Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Talking to My Teen about Reading Scripture

Don't you just love when you have the right people speaking into your life?

I'm writing this post more for my own purposes, so that I remember these lessons learned. When the younger boys get to these teen years, maybe revisiting this post will be a help for me! :-)  So if you've come to visit and keep up with my blogs--just know this one is a bit longer and move on to another one if it doesn't interest you!

I'm glad for my pastor's insight.  He and his son noticed my fifteen year old shifting his focus from God to academics.

My son had been homeschooled his whole life until this year. I love the lifestyle and the close family ties we've enjoyed, but that wasn't the only reason for homeschooling this son. I was told early on that he suffers from auditory processing.  It's not a paralyzing problem, but causes just enough issues with learning that the special attention at home helped terrifically. Specialists have told me that in his teenage years much of the difficulties in learning will naturally dissipate has he develops.

Now he is in a public school--a really good one that challenges him.  It's going pretty well, mostly because he and I have attacked his studies together as a team.

Problem is, there was a cost.

I got a call from my pastor, whose son is best friends with my son. "My son came to me and told me he's noticing your son seems to have lost interest in the Bible.  They used to support each other, read it together. Now when my son asks him about it, your son says he's too busy with studying and sports."

It was my bad.  I confessed to my pastor that I had set aside encouraging my son to spend time with the Lord because I was so anxious to have my son perform well in school.

Martin Luther spent hours a day in the Word.  When his colleagues noticed they couldn't access him for over four hours each day they criticized him. "You can be putting that time into your work.  Think of the productivity gains."

Luther rebuked them. "I accomplish what I do because I give my first four hours to the Lord."  I knew I needed to change things.

I told my son he's doing great, and let him know how sorry I am for leading him to put school over God. I should have more trust in the Lord. From now on, he and I have agreed to begin homework by first getting into the Word.  Since his circle of friends are going through the Book of John together, chapter by chapter, and commenting together on a blog they've formed (here's a link to that blog-- this month my oldest son is running it), we had the perfect reading plan to go on.

But even though fifteen-year-old was agreeable to get back into the Word, he's a gut honest kid, and he has repeated gut honestly, that he can't seem to get the same zest out of it that he had before.

Now that academics is so stepped up, he's putting so much energy into his performance with school that he's probably tired out.  Now I'm relaxing the academics a bit and trusting God that if we invest the time with Him first, He will help my son with the academics. 

Besides, isn't it better for a teen to have a less scholarly resume but know the Lord than to get into Harvard with no love for the Lord?

As we talk about the Word, I help my son go deeper.  Soemtimes I wonder if the auditory processing keeps him from receiving or retaining what I have to say.  I asked him if it's alright if I recap what we talked about and send it in an email to him.  He said yes, and I'm thinking as long as I keep private information out of it, it might be okay to share here.  (Besides, the teens really aren't interested in this website).  

Here is my letter to him on John Chapter 16. If it comes across as one sided, please know it's only because I'm jotting notes here and that's not how my conversations with my boys go.  I do less of the talking and just listen.  I'm recapping some of them like I do here, but remember that my son was involved in the discussion and had his own contributions.  

So here are my thoughts about John 16. I totally get why you just don't seem to have the interest like you used to have in the Bible.  A year ago you were reading it on your own every day and loving it.  You would come to me with interesting questions and talk to Nathan about it a lot.

Now you're reading it along with the other highschoolers, but you don't comment so much on the blog, and it doesn't seem to draw you in as it used to.

I totally get that.  I think it's because since you started at public school, the stresses of the academics has gotten both of us focused so much on school that we haven't had much time and so we've pushed the Word out of your life.  

Pastor Rob suggested that I begin each school study session with both of us by first reading in John where the other high schoolers are reading and then working on your homework. I know in time it will help, but I get it when you admit it just doesn't hold your interest like before. 

Yesterday we were reading John 16 where Jesus was telling the disciples he's about to leave them, but that he will be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them and that the Holy Spirit is really part of Him, and that the Holy Spirit will guide them and comfort them and counsel them.

This didn't seem to affect you much, so I tried to explain it this way.  Just like the Holy Spirit (as part of the Trinity) is also Jesus, the Bible, Scripture, or Word, whatever you want to call it, is actually alive.  John 1:1 says "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  In Revelation (19:13), John talks of Christ coming down from the Heavens and defines Christ by saying, “His name is called the Word of God.”  So, in many places in the New Testament where it describes the Word becoming flesh, it’s speaking of Jesus.

So what I said last night is that the Word is alive-- it really is an extension of Christ, Himself.  When you immerse yourself in it, you become more relational with Christ, Himself. You had been immersing yourself in the Word for a year when you were 14, and it made such a difference--you were seeking, asking questions, being very intuitive about faith.  

I love your discernment last Spring when I told you I discovered someone's faith wasn't on solid ground as he had tried to claim. You were absolutely unwavering--"Mom, don't see him anymore. He's not a Christian."  You're right, and that wisdom came from the Holy Spirit, and you were really in touch with the Holy Spirit because you had been immersing yourself in Jesus--immersing yourself in the Word which is Jesus Christ. That made it easy for the Holy Spirit to guide you--speak into you so that you could speak into me.

But since school started, I saw you backing away from it and immersing yourself instead, in studies, and sports, and just holding your own in school.  I was talking to you last night about the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life.  I said, "When you choose not to hang out with the kids who cuss or talk about drugs, why do you do that-- Who's guiding you?"

"That's my decision," you answered, matter of factly, "because I know it's bad for me to."  

If that is true, then you're missing something important that John talks about in Chapter 16. It's Holy Spirit driven discernment. Maybe you are using the Holy Spirit to make choices, and it just comes so naturally that you think it's your own choice, not the Holy Spirit's.  I only encourage you to really pray about it, because it does matter whether you're doing things because of your own will or because you've surrendered your will to Christ's.

There are so many traps students can run into and one of them is doing the right things on their own strength and thinking they're good with God that way--that's works driven theology.  If you hang with the right people because it's your choice because you don't want the bad influence, that's great, but that's not winning you points with God.  God wants your heart, not your actions.  God would rather that you chose not to hang with the wrong people because you're trusting Him and He's guiding that decision and you're obeying.

Why the difference?  Because eventually the difference between a wise and unwise decision will be that you have to give up something you don't want to give up, and then, if it's on your own strength, you're own strength can fail you.  But if the difference between a wise and unwise decision is that you trust God and want to please God and you believe He has your back, you'll be willing to make the wise decision, even when it's hard, because you love God more than you love the thing your giving up. 

Remember my tears when I decided it was best that I not marry that man even though we knew giving him up was the right thing to do?  If I did that on my own strength, I might have failed, and we would end up with an ungodly man, just so that I wouldn't have to be without a husband anymore.  It was a lot to give up, but because I didn't do it on my strength but because I was obeying the Holy Spirit, it was easy to make the choice, painful, but easy--it was like I had no choice-- I couldn't do the unwise thing.  

To put into practical words, if you choose not to hang with the crowd who cusses or does drugs on your own strength because you don't want the bad influence, what if there is a pretty girl in that crowd and you really want to hang with her, but you can't if you don't hang with that crowd?  Now, choosing the wise decision has a big cost.  And if it's on your own strength, you might start to rationalize-- Satan might come in and attack-- tell you "hey, cussing's not that bad.  just because they talk about drugs, doesn't mean they do it, and even if they do, doesn't me you have to."  Wow can that be a dangerous lie.  Do you see the danger and the difference? 

Be encouraged that there is strength to be won out of digging into the Word.

I feel  your frustration. It seems like you want to be into reading the Bible again, but this time, it's not coming so easily.  What I was trying to explain to you about the Bible last night is that if the Word is alive and relational, then when you were spending daily time in It, It spoke to you, pulled you in.  Now that you've been away a while, it will take time for It to have that rejuvenating power again.  But it will come.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How I met my three Valentines…

How I met my three Valentines…

The thing about a valentine is that you can only have one.  He’s your one-and-only, the only one who gets to set roots in your heart.  So how do I write about Tom when I’ve now been dating a man for almost a year? How does a widow convince other widows that she understands the loss of a husband when she’s now in the process of dating to find a new one? 

Here’s the answer on my heart. Those years of walking it alone with God before dating were a time where I wanted to hear from women around me who had been there and get how it feels to be widowed, but can demonstrate that there is the possibility for a new valentine.

So I will candidly tell you how I met both my valentines—one at a time. I’ll remember Tom, but also think of the man who represents moving forward into my new future. There is a third Valentine—One that was there from the beginning and carried me between these two valentines. I will talk about Him too.

I met Tom accidently.  I was young, with no family responsibilities—my future a blank page. Tom blew in like a crazy, fun March kite-flying breeze, his page not so blank. He brought with him two kids who had been through heartache and chaos and depended on his level-headedness and fathering. These challenges along with his spontaneity turned my world upside down until we both laughed and filled in my blank page together.

The only reason I happened to be at Benny’s the night I met Tom was that my friend Suzie didn’t want to go alone.

He showed up with his beautiful grin and asked me to dance. What struck me about the grin was that it never left his face as we danced and talked and danced and talked. I started to wonder how was it possible to meet a wonderful man in a place like Benny’s—until a gorgeous redhead approached us—hands on hips and a glare at Tom.  He was on a date!!

“I’m sorry,” he pleaded. “Diane is my sister’s friend. She’s been begging me to take her dancing. She’s way too young for me and I told her I wasn’t interested, but I finally gave in. As soon as we got here, she took off to hang out with other people, so I figured I was free to dance.”

Well, Benny’s was a HUGE place and Diane obviously hadn’t been around for over an hour while Tom was dancing with me. Still, what a jerk! It didn’t take me long to forget about Tom.

But two weeks later he called.  “It took me that long to get the nerve to call you.”

All my skepticism about him melted away on our first date when he introduced me to his favorite people—his brothers and sisters with their spouses. It was the beginning of seeing Tom for the man he was—a family man. More than just a family man, a dedicated husband and father—fun, lovable, spontaneous to the point of chaotic—that was Tom.

When he was ripped from my life, I still felt him—everywhere. I thought of the incredible adoration I felt from him. It hung in the air all around me, lifted me, carried me.  Yes, I was alone, but few women have ever felt loved the way I felt loved by Tom. Do you know he used to paint my toenails, call me Lady Kathleen and himself Sir Thomas ready to serve his lady?  In those last years of his life, my friends  asked me to stop telling them about the way he romanced me because it only reminded them of how far their husbands fell short.

So when I lost Tom, I told myself I’d never need another love again. After all, few women had experienced being so adored. I rested on this for a while, and then the loneliness hit.  I was surprised how quickly it came.

That’s when my eternal Valentine stepped in. I always knew Him, but never like my true love. Never with that intensity you feel from a man who lovingly looks into your eyes. He knew how much I missed it, so maybe that’s why He gave it to me, in a dream just about the time of my first Valentine’s Day after losing Tom.  I wrote about it here at a Widow’s Might. In my dream Jesus looked straight into my eyes, The rush I got from Him was like a thousand butterflies in my stomach—that love-at-first-sight tingle!

During the next couple of years Christ as my Valentine held me tight, comforted me, and gave me that assurance of being truly beautiful and adored. Soon I found myself being able to remember Tom without so much pain.

I walked the next couple of years with my Heavenly Valentine until He began to whisper in my heart that He wanted me to be ready for another.

My new valentine comes at a new season—one where now, my page isn’t blank—there’s a purpose in my life with these boys I’m raising, and it’s I who has the spontaneity I learned from Tom—the spontaneity that allows me to let my boys be boys, happy and relaxed in the love of Christ. It’s no longer a crazy fun March kite-flying breeze I’m looking for. A whimsical breeze might turn our lives upside down, No, I want a breeze, but not a whimsical one—a peaceful one, full of gentleness and the guidance of an earthly husband who gets who we are in Christ and can lead us God’s way. Can that happen and still be capricious as a Valentine should be?

If God’s in it, it can.

Ladies, I sometimes struggle over whether to share about my experience in dating with you. If I don’t share it, I’m holding back lessons and praises I have for God showing me the benefits of doing the courtship dance His way and in obedience to Him.  But I never want widows to feel that my love for the husband I lost is in any way diminished by a new love in my life. And I know that in the early years of widowhood, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the husband you lost being your valentine.

Everything about this valentine was not accidental or whimsical. We were introduced, and started getting to know each other through phone calls and letters.  When he finally came to meet me from another state, I was amazed at how he courted me—with complete honor and integrity. He insisted on staying in a hotel, he drove up practically every weekend, he invested as much time in my boys as he invested in me—taking them bowling, playing monopoly with them, taking them to parks and on hikes. He understood that hanging out with my boys and me together was an intentional way of telling me he loves me. When I turn and see him laughing when the boys act silly, I feel love.  After almost a year of hanging out with us, he has never once lost his patience or gotten cross with us, even after seeing the boys drop things, break things, tussle with each other, run late, and climb on his good furniture. As time passes, I watch him speak gentle guidance to the boys, and the boys appreciating his wisdom. I know this man loves me enough to love the boys too. When he sees me struggle to get the boys to tennis on time, he comes along and helps me arrange my schedule so it works. He brings order to chaos, and even my boys notice and like that.

And he romances me intentionally too. Each weekend visit is planned with a night out, and each night he calls me is spent talking about our hopes and dreams along with the minutia of the little tasks we do throughout the day. Even the tiny tasks are fun to talk about because behind it, I can feel him planning and figuring out how our lives filled with all the tiny tasks would meld together as one.

Because it’s the melding of two lives that scares a widow with children. Would it be as good as before?  Will four boys, doing as well as they are doing without their father, still do well or even better with a new man in their family?  The love I feel from my new valentine is shown in his patience to wait and date me God’s way while I sort these concerns out, letting them melt away until all I see is him—my valentine, loving, gentle, confident enough to lead me, tenderly, into the future.

I’m still meeting my valentine, and the story isn’t completely revealed. Thank you, God, for stepping in when my earthly valentine wasn’t there, and showing me how much You adore me. Thank You, for bringing a new valentine this year, and helping me see that remembering my husband on Valentine’s Day can honor him.