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All posts for the month August, 2016

Are You a Desert or an Oasis?

Published August 31, 2016 by Dawn

Five o’ clock seemed to come really early this morning, so I promptly told it to go away and rolled back over and closed my eyes. Then a whisper caught my attention …

Do you know why the devil, when he leaves a man, goes through dry, arid places looking for a place to rest?

“No, Lord, I don’t, but it’s five in the morning and I still have an hour before I absolutely have to get up so if you would kindly –“

Because he’s most comfortable in places where there’s been no water.

My feet immediately hit the floor, but sadly, only because my bladder was now awake. Upon crawling back into bed, I noticed the Lord staring at me and I turned toward the wall, content to take full advantage of the final hour of sleep.

With desperation in His voice He said to me, “You have to make time for me! Especially in this final hour. Otherwise, you become a dry, arid place.”

“But don’t you remember the rest of that verse, Lord? He doesn’t find a place so he goes back to where he came from, taking a bunch of wandering demons with him.”

You are where he came from.

*******

I went to my mom’s after work yesterday and spent time exposing my inner man. We talked about how hard it is to be like Jesus in a work place, and I lamented that His personality had not quite become mine yet. In other words, I have not fully taken on His nature, just making good habits that at any moment can show me to be a fraud when I lose my grip. My dad said, “That’s why we have to read our Bible and pray everyday. Because we need Jesus daily.” Obviously, there’s no arguing that, but it’s become kind of cliché and easy to disregard … until God puts the smackdown on your musings and you realize just how serious not spending time with Him is.

Truth: The Holy Spirit makes Satan uncomfortable. He can’t abide in the Spirit.

Truth: When we are full of the Holy Spirit, we are safe.

Truth: When we neglect our relationship with the Lord, we slowly become drained until finally, we are no longer an oasis, but a desert.

Truth: The devil likes a party, so he brings friends.

Truth: They wreck a place.

Suddenly, I don’t care if something’s been said a million times, ad nausea. Let me add another: It’s the final hour. I know you’re tired and weary and right now, probably all you want is rest. I get it. I’m right there with you. I’m tired of fighting and the battle seems to be just at the point of really heating up. I’d rather turn my back on all the stupidity parading around as intelligence, write humanity off as lost and just hold my arms up waiting for my Daddy to whisk me up into His loving embrace. But there was such a sense of urgency in His voice this morning and here’s why, I think: we can’t be stagnant in the battle. To not fight is to choose to lose. You know who’s losing this one, right? We’ll be on his side if we’re not careful.

There is so much of our natural man that must die in order for us to live effectively for the Lord. We have to surrender all that is not of God to the death of the cross. We have to allow parts of ourselves to die. So many of us just want to bury those parts of us that displease God because they amuse us or secretly, we revel in the flesh’s cleverness. These things must die, though, in order for us to truly be made new. Because these are the things in our life that lie awake when we sleep, calling out for rescue from our enemy and betraying us. They betray us in conversation when we aren’t watching our tongue. Or even in the way our facial expressions react to humanity. They reveal thoughts that have not been fully surrendered to Christ and a heart that is a shade blacker than one might expect.

Jesus said we become a spring of living water welling up to eternal life, but how can we continue to gush if we are not continuously connected to Our Source? We cannot. We become a dry, arid place. A place that is familiar to the enemy and he knows how to make full use of that place because he’s been there before. He’s worked the land over. He’s got a strategy and is commanding a platoon that will carry it out. The only way to ensure we don’t become the enemy’s headquarters is to press in to Jesus’ side and remain full of the Holy Spirit.

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Published August 26, 2016 by Dawn

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Since night running is no longer an option around here, I had to schedule my run during the daytime. I have not been feeling up to getting up really early, so I chose to schedule my run for right after work while the kids are at their sport practices. Turns out a really great idea as far as timing goes. The weather, however, makes it more of a chore than I anticipated. Take yesterday, for instance.

Of course, yesterday is an extreme example. There was a lot of mitigating factors going on. Firstly, I skipped lunch. I did have breakfast, but it was two poptarts, which only count as empty calories with no significant nutritional benefit to account for. I had two 8 oz. cans of V8 around lunchtime, but nothing in the way of food. My water intake was next to nil, but I still naively thought running would be a breeze. I didn’t realize the weather was also against me.

It was a perfect day … for the beach. Ninety-four and sunny. No clouds. Not even a hint of one on the horizon. No chance of rain. I went running at midday heat. Of course, I took my faithful partner along … the dog. We walked a little first, so he could do his business beforehand. Mission complete, and we were off!

It seems like all there is around here is hills. But not the kind that do down. Just the up-side of them. I don’t know how that works out but it’s a pretty amazing trick nature has played on us here. I immediately noticed that running was much harder from my new start point, but I just pressed forward, urging my pained muscles to take step after step long after I wanted to quit … five minutes into my run. That’s not even half a mile.

We were on the biggest hill when the dog made his first stop. He just needed to sniff a powerful trail. It ticked me off. Stopping is the worst, because then I have to exert more of an effort to start running again, because inertia is no longer in play. I reflexively said to my dog through gritted teeth, “Oh my gosh, I hate you!”

Don’t judge me. I was hot, I had no energy  and I was in the middle of a hill!

That was all the excuses I used to justify my heart attitude toward my dog. About a mile into our run, he began to really fatigue. I suddenly felt like, no longer was I just pushing myself to run, I was pulling my dog along for the ride. He tried to stop several times, but each time, I said something mean in a tone of voice that thoroughly intimidated him and he immediately picked up the pace again.

Two miles in, I needed to rest. The little bit of water I had brought was almost gone, my muscles were suffocating, I couldn’t breathe and we were facing yet another giant hill. I noticed a house that had a “for sale” sign in the yard and a vacancy notice on the door, so we stepped off the sidewalk into the shaded yard and rested ourselves on the front step of the house. My poor puppy sank down into the grass and panted. I squeezed the last few drops of water onto his tongue. Together, we rested for ten minutes before starting out on our last little bit.

We walked most of our last mile. I ran a few times, but at this point, the heat was really getting to me and my legs, chest and upper back were hurting from exertion. We made it back to our car much later than I anticipated, and melted into the seats while waiting for the air to cool down enough to shut the doors and hole up in our cold haven until the kids were done.

Horrible run.

I attended my mind to the Holy Spirit while I was running because it’s what I do. No sense in letting my mind wander for an hour if I can just as easily be taught in that time. So I listened. Every complication on my run had a spiritual implication:

  • I ate junk for breakfast – Sometimes, we fill up on “junk” and expect to run our race well. But junk has no value, and we find ourselves exerting so much more effort, relying on our natural selves because the junk has failed us. This junk comes from the things we watch, listen to and say throughout the course of a day.
  • What little good I had (the V8) wasn’t enough – Sometimes, the little good we take in (Sunday sermons, daily devotionals, etc.) isn’t enough. We need more substantive nourishment (ie. Time in the Word of God) to run our race with endurance.
  • No shade is a killer – “Under His wings you will find refuge.” We need to be sheltered sometimes. We need rest and retreat on our run. It’s refreshing! Don’t be afraid to duck out of the limelight and be sheltered at times. It’s often imperative to running a good race.

In addition to all of this, the Lord shared some great things about running with a partner. My life journey doesn’t include a husband yet, but it could one day and here’s what I gleaned from this run with my dog:

  • Our partners get sidetracked – My dog chases rabbits, follows scents and sometimes, just stops to “feel out” a place. It’s a selfish run if I don’t let his needs be fulfilled too. His needs matter to him as much as mine matter to me.
  • Our partners may need a break – Running is hard work. In this race called “life,” very few of us are taking it in stride. Our partners grow weary, restless, etc. just like we do. They may need to take a break and that has to be okay unless we plan on leaving them to forge ahead on our own.
  • Sometimes I pulled him, sometimes he pulled me – the lovely thing about a partnership is the shared work. I have to admit, though. I loved being pulled much more than I loved pulling. I didn’t want to drag him along, but I didn’t mind being dragged myself. I didn’t mind the extra help, just the demand on my faculties to reciprocate it. This was not a good partnership.
  • I was mean – When my dog struggled, I was not supportive. I was hateful. I told him I hated him. Called him names. Yanked his leash. Rolled my eyes. Huffed. I did not recognize his needs, or care about his desires. I had a goal and I mercilessly pursued the finish line, disregarding any trauma caused by my selfish disdain cast in his direction. Also not a good way to foster that relationship.

Yes, life is a race of sorts. In order to run well, we have to eat healthy stuff (reading the Bible, filling up on good media), take a break to rest in the shadow of the Almighty, and if God gives us a partner, be mindful of his or her needs. We should encourage those God puts in our lives and be willing to share their burdens as much as we desire them to share ours. This is how we run well.

 

Imperceptible Growth

Published August 22, 2016 by Dawn

There’s a tree on my dining room table. It’s a lovely gift from a good friend, which I received in April and surprisingly, have kept alive since then. I was afraid for a while because leaves were falling off one branch at a very rapid pace and I was sure I had somehow killed it. Even though the idea of pruning seems counter-intuitive, I thought to save my tree by cutting off that branch that was only producing death, to divert the water and food intake toward the healthy part of the tree. I gritted my teeth and snipped it off. Then came the wait.

I eagerly watched the tree, day after day, waiting to see of anything new would grow and assure me I hadn’t killed my tree. Days turned into weeks, but nothing new seemed to be growing. It was a very scary waiting time for me. I was told these trees were hard to keep alive, but I wanted it to live so badly. It’s beautiful!

A few months after clipping the branch, the inevitable finally happened. Three days ago, I noticed a small sprout near the base of the tree. Almost overnight, it seemed to have shot up and unfurled its first leaf. Two days since, today, I noticed a second shoot coming up near it, and another leaf next to the first one. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My tree is going to live! Not only is it going to live, it’s going to flourish. It is growing!

I thought about our lives and how this tree is the perfect analogy to the inner ministry that the Holy Spirit is doing in each one of us. After Jesus gifts us back to the Father through His saving grace, we become a new creation. Our Father tenderly cultivates us so that we may grow in all the fruits of the Spirit and become more Christ-like. This includes an often painful pruning of the old, dead stuff. This pruning must be endured and surely hurts. Things that hinder our growth are removed.

Then comes the agonizing wait. We often cannot see the purpose in this pruning. We feel the pain of it, but we don’t see immediate growth and during the wait, it is tempting to believe that we have been left to wither away. It seems inevitable. But you know what is inevitable, if we trust in the wisdom of God during this process? Growth.

Having removed all the things that disable us in our walk with the Lord, He has actually redirected our attention, our energy and all that sustains us toward the parts of us that are good and capable of thriving under His delicate care. Soon, we see a small evidence pop up that assures us we are growing more and more like Christ. This small sprout will grow in its own time, often imperceptibly,  until it is as big a part of us as those things the Lord redeemed from before.

Imperceptible growth. It’s what’s happening on the inside during the waiting. You can’t see it, but it’s happening just the same. Believe it. Receive it. In Jesus’ name! Not only will we grow in Him, we will flourish!

You are God’s Masterpiece

Published August 20, 2016 by Dawn

I often date alone. Just me. And when I date myself, my favorite place to go is the art museum. It’s unanimous among the one of us, no vote is necessary and this is where I found myself last Saturday. After dressing to impress (myself) and having a tasty Chick-fil-A lunch with my sister and her family (who showed up unexpectedly outside my left window on the highway), I parted ways and headed into the city solo. I just needed to be alone in a crowd for a while, to hear my heart and listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. My soul needed to soak in something beautiful, and the art museum brings all of these components together in a very rapturous way.

The paintings are my favorite. Statues take a very close second, but I could look at paintings for hours and never get bored. I’m not a big fan of abstracts, though. It’s the portraits, landscapes and still-lifes. The mimicry of reality. It’s amazing to me how an artist can capture and detail so much of a moment, when so many moments pass me by unnoticed. This wonder inspired me to pull out my notebook and I began to consider the artist.

The artist’s eyes see things for what they really are. Captures things often overlooked in the bustle of living. The artist notices detail in the background and gives as much attention to painting the background as he or she gives to the focal point. Speaking of focal point: the artist knows how to create one. Though painting a moment of life, there’s still this subtle creativity pointing the observer’s attention to what the artist is intentionally conveying. Emotions, for instance. Or the intricacies of lace, depicting the frailty of wealth. How variations of light touch a surface, and how brokenness can be beautiful. The vastness of space, depths of emptiness, the many multi-facets of life happening all in the same moment. The artist sees it all, and delicately lays it plain before the observer.

Psalms 139 paints God as an artist. “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139: 13-16).

The Lord himself tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” (Jeremiah 1:5).

The artist conceptualizes every aspect of the finished product before he or she begins. God did that. He thought about you and I. Who we would become. What we might do in life. Our interests. Our faults. How brokenness might affect us. What we might consider lovely or distasteful. How light and darkness will change us. What facet of life we might choose to focus on; the things that are important to us. Then He spent time passionately crafting us from simple clay into complex beings whose sole purpose is to glorify Him. And somehow, we do. We glorify Him by allowing Him to create a focal point in our life. We glorify Him in the way we handle variations of light and darkness. We glorify Him despite what is going on in the background of the moments He stitches together. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).

The Greek word for “masterpiece” is poema. Now He’s speaking my language! For Van Gogh and Monet, theirs was the painting. Beethoven and Mozart created musical masterpieces. Fitzgerald and Doyle crafted stories. God created all of them! And if they are capable of so much, so are we, for we are formed of the same dust in the same hands!

I also considered how intimately the artist must know His work as it materializes from a mere thought to a finished work. As sharers in His work, shouldn’t we also know His works very intimately? How, you ask? By speaking always of it with the Master. By seeking His wisdom in understanding those around us. In asking God to unveil our eyes so we can see things as He does. In order to reach others as Jesus did, we must understand their backgrounds, the darkness they have known, the way light changed their surfaces and how brokenness affected their hearts and minds. We can only know these things through the intimate revelation God gives. Intimacy is not trivial. It’s born over time. Therefore, if we want to be effective for Christ, we must give Him our time and attention. Not thinking of ourselves and how we might benefit at His feet, but looking adoringly at our Lord as we wait for Him to touch us, speak to us and send us in His power to touch the world around us.

Carl Gustav Carus, a German painter and close friend of Goethe, left a piece of wisdom for us to ponder many years later. As I reflect on my relationship with the Lord, I would like to offer it as the formula for this intimacy. “You lose yourself in boundless space … your ego vanishes; you are nothing, God is all.” This boundless space he is referring to is our times in the desert of life. Like Jesus, led by the Spirit into the wilderness, we are brought out away from everything that might hinder our attentions from receiving and left there to wrestle with God. Honore de Balzac once wrote that the desert “is God without mankind.” There, in that unhindered place, we get to know God so intimately. We get to know the discomfort of being alone with Him. If you have never been uncomfortable under the Spirit, I doubt that you have ever been alone with God. It’s so necessary, though, if you want to know His will and remain closely in step with Him. Don’t run away from those moments of lonely dependence on God for companionship. So many of us want to fill that void with another when in reality, that can be times of sweet communion with the Holy Spirit you might otherwise never know. Bask in the presence of God there in the secret place. Then you can do the good works God prepared for you beforehand with all the wisdom and knowledge you need to succeed as God intended, and bring great glory to His name. As His masterpiece.

 

Jeepers! Creepers!

Published August 19, 2016 by Dawn

The dog and I often take random runs around town. The only logic to our run is, “how can we make a three-mile run and avoid as many hills as possible?” We literally run everywhere. The other day, we were preparing to take off for a late evening run and my daughter delighted me by telling me she was coming along. That never happens. So then, of course, my son had to come too. Before long, the whole household – excepting the guinea pig – set out to complete a three-mile trek. My kids, of course, had their various wheels along so it would seem slightly easier. I was overjoyed.

We were halfway through our run when I noticed this black car had driven past us for the second time. I try to watch the vehicles around us as much as possible, especially when my kids are with me. I intentionally point out the ones we’ve seen before, just to encourage them to be aware of their surroundings at all times. I didn’t say anything about having seen this car before because they were already beginning to fuss over how late it was and I didn’t want to alarm them. I didn’t mention it the third time I saw it drive past either.

When I saw it the fourth time, as we started the stretch of road before heading home, I started to get a little nervous. This time, it wasn’t driving past us. It was sitting in a vacant lot next to an abandoned gas station with its lights on in our direction. We passed it and I looked it over really good, but didn’t notice a darn thing about it because my thoughts were running rampant in my head. When we got a little ways past, I stopped running and turned to my kids.

“Guys, I don’t want you to freak out but I’ve noticed the same black car four times now and I just want you to know that if we notice it again, we are going to run to the police station, not directly home.” My daughter said, “Yeah, I noticed it too. There’s a white man in the driver’s seat with a hat on and I even memorized the first three letters of his license plate.” She rattled them off and I was suddenly grateful we had an identifier so our imaginations could not run away with us if we saw a random black car on the way home. We knew specifically what we were watching out for.

We were nearing the top of the last hill on the way to our home when the car drove past us and stopped at the stop sign ahead. The first three letters of the license plate confirmed our fears: it was the same car. I turned to the kids and was about to tell them we would head toward the police station when a cop car pulled up behind him. The black car put his blinker on and signaled that he was turning into a parking lot to the right of the road, and the cop car put his signal on and turned left toward the police station. The black car turned off its blinker, creeped up the road a little and stopped on the side of the road very near where we needed to run to get home.

Instead of defying my fear, which is my usual approach to scary things in life, I followed wisdom … and the cop car, to the police station. The officer was walking up the sidewalk when we caught up to him and explained what had happened. The officer, despite my dog’s unfriendly attitude toward him, graciously offered to make sure we got home safely. He followed us ever so slowly as we made our way the last few blocks to our house. Then he offered to check into it for us.

My kids were completely freaked out when we got home. Not to say I wasn’t, but since the Lord has been my only companion most of the last thirteen years of my life, I live with a constant awareness of his nearness that is relatively unshakeable. I trust him, and I don’t think that’s foolish. I prayed a silent prayer for wisdom and began to calm their fears as best as I knew how: by recounting the events of the evening with a vastly different perspective than the one they were entertaining. You see, their thoughts were on the creeper and what could have happened. I pointed out how God intervened, and the things that actually happened.

Yes, there was a creeper following us and who knows … our imaginations can conjure up a plethora of things that could have happened and scare us to death. But I noticed the car early, which is a miracle in and of itself. When I am running, I am mostly concerned with the death I am dying in that moment … running is deadly. It kills me every time I do it. I am hardly ever concerned or aware with what’s going on around me. I trust Jesus and my crazy dog to keep me safe. But this time, I noticed something.

My daughter also noticed it, and had the wisdom to begin noticing other details that were pertinent in relating this incident to the police officer.

Then there was the cop who drove up right behind the creeper, ensuring we had almost immediate access to an officer who could, and did, provide a safe escort home. We did not have to run past the creeper’s car again, and therefore, he was not able to track us back to our sanctuary. We made it home safe.

Here’s the deal: Satan’s a creeper too. He’s “roaming around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He creeps on people all day, every day, and most often, we spend way too much time thinking about what he is capable of and how he might interfere in our lives or lead us into harm’s way. But what about what God is doing? Didn’t He promise in His word to take all things that Satan purposes for evil and turn it around for our good (Romans 8:28)? David tells us over and over in the Psalms that God is our shield. Our fortress. How often does He shelter us from the enemy’s attacks and snares? Shouldn’t we be focusing on what God is doing to thwart the devil’s plans, instead of magnifying the war Satan wages in our lives? If we magnified Christ and his victory instead, wouldn’t that restore our hope, our peace, and our joy? Look what the Lord has done!! Even still, aren’t we safe when the battle rages on around us? Sheltered safe within the arms of God? Church, we need to recognize! We need to stop talking about and thinking about what Satan is doing. “But God ….!” As I told me kids at the end of that night, “If God be for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)!

Oceans Deep

Published August 17, 2016 by Dawn

“You called me out upon the waters. The great unknown where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery. In oceans deep my faith will stand.” -Hillsong United

I met the ocean for the first time in my life this past summer. It is, by far, the most awe-inspiring thing I have ever beheld. Seeing the sky touch the sea, with no land beyond my sight, made my world a whole lot smaller. It’s so vast. Fathomless. I still cannot wrap my mind around the depths I imagine beneath the surface and the many treasures forever hidden there.

I was feeling really brave the first day I walked out into the salty waves and said to my niece, “Hey, let’s swim out to that buoy.” It was about a quarter mile from the beach and since there were others out near it, I thought for sure we could do it. And I’m still sure we could have … we just didn’t. We swam about halfway to it and got cold feet. Quite literally. I stopped swimming long enough to assess how far we had gone out and how much further we had to go and while my legs coursed through the water below, I felt a change in the temperature. It was perceptibly colder right about where my toes were.

My imagination kicked in overdrive. I imagined a chasm. That was the only plausible explanation in my mind at that moment for such a drastic temperature change so close to shore. And chasms are dark. Creepy things hide in the dark. Creepy swimmy things. Big creepy swimmy things. Big creepy swimmy things that probably want to eat me. I was suddenly over the idea of swimming out to the buoy. I turned to my niece and said, “Yeah … I’m done.” She giggled and we both turned and swam back toward the shore.

Here’s the truth: I’m a little scared of the ocean. Not the big body of water so much as the many things I know swim below the surface. I was much closer to shore a few days later when I lowered my foot down on what felt like a fairly large fish. We were a stone’s throw away from dry land. Imagine what else is out there!

I’ve always sung the  song “Oceans” very sincerely. It’s one of my favorites. But then I met “oceans deep” and I can honestly say that I had to sincerely consider that commitment I always reiterate to the Lord when this song comes on. If I’m in a boat, the depth doesn’t scare me. It makes me sea-sick, but doesn’t scare me. But that song is about being out there like Peter. “If that’s you, Lord, tell me to come to you.” Out there, the great unknown where feet may fail. I find both of those things quite discomfiting.

I “stepped out of the boat” once, in the beginnings of my relationship with the Lord. I was young, reckless and full of faith. The Lord told me I was to quit my job and begin writing and with no plan B, single with two small kids at home and having just purchased my home, I did it. I hardly considered the repercussions. I was certain of God’s direction and certain He would get us through whatever was to come.

That certainty lasted less than a day before Satan started planting worry, doubt and fear in my heart. I fought against them for the next three years as the Lord began to reveal himself to me in so many marvelous ways. What God did for us in those years has solidified my faith.

I remember those days and it seems like another life altogether. It was years ago. I was brave then, but sometime since, a coldness has crept over my toes and I have cold feet about a lot of things. I’m suddenly timid. Fearful. There’s a lot of stuff below the surface that I can’t see. Big stuff I can’t anticipate, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t know for certain what it is. I know it’s out there. And I find myself living in fear a lot.

But here’s the truth: I know the one who made that ocean. I know the one who told that ocean how far it can go. I know the one who created every creature in that ocean and I have seen Him do some amazing things to protect and care for my family. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” As I write this, I am suddenly overwhelmed with this faith that I wish I would have taken with me out to that buoy. I wish I would have braved that unknown. Perhaps the ocean and I will meet again. The Lord knows I loved it! Until then, I will face the commands and guidance of God ever reminding myself of His faithfulness and constancy in my life. I encourage you to do the same!

 

 

 

Discipline

Published August 10, 2016 by Dawn

I had to will myself to write this afternoon. I didn’t want to. Because I am writing on my daughter’s computer because I no longer have one. I am trying not to allow this great disappointment to crush me. I am doing my best to forgive and move on, doing what I know I need to do and feel compelled to do in any way possible after my computer was murdered in Florida by my own son.

 

My son had a meltdown in Florida. Several hours worth of one. This time, I did not give in. I am beginning to see how manipulated I can be by his emotional storms, and this time, I wasn’t having any of it. So when he picked up my computer and acted like he was going to throw it on the ground, I didn’t even flinch. I told him I didn’t care if he threw it on the ground, I still wasn’t caving.

 

Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have a bluff. He gets that from me. He unrepentedly slammed my computer on the ground. In that moment, I lost so much more than a piece of technological convenience. I lost weeks worth of writing I hadn’t uploaded to my onedrive. It hurt so bad. On the inside. My outward demeanor was placid. Hours later, after the tantrum was over and he was lying in bed sick to his stomach because of his behavior, he asked me to forgive him. In my house, it’s what you do. Not just saying “I’m sorry,” but seeking forgiveness. And the only proper response to someone seeking forgiveness is to do exactly what Jesus would do. Forgive immediately. I did that. The consequences of his actions are still hurting me, even though he’s moved on. And I love that he’s not carrying a burden over it. I love that my son is free, even if his actions have caused a wide ripple I have to deal with.

 

But of course, there are consequences. He is forgiven, but he will be working to pay off a new computer. I will not hold this sin over his head, but I will require him to work off the cost of a new computer, and when he asks for something, I will remind him that my number one financial need after we pay our bills and eat is a new computer. Not because I don’t like my son, but because I want him to understand the far-reaching impact his decisions have before more meaningful decisions arise in his life.

 

I’m beginning to understand discipline in the context of a loving relationship. The world would have us believe that discipline is bad. That it’s damaging. I have to disagree.

 

I’ve never been a strong disciplinarian. I’m a single mom and I live by the motto, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I have always struggled to care enough, after work and all the chores afterward at home, to address my kids’ need for discipline. I waited for things to blow over and went on with life. That’s how I ended up where I am now. My daughter governs herself well, due to her strong relationship with her daddy God. My son, on the other hand, has seen my lack of authority and has become a master at manipulating me. It took years for me to recognize how played I am.

 

This whole issue of discipline was something of a summer learning experience between the Lord and I. Because “the Lord disciplines those he loves.” I love my son. He’s one of the greatest treasures I’ve ever received. As I began to recognize the paths he seems drawn to, and petitioning God daily, “Please, Lord, don’t let my son turn out a fool!” God drew my attention back to myself in relation to who my son is becoming. “What are you doing to draw him back to safety? What needs to change and what can you do to affect that change?”

 

Shortly after this prayer, I found myself outside cleaning up the yard to mow. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a black and brown bullet zoom past my house and realized my dog had gotten out. I have spent so many hours and tears trying to keep this dog in the yard and right when I have things figured out, someone leaves the gate open! I had to stop what I was doing, grab his leash and go get him. So afterward, I found the kid responsible for this diversion and told him he’d be finishing up the yard cleaning while I started mowing. Expecting him to do what I said quickly because his dad was on the way, I was surprised to get mostly done with the yard before I realized he cleaned up only until I couldn’t see him anymore then he hightailed it inside and grabbed his things. He was long gone before I got to his unfinished mess.

 

Exasperated, I looked up to God and whispered through clenched teeth, “How do I discipline effectively?”

 

Are you prepared for this? I mean, really? Because what I felt led to do was so opposed to how I imagine someone might have handled this. You see, I called my son and asked him why he didn’t finish. He told me he didn’t see anything else. There was an entire tree branch in the yard!

 

I put it in his bed.

 

I knew he’d see it there, and I knew he’d have to move it. Most importantly, I wanted him to understand how inconvenient that tree branch was to me after he left. I wanted him to feel that inconvenience and begin to think about how his actions effected me. So I picked up the tree branch, and all the other little chitlin lying around and deposited it all on his silky brown sheet.

 

While picking up all the stuff he “didn’t see,” I gathered some rather messy, dry, leafy twigs to go with it all but the Lord stopped me. He asked, “Do you want to discipline or destroy him?” And I knew exactly what He meant. The mess that would have made in my son’s bed would have broken him. I didn’t want to do that.

 

The point of all of this is that God often disciplines us in order to steer us in positive directions. He doesn’t shield us from adversity or the consequences of our actions, even if we desperately wish He would. He’s a good father. He wants us to be happy, but he also wants us to mature. To think about others. To think about how our actions shape our lives and the lives of those around us. He does this because He loves us. He loves us enough to let us be uncomfortable sometimes, and enough to let us face the life we are creating in hopes that we will make a change. He uses this discipline to teach us self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. A fruit, you see, grows from the seed that is planted. So the Spirit, planted in us is capable of bearing this fruit, but we have to allow God to water and prune it. Both of those things can be momentarily uncomfortable for a seed.

 

But know this: God does not want to destroy us by His discipline. He wants to teach us. And when we ask for forgiveness for our moments of rashness, His response is immediate forgiveness. He loves us. He doesn’t want to burden us. He simply wants to train us to be wise, not foolish. Discipline is a beautiful thing. After three months of faithfully disciplining my son, I am beginning to see a wiser young man in the place of that foolish child.