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Simplicity- Nuclear Reactor or Wise Response

Speaking to my Mom the other day we got onto the subject of reacting to children’s behavior or stressful situations in negative or angry ways. I confess that I have a very hard time keeping my cool in certain situations in regards to my children and their childish ways or my dog or stupid commercials or the news and its inevitable skewing of truth. I even find myself saying absolute statements about what is in our food or sinful behaviors in others or whatnot that I come across in life that are contrary to the Truth. I am opinionated, I know this. And I can be very caustic when it comes to the things I disagree with. I find that in my heart when it comes to people, I am absolutely on their side and would never want to come across as judging them… in my heart. On the outside in my attempt to show my children what is right and wrong, I find that maybe I am just coming across as judgmental and legalistic.

I, out eleven children was (likely) my moms most difficult child, being third in line and the eldest daughter. When I was born my mom has described me as “angry to be alive” and she even sought counseling from a pastor due to my constant crying in the first six weeks of my life, not just any kind of crying but angry, screeching wails of frustration. I find that this is very much my personality even now, and I find myself to be difficult for my own self to live with. I have a hard time accepting and forgiving my unlovable tendencies and struggle to forgive my own lack of perfection and self-control.

One of the statements my mom made that resonated with me was that every person on this planet deep down cannot find a reason to say that they are okay and I contend that if they can say that they are, then they are likely not being honest with themselves or they are not looking deep enough. This was when we were discussing the beautiful message from God in Tim Tebow’s amazing performance the other day playing football. She says that God wants us to know how loved we are and I completely agree. This brings me back to reacting to difficulty and crisis situations in a way that may not portray this beautiful truth to my children. If there is anything a loving parent wants for their children it is that they would know undoubtedly how much they are loved, because we all know that in this world there tends to be so little to reinforce that for them. So when portraying a spirit of judgement upon those things that are inevitably wrong with the world and life and people it fundamentally sets up a spirit of failure and never being good or lovable enough to be of any value, even when this attitude is projected elsewhere and not upon the child, they will still see your judgement upon that behavior and if they choose to act in that behavior not only does it set them up to feel judgment from you their parent but also sets them up to know how to attempt to gain power over you in an act of defiance.

I think ultimately as a parent though we want the best for our children and to help them avoid painful consequences and to be “okay”, then helping them out of difficult situations when those situations are ones they had gotten themselves into on their own, however many have a tendency to attempt to beat the bad out either verbally, physically, or manipulatively while missing the point of the fact that human nature is flawed by sin and no amount of rules and punishment can ever produce a perfect human. Human choice, the nature of sin and the law lead to us to the knowledge that there is no reaching perfection. Christ was the perfect human and it is by his sacrifice that we find our painful mistakes can be washed away, and that our children when they come up against the pain of  the consequences of their sin can look to him to wash the guilt away.

I would like to strive for a parenting technique that involves less reaction and more reasonable responses. The book “Parenting with Love and Logic” is a good example and advocate of this kind of parenting, using children’s own choices as their punishment when the choice they end up making has a painful consequence. It allows for children to learn independence and wisdom from their own experiences rather than the drumming of sets of rules into their minds while ignoring their heart attitudes and beliefs.

Growing up I see how this affected me in various ways in conflicts I have had with my mother as she admitted that she was at times a reactionary parent for us older children. I could see as a child I could use my mothers reaction to various situations to attempt to manipulate her to get control over what I wanted to gain for myself. Being a parent now I see this more clearly as I see myself reacting with nuclear strength over minor, major and childish behaviors that may have been handled differently or even modeling for my children an angry attitude over uncontrollable circumstances, such as, a flat tire or financial issue or something that happens to pop up on television. Ultimately when a child receives no reaction for their negative behavior they find it to be, logically ineffective all on there own. As a child grows up and meets the unbending demands of life in a job or in a relationship or in class, they will find that responding with yelling, violent temper tantrums, and negative behavior usually will meet with more severity in adulthood when they come up against the consequences of painfully broken relationships, a lost job or inability to hold a job, and jail-time for violent outbursts when they have not gained what they wanted. I have seen this in so many I have grown up with in conservative and secular circles and I see it now in the consequences of my own sinful choices, it is a universal principal that everyone has to face in themselves and humanity in general.

Ultimately I am glad I can learn from the wisdom of  my mother and others who have been there in the trenches raising many different personalities imperfectly but for the grace of God and constant prayer. I want to learn from my own mistakes as I see my children reacting in ways that I see they have learned from explosive reactions I have modeled for them at times in the past. I find it daunting to undo habits in myself, but find that I can see a little more clearly how I can model a better example to them by my own behavior in responding to crisis even when it involves outside stresses unrelated to their behavior. I am glad too for a Gracious Heavenly Father that guides my life and mercifully covers a multitude of my sins in parenting as he did for my parents and for so many, and while we all know the faults of our parents I am so glad that I can learn from the mistakes made.

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Simplicity- Intro

The lifestyle of simplicity is becoming a lost art, a refinement forgotten. There is an appeal to that life of slow days and basics, where the things you have don’t own you and you aren’t a slave to the clock and at the mercy of schedules. There is an appeal to having the freedom to marvel at the simple things, like the wonder in a child’s eyes, or the sunsets, or the pictures in the clouds. Yet in this culture of busyness around us, a little child’s curiosity becomes bratty, and any inconvenience becomes a crisis. The car-seat trapped child’s eyes become dull and listless as they are carted about too and fro, forgotten in the bustle and hustle of play dates and dance lessons and after school programs and sports and church programs and the list goes on. There is nothing wrong with any of these things to do, there is something wrong though, when these things start owning you, when the commitment becomes too much and the necessities of life fall to the wayside for these activities.

Stress rears it’s ugly head against us, we feel guilt because somehow we have come to believe that we have to do and do and do. We have to give our kids the opportunities and we have to be at the party and we have to go and hang out with so and so, our homes have to be perfect, we have to meet the deadline… and yes we do sometime. However there comes a time to just stop; a season to rest, and maybe, a call to pull away and be left out of it all or at least most of it, to refocus and re-purpose ourselves, our families, our homes and our lives so that we can just be and not just do. There is a saying “You are a human being not a human doing”. The easy life is the life of being busy, because we no longer have to think about what matters- we just find more to do, to fill in the dead spaces, while at night we are haunted by those things that should be addressed in our lives, our character, our children’s discipline, our marriages. We fear the stillness of just being, in which our inadequacies shout at us through the bullhorn of guilt.

In the search for simplicity we need to first recognize the onslaught of expectations we face, and the origin of them. We need to evaluate if those expectations have come to us through sources we can trust or through the subtle influences of media and culture or even through the well meaning influence of slightly misguided friends and family. Each of us has the ability to divide the truth from the lies. If something has you stressed out and feeling overwhelmed and out of control or attacked, degraded and worthless it is not of value* to you. Usually the progression seems to follow a pattern of what we want, typically, we want to be liked**, thus we feel we must measure ourselves according to the expectations people around us have projected upon us, either verbally or inadvertently by their attitudes towards us or others. Then we can have perceived ideas of expectations that we feel we must live up to based on how the media portrays to us an unrealistic lifestyle of wealth and good times. Finally, we have to sort out our own expectations we have of ourselves; while filtering the importance of them through whether we want to be liked, if it is a source of pride, or if it is a lie propagated upon us by the media.

James 1:17
*Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

1 John 2:16
**For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

What can we do? How do we swing the pendulum back to center and re-engage with life? What are some ways you balance your life? Do you feel overwhelmed? I. do. a. lot. This post is the first of my series on digging myself out of the clutter of stuff and life owning me into an existence that is filled with me owning my life and my stuff being tools and not taskmasters. Do you have any tips for me? Or are you in the same boat as I am? Join me in this journey so we can discover the joys of simplicity together.

Masquerade of a Dead Life.

Sorting out some recent thoughts…

It is amazing the way a person can become so sure to you, how they can seem like they can be relied on for one small thing and still let you  down so harshly. I learned a long time ago how crushing it can be when someone you admire falls so hard and far from the pedestal you have put them on, but what I didn’t count on was the complete coldness and disregard a person can have for the values that keep family strong. It is one thing to disappoint another person it is another thing to aid in the destruction of family.

What an experience it is to see such a desperate attempt to keep certain “skeletons” from escaping the closet of a masquerade of a life. The broken attempts of hiding behind false pretense while in reality being the horrible victim of senseless acts of sins against you is just a pitiful and frightening reality for so many people. Unfortunately it can become a reality so big that in the end it affects not only you, but can affect generations to follow in ways that are devastating. All because you don’t want or can’t face what people might say or think of you even though what happened was not your fault. Sin when hidden becomes an insidious guest even when that sin has been done against you and you are not the one who has committed it. Typically when sinned against anger then unforgiveness then bitterness takes root in the hurt. The hard thing is that we have every right to be hurt and angry, but the key after that is to not sin in our hurt and anger. I know how hard it is to be hurt and angry and then have to deal with a child while wrestling with those feelings towards someone else, I have on numerous occasions snapped at them or yelled at them when they had nothing to do with my pain at all, but being so consumed by my pain, I overlooked what it might do to them to react in a way that will confuse and hurt them. Thus the cycle can continue and inevitably does in this fallen world. I have personally tried to make it a point to apologize to my children when I have done this and have when necessary attempted to explain to them some lesson of human nature and the mercy of God and His love.

What is remarkable to me in this is how the extent of someone else’s sin can cause us to sin against the innocent or those who are not the cause of the pain. Either way we are not to sin, in reaction to the person sinning against us or in reaction to those not involved. I can say that this is a very difficult ideal to grasp, I believe and know it, and I fail in it so many times. How I was shown this by God’s mercy, was in wondering about the resurrection and it’s importance in the life of one who believes. The refrain of the gospel is that we can be saved from our sin, it is beautiful to know this, however it is incomplete, because so many do not understand their own sin, and stand in judgement of others sins and the sins that they have been the victims of. Sometimes a person does not see the depravity of there own sin and only looks at the sin and suffering around them and wonders about how so much bad can happen. Christ died for my sin, your sin, and every individual’s sin. It becomes our responsibility to accept that gift of salvation from our sin. What happened after His death is three days later he arose from the dead, we all know that right? But see he didn’t go in the ground for three days, in those three days he conquered death forever and rose victorious over sin and death so that we may experience the same freedom and victory over sin and death because of our salvation through him. And that means sin. Period. Any sin that has been committed against us. Period. Any experience of death. Period.

In the light of His great salvation all of this has no hold on any believer, ever, unless the believer chooses to hold on to it, either in their ignorance to this or in their inability to fully grasp this victory. I have a hard time fully grasping the truth of this especially in moments of pain, and unfortunately pain doesn’t just go away in knowing this. What it does do though is it gives me hope in pain and joy in the hurt, that I do not have to remain imprisoned to someone else’s sins against me or others. It helps me to know that God has conquered it all and he is the only conqueror, and only through his salvation can I be more than a conqueror even though I have experienced the pain and hurt and horror of being sinned against.

Realize that sin is a work of Satan himself and that every person has the choice to sin or not. Do not deceive yourself about sin there is no small sin that we can commit as in letting our words hurt people or laziness or being false, and do not allow yourself to be deceived into the belief that there are sins that are too great for God’s power as in rape or murder or molestation. God’s power abolishes sin, God’s power heals our souls from sins, God’s power gives us peace in this sin stricken world. In pressing on towards wholeness in body, spirit and mind; this truth has been a balm for me, it has put my mind at ease even though the feelings of hurt and anger remain, it has helped me to sort through the mess that is life on this planet and it has helped me understand the pain that others face in there own lives. I hope it allows me to see healing in the lives of those I love and I hope that maybe it causes others curiosity to seek out this truth for them self.