Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Field Trip

I mentioned a few weeks ago a book I wish I had read years ago.  I’ve heard a couple of people use the expression that a book “really messed me up”~ and I am figuring out they mean “messed [them] up” in the best sort of way.  Typically, they go on to explain in coherent detail the amazing truths they gained and how they took hold of them, applying them to their lives and how their lives, now, are completely different.  Well, I started a book and a couple of months later, I’m still in the “really messed up” stage, which for me means, I am really churned up on the inside~ like deep down where it matters.  The Lord’s been gently plowing for a while and I think, preparing me for just these lessons.  The problem is, I haven’t been able to get a good grip on any of it.  Borrowing thoughts from Christa Wells, I don’t see these clouds framing up nicely and neatly any time soon.  We have~and I do mean “we”~ got a forty year pattern to redirect.... or maybe, shatter.  To smithereens.  The words I read continue to drift about and morph in my mind and I can’t see exactly how they are going to frame up in my particular life.  Frame up, they will, because it’s all Truth.  I just can’t envision it yet. Sometimes the longest journey seems to be from your head to your heart. I told a friend today, I am ready for this field trip to be over.  You know, get to the simple little talk at the end.  Selfishly.  Seriously.

Okay-- the book.  Well, two books really. First book: Two friends from two different circles told me about the parenting book, Give them Grace:  Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus  by Elyse Fitzpatrick and one of them also recommended, by the same author, Because He Loves Me.  {Thank you, Tara and Whitney.}  The way I see it is that Because He Loves Me lays the framework on which Give them Grace can be built.  Personally, I don’t think I can implement the teachings of the latter without fully understanding the former.  And guess what?  It’s messed me up so much that I can’t even type two coherent thoughts about it.  I just know I want to understand these things in my soul, live them out in every area of my life and pass them on to my kids.

I’ll just give you some snippets to maybe whet your appetite or cause you to wonder if I am really a Christian or make you want to run as far away as possible from these books.  I pray the first.  It’s good stuff.

From Because He Loves Me:

Most of us view God’s love and the gospel as elementary topics meant to get us in the front door of faith, and they are that.  But we’ve forgotten how these truths are also to transform us every moment of every day. {pg.38}

Peter writes [in 2 Peter 1:9] that one reason we don’t grow in ordinary, grateful obedience as we should is that we’ve got amnesia; we’ve forgotten that we were cleansed from our sins.  In other words, he is saying that ongoing failure in sanctification {the slow process of change into Christlikeness} is the direct result of failing to remember God’s love for us in the gospel.  If we lack the comfort and assurance that his love and cleansing are meant to supply, our failures will handcuff us to yesterday’s sin and we won’t have faith or courage to fight against them, or the love for God that’s meant to empower this war. {pg.39, italics mine}

The gospel message- you have been cleansed from sin-- is the pinnacle of God’s loving work in the world, and just as it is this work that saves us, it is also this work that transforms us and sustains us.  The gospel is the message that must remain paramount throughout all our life.  It must not be relegated to yesterday’s news or tucked away with the faded photos of our first steps in Christ.  {pg.41}

Our problem is that if we don’t continually remind ourselves that he has chosen, renamed and remade us, the struggle to grow in Christian character will become nothing more than another attempt at self-improvement, and self-improvement always results in self-loathing or pride.   Our Savior has declared that we are completely dependent upon him and what he accomplished for us, but in overconfidence we hastily run past his accomplishments and seek rest in our own.  {pg.50}

From Give them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus 

Grace, or the free favor that has been lavished on us through Christ, ought to make our parenting radically different from what unbelievers do.  That’s because the good news of God’s grace is meant to permeate and transform every relationship we have, including our relationship with our children.  All the typical ways we construct to get things done and get others to do our bidding are simply obliterated by a gospel message that tells us that we are all {parents and children} both radically sinful and radically loved.  At the deepest level of what we do as parents, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace-giving Father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters.  If this is not the message that your children hear from you, if the message that you send them on a daily basis is about being good so that you won’t be disappointed, then the gospel needs to transform your parenting, too.  {and that from the introduction! pg.21}

How can we tell whether our efforts at parenting are motivated by reliance on God’s grace or on self-trust?  How can we know whether we’re trying to obligate God or serve him in gratitude?  One way to judge is to consider your reaction when your children fail.  If you are angry, frustrated or despairing because you work so hard and they aren’t responding, then you’re working {at least in part} for the wrong reasons.  Conversely, if you’re proud when your children obey and you get the desired kudos---Oh! your kids are so good!-- you should expect your motives.  Both pride and despair grow in the self-reliant heart.  {pg.54}

See what I mean?  This is spiritual DNA stuff.  It’s the Spirit’s inner workings of who we are and how that is manifested every day~ outside my home and inside my home.  One day, maybe, I can write a sensible post on these truths and the way I understand them and the way they’ve changed me.  But I’ve got a feeling the field trip is far from over and I’m okay with that because I know He’s there.

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