Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should...

The saying, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" has come across my radar many times lately.  I have encountered it on the Internet dealing with sports.  One college football team is painting their field red in response to Boise State's infamous blue playing field.  This is going to look like a blood bath for goodness sake.  Before we know it, there will be all colors of the rainbow on football fields everywhere in order to gain notoriety for lesser known or publicized schools.  Can you imagine looking at certain colors out there for two hours straight?  Yellow?  Red?  Blue?  Purple?  Orange?  I'm afraid that the human eye might not be pleased and comfortable after awhile.

I have also encountered this phrase in a sermon preached recently by my husband on "Designer Roles". The scripture deals with the roles of men and women in the church--particularly corporate worship.  Part of the message dealt with what one would consider appropriate dress for worship.  Do we choose to wear things "just because we can"?  Should we?  What is our motive?  Does it draw attention (either positive or negative) to us rather than Christ?  People get very defensive when it comes to what they wear.  It leads us to really ask ourselves the motive behind how we choose to adorn ourselves, especially on the Lord's day and in His house....but also in daily living.

I have also contemplated the "just because" statement when it comes to television, movies, music and other media.  So many people today choose to watch television programs and other things simply because it what is available to them.  They figure, "these are my choices....I will watch TV or movies....therefore I will choose what I feel and believe is the best choice for me from what is presented to me by the media."  As a teacher who deals with music choices on a regular basis, I am often faced with eager students who love their musical choices so much that they want to share them with everyone.  The show GLEE, for instance is brought up regularly as "the best thing ever" and I am begged (yes begged) on a weekly basis to include arrangements of songs from this television show for us to perform.  My response to these students is usually to go and print the lyrics off, study and consider them in the light of who we are as a school and a choir, study them in light of who we are as believers in Christ, and return to me with their rationale for why this would be a good choice for our choir to sing.  Most of the time I either do not get a response at all, or some of the deep thinkers will come back and say, "I see what you mean.  But I still like the song."  Here again as Christians we are faced with decision we have to make in regards to what we have shoved in our faces by the mass media.  The latest bands of the day, the most popular singers and celebrities, the newest television show that "everyone is watching", the newest book series out (and we want our kids to read, right?), the box office smash that is a "must see in theaters", and the clothes that are "in style" or on the racks.  Many Christians fall prey to the mentality that "this is what the world is like"....."this is what my choices are and I must choose something"......"everyone is going/watching/reading/listening".....and again I hear in my mind.....

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

We are told in Romans 12:2,  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (emphasis mine)  Apparently these people were battling "the world" like we are today.  If it was bad then, it is even worse now...and going downhill fast.  It is only when we stop conforming to the world and giving into the choices it presents us that our mind can begin to be transformed and be renewed.  And THEN we will be able to discern what God's good, pleasing and perfect will is for us.  Looking for "God's will"?  Transform your mind by being different and rising above the scum and filth offered to us on a silver platter with glitz and glamour and "fun" decorating the package.  That enticing package is a path of poison.  It is the slow kind of poison that eats away little by little and often without our a hidden cancer that rears it's ugly head at Stage 4 without any prior symptoms or warnings.

Just because I have greasy fast food available to me at every stoplight in the city doesn't mean I should eat this every day.

Just because I am old enough to drink and smoke doesn't mean it is good for me.

Just because the radio is playing a song that verbally raps domestic violence in the name of "it's not right" on the other side doesn't mean that those words and phrases aren't penetrating my heart and mind. Maybe I shouldn't listen and repeat.   (and sing the tune over and over again in my head)

Just because "everyone" (and I use that sarcastically) in America is watching a certain television show doesn't mean I should.  

Just because the books are on the shelf doesn't mean I should read them.

Just because.....

We live in a wonderfully free world.  I am so thankful to have choices.  I am thankful that I have things at my fingertips to enjoy, read, listen to, watch and experience.  But making wise choices is tough when the crowd is moving in mass toward something.  It is so easy to follow the crowd.....or even get caught up in the crowd unintentionally---whether that is by mistake or association.  Matthew 7:13-14 says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.   But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  Does this sound like a party train to you?  Does this sound like you will be in mass company?  It sounds a little lonely if you think about it.  But it is what God has told us in His word and it simply means....

"Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the window of awareness

I lost a piece of my oldest daughter this week.  A small portion of her "window of awareness" has opened a little bit and life has begun to blow inside.  I was hoping that the window could stay shut just a bit longer so as not to cause a chill or sickness of her heart.  But alas, life must move forward.  It's sad that as we move forward in our lives we are exposed to more sin and more of the negative things of this world.  Childhood is such a time of innocence and joy....and then one day.....

I know that we can't shelter our children from heartache and from hard lessons.  But...that doesn't make it any easier when they cross the threshold of places created by sin.  I am not necessarily referring to anything earth shattering.  Thank goodness for that!  I am simply thinking on things contrary to the fruit of the Spirit.  Have you ever had anyone give you a compliment that you knew was not meant as a compliment?

Here is an example:
You walk into the room with a new outfit on and you hear, "Wow!  You almost look good enough to take on a date!"  At first you might smile thinking they were complimenting you on your good looks.  But then "awareness" sets in and you realize that though they might be saying you looked pretty didn't look nice enough for them to take anywhere and claim you as their date.

Teenagers and adults get these types of off-handed, cutting remarks.  Children, however don't....or shouldn't have to.  Sarcasm hasn't really penetrated their minds and hearts yet.  Sadly, my trusting and beautiful daughter had a rock thrown through her window of awareness.
I think the reason it upset me so much was that she has the gift of encouragement.  She will be your first and loudest cheerleader, your champion, your positive word when you have just done something great....or when you need a lift or kind word.  She is sensitive to others' hurts and is genuinely happy for people when they win or succeed at a task or game.  So when someone "compliments" her she automatically thinks they are genuine and kind in their remarks.  But this time was different.  This time she very cheerfully told me of her day and of "the compliment" given to her that caused a certain part of her day to be "good" that is normally not her favorite thing to do.  As she recounted the scenario in the car on the way home from school she told me of the "compliment".   I did not immediately respond because I was trying to process this statement made by an adult---an adult who should know better.  After an awkward silence she said, "Mommy?  That wasn't really a compliment after all, was it?"
That hurt.  I didn't want to agree with her, but I felt I needed to recognize her understanding of the truth.  It led to a great discussion about people who mean to be "cute" or funny, but in the end it is just mean.

As a parent, I am more aware of sin in the world than when I was only responsible for myself.  Now that I have been entrusted with this precious gift from God....I am more vigilant of what they hear, see, and experience.  There are a lot of things I would do over again, and she's only ten.  I am forever grateful that God loves her more than I do and that He knows how imperfect I am.  He knows that I have made many mistakes and will make many more.  Ultimately He is molding her.  I am so thankful that he has the plan and the final product already designed.

No wonder James spent so much time talking about our tongue.  Words are powerful enough...but when you add human sin propelling them toward a target......look out!  Satan has a very powerful weapon.

That night as my daughters were getting ready for bed, I told my husband about the "compliment".    My daughter told me the next day that her Daddy had written a note on the wall-mounted white board in her room after she was asleep.  It said, "I love you---Daddy."   Someone else may cut her down.....but he loves her and always will.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  (Ephesians 4:29-32  NIV)

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.  

Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.  (Ephesians 4:29-32  The Message)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's In A Name?

I did a study not too long ago on the names of God.  It was one of the sweetest times I've had in the Word.  I couldn't wait each morning to study and read about another one of God's many names.  The study, Knowing God By Name, readily admits that only a small portion of God's many names are highlighted.  There are so many that she couldn't list them all.  This profound truth is comforting and overwhelming to me at the same time. 

My God is so complex that one name cannot contain his character.  I have four names when you add first, middle, maiden, and married.  I think that is plenty.  But God.....nothing can contain Him...not even a name.  It takes my breath away.  When I hear a song or read a name of God, I have an excited desire to look up the meaning behind the name.  Some are very familiar, some are not.  It is humbling to think that while we pray to God so intimately today and do not always use these formal names, apparently the people in ages past felt a great need to speak of God more reverently and with much more formality that we do.  I appreciate and cherish the fact that my Abba is so easy to talk to and communicate with....but knowing that He has so many names with so many meanings reminds me that though I have an intimate Abba/daughter relationship with Him, I should fear him and show Him the respect and honor that his character demands and deserves.  I think that we are so familiar with Jesus at times that we don't give Him this place of honor in our hearts.  The more we think of him as "friend"....the less we think of His greatness. 

I have talked about this before with people and have gotten mixed responses.  I get the feeling that people don't really want to think of God past the fact that He is their friend.   I know that is important and very comforting.  But God is so much more than my friend.  The fact that God allows us the joy of calling Him "friend" is just icing on the cake.  If all I do is call Him "friend", then I really don't know Him at all.  Sobering.  When I have talked about fearing God or coming to Him with an attitude of unworthiness, people don't want to talk of being "unworthy".  It makes them uncomfortable.  Unless we are talking of God's goodness and love, they get uncomfortable.  When you get past the "friend" part, things aren't as easy and comfortable.  It gets in your "personal space". 

My God is infinitely more than my friend.  He amazes me.  The fact that He wants me to spend time with Him is beyond my understanding.  The fact that He allows me to go on existing in my daily failures and sin is breathtaking.  I am grateful and humbled at His mercy and grace.  This "unmerited favor" deserves more than a token "friendship".  Issac Watts said it so beautifully when he wrote,

"love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Hate School...I think I'll Become A Teacher--Part 4

If it could have gone wrong, it did.  The week and a half leading up to the first REAL day of school (the day the students arrive) was painful to say the least.  If it weren't for the few "bright spots" in my week (lunch with friends, seeing friends/colleagues) I just don't think I could have gone back every day.  I don't know what it is, but for the past few years I can't begin a new school year without some sort of catastrophe or obstacles in my way.  I know it must be Satan.  He knows my anxiety and knows that this is a weak spot for me, so he not only chooses to take advantage of me at my weakest....he takes cheap shots.  It reminds me of the scene in the original Karate Kid when Daniel(son) hurts his leg and his opponent is told to "sweep the leg".  Satan just seems to get pure joy out of sweeping my leg. 

The night before school began I was quite weary emotionally.  Things had not gone the way I had hoped during the seven prep days.  Once again I was starting the year behind the 8 ball.  We labeled school supplies, fixed lunches, laid out the school clothes and had our family prayer and devotion time.  As my children headed up to bed my husband asked me if I was ready.  Immediately I started to cry.  I believe my words were..."I don't want to go."   I felt like I was five.  I just did not want to go.   I went to bed early and prayed myself to sleep.

I arrived on campus and found some things "put to rights" that had not been in order and ready any of the previous days.  My entire body relaxed and I felt like I could actually step foot into this year.  Something so simple, yet so necessary.  I felt the spring coming back into my step.  I had a piano class, made the rounds to check on all my fine arts teachers, and went an observed a new teacher during lunch.  I ran back to my office to gather a few things for the next set of classes and I heard a bit of a ruckus coming from my room.  It was lunchtime and I couldn't imagine who would be in there.  Class wasn't to begin for another 20 minutes at least.  I made my way down the hall to my classroom to see what was going on.  As I opened the door, I saw all my students standing around hugging, laughing, talking, singing, playing the piano, and just LOVING being together again in choir.  What a gift that was for me.  All my anxiety and stress melted away to the sound of joy, laughter, and genuine love.  They couldn't wait to get started.  They knew NOTHING of my anxiety.... nothing of my feelings of frustration....and nothing of the mess that had preceded their arrival.  I am so glad that God allowed me to be infected by their enthusiasm and joy before I ruined it with my baggage!!!  Students don't need my baggage and my weariness.  Their child-like excitement is something I hope they never lose. 

Once again, I know why I do what I do.  It's because of them.  They motivate me to go back.  They make me want to find new things to teach them.  Yes, there are days that THEY make me want to run the other way, beat them, strangle them....well not really, but you get the picture.  I remember that we are all children.  We are all sinners.  We are all imperfect creatures being loved by a perfect God.  I know there are days that God has every reason to turn away from me....but He never does.  The weight of the world is on His shoulders...the burdens of the universe rest in His care.   No matter the catastrophe He dealt with while I slept, He still shows up ready to love me. 

So I must follow in His steps.