Friday, June 24, 2011

If Only Life Had a Rewind Button

Do you ever wish life had a rewind button? You know…so you can go back and reclaim missed opportunities. I was using the rewind button on my DVR quite a bit today as I listened to President Obama’s speech on his plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan for an article I am writing. I would have missed a lot of important facts had I not been able to do that.

But life doesn’t have a rewind button, so what we often get stuck with are regrets. Which reminds me of one of those moments that not only do I have regrets about but I will also admit was an extremely embarrassing one for me.

Several months ago I was grocery shopping with my daughter. We were by the meats section and she was patiently waiting by the cart while I looked through the selection of ground beef. I was pretty wrapped up in what I was doing so when I heard someone talk next to me, I didn’t quite catch what they said. But then I heard a male voice say my name and I looked up to see a guy that took me a few moments to recognize.

He was someone I had hung out with in the past. I wouldn’t even say I dated him…more or less went out a few times. Well I was not happy at all to run into a guy from my past with my teen daughter standing nearby. I wanted to end the conversation as quickly as possible but he seemed intent on talking.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the conversation because I could feel my daughter’s eyes on me and I just wanted it all to go away. The only thing that stuck out was when he asked me, “So are you still kicking it?” He honestly sounded like one of those California surfer dudes, you know, like totally dude…sorry but I’m just trying to give you a picture here.

My response was a sarcastic, “No, I’m not still kicking it,” thinking that I’m a 40-something old married woman with three kids…I am most certainly not still “kicking it.” I think he eventually caught on that I wasn’t interested in talking and when we walked away, I could feel my face turn red. I didn’t want my daughter to see that. I didn’t want to explain to her who this guy was.

Of course she thought the whole thing was hilarious and couldn’t wait to tell my husband about it when we got home (don’t you just love kids?). She couldn’t believe I had ever hung out with the guy…frankly, I couldn’t either. But yet…it is still one of those moments that I wish I could rewind back to.

Do you know why? Because when he asked if I was still kicking it, I would have replied, “Well actually now I’m kicking it with Jesus” and I could have gone on to tell him all about the change in my life. But I was so focused on ending that moment, on how I looked to my daughter and wondering what I had been thinking back then…well it was a lost opportunity that can’t be redone.

What opportunities in life have you missed out on? What times in life do you wish you could press the rewind button and go back? While we may not be able to do that, we can do something now. We can determine that we won’t live a life of regrets and instead, we will make the most of every opportunity we have.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keeping It Real

Last week I had a real heart-to-heart with one of my children. It transpired after hearing a sermon at our church. Obviously conviction had hit big time and I was told of a particular struggle.

If there is one message that I have tried really hard to get across to my children, it is that they can tell me anything....I mean, anything. I told my child that I will try my hardest to never get mad at them when they confess something because no one is perfect. I don’t expect perfection from my children.

In fact, I told my child that if they never did anything wrong, I would be more suspicious. I want them to be real and just like I have things to work on, so will they. It is okay to have struggles. The real issue is what we do with them.

Grace is something I have tried really hard to dispense onto my children. I know the grace of God to such depths that I could offer nothing less. As parents it can be really difficult to navigate those waters, however.

After all, you don’t want your children to think that it’s okay to sin. You don’t want to dismiss the wrong things they do. But at the same time we can’t make our children think that they aren’t supposed to ever mess up.

I have been reading a book that has impacted me greatly. It’s by Craig Groeschel and it’s called “Weird.” The premise of the book is that as Christians we aren’t supposed to be normal, we are supposed to be weird…but not a goofy kind of weird. You would have to read it to understand it.

It just so happened that on the same day I had talked to my child, I later read this in “Weird”: “So how do we become weird (or weirder) parents? Not by pretending to be perfect and have all the answers. Instead, we must let them see our struggles as well as our strengths. Weird parents not only try to mirror God’s character on a daily basis but also show their humanity—their own questions, doubts, weaknesses—in the mix. They share answered prayers as well as the unanswered ones. They lose their tempers—and then are humble enough to ask for forgiveness.”

I love how real the author is (who also happens to be a pastor). He shares some stories that may raise some eyebrows but he is keeping it very real. That is something I have always strived for. I don’t pretend to have all the answers as a parent—in fact; I don’t know that I have any answers. But one thing I do have is “realness.” My kids see the real me and while they see the part of me that absolutely loves God, they also see the part of me that can really mess up.

I guess the point of this blog is really to encourage everyone to keep it real. That we would keep it real with our children, our spouses, our friends, our church and anyone else we come in contact with. But this also includes God. Believe it or not, there are many who try to fool Him.

Sure, we can fool a lot of people around us. We can have the appearance of a real “got-it-all-together” family. But God knows what happens behind closed doors. God knows the real deal. So why bother trying to put on a charade in front of Him? Why not keep it real with Him?

Perhaps that is why I love the Psalms so much, especially those by King David. He kept things real. Sometimes he got angry. Sometimes he messed up big time. But he was called “a man after God’s own heart” and I truly believe that part of it was because he was so genuine.

What keeps some people from being real is a fear of what others will think. They don’t want to be looked at as “weak” or to be viewed as someone who is lacking spiritually. We would much rather prefer everyone to see us as spiritual giants. But we can’t slay the giant until we deal with the little monsters running around inside of us. And yes, we all have them. It’s just that some of them are more obvious than others.

Being real also makes us vulnerable. That is a difficult place to be. But when we make ourselves vulnerable to God that is when real change can begin.

So what about you? Are you keeping it real?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Are You Reaching the World?

Last week I was making a few changes to my blog’s site when I happened upon “Stats.” I have never been one to really care about my blog’s stats. I write because I love it. I write because I believe that whether I have been able to encourage just one person or 50 people, my purpose has been fulfilled.

But being human, my curiosity got the best of me and I was surprised to see how much information was available on stats. While it was interesting to see the number of page views my blogs have received, what really amazed me was that I could see my page views by country.

Imagine my surprise to find that my blog has been read from the countries of Taiwan, Canada, Germany, Russia, India, Iran, Greece, Ukraine and South Korea. I was just completely taken aback from this. I think I was especially shocked to see Iran on the list.

It got me thinking about Mark 16:15 where Jesus tells us to go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation. I think when most of us read that verse, we kind of gloss over it because we think it applies to preachers, evangelists and missionaries. Or we read that verse and we think, “Well that would be nice but I’m just a wife and mom, or a…whatever else you want to fill in the blank with.”

I have always felt like my ability to “reach the world” has been hindered because of where I am in life. But see…sometimes we can get so focused on “reaching the world” that we neglect to reach those within arm’s reach.

Wherever we are, whatever position in life we have been given, whatever tasks are before us…that is the place we are to reach the world. It starts in our heart, works into our home and then begins to reach “other” places. Those other places may not be another country. It may be your workplace, your neighborhood, your school, or wherever the Lord has you.

If there is one thing I have learned from running into my Stats page and seeing the countries that have visited my blog, it is that you never really know who you are influencing.

The clerk at the grocery store is watching how you interact with your child throwing a tantrum. The neighbor next door is watching how your family talks to each other. Your teacher is watching how you deal with peer pressure. Your co-worker is listening to the language you use. There are so many ways that our lives are speaking to others and we don’t even know it.

You are influencing lives and you are reaching the world to one degree or another…what are they seeing in your life?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Vice of Unforgiveness

Recently I was reading a devotional on forgiveness and this thought struck me…nothing is more freeing than to release another person. It sounds almost contradictory, doesn’t it?

After all, if you choose to forgive someone you are “letting them off the hook” as you release them, aren’t you? They are the ones who are experiencing the freedom and well, sometimes it seems downright unfair.

But the reality is that we get the benefit of freedom more than the person we have released. Why is that? You have released them in the sense that you are no longer holding something over them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are off the hook. There may be consequences for what they have done. They may be facing judgment from God.

As good as that might sound, it isn’t supposed to make us feel better about forgiveness. It should cause us to grieve for them. Haven’t we been in that place where we faced the same, yet Jesus came into our hearts and offered us forgiveness?

The real freedom comes when we can live in peace. Harboring unforgiveness is not a pleasant thing. It often comes with anxiousness, guilt, shame, anger and a myriad of other emotions that can have a death grip on us.

It’s like you are in a vice and the deeper the unforgiveness goes, the longer it lasts, the tighter the grip on us. We are held in this vice and we can’t move. We are stuck. We feel uncomfortable, perhaps even in pain.

But as we begin to go through the process of forgiving, the vice begins to loosen. We begin to feel a release from the pressure. We are so thankful for how much better we feel that we decide we finally want to be free from the vice and so we forgive with everything within us.

It is at this point that we can experience complete freedom from the vice that once gripped us. Yes, that is what true freedom is, to release someone else. In turn, we are released.