Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Guilt has to be one of the more useless emotions in the Christian life.  On the one hand, it is necessary to recognize the guilt of sin in our lives in order to repent, or turn away, from it.  However, once we confess our sins before God and accept the impuned righteousness from Christ, we are no longer guilty of sin.  When we do not sin and still feel guilty--either for past sins or for honest mistakes--then our guilt is useless and crippling.

This morning, I woke up to a strong sense of guilt.  I felt terrible for telling a new aquaintance 'no'.  It's silly, really.  I had been asked to do something that I was unable to do, and so I declined.  I do this fairly often, actually.  I have to, or I'd have more work than I can manage.  Why did it bother me to say no, this time?  Perhaps it was because when I declined, the person on the other end of the phone line went silent.  I don't know why; for all I know, she may have been deep in thought.  I do know that in the space of the few seconds it took for her to reply, I had projected a lot of my own 'stuff' into that space of time.  She doesn't believe me.  She's disappointed.  She won't ask me again.

When I awoke and recognized my misplaced guilt, I began to pray. 

 Lord, sometimes people don't like to hear 'no.'  I don't know if this person is one of them, but I don't want to bear this burden.  It's not right.  I give it to you.  Please forgive me for worrying about what this person thinks.

It took a while to feel better, I noticed.  Prayer is soothing, but it's not magic; we have to believe in the One we pray to, and we have to fully surrender our own feelings to the Lord.  I meditated on Scripture, just so I would remember not to attempt to take back the burden I'd given to God.  Proverbs 29:25 came to mind immediately:  "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." 

As I pondered the state of my unsettled mind, I noticed something interesting.  The times in my life when I have been tempted to worry about the good opinion of others have been times when I've been exhausted.  In years past, I would overextend myself and get into trouble.  I noticed the tell-tale sign that I am doing it again:  I am exhausted.  A friend reminded me that I should rely more on my older sons.  They are capable of doing more.  To that end, Jacob did laundry yesterday.  I am terribly guilty (there's that word again) of taking on tasks that don't belong to me for the sake of peace and good will from others.  The good news is, God reminded me of Matthew 11:28-30:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  The Christian walk is one of peace and rest, if I am not walking in that truth, then I have taken on burdens that don't belong to me.  Once this truth settled in, I finally felt the weight lift from my shoulders.  I had the opportunity to say no twice this afternoon, and it didn't bother me a bit. 

Many blessings,

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Tiger Mother" vs. No Mother: Nobody Wins

Debate rages over the type of parent that a mother should be.  Amy Chua recently released a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (which I have not read, so do not endorse), in which she discusses her experience as a "Tiger Mother", or a strict parent in the manner of her Chinese heritage.  Ms. Chua is fervent in her belief that Chinese parenting is superior to Western parenting; that the standards of Chinese mothers influence their children to be exemplary in their conduct and achievements.  On the other hand, another type of parenting is being lauded:  Absent parenting.  Rahna Reiko Rizzuto writes that an epiphany ten years ago led her to end her twenty year marriage and to not pursue full custody of her two sons.  Ms. Rizzuto feels that her relationship with her children has improved through her leaving them.  Wow.  Ms. Rizzuto is a writing teacher at a college in Vermont.  Ms. Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and an author of several books.  In other words, both women are influencing the lives of young people.  On top of which, they are being paid by parents of all stripes to do so.

Neither woman seems concerned about the spiritual development of her children. For Ms. Chua, success is being good at what you do.  Her children are being "raised Jewish", though I am not sure how she defines this.  As for Ms. Rizzuto, she doesn't mention this aspect of her children's lives.  She's busy being enlightened about not wanting to parent her boys. 

Proverbs 22:6 says:  "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  Verse 4 of this same passage says, "Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life."  Throughout Scripture, parents are commanded to teach our children about God and His precepts.  Deuteronomy 6-7 says:  "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." It's pretty hard to talk with a child about the precepts of Scripture on a regular basis when you are either absent from his life or when you are pushing her to practice violin for three hours a day. 

In the same article posted on yahoo which features Ms. Rizzuto, another absent mother is introduced.  Her name is Talyaa Liera, and she discusses moving 3, 000 miles away from her children in order to allow them to "reach their full potential."  Ms. Liera is a 'spiritual advisor' for a group known as Polaris Rising.  When I visited the site for Polaris Rising, I discovered that Ms. Liera is a medium for the occult.  She dispenses her so-called spiritual advice through the means known as 'channeling.'  Channeling is the New Age term for allowing a spirit to physically enter one's body and to allow that spirit to speak.  Polaris Rising is a collective of people who are following the spiritual entity known as "Michael", who claims to have wisdom that will benefit mankind.  The website states that "Michael" is "comprised of 1,000 souls who have crossed over" and that it guides people into more joyful living, and has done so since Egyptian times.  One of the core teachings of this "Michael" is "all choices are equally valid".  What a load of baloney.  Is the choice to torture and murder another person equally valid to the choice of Mother Teresa to devote her life to ministry to the poor in India?  NO!  Of course it's not!  I can see, however, that if you want to justify your desire to abandon your children, then the only way to do so is to follow a demonic teaching which tells you that all the choices you make are valid.  Just to be clear, valid means well grounded or logical. One may call a choice valid; indeed, but the consequences of that choice make all the difference and have long lasting effects in the lives of others around us.

It seems to me that parenting is about sacrifice.  It is about teaching your child that their life has purpose and meaning, and that life is not about pouring all of your effort and energy into yourself for the sake of pleasing only yourself.  It is about bringing glory to the Creator of the Universe, who is interested in our lives and invested in them so much that He sent His Son to die for us.  God's Word has a lot to say about parenting.  God tells us to teach a child and not exasperate him (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21).  He also admonishes us to work hard at everything that we do, with all of our hearts, as though we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  To me, I am to work at being a mother, just as though the Lord is my supervisor (because He is!). 

For what it's worth, I think that all three of these ladies have missed the point of mothering:  To love our children as ourselves.  The world may debate which type of mother is best, but I will look to God's Word as my guide in this department. 

Many blessings,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Courtesy Isn't Really That Common

About two years ago, my friend, Jorie, turned me onto doing research focus groups.  She gave me the names of two research focus groups in Dallas that pay people cash to give their opinions on products and services.  Since that time, I've had the opportunity to participate in several groups, mostly for foods and beverages.  This morning, I participated in a group that was focused on the topic of juice.  A major juice brand is launching a new ad campaign, and the group was comprised of moms like myself who are conscientious about the foods and drinks that we serve our kids.  We watched a series of unfinished ads and then we were asked to give our opinions about the ads that we'd just seen.  I think this kind of thing is interesting, because it gives me insight into the ways that companies market their products to consumers.  I like the psychology of it all.  Plus, the cash don't hurt!

Anyway, I left the focus group and headed back home.  Since I was flush with cash, I decided to treat myself to lunch (Brian was in a meeting and couldn't have lunch with me.  <Sad face.>).  I went to a bakery/cafe near to one of the megachurches in the area where the ladies do lunch after Bible study.  There were also a few ladies on their lunch break getting their food to go, but you can probably get a sense of the kind of place I'm talking about.  I was standing in line with a group of mature gals who were trying to decide what to get.  Apparently, I had inadvertently gotten in line in the middle of the group.  They leaned around me to speak to one another about the menu.  Eventually, the ladies in front of me made their decision and one of the ladies who was using a walker went to sit down.  Her friends knew what she wanted and were buying her lunch.  It was a very nice gesture.  As she turned away from her friends to leave the line, I stepped aside to let her pass and smiled at her.  The expression on her face could only be described as sour.  When I smiled, she looked at me as though I was something unpleasant she'd found on the bottom of her shoe.  Now, I've been told that I have a nice smile.  (It should be, as I've worn braces twice now, and still sleep in a retainer!)  I was dressed nicely--casually, but nicely.  I had curled my hair and done my makeup.  I was clean and in no way offensive in my deportment, so I figured that her expression is probably her usual one:  Sour. 

As I thought about this incident on the way home, I was struck by the general discourtesy that I'd seen by the lunching ladies.  I think that someone said "Excuse me," only once in the time that I was there.  This, despite the fact that ladies leaned around me and in the tight quarters of the restaurant, people were squeezing past me quite a lot.  The joy of Jesus just didn't seem to be evident in this place.  The ladies in the cafe were dressed very nicely and had there hair done and makeup on.  They looked nice outwardly, but the Bible places a higher premium on our inner beauty:  "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."  (1 Peter 3:4-5)

I am not unlike most people in that I try to get a sense of who a person is by the way that they look.  It's not completely futile to do so, either.  We can learn a few things from the outside of a person, but only a few.  I think that the fastest way to reveal a sense of joy and the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is by our courtesy to others.  Smiling at others and acknowledging their presence is a nice way to extend courtesy to those around you.  Standing in the midst of the Bible study hangout, I was kind of embarrassed.  I don't want to be lumped together with Christians who look nice but act coldly.  I try to be polite to everyone.  I may fail sometimes, but I sure try.  I may not always have something to say, but a smile goes a long way toward being friendly.

I am sure that the lady with a sour expression is a wonderful saint.  She may have lots of wisdom to share with others.  Perhaps if she had smiled more today, she might have left me with a different impression of her.  The same goes for others in that cafe.  For myself, I am reminded that I only get one chance to make a good first impression.  I need to remember to be courteous and kind to others.  You just never know who is watching.

Many blessings,