Saturday, February 19, 2011

Specks, specks everywhere

Gavel & Stryker by KeithBurtis
Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Last fall, I was at Disneyland for three days on a family vacation.  We had a wonderful time as a family, and the kids were very blessed by their time at the "happiest place on earth." 

However, one circumstance brought me to deeper thought and spurred me on to write this blog post. 

The second day we were at Disneyland, I was in line with my older son for a roller coaster ride.  Micah was napping in the stroller and Ryan had just had a turn with Carter on the same roller coaster and now waited with sleeping Micah outside.  The line is usually long for this particular ride--at least 20 minutes, but we made our way through it fairly quickly.  When we got to the end, however, we stopped, and it was apparent we'd be standing in that spot for at least 5 minutes.  I decided to grab my phone and check the status of a friend's mother's cancer surgery that morning.  As I was waiting for the status to download, a teenage girl, standing in line with her teenage boyfriend, behind me muttered, "Get off Facebook, get off your phone and pay attention to your son!"  I was shocked!  Carter was happily standing by my side waiting for the ride, and I hadn't done anything to make this person upset.  At first I wasn't sure she was actually that rude to be commenting to me, but she was indeed directing her muttering in my direction. 

My first reaction was to get defensive and mad.  Oh, I was seething--not righteous anger, ladies.  I was a sinning mess.  She had no idea what I was doing on my phone (checking on a surgery), the fact I had been only checking the phone for about 30 seconds as I was parked in a stopped line or that I had been spending a lot of very undivided attention on my son for the past 2 days.  I was thinking, "I CANNOT believe a teenager--obviously not a mom--was judgmentally giving me sarcastic advice on what I'm doing wrong as a parent!"  I turned to look at her, but she giggled with her boyfriend and avoided my eyes.  Sigh.

Christian ladies, there are two important lessons in this story.  Both lessons are extremely difficult to swallow and will take much help from the Holy Spirit.  I am in much need of working on my heart in these areas, which is probably exactly why God allowed my teenage commentator at Disneyland.

Firstly, we need to watch our judgmental and critical attitude toward other women.  We are so good at thinking about what other women do wrong.  "She spends too much time on her appearance.  She needs to spend MORE time on her appearance.  She is materialistic and spends too much money on "stuff."  She needs to discipline her kids.  She needs to give her kids some love and grace.  She needs to have more self control in eating.   She needs to not be doing this activity so much.  She needs to come to Bible study more regularly.  She needs to work less.  She needs to not be such a perfectionist.  She needs to be more positive.  She needs to not be so happy and fake."  You get the idea.  Some of the admonishment MIGHT be valid, but many times it is not.  Plus, we have to be so, so careful of how we are delivering any criticism.

Ladies, the Bible calls us to admonish one another as CHRISTIANS.  We are not to judge non Christians on their behavior.  We are to witness to them and show God's love to them.  God is their judge.  We are to point out sin to a sister in Christ. 

The problem is twofold--we are eager to point out other Christian ladies' shortcomings without examining our own hearts for the same sin first.  This leads to poor deliveries--conversations which are easily recognized as prideful and not seasoned with love  Secondly, we criticize and judge women on areas that are not sinful or in which we have formed an opinion without knowing the entire story. 

When we point out sin in a sister, are we praying about it?  Are we making sure we do not have a log in our eye before we point out her speck?  Are we approaching her in love and gentleness?  Do we seek to help her so she can change or do we just like to think negative thoughts about her sinfulness or gossip about her poor choices? 

Very few of us are judging sisters in Christ correctly.  Like an accident on the side of the road, we crane our necks to see what is falling apart in her life and gape in curiousity as the consequences and aftermath of sin arrive.  Then we metaphorically drive on, clicking our tongues and shaking our heads.  Why aren't we striving to stop, extend her truth and godly counsel with a heaping dose of grace and love?

Secondly, ladies, we are much too quick to criticize women about non-Biblical mandates.  I mentioned a few already.  We may have an opinion about how to school kids, how to discipline with a particular branded method, what kind of foods we should feed our family, how to pick a balance between church service and heart training at home that works for our family, how to diet and eat in a way that shows self control in our particular body, etc.  A different method, balance or habit may work better for a different person. 

We certainly love to be self righteous in areas we are doing well.  When we are serving at church a lot, we tend to pick out those who aren't.  When our kids are doing well with behavior, we quickly spot those who are not.  When we have lost weight or are regularly working out, we look down on those ladies who are picking up that dessert or going up a dress size.  Our flesh wants to pat itself on the back as we put others down.

We are prideful messes that each have a lot of work to do in our own lives.  This doesn't mean we need to ignore the call to encourage other Christians to live holy and blameless lives.  We are running this race together, and we should be working together to please God.  We need to sharply watch our motivation and delivery--always offering any judgment or admonishment with a large and healthy dose of humility and compassion.

The correct response at Disneyland would have been for me to stop and pray for humility for myself and love for that girl.  Assuming she wasn't a Christian, I should have known her comment was just immature and hurting words from the world.  She probably REALLY needs Christ's love, and my heart and mind were not filled with compassion for her in any way, shape or form.  I was too worried about how I had been wronged rather than worrying about her hurting and lost soul.

Plus, I should be thankful to her that it made me stop and think about criticism and how we treat one another as Christian women.  I am so thankful for my Christian friends who BOTH love and encourage me by investing in our friendship and then also take the time to encourage change if they see sin in my life.  If it is done correctly, such Christian friendships are treasures that are valued beyond measure.

Ask yourself:  Have you been judgmental of a Christian woman lately?  It could have been through gossip, simple thoughts, attitude, or a conversation with her directly.  What did you do that was Biblical and good in this instance?  What happened in your approach that was fleshly and selfish?  What practical changes can you make to ensure you are encouraging holiness in others while still examining your own heart and loving others in humility and compassion?  Is there anyone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?

Proverbs 27:17 17  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tylenol, Hot Tea and A Sense of Entitlement

File:Tylenol bottle closeup crop.jpg
Matthew 5:45  "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

The past few months have been hard.  Illness has hit us with a whollop at our house.  I am currently on my third round of antibiotics, steroids and inhalers, and both boys are just ending a two and a half week battle with RSV.  My long tango with bronchitis has given me pluerisy, which I hadn't really even heard of before now (an infection of the lining of the lungs).  Our bodies are tired, and sleep hasn't been easy.  Our lives are surrounded by Tylenol and hot tea as of late.

I could continue to whine and complain about all that has come with these months of illness, but that is exactly what I hope to stop doing and curtail.  That is a road my flesh can so easily find attractive--the pity party path. 

You see, I know that God allows each circumstance for a Christian's good--for our growth to be perfected and for us to die more to self and live more in line with Him.

Knowing this, I sought God's wisdom during many times of prayer and Bible reading these last few weeks.  I knew it was only in His strength that I could get through this with the correct perspective and grace.  He is faithful to teach me with a lot of patience and mercy.

We often hear about entitlement.  As Christians, (I hope) we hear that we are not entitled to nice things, an easy life, the perfect house, perfect children, and all that the world holds dear on its pedestal of sand. 

However, we cringe a little more when we realize we are not even entitled to what many consider "normal" aspects of life:  like health.  God didn't promise us health in our bodies.  Just look at the child who is born with limitations or differences.  My past couple of months has made this loud and clear in our family.

How can we forget we live in a fallen world that is diseased in every way by our sin?  Our bodies are decaying, broken and dying.  Any "sense" of health and vitality is short lived and certainly won't last.

Wives, when our routines, desires, dreams or hopes are interrupted by sick kids, disease or major health trials, we automatically, in our flesh, want to let everyone know how hard we have it and how we have been given a "raw deal" as of late.

Truly, though, it is, in a Christian's life, a moment to recall the true grace that health is in our lives and how we don't deserve it, but it is still given to so many! 

The baseline we are entitled to is death and separation from God--sickness is the least of it.  We ought to rejoice that our suffering here is but light and temporary compared to the glory we will receive in Christ when we enter Heaven.  For eternity.

I always have loved a saying my pastor tells us from time to time.  People ask him, "Why does God let bad things happen to good people?"  He says the real miracle and wonder is "Why does God let good things happen to bad people (which is all of us, by the way)."  Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Ask Yourself:  How did you react the last time you went through a fairly large health trial?  Look specifically at your conversations, Facebook posts, tweets, and e-mails.  Were you prone to complain and list your trials, or were you able to be truthful about your circumstances while still giving praise and glory to God for who He is and what He has done in your life?  Were your reactions different than those of your non-Christian friends?  Did you remember to hold fast to the hope that you have?

Remember, God's mercies are new every morning.  Evaluate exactly what it is you are entitled to receive from God, and praise Him that you do not get it.  Work on having an eternal mindset to give you hope in the trials of today.