Fear

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Fear is darkness.

Have you ever woken up at night and fearful thoughts start running through your head? Those thoughts tend to multiply and sometimes become overwhelming. The fear grips us in a mental, emotional and even physical way. The darkness becomes even darker.

I remember vividly a time soon after the birth of our first child when fear gripped me in this way. Phil was late getting home from a trip (before cell phones!) (although that might not have made a difference since Phil’s cell phone is most often on his dresser – turned off!) and I became consumed with fear. My mind went wild as I planned his funeral, planned how I was going to live as a widow, and raise our little boy without his father. The more I thought, the worse those thoughts became. The darkness became darker!

When he walked in the door, I was an emotional mess!

Yet we may have those same fearful thoughts in the midst of the day and they don’t seem quite as terrible.

Why?

It is the LIGHT of day.

We see things more clearly.

Jesus says in John 8:12 –

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John explains the blessing of recognizing Jesus as the Light and following Him.  – I John 1:7

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Fear is darkness.

Faith is light.

As we allow the Light of Jesus to enter our minds and hearts we will have faith. Just as turning on a light in a dark room reveals where things are located so we don’t stumble and fall, the Light of God’s word illuminates our daily path as we follow Him.

Psalm 119:105 says –

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

When our children are fearful we need to share this truth with them as well. I memorized this verse from Psalms as a child and it still reminds me to follow the light of faith, not the darkness of fear.

There is so much to be concerned about in our world today. We must not let the darkness close in. Fear of the future can have a paralyzing effect on our lives. We should be examples of hope by our words and deeds.

We can choose to walk in the Light!

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Heart Problems

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“Lord, don’t let my heart get hard.”

Phil and I were snowed in on Sunday. Our road had not been plowed and since it was 9 degrees when we woke up, the surface of our road was snow and ice. It was beautiful, especially since we are blessed with a wood stove and are able to look out our windows from a place of warmth.

We took some time to share what was on our hearts – what we felt that God has been impressing on each of us. Then we prayed.

One thing I shared with Phil was that I did not want to allow a critical, or hard heart to develop. I don’t want my grandchildrens’ foremost memory of me to be

“NO”.

We probably all have family members who are most remembered for their critical, crabby attitude, especially as they got older. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Each of our older grandchildren have gone through a “no” phase, usually from around 18 months to two years of age. We recognize this as a stage in development that is normal as a child learns that they are a separate entity and that they have a free will. They also learn that words express meaning – “no” means “I don’t want to”. As caring parents and grandparents we need to discipline these children to understand that they can not always have their own way – nor should they. “No” is sometimes good for us.

How we respond to “no” becomes a matter of the heart – for each of us as well as our children.

Hard hearts develop when we refuse to accept that what we desire may not be God’s will for us.

My friend Patti shared at our last Bible study session on Ezekiel that the recurring theme of that book (not my favorite, I must admit, but needed by me) was the heart condition of God’s people – REBELLION.

Our heart problems start with rebellion.

When our children say “no” to us, it expresses their rebellion, their disobedience. Their hearts become hard instead of tender. They want their own way.

When we say “no” to God, it expresses our rebellion and begins the hardening process in our hearts.

Matthew 13: 14-16

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,

‘When you hear what I say,
    you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
    you will not comprehend.
15 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
    and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
    so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
    and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
    and let me heal them.’

We cannot hear nor understand what God is speaking when our hearts become hard. Patti went on to share these words that have been ringing in the belfry of my heart ever since she shared –

“The heart of God wants to recapture the hearts of His people”.

YES!

May we let God recapture our hearts.

Soft hearts that see and hear Him.

 

It’s Hot, Tempers Flare!

“Stop that!”

“You did it first!”

“When is it MY turn?”

“I’m always last!”

“These kids are driving me nuts!”

Don’t these whiny words seem all the more irritating when it is hot?

I remember riding in the car with my brothers when we were young. It was not air-conditioned, and all three of us were in the back seat with no dividers or arm rests. I didn’t want my brothers to touch me, or my stuffed dog, Spotty…..

or even LOOK at me!

I remember my father saying that if the whining didn’t stop, he was going to pull over.

We knew what that meant.

We stopped whining, but we glared at each other.

Well, Gregg and I did…. Garry was reading.

This scenario never happened in the winter. Why not? We rode in the same car on the same back seat….but it wasn’t hot!

As a parent, I remember facing the same situation when our children were young. We did have air conditioning, but usually just opened the windows and we had more room in our Volkswagen Vanagan. (We often had to push it off to get it to start, though.)

I still faced the whining when it was hot, and my patience seemed to melt away along with the higher temperatures.

As the temperature rose, so did the volume of my voice.

How can we face the heat and also the fact that we and our children must control our tempers?

The source of this kind of anger is often physical discomfort. We have no control over the weather, but we can control our response to it. In thinking about this, I remember some helpful suggestions that I have heard and tried over the years:

  • do chores first thing in the morning – it is usually cooler
  • have lots of water available at all times – hydration helps
  • plan for inside, quiet activities during the heat of the day – usually 11:00 to 2:00 or so
  • this is a good time for reading, a video, playing games
  • get in the water – a river, creek, pool, lake, ocean, if possible in the afternoon
  • if not  – turn on a hose or sprinkler
  • plan meals that don’t require a hot stove or oven – sandwiches, fruits and fresh veggies

If riding very far in the car, plan ahead to have enough books, coloring books, or games so there is less chance of squabbling between siblings. Our daughters often use stories on CD in the car and their children really enjoy them.

The Bible addresses the importance of controlling our anger. Ephesians 4:31-32 says –

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

We should admit to ourselves and our children that it is HOT and that we all feel the effects, BUT, we will still be kind to each other, avoiding harsh words and a mean tone of voice.

This does not mean that we don’t correct or discipline our children when they intentionally and willfully disobey. The heat does not justify bad behavior.

It does mean that we give grace to each other, just as God has shown His grace to us.

All Alone

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A loud cry of distress came from the bedroom where our daughter had just put her twin sons, aged three, to bed. They were staying with us for the weekend and the boys were pretty worn out from playing outside.

She opened the door, quietly entered the bedroom and realized that, in spite of some significantly loud crying, one twin was already asleep.

“What is wrong?” she asked between his sobs.

“I’m all alone!” he wailed.

“No, you are not. Amos is right here in bed with you,” his mom replied.

“He’s all alone, too!” came the answer.

Needless to say, we laughed about this situation and the irony of the little guy feeling alone with his brother next to him in the same bed.

Yet aren’t we guilty of the same response at times? We may be facing a difficult time in our marriage, with our children, or in the congregation where we fellowship. People are all around us, even in the same room, yet we feel all alone.

Mothers of new babies often feel this sense of isolation. This can be especially true if the new mom is staying home with the baby after having a job where there was social interaction on a daily basis.

I remember moving to Kentucky so that Phil could start seminary when our first child was just 3 months old. I was alone in a new community where I didn’t know anyone – with a baby who didn’t communicate verbally. Three months earlier I had been teaching kindergarten with 23 students who loved me and often told me so.

Now I was all alone

…with a baby.

I remember thinking about the best time to go to the laundrymat. When would I have the greatest chance to meet other moms of young children?

I was so lonely.

I wasn’t alone, though. My Heavenly Father was with me. I was so focused on my feelings of isolation that I did not recognize His presence. Just as Tyler did not feel the comfort of his brother’s presence, I did not sense that God was right with me in that new location.

Psalm 16:10-11 (NIV)

10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

God’s promise to us in Psalm 16 is that God will not abandon us – leave us alone. Verse 11 assures us that in God’s presense is FULLNESS of JOY!

When I feel alone, isolated, or think that I am “the only one who….” I must recognize that God is with me – I am NOT alone.

Our challenge as daughters of our Heavenly Father is to recognize God’s presence even when we don’t feel it. When we open ourselves to sensing that God is with us every moment of every day – that will become our reality.

God has not moved.

He is still on the throne.

He will never leave us all alone.

Stand Strong

Wood Girls - spring 2012

“The most dangerous attitude a person can have is ‘That will never happen to me.’ It is dangerous because your guard is down and you are vulnerable to attack.”
This sentiment was a warning in a book written in 1984 by J. Allen Petersen called The Myth of the Greener Grass.

The point of this book was to warn pastors of the dangers of sexual sin for those in pastoral ministry. If a pastor thinks he is immune to the temptations of affairs or sexual encounters, Dr. Petersen warns that pastor is setting himself up for disaster.

As a parent, if I think I would NEVER
* hit my child in anger
* slap my child if they talk back
* respond with hurtful words when I have been hurt
* ignore my child when they sincerely need my attention
then I need to read the following Scripture…

I Corinthinas 10:12-13
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

As a mother, I need to heed this warning. I can remember thinking…I will NEVER do that!… after seeing a parent treat a child harshly. Emotions can be so volatile. It can be a weak moment when I am tired, I may not be feeling well, I may even be worried or afraid. These are the very times I need God’s strength to stand against the temptation to react to my children in unloving ways.

All our grandchildren who were old enough attended Bible School this summer, some in Washington State and some in North Carolina. They all had the same theme – Stand Strong. They learned that God’s love, family and friends, prayer, and God’s Word all help us stand strong in our faith.

I love hearing our grandchildren singing about standing strong as Christians. I need to apply those same principles to my life. The challange for me is to not grow complacent or think I am above “falling”.

What a joy it is to stand strong together in our families!

BORING!!!

I hope to set you free from one of the myths of mothering – it is not your responsibility as a mother to entertain your child!  So… now you are free from that burden.  Not to say that there aren’t times when it is fun to sing loudly with silly faces and make your child laugh. (remember, girls?)  But that should be FUN, and only done when you are so moved. You are not duty bound to make sure that every waking moment of your child’s life is fun or entertaining!

My father taught high school biology for 40 years and for several years was a naturalist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On days off, our family would pile in the car and drive through the park or on the Blue Ridge Parkway looking for the flora and fauna of the Smoky Mountains. This was before in-car-videos, cassette- tape players, and even the radio was ineffective because there were not radio signals on most of those remote roads. We were a captive audience. We would drive until Dad spotted a specimen, and then he would stop the car and we would wait until the light was just right for a picture.

I admit there were times I was bored. I know I complained. But eventually something began to happen. I started to see the world around me through my father’s eyes! I began to notice bee balm and orange fringed orchids blooming by the roadside.  I started to spot butterflies in damp puddles left by rain, or the fiddle heads of unfolding ferns. I was no longer bored! The world around me began to unfold as an infinite source of wonder and beauty. My father’s awe of God’s creation gradually became my own and is now the inspiration for my art work.

My father was not concerned about whether or not my brothers and I were having “fun”. He wanted to share with us something that he enjoyed and it was up to us to “take it or leave it”. I hate to think what would have happened if my parents had given in to my complaints and not exposed me to the wonders of my favorite place on earth – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As mothers we are bound the hear those whiny words, “Mommy, I’m bored.” At that moment we must be strong and not get sucked into thinking it is our fault and we must “fix it” so our child is happy again. It is our children’s choice to be bored – it is also their choice to be happy. These are feelings humans have and they are based on our reactions to circumstances more than the circumstances themselves. One quick remedy to boredom is a job – something to do. When our children said they were bored, their dad gave them a job to do. It didn’t take long for them to figure out that they either needed not to tell us they were bored, or better yet, figure out something they wanted to do. It was not our responsibility as parents to find something that they wanted to do.

James Bryan Smith in his book The Good and Beautiful God says that boredom is a symptom and the solution is being present where you are. I love that! I found that to be true on trips with my parents as a little girl. Taking in the beauty around me was engaging. It also began a life long habit of looking at plant and animal life. (to this day, my family and friends do not like to ride  with me when I am driving because I like to look around me!)

Some people become people watchers, some are music lovers, there are so many ways to be present where we are. This is an important skill to impart to our children. One of our children would count things. Ceiling tiles in church, panes in windows, rows of columns, she would occupy herself counting things which may have led to her proficiency in math. Our world is full of fascinating people, places and things. Helping our children appreciate the world around them will be a gift they can enjoy throughout their lives.

Psalm 19:1-2

 1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech,                                                                                                                   and night after night shows forth knowledge.

 

The result – freedom from boredom!

Along for the Ride – The Emotional Roller Coaster

We know that as women we have hormonal changes that affect and often dictate our emotions. These are often chemical responses that we have no control over, yet we must still carry on with life. We cannot control the circumstances, but in many cases we can control our response to the circumstances. (I say in many cases because sometimes it is a chemical response that we cannot control. In those cases, medical intervention is necessary, and beneficial)

How can we help our children learn to have healthy emotional responses to others and the world around them? First we must acknowledge that emotions  are a God-given aspect of our nature as humans. Healthy children are born expressing emotions; crying when hurt, lonely, or afraid.  They also begin early smiling, laughing, and expressing excitement. Two of our grandsons LOVE to eat and it is fun to see their excitement when their mothers call them to the table. Their siblings better keep an eye on their food!

These expressions of emotion should be encouraged and affirmed when exhibited appropriately. They should be ignored or addressed firmly when used to manipulate or control. I remember the first time one of our children threw themselves down in Roses (pre-WalMart) and threw a fit in hopes of getting a certain toy. I had been taught to ignore the child when he/she throws a tantrum and I did just that. I calmly went down the next aisle and waited. It soon became quiet and I pushed the cart back to the previous aisle and saw our child lying there, waiting to see if anyone noticed. Since the “fit” did not result in extra attention , and certainly not the desired toy, I did not have to deal with that outburst again. A strong-willed child may try this several times, but by being consistent and firm your child will learn to control this negative behavior.

The Bible talks often about the “heart” which refers to the emotions. In Mark 12:30 Jesus says when asked what the greatest commandment is:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

When we encourage our children to love God with their whole hearts, it puts their own emotions in check. When we love ourselves first, emotions control our actions. It is all about us! As children begin to place God’s will and purpose for them first, they are able to learn that feelings come and go, but God’s love for them remains forever.

As a teacher, I have gotten to know a great variety of students over the years.  The unhappiest young people I see are the ones who have gotten their own way most of their lives. Their parents have mistakenly given in to them and they are never satisfied. These young people are selfish, demanding, and emotional wrecks because they are treated the way they treat others.

The happiest students I see are the ones who put others first. This is without exception. These students are kind, generous, and respectful and they receive these qualities back in return. Gary Smalley teaches about “Emotional Bank Accounts.” He says that what we invest in is what we withdraw. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Luke 6:38 says this very thing.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Emotions are a part of who we are. They can be a blessing when we help our children learn to control their influence. This becomes more important the older our children become. So, now is a good time to begin encouraging positive emotional expressions and learning self-control of negative emotions. Then, hang on for an exciting ride!

Next week – the fourth aspect – Encouraging Spiritual Health.