Spiritual Darkness & Sacrificing Children?

Last year, I read a fellow female blogger write that we shouldn’t dare judge pedophiles.  I had just had our baby at the time and trying to avoid reading too much online, but even just glancing at her article made me disturbed a Christian was promoting this.  I put it out of my mind and didn’t come back to it until well after our baby girl was born.  This author not only called for Christians to not judge pedophiles, she even went so far as to express herself finding humor in other Christians being outraged by it when they try to promote a Christian character of grace (calling their attitude of showing grace ironic in their outrage against pedophiles).  She asked her readers if they really thought they were a “better person” than a child molester.  It’s a question made to make Christians feel guilty for having moral standards when it comes to the treatment of our children.

In light of the recent news of yet again, the Catholic Church using it’s parishes as harbors of safety for pedophiles, I’m wondering if this same attitude of “Oh we shouldn’t judge them – they’re just normal sinners like we are.  Who are we to say that pedophiles are bad?” is somehow complicit in this?  When even Christ followers are encouraging their fellow Christians to view harming children as the same as a lesser sin, are we creating a Christian culture that promotes pedophilia because we’re too afraid of being called “judgmental” or “self-righteous” for judging them and removing them from the church?

I remember back when this was the motto all Christians were encouraging each other in order to accept homosexuals and in effort to make that particular sin not seem “so bad.”  Instead of promoting a healthy culture of giving each other grace, however, this attitude that homosexuals weren’t to be judged because we’re sinners, too, quickly devolved into accepting their behavior in the church as “just another type of sin we all commit.”  And then accepting ministry members who were openly gay, and then worship leaders, and eventually homosexual Pastors and Priests who were openly gay.  I remember seeing it all happen and thinking it very surreal that any Christian would fall for this kind of satanic deception that we were never supposed to judge homosexual behavior and separate ourselves from it.

Now it’s been happening again with pedophilia, the ironic part is that, like in this woman’s post, the exact same wording is being used as it was back in the 80’s and 90’s, in order to make Christians feel like they’re “self-righteous” if they judge these sins for what they are.  This is the systematic way Satan was able to infiltrate the church with accepting homosexuality, by telling Christians it was “just another sin,” that they “were no better” and “shouldn’t judge it or them because of their own sins.”  It is Satan using Christian forgiveness, humility and grace and twisting it to render the church unable to defend itself against diabolical evils seeking to infiltrate it.  In other words, it’s meant to “noramlize” or “desensitize” Christians into accepting homosexuality, and now, like we’ve seen, pedophilia as well.

The woman telling us not to judge pedophiles has since deleted all her blog posts including the one mentioned here, but the internet is forever, and her post is still available online.  The trusty Way Back Machine will forever and always archive this woman’s blog post found here, if you scroll down to April 6, 2017.

Children are God’s treasures, and the Bible tells us that anyone who corrupts an innocent will have a fate worse than having a millstone hung around their neck and drowned (Matthew 18:6, Luke 17:2, Mark 9:42).  Clearly, Christians should not be encouraging each other to view pedophilia as “just another sin” to be accepted into the folds of Christianity.

Anyway, where does this come from, this idea that pedophiles should not be judged, but viewed with constant grace and (basically) allowed to continue their raping of children?  Where does it come from in the church where of anyone, our leaders should be protecting it’s own children?

Are we sacrificing our children on the alter of political correctness, in order not to offend homosexuals and pedophiles?

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Every Place Your Foot Treads Will Be Yours

I was reading this morning in Deuteronomy, and copied into my journal one of my favorite passages of encouragement from chapter 8:2-10.  It is a passage of remembrance of how God brought the Jews out of slavery, and then guided them in the wilderness.  I’ve started a daily challenge where I focus on one of the fruits of the Spirit each day, and today’s fruit was Patience.

When copying the Scripture into my journal, in light of the fruit of patience, it struck me again, just how hard this was for them to wait for 40 years for God’s promise to come to fruition, wandering around the desert, waiting for Him to act.  And indeed, God says that it was a time of testing, where He humbled them by letting them go hungry (vs 3).  A time where He gave them manna to eat so that they might learn that man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!

Then in another passage in chapter 11, God commands them to impress all these truths on their hearts and souls.  To teach these truths to their children in the morning, throughout the day, and before going to bed.  And then He promises them this –

“For if you carefully observe every one of these commands I am giving you to follow – to love the Lord your God, walk in all His ways, and remain faithful to Him – the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will drive out nations greater and stronger than you are.  Every place the sole of your foot treads will be yours.  Your territory will extend from the wilderness to Lebanon and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea.

No one will be able to stand against you; the Lord your God will put fear and dread of you in all the land where you set foot, as He has promised you.” (vs. 22-25)

If you’re familiar with the devastating results of the Israelites’ endeavor to take on the people existing in the Promise Land, then it shouldn’t surprise you that they didn’t believe God when He told them this.  God blatantly assures them that, “Every place the sole of your foot treads will be yours,” and that “No one will be able to stand against you,” for He would “put fear and dread of you in all the land where you set foot.”   It left me wondering this morning, why did they not believe God, and go out with confidence to conquer their enemies?

Every place the sole of your foot treads will be yours….  It does sound improbable, how could they have such assurance that they would succeed?  And yet the God of the Universe was telling them this!  Some of their enemies they needed to go out to fight and conquer were descendants of giants – just seeing them when they scouted out the territory, terrified them into backing down.

From here

“The Devil knew this promise to the seed of Abraham and he set 31 hostile nations right in the middle of the Promised Land to stand in fierce opposition to Israel seizing their inheritance. Most of these nations were advanced in weaponry and warfare and were ferocious warriors against any enemies. The Bible calls many of the men, giants, champions of wickedness, which were physically beyond anything that mankind had ever seen. These giants roamed the Promised Land with the express purpose to keep Israel out so they would never experience the promise and the blessing that flowed from it.”

It made me think about how not only do we usually lack the patience to do the necessary waiting God calls us to in our own lives, but we also probably lack the degree of faith in God’s promise for us for our futures.

When the Israelites saw the giants they lost their faith in God’s assurance of protection –

The men of Israel cried in fear-“We are but grasshoppers compared to these giants and they are of great stature and they will eat us up.” They did not go into the Promised Land because of fear of these giants and they had no faith in their God to overcome them.

God cried out:

The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?

Numbers 14:11

How did they fear the giants and evil nations in their land, when God promised them the assurance of protection and victory, it’s hard for me to comprehend?

“Every place the sole of your foot treads will be yours.”

If only they had believed God and had courage to face their enemies and to keep living in obedience to His Word.  If only they had believed His promises that He was with them, and would lead them to victory over their battles in life (both against enemies and in fighting against their own idolatrous ways in their hearts).

In Numbers, only Joshua and Caleb were confident enough in God’s faithfulness.  How much more so that we should also have confidence in God like Joshua and Caleb did, because we have the New Testament books giving us the knowledge of Christ’s Resurrection.

Female Behavior & Social Media

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The Harpy

Social media behavior fascinates me, and fortunately it’s been around just long enough that we’re starting to see the beginning of what I expect to be a long list of research opportunities on how people behave while on it.  If you’ve been a long-time reader, you’ll know I’ve been interested in why women feel the emotion envy, for awhile.  It’s probably because I’ve never really understood it.  If someone is doing a great job, or having good things happen in their life, why would another person not be happy for them?

I’ve cataloged how odd this plays out online in a few articles, like when women look down on married couples who are actually happy in their relationship and show only each other’s best sides, or when just viewing your News Feed puts you in a negative and depressed mood due to other’s happiness.    Whether you’re a wife choosing not to air your dirty laundry for the public to see, or are criticized as being “fake,” because you don’t want to embarrass your husband, or are simply perplexed to find that other people’s happiness should make you feel depressed, you’re in the right place!

***

“You happily married couples can’t really be that happy (we realistic ones know you’re lying to us),

plus you make me feel bad because my marriage isn’t like that.

You’re faking it in your photos and not being “real,”

let me show you what IS real by posting negative sh-t about my husband and I publicly.”

***

When I’ve researched into who is saying things like this quote above, the women who say they secretly hate their positive facebook friends, it’s almost always women who are (self-reporting as) deeply unhappy in their own lives; many are in fact, divorced and trying to survive single-motherhood.  Of course seeing beautiful, happy families makes them feel pain and sadness… and of course seeing a good husband show his wife how much he loves her, leaves them feeling sick.  Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), and feeling the pain of that loss, or maybe the pain of never having it at all, is normal.  It’s ok to grieve when appropriate, but it’s crucial to learn how to redirect those feelings and emotions into something positive and graceful.  Otherwise, the intense feeling of pain can quickly turn into self-pity, which then often crosses into bitterness and anger, things that leave you vulnerable to demonic strongholds.

Here is a quote from one such divorced, single mom becoming bitter over her happily married friends –

“I’m also a Michigander but moved to Connecticut in 2001 when my now ex-husband went to school here! I am like you–brutally honest. I think it’s part of our culture. And that’s why I sometimes hate Facebook! Being divorced makes me feel like a loser when I see all these “happy” couples’ pictures posted for SEVEN days in a row! It feels self-serving–like it’s validating to them. But the people are truly good and close friends, so I can’t be (but want to) be honest like you! I have a 9 year old with autism and felt like such a fake liar when I posted the Motherhood Challenge with pictures of a happy, cooperative child. Reality is that he hits me, swears, spits, and has massive meltdowns sometimes. You are right reality is not as pretty. It certainly never gets a “like” or even a “dislike” because reality is a bummer.

No one wants reality from a single mom with special needs who now lives 800 miles from her family and has to face this life on their own. So, to keep my image, I guess I play the pretty picture game too and hope that one day my true feelings won’t come out! Thanks for being honest!”

Her story is hard, and I’m sure having an autistic child IS extremely difficult and involves lots of suffering on her part.  The key is though, choosing what you focus on DOES improve even a situation as bad as that.  Look at people all throughout history who had severe mental and emotional or physical handicaps, who when their caregiver had a better mindset, they achieved much more than what doctors thought would ever be capable.  Miracles have happened with children like this, but mostly it’s only when they had a caregiver who self-sacrificed over and over and over again, giving them the gift of unconditional love and humanity.  I know it’s hard for women to hear this, but accepting the difficulties of one’s life (carrying your cross), as well as choosing not to complain about how hard you have it, IS worth trying to obtain as part of spiritual and personal growth.  Like I said above, self-pity is not good.  The bitterness it can bring from dwelling on how unfair life is opens the door to more spiritual attacks and demonic influence into your life.  Because of all this, trying to give women in positions like this, short-cut answers to their problems by saying those happy couples are “fake,” is enabling them – not helping them to deal correctly with their own problems (like having a special needs child).  The suffering they’re already going through is then compounded by their own bitterness and disappointment in life. 

Allowing themselves to become bitter over how unfair life is, or develop feelings of hostility toward their happily married friends, only makes their own lives that much harder!

*

It’s Coming from Hatred & a Root of Bitterness

The argument for sharing your husband’s flaws publicly online (or flat out humiliating him) has seemed to come from a concocted desire to appear more “real” and to show all of the sides of marriage – and to show-up those wives who only post the positive things!  The problem with this rationale is that it should be socially understood that no one is perfect, that everyone may have some issues sometimes and that marriage, because it is so intricately relationship-based, obviously takes hard work.   Choosing not to show this side publicly when it could harm or humiliate your husband, but rather focus on the positive, beautiful things in life and your marriage (or about your mate), shows wisdom, self-control, and discretion.

And as far as one’s marriage goes, when you love your spouse, you don’t want to air their issues online on your social media platforms.  In a trustworthy marriage, your husband should be able to feel totally safe with what you choose to share online publicly – because he knows without a doubt, that you have his back and are making wise decisions on his behalf.   Like we learned in the Proverbs 31 series, the heart of her husband safely trusts in her, and because she is his wife, he lacks for nothing good.   When we post things that show him in a bad light, no matter how humorous or “well-intentioned,” we tell ourselves we’re being, the consequences could be damaging to his reputation, image, or even his career, which means we’re actually harming him in the long-run, and for social media “likes,” at that!

“His honor, respect and privacy must be sacrificed so she can compete with the other women by being “more real,” than the ones who post only happy and positive things about their spouses.” 

From here

But wanting to show what “real” marriages look like, as much as these women claim their goal is, is not what this is about.  I used to naively believe that was their actual intentions, but over the years it’s become more and more clear that this attitude is coming from a root of bitterness and even hatred.

“You just hit the nail on the head!

I was so irritated seeing everyone’s posts about love your marriage (from the Love Your Spouse Challenge).

Most of the time I’m irrated at my husband.

How about a hate your spouse challenge?”

-Carla Burke (from here)

Why some women act like this though, is VERY interesting to me.  Why do some feel like everyone should post negative stuff about their mate or marriage?

Because seeing others unhappy or having problems in their lives or marriages, makes these women feel better about their own selves, or about the state their marriage is currently in.  It all comes back to the emotion I’ve studied for years now, envy.

Envy is more than jealousy, it is a painful emotion of which the Bible says is like rottenness to the bones.  While jealousy may come from a valid place of wanting what rightfully should belong to you and you alone (ie: God being jealous for our love), envy is wanting what another has which you have no right to want (ie: coveting something that someone else has earned or is in possession of).  It seems to be capable of completely enveloping a person, and grows the more they focus on the object of their envy and hatred.  The cure is found first in repentance, and focusing on your own life, living in gratitude to God for the gifts He’s given to you, and then choosing to live a life that pleases Him, instead of become embittered by whatever you believe He’s withheld from you.

Beauty, Goodness, & Happiness Often Evoke Envy

All throughout time, there have been countless stories in literature (be it biblical, classical, or in nearly every fairy tale) of women who were either good/beautiful/happy and somewhat naive, and women who gave themselves over to envy over the one who was good/beautiful/happy.  There were women who displayed qualities that seemed almost irresistible to the heroic man in their life, and then the women who played the Evil Stepmother, or the Evil Queen, or the Harpy.  This is something that goes far beyond social media, because it is a heart issue… a feature, not a bug, built into humankind.

Sometimes we get glimpses into what “triggers” these women to act out of their envious behavior, like in this real life example below of a woman’s Instagram post, “making” another woman feel inferior.

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So what are reactions like this based on?

“You seem to represent an almost impossible-to-attain portrait of womanhood, and as a woman, I honestly find many of your photos unsettling.”

***

“Something about your photos makes feel strangely depressed/inadequate and I’m alarmed by my own reactions.”

It’s the beauty.  The artistic perfection… the woman’s elegance… her refinement.  It’s all the aforementioned put together that make her realize her reaction is not accounted for, or “alarming,” and worrying to her, as it should be.  It’s also this fact (that the pictures show beauty, perfection, elegance, and refinement) that makes her admit that the woman’s photos are amazing work:

“That being said, this is truly great work and I applaud your abilities.”

What a 180 right?  We just got an inside look at how emotionally tormented a woman feels when presented with someone who awakens feelings of envy.  When another woman is “outside her comfort-zone better than her” in some kind of way, it can be almost impossible for her to appreciate the beauty and goodness due to the painful or “alarming” feelings that may come up.

Even though she’s able to realize at the end of her comment that her observations are “alarming” and coming from a place of feeling depressed/inadequate, she still demands that this woman answer for why she’s “making” the commenter feel thing way, as though this artist can really control this stranger’s feelings.  It’s a normal thing for women (or men) who feel envy, to blame the object of their envy for “making” them feel that way, or “inciting” it with pictures of beauty in their life.  

“Ultimately, while people use social networks to keep in touch with friends and family, seeing those people happy often have negative effects on them.”

From research study here

But even if another woman’s pictures on social media aren’t “perfect,” just seeing other people be happy eventually may become a negative experience for women with this problem.  It doesn’t take artistic perfection, for some even seeing other moms out and happy with their kids or husband, evoke strong emotions of envy.

What is the real problem here?

Envy is literally as old as Cain, from one of the first Bible stories when he felt envy at his brother Abel’s approval by God.  Abel didn’t “make” Cain feel envious or bad about himself, Cain’s lack of self-improvement and desire to please God made his offering undesirable, and pale in comparison to Abel’s offering and disposition.

I used to feel sorry for women like this, because I know envy is a painful emotion to feel (and why not be happy for people who are happy?!?), but now I’m beginning to understand how women who don’t deal with their envy appropriately are not victims, they often know what they’re choosing and seek to place blame elsewhere to hide what they know they feel (the hatred or bitterness).  This behavior is not benign, as it tears apart the fabric of our society in a myriad of ways, harming the future of our children and grandchildren by working to dismantle social norms (think things like fat acceptance, obesity disability, welfare, hostility toward in-tact families, etc.).

If everyone engaged in envy whenever a someone does something praiseworthy or beautiful or inspiring or artistically stunning, our society would be utterly ruled by the ugliness and the decay of the miserable and self-centered.  If any attempt to be better personally – be it spiritually, mentally or physically, or create something beautiful, is squashed by miserable women who claim your attempts to better yourself makes them feel unhappy or ashamed of their own failures, then our civilization’s beauty, art, music, and literature will suffer… and it has.

When God dealt with Cain’s feelings of envy, before he murdered Abel (and there was still a chance for him to turn the situation around by making the right choices), God did not treat Cain like a victim of his own envy.  The Bible says Cain felt anger that Abel’s offering was accepted by God (and his was not), and looked dejected (he pouted).

Then the LORD said to Cain,

“Why are you furious?  And why are you dejected?  If you do right, won’t you be accepted?

But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Genesis 4:6-7

God warns Cain that he is on the brink of becoming “had” by sin, which is figuratively crouching at his door ready to overcome him.  God also commands Cain to “master it.”  This may explain why it can feel so hard for women who deal with this problem to eradicate their feelings of envy, because they have to learn how to “master it.”

***

Envy Greatly Affects Women in Real Life

This point, that giving in to envy and allowing it to control your interactions with others online or in real life, harms you and others, is the most important point we should know.  Because it’s a heart issue, and not computer or social media-related, it’s not something that’s just going to go away when you step offline.  It has to be recognized and dealt with in one’s real life as well.

The problem with envy though, is that women (and men) who give in to this emotion and sin, often do not feel any remorse whatsoever.  It is usually coupled with pride in that they feel right to feel embittered, and therefore it’s hard to get them to care or sympathize with how their actions may impact themselves or others.

In fact, studies have proven that people who feel envy (in real life as well as online), actually have been found to report feeling happy when something bad happens to the person they envy – something bad enough to “put them in their place,” so to speak.  It is also linked with efforts to try to harm that person in real life, due to schadenfreude (joy at other people’s misery).  And if that isn’t depressing enough, another study shows us that only 50% of our “friends” on social media actually like us, or feel the same reciprocal kind of friendship feelings we feel toward them.  This would probably account for why those people aren’t happy for their friends’ happiness.  If they don’t even “like” them, then of course they may not feel happy when seeing their social media “friends” happy.

It’s the whole crab-basket effect, which Ian Ironwood explains in detail.

So for over 30 years, more than an entire generation, we’ve seen women at work, women in management, women “competing in a man’s world” . . . even though the “man’s world” looks more feminine than ever.
So . . .how’s that working out for women?
Turns out . . . not so good.  
Dr. Peggy Drexler has published two pieces back-to-back discussing the complexities of women working with women.   The result isn’t pretty . . . and pretty much validates everything I’ve said about the Female Social Matrix.  Also known as the Crab Basket.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s a metaphor for how women relate to other women— how they self-organize, socially.

Thankfully not all woman are like this I’ve found!  Social media does seem to create more opportunities for women who wouldn’t be like this in real life, to let themselves give in to this sin where the consequences aren’t as tangible.  But they do have consequences, women who act like this online still have an overall negative affect on society, because it pulls manners and morality down to a more primal (it’s you or me) level, instead of a more civilized view of if we all do our best to succeed, we’ll produce a more beautiful and loving society.

It happens in Real Life far more than you’d imagine

Recently I happened upon a 3-year-old article where a mother was describing how simply having a good, positive and happy play-date for her daughter and a friend turned into something she was made to feel shame over.

When the mom came back I invited her in for a few minutes. She smelled the aroma of fresh-baked cookies and saw the kids happily playing and said, “Wow, you go all out for playdates. I just usually throw some goldfish at them.”

I felt a little surprised at the disdain I heard in her voice, but when I snapped back into reality I instantly went into defense mode, which for me is self-deprecation in overdrive.

“Oh, Gak is just glue and detergent and I had promised my kids we would do it, and the cookie dough was leftover and my kitchen never looks like this normally but we have company coming over tonight and…” I rambled on like an idiot. Because apparently being a good mom is something I did to offend her.

I felt shamed for doing something fun for my kids—and hers. Shame for even trying to be a good mom. Trying to be good actually brought out the worst in both of us.

This happened to me a lot over the years.  I have heard comments about volunteering too much at my kids’ school,or hosting too nice of parties or making a Pinterest-inspired handmade soccer cookie (one time).

Most people are appreciative, but there are always others that say something along the lines of, “Way to make the rest of us look bad!”

Sadly, this behavior really isn’t just relegated to social media alone.  It seems there will always be women who punish other women who aspire to do good, to be happy, to make beautiful things themselves, or to even make playdates for children happy and pleasant.

The female mantra even all throughout literature, seems to be “do your best, but don’t you dare do too much better than me!”  Instead of women being genuinely happy for each other when another succeeds, if it’s “too much” for one in particular, she’ll deem it as “bad” somehow.

In the past few years of blogging, I’ve seen how this even applies to women in the Bible, particularly the Proverbs 31 woman since she is the idealistic representation of what us wives should look up to and feel inspired by.  Even a decade before I started writing my series, there were already books and articles out there online with Christian women sarcastically slamming the Proverbs 31 wife as an unrealistic “super mom.”  Yes, I’m being serious!  Christian women regularly would mock and put down an entire passage in the Bible, mostly because they said it made them feel “pressured” or “inferior!”  Whether we’re told we’re Pharisees for seeing beauty in this biblical passage, or when we’re told to “Stop Obsessing” over her, or to “Rethink” her character to be a “fictional” one in order to downplay what the Bible calls us as wives to try to emulate and grow into, it’s downright getting rarer and rarer to find someone promoting her as real and what God wants us to take seriously.

It always seemed so strange to me that Christian women would actively hate the Proverbs 31 passage, or seek to ridicule anyone who wrote on it thinking it was applicable to today.

But after reading this article, do you still wonder why?

 

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Stephanie

Letters From Mentors: “The Legacy I Want to Leave” by Linda

This post is part of the series where I feature letters (emails) I’ve received over the years from women I consider to be mentors online and in real life.  I LOVE hearing other women’s perspectives on raising a daughter (or anything I’m wondering about!), and when I see someone I admire or feel inspired by watching their life, I want to know their secret to the success they’ve had 😉  It’s so encouraging to me, to see women who are wiser, already in their 40’s or 50’s, and have worked to build the life that I want to create and am working to create.

Like I said in the last post where Stingray’s first letter was featured, we’re commanded in the Bible to get all the wisdom and understanding that we can.  There’s wisdom in having many advisers, and so forth.  I believe that as a young mom, it’s so vital to have women you look up to and whose lives you admire to be able to ask questions of, and learn from and basically model your life after.

This series is just so exciting to me because of all the wonderful advice and wisdom it will bring here for not only me and my daughter, but also for anyone of you readers who are interested in these letters!  

And if I ask you your thoughts on this subject of raising daughters, be assured that it’s because I really look up to and admire you and see something extremely valuable and beautiful in your life that I want for my own!  I don’t believe women are “island” creatures… maybe men can live like that 😉 (thinking Paul and John the Baptist), but most people seem to really get a lot of value from having deep relationships and sharing ideas that are insightful and life-changing.

Here is Linda’s letter titled “The Legacy I Want to Leave:”

***

family pic, oct2017 less pixels

Stephanie from All Things Bright and Beautiful recently asked me about writing a post for my daughters.  What an honor.  🙂  It has really had me thinking.

I’m working on one post in particular, but in the meantime, to be honest, you could consider this whole blog a gift for my children.  My oldest daughter is in a serious dating relationship with a wonderful Christian young man.  My heart is aware that the time she will remain at home with us is limited…. probably one more year of community college, and then she’ll launch out on her own.

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{Oldest and Youngest, 17 years apart}

When she does leave, I know one of her wishes is to take family recipes with her.  She’s asked in the past about that, and about taking a sourdough starter with her–things like that.  Putting recipes on this blog to share with you, and others who have expressed an interest in classes, disciplines me to take pictures and get my home made recipes cataloged in such a way that I will be ready to put her cook book together for her, and all the other children as I know that the next 3 will be following her like dominoes.

My children love looking through old pictures and hearing the stories.  One day, they will enjoy looking through the updates on this blog.

And I don’t want my children to someday look back when I’m gone and think that they never really knew my heart.  I remember thinking that when I helped my mother clean out my grandmother’s home, and the fact that my own mother hasn’t spoken to me in over 14 years—well, we missed something, somewhere along the line!  My children will trust my teaching more if I am real.  I want them to recognize my strengths and understand my weaknesses, but when it’s all said and done, I want them to know me as a woman who pursued God and loved them deeply.  I want them to be secure in our family and have no regrets, knowing that while we’re not perfect and we make plenty of mistakes, we’re growing in God’s grace… a little more every day.

Every devotional I have written is something that my heart longs for my children to understand.  I pray, as they leave home, that we will remain close and be able to share the things that God is teaching us.  Perhaps they’ll visit here to see what Mom is up to.  Even now though, as I take time to share with you, I take every opportunity to teach my children what I’m learning.  Different ages understand different things, but I hope that no matter what I say, my life will reflect the changes God makes in my heart as I pray for God’s wisdom and holiness.  I learned first hand when I was growing up, where “do as I say and not as I do” was often the mantra, that it’s easier to follow an examplethan it is a list of do’s and don’ts.

As time marches forward and my children are growing up, I am realizing that though I have different concerns for my boys versus my girls, I really want them all to catch the lessons here.  What I want my girls to learn about seeking God and becoming Godly women is what I want my sons to come to expect and pray for in a future wife.  What my sons need to learn about being strong, Godly leaders is what my girls need to expect and pray for in a future husband.  Learning to help their father in so many ways will prepare all of them to lead, but also to follow, respect and support the many leaders God will place in their lives.

So what have we been learning this last year?  What kind of legacy do I want to leave?  I want to train up children who understand that:

If you want your life to add up to something, Abide in Christ, and never lose awe over what He has done for you.

In order to lead people to Jesus, you need to love them first.

In order to walk into the good works God has planned in advance for you, you do not have to wait.  God has equipped you with a relationship with Him, a unique story, talents, resources and spiritual gifts… you need only trust Him and be faithful with what is in your hands.

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{Our 3 oldest daughters, on worship team at church.  The oldest 5 girls sing for 12-20 churches and special events every year.  God has given them beautiful harmony.}

But no matter what you have in your hands, you are still a sinner, saved by grace, and so He has filled you with His Spiritto make your character like His so your testimony will be believable.

Don’t ever lose faith in God when people fail you.  God isn’t subject to our standards and failures.  He sets the standard, and he redeems our failures.

Remember that God fights for you, and though you may travel through dark and difficult places, and it is He who will bring you out.

And when you do go through trying times, remember that God never makes a mistake.  Trust Him with all your heart.

It is a blessing, a privilege and duty of every Christian to be faithful in prayer.

If you want to have an effective prayer life, run to confess your sin, live life with open hands– forgive others, and always put God’s will above your own wants–pray for His will.  Pray unselfishly.

So many other lessons I have yet to write down.  It takes time. 🙂  But this is a good start.

Linda

Spiritual Post – Are There Really No “Levels” of Evil?

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My husband’s department just caught this man recently.  A fairly notorious criminal.  There are many out there just like him waiting to be caught.  It’s eye-opening to me when I see the photos and look into their eyes.  Which I have done… more than a few times.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw my husband on the news, doing the “Perp Walk” as they call it, bringing in a man who just shot a bullet into another man’s head over road rage (they were actually both at fault – the man inciting the rage kept fighting with him… apparently, that’s normal in road rages cases).

When he arrived at the scene there were brains all over the inside of the car, and a giant gaping hole in side of the man’s head.  He can see this kind of stuff and eat a sandwich at the same time – doesn’t even phase him anymore.

But looking into the eyes of the murderer my husband brought in (and seeing my husband there as well, looking like a darn hero – because he is!), really put into perspective the difference between good and evil, and how shallow Christians are when they try to say everyone is the same in their hearts just because everyone sins.

It is true though that just ONE sin will send someone to hell.  But not every person will shoot a bullet into the head of their enemy, let alone a stranger who cut them off in traffic. Not everyone harms children and goes about with no guilt… for decades, like pedophiles typically do.

Not everyone is a reprobate, and we should never judge all people by lumping them in with the truly evil and diabolic.  Everyone is capable of such evil to be sure!  But not everyone decides to act on their most evil fantasies and basest thoughts.  Everyone is a sinner, but there are different levels of sin and evil that is within someone’s heart.

Something I’m grateful for when watching from the sidelines what my husband deals with on the regular, is that it’s taught me things like this.  It’s taught me to be more appreciative of the normal sinners, even though they clearly still need God, they are not the same, and should never be judged the same by us, as evil doers.  His work and the stories he can tell, have even made me be able to judge character better from afar, which is a safety measure against potential harm and evil doers.

This video above is excellent in explaining the principle God has of reaping and sowing.

The man in the video plainly states that if someone continues sowing sin, they will eventually reap a much harder life for themselves, full of all kinds of problems.  The point is not whether or not they can be saved from their sin, and it’s not even asking whether “big” sinners receive the same punishment as “little” sinners.  No, the point is that some sins have greater eternal consequences and judgments!  If you’re a Christian, this is a super important topic to understand fully, lest you get it wrong and lead many other people astray by adding words to the Bible!  The Bible warns that “not very many of you should be teachers,” because teachers (male or female) will be rightfully judged harsher when they get it wrong or lead others astray, because they have a huge responsibility to first, get it right, and second, to be humble enough to admit when someone has pointed out that they were wrong.

Personally, I’ve found that the Christians who do make these mistakes, are typically not able to admit their wrongdoing, but instead keep plunging ahead into more sin themselves by continuing to lead others astray.  It’s a problem of humility, when we’re not open to corrective discipline or criticism.  Even if an enemy is criticizing you, you always have to check if there is truth in it.

In the video, the man also talks about how Jesus reveals there are different levels of sin (or degrees of evil).  Not only do different kinds of sin have different kinds of real world consequences, they also are viewed differently by God in that they seem to have different eternal consequences.

Either way, the point or “takeaway” should not be that evil people can’t be saved – the murderer that my husband brought in may someday repent – and that would be wonderful!  God tells us in Ezekiel that He craves people like that to finally someday repent, and that He allows them into Heaven, even if they repent right before their death! 

We can’t have a superior attitude that denies even the worst of sinners God’s acceptance if they repent – but we should have a good attitude toward them and accept them back in.

So the takeaway should be a warning that yes, there are different levels of sin, and all sin separates us from God.  Jesus speaks on the different levels of sin a few times, warning people who repeatedly sow evil, or do truly treacherous deeds, that their punishment is harsher, both here on earth, and also in eternity.

Our God is a just and wonderful God, who sees everything and judges accordingly.  For that, I am so so grateful!

Stephanie

Don’t Ruin Your Husband’s Love Toward You

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Painting by Tate 1863 – Part of a 3 piece composition dedicated to a “Woman’s Mission.”  This painting was to depict a loving wife being her husband’s companion, titled, “Companion of Man.”  It was said that the woman in the paintings strongly resembled the artist’s own wife.  He honored her so much, and was so grateful for her companionship, that she became his artistic inspiration.

You may think I sound dramatic in the title of this post.  I wish it weren’t true.  I wish that humans really could love each other easily, endure each other’s faults effortlessly, but I’ve found the reality of how we treat others is reflected back in how they end up treating us.  Grace or not, Christian or not, I believe God often allows us to reap what we have sown into the hearts of others – our friends, our family members, our children, but especially our husbands.

It’s not usually talked about in our culture, especially in regard to how women treat their husbands.  But the fact and spiritual principle of reaping and sowing, affects everything we do and everyone around us – whether we want to admit to it or not.

Think about this first painting.  How the artist was said to have used his own wife as the model and inspiration for his creations, because she fulfilled his deepest needs emotionally, and therefore inspired his love to greater depths than we normally see in average marriages.

Our society pretends that women won’t reap what they sow (even people in general to a larger extent).  This overwhelming problem is why I believe we’re having so much trouble with people not taking responsibility for their actions.  Acting (really manipulating others) through pretending to be victims, has become almost like the modern-day Westerner’s hobby!

Here is an excerpt (below) from one of my favorite books on a woman’s role in a godly marriage.  It reflects on how a wife can harm her husband’s ability to love her so terribly, that it almost becomes impossible for him to feel the same feelings toward her as he once did.  Keep in mind this doesn’t usually happen within the first 10 years or so of marriage. I think it happens after a couple or more decades… it’s a slow husband-love killer.

And I think we’d be wise to have a healthy fear of this.  If we love our husbands, we must take into effect that this could be possible if we continue in sin against him, always believing that tomorrow is another chance, and yet never taking the measures to truly change for good.

Here is the story of Leo Tolstoy and his wife….

When a wife constantly pushes or nettles her husband, it is like the bite of a poisonous snake and can cause the destruction of a could-be holy marriage.  One of the most tragic cases in history is that of the Russian novelist, Count Leo Tolstoi and his wife.

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In the beginning of their marriage, Tolstoi and his wife were so blissfully happy that, kneeling together they prayed to God to continue the ecstasy that was theirs.

Tolstoi is one of the most famous novelists of all time.  Two of his masterpieces, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are considered literary treasures.  He was so admired by his people that they followed him around day and night and took down in shorthand every word he uttered.

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Although he was a man of wealth and fame, after studying the teachings of Jesus, he gave away his property, worked in the fields chopping wood, and pitching hay, made his own shoes, ate out of a wooden bowl, and tried to love his enemies.  He gave away the publishing rights to his books and had the courage of his convictions to live a life he believed in.

But his wife never accepted him or his simple philosophy of life.  She loved luxury and he despised it.  She craved fame and the esteem of society, but these things meant nothing to him.  She longed for money and riches, but he thought these things a sin.  For years she made every effort to change him and his views.  She screamed at him because he insisted on giving away the publishing right to his books.  When he opposed her she threw herself into fits of hysteria, threatening to kill herself or jump down the well.

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After 48 years, this man who had adored his wife when he married her could hardly bear the sight of her.  And one of the most tragic scenes as when Countess Tolstoi, heartbroken and old and starving for affection would kneel at her husband’s feet and beg him to read aloud the exquisite love passages that he had written about her in his diary fifty years previously.  And as he read of those beautiful happy days that were now gone forever, both of them wept.

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His dying request was that she should not be permitted to come into his presence.

Wow!  I mean wow, right?!  His dying request was that she should not be allowed to be in his presence?!  They had such a perfect, blissfully happy prospect of marriage in their early days, and yet her decision to buck his convictions (which I think are beautiful and so touching he wanted to follow Jesus in that manner – how noble!), and had utterly no reverence for his deepest longings and convictions!   I think after decades of mistreatment, it makes sense logically that a wife will eventually reap what she’s sowing into the heart of her husband (or her children, friends, even enemies… it goes on and on with human behavior).  At the end of her life, she tried to make herself out to be a victim of his gruff behavior he had toward her in his old age.  But only people who were aware of how she secretly behaved toward him, truly understood she had caused his gruff behavior and grouchiness.

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Sophiya Tolstoi (his wife & children)

When I was in a marriage group some time ago, I would see women like Tolstoi’s wife come in fairly often – already usually a couple of decades into their marriage – and be desperately pleading with us on how they can turn everything around, all the while admitting that they’ve been treating their husbands horribly for the past few decades.  What motivated them to come to someone who could help them have a happier marriage?  Usually he had finally had enough, or reached some kind of “breaking point,” and he wanted out.  Or he had found another woman who treated him kind again – who admired him and loved him more than his wife seemed capable of.

It was usually apparent that it was already too late, but it was very interesting to watch these women go through psychological changes of first being extremely repentant and humbling themselves, eager to learn and read and practice trying to honor and respect him.  I often had such great hopes for them that they were truly changing in their hearts.  But when it didn’t work (and often times the husband wouldn’t believe their change was real or genuine), they would turn angry, they would get bitter, and then become very resentful even toward us as they believed our advice for happy marriages wasn’t true.

They would become indignant that their husbands’ didn’t accept their changes.  I would see these women start suddenly claiming that their husbands had really “emotionally abused them,” all this time, and that their (the wife’s) sin was in submitting to them too much.  Then they’d often blame sites like mine in creating women who submitted too much!  It was… like I said… very interesting to watch psychologically.  I talked about that here in this post a little.

Again, though, like in the Tolstoi example, this sort of behavior is actually tantamount to abusive in my opinion, toward the husband.  It falls under the “Borderline” or “Cluster B” disorders, which are extremely hard to fix, never-mind how hard it would be to live with someone with those psychological disorders.  A wife like this will usually never be able to admit she was verbally or emotionally abusive for years, until it’s almost too late, but it’s interesting how quick they are to act like they were the victim of emotional abuse, when just a few months before, they were admitting (finally) that they treated their husbands so terribly that they couldn’t believe he put up with it for so long!

If you’re a young wife reading this, I do think it’s good to have a healthy fear of ruining your marriage or your husband’s ability to love you in this way. 

I don’t think it’s healthy to have this idea that no matter how bad you mess up, no matter how many fights you start, or the terrible words you say to him, that it’s going to not have a devastating affect on him as a person longterm.  Men feel so deeply – especially when it comes to their wives’ opinions and treatment of them.  It would be like a husband abusing his wife for decades, and then expecting it not to have a diminishing effect on her ability to love him.

Can God redeem marriages like this?  I believe He can do anything.  But it’s not the norm that these marriages are ever fully repaired, so it’s best if you don’t ever fall into this pattern, as it all could have been so easily avoidable from the beginning.

And if anything, please remember Leo Tolstoi’s bitter marriage, and be on guard against women like his wife who suddenly tried to twist the truth in the end, in an effort to destroy her husband’s legacy and reputation.

Stephanie

 

Excerpt from Fascinating Womanhood

Raising Masculine Sons

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We just had possibly the best first day of Spring Break we’ve ever had as a family yesterday!  😀

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The beauty of spring is in full swing now here in Texas, and having our oldest home this week is exciting to me as I think of all the things we’ll be able to go and do!  But… staying in our own backyard is truly such a wonderful feeling of peaceful satisfaction.

And yesterday, that’s just what we did 😀

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In the early morning, I was able to do some gardening before it got to 90 degrees (yes!  In MARCH!!! :D).  And while I was digging and planting, my husband was teaching the boys some woodwork skills.

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Yes, that’s a 3 year old using a handsaw!!!!  My husband loves using opportunities like that to teach them, and I’m so grateful… because you know I’d NEVER use a handsaw unless my life depended on it LOL!  Much less be able to actually teach our sons those skills 🙂

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The reason why I don’t do any posts on “Things I Want My Sons to Know” is because although I have a lot of influence over them in understanding femininity, I can’t teach them how to be men.  I could never “raise masculine boys” without the constant help and wisdom of my husband.

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It’s been beautiful to watch his relationship with our older son, the way he’s diligently taught him throughout the years and given him a sense of confidence in his little masculine self ❤ !!

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Reflecting on these pictures this morning, I realized how far we’ve come from that first year with our dal.  Back in 2015 when we first got him and our oldest was only 5, he had a very hard time being confident and dominant enough in his personality that the dog refused to submit to him at all!  I wrote in detail back then here, how my husband’s guidance and fatherly instructions is what was raising our son to be far more masculine than I could ever manage on my own.  

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Here’s an excerpt from 3 years ago:

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My husband then came into the kitchen, I explained our walk and situation… he immediately took over control and began explaining to our son frame control, and having firm authority in establishing respect with the dog.

He took over and disciplined our son for acting fearful by making him stay with puppy, even forcing him to go outside with it. My husband stayed outside with our son, explaining to him what he needed to do in order to control his fear with the dog and show dominance.

It was so incredibly reassuring and relieving to feel the weight of control and discipline shift from my mommy-role shoulders, onto my capable husband’s.  A father’s unique masculinity and fortitude are so desperately needed as parenting is a million times easier with his strength and presence taking over to instruct or demonstrate.  I watched as he stayed outside a little longer with our son and the dog, teaching how to demonstrate dominant assertiveness, so thankful for his aptitude as a father and husband.  He then came inside saying that he wanted him to play with the dog outside alone for awhile.

Our son played for a good 15 minutes with the puppy, and then ran excitedly to the door and told us that he and his dog were having lots of fun together playing.  This was a dramatic difference from when he’d be outside alone with the dog before my husband had time to teach him confidence and authority.  Before, when he’d be outside letting the dog go potty, he would immediately run to the nearest chair or higher surface in order to escape any potential play-biting or jumping of the puppy.  Him being confident with the puppy and playing with him outside for a steady 15 minutes was a breakthrough!

When it was time to eat lunch, he came back inside and my husband had our son watch a few short videos of the Dog Whisperer explaining masculine dominance and calm authority in different scenarios with difficult dogs.  It led into an interesting discussion the two of them had where my husband explained leadership, and asked our son who is in charge of our family.  Our son undoubtedly answered that it was him.  And my husband asked him why he thought that was?  “Because you’re in charge.”  My husband then explained what it meant to “be in charge,” what that looked like in different situations or even environments with different kinds of people.  He explained why our son could sense that his father was in charge of our family….

My husband explained how even without violence or force you can establish yourself as a leader in any given situation.  He described how he is assertive in our family – he simply employs a feeling of authority in his manner, body language, and voice.  He used the example of how he has managed to show our extremely stubborn and at times rebellious cats, who’s in charge.  They obey him simply by his commanding voice – and its no small feat to get a cat to listen to you and obey you.  He doesn’t use violence or brute force, however, his voice alone has the strength and authority that makes them feel like they have to obey.  (From here)

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Now it’s so different!  They can go outside and run and play soccer (our dalmatian is WICKED GOOD at playing soccer, which is funny, because he looks like a soccer ball himself!).  They are becoming admirable little men because of my husband’s leadership in guiding them in that way.

Enjoy your Spring fellow bloggers and readers!  I am SO EXCITED about the sunlight, gardening, and playing in the sand and with our athletic dal!

I hope y’all have a wonderful Spring Break as well 🙂

Stephanie

 

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Will Grow into Your Feminine Beauty

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I am a major book worm.  In case you haven’t noticed that I’ve NEVER changed the cover of this blog in nearly 5 years!  Because books are life!  There is so much knowledge and wisdom and beauty to be found in other people’s thoughts, that I can never get enough of reading it seems.  I had a few favorite books growing up – but Jane Eyre is hands-down one of the most memorable ones, and one that I STILL cannot get enough of!  I loved Jane Eyre because I was (what I thought of anyway) an ugly-duckingly, and she gave me hope LOL!  Growing into my femininity and beauty has been a long journey for me, and one that I hope I’ll be able to help my daughter navigate well in the future.

We were out yesterday selling some clothes for extra cash and I found a little historic novel based on a true story about a young nurse, only 16 years old (!), who tended injured men during the Civil War.  She became known and loved among the men she tended to for her gentleness and kindness to them ❤ .  Many other girls who volunteered to help had actually run away once the war came to their area, but this one girl stayed and became remembered for her character.

I had planned to buy some earrings I found for a good deal to build up our daughter’s stock, but I put them back and decided to get them next time in lieu of this awesome book!  I told my husband, “it’s for her future ❤ 😀 !!!”  I want our daughter to understand that character is what makes a woman truly beautiful.  Outward beauty shows self-respect or graciousness to those around you, but who you are as a person is what people will fall in love with and want to be around.

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She is such a little beauty already – almost strikingly so, and her happiness and joyful laughter are SO endearing!  But I want to raise her to love good books!  I want her to enjoy knowledge, and to know and understand that true beauty comes from very deep within – from the soul of a person, and that it takes time to grow and flourish… and that it can be lost if not safe-guarded against bitterness throughout life.

And I want her to know that it’s a process of becoming.

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It doesn’t usually happen all at once – being truly beautiful inside and out – for most women.  In fact, I’m not sure “most” women achieve both inner and outer beauty to their fullest personal extent, at all sadly.

Just like outer beauty takes A LOT of hard work and diligence over time to achieve and then to also maintain.  Inner beauty takes even more work, discipline, diligence, perseverance and even then if you manage to achieve it, it is MUCH harder to keep over the course of different circumstances one will face in life.  It’s a constant process of correcting your own character flaws, and that takes a TON of self-reflection, introspection, and acknowledgement of your own failings.

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Hence why I think a lot of women (and men if you’re thinking about men in that way) don’t even try to maintain inner beauty, or they may try but then give up or give in to their natural states of ugliness… since human beings all have sin natures… and our sin natures make us VERY very ugly.  That and we constantly fail.  Success in this regard requires a lot of perseverance and endurance.

So becoming a beautiful woman over time is very hard.  The inner beauty work is very difficult, and since I’m Christian, I do believe there’s a spiritual aspect to this where knowing God, having his help to get through life’s difficulties, really TRUSTING Him with EVERYTHING in your life (all those ugly emotions feelings and such), is the best or most proven way to maintain a beautiful character throughout life.

Avoiding all the vices that come so naturally to us, and working hard to develop the virtues that come from the Holy Spirit – that takes constant coming back to God to prune and develop you – to grow you and break you.  It’s painful work – which is probably why so many avoid it!  He’s molding you into a reflection of Christ, but again, that all takes a lifetime to achieve, and one has to be really working out their salvation with fear and trembling in order to achieve it at all!

But sweet, sweet, joyful little girl, you will grow into your beauty and femininity, and your daddy and I will be there every step of the way to guide you in the way you should go.

Stephanie

 

 

Godliness Requires Choice & Action

I know this probably sounds like common sense – but go there with me for a moment.  I’ve only recently really thought about how weird it sounds when Christians make bold statements that whatever good things have come about in there lives, that it was ONLY due to God and had zero effort from them.

I know that I could not have done anything good enough or helped create a beautiful marriage with my own actions – there’s just not enough goodness in me to be able to do that.  So to God be the glory, for all things HE has done!

I know on the surface this looks pretty good and spiritual.  Let’s be honest, the way it’s worded, it’s supposed to look spiritual… but is it actually true?  Can we really be or do nothing good to “help” create a beautiful marriage?   I wondered why it sounded so spiritually fake, until it became clear a few months ago that it is a form of false humility.  False humility is when a Christian tries to look really humble, but in reality they have ulterior motives of pride buried beneath the surface of their spiritual statements.  Let me break it down piece by piece.

Normally, giving all credit to God is a good attitude to have toward our lives and the gifts we’ve been given.  To realize that yes, ,everything good given to us IS from God… but when it comes to being realistic with other people on actually achieving godliness, which realistically, is becoming more like Christ in our marriage, or with our kids, or toward our enemieswe should be honest that the transformation happens through our own choices in responding to God and in allowing Him to do the work in us that changes us.  That’s a huge piece of the puzzle that’s missing from statements like the one previously mentioned – the admission that we have allowed God to have His way with us, and to affect the way we behave toward others.  It is always a choice to follow Him, and a choice to develop godliness by clinging to Him overtime.  So yes, we can have the power to do good in our marriages, with our children, and toward our enemies – that power is given to us from God, but only when we submit to Him and allow Him to.

When thinking about this topic of false humility, these beloved verses came up below.

12 So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. 13 For it is [not your strength, but it is] [c]God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13 Amplified Bible

These verses have fascinated me since about 2009 when I really started to study them and ask Bible teachers and leaders what they meant.

It’s a two-fold process – we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (actively be pursuing God daily and growing in spiritual maturity… repenting when we’ve fallen or become discouraged).  AND God does His part by working IN us, making us want to please Him even more, and giving us real grace (power) to be able to do more than we could without the Holy Spirit in us, extending our abilities beyond what they would be.  

The latter verse would not be able to happen without the first.  That means God would not be working in us like that if we were not inviting Him in, pursuing Him and His ways, putting His will over our own as a daily thing, and constantly seeking to grow in spiritual maturity.

I think when it really hit me that the previous mentioned statement is a form of false humility meant to look super spiritual, was when I realized that if it solely depended on Jesus alone – if we had nothing to do with following Him and reaping those rewards – then everyone who was a Christian would look and act exactly like Jesus did by default. ALL Christians would have ALL the fruits of the Spirit down pat, and with perfection.  Obviously, spiritual growth doesn’t work that way LOL!

No… it’s just not true that we have no goodness in us or power to affect our spiritual growth, although it sounds true to give God all the credit for our good marriages, or relationships with our kids, or how we deal with enemies.  It looks good – very spiritual and “right.”  But unfortunately it’s deceiving to leave out the fact that a Christian who has developed godliness in their marriage… or with their children… they did so because they sought after Him.

Remember, the second verse (Phil 2:13) of God working in us, can’t happen without that first verse (Phil 2:12) where we decide to keep working out our salvation in fear and trembling.  We have to invite Him in so that He can have His way.

What a beautiful reminder that the grace God gives us – which is the power to go beyond what we’d normally be able to accomplish – is available to all of us if we only seek Him and live out Philippians 2:12.

Stephanie

Parenting – Teaching Your Children to Use Their Gifts

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Our oldest is just amazing.  I know I’m his mom and so of course I’m biased… but oh my gosh, God has blessed him with many talents and gifts!  He’s kind… he’s gentle… he’s a strong leader and he’s only 7 years old!!!!!  Watching him is so inspiring to me to be a better mom – to be the mom he truly deserves in life (and yes, I feel like I fail constantly)!  We all deal with some amount of “Mom Guilt.”

Anyway… his school was having a city-wide art competition, and right away I was like, “You have to do this.”  He doesn’t believe in himself, just like I was growing up and still have issues with at times.  But his raw talent and gifts can’t just be shut up inside him and never used or developed!

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This is something I wish I had learned earlier in life myself – that my gifts, whatever they were, were supposed to be used and practiced and developed and strengthened!  It’s nice to have people loyally on your side, watching you with a gracious intent, gently encouraging you to use your gifts, but usually none of us really have people like that around, so we develop self-consciousnesses or neurotic beliefs that we’re always wrong or not very good.

And I see them reflected in my son.  His self-doubt, his belief that he’s actually NOT a good artist, or that he’s not funny, and not that smart (when he makes All A’s and B’s and excels in things like math!!).  It’s weird to me how we can have such a distorted view of ourselves when in reality, we are given so much more than we see.  This is what I imagine Paul was referring to when he was encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young, but to set an example for other believers and to USE his gifts, and practice them and develop them.

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Practice.

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Develop

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It took him 3 days doing it a few hours at a time, and I had to keep reminding him that he probably wanted to work on it or it wouldn’t be finished in time for the contest, and he did want to finish it.  The more he painted, the more he enjoyed it, too!  As he and our other children grow older, I’m not going to be harping on them as much so that they can learn that if they don’t hustle and do their work on time – or be consistent in it – they will miss MANY opportunities in life and some that they won’t get a second chance at.

 

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But for now, I’m like the woman Jesus talked about who kept pestering a man to do what she wanted 😀  I will encourage him, remind him, love him, prod him, and “train him up in the way he should go,” according to his gifts I’ve seen God has given to him.

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His art teacher came up to me with excitement yesterday when I picked him up from school, and told me with wide eyes that he had placed in the competition… out of THOUSANDS of other kids who entered all over our city!  He won his school somewhere between $1,000-3,000 in art supplies!!!  Of course we were so proud of him!!!

And I asked him in the car when we were driving back home, if he was glad that I pushed him to enter… because he never would have known if he could win if he hadn’t even tried.

I explained to him again that when God gives us special gifts like that, He expects us to USE them for Him, and that others are BLESSED through our gifts – but only if we have enough confidence in ourselves to decide to step out in faith act.  We are also blessed when we bless others!  As he found out when he won that much money for his art teacher!  It’s a blessing to be able to bless other people!

He’s heard about the parable of the talents, but it will probably be a deeper lesson saved for when he is a little older – that if we don’t use our gifts, that God may decide to take them away.  I know it sounds harsh, but we are stewards of the things God has given us, and that includes our giftings and talents.

May we all learn to be more confident in the gifts God has given us, and to use them, practice them, develop and strengthen them for His glory.

Stephanie