Sunday, January 26, 2014

What Really Matters

We were given the opportunity to spend an afternoon at a theme park last week. Here are some blurry pictures of our time there...













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We're involved in a second season of flag football. All four kids are playing, which means we get up early and head out with a packed lunch and changes of clothes each Saturday morning. We get back about an hour before I need to start dinner and prepare for the Sunday routine. It's good for my kids to be involved in sports, and I don't dislike spending my day watching them and cheering them on, but I'm sure I could not handle the dedication of time and energy required in more serious sport leagues. I don't know how families with more than a couple kids do it, with multiple weeknight practices and games in every direction throughout the county. Jon pops in to watch our kids play when he can in between studying and meetings/visitation, or church related events and such, but for the most part it is understood that Saturdays are workdays for him. I am thankful to have found an organization where all my kids can play and I can manage the game schedule and locations just fine. Still, even though I sit most of the day, I come home pretty tired. The thought of Sunday morning just a few hours away is a little daunting too!

The hours of sitting give me a little break. Sometimes I get to chat a little with one of my kids or with another parent, sometimes I get to read through a few pages of a book, sometimes I pray as I watch my kids practice/play. I like people watching too. I find it so interesting.

Last week I noted how so many parents spoke harshly to their kids, while the grandparents usually spoke words of encouragement. Made me wonder if the years between parenthood and grandparenthood brought with it the realization that encouraging words build up, while harsh criticism tears down and hardly ever motivates. Tearing down our kids does just that, the exact the opposite of what we want to see in their character or physical skill and ability. We know it as parents, but the practice of it is sometimes harder. Today I decided I would not give criticism. For instance, a kid already knows they messed up the play and they already feel embarrassed. Ill-timed tips aren't received as tips but as expressions of disappointment and personal disapproval. They need encouragement most.

This translates to situations off the field too. I am making it my goal to lavish my kids with encouraging words so that their confidence is built up, so that they are motivated to try still harder. And let's be honest, sometimes we have to look really hard to find something good to say! Oh, but I am sure that on some days they would say the same about me! On those days especially, I want to be the one to turn things around and remind my kids that they have worth, and that they are loved. Our words matter.

Last week I noticed an unusually beautiful woman. I mean, she was really pretty. Clearly she had some good genes, and clearly she spent a great deal of time and money on amplifying and maintaining what was natural. She was the mom of one of the boys playing against Jacob's team, and it was really hard not to stare at her as she and her group set up their chairs next to where I was sitting. Then she started talking, and I was shocked! Every manner of filth came out: lies about the coaches and refs, complaint about the players, gossip, manipulation and deception. Her unguarded words kept spilling out for a full hour. There was such a glaring contrast between the exterior and the real person of her heart. Even though a week has past now, the impression it made on me has not past.

It makes me think about what it is we want in life. Is the exterior/visible instead of the interior and authentic more valuable? Is how we present ourselves and our family and life to others more important than what we know to be the real truth about these things? Do we see our children as representing us, and that's why we insist and pressure them to measure up to our high standards of performance? Does what the world see and think of ME have more importance than what God knows of the real me?

I can answer these questions one way, but how I live shows what I believe.

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Last week Jon preached from the end of Mark 8.

"And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

I can't stop thinking about the words of Jesus: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me... Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it."

Chilling.

Look around and see us all trying to save our lives. We crave comfort, good repute, "excellence", prestige, health, and happiness. Even worse, we crave just to be like everyone else, and we're happy simply with "keeping up with the Jones'" and not sticking out or being weird.

We may say one thing about our commitment to Christ, but what are we living?

I dare you: Take a glance around. What are our apparently neat and tidy Christian lives saying about our commitment to Christ? Few among us really want to have this conversation. I'd like to avoid it myself.

Jesus said consider the cost. He said to take up your cross and follow Him. He said to lose your life. To die to self. To be willing to suffer and possible be killed. To not shrink back.

There is no in-between. There is no lukewarm. There is either light or darkness, death or life. 

God has been working in my heart over the years, and I can trace the ways in which He is teaching me to let go of aspirations and temporal hopes and desires, and to die to myself. And in this process I am gaining passion and real hope and joy that I didn't previously know. 

And yet, I admit to having a tight grip and a fear of dying to myself. A fear of the unknown, of public shame, of what it really is like to die to yourself.

I want it though. I want LIFE. I want death to self and FREEDOM to LIVE for Christ. Nothing I might otherwise strive for can compare. In fact, everything apart from Christ will lead to death.

I am praying for the mind of Christ, for His heart in me. I am praying that I will see the world around me the way He sees it. I am praying that I will understand the present in light of eternity. I am praying for Christ-likeness, and the desire to be what He has called me to be, that is, dead to self and ALIVE in Him...


"...One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3: 13-14)

Will you run with me? 


~Katherine


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