I Am Not Raising Good Christians

Yep. It is true.

I am not raising my children to be Good Christians.

I don’t want my children to grow up trying to be “Good Christians”.

If there is such a thing as a Good Christian then there must be such a thing as a Bad Christian. What does it take to place you on the “good” or “bad” scale? Is it the number of times a week you attend church? How early you get up for “devotions”? How many missions you support?

I guess rather than ask what it takes to be a Good Christian, we should really ask what is a Christian?

A Christian is simply someone who trusts in Christ for their salvation.

The fact is, you simply cannot earn your salvation.

As such, furthering the idea of being a “Good” Christian is furthering the misconception that our piety, or attempts at, can increase how much our Savior loves us. And the very hurtful misbelief that our failings can decrease how much He loves us. In this day and age we rarely hear this aspect being outwardly preached, the idea that our failings decrease His love for us. But kids are smart. If we convey to them that our actions can increase His love, they will rapidly conclude that likewise our actions can decrease His love.

But His love is unfailing.

If our good deeds make Him love us more and our bad deeds make Him love us less, we could eventually earn our way into heaven. If that were the case, Jesus would never have needed to die for our sins.

But He did. He willingly died for our sins. He knows our failings. He knows our goodness. He isn’t some cosmic, angry overlord looking at us, weighing whether we have done enough good things to make Him happy and outweigh the bad things we’ve done.

I want to raise my children to know and love Jesus. I want them to love Him unconditionally. And I want them to know that He loves them unconditionally.

I don’t want them trying to be Good Enough to earn anyone’s love, let alone that of the Savior who already did the work.

As parents we don’t want to lead our kids to the idea that our love for them is contingent upon their behavior. So we must stop raising them to believe that Jesus’s love for them is contingent upon their behavior.

I think one of the best gifts I can give to my children is an understanding of God as a devout and heavenly father who loves them unconditionally. To understand that we choose to do good and make good decisions not because they increase our standing as a “Good Christian” but because we have a loving heavenly Father who wants to share His love with us and through us.

I want my kids to be good people. I want them to love Jesus and to love others. I want them to see what love looks like and to offer love. I want them never to make conditions on their love and to never feel that love toward them is conditional. I want them to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I want them to be a light to the cold, dark world. I want them to be salt.

But I don’t want them to be Good Christians.

 

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Dishwasher Theology

For most of my adult life, I have struggled with understanding the truth of who Jesus is and of His great, unending, unmerited love for me. I believed, or so I would have told you, that works would not cull favor with the Lord. Salvation is not works based. I knew this. And yet I prescribed to a somewhat, shall we say ill-conceived, theology. I call it my “Dishwasher Theology”.

My husband and I have never had, in any of our married years, a physically speaking smooth and easy life. Now, I know, compared to people in other countries we have an easy life. But compared to “Middle Class Americans” we really don’t. Feel free to read here about some of our water issues.  But we own a firetruck and that isn’t something a lot of people can say. Someday I’ll blog about the firetruck, but I digress.

We moved into this house ten years ago, a few weeks after the birth of our fifth child. This house, that was the answer to prayers in so many ways including but not limited to moving our family of seven from a 900 sq. ft. house to a 2300 sq. ft. house! But with it began a whole host of troubles that we are still dealing with. One such issue was the dishwasher.

The only problem with the dishwasher in this house was the lack of one. We eventually installed one. And it stopped working. We had two given to us. They stopped working. With all the other issues, we didn’t think we could afford to buy one for a while. So basically for the first few years in this house we had a string of poorly working or non working dishwashers and 5 children 7 years old and under. I was a stressed out momma.

That isn’t a terribly unusual story. I know a lot of people without dishwashers. The real problem wasn’t my faulty dishwasher. It was my faulty theology.

See, I didn’t just “not have a dishwasher”. But rather all attempts to get a dishwasher quickly resulted in the same problem — a broken dishwasher. It felt like punishment. It felt like each step toward a dishwasher was a trip down the slide straight back to no dishwasher. It felt like there was some reason I wasn’t allowed to have a dishwasher. Logic told me that God was punishing me for being a lousy housekeeper (which I truly am). I was convinced that until I learned to keep my dishes clean without a dishwasher, I would never be allowed to have a dishwasher because I needed to learn a lesson. A lesson I was quite incapable of learning.

Somehow, I mixed up in my head the amazing saving grace of a Father God who adores us and wants all good things for us with some idea that if I couldn’t measure up to some humanly derived standard, then I couldn’t have things that would help me measure up to said, humanly derived, standard.

Is that confusing? Good. Because it is confusing.

How can we really believe that God loves us, believe that He wants only good for us, and yet think that He is somehow responsible for the bad things that come our way. Whether we believe He “broke our dishwasher” as punishment or simply that He “Allowed our dishwasher to break as punishment” (because as Christians we are really good and phraseology that shows that we’d never “blame” God), how can we really justify this with our belief in His total Goodness.

Stuff happens. Bad stuff happens. We make choices and we have consequences. This is not God sending us bad things. He tells us that He will make all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28). He doesn’t say “I’m gonna break your dishwasher and make you learn a lesson for your own good.” Bad things happen. Dishwashers break (A lot actually, I had no idea…After starting this post and leaving it to sit for a few… weeks, my dishwasher broke again. As I’ve mentioned before, I live an ironic life.)

So I have spent the last several years grappling with this concept. Trying to understand that not every bad thing means God is angry or displeased.

But the opposite is just as true.

I have always served. I have served out of a heart for others and for God. I have served not to gain, but to do what is right. In fact, I have said over and over to my own children and the children that I teach “Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.” (Not “right” in a legalistic way but right as in that which does good, not evil.)

I have always believed this. I have always tried to live this. I have never served to “cull favor” with God.

But.

Now this is where faulty Dishwasher Theology gets really muddy.

Though I have never served in order to cull favor with God or man, though I have never served in an attempt to gain thanks and accolades or attention (and truthfully those things make me super uncomfortable), I have been guilty of feeling like somehow my service should have culled favor. Should have “counted” in some way. My reasons for serving were pure. And yet I have let myself think “God, I do all these things because I should. Because I want to. Because it is right. Why do I not receive in kind? Why do people who don’t give so easily and selflessly receive more abundant blessing? Why does my heart to serve not give me more favor than other people who serve minimally and out of obligation?”

Do you see it?

Do you see the lunacy? The circle of crazy in my brain? Because as I search my heart I fully believe every act of service I have done has been done out of a pure heart with NO hope of using it to leverage favor. And yet, I feel like God should know that and bestow the favor.

Yeah. It’s truly crazy.

I have talked to friends and pastors about these issues, struggling to understand why God allows us to deal with certain struggles, why God seems to bless unequally, why some people seem to walk in abundant favor and others of us seem to walk in just enough favor to get by. I have cried, yelled, written awful things, deleted many of them, wished I had deleted others. I have spent years trying to understand the Grace of a Good, Good God.

Finally, I think I understand it.

Grace is not meant to be understood.

Grace isn’t something we can hope to grasp so that we can finally understand the ways of God.

Grace is meant to be felt and extended. Grace is meant to be lived.

Grace.

Folks, as long as we spend our lives trying to understand why God and how God and if God and when God, we will continue to miss the Grace of God. God sent us His Son to be Grace. He poured out His Grace on that cross and on our lives every single day. And as long as we focus on how we earn, merit, deserve or any other verb Grace, we miss the point. Our focus is still on us. And when our focus is on us, when my focus is on me, it isn’t on God. And when we stop focusing on God, on His Grace, we miss it.

Grace.

All Grace.

I’m so grateful as I write this, as I show my human failings and shortcomings. As I open my heart and all it’s failures to people I know to see how shallow I am, that I already have the forgiveness of God, because He and I are all good. He sees my heart and His Grace has more than covered my years of Dishwasher Theology. And when I inevitably slide back into it from time to time, He’ll gently remind me of His Grace. And He’ll remember my sins no more.

I want to say a special thanks to Jami Amerine at Sacred Ground Sticky Floors for her book Stolen Jesus (I get no money for this recommendation, that is not an affiliate link) which was instrumental in helping to cement months of work that God had been doing on my heart helping me begin to grasp the Grace of God.

And to my dear Kristy, who has giggled with me about my Dishwasher Theology for years repeating, “That’s not how this works” and loving my crazy chaotic self through it all.

 

 

 

Widen Your Circle

I grew up in a teeny, tiny town. That town was located inside a small, close knit county. And and though I haven’t lived there since I was 18, I moved back to neighboring counties and still consider myself a “Brown Countian”.

Growing up in this rural county was great.  But it offered what I think might be somewhat unique issues. We had 4 elementary schools that fed into one “central” junior high and high school.  Our little county includes the county seat, Nashville, Indiana – a much known tourist town.  One of our elementary schools was in this town.  The rest were what I call “outliers”. I attended an outlying school. The first time I realized there was a difference was when we all started junior high.  If you were not from the elementary school in Nashville, well… there was a certain – stigma.

As I grew, I thought I had outgrown the frustration associated with being a townie versus being an outlier.  It appears I have not.  Those who live in or near town truly have a different experience in life than those who live in the more rural areas of the county.  In some ways it is still like being in high school. If you live close, you get included in all the fun. If you live outside of town, you really aren’t excluded. But you aren’t thought of to be included. You don’t tend to be “in town” when the impromptu stuff happens. As such, you are not making those connections, building friendships and becoming more closely known by those in town. Therefore when stuff comes up again, the same group of people are immediately thought of to do stuff again.

As an adult I can see that it isn’t a matter of trying to hurt others by being exclusive. What I do see is, it is super easy to exclude people for simple reasons of location.

girls vbs blog

Three Musketeers

I find this same thing in my life.  I homeschool.  I know A LOT of homeschoolers.  But I tend to pick the same 4 or 5 families to do homeschool activities with.  And the other homeschoolers I know tend to pick the same group of homeschoolers to do things with. We rarely do things together. Habit.

This leads to a bigger problem. How often we exclude others for similarly silly reasons. Usually we are not intending to be exclusive, right? But we get in a habit of chatting with the same people, generally just hanging out with the same people. And that is normal. And it is okay. But we should all develop a habit of looking outside ourselves, our cliques, our friendship circles for those who desperately need/want/are seeking someone to include them.

I’m guilty. For sure. Often God has impressed upon me someone He wanted me to befriend. I’ve been guilty of wishing He had chosen someone else…But when I’ve listened I have found these people to be huge blessings in my life.

My rambling point is this: Maybe we need to be more aware when we are doing things in groups. There is nothing at all wrong with having a group of friends we choose to hang out with. This alone does not make us a “clique”. But when we over focus on just being with certain friends, and never look around to see if God wants us to reach out, we lose many blessings and lose the chance to be an instrument of God in His blessing of others.

STOP IT

A few weeks ago I wrote a post to my friends of my age on behalf of my younger friends. You can read that here if you haven’t yet.

Today I am writing to all of my friends on behalf of all of my friends. Yes, this is for you on your behalf.

STOP IT ALREADY!!!

STOP hesitating to tell God about your “little” problems.

STOP telling your friends you are “fine” when you really want to tell them “I’M HAVING A CRAPPY DAY AND I DON’T KNOW WHY?!”

STOP ignoring that instinct to ask for prayer because “it’s just a headache, others have such bigger problems.”

STOP minimizing your problems because others have it so much worse than you do.

I’m here to tell you a secret. Only, it shouldn’t be a secret.

GOD IS BIGGER THAN THE BOOGIE MAN!

God is big enough to heal your friend’s broken heart because her husband left her AND heal your headache. He’s big enough to heal your neighbor’s cancer AND your “petty forgiveness” to your friend. He’s big enough to comfort your friend as she openly weeps at the loss of a loved one and comfort you as you weep because you can’t keep your kitchen floor from feeling like it was made of syrup.

God adores you. When you gave your heart to him, it wasn’t only in the “good”. It was “for better or worse”. He knows that today you just want to sit and weep because you don’t think you can fold one more load of laundry or make one more trip to the bathroom with the toddler who doesn’t really need to go. He knows that your head hurts, not so badly that you can’t function but enough that you really can’t function.

He knows these things, but like any adoring parent, he wants you to talk to him about it. He wants to send you the healing and comfort you need. He wants you to share your life with Him.

When we don’t ask for prayer, when we don’t pray for ourselves because we feel like our problems aren’t big enough for God “in light of what others are suffering”, we are in a way doubting Him. Do we doubt that He can heal broken hearts and broken spirits AND broken bones?

Our troubles are not too small for our Father who loves us. But when we don’t ask for prayer or pray psalm 46for things because we think they are too small, we separate ourselves from communing with Him and His people. We choose to pull away from Him claiming it isn’t a big enough deal. But that is all us, not Him. He doesn’t tell us our problems are too small. For God, all problems are small!

Today, I challenge you to take your small problems to God. Open dialogue with Him.

Give Him a chance to love on you in the little things.

Because really, the little things are the big things.

 

 

The Polygamist’s Daughter

The Polygamist's DaughterThe Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do you do when bad things happen in your life?
What do you do when your whole life is fear, abuse and mind games?
What do you do when religion is used to defeat and control you?
What do you do when you have a window to escape? Are you brave enough? Strong enough?
What do you do when you fall in love with a God who is crazy about you? Loves you?
This little girl proved that with the outreached arms of the Father God, you can be strong enough, brave enough.
This book is not only a history, not only her story, but a tale of encouragement. This book shows us that we can use our hurts not to lash out, but rather to reach out to those who have hurt us and show the world the love of a real, true, loving God.
Men seek to destroy the fame, the story, the truth, the love of God. Religion devours.
But God loves.
This book brings hope. Hope that the Love of God wins.
Anna’s life, her story, her bravery in sharing her story, her bravery in continuing to follow God’s plan for love and redemption is the story of God’s unfailing Love in a fallen and failing world.

View all my reviews

Hold Onto the Promises

Grief.

Desperate grief.

Grief that only one momma can feel for another momma.

A fatherless little girl.

Two fatherless little girls.

Three fatherless little girls in my little world in a month’s time.

Three little girls never again to hold their daddy’s hand.

If you doubt that satan desires to destroy our families, what more proof do you need?

Three young men. Fathers. Destroyed by the enemy. Men of faith. Men bent on building a better life for their young daughters.

The enemy wants to kill, steal and destroy our families.

He wants our children.

HE CANNOT HAVE THEM!

We will not be frightened away. We will not be terrified into backing off.

HE WILL NOT HAVE OUR FAMILIES!

HE WILL NOT HAVE OUR CHILDREN!

We are not intimidated. We are hurt. We are grieving.

But we are angry.

Jesus promised us. He promised us our children. Proverbs 22:6

He promised us life to the full. John 10:10

So we say again, YOU CANNOT HAVE OUR CHILDREN!

Pray for your children. Pray for the children in your life. Pray for the families. Satan thinks he has beat us up.

All he has done is angered momma bear.

We will fight. And we will win. Because Jesus has promised us and all His promises are yes and amen!

 

Stop Saying It’s Not a Big Deal

You know what I wish?

I wish we would stop treating those younger than us as if their heartache, pain and anxiety is not real simply because we have more life experience.

I’m serious. Our teens. Our twenty year olds. Even our thirty year olds. They are experiencing their lives first hand, just like we did, and they are going through their very real stuff. And we need to stop saying “Oh, honey, you think that’s bad?”

It is bad!

I’m pretty well ensconced in my forties now. But I remember the ache of being a lonely, uncool teenager who didn’t fit in.

I remember rushing home from school to call my best friend and chat for hours because we really couldn’t talk much at school.

I remember how much I missed my boyfriend who lived an hour away. I remember not being able to wait to see him and crying as soon as I left him.

I remember being too young to get married but knowing in my heart that I couldn’t wait to spend every day with my knight.

I remember being terrified looking for my first teaching job. And worrying over which benefits to select. And my first house. And buying a car as an adult for the first time. And all those things that are terrifying.

I remember the lonely ache as I desperately waited to have my first baby. Years of waiting for “the right time.”

Folks, if you can’t remember the stress, pain and anxiety that goes with the teen years and the twenties, dare I say even thirties, when you don’t really know who you are and what you are doing, then I urge you — Shut Up.

Really. Just. Shut. Up.

If you cannot understand your twenty year old friend as she worries over the perfect job, or the young lady who is trying to figure out where she belongs or if she’ll ever get married or find the perfect house or whatever, then please, just say nothing. Don’t tell her that her problems aren’t real. Don’t tell her that if she only knew what the “real world” held she wouldn’t complain.

This is the real world. We learn to navigate pain and struggles in our lives by navigating the “little” stuff as we work our way through. We need to validate for them that this is real and it is really hard. We can encourage from the side of the fence that has seen that some of these things aren’t that big of a deal after the fact. But remember that during IT IS A BIG DEAL! We can tell them that we serve a big God who is big enough to help us through our mistakes and that a bad decision in life now is not the end of the world.

We can do these things without belittling the pain or anxiety they are experiencing.

Please, my compatriots in your 40s+, stop telling them it isn’t a big deal and it isn’t important. They want love and encouragement from our generation. But they won’t want to talk to us if we make them feel silly or unimportant.

I urge you today, if you know a younger person with some life struggles, reach out to them. Chat with them. Buy them a cup of coffee. Relate to them. Listen to them. Remember what it was like to be in that situation in life and love on them. Show them the grace on earth that we all so desperately need.