WHEN YOUR KIDS FAITH SHOWS

As parents, especially when kids hit their rebellious years, there is a part of us that wonders if all that we have taught them about God and faith has actually stuck.   They are in a position where they are battling the choice between being “godly” and “worldly”.  It seems, to me, that it really doesn’t matter how your raise your children; in regards to education, discipline, denomination, etc.   The world presses them.

When making olive oil, the limbs are cut from the tree, crushed, pressed and only then does the good, pure, oil flow.  It’s a traumatic process on the tree, but the result is good and healthy for us.  It’s only when it is broken and pressed, that you see the results your are looking for.

It is in those moments where the world is pressing on our children, we see what will flow from them…is it good oil or rancid?

Recently, one of my daughters was really hurt by a friend.  At first, I didn’t realize that it bothered her as much as it did.  She stuffed it inside, but as time pressed on, she recognized the pain.  Who did she turn to?  Her boyfriend?  Her other friends?   No.  She turned to me.  Her mother, her teacher, one of the people God assigned to guide her through this life.  It brought us to a great conversation about friendships, and ultimately hypocrisy.  And, as usual, these conversations turn to God.

I may not be the parent that sits down every morning and begins our morning with devotions (Bless you, if you do).  I may not be the parent that makes sure we pray at every single meal, or every night before bed (Again, bless you, if you do).  I’m not wired that way.  It is very important to me that my encounters and interactions with God are free flowing, natural, and honest.  I know, FOR MYSELF, I can allow myself to get caught up in routine and lose actual intimacy in the process.  I also want my kids to realize we can talk about God, or to God, whenever we want.  It isn’t reserved to certain times of the day, or days of the week.

Once conversation, on the book of Revelation, kept my eldest and I up until 4am.  FOUR. AM.

While I love how my kids will come to me, when they really want to understand something or need to work through something that is bothering them…. I absolutely ADORE IT when they go to God.  I am thankful that God, has on many occasions, seen fit to answer their prayers (even the ones I think are trivial).

About a week ago, my two daughters where adamant about not cleaning their room.  As any good parent, I offered explicit instructions on what I wanted & when I wanted it done by.  As time progress my “good parent” status became “desperate parent” status.  I found myself dragging in a few empty bins from the garage & saying “Just get everything off the floor and into these bins”.  Checked in on them, nothing.  Threatened to take it all out to the trash.

They still didn’t do it.  Not only did the both refuse to clean up, but they were also fighting with each other.  Mom (me), became undone.  I sent them out of their room, and proceeded to box and bag up EVERYTHING in their room that wasn’t clothing or bedding.  I hauled it out to the living room.

Was a right in what I did?  I think most parents would agree sometimes extreme is needed.  Was it hard?  Yes.  I think we’d agree on that too.

But, the next day, I was a bit calmer.  This was a first instance for them, and I decided to give the a chance to earn it back.  I came up with a plan & explained it with to them when they arrived home from school.  It was then, my youngest told me that she had prayed to God that “mommy would give me my toys back”.

She was so upset about losing her toys, broken hearted, tears sobbing, begging and pleading.  I knew I couldn’t go back on my words.  In her desperation, my sweet daughter turned to God.  He answered her prayers, when my heart was softened.

Sometimes though, our children’s faith is a lot more under the radar. My teenager will often say things to me about how the world operates.  I have seen her battle between what the word deems acceptable, and what she knows God would want for her.  I have watched her mouth off to her friends and speak with their words about “organized religion” and things being old fashioned.  Do I wish she was strong enough in her faith, to stand up in these situations and retort “Well, the bible says….”.  SURE I DO.  But, I also remember being a teenager.  I remember wanting to belong.  I remember not wanting to bear the mark of the “goody two shoes”.  I have watched the preachers kids rebel against their parents rules.  I reached out to help the girl who was pregnant,and her parents kicked her out of the house.  The world, is real.

However, when you really listen to your kids… when they talk about their words, asking them the right questions, you will see their faith come out in droves.  It won’t be in the obvious “what would Jesus do” type of questions.  It’s questions like:

What do you think about that?

How does that make you feel?

Do you think that was a wise decision?

How do you think that could have been handled better?

They are not only non-threatening questions, but they don’t give any indication that you are expecting a certain answer.  You are simply just interested in their take on the situation.

When she tells you about a girl who got pregnant in their class; and you ask: What do you think about that?… Her faith comes out when she says flippantly “she probably shouldn’t have had sex”.

You see it when you are watching the news with her, and she comments: “there is so much evil in the world”.

And my favorite of all time, we some how got on the topic of life after death.  She asked what atheists thought happened to our bodies after death, and I replied:  “Nothing, they believe the body just rots away”.  And she responded with something so poignant….

“Then what is the point?  What is the point of living a good life, what is the point of following the rules and doing good things, what is the point of anything?  Life is hard, sometimes it sucks.  Why go through that for nothing?”

In those words she reveals so much about her self, that there are expectations for us… and even more important there is an eternity.   She never mentioned God, Jesus or salvation directly, but the foundations were there.

It takes me back to something I shared in an earlier blog… I had confessed to her that I felt like I failed her, as a Christian parent, many times.  I was comparing her faith to that of gal many years older, taking blame upon myself for not doing/being/teaching more.  And, she said:  “Mom, I’m only fifteen.”

This assurance, said so much more than just “relax”…. but it actually showed me that no matter what she might be saying at the moment, she expects to be at that same status one day.  I have to stop trying to define her journey according to my timeline.  I need to let God, do what He wants to do IN and WITH her.

And, God is continually answering not only our kids prayers… but our prayers for them.

Our kids will show their faith in subtle, unexpected ways.  It won’t always show up where you expect it.  But, when you find out your daughter made a donation to a family in need from her birthday money… THAT is her faith at work.  When your son stands up for someone who is being picked on… THAT is his faith showing.  When your 8 year old cries to God about her mean mommy taking all of her toys…. THAT is faith.

 

AND THEY PARTED WAYS

biblephoto

In Acts 15 we get a lovely glimpse into a group of believers, trying to figure out what to do with the message they have been entrusted to deliver to the world.  Leading up to this moment, we had people traveling in different directions, different routes sharing the gospel.  They were instructing new believers on what they need to do, in order to be saved.  There were discrepancies that would come up as the gentiles would ask them questions, each person answering from his own perspective and opinion.  They brought their issues to the Pharisees who would weigh in on the matters.  Finally a council of elders & apostles met to discuss this situation.

After some time and discussion and prayer, Peter would address the group and give a response of grace.  Peter ultimately points out that it would be foolish to put the same rules upon the gentiles that the Jews were unable to uphold.  Barnabas and Paul shared about the miracles they experienced in their times with the gentiles.  James affirmed that God had declared that the gentiles would be His, as well.  Then under James leading, and in accordance to the Holy Spirit, the drafted a letter that would clear up the matter.  It would be sent out to all the cities.  The matter was settled.

Now, some time later, Paul tells Barnabas that he thinks it would be a good idea to go back through the cities and follow up on the letter.  And then it happened, they had a disagreement.  They both agreed that they should go, but they disagreed on whom should go with them.  It was such a heated disagreement, that they actually parted ways.

Both men had the same goal in mind, however they were in disagreement about the manner in which to go about it.

Sound familiar?

If you have served in ministry, you may have experienced this.

If you work in a company, you may have experienced this.

Even in relationships, you may have experienced this.

The interesting thing here is that the scriptures don’t point out that either man was wrong.  Both of these men were fundamental leaders in the early church.  However, they were in such disagreement that they could no longer be in each others presence. Yet, they would continue from that departure, each doing the work that the Holy Spirit would lead them to do.  Both important parts of the body, same goals, but a different way to accomplish that goal.

Their separating ways was a good thing, allowing the work of the Kingdom to be broadened.

There will be times in our life, in relationships or in service, where we are in disagreement.  Sometimes, that disagreement is something that needs to be reconciled and repaired.  However, there are occasions where that disagreement is a divine intervention, that calls both parties to separate ways.  Simply because their tasks are no longer to be completed together.  God may be ready to move us into new directions.  We can’t move toward new directions if we are digging our heels into our current location.

Acts 15: 39b -40

Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,  but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.

As they chose their traveling companions and left to strengthen the churches, they were praised and given well wishes by the believers.

The important thing here is not that that they departed ways, but how they departed ways.   We are not given any indication that they left with malice toward each other, or that their relationship was broken.  In fact, they were each praised by those who were seeing them off.  Throughout the scriptures we are told that we are to reconcile to each other and to God.  Reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean going the same way.  It means we can go different directions with love, respect, blessing and hope for each other.

Lord, thank you for your word that continually teaches us through example on how we should treat each other in our relationships and our departures.  Each and every example in your word points us to Christ and our need for a savior. Thank you for your word that never fails.  Amen.

Suggested Reading:  Acts 15

Oh Captain, My Captain. Robin Williams.

This has been a rough evening, for me, upon learning the news of Robin William’s death.  In my youthful desires to be an actress, Robin Williams would hold a very strong position in pushing that dream forward.  He was a performer that I admired.  I thought he was incredibly talented, funny, quick witted.  His range of characters gave me hope that as an actress I didn’t have to be pigeon holed in as a comedic or dramatic performer.  I could be both, equally good … as the role would require me.  I loved how his genuine connection to his characters would come through the screen.  I was envious of the fact that he had little inhibitions, he didn’t care about being embarrassed by making a fool of himself.  I have watched some of his best comedy acts over his life, and I never laughed harder than when Robin Williams was laughing at his own jokes.

In college, one of the first things I was taught was that acting was “the art of lying”.  The idea behind that statement is that a good, a truly GOOD, actor would be able to cause you to suspend your beliefs.  Meaning, you would believe that people singing a song in the middle of a fight it totally normal… that you could be transported to ancient egypt…. or that Peter Pan could really fly.  You would watch the screen and not think of the actor who was playing the role, but truly see the character first. It was true and honest connection, authentic emotions and pure delivery.

Robin Williams was capable of just that.  You would not see Robin Williams on the screen…. you were watching Mork, Jack, Peter, Mrs. Doubtfire.. even Genie.  He, for a brief moment, was that new person.  And you believed it, totally.

Some of the most talented artists have been the most tormented.  We mourn their death because they had an ability to touch us in a different way than even a “good” artist.  These truly gifted people pay a price for all that they give to entertain others.    We can hold these people to high esteem, follow their careers and lives, and still never fully understand the storm that brews inside of them.

Great actors, usually embrace their roles with such heart and vigor because they allow them  to put on a mask.  I know how this feels, to put on that mask & escape into a role.  We can be anyone other than who we were born.  We can escape our unhappy, unfulfilled, damaged lives for a fraction of time.  That character can be anyone and anything, without limitation, that we could never be.  And, we can rest in the safety of knowing when we are done, no matter how hard the role was… we can put that script away, put that character to bed.

Then, there are those who can’t.  The actors that allow themselves to connect with a character to the point that it becomes part of you.  You can’t shake it.  This happened with Heath Ledger, in his role of The Joker in the Batman franchise.   In conversations and interviews, Heath admitted that the role was so disturbing that he had to seek professional counseling over it.  It was on the medications prescribed by his doctor, that Heath would overdose.  Another great talent, lost.

Not that long ago, we lost Phillip Seymour Hoffman to overdose.  Another great talent, lost.  Suffering from a life time of addiction, struggling to be sober.  Overcome and overwhelmed by the expectations put upon him.  He wouldn’t be the only actor to succumb to the pressure and struggle that the truly gifted artists are burdened with.  Leave us too long in our own reality and the world gets to us… deeply.

And now, we mourn the loss of Robin Williams…  and there is shock and sadness.  Heartbroken.  Surprise.   No one knew the man who had the greatest smile, purest laugh and immeasurable talent battled against depression.  Even those who knew his struggle with sobriety, would have been surprised that while he was making us cry with laughter… he was crying himself to sleep.

Despite my greatest desires to one day make it to Hollywood or Broadway, God didn’t take me down that road.  I can’t help but thank God for saving me from myself, from a life that seems like it has everything to offer but leaves the truly greats empty and hollow.   Robin Williams leaves behind a family, who will not be able to understand how it came to this.  He leaves scores of fans and his own peers grieving and wounded.  But, there are also going to be those who get it.   Those greats who have already passed, too soon… too young; and those who are struggling right now in silence, alone.

What does that have to do with you and me?  Everything.    Because we encounter these great actors every day in our lives, on Sunday’s at church and in the grocery store.  The woman who seems to have it all together.  The lady who tells you that everything is “just fine” with a beautiful smile on her face.  The man who says that “recovery is going great”.  The husband and wife putting on a happily ever after display for the kids.  Or, even that person who looks you in the eyes and with out a tell tale sign otherwise says “the test results look good, the doctor is very optimistic”.

Every day we encounter people who are suffering in silence, putting on a good show for the benefit of others, and falling apart when no one is looking.

Some of the greatest actors in the world, have never graced a screen or stepped foot on a stage.  You walk among them, every day.

Pray for them.  Even though you don’t know them by name or what their exact problems are, God does.

Make yourself approachable.  In time, they may start to open up to you.  You can’t force it, but you can be open to it.

And, if the truth is that YOU are the one putting on the act….

You don’t have to play that role anymore.  Be honest with yourself, those who love you, and those who are in a position to help you.  Fight against allowing the despair to push you to a point of no return.

To a family I have never met, I give nothing but my love and prayers.  Robin Williams was and is one of my greatest inspirations, favorite performers to watch and talented beyond measure.  May he rest in peace, and may God be your comforter at this time.