1/21/17

The "What If"s of Parental Worry

Are the "what if"s of parenting crippling you?


I spoke with a young mom recently who was almost paranoid over the many "what if"s of motherhood. I grieved inwardly as I watched and heard her beat herself up over her mothering skills when she is such a fantastic parent!

The episode reminded me of a chapter in Cindi McMenamin's book, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom.

Cindy wrote about some of the same "what if"s my young friend voiced:
  • What if I'm not involved enough in their lives?
  • What if I'm holding them back?
  • What if I'm too strict?
  • What if I'm not strict enough?
  • What if my own dysfunction is rubbing off on them?
My young friend wasn't the first mom I've heard beating herself up over her parenting abilityand truth told, I did too. (That last "what if" question was a big one for me!)

The culture doesn't make it easier with unreasonable expectations from well-meaning educators and even church leaders.

True, there are some genuinely "bad moms" who make terrible choices for themselves and their children; and God can, in His grace, change them and rescue their families. But too many good and godly women are sinking under false guilt, blaming themselves when there's absolutely no need to do so.

I took after my dad, a worrierhis nickname was "Wartie," short for worry-wort. I worried about being the "perfect" wife, and later, the "perfect" mother. It was horrible, because I could never measure up to my own "perfect" standards, let alone anyone else's.

Growing up, I saw dysfunction in families around me. I didn't want that for myself, and certainly not for the husband and children I would have.

And that was a good thing. But I went about avoiding that dysfunction by creating some dysfunction of my own. And believe me, perfectionism is about as dysfunctional as a church-going Christian can get!

Cindi cites a Barna Group report (2014) that explained part of the problem. "What once was 'You can have it all' has now become 'You need to have it all.' [emphasis mine] You need to have the perfect job, the perfect husband the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect play dates and craft nights and date nights and do-it-yourself Pinterest projects and #nofilter Instagrams."

Cindi quotes a mutual friend, Stephanie Shott, who wrote, "It's pretty hard to be all and do all when you're really just overwhelmed by it all." *
The answer for all my parental worrying came when I stopped carrying a load the Lord never intended for me to carry. 
God's only expectation for me was to depend on Him, not to shoulder the load of perfection.

The verse that spoke to me most was "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me... you will find rest for your souls...  my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

For so long I was yoked to expectations. It was a relief to allow Godmy Perfect and Faithful Fatherto yoke me to Jesus. His "burden" was so much lighter than the one I constructed and carried.

The Lord took care of all my "what if"s as my boys grew through their teen years in to manhood.
  • I learned I could trust the Lord and cast all my worries and cares on Him (Psalm 55:22). 
  • Whenever I became anxious, kicking in with the worry-cycle, I could run to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). 
  • Just remembering that He is God and I am not (Psalm 46:10a) solved a lot of issues! 
Do we really believe God wants the best not only for us, but also for our children?

In a post for Crosswalk.com some time ago, Cindi wrote: "I've recently come to see how many of my fears and worries, throughout my daughter's childhood and now into her adulthood, were unfounded because I know and love a trustworthy God. Because God hears our prayers and answers them according to his infinite knowledge about what is best for our children, We don't need to waste our time worrying. 

"Praying? Of course. But worrying? Never."

Do you struggle with perfectionism? 
Are you living with regrets about parenting? 
Are you worrying... or praying? 
What would trusting God with your parenting look like?

Cindi's book is practical and will not only help you upgrade your trust in our faithful Lord, it will help you improve your parenting as you cooperate with and rest in Him.

* Stephanie Shott, The Making of a Mom

1/20/17

Inauguration Day - a New Beginning

Inauguration Day reflections: Someone asked where I stand on "unity" in America. I think we can be unified as Americans without having all the same experiences and even the same religious beliefs.

I personally believe we were founded as a Christian nation, but with arms open to others who do not agree in "The Land of the Free".

Americans should recognize three things: (1) God's blessings on our nation and our responsibility before Him; (2) The wisdom of the Constitution to guide our republic; and (3) Our responsibility to care for each other in love and compassion.

I am not big on rehashing the sins of our pastexcept to acknowledge and confess them. Dwelling in the past is not the way of wisdom. I believe that for all Administrations. We all need to learn from our mistakes and foolishness and seek God's wisdom to move forward effectively together.

Such unity can bring peace, even in the midst of strong disagreements. "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14). We may not always agree, but we can still be civil and try to understand other viewpoints, while holding true to our most cherished values. It's hard, but possible.

"Father God, help us."

1/18/17

Heart Tuning


"Come Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy praise."

My heart felt out of tune today. I didn't feel so blessed.

Grumpy. Tired. Frustrated. Critical.
A mess.

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love."

I needed that song. I needed to remember I am a debtor to God's grace.
He rescued me.
He is changing me.
He will never leave me.
He will accomplish His purposes in me.
And it's all because of His "sovereign grace."
I am memorizing Ephesians 1, and I was captivated this
week by these words:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us

in Christ ... he chose us in him ...
that we should be holy and blameless
before him. In love he predestined us
for adoption to himself...
according to the purpose of his will,
to the praise of his glorious grace,
with which he has blessed us
in the Beloved.
In him we have redemption ...
according to the riches of his grace,

which he lavished upon us....."
(Ephesians 1:3-8, ESV)

I needed to remember God is the origin of every blessing I enjoy. I needed to believe He can help me discover blessings even in the tough times.

It's a choice to praise Him, and it's an easy choice when I meditate on what He has done for me.
Does your heart need "tuning" too?
* Hymn lyrics to "Come, "Thou Fount of Every Blessing"

1/14/17

Choices Matter a Lot. Just Ask Lot!


I usually study godly Bible characters to learn about their wise choices. But I’ve also learned a lot from people included in scripture who didn't make such wise choices.

I want us to consider how our daily choices matter by examining the life of one man in the Old Testament.


Abraham's nephew Lot is described as a "righteous man," tormented by the wickedness around him (2 Peter 2:7-8). He was righteous in the sense that, like Abraham, his faith in God was counted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). God moved in Lot's life in connection with the Abrahamic covenant.

What happened to Lot?
Though he may have been righteous in his personal life, he loved the world and lived for it and, therefor, had no influence on others.

His downfall was all about his worldly-minded choices. Let's examine six of them.

1. Lot Chose Selfishly
Wealthy Lot and his equally-wealthy uncle, Abraham, examined the well-watered Jordan Valley. They knew they could not dwell together—there was strife between their herdsmen—so they determined to part ways. Abraham offered his nephew the first choice, and Lot jumped at the chance.

With selfishness, greed and a desire for power and influence, Lot moved east and grabbed up the entire Jordan Valley. Abraham ended up in Canaan, west of the Jordan River (Genesis 13:10-11).

Lot could have shown respect for his uncle and allowed him the seemingly better land. But he didn't. His greed overcame any sense of loyalty and respect.

Many of our worst choices originate from the seeds of selfishness.

2. Lot Chose Foolishly
Then, although Lot could have moved anywhere in this fertile area, he chose to move his branch of the family tree to the big cities of the valley. He made his own home in Sodom.
This was a foolish choice, because "the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord" (13:13)

He soon came to regret this choice. Peter says Lot was "driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity... Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day" and was in "constant torment" because of it (2 Peter 2:7-8, The Message).

I want to note, Lot was a God-fearing man just like Abraham, but both men made foolish choices. [Remember Sarai and Hagar, and Abraham's foolish choice considering God's promise of a son? (Genesis 16).] In the same way, people may see you or me as godly, but we can make a lot of foolish choices when we're not walking with God in faith and obedience.

Abraham loved his nephew and interceded for the city of Sodom, knowing it was about to be destroyed (Genesis 18:20-21). Following Abraham's pleading, the Lord told the patriarch he would not destroy Sodom if even 10 righteous people lived there (18:32).

3. Lot Chose Sinfully
Two angels came to Sodom and ended up at Lot's house. The men of the city, "both young and old, all the people to the last man," surrounded Lot's house, demanding Lot turn his visitors over to them to "know" them (meaning, to commit immoral acts with them).
Lot was grieved by their request and begged the Sodom-dwellers to reconsider.
His solution? A sinful choice.

He said, "I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please" (19:8). Lot was more concerned about hospitality and guarding his visitors than protecting the holiness of his own daughters!

His sinful suggestion only made the men of Sodom more determined in their perversion. The visiting angels rescued Lot (19:10) as they struck the men on his doorstep with blindness. The angels told Lot to gather his family and flee, because God was about to destroy the city.

Apparently, there were not even 10 believers in the town.

4. Lot Chose Half-heartedly
Lot's sons-in-law thought he was joking and refused to join Lot and his wife in escaping the judgment. That brought the number of God-fearing people in Sodom down to four!
But the remarkable thing to me is Lot's reaction to the angel's words to get out of town (19:16).

"He lingered."

His heart was still in wicked Sodom. As a wealthy man with property, he had a lot invested there. He didn't make a strong choice of faith; instead, he lingered, emotionally divided and seemingly powerless to resist the pull of this wicked city.

The angels had to grab his hand, along with his wife and daughter's hands, and forcibly bring them out of the city! The Lord was so merciful to Lot (v. 16), just as I know He has been merciful to me when I have lingered in my obedience. I cannot imagine what God has used as "angels"—tough circumstances, perhaps, and disappointments—to save me from myself.

Through the years, God has taught me an important lesson: partial obedience is disobedience!

We need to stop lingering between obedience and disobedience.
We must choose to follow the Lord without hesitation.

5. Lot Chose Fearfully
The angels told Lot to run with his family "to the hills" and escape for their lives. But Lot was afraid the men of Sodom might pursue him there.

Lot operated in the fear of man, not the fear of God.
You would think he would understand how the Lord was rescuing him and had the best route for survival. But in this lapse of fearing (revering) God, Lot begged the angels to allow him to flee to another city. He was still trying to compromise and not leave the area entirely. He wanted to pick out his own refuge instead of fleeing to the sure place of safety the Lord designed for him.

In their flight from Sodom, Lot's wife disobeyed the angels' commands and suffered her own consequence (19:17, 26); but Lot and his daughters ended up at the tiny city of Zoar. They watched as the Lord rained down "sulfur and fire" out of heaven, destroying everything surrounding Sodom, even what grew on the ground.

(When I think about Lot's compromise and fear, I admit there are areas in my life where want to stay close enough to my sin issues to nudge them for my own purposes instead of fleeing from them completely. But if I hear the word of the Lord in this, it is "Run for your life!")

6. Lot Chose by Not Choosing
Eventually, Lot and his daughters left Zoar "because he was afraid of the people there" (19:30).

Lot's daughters were no doubt influenced by Sodom. Apparently, Lot did not proactively choose to live in wisdom after leaving that wicked city, and his daughters' sinful and foolish choices in a mountain cave somewhere beyond Zoar reveal he likely did not sufficiently passed on biblical wisdom to his daughters either (19:30-36).

In effect, Lot chose to walk away from God, because he did not proactively choose to walk with Him.

In my journey with the Lord, I've discovered the greatest deterrents to making ineffective or hurtful choices is to allow the Word of God to renew my mind and the Holy Spirit to control my life (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:16).

Choices are no small thing. As my friend Pam Farrel says, "We make our choices, and our choices make us." 

We can learn many lessons from Lot and upgrade our faith and obedience.
It wasn't just one choice that destroyed righteous Lot's influence on his family and community, and brought him to the end of his life filled with regrets. It was a whole series of choices, and every choice mattered.


Are you making sinful, foolish choices that might slowly destroy your effectiveness for Christ? What positive, God-honoring and wise choices can you start making today?