Wednesday, April 29, 2009

God's Loving Discipline - And Do or Allow :)

Someone asked anonymously after a recent post whether God punishes us.
I think she was prompted to ask because I said about my selfish thoughts,
"But does that mean God rejects me and punishes me for it? Absolutely not!"
My anonymous friend asked, "I do have a question: I have felt like I was being punished by God and I have been believing it was from God? If it wasn't God punishing me then what was I feeling? "

My answer would have to be, it's possible that it was God's punishment, but it would depend on the situation. It probably *is* His discipline. There's a difference, though we often don't see it that way.

The Bible tells us that God disciplines His dear children. Hebrews 12 says:

5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.[a] 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

In the King James version, the word translated discipline is translated as chastening. We often think of discipline as a parent punishing a child in anger but what does discipline or chastening actually mean?

The greek word in this passage is paideia, from which we get our word pedagogy - teaching - training. We can think of discipline as the making of a disciple. We can think of chastening as making one chaste or holy. Sometimes this teaching or training may take the form of punishment, but that is only one type of discipline and only needed in certain cases. Discipline or chastening are much broader terms. Much more often it is in the form of instruction, encouragement, and direction.

Even in the correction category, there can be a variety of ways this can be shown. As you probably know from your own parenting, different situations and different relationships with our children call for different types of correction. A child who is sitting in your lap and in close relationship with you will likely only need a look or a touch of loving encouragement. He can be disciplined into doing the right thing *before* he actually gets to the point of sinning. (This is the kind of correction I was talking about when I said God held me close while I struggled with my desire to have my own way and why I said He was not punishing or rejecting me.)

A child who is far away from you in heart may need much firmer discipline. A child who is away from you physically has the opportunity to get himself deeper into sin and then the discipline process is more likely to need things like groundings or other forms of punishment. I think it's the same with our relationship with God. The farther one draws away from God, the more likely He may have to give His child a "bop on the head" to get through to them.

Discipline in our language is from the greek word discipulus meaning pupil or disciple. This can be separated from the greek kólasis meaning penal infliction, punishment, and retribution. Paideía and discipulus show more correction, educative discipline.

So then we think of the educative discipline that is teaching a lesson rather than addressing a wrong. For instance, I am disciplined in the art of violin playing, or one can talk about disciplines of science or philosophy. One can be disciplined to run a marathon. Sometimes even these disciplines *hurt*. I think of the sore muscles as one trains to run a marathon or the sore neck and fingers as one practices the violin. I have seen violin players who are actually bleeding from the discipline of playing a lot. These are the chastening processes in which God makes us chaste, holy, purified. When one considers that the purification process for gold or silver includes being put into fire, it's not surprising that pain is involved even though I don't think this kind of purification is done as punishment for specific sin. It does not mean we are out of fellowship with Him. Most of the time it's those who are in deepest fellowship with Him that we see going through those firey times, because God is purifying them and making them more and more like Him.

So if you are His dear child and you are going through difficult times, I would say look around you at your relationship with Him to be able to see whether He is giving you a good bop or if He is purifying you in the fire. And know that either way, He is showing His incredibly wonderful love for you in and through it all!

Which brings us to the question of "do or allow?" When we go through terrible things does that mean God *causes* them in our life or does He *allow* them to happen and it's actually satan, sin, or other people who do them to us? If we lose our home in a fire, did God cause the fire or did He allow a fire that someone else started to burn our home? It is sometimes difficult to think that a truly loving God would cause us pain, and I have found that using the words "do", "cause", or "bring" can make it seem to others that I think God is a judging, punitive God who would destroy a home or kill a child to teach us a lesson. And of course, of course, He is NOT like that.

A few weeks ago my four year old disobeyed and went into the lower level of the barn. While she was there she fell down and cut her finger on who knows what. The cut was not deep and it was washed well, but considering there was the distinct possibility it might have been something rusty, and considering the surety that it was in an area contaminated by animal manure, I felt it would be a good idea to get her into the doctor for a tetanus shot. It was a reminder to me also that I'd been planning to get all the children caught up on their tetanus shots and hadn't done so yet. So I took Amanda over to the clinic and the doctor gave her a shot in the leg.

Now Amanda could look at this situation and say, "I disobeyed and this was my punishment." but that wouldn't be exactly true.

She could say, "That mean old doctor lady hurt me." wouldn't be exactly right either and could lead her heart in the direction of feeling anger and bitterness toward the doctor.

Or she could say, "Mommy took me to the doctor and caused the doctor to give me a shot. Mommy brought this pain to me, but I know without a doubt that Mommy loves me, so this pain must be good somehow."

She doesn't understand what tetanus is. She doesn't understand how a shot that hurts so much can be helpful to her, but she does understand that Mommy loves her very very much, and Mommy would never "cause" or "allow" (however you want to put it) this pain in her life unless it was for a *good* reason.

I find that for me, even if God uses the actions of satan or other people to bring painful times into my life, it helps me to see it as *God's* doing. Then I can direct my heart to God's loving purpose in it rather than getting hung up on what *that person did to me*. This leaves me able to forgive completely and love that person with God's love through me. And this doesn't mean that I am then angry with God. How could I ever be angry with One who loves me SO MUCH!

Even though Job was tempted by satan, he saw God's hand in it all. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." And I think it was also Job who said, "Though You slay me, yet will I hope in Thee." Even Job's wife saw it as God's doing, though she didn't see it through the eyes of a *loving* God when she told Job to "curse God and die." So I think there is Biblical precedence for seeing our difficult times as coming from God, at least in a sense. But whether you use the words do or allow, the point is that God loves you very very very much and He uses the situations in our lives to teach, to discipline, and to chasten us as His dear children.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Making Chocolate Chip Cookies wth Emilie

Set the oven to 350 degrees.

Open up a stick of butter and put it in the bowl.
An egg comes next... Wow! You're going to let *me* do it?

Break it into a small bowl so we can fish out any shells and then pour it into the big one.

Next comes brown sugar. If we use a quarter cup, we can count - 1, 2, 3!

Turn on the mixer and mix it all up good.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla, a teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt.

Flour's next - count the quarter cups, 1,2,3,4,5! Then turn on the mixer and mix it up again.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir in half a bag of chocolate chips.

Use the scoop to put the cookies on the pan. 4 rows of 3 cookies equals 12 yummy cookies!

And the baker gets to lick the spoon!
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and not too gooey in the middle.
Repeat with whatever dough is left in the bowl.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Beautiful Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. :) The girls started a few weeks ago asking several times a day, "Mom, what do you want for your birthday?" Finally I got fed up and made a list of things I might enjoy receiving for my birthday - anything and everything from the impossible (a plane ticket and car rental to visit my dear friend) to the simple (hugs and kisses from sweet little girls). One of the things I put on the list and had thought to be in the impossible category, was a lesson in music mixing from a producer. Mike found out that the son of one of his co-workers had a degree in music production and he arranged for him to come over for a lesson on Monday night! It was wonderful and I learned so much. He also played a mini-concert on his guitar for our family. We're talking about lessons for one of our sons. (I'm hoping he will learn enough to teach me a bit too.) ;)

Yesterday morning, I asked Mike to let me come along with him when he went into town. There had been a rummage sale in the paper that had looked interesting and I figured we could kill two birds with one stone. It was pouring rain, so I figured if it was cancelled, we wouldn't have wasted a second trip, and if it wasn't cancelled, I just might have the pick of the crop with fewer sale-ers braving the rain. :) As we drove past, we saw a woman carrying some things back out of the driveway into the house, so we almost didn't stop, thinking they were closing up shop. After some discussion, we decided to go back and check it out anyway. Mike was going to wait in the van. He was the sane one, not wanting to go out in the pouring rain for nothing. LOL

I wound my way up the driveway and onto the porch where they had set some things out of the rain. There I found a sweet older lady who started chatting. I asked her about the fabric that I'd seen specifically mentioned in the paper. She said that her friend who was bringing the fabric was running late. She took down my name and number to call me when she got there and asked if I lived very far away. I said no, just outside of town, and I told her the street corner we lived on. Her eyes lit up. "You're the ones who bought our old house!" she exclaimed. She called her husband and introduced him and as we talked and talked, Mike realized it would be a long wait in the car and came up to join us. :) They invited us in and we had an incredibly lovely visit. Her husband told Mike many stories about our house's history. J and I talked about gardening and children and sewing. The fabric lady arrived and turned out to be another lovely new friend, who apparently lives just up the road from us. I bought tons of her fabric including some green velvet and a gorgeous pendleton wool that she'd picked up when they were in Scotland! All for $1 a yard! Plus she promised me her leftovers after the rummage sale was over. :) They were all believers and it was wonderful to hear their speech peppered with "Lord willing" - "He said he was praying about it" - "God did this in our lives" etc. What a wonderful time of fellowship! We were so glad we'd stopped!

Then we went out for lunch at a neat little diner nearby called Maggie Mae's Cafe.
I had their spaghetti special which came with a piece of pie for dessert. I chose apple with a scoop of butter pecan icecream on top. :) Mike had a patty melt. Maggie was there but she wasn't singing. I finally asked our waitress as she brought my dessert if Maggie might be persuaded to sing. Mike piped up and told her it was my birthday. :) So Maggie and the whole diner sang happy birthday to me. LOL Another lady admitted it was her birthday too so we sang to her as well. And then Maggie gave a little concert of country songs which was really neat. :)

The first song was Louisiana Saturday Night and I had to laugh at some of the lyrics I'd never heard clearly before. :)

Well, you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow,
Kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor.
Dance in the kitchen 'til the morning light:
Louisiana Saturday night.

Waiting in the front yard, sitting on a log;
Single shot rifle and a one-eyed dog.
Yonder come my kin folk in the moonlight:
Louisiana Saturday night.

Well, you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow
Kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor
Dance in the kitchen 'til the morning light
Louisiana Saturday night

My brother Bill an' my other brother Jack,
Belly full o'beer and a possum in a sack.
Fifteen kids in the front porch light
Louisiana Saturday night!

When the kinfolk leave an' the kids get fed,
Me an' my woman gonna slip off to bed.
Have a little fun when we turn out the lights!
Louisiana Saturday night!

Well, you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow,
Kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor.
Dance in the kitchen 'til the morning light:
Louisiana Saturday night.

Yeah, you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow,
Kick off your shoes and you throw ‘em on the floor.
Dance in the kitchen 'til the morning light:
Louisiana Saturday night.

Yup. Most of that sounds like a really good day to me too. :)

We stopped on the way home at a couple of stores and we bought a new bird house. I love bird houses, and we've found that as long as we keep the feeder filled, we have TONS of birds here who are bold enough to come very close to the house. The new birdhouse looks like a huge pinecone with a pretty red cardinal sitting on top. So pretty!

So we came home and Terran made a pair of delicious carrot cakes. He even tried the candied carrot roses Jewels mentioned on her blog a long time ago. Unfortunately it wasn't the season for mint leaves, but it was wonderful even with just the roses. He was so funny. He said that one of the cakes had a corner that broke when he tipped it out of the pan - but you can cover a lot with frosting. Of course it can look like a perfect cake on the outside, but when you cut into it you find out the truth! LOL (Not that some of the kids minded!)

The girls made presents for me and I opened them after cake too. Manda created a beautiful painted paper birthday cake on a paper plate.

Abigail drew a BIG picture of a beautiful girl she said was named "Julia" and made me a purple

finger knitted necklace and bracelet.

And Lissa and Juli embroidered a pretty fabric square to say "World's Best Mom".

I am so very blessed.

Then, on top of everything else, I found out last night that my name request at "To Write Their Names In the Sand" had been finished and posted.

What a beautiful gift from God!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Where Have You Been?

I'm as amazed as anyone that two weeks have gone by since I last posted. How in the world did that happen? Thankyou so much to those of you who wrote and asked how I was doing. God has been so good to me and to my family. There are of course easier days and harder days, but the harder days are less often and they're becoming more moments than days.
We've been so very busy here in the last few weeks.

What have we been doing?

... sewing lots of Easter dresses up the yard and preparing the earth for planting the seedlings we started indoors

... building the coolest swingset ever!

...the boys were such a huge help to their Dad in getting it put together

... getting Savannah's stone set by her grave. Mr. Bookmeier did such a beautiful job on it!
and recording songs...
(I can't promise any of them are the final final version, but they're getting closer.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jesus Wept

John 11:35 - the shortest verse in the Bible - Jesus wept.

Friday I cried. It was a pretty rough day, emotionally. I felt like I couldn't stop crying. Yet, when it came down to it, it wasn't grieving for Savannah that caused the pain. It was an all out, little whiny baby fit, and I knew it. I wanted what I wanted so bad, and I knew the answer was no or not right now, but I didn't want to accept it. I knew that the only way to have peace was to get back into that place of trust, to accept God's will for my life, and I kept telling God that I wanted to but I just couldn't. Yet I knew that the truth was more that I wouldn't. Yes, it was so incredibly hard - yes all my wants were natural, normal, legitimate in the world's eyes things, but that didn't make them any less full of self. So I cried. And Jesus held me, even as I continued to try to push Him away. As if I could actually go off on my own, get control over my emotions, and then come back to His presence. Ha! Eventually the tears stopped and I was ready to get back up and walk along His path, however long it might be til His not now became a now. (I was still struggling with giving over enough to accept an all out no. LOL)

At one point during that night, I looked in the mirror and what I saw scared me. I saw eyes that were dull and dead. I saw where holding onto my wants would lead - a place of bitterness and pain. I looked into the abyss and I didn't like what I saw. I worried that I was a total hypocrite writing the things I've written here about God's grace and peace, His love and sovereignty while allowing myself to give into the doubt and selfishness all that day. And I cried out for God to help me to trust Him and to give me His joy. I had some wonderful prayer warrior friends praying for me too. And peace came. God is so good!

I had a wonderful talk with a friend of mine today. We were discussing whether thoughts and emotions like fear and sadness were wrong. She was concerned that if God considered my emotions on Friday to be *sin* that that would mean He was not a loving, compassionate, understanding God. I think that the problem is that we don't like the word sin. It's an uncomfortable word, for sure. We tend to think that when we sin, God will (and should) punish us. But if the definition of sin is anything that is not born of faith, then, yes, those thoughts of mine were sin. And even if one is of the opinion that the thought itself is not sin, but hanging onto it is - I stand guilty as charged. But does that mean God rejects me and punishes me for it? Absolutely not!

I have often said that we don't need to *do* all the "right" things, act the right way etc. in our own strength. It will never work. All God wants from us is to *love Him* with all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. Just love Him, be with Him, stay in Him, and He will work all those things out within us and grow us to be more like Him - all Him living through us.

What I wasn't taking into account, and where my friend was so incredibly right to point out to me today, was that it is the same with our thoughts and emotions, not just our actions. Instead of crying out, "Lord, I believe! Help, thou my unbelief!" I was trying to put on the mind of Christ in my own strength. Perhaps God allowed the down time, even knowing that I would fall, to teach me that even taking my thoughts captive is not something that I can ever do - but something that Jesus must do through me as I just tuck into Him under His wings
- and sometimes
let the tears flow
while never letting go
of Him.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Story for a Song - Brook of Kidron

I thought I'd post another song story today.

This song was written while we were stationed in Connecticut. The church we went to while we were there asked me to do "special music" for an upcoming service. The sermon was to be based on 2 Chron. 29, where King Hezekiah takes the throne and cleanses the temple. As I read through the passage, I was struck by the verse that said they took all the abominations - everything unclean - and threw them into the brook of Kidron.

16And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron.

I started looking for whatever information I could find on the Brook of Kidron, and found this:

It is described by Smith this way (Hist. Geog., p. 511): "To the north of Jerusalem begins the torrent-bed of the Kidron. It sweeps past the Temple Mount, past what were afterward Calvary and Gethsemane. It leaves the Mount of Olives and Bethany to the left, Bethlehem far to the right. It plunges down among the bare terraces, precipices, and crags of the wilderness of Judea-- the wilderness of the scapegoat. So barren and blistered, so furnace-like does it [the valley] become as it drops below the level of the sea, that it takes the name of Wady-en-Nar or the Fire Wady. At last its dreary course brings it to the precipices above the Dead Sea, into which it shoots its scanty winter waters; but all summer it is dry."

What a neat word picture! I imagined the Israelites taking all their unclean things and hurling them into this (perhaps at that moment) dry valley, knowing that in the winter, the rushing waters would shoot through and wash them all away into the Dead Sea. (What a fitting place!)
I imagined myself, standing in that brook, scary as it might seem, but knowing that God was using it as a place of cleansing - and that His waters would wash away all the unclean self-filled things in me.

Here is the link to the song: (remember to stop the blog music before listening if you bring it up in a new window)

and here are the words:

Brook of Kidron

chorus: I stand in the Brook of Kidron
Where You purify me, Lord.
The boiling, churning waters 'round me teem.
Raindrops falling all around me
As Your cleansing on me pours.

vs. 1 Your Word says, "Be, thou holy, as I am"
And so I try to be good, but no one can.
Then I hear Your voice so still,
Saying, "Trust Me and I will...
I will bring about in you, My perfect plan."

repeat chorus:

vs.2 This valley seems to be filled so full of sin.
A place of filth, where the dryness is sure to win.
Lord, I long to see Your face!
Send Your tidal waves of grace
So my filth is swept away and I'm cleansed again!

repeat chorus:

bridge: My hands are clean and I hold them high!
My heart is pure and my spirit cries...

repeat chorus:

vs 3: Man whitewashes, but Your blood washes white.
And though Your storm can be an overwhelming sight,
Won't You wash away my sin,
Make this temple pure within.
A place where You can dwell both day and night.

repeat chorus...