Friday, January 25, 2013

Taking the Bull By the Horns

So, I'm going to tell you the truth.  Living in a house with four boys ages 9, 7, 5, and 3 often feels like barely controlled chaos.  My little men, as awesome as they are, wear their momma out.  It is constant noise & motion in our house.  It is LOUD.

But, it isn't the boy energy that makes me crazy.  Yes. It does wear thin on me.  But, I'm conditioned I guess.  I can take it for a while before it sets me on edge.  No.  It's not their energy that gets to me.  It's the fighting.

There seems to be constant bickering, arguing, teasing, fussing, complaining, whining, name it!  The biggest culprits are my two oldest boys.  They seem to clash over everything.  And, I mean everything.  I really wonder if they even like each other at times, much less have brotherly love for each other.  But, while those two can barely even be in the same room with each other, that arguing and fighting is filtering down to the younger two as well.

I feel so helpless sometimes.  I don't know if they are even hearing what I'm trying to teach them about Christ's love, how we are to love one another & treat each other...putting others first, not responding in anger, responding in love even when insulted or hurt, being peacemakers.

And frankly, sometimes it scares me.  Because as they grow older, more and more things are going to compete for their attention and influence.  I want to imprint God's Word on their hearts now.  I want them to always carry it with them.

I should note, on the positive, that this kind of behavior has been limited to our own household.  At school my boys are attentive, considerate,kind, & respectful.  Both of their teachers have always had wonderful things to say about their behavior and character.  This makes me happy.  Really it does.  But, I still need to deal with the downright mean...sometimes cruel things that are said and done in our own house.

Let me share another frustration with you.  I have encountered a few older Christian moms, whose children are grown who also had all boys or a large passel of boys.  I've asked them how they dealt with the fighting, the bickering, the competition, and anger.  And, I kid you not!  Every single time the response I've gotten is something along the lines of, "Oh.  My boys really got along well with each other.  I don't remember having issues with fighting."

Aaaruugghhh!!!  Really?  Really?  I don't know.  Maybe they didn't have fighting.  Maybe there really is something wrong with our household.  Maybe there really is something wrong with ME as a mother.  The one consolation and encouragement I take is this.  Apparently my husband and his younger brother closest in age to him (also the 1st and 2nd child in their family) fought terribly when they were children.  It wasn't until they were both adults and out of their parent's house that they formed an amicable relationship.  And, today they have a good, solid relationship.

And, my husband assures me that this is just how boys are.  He compares them to lion cubs.  They will wrestle with each other trying to determine who the strongest, most dominant male is going to be.  No wonder momma lions sometimes growl at their cubs!

In the meantime, I wanted to do something to really try to get a grip on this whole situation.  Because, honestly, I'm tired of waking up to the sound of fighting & listening to it most of the day.  I'm tired of ending my day in tears..

So, I came up with an idea!  We are going to take the bull by the horns!

I made two jars.  One is the 'Bored Jar'.  I can't claim ownership over this idea.  I got it from another mom in my mom's group.  In this jar are slips of paper giving the boys ideas of things to do (that do not involve electronics of any kind!) when they are bored.  Frankly, I think sometimes part of the problem is that they don't have something to focus on or work on and so they gravitate toward arguing with each other.

The second jar is the 'Peace & Love Jar'.  I spent the morning yesterday finding verses that talked about peace & love.  I wrote a bunch of them down on 3x5 cards & put them inside the jar.  When my boys start fighting with each other I'm going to redirect them to the jar, have them each take a verse, find a quiet spot & work on memorizing the verse.

I'm pretty sure there will be some resistance to this.  I'm bracing myself for that.  But, they did already take a slip from the Bored Jar yesterday.  They seemed to like that idea.  And, I'm hoping that the Peace & Love Jar will have a positive effect.  That's what I'm praying for!

So, what techniques do you use when you're children fight amongst themselves.  Do any of you have a pair of children who seem to clash over everything?  What do you do?

Monday, January 21, 2013

What to Say?

1.  I'm second-guessing my idea of journaling my thoughts through Psalm 119 here on my blog.  I'm still plugging away at Psalm 119.   Sometimes I come away refreshed with a lot of insight.  Other times I feel like I'm just doing the basics...reading it, writing it, jotting down a few thoughts.  Passion for God's Word doesn't always come in a rush.  Sometimes it takes patience, perseverance, and endurance.  I'm believing, though, that if I'm faithful in reading & studying His Word, He'll be faithful in revealing Himself.

    The reason I'm not sure I'll journal everything here is that I'm finding as I'm studying the Psalm I find myself thinking about what I can share with you all here instead of concentrating what God is saying to me.  So, I'll continue with my pen & paper journal and I'll share updates on here as I feel led & directed by God.

2.  I've had thoughts about freedom in worship just about every Sunday at church.  John & I are part of a non-denominational church that could be described as charismatic.  I'm not sure what your perception of a charismatic is, because I know mine was different at one point in time.  But, basically, in our church you would see a lot of hand raising, clapping, some dancing.  There's even a lady who sometimes gets out her colorful large flags & banners and waves them during worship music.  At one point in time I would have been distracted by all this because it was so far out of my comfort zone.

I grew up in a Brethren in Christ church which, for those of you who don't know, is part of the same Anabaptist tradition as the Mennonites, Amish, & Church of the Brethren.  There are many different 'levels' of conservatism within each of these churches.  And, while our church did not require women to cover their heads or wear a certain form of dress, values like modesty, pacifism, hard work, and earnestly following God's commands were stressed.

The Holy Spirit was rarely discussed.  Of course he was honored as part of the Trinity.  But, 'decorum' during worship was paramount.  Speaking in tongues (something I still struggle to understand), prophesy, freedom in worship were all frowned upon and discussed only as part of church history as it was described in the book of Acts.  As far as I understood, all those things began & ended there.  We sang from hymnals (something I do treasure & I miss in today's contemporary services.  I'm a little sad that it's been completely set aside).  We sometimes had 'special music' from the choir or from Annette Schock, a woman from our congregation who had professional vocal training.  Clapping politely (and reservedly) after one of these special music times was about as spontaneous as it got.

I don't regret the type of worship services I was raised in.  In fact I sometimes I miss the reverence of it.  I miss the sound of the congregation's voices rising as one with only a piano or organ to accompany them (not drowning them out as our worship bands do).  And, I miss those hymns.

But, I also connect deeply with God in the type of worship we engage in today.  The music, the worship band...they do speak to my soul.  And,  I can feel God's presence moving & working.  But, because of the view I grew up with that 'charismatism' was dangerous, I don't often fully engage in our worship time.  One of two things happen.  I am held back by cynicism or I am held back by fear.

The cynic in me sometimes stands there watching those around me who so easily raise their hands in worship, who so freely dance before God.  And, I wonder if they are for real.  There.  I said it.  I wonder if  what they are outwardly expressing is truly what they are experiencing inside.  Or is it habit for them just as sitting quietly during worship was habit for me?  Sometimes when I see young children shadowing what their parents are doing in worship it raises that question even more for me.  Is it just something learned, something 'cultural' if you will?  Usually around this point I'm convicted in this...It's not for me to determine if it's heartfelt or not.  That's between them & God.  What is important is if I am responding to God as He is calling me to.

And, that's where fear comes in.  Showing that I am moved by His Spirit feels so intimate, so personal.  Even though I'm surrounded by many others who are raising their hands, I can't help but wonder what others will think of me.  Will they think I'm more spiritual than I really am?  What will my husband and children think?  If I raise my hands in worship after a week of being cranky & easily irritated, will I appear to be a hypocrite?

There are times that my hands long to be lifted up in worship, in surrender to God, but they are weighted down by these fears....and by years of training that worship is to be 'calm'.

I'm not really sure that I have a resolution to all this.  It's something I struggle with each week at church.  The interesting thing I should note as well is that I love expressing myself through movement.  Back in my darker years of my 20's when I was living in rebellion, part of my regular week involved going out to the clubs to dance 2 or 3 times a week. Music moved me.  Music worked deeply in me.  Of course, the music I listened to at that time was far from uplifting or sacred.

Another thing is, during my dark years, I could still feel God calling me to Him.  One of the places I used to go each summer was Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois.  This was a Christian festival sponsored by JPUSA (Jesus People USA...based out of Chicago).  This was definitely a more charismatic event and featured the less mainstream, more alternative Christian bands.  I remember feeling very free to raise my hands in worship while there.  Of course, I was surrounded by strangers & the event took place outside (not inside a church building).

Anyway, I guess I'm just wondering if any of you have struggled with the question of freedom in worship yourself and what freedom in worship means to you.  I suppose in the long run this is an area that God will continue to speak to me & I need to turn to him for His leading.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Psalm 119 - Let's Start at the Very Beginning (a very good place to start)

So, are you now singing that song from the Sound of Music?  If you are, it's actually rather fitting.  When I decided to study & meditate on Psalm 119 I knew it was long.  But, then when I looked at my study Bible I found out that Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible...and it is an acrostic.

In other words it's alphabetically arranged.  The first stanza or section of verses is marked as 'Aleph'.  Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew language and each line in that stanza in the original Hebrew would have begun with that letter.  The next section of verses is marked 'Beth', the next letter.  The next is 'Gimel'...and so on.  There are 22 total stanzas.  So, it was designed a lot like that song from The Sound of Music in that it was designed in a way that it could be easily learned or remembered in it's original form.

I'm going to take one section at a time (one each day)  in my own study.  I may journal on here through each as it's going to be a lot of blogging on Psalm 119.  :)  Here we go....

Psalm 119:1-8   (Aleph)

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
  who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes
  and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
  they walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts 
  that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
  in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame 
  when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
  as I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees;
  do not utterly forsake me.

At first glance this section  sounded like a tall order to me.  Words like 'ways are blameless', 'they do nothing wrong', 'precepts to be fully obeyed' sound impossible.  They sound like perfection - something I definitely do not have a grasp on.

Other parts sounded more do-able. 'Seek him with all their heart'.  'Praise him with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws'.  Seeking and Praising are some things I can do!

As I continued to look at this section I also saw that it was progressive.  Those whose ways are blameless walk in the law of the Lord.  And those who do that (keep his statutes...his laws) seek him with all their heart.  So, it actually begins with seeking Him through which we learn his laws, and then we follow his ways.

But, I was still stuck with this 'blameless' thing.  I mean who among us is blameless?  No one, no matter how closely we follow God can stand blameless solely through following his commands. We are bound to fail in that regard.  And, then as I begin reading the section out loud & attempting to memorize it, I had additional insight.  I think David actually begins this Psalm describing those he is striving to be like...perhaps not an actual person...but an ideal - the ideal of being blameless.

He goes on to say (and this is my paraphrasing) that he wishes he was constant in obeying all God's decrees...that then he wouldn't be put to shame as he looks at God's commands.  And, then he makes a commitment to learning God's laws.

And, that is what I take from this first section....a dedication page of sorts....making that commitment to learn God's laws, to learn His Word so that I can follow Him & walk in His ways.

Monday, January 14, 2013

His Word

I struggle with reading God's Word.  In this day and age there are so many books, articles, internet sites, blog posts, etc. on just about every imaginable topic.  It sometimes seems easier to turn to one of those than to God's Word.

I long for something that speaks specifically to me - to my situation.  It's sometimes easier to Google 'parenting issues', 'ways to deal with anger/stress/depression' or whatever topic is heavy on my heart and see a multitude of information and opinion at just a click than it is to wade through God's Word, which can sometimes seem obscure.

There's some good, reliable info out there.  There are many gifted Christian writers who offer sound biblical perspective on different issues.  But, it's no replacement for God's Word.

And, if I'm totally honest, I rarely turn to God's Word.  I don't make the scriptures a regular part of my life.  It often feels like.... a chore.

But our pastor said something yesterday that really struck a chord with me.  He was discussing how vital it is for us to make reading God's Word a regular part of our lives.  He said.....The value we place on scripture IS the value we place on God.  We can't ignore His Words and claim to love Him.


I had a rough week last week and as often happens when I have a crisis of some sort I actually turned to scripture.  I came across Psalm 119 - what I later learned is the longest of the Psalms.  In it I found parts that talked about discernment, good judgement, wisdom - words that I needed.

After feeling challenged by our pastor's sermon I decided to return to Psalm 119 - mostly because I didn't really know where to start in my quest to make scripture a part of my daily life.  And, as it turns out, Psalm 119 is all about God's Word - His precepts, His commands.

I decided that it would be fitting to meditate on this Psalm for awhile.

I am hoping that this is the beginning of a journey to immerse myself in God's Word...and in God.  It also coincides with a month long break from Facebook.  It is my hope to turn my attention and focus back to God.

And, I will hold on to the promise that God wants to speak to me through His Word.  It's not His intention that His words be difficult to understand.

Isaiah 45:19 says
"I am the Lord and there is no other.
I have not spoken in secret from somewhere in a land of darkness.
I have not said to Jacob's descendants, 'seek me in vain'.
I, the Lord, speak the truth.  I declare what is right."

I'm thinking I may blog/journal through this meditation on Psalm 119 taking small parts of it at a time.  Feel free to join me.

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