Saturday, December 12, 2015

Servanthood: the Path to Greatness

IMG_7099Almost 7 months ago, we welcomed our 2nd daughter, Sophia, into the world! And with the joy of her arrival, God ushered in a new season of my life: one of servanthood.
I cannot tell you the joy and the honor it is for me to spend my day taking care of children. (Those of you who know my story can understand the depth of appreciation I have for the gift of motherhood.) But the arrival of a second baby resulted in a loss of my free time, my rest, and my energy. Amidst the joy of finally holding this sweet new baby I was often frustrated that I was not able to do the things I wanted to do.
At the time, I had been reading through Matthew and a couple of passages caught my attention:
“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled ; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12
“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
What a backwards thing to say! The first shall be your slave, the greatest shall be your servant. This goes against the grain of every natural inclination in me. It is my default to see how I can climb the ladder of greatness, whether in the realm of motherhood, the world of blogging, or within my own circles of friends. I often find myself trying to become “greater” without even realizing it. It is just the subtle current of my sin-inflicted heart to drift toward self-exaltation and self-promotion.
But here, Jesus just gave me a glimpse into a greater reality: in the Kingdom of God, the greatest are those that are servants to all. The way up is down. The way to greatness is lowliness. And this is because Jesus Himself modeled this:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:5-11
Jesus’ own path to exaltation began in laying aside His rights and choosing the lowly path of servanthood, even to the point of death. Why would His Kingdom operate any differently?
While pondering these things, I realized I had a golden opportunity. This season of endless diaper changes, overflowing dishes and sleepless nights was actually an opportunity to learn about true greatness. To meditate on the reality that in following Jesus I am called, like Him, to give up everything I am entitled to and choose the path of servant. Except, unlike Jesus, I am not actually entitled to anything.
I began to ponder what it really means to be a servant and a slave. What would life be like for servants or slaves in a household? I could imagine they would feel tired and sore at the end of the day. That any free time they had for themselves would be seen as a gift. That they wouldn’t expect to be thanked and congratulated for their service because they are only doing what is expected of them. As Jesus shared, the right response of a servant is: “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:9-10)
To take up this call to servanthood changed my outlook entirely. My entitlement was replaced with gratitude. My complaining turned to rejoicing. My need for a pat on the back was substituted with a thankfulness to become more like Jesus.
Ironically, I have sometimes resented the call of motherhood and servanthood because it seems to keep me from doing “something greater or more important.” Truthfully, I usually desire to do those “greater, more important things” so that I can feel good about myself or feel that I have some value and standing among my peers. It is really self-exaltation in disguise. The Word tells me how to be great and how to be important VERY PLAINLY: be a servant. It is not confusing, subtle, or said only once. Evidently, Jesus found it necessary to emphasize to our stubborn hearts that He really did mean that the first shall be last.
I must quote one of my favorite books here:
“Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Would God [help us believe] that Jesus means this! We all know what the character of a faithful servant or slave implies. Devotion to the master’s interests, thoughtful study and care to please him, delight in his prosperity and honor and happiness. There are servants on earth in whom these dispositions have been seen, and to whom the name of servant has never been anything but a glory. To how many of us has it not been a new joy in the Christian life to know that we may yield ourselves as servants, as slaves to God, and to find that His service is our highest liberty,-the liberty from sin and self? We need now to learn another lesson,-that Jesus calls us to be servants of one another, and that, as we accept it heartily, this service too will be a most blessed one, a new and fuller liberty too from sin and self. At first it may appear hard; this is only because of the pride which still counts itself something. If once we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of the creature, the spirit of Jesus, the joy of heaven, we shall welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who try to vex us. When our own heart is set upon this, the true sanctification, we shall study each word of Jesus on self-abasement with new zest, and no place will be too low, and no stooping too deep, and no service too mean or too long continued, if we may but share and prove the fellowship with Him who spake, “I am among you as he that serveth”.
~Andrew Murray, “Humility”
May I always be CONVINCED that Jesus truly meant what He said: that servanthood is the path to greatness. May I always jump at the chance to serve others and consider their needs as more important than my own. For this is the way in which my Savior lived and I seek to emulate Him in all ways.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

This is from

Friday, September 25, 2015

Keeping Your Eyes on the Destination

It would seem foolish for you to jump in your car, fill up your gas tank, and jump on a freeway not knowing where you are headed.

Yet that is how a lot of well meaning people train their children. 

Without a destination in mind, it is difficult to plan the trip.  Without knowing where you want to end up, it is not possible to go around the roadblocks, construction and obstacles that will hinder the path there.

I have had many parents of teens come to me not able to understand why their teenager is so selfish.  Once you start looking at their family habits, however, it would be difficult for the teen not to believe the world revolves around them.

At birth, your little cherub is placed into your arms and you know your life is forever changed.  From that point on, every decision you make should have that little life in mind.  You want to do all you can for your child, of course.  But if you don’t really have a destination and make a calculated plan, it is very easy to have a child-centered home which results in growing a narcissistic teen.

The Problem

Rise of Narcissism

Narcissism is alive and well.  What is narcissism?  It comes from Greek mythology: Narcissus, who was a son of the river god and known for his good looks, was drawn to a pool by his enemy Nemesis (which means something causing misery or death).  When Narcissus saw his reflection in the water he wasn’t able to realize it was just an image, he became absorbed and unable to leave that image and he drowned.  Narcissism starts with that kind of fixation on yourself, and your image and appearance. 

Beginning in the 70’s with the self-image movement, many people focused on building self-esteem in order to fuel success in their children.  “Don’t correct misspelled words; it may crush a child’s spirit.  Don’t give someone a prize based on performance because the others may feel badly; give every one a prize.” 

The findings, however, have been constant:  self-esteem building not based on actual personal achievement or positive behavior is not necessarily a healthy thing.[i]   By not rewarding achievement and hard work, we have fueled passivity and entitlement.  By not recognizing children’s strengths, we have taken away the ability to recognize that each person has different strengths and weaknesses.  By not focusing on personal achievements, we have made it easier for our children to pit themselves against each other in comparisons rather than achieving personal bests. 

Feeding on image-centered social media, “selfies” reign where every one else is literally out of the picture except you.  Following many beautiful looking young people on Facebook and Instagram, in tracking their vacations and events of life, it often appears they are the only ones there!  Or at least they are the only ones being focused on.

Rise of Depression Amongst Young People

Eleven percent of adolescents have a clinical depressive disorder by the age of 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement.   Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year olds and the sixth leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year olds.  In the next 24 hours, 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time, and 3,506 teens will run away.[ii]

The Solution

If you see the statistics and problems ahead, you need to strategically plan how to get around those things to make it to your destination.  There are  several things parents can do, beginning with training toddlers, that can contribute to raising teenagers able to overcome the obstacles that will face them.  REMEMBER:  children will model your behavior and will often learn from the way they see you live even more than from the things you say.  That is a reason in itself to walk in victory and maturity so your children can learn to be empowered to do the same without excuses.

Pursue Excellence Not Perfection

There is a small dividing line between raising children who know they are special, have certain gifts and talents, and can make an impact on their world in a way that only they can, and raising children who believe they need to feel good about themselves and create themselves to be something based on others’ admiration of them.  Pursuing excellence and being a perfectionist are two different things:  one is based on being the best you can be; the other is based on people’s opinion of who you are.  One noticeable difference is where you put your focus and where you train your children to put their focus:  is it on recognizing the value of other people and their achievements or is it on undermining others in order to elevate yourself?

Some of the things to pay attention to in raising children who pursue excellence vs. perfection (examining yourself first since you can’t teach what you haven’t learned):

*Be sure that they are more worried about having good character than looking of being “cool.”
*Don’t belittle others in order to make them feel good (“Look at you!  You ran faster than Jane!” or “You got more goals than John!”)
*Help them applaud and recognize others’ achievements, even in sports and competitions.
*Help them establish value by who they are and not just what they can do.
*Help them meet high standards that are within reach, and just be the best they can be versus striving for impossible goals.
*Help them keep going despite disappointment, and learn from failure without being devastated by it.
*Help them correct mistakes and learn from them rather than dwelling on them.
*Help them be happy not coming in first, as long as they know they’ve done their best.
*Help them accept positive criticism without falling apart.
*Don’t make everything be about achievements; make time for creative play and times to just enjoy life.
*Help them be comfortable with who they are not as well as with who they are.

Become “Other People Conscious” Rather than “Self Conscious”

When I became more “God conscious” than “self conscious,” I learned to live my life
more concerned with what God thought than with what I thought.  When you train your children to be more “God conscious” and “other people conscious” than “self conscious,” you can give them habits that will detract from them believing the world revolves around them.

Some of the things to pay attention to in raising children to become more “God conscious” and “other people conscious” than “self conscious” (examining yourself first since you can’t teach what you haven’t learned):

*Teach them that some of their free time should be devoted to giving to others and not just spent on their own hobbies and pursuits.  Teach them the joy of giving time and efforts to others and how good it makes them feel.
*Make your children consider others’ choices in games to play, movie to watch etc. and not just get their own way all the time. 
*Train your children to be more concerned about other people than their own comfort:  train them to encourage handicapped people and to have compassion on those who have lost loved ones, are ill, or have special needs.
*Train your children to spend one lunch time or recess period at school with someone who needs a friend.
*Train your children to wait before interrupting a conversation when they come into the room, and to be considerate of others.
*Train your children to respect and be patient with the elderly and those needing patience.
*Let your children see you let other cars into your lane, allow others to go first, and hold the door open and be considerate of others.  As soon as they are old enough, teach them to do the same.

Teach Your Children What Success Means and What Makes Their Lives Meaningful

In Proverbs 30.15 (Msg) it says, A Leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.”  A leech can suck the life out of you!  Sadly, by pummeling our children with things, we can produce “Gimme” and “Gimme more” and they will never have enough things to satisfy them.  Don’t play into the materialism and greed of our society.  In what I call the “Lindsay Lohan” principle, you can certainly see the validity of Luke 12:15: He told the people, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions.”

 If you measure success by the amount of things you own, hear the perspective of the parable to one who spent his life for what he would leave behind:  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! I will demand your life from you tonight! Now who will get what you’ve accumulated?’  That’s how it is when a person has material riches but is not rich in his relationship with God.” 

What is your definition of success?   We have all been entrusted with different gifts and talents.  Success to me will be at the end of my life on earth to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful… enter into the joy of your Lord!” 

Success is not being everything I envision myself to be or what I wish I could be, but refusing to be anything less than what God made me to be!  And using all I am to make a difference for now and eternally in the lives around me!

Some of the things to pay attention to in raising children to define “success” and make their lives meaningful (examining yourself first since you can’t teach what you haven’t learned):

*From a very young age, let your children help you serve others and recognize the joy it gives them.
*Don’t give your children too many gifts.  Refuse to take away the joy of working to earn something and then enjoying what you have earned by allowing them to want things for awhile, making money and waiting for the reward.
*Keep Christmas and birthdays simple in the gift-giving arena and focus more on time together and relationships (see my blog on ideas:
*Make a mission statement with your children every year to focus on what they can do in their little growing worlds to “make a difference” in the lives of others.
*Teach your children how to respond in difficult situations such as illness, death, and disability.
*Give your children chores at an early age and allow them to see how much of a difference they can make by contributing.
*Keep television and computer times to a minimum, focusing instead on being of service and developing gifts and talents.  (Although physicians usually recommend no more than two hours of screen time per day, teens report spending approximately 7.5 hours per day using entertainment media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.[iii])

Keep Your Child Training On An Offensive Path as Much as Possible

As in football, in training children you can take on an offensive or defensive position.  On the offense, you have the ball, are in control of the ball, and are in a position to score points.  On the defense, you are trying to prevent the offense from scoring.

If you see personality traits and tendencies that are heading for trouble, take the offensive approach.  Start training your child early on how to overcome those obstacles to score!  Don’t wait until your 14 year old is having social and emotional problems to have a court order “community service.”  Start with your children as soon as they are toddlers to be focused on “community service,” and you are parenting offensively. 

With a little thought and strategy, you can see like no one else can see where your child could be headed for trouble.  Train them to be strong in those areas!

And keep your eyes on the destination.  If you aim for nothing you will hit it every time!  Decide where you want to be headed, and focus your energies on taking you down the roads you need to travel to get there!  Enjoy the journey! 




Thursday, May 7, 2015

Too Much Too Soon...

When my little toddlers were ages 2 and 3, I couldn't WAIT to give them a kitchen set!  My husband and I saved and we purchased a Fisher Price kitchen set, complete with pots and pans and a dish set and even groceries.  It was a big purchase for us, and their Christmas gift had to be combined.  I remember Christmas morning when they woke up.  They were totally disinterested in the kitchen set after the big hoopla my husband and I threw over it.

At that moment the realization hit me that I would never again give my children something that they didn't even know they wanted.  I never wanted to take away the feeling of wanting something, working towards it or looking forward to it with anticipation for awhile, and then finally being able to have it!

Without realizing it, parents take joy and anticipation away from their children, often leaving them nothing to look forward to.  Everything becomes commonplace and not too much to look forward to any more!  Nothing to work for or towards; nothing left to impress...

I'm at Disney World, and it amazes me to see little toddler girls walking around with hair, makeup and nails professionally done at at a children's boutique beauty shop, with complete princess costume costing almost $200 for the experience!  When my girls were in high school, I limited their monetary expenditures for Homecoming and Prom to less than this amount!  I wanted them to "save" some of the big boutique things like nails, hair and fancy dresses for their weddings!  I wouldn't let them rent a limo (although many parents were renting limos for their children!), telling them that they could rent a limo when they got married.  My girls shopped around and could choose hair, nails or fancy dress but not ALL of them.  I told them it was way too much money to blow in one evening, for a dress you would take off after a few hours for the after party, and hair you would take down at the end of the night.  After all, they had more important things they were saving money towards that mattered more:  their car and their every day clothing, which we weren't handing to them so they could carelessly spend the money my husband exchanged his life to get!  Consequently, I have very practical girls who balance their expenditures on whether a short-term purchase is worth not having things they need every day.

I am proud of my son and daughter-in-law who just took their 3 year old to Disney and had them spray glitter on her hair and called it a day.  She was just as excited and they were able to spend the $200 elsewhere!  At least if you are going to do something like that, make it something they look forward to for a long time and are old enough to realize what a big deal it is.  Or go for part of it and forego the hair extensions or some of it, teaching a more moderate approach...

It makes me so sad to see little toddlers hauling around a $100+ American Girl doll with her $150 accessories and clothes that cost more than their own clothes!  It is absolutely RIDICULOUS!  When my girls were younger, they loved and read all the American Girl books.  I never bought them a doll. I am not criticizing those who do, but encouraging you to make them look forward to it and long for it for awhile and then make a big deal about it.  I admire one of my friends who waited until her granddaughter was old enough to have wanted an American Girl doll for quite awhile and then took her to get one for her 7th birthday, making it a huge deal.

This is not about the children; but it is a lack of good parenting.  Parenting that supposes that more is better and success is equivalent to achievements.  The sad part is that teens lack purpose and drive more than ever.

In his book, Confident Parents, Exceptional Teens, Ted Haggard writes that in order to impart purpose you need to first:

  • Know your own purpose.
  • Write a Family Mission Statement.
  • Know the power of your words
  • Enjoy the purpose of the present.
Haggard says, Every one of us needs to develop the habit of regularly pausing and thinking about our purpose.  Why did God create mankind?  What is His plan for our lives? What is His plan for my life? Does He have one? Am I fulfilling it? The point is that if we can answer those questions we will know exactly how to live.

People who have lived well know that purpose not only directs your future, but also gives value to the present.  Purpose lets you stop and breath, love and embrace, and look lovingly into a child's eyes.  

We are so busy during our twenties preparing to be thirty that we don't value our twenties until they are gone.  Then, when we are in our thirties we feel a little old, and we're starting to get a little fat, so we wish we were in our twenties again, but we're too busy to do much about it because we're preparing for our forties. When our forties come, we've got to make a lot of money to pay for college expenses for our kids and retirement expenses for us, and now we have reading glasses and our knees ache a little, so we long for our thirties, but have to eat right to prepare for our fifties. On and on the cycle goes. Soon, we find ourselves old, tired, and lonely, wondering where life went and expecting to find a list of accomplishments or travels to justify our lives.

But that rationale misses the point. Life isn't just going somewhere and doing something. Life is relationships. It is enjoying the day, working and laughing with a friend. Shut off the television and stop wasting life by watching others live - get out and live life yourself. Breathe, smell, gaze at the sky, listen to the birds. As a parent, this means embracing your children while they are young. Enjoying the spilled milk, the late night fevers, the children sleeping in your bed because they are scared...

Purpose cannot be discovered or defined for our futures until we can do it now.  Right now. In this moment, this hour, this day. By being content with the great things and the little things. once we're content, then we can project into the future and decide why we are here and where we are going. But if we don't stop and live, life will be stolen from us by urgent matters.

What does this have to do with being a confident parent? Everything. It is worth our time to learn the secrets of enjoying parenthood. Not only will we be happier but we will create a mood in our home of freshness, security and trust. Our kids will love seeing us laugh easily, they will enjoy sharing their lives with us, and they will be free to discover the wonderful purpose for their lives. (Taken from Confident Parents, Exceptional Teens: Creating a Teen-Friendly Family by Ted Haggard and John Bolin)

To have purpose we need to simplify.  “Many of today’s behavioral issues come from children having too much stuff and living a life that is too fast. I would visit from breakfast to bedtime, I helped the parents simplify their routines and lives and very often the parents see an improvement their child’s behavior within days,” says internationally recognized author and counselor counselor Kim John Payne.
Payne asserts that many of today’s child behavior problems comes from TMS – Too Much Stuff. “All children are quirky, that’s what makes them lovable, who they are. But these cumulative stresses slide those quirks along the behavior spectrum into disorders – the dreaded “Ds”. Simplicity Parenting is a way to slide the child back down the spectrum. They go from having a label back to being lovable and quirky.”
Payne has traveled through Asia and Africa helping families devastated by AIDS or war. He says children in western countries have many of the same stresses – but for the opposite reasons. “There is not a lot of difference between how kids over stressed are acting in parts of Asia and Africa. “The children in the developing world often have had negative sensory overwhelm, and we give our children sensory overwhelm here – too many trinkets, too many choices, too much information – and this causes a cumulative stress issue in kids that leads to behavioral disorders.” “Our children are living in the undeclared war on childhood.”
“It’s about warmth and connecting… everything becomes easier.”
Payne will help parents at the talk create their own Simplicity Menu for their family, breaking it down into five layers: Simplify the environment (books, toys etc), meal times and food, schedules and information. He asks that parents see childhood as an unfolding experience, not an enrichment opportunity. “If it is an enrichment opportunity, then we’re in an arms race, trying to get the most for our child. This is fundamentally a con, and not healthy."
He adds that children respond well to this approach. “You choose whatever fits naturally in your family life. When a family simplifies, the kids love it. It’s not a battle. We think kids will put up resistance but they don’t; they like it.”
“It’s about warmth and connecting. In simplifying parenting we get closer to our children, they no longer have to fight for our attention, everything becomes easier and it is actually achieved by doing less," Payne says. 
Parents who take steps along this pathway to simplify their homes and their schedules, to introduce more predictable rhythms and to filter out concerns which children are not yet able to cope with, find that their children:
• Are calmer and happier
• Do better socially and emotionally
• Are more focused at school
• Find it easier to comply with family rules
• Become less picky eaters
These parents also find that they themselves:
• To have a clearer picture of what they value as parents
• Are more united with each other in their parenting

• Have more time and energy for connection, relaxation, and fun.

Challenge:  Know your purpose and live it and give more value to your present. Help your family know and realize their purpose as well. Avoid the TMS (too much stuff) syndrome!  Simplify the environment (even putting some toys away for awhile and then switching groups of toys so there aren't so many choices!).  Don't allow your child to make so many choices or give them too much information too soon.  Keep their schedules and their lives simple and predictable and enjoyable!  Learn to say "NO" to the overload!  Don't give your children stuff before they even want it; better yet, give them opportunities to work for and towards getting things they would like!