Grief and Loss

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.

That’s the Google definition….my own is a bit less clinical.

My heart wails. My body takes longer to move. My head throbs. 

In these times of global this and national that, even those who don’t posses personal grief are exposed to some form of grief on a daily basis through TV sitcoms and cop shows, internet communications, charity ads, local news broadcasts of wars and politicians and community tragedies, etc. All this exposure makes its mark on our generation. While our specific losses are different ( loss of a spouse is different than loss of a child, etc), there are aspects of grief that are similar across a wide range of loss.

When I lost three family members in four months the most helpful article I read was from a Jewish organization recounting the “What-to-do” issues surrounding multiple deaths experienced from terror attacks.

Things I found helpful were these:

  • It’s OK not to be happy. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it?If someone is throwing a party – even someone you know and love – the best option is to politely decline attendance. That happened to me. I was invited to a wedding shower, a baby shower and other events… I said no. While I missed out on those social connections, possible new connections and all the “fun” of those events, it was awesome not to force a smile.
    Later, when the desire for company outweighed my desire to stay at home, I did accept an invitation to a birthday party. I tried to force happiness. It did not go well and I wish I’d never gone.
    Advice tested: Don’t go out to parties while grieving. Limit the scope of social activities for awhile.
  • Let yourself experience grief. Deal with the effects of grief in all your parts (heart, mind, spirit, and body) as waves going through you. Grief ebbs and flows. Go with it.
  • Grief ignored will pop up when you least expect it demanding your full attention. Being ambushed by grieving is no fun. Nobody knows why you’re having a meltdown. Those who want to help can’t and those who need you or depend on you, you will be unavailable for. Better to manage grief than to let it manage you.
  • Grief does effect our physical well being so use your body in grief management. Express your grief in a positive physical way. One suggestion was the practice of tearing a funeral scarf which I facilitated at one of the three family funerals. It was a healthy, healing event.
  • Turn your thoughts to God as Supreme Judge. Hand him the job of sorting out motives, situations, personalities, regrets, vengeance, wrongs and rights. Then grant him the honor of deciding the verdict…passing sentence if need be. Not your job. Don’t take on the extra burden of it.
  • Prolonged grieving is not good, nor is it healthy. Designate a period of time. 30 days to one year are benchmarks used by many. The important thing is to allow yourself to grieve completely. Grief has a beginning, a middle and an ending.
  • Open your heart to the reality that it is not your grief alone. Grief has ripples. What affects you effects those around you. Incidentally, those people have also suffered loss and need to process it.

Death and loss happen.

How are we going to deal with it?

Laugh? Finding a sense of humor about it all is actually very freeing. Like the time the mortician told us we couldn’t mail my Dad anywhere. Seriously!? Then we started thinking about where we might send him… hilarious. Please use the comment section to share your grieving humor.

Cry? Tears can heal such deep wounds. But crying at your core causes such headaches! …and runny noses. Just being practical: Ibuprofen and Kleenex are a good idea.

Talk? We should talk about grief openly before it visits because grief comes to us all. The best option is to prepare for it, not be blindsided by it.

As you consider grieving, please consider this; God grieves too. In fact it is one of the ways we are reminded that we have been made in his image. Note: the word ‘grieved’ in Genesis 6:6 is Strong’s #6087…the same word used in Genesis 3:16 translated as “… in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” Eve grieves during childbirth; God grieves over pervasive wickedness.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved [a]in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the[b]sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.                                     Genesis 6:5-8 (NASB)

Here we have an ending and a new beginning. A grieving God providing a way out of the grief, a way through the cleansing from grief and the hope of better things to come.

May the way ahead of you bring the light of God’s favor and may you experience refreshing new life in his presence. Amen.

I Train, God Trains

She turned her head away heaving a great sigh that exhaled, “ohhhhh….Reconciliation”.

What!? I stared at her across the table and I longed to come back with, “Oh no it’s NOT!” but I kept silent. I had the urge to define ‘reconciliation’ but I didn’t do that either.

People need to hear these stories. People are leaving [the church] because they don’t feel cared for.”

No. I don’t want to slander anyone.”

You haven’t slandered anyone today…in what you just told me.”

Well, Hallelujah! 

I shouldn’t tell these stories – not completely anyway. These stories, –snapshots really – included characters, that hurt me so deeply and treated me and my family so recklessly. Reconcile? Death is a type of reconciliation….

 I have watched words wreak havoc in church…the church of the walking wounded. Thinking about participating in that nauseates me.

On the flip side, speaking with a focus on meeting needs is much better. Love covers over a multitude of sins, amen?  It doesn’t have to be my love that covers it. God’s love can cover it.

Letting God do and say things through me sounds easy but it’s not. The temptation to feel vindicated by humanity is very strong. The temptation to be in some way superior … to have all the answers… to get it right… these make their ugly appearances too.

Praise God! God shuts my mouth. Heaven help me when I open it.

I believe Paul called this the war between the spirit and the flesh. War is what it is – a bloody battle of strategy, will, stamina and resources.

22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God [a]in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in [b]the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner [c]of the law of sin which is in my members.                                                                                                                          Romans 7:22-23 (NASB)

So what do I do that might be helpful to someone in the same tight space? Good question. I train myself.

I train myself to look at those problem people as God’s servants not mine.  If those who wronged me worked for me, they would be punished. They would be corrected in as harsh a way as is viably effective to change their behavior (that does not change hearts by the way). 

But since they, those other church-goers, are God’s servants, they are his problem. Leaving room for God’s wrath is something that is so beneficial to the wronged as well as the wrongdoer. It sets us free to move forward. 

Another thing I have trained myself to do that promotes peace in the family of God is the practice of handing God my ‘sense of justice’ and my ‘hurt’. With my sense of justice verbalized in his presence I feel a camaraderie with him that knits us closer because he is Just and I have been made in His image. With my sense of hurt expressed in His presence  I am washed with his inexpressibly deep love for me.

In close proximity to the conversation above I was granted an opportunity to share these concepts with a young musician at our Wednesday music practice.

So,” he snaps his fingers,”And just like that you give it to God. Every time you have bad thoughts about people you just…”

I wanted to tell him I was perfect… Yep. Got it mastered!

Nope. …Can’t claim that.

How I wish I could.

The very next day I was tested. All day I was thinking about these people who had wronged me or  with whom I disagreed …family members, church people, work associates….. I was stuck in this dark loop-de-loop.

Nothing got done.

My body felt weak.

Long about late afternoon I get this thought, So you trained yourself to…. what was that exactly? Yeah. Not getting that.

Crap! You’re right. Father, God, please clean me up and bring me into line with your word. Help me to get better at this. Please…. I need you.

I thought I was out of the woods, cleaned up and ready to go. I was ready to enjoy life.

Up next – battle three.

Late night chat. I’m tired and talking too much. I want to be the one receiving care and all of a sudden out of my mouth pours deep struggles and heartache.

BOOM. My spirit fell, shell-shocked. I had been defeated…again. Face-planted in blood-stained mud trying to get a glance at what just happened.

I wasn’t battle ready in that moment. My thoughts got me and out they came. My sense of justice became a brainstorm session. My hurt became just another story. I stopped thinking of speaking according to my listener’s need like I am supposed to do. The armor provided by the LORD was nowhere to be seen. (Guess I forgot to put it on – oops.) 

The conclusion of the matter is that I am not the only one training myself.  God trains me. My fingers. My hands, my mouth, my stories, my life…. God is training me. This post is a good picture of what God-training looks like in real life.

If you are being trained by God and it seems horrible, hang in there.

11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:11(NASB)

Loving Husbands (Part 2): Being Your Man’s Friend

Older women are to “teach what is good” THEN they can “train” the younger women to love their husbands…. SO THAT the word of God will not be dishonored. 

Today we’re going to assume that you are acquainted with “ teaching what is good” because we already covered that in “What a Mom Teaches” and move on to the second part of “love their husbands” in the Titus 2 divinely ordained curriculum.

Let’s review. The compound word we are looking at is translated, ‘to love their husbands’.

Love husbands 1510+ 5362 eimi:- to be, exist, be present + philandros:- loving one’s husband [ from 5384+435 philos:- friend +anēr:- man, male, husband; usually an adult male but in some contexts the emphasis is on maturity rather than on gender.

Notice how the two words “love husbands” are the equivalent of a much larger equation; Presence + one’s own husband + friend + man.

Lesson #1: Be Present in Relationship

Now let’s move on to today’s lesson, friendship within the married relationship. I want to be precisely clear that the following discoveries are about married love between one man and one woman. There are many words for love, so defining the word(s) used in Titus 2:3-5 will help promote clarity and – LORD willing – realign relationships endearingly.

Lesson #2: Being Your Man’s Friend

The second part of our relationship equation is this word; philandros:- loving one’s husband [ from 5384+435 philos:- friend +anēr:- man, male, husband; usually an adult male but in some contexts the emphasis is on maturity rather than on gender.

I love the expanded definition in brackets. When you get married, your boyfriend becomes your manfriend. That is an important distinction. Not only do ladies think of boys differently than we do men but men having transitioned into men, view themselves differently. Honoring the maturity your man displays (without being condescending) will garner you a closer proximity to his heart. Be vocal about your respect for him.

NEVER abandon being your man’s friend and by default settling for being his roommate.

Committing to being a friend is a rewarding work. Let’s begin.

 

  • philos:- friend
    • / 865aphilagathos:- not loving good/[1.1+5384 +18] a:- alpha privitive (as non- or un- in English)+ Friend + agathos:- good as a positive quality (vs. bad) good as a moral quality (vs. evil) << Bad company corrupts good morals… Get your morals – your sense of right and wrong– on the same page. Be good company.>>
    • 5358 philagathos:- loving what is good/[5384+18] Friend + agathos:- good as a positive quality (vs. bad) good as a moral quality (vs. evil)
    • 866 aphilagyros:- not loving money/
    • 5365 philagyria:- love of money, avarice, greed [5384+696]/Friend + argyros:- silver
    • 5366 I philagyros:- money-loving, avaricious, greedy/ [5385+696 Friend + argyros:- silver
    • 2321Theophilos:- “Friend of God”/
    • 5377 philotheos [5384+2316] lovers of God/Friend + theos:- God; usually refers to the One True God, in a very few contexts it refers to a (pagan) god
    • 2705 kataphileō:- to kiss/ <<This is the touch that never gets old. It could just as well be holding hands as much as it could be pressing faces together and touching lips. The many ways it is translated indicates an emphasis on exclusive, daily, throughout the years, relation-building, positive bond. The emotional sharing kiss.>>
    • 5370 philēma:- kiss/ This is the kiss of a friend. It is less of a bond and more of a kindness.
    • 5369 philēdonos:- loving pleasure [ 5384 +2237]/ Friend + hēdonē:- pleasure, desire, enjoyment, usually with a negative sense << Let’s use this in the positive sense. Physical pleasure in married love is not a bad thing. Enjoy each other. This should be obvious but sometimes we need reminders. Allow yourself to enjoy your man no matter what else is calling your attention away from him.>>
    • 4375 prosphilēs:- lovely, pleasing/ <<Center your beauty regimen around what your man likes not your girlfriends or the department store.>>
    • 5359 philadelpheia:- love of brother/sister [5384+80]/ Friend + adelphos:- brother, fellow countryman, neighbor (often inclusive in gender) by ext. a fellow believer in the family of faith; in the plural ‘brothers’ regularly refers to men and women
    • 5360 philadelphia:- brotherly love or kindness/
    • 5361 philadelphos:- loving as brothers/
    • 5362 /philandros:- loving one’s husband [ from 5384+435 philos:- friend +anēr:- man, male, husband; usually an adult male but in some contexts the emphasis is on maturity rather than on gender. <<Have you thought about growing old together on purpose? Have you considered growing in maturity together? Age and maturity are different topics. Think and act on both of them.>>
    • 5363 philanthrōpia:- love, kindness[5384+444] /Friend + anthrōpos:- human being, person; human kind, people; man, husband; used of human beings in contrast to animals or deity; in some contexts its used of male/husband in contrast to female/wife.
    • 5364 philanthrōpōs:- in kindness, kindly /5384+444] /Friend + anthrōpos:- human being, person; human kind, people; man, husband; used of human beings in contrast to animals or deity; in some contexts its used of male/husband in contrast to female/wife.
    • 5367 philautos:- loving one’s self, selfish [5384+846/ Friend + he, she, it, they; him self herself, itself, themselves; of place: here there, where <<Some people have never learned to love themselves appropriately. Wives can help their husbands to love themselves and in so doing will help them to love their wives. >>
    • 5368 phileō:- to love, have affection and regard of a very high order, not unlike 26[agapēand overlapping in meaning in some contexts/
    • 5374 Philippēsios:- Philippian [5384+2462]/Friend + hippos:- horses << Just a thought, bringing this idea into the our century ladies: It’s OK to like his car. In fact, it is part of being his friend. :) >>
    • 5375 philippoi :- Philipi/ <<This is the horse lover place. Some might see a car show…I see a garage. :) >>
    • 5376 Philippos:- “horse lover”/ << how much do you know about your man’s transportation device(s). Learn about them. Find something positive … something you like about them.>>
    • 5378 philologos :- [5384+3004] lover of words (education)”/ Friend + legō:- say, said; the most general term for speaking in the NT translated contextually with more specific words such as – say, tell, ask, answer <<lego… kids toys, plastic snap-into-place building blocks…hahahahaha… That fits! Words are building blocks. :) What we say, tell,ask,answer is all a part of being his friend. Speak intentionally and speak so that he hears you. God brought us into his life to be his helper, educate kindly.>>
    • 5385 philosophia :- [5384+4680] philosophy, human wisdom/ Friend +sophos:- wise expert, skilled; a person who is wise or expert often of a class or kind, a wise man or woman << Be someone worth spending time with. Those who spend time with the wise become wise…>>
    • 5386 philosophos:- philosopher/
    • 5381 philoxenia :- hospitality, entertainment of strangers/ << Do whatever it takes to facilitate his willingness to and his accomplishment of having people over.>>
    • 5382 philoxenos:- [5384+3581] given to hospitality/ Friend + xenos:- strange, foreign, alien; foreigner, stranger, alien; host, one who shows hospitality << Cultivate the attitude in your own heart that is in agreement with meeting the social needs of others. Make a welcoming demeanor and pleasantness habits of daily life.>>
    • 5390 philophronos:_ hospitably, in a friendly manner/ <<Welcome each other into your lives.>>
    • 5387 philostorgos :- devoted, loving dearly/
    • 5391 philophrōn:- well disposed, friendly, kind [5384+5424] Friend + Phrēn:- thinking understanding <<Being understood is one of the three basic needs people have. Make it one of your goals to understand your man in such a way that he realizes you do. Be the only one who “gets” him.>>
    • 5371 Philēmōn:- “beloved”/
    • 5372 Philētōs:- “beloved” /
    • 5373 philia:- friendship, love/
    • 5383 philoprōteuō :- to love to be first/ << Let him be first. First to talk, first to open the door, first to [whatever]. Let your man lead the way and help him to enjoy it.>>
    • 5388 philoteknos:- loving one’s children << husband and wife love the kids as a team. -teknos makes me think of a modern musical style … hmmmm. Try approaching the children as if you and your husband are the band leaders. :) >>
    • 5389 philotimeomai:- to have an ambition, aspire to a goal <<Not that you can’t have individual ambitions and goals, just make sure you support his. >>

To be our man’s friend, we do lots of things geared up by focusing our thoughts, words and actions towards him. I notice a few categories to be especially mindful of; your relationship to God individually and with each other, physical pleasure , How you think and what you decide about finances, transportation, education and hospitality. There is more to explore in these definitions than these colored categories so don’t miss out on the miscellaneous ways we can befriend our man. If you have anything to add please share in the comment section below. :)

As I dug into these definitions I made convicting discoveries. I pray we will all love our husbands better. Amen. 

NOTE: Happy early Valentine’s Day. I am posting early because tomorrow, I’m … busy…practicing what I write instead of writing. :)

Loving Husbands (Part 1)

Older women are to “teach what is good” THEN they can “train” the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children…. SO THAT the word of God will not be dishonored. 

Today we’re going to assume that you are acquainted with “ teaching what is good” because we already covered that in “What a Mom Teaches” and move on to the “love their husbands” bit which is the second part in the Titus 2 divinely ordained curriculum.

I want to be precisely clear that the following discoveries are about married love between one man and one woman. There are many words for love, so defining the word(s) used in Titus 2:3-5 will help promote clarity and – LORD willing – realign relationships endearingly.

Love husbands 1510+ 5362 eimi:- to be, exist, be present + philandros:- loving one’s husband [ from 5384+435 philos:- friend +anēr:- man, male, husband; usually an adult male but in some contexts the emphasis is on maturity rather than on gender.

Notice how the two words “love husbands” are the equivalent of a much larger equation; Presence + one’s own husband + friend + man.

Lesson #1: (eimi:- to be, exist, be present) BE Present. Married people suffer from distraction  not because they seek it or are cursed with it but because they must navigate multiple areas of living at one time. When engaging love towards a husband, it is time to focus solely on him.

Providing time free of distractions on a regular basis while raising children, particularly when children are young, involves training yourselves and your children with habits of consideration (Ex: How was your day…? / This is Mommy’s time with Daddy). It may not be easy but it is worth it. Your relationship with your husband has a priority over their whims or whines. They will watch you for consistency and they will respect mastery of this discipline in your lives.

I’ve heard it said that the greatest gift you can give your child is to love their Dad. Coming from a family of divorce, but having raised our four children together over the last 30 plus years, I would have to say that my experience validates that quote.

Brokenness exists and I grieve with you over it. Single parents work very hard to raise their children well. Some have remarried men who become great dads to their combined children which is a huge blessing. Others of us live in brokenness for years and wobble along in and out of relationships making the best of it. But the fact remains that lack of modeling presence in relationship means that children lack an essential element in their relationship training – sometimes severely suffering from it.

God can stand in the gap and bring healing. It is good to ask for His help because the husband/wife bond is very important to Him (Romans 7; Ephesians 5:22-33). God has helped me so much in this regard by putting some great couples in my path who modeled a love displaying presence…being there for and with their married partner.

It is imperative to note that divorce is not the only cause for a lack of presence in relationship. I confess that learning to be present in relationship with my husband has been a process – our interests and responsibilities in life are different. Sometimes my mind just wanders and I have trained myself to take my thoughts captive and pay attention with focus. If your mind is always wandering when you are with your husband, Figure out why. Stop it and practice being wholly present…in heart, soul, body and mind.

Isn’t that the kind of love God wants from us? (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

Practice it.

Look for Lesson #2 next week: Being Your Man’s Friend and may your celebrations of love this month bring honor and glory to the LORD who brings your relationships into existence and keeps them actively present. Amen

I Can Trust

For years I trusted all the wrong people. Knowing who to trust was and is work for me … maybe it always will be. Trust is a problematic struggle just to breathe socially.

I’ve been learning first hand about the sorrows that damage trust in family-of-origin relationships (It’s a long story perhaps better suited to a different post). On this journey, the LORD is guiding me along a path of discovery that enables me to trust properly in both new and old relationships. Oh how I love the LORD!

Just like previous Bible words I’ve studied, one word in English has several words in either Greek or Hebrew that define it. What is translated as “Trust” in Scripture has a few more (and enlightening) definitions. Please sit with me awhile and allow me the pleasure of sharing my discoveries of just one facet of trust with you.

If I (and I’m using this pronoun loosely to mean each individual) look at trust as the act of “taking refuge in…” – something I desperately need after trust is damaged – and act upon that knowledge, then my life displays the wonder of His [The LORD’s ] shelter in several ways none of which the “I” that is truly me has mastered…yet:

  • I will spend time with the humble and lowly because one thing they do well is trust in God (Zephaniah 3:12).
  • I will spend time in God’s word because all his words are tested and found to be worthy of trust (Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 18:30). And by default that means sometimes I test his words too.
  • I rejoice that trusting God is open to everyone. I’m talking about everyday reliance on God for for the meeting of needs as separate from a discussion about trusting God as a matter of initial saving faith.
  • I am confident that no matter who takes refuge in the LORD, they will experience the benefits associated with abiding in Him. …Even the ones we’re not pleased with at any given moment which is good for us all to remember.(Most of the benefits recorded here come from a long list of Psalms).
    • Joy and gladness
    • Deliverance
    • Preservation
    • Loving kindness; both coming from God and the ability to be kind to each other
    • Freedom from shame
    • Experiencing God’s goodness when we take refuge in Him before men
    • Freedom from condemnation
    • The obedience of those who are subservient to me
    • The powerful help of the LORD
    • Receipt of our inheritance, our promised land
  • I do not ever seek refuge in anyone or anything other than the One who Exists and causes all things to exist, Yahweh, the LORD with all caps. :) In this we can follow Christ’s example. He did not trust himself to men because he knew what was in their heart. He did not trust himself to the Tempter because Yahweh is truthfully supreme.
  • I am confident that when I take refuge in Him, He knows who I am (Nahum 1:7)
  • I am equally confident that those who take refuge in anyone or anything other than the LORD, while they are free to do so, will experience the polar opposite of any or all of the above listed benefits.

What treasure there is in taking refuge in the LORD!

I have a feeling that when I take my capacity to trust out of my hands, out of the hands of other people and place it in the hands of The Almighty, that he secures my heart which enables me to do all kinds of stuff.

Finding shelter in God is not troubling. It’s peaceful. It’s empowering. It’s the space to inhale and exhale we all crave.

What Moms Teach

My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother.

Proverbs 1:8

Today let’s define Mom’s job…teaching.

Teaching: 8451 tôrâ – law, regulation, teaching, instruction; often referring to the five books of Moses in whole or in part. From [3384- yārâ: to throw, cast, shoot; to be shot through; to shoot an arrow, to hurl; to water upon, rain, shower; to teach, instruct, give guidance, in a formal or informal setting, with an implied authority for the teacher and the content of what is being taught; to be refreshed ] and [8452- tôrâ : manner, direction]

Moms don’t set law, they teach it. If mothers…and grandmothers … simply read it and live it that is praiseworthy.

In our family, we habitually said, “There is a God. I’m not God but God has given me authority over you. God sets the law. Together we teach and train it into you.

Teaching God’s law teaches manners, hygiene, health, welfare, community problem solving, respect for authority, causes for celebration, rules and freedoms of worship, judging and judgments, rewards and penalties, how to lead, how to follow, what is good, what is bad, who is good/acceptable and who is bad/not acceptable, choosing friends and allies, maintaining family relationships, and so much more.

Here’s an example from a lesser used portion of Proverbs 31.

The words of King Lemuel, the [a]oracle which his mother taught him:

What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
For they will drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the [
b]rights of all the [c]afflicted.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to him [
d]whose life is bitter.
Let him drink and forget his poverty
And remember his trouble no more.
Open your mouth for the mute,
For the [
e]rights of all the [f]unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And [
g]defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

She gets her point across in 136 words! Notice, he did in fact grow up to be king and he listened well enough to repeat his lesson.

Jesus was asked to recite the greatest commandment (We’re talking ‘law’ here…Mom’s job).

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35 One of them, [a]a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and [b]foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40 (NASB)

Jesus outdid Lemuel’s mom. He only used 54 words. I can hear him saying today, “Tweet this!”.

As I reread this passage with fresh perspective, I get to thinking that the ruling religious leaders were taking over responsibility rightly belonging to mothers. Aside from ridicule men might subsequently experience, I’m wondering what on earth happened to set the proper way upside down – might it be that Mom wanted the enforcement job or that Dad wanted the teaching job, or that both were AWOL? I’ve always imagined Jesus speaking the greatest commandment compassionately but now I wonder because my ears are ringing with clarion calls of indictment – those wanting to indict Jesus (…and his mother?) and Jesus’ turning it round to indict them.

It is important to remember that Dads enforce – correcting errant behavior– while Mom is teaching –making expectations of behavior known. Working properly together, they ensure God’s law is crystal clear to their own children.

Why did Jesus mention the “LAW” as separate from “PROPHETS”? Simple. The parental roles or jobs got seriously messed up over time but truth is still truth.

During the time of the exodus and acquisition of the land, Mom and Dad did their jobs; children knew who God was, they knew what pleased him and they experienced its benefits.During the time of judges and prophets, however, Mom and Dad didn’t do their job; a generation grew up who knew neither the LORD, nor what he had done for Israel and their actions led them to suffer in many ways. 

While I’m not a big fan of standardized public education, I’m becoming even less of a fan of standardized public religious education. Mom and Dad are the rightful authorities tailoring morality curriculum and ways of God for their children. That said, Dad has an additional task…to make sure that his children are instructed by proper managers and guardians.

 

Now I say, as long as the heir is a [a]child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is [b]owner of everything, but he is under guardians and[c]managers until the date set by the father.  Galatians 4:1,2 (NASB)

Does this sound like school to you too? Children need to learn to learn from others as well. Moms and Dads are not experts at everything. Their job as it relates to parenting, though, is very specific. Introduce children to, and maintain knowledge of, the LORD.

So then Dads, do your job… enforce. So then Moms, do your job… teach. What do Moms teach and dads enforce? God’s law, God’s way, for God’s glory.

For those of us who muck it up, for whatever reason, there is always hope. God always offers each individual an opportunity to repent, to change our ways and to move forward in victory and freedom.

Sometimes He just steps in and makes a difference. Jesus did, after all, answer the lawyer truthfully. Their conversation didn’t stop with the “test”.

Listen in to the rest of their dialogue.

32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34 (NASB)

May the LORD help you, Friend, to teach what is right or to rightly correct your own children. May he fill the gaps and broken parts with his mercy and love.  Amen.

Parenting: Dads Enforce

 

  My son, hear the instruction of your father; reject not nor forsake the teaching of your mother. 

Proverbs 1:8 (AMP)

Dads and Moms have different roles in the teamwork required for parenting children. Today, let’s look at a facet of Dad’s role called instruction.

Instruction : 4148 mûsār – discipline, instruction, correction; wisdom and teaching that imply correcting errant behavior

I look at this as the “enforcer” role – the police force of parenting, being your family’s team coach. Great family teams use training rods… the rod of correction (it’s a type of personal and family totem pole… the testimony of who I/we/ they/ are.

 

24 He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early.

Proverbs 13:24  (AMP)

Trust me. Testing boundaries comes early. Some say in as little as eight weeks and my experience with four very different children has proved that theory correct.

Not every dad sees himself as an enforcer due to personality issues (“I’m not like that [too lovey, or passive, or not in that place of authority]” or “I’m too much like that [angry, violent, screaming]” and “I don’t see it as a positive quality so I aim to avoid it [I’m a go-with-the-flow- kind of guy or “Why should I do what I see others do wrongly?”).

Apparently, God would have you realign your thinking. Get over your “issues”; being an enforcer actually requires knowledge, acting purposefully, and calm that come only from God. Be the enforcer God has called you to be.

Not because of who you are… or aren’t

but…because

who you are represents who HE is. 

Team identity is essential. From all my years of reading the Bible over and over again I get it! Who God is and how we represent him is extremely important to him. He has arranged it so that the roles he gives us and what we do with them scores wins or losses on His schedule.

God has chosen Dads to represent him in the correction department of raising children. Mothers were never intended to fulfill this role. When they try, it turns out more like pass interference  and is a part of the first curse 

Correction can be exhausting. Therefore, be strong. To increase your strength, consider these parts of Hebrews 12:

When reception is botched…

Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.

And this… play your position bit…

Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all].

And this respect bit… all dads want that, don’t they?

Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we yielded [to them] and respected [them for training us]. Shall we not much more cheerfully submit to the Father of spirits and so [truly] live?

And this end game

10 For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness.

And this game training reality…

11 For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].

This then, is how Dads obey God’s command to be fruitful and multiply in every day life today.

Let’s review that command.

28 And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living creature that moves upon the earth.

Genesis 1:28 (AMP)

Mothers want  this path but must take another…a path we will explore next time as we answer the question, “What do Dad’s enforce?”.

Dads, May your parenting be realigned with the truth of God’s word and purpose, making you the best Dad ever. Amen.

Whose Child Are You?

Whose child are you?

Sounds direct. It’s not.

How would you answer? … Naming those whose DNA you have inherited and who cooed over you in the maternity ward of whatever birthing center? … Naming those who adopted or raised you perhaps?

I have personally been disowned by my birth mother four times. Once the day I was born due to a misunderstanding at the hospital, once while discussing Biblical holiness, once in regard to my grandfather’s estate, and once in regard to her own estate arrangements. Talk about realignment!

Jesus did not say his natural mother, brother, and sister were family. According to Jesus, there is more to the real answer than that.

Whose character do you emulate? Whose nature comes naturally to you? Whom do you obey?

Jesus did not claim to be Abraham’s son  [descendant], he claimed to be God’s son because of the miracles he did (John 10:33-39)and the things he said (John 8:28).

He also asserted that not everyone he was talking to was family John 8:44 , Matthew 7:20-24 

And it’s not just Jesus who declared the truth of these undeniable, however invisible, facts of life. John the Baptist blurted it out too.

 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee and escape from the wrath and indignation [of God against disobedience] that is coming?

 Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart];

 And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham for our forefather; for I tell you, God is able to raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones!

Matthew 3:7-9 (AMP)

Wow. Snake kids walking around. I appreciate his sense of boundaries.

Whose child are you? You prove it by what you do.

Now, you can try to force these repentant behaviors John was talking about, but that never holds for very long – years maybe but then appearances disappear and reality bubbles up. Either you are a son of God, or you belong elsewhere.

It’s OK to belong elsewhere. Jesus never pounded people into joining the family of God. He got all kinds of upset with people who said they were family and acted otherwise. Apparently, so did John.

It’s difficult to tell sometimes who’s who. I’ve found it helpful to look objectively and plot a chart over time of the things people do, their interests and alignments. (It’s not as time consuming as it sounds.)

Think back to a few defining moments. Think further. Even a child is known by his actions…

Son. Child. Strong’s word 5207– huios – Son, child ( of either gender), descendant, (in any generation); by extension: a term of endearment; one of a class or kind, for example: a “son of the resurrection” is one who participates in the resurrection.

People who study people usually find that occupations run in families. Food preferences run in families as do food allergies. Disease runs in families. Character traits as well as name choices and similar birth dates all can be traced through generational threads.

The scariest bit of the definition of “child” as I see it is , “ one of a class or kind”. Which family or group do you align yourself with? It’s kind of important.

Parents and mentors can tip the balance by training children one way or the other… exposing them to certain behaviors, rewarding or punishing actions, encouraging the mimicry of and/or practice of attitudes, etc.

So, what do children of different families look like? Here’s a window into God’s family and the devil’s family….

 

42 Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would

  • love Me and 
  • respect Me and
  •  welcome Me gladly,

for I proceeded (came forth) from God [out of His very presence]. I did not even come on My own authority or of My own accord (as self-appointed); but He sent Me.

John 8:42(AMP)

Jesus said those who do the will of his Father [God] are his family. Matthew 12:50 which is amazing. Guess we better find out what that is, huh?

 10 By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow [a]believer in Christ).

1 John 3:10 (AMP)

John takes the negative to describe the positive.  I’ve highlighted the positive traits.

Now about the other guy’s kids….

44 You are of your father, the devil, and it is your will to practice the lusts and gratify the desires [which are characteristic] of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a falsehood, he speaks what is natural to him, for he is a liar [himself] and the father of lies and of all that is false. John 8:44 (AMP)

And let’s parse out the next one to make it absolutely clear.

 10 And said, You master in every form of

  • deception and
  •  recklessness,
  • unscrupulousness, and 
  • wickedness,

you son of the devil,

you enemy of everything that is upright and good,

will you never stop

  • perverting and making crooked the straight paths of the Lord
  • and plotting against His saving purposes?

Acts 13:10 (AMP)

On a side note. The word for “devil” here is diabolos. Devilish, malicious, slanderous. Used as a noun it is the devil, Satan, or a wicked person who is like the devil. So we can add two more items to what the devil’s children do, malice and slander.

One of the best things I heard an older lady in the church nursery ever say to a group of young mothers was, ” Your two year-olds are not little monsters. They just need to be trained.”

Amen. Children are not little devils either.

Someone will train them. Someone trained you.

Whose child are you? Whose child will the child you care about be trained to be according to the invisible facts of life?

Let’s make the most of the training times we’re given. Training lasts a moment but the characters we help develop will last a lifetime and impact multitudes.

Curse Component: Interference

I never thought about interference being so complicated. After reading the NFL rule book, I have a little more respect for the referees.

Pass Interference: It is pass interference by either team when any player movement beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders the progress of an eligible player of such player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Offensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is snapped until the ball is touched. Defensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is thrown until the ball is touched.  (Read the whole description here )

Wow. Those refs really need eagle eyes to call this one. We should be equally diligent in our relationships.

Pass interference while raising children is a lot like Eve’s curse.Genesis 3:16. Eve was cursed with worry… cursed with skewed self-importance…cursed with a drive to interfere with her children.

WAIT! It’s a mother’s job to interfere.

No it’s not. The original job description is to be fruitful (Genesis 1:28) which is an interesting study on its own.

We are in in the game to get results. Much like getting a harvest or scoring in football, there is a difference between training (being taught a skill  , manners, morals,  etc) and interference (“I’m going to make my will impact your life for my own ‘better’ plan”). Galatians 5:7; Acts 11:17; 3 John 1:10

When our children were small, I home schooled them. I arranged their day to include stretches and some kind of aerobic activity. One stuck with it past high school and into life beyond. Here he is at the cross fit gym training for his third Tough Mudder experience.

Andy, Moret and Company show us how to train at the gym
Andy, Moret and Company

I’m happier when I’m active, my son says. Oaky-Doke. I’m happy when you’re healthy.

My son is the one in the bright blue shirt doing what they call double unders. (Don’t those guys make the weights look light?  My brain and my eyes are in conflict. I’m actually quite proud of all four of these people… but especially my family.)

Te first time I saw this picture, my mother’s heart zeroed in on one vital piece of information…HE IS NOT WEARING A BELT!!!! How come the other guy is wearing one and MY SON skips it!?! A belt would protect his already injured back (yup- I’ve kept his chiropractic records… This mom knows things… yip, yip)

The urge to interfere was pretty strong. The mind and heart needed to be reigned in. I am proud of his strength. I acknowledge that he is smart and trains smart. :)

Seeing the picture on Facebook and voicing my concern…nicely…once… is one thing. OK. This makes twice mentioned. :) Interference is another thing altogether.

Had I called the gym or flown to California and marched into the place reading the riot act to my son and the people in charge of the establishment…well now, that would have been the CURSE in action. It would have felt like the CURSE – to everybody — and it would have the crippling, rippling effects of the CURSE. Most likely that would result in a broken primary relationship among other things. :(

Moms, we can train ourselves to moderate Eve’s curse. Training means practicing the correct response. Just like these people at the gym NEED to train with attention to perfect form or posture (See my daughter in law doing weighted planks with a straight back? Nice one lady!), parents need to condition their relationship muscles to do the exact right thing at the exact right time.

Sound impossible? It is.

Only God, through the work of his son on the cross and the ascending work of Jesus’ resurrection, can reverse THE CURSE and render its penalties powerless in our families. Remember, apart from him we can do nothing…no fruit. And dare I say no touchdown celebration.

Play the ball.

Here’s another example of moderating the CURSE…AKA- avoiding the foul.

I can remember feeling interference prone when my son was in high school wrestling. So estatic when he threw his opponent to the mat in strength and triumph but, do something to MY SON and the ire began to boil. At one match the urge was so strong to interfere…to go out on that mat and do something. …anything.

After the match, I shared my struggle with him. I wanted him to know his momma loved him…. (If you are shaking your head at me, that’s appropriate. )

“I’m so glad you didn’t do that, Mom.” The look on his face emphasized how embarrassed he was at the thought and how mortified he would have been if things had played out that way.

Basically, getting in someone else’s way while a play is attempted isn’t always the best plan. Lessons are learned and successes are generated on the wrestling mat, in the gym and on the field.

Football, Wrestling, Cross Fit, Mothering…they all work pretty much the same way. Interference is a foul. It’s a God-given curse all mothers struggle with and it does bring us much sorrow.

Penalties result from fouls. Sometimes those penalties offset, sometimes they just eat the clock as wasted effort but at other times they are game changers. They change the game in a direction contrary to our original intentions.

In the same way, penalties result from the CURSE allowed to be active in relationships. There are negative consequences for interference.

For example, when a sibling intercepts a correction (time-out, spanking, withholding something… whatever you do, and the the sibling replaces it with something he/she thinks makes more sense), the intended receiver does not get the training needed to complete the “down”. Neither do they experience the correction intended… the play is “over”, the teaching opportunity gone.

Oh, you only thought parents were affected by Eve’s curse? Think again. Anyone, offensive or defensive who is present at a moment in time can accomplish either the foul or the awesome play.

Interceptions that result in long carrys, touchdowns, or balls tipped to force an incompletion…for the other team… are good plays. Failure to play the ball with the team goal in mind is pass interference.

Moms, when we interfere, we don’t loose yardage, field position, or touchdowns, we loose  the very thing(s) we so desperately desire: love, respect, obedience, trust, consideration, security…all long term wonders in family living.

Keep your head in the game.

Play the Ball.

Amen.

 

Children: the Curse and the Blessing

Nothing says “begin again” like January … at least in the world I live in. :)

This year I am attempting to follow Biblical mandates for living. Part of that would be Titus 2 which lists out things an older woman is to teach the younger women.

Gentlemen, since this is going to be a series from the Bible, a book written to men, for men, in community with all God’s creatures, feel free to listen in. It might be helpful in aligning your relationships too. If so, please share some encouragement from your adventure with us in the comment section below. :)

Let’s talk about a facet of one of the most basic love-your-children concepts, “the curse” and how children bring about blessed salvation for women.

The first mention of children in Scripture is Genesis 3:16. For those who don’t remember or who are unfamiliar with the Bible, this is a famous passage. We call it “The Curse”; Not “a” curse but THE curse”. This is the punishment for ‘original’ sin, that time when Eve, then Adam decided they could listen to a particular snake, that creature of chaos, and act on his words without consequences. They were wrong.

 16 To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children. Yet your desire and craving will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.

Genesis 3:16 Amplified Bible (AMP)

In this section,where God addresses Eve for her part in the mess, we hear the first mention of children aside from God’s command to multiply which only implies offspring would soon arrive but does not directly speak of them.

I thought the curse was all about menstral cramps. I was wrong. It is the sorrow associated with children that is the curse. Let me be clear; Children are not a curse, they are in fact a blessing.

This curse is not about  Adam’s sorrow but Eve’s. This is an important distinction. Adam has to deal with Eve and her sorrow. So guys, if you have mothers, sisters with kids, or have children of your own, keep paying attention. Don’t miss the last part of this passage. You and your choices can help. So cool.

Let’s read it in the KJV:

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Sorrow. There are two different words used for “sorrow” in the same verse. The first is # 6093 issābôn; pain, hardship, distress. It comes from #6087 – āsab; to interfere with, to be distressed; be grieved, be distressed; to grieve; to shape; to grieve, to make an image (of the Queen of Heaven) ; to be filled with grief, to be filled with pain. The second also comes from the word, ‘āsab’. It is #6089 eseb; pot, vessel; pain, toil, hard work.

Do you know an interfering mother? It’s the curse.

Do you know a worry-wort mother? It’s the curse.

Do you know a mother who is over the top about aggrandizing women and motherhood?Yes, once again, the curse is raising its ugly head.

Pitching a fit because our children do not “worship” us by giving us what we want, when we want, in the manner we want it is pathetically opposed to God’s order. It’s that Queen of Heaven thing and it is pure poison. Also in this category would be old wives tales, twisted traditions, and story telling that skews the truth down through the generations. Skewing of the truth to future generations is the curse and it comes from Eve’s punishment.

Our curse is to interfere with the way God made our children, to lead them astray into false worship and to worry about them. It sounds like all mothers everywhere struggle with these issues today. (If you are a mother recognizing your struggle in these areas, please e-mail me and I will certainly pray with and for you.)

Now, for each of these things women with children struggle with, they generally end up regretting most, if not all, of these dastardly, relationship crippling maladies that are currently active in their families. Why? It is the sorrow of God’s curse upon us that we cannot escape using our own devices. When we try… on our own … it just gets worse.

Men, you can pray for us.

God has provided a way out of this wretched cycle. Sin entered through one man (Adam) even as life enters through one man (Jesus Christ). Only Jesus can bring about a reversal of Genesis 3:16 … sorrow in child birthing and raising. Glory to God! Thank you Jesus!!

Lest you think I have veered away from my discussion focused on women, read 1 Timothy 2:14 with me. In two versions, if you please.

14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but [the] woman who was deceived and deluded and fell into transgression.

15 Nevertheless [the sentence put upon women of pain in motherhood does not hinder their souls’ salvation, and] they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control, [saved indeed] [a]through the Childbearing or by the birth of the divine Child. 

1 Timothy 2:14-15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Here is the word-for-word NASB translation:

14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived,[a]fell into transgression. 15 But women will be [b]preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with [c]self-restraint.

1 Timothy 2:14-15 New American Standard Bible

That word ‘saved’ or ‘preserved’ is # 4982; sozo – to save, rescue, deliver; to heal; by extension: to be in right relationship with God, with the implication that the condition before salvation was one of grave danger or distress. The ‘divine Child’ is Jesus Christ.

Gentlemen, one of the best love gifts you could give a mother is to separate out from your perception of who she is this blasted curse because it warps our personalities. When you pray for us, pray for us to continue in faith, love, holiness and self-control and effectively help us to be who God wants us to be. When you engage God on our behalf you are indeed praying for our salvation … the end of our sorrow, the reversal of our curse, and the redemptive work of Christ in our lives even our relationships through the generations.

Men, please bless mothers with your prayers.

Ladies, let’s let Jesus help us to live life abundantly … outside the curse and raise our children effectively for His glory inside His blessing.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank You God, Amen.