is a war that your child would recognize his sin and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of it and freedom from it.

Spiritual battle in your own heart
Let’s face it. A huge war of temptation is present in us as we discipline. A war against impatience, frustration, pride, anger, lack of self-control, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, malice. Its the fight to be tenderhearted and forgiving. A fight to talk and walk in humility.  I think my theme verse for parenting has become:

    [31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)

Pray for yourself! Don’t let sin creep into your heart and out through your actions and words (and tone of voice) when you are trying to fight this battle!

Spiritual battle in the parent child relationship
Sin destroys relationships. As your child walks in sin, and you (potentially) respond in sin, there is a battle. The Enemy would love to attack the relationship between you and your son. He would love to build a barricade of bitterness, anger, falsehood, and pride between you and your child. He would love to tear away the trust the two of you stand on. Fight the battle against your sin when you deal with your child’s sin because sin can destroy the relationship you share with him.

Ultimately, It is a Battle for Love!

    Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.(Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)

This is a battle for love! It is a battle for the love of God in the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to triumph over the sin in your child’s heart. It is a battle for you to walk in the love of God that He has demonstrated to you in sending His own son to die for your sins. It is a battle for love to triumph in your family as you fight sin with humility and foster love, respect, and trust between you and your child. What does this require of us, moms? It requires clinging to the beauty of the Gospel, walking in the forgiveness that God has showered us with, and patiently extending that love out to our children who are  sinners just like us.

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June 4, 2012

The Mirage and the Oasis: A lesson on uncertainty and the presence of God

The Lord leads His children through the wilderness often. The “wilderness types” we might walk through are many:

  • lonely places of longing for a mate or genuine Christian fellowship
  • spiritual dryness
  • feeling the heat and pressure of constant spiritual oppression
  • suffering through a financial crisis
  • physical ailments or chronic pain
  • fruitlessness in ministry
  • an unfulfilled desire
  • directionlessness

My husband and I have been walking through the wilderness for the last several years emobdying the latter two. We had health, joy, fellowship, and many other blessings, but we lacked direction. My husband was walking  through life with a deep desire to minister fully to God’s people. Several years post college graduation with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies and a growing family, he cut back on his major responsibilities of volunteer ministry at church to meet the demands of three children, a wife, and a home. Of course he was still ministering at the church, but his passion and his calling to do more was constantly burning… with nothing to be consumed by it except his own heart.

Stepping out in faith we began (just over a year ago) to search for a vocational ministry position for my husband. This time period seemed to be a climax of the directionless and unfulfilled desire from the proceeding years.  As we prayed and waited, painstakingly search for a church that was solid in theology and a good fit for his gifts, it seemed that nothing was certain around us. We put our house on the market, but it wouldn’t sell for what we needed. We got close with one church, but then weren’t chosen. We were constantly questioning whether to proceed with putting resumes out or to wait until our home sold.

At Christmas time I remember telling my husband how crazy the future seemed. As we considered pulling out Christmas decorations we knew we could sell our house and be living with my parents before it was time to open presents. We didn’t know where we would be celebrating Christmas the following year. Still in our home? Living with my parents still searching for a job? Living in Florida, Utah, Kentucky? Would we have two mortgage payments? Would we be able to come home and see family for Christmas? Where would he be working? How much money would he be making? Would there be snow or beaches for Christmas? Would we be floundering to build new relationships in an overwhelmingly large church or welcomed into the homes of others from our newer and smaller church family? Uncertainty about the future never seemed so extensive to me.

It was during this time that I learned my first lesson in the wilderness:

The future is always uncertain. What changes is our perception of certainty.

The Christmas before we had established our first Christmas traditions in our new home. We went through the whole season assuming it would always be the same. Our Advent Calendar would always be hung in the empty wall in the family room, we would always watch the snow out our picture window, and family would be less than an hour’s drive away. In reality, although not in the forefront of our minds, our house could burn down December 26. My husband could lose his job December 27, we could be called to leave for the mission field December 28. A crisis could hit our church December 29 leading to a church-split and forcing our family to find a new church “home.”Each day brings a circus of uncertainty that we aren’t even aware of.

When we stop to enjoy the temporal blessings that surround us (a loving church family, a safe neighborhood, a stable job), it is like a little oasis in the middle of the wilderness. The sand stretches around us endlessly, but we are oblivious to the wasteland around us because the overgrowth from our little paradise is too thick to see out. It doesn’t take much, just a machete, to hack a little whole in the bushes, and we see what lies on the other side: wilderness. Untamed, unbridled, unknown.

God leads us into the wilderness, no doubt. Sometimes he walks us out of our little oasis of refreshing pools and out into the sand. My husband’s aching desire to minister more provoked his dissatisfaction with our “oasis” and led him out past its overgrowth. Sometimes our oasis is stripped from us as God sends trials, death, and other kinds of loss that remove whatever “oasis” we were clinging to. It is in the wilderness that he teaches us, refines us, sanctifies us. And in the wilderness, I learned a second lesson which answers every struggle:

Above all else, He gives us Himself.

In times of uncertainty, or whatever else we may be struggling with in our wilderness, God has chosen to give us Himself. Remember the Israelites’ wanderings in the dessert:

    And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
(Exodus 13:21-22 ESV)

They did not know the way. But Almighty omnipotent God was leading them. Not only did He lead them, but He put His presence in the midst of them.  We certainly don’t walk around with a pillar of fire guiding our steps anymore, but how remarkable is the salvation that Christ has purchased for us! We have been promised that He is with us always. That nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, that His spirit abides in us if we abide in Him. What a precious hope it is that as we walk through the dessert! Whether we are friend-less, mate-less, job-less, money-less, direction-less, or health-less, we are never God-less. We are never hope-less.

We are getting ready to walk into a new “oasis.” My husband starts a new job soon that will allow him to fulfill the burden God has placed in him. We have direction about big life decisions like location, income, and living arrangements. As we walk out of this “wilderness” these are the most important lesson I have learned: Nothing is really certain. The oasis is truly a mirage. All the good things in life come from God and we should certainly enjoy them. But if we will reach out and touch them they will crumble. We will find they are only a mirage, unable to stand the attacks thrown by life in a fallen world. But as we walk back out in to the sand, we will find with certainty that God is certainly present with us. He is certainly enough. As I enjoy this new season of seeming certainty and blessing, I hope I can keep my eyes set on the greatest joy of God’s presence, knowing that everything else can be gone in a moment.

May we walk with joy in any wilderness He leads us through, knowing that He will give us Himself.

Excerpts from Deuteronomy 8 (emphasis added):

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
 “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.

(Deuteronomy 8 ESV)

May 27, 2012

Judgement: The Zeal Zapper

Filed under: Personal Reflections — by Whitney Standlea @ 8:31 pm
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Last week I wrote a post about dealing with the competitive thoughts we can have toward our husbands when they don’t do things our way. I shared that I often pit myself against my sweetheart, becoming grouchy or bitter over what I see as his weaknesses. I quickly lose the ability to love and serve him, worship God, and walk in joy. The solution: Serve Jesus! If I stop focusing on serving my hubby, and start focusing on serving Jesus, I can really begin to serve and love. When I do things for my husband out of a love for God, I never lack zeal.

Walking forward with this same truth, I want to share with you some thoughts on judging and criticizing your brothers and sisters within the church. Those of you who are involved in church ministry may deal with this quite a bit. Judgment toward other believers can really zap our zeal for the Lord.

We had “Ministry Emphasis Week” at our church this past week, and my pastor preached through Romans 12. Even as he was speaking, the (rather frequent) thoughts I had been having about serving in the church started to bombard me again. Judgmental thoughts. Those thoughts that over-estimate the amount of time I spend “ministering,” while questioning the motives of other brothers and sisters for not being more involved. Can you believe me when I tell you that I actually sat there in the pew thinking about how So-and-So could help out more with Such-and-Such if they weren’t probably spending so much time in front of the computer or sleeping in everyday or so selfish or so…? Not only was I judging them, but I was making sweeping assumptions about the lifestyles of some folks I barely even know!

Part of me is doing all of this to feel better about how much time I invest in the church. It sure does make me think I’m something special when my husband and I are working harder than everybody else. It’s amazing what mental gymnastics I will go through to justify this unreal perception just to give myself a mental pat on the back.

And what good does it do? I work myself up into this unpleasant state I mentioned before and it drains me of all my joy when serving. Instead of walking into the nursery with a joyful spirit, ready to serve and love the children around me, I’m bitter about how many times I’ve had to work while there are other women who are not in there to help.

The answer to this judgmental mess is simpl: Serve Jesus! Although it is in the context of judging one’s convictions before God, I love the truth Paul uses in Romans 14:4:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Doesn’t that just put everything in to perspective? I master is Christ.  I report to Christ. I am accountable to Christ for my actions and how I have used the gifts He has given me. My brothers and sisters in the Body are not reporting to me for how they have used their gifts that God has given them. Those brothers and sisters of mine at church are servants of Christ.

Are you are tired and weary from active, extensive service in the church? How much more zeal and joy can you have if your focus is on serving your Lord, Jesus Christ, rather than on serving others or wishing they were serving with you?

Do you question others’ choices in how they serve the Lord? Let us not forget that God has given different gifts within the body and that each one is accountable to God for the use of those unique gifts. Focus on your gifts and be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted you with!

If you are walking a self-absorbed life, lacking in zeal for the Body, how much energy and motivation can you have to serve others than to know that you are accountable to Jesus Christ for the gifts, the time, and the resources that He has given you ?

Select verses from Romans 12 (ESV), emphasis added

            [1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. … [4] For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, [5] so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. [6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…

[9] Let love be genuine. … [10] Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. [11] Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. …[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

June 26, 2011

Just like the rest of ’em!

One thing that is special about being a mother is that I am absolutely convinced that there is no child in the world as wonderful or special as my own. Carson’s eyes must be the most beautiful eyes of any child anywhere. Justus’ passion for construction trucks and hot dogs must rival any boy’s or man’s. And of course, that flowered dress wouldn’t look near as pretty on any other little girl but Joy. When my children smile, it lights up my whole world.

What I find fascinating about this is that I know other parents feel the same way about their children. And it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I want them to think that way about their children. While it can be taken to unhealthy extremes, I think this is a good gift to give our children. Many benefits come from having a high view of the individuality, beauty and talent of our children. One of the most important in my mind is a unique foretaste of the great blessedness of being a child of God. When parents lovingly express the specialness and uniqueness of a child, I believe it can lay a foundation for being able to believe that God would uniquely and specially love us as His own child. But I digress…

The real reason I bring this up is to draw parents to an offensive little phrase I noticed in Scripture. It is this: “Like the rest of mankind.” I think I would be either appalled or offended if anyone walked up to me and said, “Your daughter is just like the rest of ’em. Smiles like them. Looks like them.” So is your son or daughter just like the rest of ’em? Let’s walk through Ephesians 2 and see what is so important about this annoying little phrase.

In chapter 2 of Ephsians, Paul graciously reminds us that our salvation is so great because of who we once were. He tells us we were dead, disobedient, separated from Christ, and children of wrath! The point of the passage is to remind us that God is rich in mercy because He still chose to save us even though we were just like the rest of the world walking in all the lusts of our flesh. There was absolutely nothing different about us. But something struck me as I was studying this text. As much as I hate to admit it, Paul gave only two categories for mankind: children of wrath and children of God. I can admit that I used to be a “child of wrath” but I preferred there be a third category: “Children of Whitney Standlea.” But there isn’t. I had to place my children in the context of one or the other. At this time my children are “children of wrath like the rest of mankind.” Being honest, once I thought about it I didn’t really like that idea.

This is very sobering. My little sons that struggle to obey my voice are in the same general category as the rapist on the news last night. My daughter in all her beauty is really no different than the promiscuous teen that I would never allow to babysit her. These little children that I care for, tend to, get frustrated with, adore, and love everyday are children of wrath at their very nature. They are separated from Christ, pursuing anything their hearts and minds desire.

Of what help is this unpleasant truth? If we can move past the splendid uniqueness of the gift God has given us, what good does it do us as parents to recognize that our children are really just like the rest of ’em? I think this unpleasant realization is of eternal significance. It is perhaps the most propelling part of the particular love a parent has for her own child. The more we can understand and grasp at this truth, the more eager I believe we will be to share the great love of God with our children. As we see that their lives, their gifts and talents, their eternities (that we value so much) are of little worth unless surrendered to the Savior, we can refocus on the most important calling we have as parents: to constantly call on our heavenly Father and avail ourselves of every means God has given us to make our children become His children. In reality, if they only remain our children, they merely remain “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

So let us strive with all diligence to bring them before our Father in prayer and turn their hearts to the love of the Savior. Let us remember that their eyes are always watching and their ears always listening. May our tongues speak constantly of His love and our hearts overflow with tenderness and patience toward them just as God has demonstrated great kindness and patience with us. May we be eager to seize the moment by moment opportunities we have to live and speak the Gospel to our children with as great an eagerness as we would with any other lost soul we have the opportunity to encounter. And as our hearts become impatient and hardened toward our children, which they do, let us run back to the great manner of love that God has bestowed on us-that we the former children of wrath should now be called the children of God!

August 20, 2010

“Parenting in the Pew:” Thoughts on teaching our children to worship on Sunday mornings

After reading, I hope you’ll take some time to respond to the questions below. I don’t have a lot of regular viewers, but maybe we can get some discussion going!

When we first came to our current church it was neat to see all of the young children that participated in worship services with their families. Without any kids of our own, we begin asking questions about how the children were trained to sit still for so long. I tucked some ideas away and believed I would have happy, quiet children in the worship service with me by the time they were a year or two old.

Now that I have a two-year-old and a one-year-old, I can assert that training your children to sit in the service is no easy task. As a green horn in reigning in my youngsters, you may be wondering what in the world my intentions are for writing an article about children sitting in the service. What could I possibly say of any value to you? I’m not writing to share my success story or personal how-tos. Rather, my intentions are three-fold: share resources, ignite vision, and create dialogue.

For parents of infants to teenagers, I wanted to share two helpful resources I have found for dealing with the issue of training your children to sit in the service. The first is an excellent book by Noel Piper called Treasuring God in our Traditions. In the back of this book is an appendix called “The Family: Together in God’s Presence.” It is a very short read on the Pipers’ experience of training their own children in the worship service. It includes a biblical perspective on the issue as well as very practical ways to introduce young children to worship. [This can be downloaded for free here .]

The second resource is much more thorough. Parenting in the Pew is a 132 page  book by Robbie Castleman with the purpose of helping “parents train children in the only ‘proper behavior’ for church: worship!” Not only is this book a hilarious read with tons of anecdotes, but Castleman provides suggestions for every area of the worship service and covers everything from toddlers to teens.

The thing that impacted me the most about these two resources, however, were not the clever tips and creative ideas. What I valued the most was a recasting of my vision for my children to be in service with me. They helped me move beyond wanting my children not to be a distraction in worship, to wanting them to participate in worship. Castleman explains it by asking whether or not we are teaching our children to “count bricks or encounter God.”

While I think we can all share in that goal, there is a degree of Christian liberty here. Use the nursery till your child’s two, four, or never? Gradually introduce them to the service, or full-immersion? Sometimes our different perspectives in these issues can lead us to divert from discourse about the main goal. However, I strongly feel that this challenging, significant task deserves to be talked about. The more we can share our struggles, successes, ideas, and questions with each other on this issue, the more we can equip and encourage one another to lead our children in to the presence of God.

I invite readers to share by leaving a comment below:
What is one of the most useful things you have found to help your children pay attention during a service?

What is one of the most difficult obstacles you have faced with your children and the worship service?

June 7, 2010

Peace in the Fridge? (Looking Upward Over Spilled Milk Part II)

Today I began a somewhat normal cleaning regime after four weeks of chaos from moving into our new home. As I moved through the kitchen I willingly approached the refrigerator. Brand-new, shiny and bright, I knew there would be little to clean in it this week. The bottom drawer was the only place that appeared to have a mess, so I cleaned it first and then worked my way upward ridding the fridge of spoiled food and empty containers. As I reached the second to last shelf, the inevitable happened: I pushed over a hiding glass full of milk that cascaded across the shelf and dumped a creamy waterfall of goodness drawer-by-drawer down the back of my pristine refrigerator.

Yesterday my pastor preached a sermon on the first four horses from Revelation 6. Without going into great detail, he made the point that there will be no international peace on earth until the Messiah brings in peace. As I cleaned the whole refrigerator over again, I began thinking of my first blog post (Looking Upward over Spilled Milk), the sermon, Christ’s coming, and my present moment. Can I find Christ here? Can I find Him in my refrigerator right now? What truth and purpose is there for me in this moment? I asked myself, “There is no world peace, but is there peace in my refrigerator?” My conclusion: No, not in the refrigerator….

I think this morning I was reminded, there will be no true peace in my home, in my kitchen, or in my refrigerator until Messiah reigns. The milk will spill, and other floods will come. Be they flooded basements, potty training accidents (yes, we began potty training this week), or rivers of tears from the heartaches of life, my home will always have a lack of true peace.

But, even though my refrigerator was a mess this morning, my heart was not. Christ may not bring peace to my refrigerator yet, but He certainly reigns in my heart. As I rest assured that He is on His throne in heaven, I can be certain to have peace in my heart amid the chaos on earth—be it big or small.

I’ve got peace like a river,

I’ve got peace like a river,

I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.

(and a river of milk in the fridge)

March 25, 2010

Thought 3: Home Decorating/Remodeling

Filed under: Looking Heavenward Series — by Whitney Standlea @ 9:06 pm
Tags: , , , ,

The first two thoughts focused on waiting… the next two will deal with improving/fixing…

I’ve always been amazed at the amount of home remodeling and home decorating shows there are on tv. I’ve enjoyed “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” in the past, but I don’t have cable television so I haven’t seen a lot of the other ones. Now that we are planning to own our first home I’ve also been overwhelmed out the number of blogs on this subject. It is neat to me that you can find a step-by-step guide for anything you can dream of doing to your home.

I believe all of this home improving points to something deeper: We have a longing for a little corner of perfection on earth. As we twiddle and widdle our way to creating the most functional kitchen or the most relaxing bedroom, we are expressing our inner desire to have a piece of heaven. We want a place where all is right and everything is beautiful.

Its interesting to see how quickly styles in design move out of fashion, and our own tastes are even more fleeting.  We constantly feel the urge to paint a room again or need to buy a new bed set even if the old one isn’t worn out. The temporal-ness of interior decorations should point us ever Homeward. We can certainly try, but things are never going to be quite right here. The great Designer has perfected a home for us (with streets of gold and walls of precious stones) and we will find no true satisfaction in any arrangements this side of heaven. As you work on your home by  cleaning, reorganizing, or  redecorating, may it be a reminder of the place God has prepared for you.

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