Parenting, God Laughs Too

“Fear causes us to make parenting choices based on what our children do, instead of who they are.” 

080I listened to them laugh; loud, hysterical laughing that forced me to either to join in, or get annoyed at the volume. Too often I got annoyed at the volume. The older they got, the louder the laughter, and the later at night I used to listen to it.

I miss it now. That raucous, crazy laughter that filled our nights when we were trying to sleep.

I am sure that God misses it too. I imagine He laughed the loudest listening to our children.

Eight kids were a lot to raise for someone so unprepared for parenting by my own lack of positive childhood experiences, “Christian” guidance, or basic common sense. I was a child when I gave birth to my first child Kristen – a  mere twenty years old.

She was more my little friend than a child. But I researched the best birth methods and breastfed  her against the odds, until she was a healthy two and a half. It was so much fun to play house with my little friend. I  looked even younger and the doctors and nurses at our pediatric office all thought I was an amazing mother for one so young  – about 16 years old they surmised- until they learned my true age. I hurt her a few times as I recklessly ran to fast pulling a wagon, or swung her too high on a swing. I was enraptured by her giggles and it flooded my soul with joy.

150Then came my second child Kacey, full of promise and future. She was a handful and we delighted in her antics. I let her get away with more than she should have as a toddler, still trying to find myself as a mother. Just a couple of months after Jordan was born, we were introduced to the “Good News.” It really only stayed good for a short time – a couple of weeks-  before the burden of extreme legalism was placed on our backs.

I was so happy when I found Christ and thought, “this is it! I have the guidebook to raising my kids!” I also had some mentors who were quick to tell me when my children needed a spanking. Funny, their children were older and not walking in the way that  I was told mine would, if I adhered to the formula in the “Word,” and “raised them up in the way they should go.”

Oh how gentle God is with us. He gives us so much grace, so much room to make mistakes as we we follow the path towards His heart. I didn’t understand that grace. I only understood the law. If my kids were kept on the narrow path they would grow up to avoid the pain that I had experienced in my life. They would all grow up conservative, God-fearing virgins and get married to other conservative God-fearing virgins, with the same doctrinal beliefs that Dave and I held in every category of catechism we had reared them to believe. After all, we had the Truth of all doctrines.

347It didn’t work that way. Thank God.

I never thought I would say I am thankful that it  didn’t happen that way, but I truly am.

I am not thankful that they made painful mistakes, or were hurt in the process. I am not thankful for every choice they made; but I am so very thankful for THEM. I am thankful by how much I have learned from them as they spread their wings, found different theological perspectives, and embraced the God who changes hearts.

I learned more about God from them. 

God must laugh when we try to mold our children into some perfect image that we envision them to be out of our of our own fear.

266 (2)Fear causes us to make parenting choices based on what our children do, instead of who they are. 

I have good kids- they were always good kids. I could take them anywhere and do anything with all five, six, seven, or eight. Restaurants didn’t challenge us, church didn’t challenge us, shopping, movies, traveling or museums.

Did you ever try taking 6 young kids to “Do not touch” museums?

We did it all with our large crew.

Despite my fear based control of their lives God kept His hand on them. Yes, a portion of that was my parenting, homeschooling, guidance, and discipline; I admit that they didn’t raise themselves, but the larger portion of how they all grew up to be amazing adults, was who they are. 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”  Jer. 1:5

God knew them all. He has called them all for His purposes. We raise them in partnership with Him.

It works much better when he has at least 51% of the partnership. It works better when He is control.

Some children He calls to Himself before we are ready to let them go, and that is a partnership we definitely want control of. But in the midst of it all, He has a plan.

IMG_1590 (3)Yes, I still very much believe in training them up in the way they should go.  But that way is grace and love.

I would have instilled so much more self-confidence, less fear of failure, and more faith in God,  if I had modeled the One who loves them the most. The One who created them to be unique individuals. The One who would have watched over the child who didn’t thrive at home, but may have done better in a public or private school setting.  The One who watches over them when life hurts, or the best choices still end up in failure.

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”   Thomas Merton

IMG_5847The  Same One who comforts my heart as I watch them stumble, get up, and stumble again.  Just like He comforts me when I stumble, get up, and stumble again. 

Individual little people. With individual needs. Individual callings. Individual hearts.

Who grow up into individual adults, hopefully as individual members of God’s church -when mercy and grace grabs a hold of  them.

Who grow up into adults who laugh.

IMG_7296I am so thankful that God laughs too.

 

 

Wrong Way Jesus

Jesus was forever going against the flow.

wrong way 9Instead of holding to the laws and customs, He challenged them. Instead of taking the pain-free route, He walked the route of the hurting.Instead of remaining clean according to Jewish custom, he soiled Himself to bring the Good News to those who needed to hear it. The outcast. The downtrodden. The rejected. He brought Himself.

The Best news.

Jesus is the “lover of our souls.” Do we really understand what the love looks and feels like? If we do, are we showing that same love to others and fulfilling the most important commandment?  I talk about love a lot the last few years. And grace. It’s all about grace.

I never understood that before.

Grace reveals love.

wrong way 6I need grace. I need love. 

Performance doesn’t cut it for me. It shouldn’t cut it for you. It’s not that I’m not good at it, actually at one time, I would have run circles around your self-righteousness and good works.

I was a perfect legalist. My “trust” was so great I buried a child by “trusting” God. It “exceeded the Pharisees.” Or so I believed.

June 2014 Micaiah J Grubb 428As the Faith Message saying went, “I would rather die believing than to live in unbelief.”

After all “Divine healing was provided for in the atonement. It was a right and privilege of the believer.” ” Claim it by faith”(Is. 53; IPet etc…).  And if you can’t believe for a physical healing which you can see, which is nothing more than just flesh and bones, how can you believe that you are saved,  your rotten sin forgiven.”  Which is the greater miracle?

Yes, being forgiven is even greater than being healed – but we are forgiven. That is the point.  It’s all about Jesus.  It’s all about grace.

We were willing to trust unto death. I could have died, my husband nearly did. Our son did. Total trust. Can you say that?

Yeah, my “righteousness” was right up there with the Pharisees. May have even “exceeded the Pharisees.

I was all about the bible- all about doctrine as we were taught it. King James only, skirt wearing, no TV, only Christian praise, submissive to our husbands, only Christian authors of books, homeschooling, Patriarchal, family driven, “quiver-full,”  no drinking, smoking, dancing, swearing, no divorce ever, debt free-living only, “I Kissed Dating Good-Bye”, no “worldly toys or Barbie’s, no women in preaching,  no Christmas, “Ishtar” Halloween, no oaths, etc. etc…divine healing only Pharisaical cult. 

Oh, but that was you, look at how extreme you were?

Really? Start picking and choosing which ones you adhere to as the law for yourself and others? Feel free to add to the list because it really is quite extensive within all of our many denominations and fellowships of Christian believers.

wrong way 4“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9

It didn’t feel much like a gift back then.

It was in the beginning when Jesus spoke into my heart. In the quiet of my home when I read Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and I made an intellectual choice that Jesus is God and I would follow him. It was a gift then, when the Holy Spirit came to me and whispered, “I love you. You don’t need drugs or cigarettes any more. We love you no matter what, and we will stay with you forever. Absolutely everything you have ever done is forgiven, and you will live and walk in that forgiveness.  Just hold on to my hand and never let go and I will be here for you through good times and bad.”

 

Then the law entered. The people who  knew about the ways of God began telling me how I could “please” Him. I’d been given the “gift of God,”  and now I needed to learn how to use it correctly.  If I didn’t, it may be returned. It could be taken away.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:37-39

I was the woman in the circle, caught in adultery. Everyone was holding a stone to throw at me – the Pharisees, my brethren. They were there to reveal a law I was breaking, a sin I was in, something about me  I had to change.

wrong way jesus 3And change I did. Everything about me was wrong – who I was, was wrong. I was a “Christian” now and had to be different. Act differently. Live differently.

Be different.

There was something innately wrong with who I was.  I learned how to throw stones right back at them. Big ones. Deadly ones. Even my own family was subject to the painful stones of legalism.

But Jesus stayed in that circle with me and shielded me from the stones that would kill me. He allowed only those stones that caused me to look my accusers in the eyes and say,  “Enough, He does not condemn me,  so you can’t.” He has taken the rocks from my hands,  and as the circle dissipates, I can walk away in peace.

Free. No more death in our lives. No more anger, pain, or betrayal. No more law.

Grace.

There will always be rocks (especially for women), but I don’t have to accept them. Jesus is there to deflect the laws that people hurl. He will always go against the flow to save a Samaritan like me.  The Pharisees all thought He was going the wrong way too.  The free gift is too easy. It feels like the wrong way. He hands us this gift of salvation and we think we need to pay for it. We tell others they need to pay for it.

The gift is free. The gift makes us free. 

wrong way 8I am so thankful that Jesus walks the wrong way.  The wrong way path Jesus takes us on is miraculous. While you journey, you experience all kinds of adventures wrought with danger, pain, suffering, joy, peace, love, grace, fear, courage, empathy – growth and vision.

Lots of growth. Lots of vision.

I get to see the world through His eyes on this wrong way road.

And His eyes see the beauty in all things.

“Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”   2 Cor. 3:16-18

 

 

Un “Happy Holidays”

“We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas. We Wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year…”

Un-Happy Holy DaysIt won’t be long before Christmas songs take over all of the radio stations, retail shops, and the majority of businesses that routinely play background music. The Holidays are upon us – like it or not.

Not everyone likes it.

When I was a child Christmas was full of promise. I didn’t have any understanding of the baby Jesus lying in the manger, but he was somehow important. The son of God.  It was a time of warm memories.  My mother would bake lots of cookies in advance of her Irish Catholic family gathering at our home. I loved those cookies.

I still do. unhappy holy day 2.jpg 6Somewhere about December 15th Santa Claus would come into town. Riding atop his sleigh with wooden reindeer, He would proceed down one street adjacent to our home, headed for the Bergen Mall. Of course my father explained that he was one of Santa’s helpers;  Santa himself was far too busy getting ready for Christmas to have little ones sit on his lap. However, Santa or one of his helpers, I never minded that the reindeer were wooden, or the float was upon wheels and pulled by a truck. If it happened to snow during that time, it was magical. 

unhappy holy day 2The yearly, very coveted viewing of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and The Little Drummer Boy would air on TV.  The Littlest Angel would stand before God to present Him with his little box, filled with a worn out dog collar, smooth stones, and the bluest robin eggs.  I would sit enraptured by it all, as if it was the first time I had ever felt such wonderment.

With the passing of time comes a measure of disillusionment.

Maybe you have been one of the fortunate ones who think your “good times” and “blessed life” are a measure of your “faith” in God. But if you are like the rest of us, we have discovered that our faith has been tested, our warm memories have sometimes been replaced by a Nor’easter, and our cherished annual movies are now on DVD’s.

Santa isn’t real. Pain is.

unhappy holy day 2.jpg  5I have cried through the holidays for about 7 years now. Painful, welcomed tears of lament, before the God of all comfort.

The blessings of what I have surrounding me are contrasted by the stark reminders of all the people I’ve lost, all the homes we’ve moved away from, all the children who are grown and gone, and all the cherished but lost gentle touches of life.

My children have not been under the same roof in years – gone is the magic of children’s voices. Gone is the smell of my mothers kitchen filled with the aromas childhoods are made of. This year was going to be different – my kids and grand-kids would all be home together – a coveted family picture would be taken. I was planning many batches of Nanny’s cookies. Memories would be made, laughter would be shared.

unholy holy day 3 linusBut plans change. Life moves on no matter how hard we try to make it stop. No coveted picture again this year. More changes, more losses, more disappointments. More disillusionment.

The one thing that remains – the greatest thing that remains – that holds true – that brings hope – is the wonderment of God.

Jesus really did come to us in the lowliest of forms, born in a manger, lived as one of us, and suffered on our behalf.

unhappy holy days 4It is by holding on to the hand of God that we wade through the floods of disillusionment. It is by offering up our robin’s eggs that He reaches out to accept our gifts of sorrow. He sees us as little children filled with wonder and he picks us up so we may behold the Infant King, holding us closest to His heart.

The “Holy Days” are not always so happy for many of us. That’s OK. If you are suffering through this Christmas, just remember the words of singer / songwriter Michael Card,

Come lift up your sorrows
And offer your pain;
Come make a sacrifice
Of all your shame;
There in your wilderness
He’s waiting for you
To worship Him with your wounds,
For He’s wounded too.

He has not stuttered, and He has not lied
When He said, “Come unto me, you’re not disqualified”
When your heavy laden, you may want to depart,
But those who know sorrow are closest to His heart.

In this most Holy Place
He’s made a sacred space
For those who will enter in
And trust to cry out to Him;
You’ll find no curtain there,
No reason left for fear;
There’s perfect freedom here
To weep every unwept tear.

He beholds each one of our tears as unique, and as beautiful as a snowflake, and He delights in holding every unwept tear.

unhappy holy day 6No, the holidays are not always happy, and Christmas is not always Merry, but God is always holding us through it, and joy is always just a tear away.

 

A Towel and a Bowl – Forgiveness and Betrayal

Yes, I am obsessed sometimes. What it is that has kept me from posting things that have been burning in my heart simply because I did not post part 2 to this writing? I started out last year wanting a daily 40 days posting at one point, but it didn’t happen. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I have people tell me that because I am now a “leader,” a “pastor / chaplain,” and in the “public eye,” that I need to be careful to do what I say I am going to do – even in a blog.

Really?

IMG_7076Are we as humans (I won’t even say as Christ followers) so caught up in ourselves, that we don’t allow others the room to change their minds, to feel differently, or to be lead in another direction?  The process of knowing God, ourselves, and humanity gets more complicated and goes deeper with age. Things happen. People change.

And yet, I will write  my “Part 2” because it is what I want to write about today – at this moment in time. Not by spending a lot of time on it, not even by leaving scriptural references – you can do that, but by simply stating a few facts as I see them.

Why did Jesus wash Judas feet?  Why not skip over Judas?  I mean, Jesus saw in to the heart of Judas and knew he was going to betray him.

First, to reveal to us what preemptive forgiveness looks like. Just like a military preemptive strike, Jesus wants us to live in a constant state of ready forgiveness. Can we see into another persons heart? Of course not!

But all of us have seen a betrayal, pain filled event, or argument in the making. Jesus modeled that the worst kind of betrayal can be forgiven in advance. Not easy, but possible.

I’ve been betrayed – badly – on two occasions. I didn’t handle it well either of those times.  It took me a while to forgive.

Does that mean we allow others to betray us, or that we reconcile to betrayers?  Absolutely not – that’s not biblical either. But we learn to forgive, and then act in a way towards that person or situation that is wise.

There is a difference between reconciliation and forgiveness. I have no desire to be reconciled to at least a few people in my life. It would be self-abasement and abuse. It would not be “healthy boundaries.”

I can love them better from afar.

Jordan alone in a roomI have sought forgiveness from those I have wronged when I have known there was an offense, and even if I was the person who was wronged – I have sought forgiveness for my reaction to the betrayal, if and when it was warranted.  I can’t make another person forgive me for my offenses, I can only ask them to. Then, the responsibility is theirs. There are some who have not chosen to be reconciled – or even (it seems by actions) to forgive.

Second, Jesus modeled that we are to leave room for the betrayer to seek our forgiveness. Without getting into the debates of things like sovereignty, election, or predestination and keeping this strictly on a human level –

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. A kiss was a symbol of friendship, and Jesus was acknowledging that in His statement to Judas. He was calling Judas a friend, and he was betrayed by His friend – and Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” 

By his friend. 

There are some people I trusted and called friend, that I can only image by their ongoing actions, are clueless that they even did me any wrong. I just let it be. Forgiveness yes. Reconciliation – not so much. We make the determination that if a person is that clueless to anthers well-being, we are juts not following the same path in life. We can choose our friends. I will accept as Proverbs says, “the wounds of a friend can be trusted.” If there was a deep betrayal involved – we are not friends – I can’t trust you.

judasSo Judas kills himself. With Satan in his heart, and no longer interested in the money, he has nothing to live for. He was called by Jesus Himself, “A son of perdition,” or a person doomed to destruction. Yet, what about Peter – Peter also denied Christ the very same night. What is the difference between the two?

The heart – specifically, faith and humility. 

One heart was turned towards God but with momentary weaknesses, the other was turned directly away from God. One wanted things done his way and when they weren’t, Judas was prideful, and he totally and completely lost all faith based upon his own human thoughts and opinions. Peter, held on by a thread. Completely alone and confused, Peter was broken, but held on to faith in God’s mercy. There was still hope in the future. Somehow.

Could Judas have wanted to repent but his sin was so grievous that he couldn’t forgive himself?  Did he indeed repent?  Suicide is the ultimate cry of pain; the no turning back because I have nothing left to live for. 

Our responsibility is to give and receive the kiss of forgiveness – like Jesus did.

Preemptive strikes of forgiveness aimed at those who will continue to wrong us. Like Peter, we will probably deny this concept more often than we live it, lose our faith, deny Christ in weak moments (denying Christ takes on many forms), hurt friends, and family, and continue to live in a frail and broken human shell…

But we are forgiven. Utterly forgiven.

Our responsibility is to have faith that God can redeem anyone – and allow Him to determine “perdition.”

We are to forgive in advance.

Even a blogger like me.