Monday, June 27, 2011

Undeserved Lavish Love

The other day I heard about a dad who has never told his children that he loves them.  It broke my heart.

This seems so wrong to me.  I tried to look at it objectively.  I know that not every family is going to be like mine.

I grew up in a family that was generous with verbal praise.  We tell each other we love each other a lot.  A LOT.  Like pretty much every time we see each other or talk on the phone, to this day.  And my husband and I have continued this pattern with each other, and our children.

I know that not every family is cut from the same cloth.  Everyone has their own style.  But I got to thinking, if we are going to pattern our families after anything, it needs to be God's family.

And you know what I find in the Bible?  Lavish love.  Undeserved lavish love.  Told to us in a thousand different ways.  God's love for us, despite our sin, and poured out for us in Jesus.  Which is, of course, the most important part of love.  Let us not love in word or tongue but with actions and in truth.  I John 3:18   So showing love is obviously important.  BUT God sure does a lot of telling about His love as well.  He goes way, way out of His way to tell us how much He loves us.  Just because He loves us.

The main text for our recent women's retreat was Ephesians 3:18-19, where Paul exhorts us to join other Christians in knowing "what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge."

Literally, that we can understand a love that cannot be known.  It's an over-the-top kind of love, that can only be understood by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Beth Moore used Psalm 103 to expand on the measurement terms.

How wide is His love?  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

How long is His love?  From everlasting to everlasting.

How high is His love?  As far as the heavens are high above the earth, how great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.

We left the retreat amazed at his lavishness.

I've loved Psalm 40:5.  "And Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order;  If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."

His thoughts toward me are too high too count?  That's A LOT of love.

I have games I play with my younger children.  I heard this idea once, and it's a winner.  You tell, for example, your 6-year old son:  "You know, if they took all the six-year-old boys in the whole world, and fit them into a football stadium, and told me I could pick any of them I wanted for my six-year-old boy, I would walk around and meet them all.  There would be boys with black hair and brown hair and red hair and blond hair, tall boys and short boys, silly boys and serious boys, boys who like baseball and boys who like football, but when I met you I would say, 'Here he is!  This is the one I want.  I don't need to look anymore.  I've found him. I want to take this one home!"  They. Love. It.  It might seem a little silly, but trust me on this one.

Until our kids get older, the only way they are going to understand God's magnificent love for them, is through our love.  Parents need to point the way to God for sure, but they are wired to trust us and need our love, and gradually they will, prayerfully, come to a close relationship with God.   But we are their first picture of what love is supposed to be. And they need to know they are loved... not because of their performance, but just because they ARE.

As for the dad who's never said "I love you," to his kids, I don't even know him, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't lavished with love as a kid.  But God is our Father, so let's be like Him.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, 
that we should be called the children of God!  For that is what we are!  
I John 3:1 NIV

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hang in there, Mommy!

It’s summertime!  The transition feels different this year.  Going from homeschooling everyone to summer break isn’t such a big deal.  But going from having two kids in school, to having everyone home, is really sweet.

Seven kids, ages four to seventeen, all home, for the most part of our summer days.  And it’s wonderful.  It brings tears to my eyes, thinking about how thankful I am that the atmosphere in our home is what it is.  That my children are who they are, by the grace of God.

I was prompted to write, as I thought about the fact that I am reaping the benefits of much labor, both my own and that of others.  I want to encourage those who are still in the trenches of raising small children to keep up the good work!  It will be worth it.

Let me state the obvious:  We are not a perfect family.  I had a dear friend describe another family to me by saying, “They are like your family.  Everyone thinks they’re perfect.  Until they get to know them.” 

So true.  But imperfect as we are, we do enjoy our kids, and other people seem to like them too.  And while sanctification is an ongoing journey,  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (3 John 1:4)

I love where I’m at in this parenting journey.  It’s not as much work now, and there is much enjoyment!  I just want to remind you, yes you, the one with piles of laundry and dishes and diapers, that it’s worth it!

When you are interrupted from making dinner (for the third time), and patiently give kisses and band-aids, you are loving your children and showing them Jesus.

When you have to stop story time with your two-year-old, to lovingly give needed discipline to your four-year-old, you are teaching them to fear the Lord, which will bring them joy all the days of their lives.

When it takes you three times as long to unload the dishwasher because of your “help,” you are paving the way for the day when they can do this chore independently.  You won’t be the only one doing dishes and laundry and cooking forever!

When it seems difficult to get everyone to settle down for devotional in the morning, you are teaching them to persevere and prioritize what is most important in life.

When you hold them to the standards of the Word (Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32) and not the world, their sibling relationships will flourish.

When you say no, even to good things, if life is too busy, they will know how much you value time as a family.

When you share with joy what God has been teaching you, they will see it’s a relationship, not a religion.

When you step away from your computer, and play baseball in the backyard, you are showing them how important they are to you.

When you take them on “special dates,” you are giving them time to ask questions alone, share their hearts, and just feel loved.

When they see you have your quiet time in the morning (or see your open Bible and empty coffee mug on the table) you are modeling dependence on the living God.

Though you might groan inwardly when the early morning quiet is broken, your cheerful “Good Morning,” smile, kiss and hug is teaching them how to greet each day and those around them.

Are you noticing a trend here?  God’s Word is invaluable.

I’m deeply grateful for instruction I have received, starting with having had great parents myself. I’ve also learned so much through parenting classes and sermons, godly women and great books.  But all of these things are based on one book – the Bible – which in and of itself has taught me the most.

Because I have also received some bad parenting advice.  From Christian people and Christian churches and Christian books.  And I wouldn’t have known it was bad advice if I didn’t have God’s Word to compare it to.

So if you are a mommy of young children, I want to encourage you, most of all, to be in the Word!  Get up earlier than your kids if you can.  Or let your kids watch a video.  You only need fifteen minutes.

Just fifteen minutes. 

More is nice.  But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t.  Here’s a great way to get started.

Love those babies.  They grow up so fast.  All the old ladies will tell you that (especially when you’re about to tear your hair out, and it doesn’t seem fast at all).  But I heard a great quote that made sense of it. 

“The years are fast, but the days are slow.”

I know it's not easy.  You have the most important job in the world.  But if you belong to Him, you have the God who created everything available to you 24/7.  That’s not a bad deal.  I hope you will take advantage of it!