Sunday, March 18, 2018

Thoughts on Self Control

Self control is a real struggle.  I am constantly trying to find control, control myself, encouraging young ones around me to control themselves.  Then, I realized that I have a worldly definition of this word - not a Biblical understanding.  I am still trying to figure out what all the implications of this shift are for me and mine.  

Let's talk science for a minute.  Remember when you started doing experiments there was always the "control".  The control is the thing that you compared your experiment to so that you could notice the change that occurred as a result of your work.  That is closer to the original definition of control.  In the 1828 dictionary the primary definition of control is "a book, register or account, kept to correct or check another account or register."  The secondary definition gets into what we think of more often - to check, restrain, or govern.  

So the issue with self control is twofold.  First, there is a standard.  Second, that your "self" compares itself to that standard and needs to meet it.  So which standard is your control?  Which law?  How are you going to keep that account correct?  How are you checking yourself? 

Here's the deal.  Most of us check ourselves (and our kids) against a standard that will make us fail every time.  It is called "law" or morality and maybe sometimes doctrine.  Often these laws are cultural norms that we don't even realize we believe.  Sometimes they are even Biblical ideas.  In our pursuit of meeting this standard we do one of two things.  Some of us choose "laws" that we can easily meet or pretend there is no law - I make my own laws.  God is pretty clear that he has written laws on our hearts and that you can't change them.  We think this method can work, for a while.  

I tend to err on the other side and add "extra" laws, like the Pharisees, to make sure that we don't get close to breaking the "big laws".  We say to ourselves, as Eve explained, God said don't even touch it.  Wait!  That's not what God said.  Eve added that extra bit in there.  That's what we do to help us stay out of trouble with the law and show "self control".  These "extra rules" help us feel like we have self control and are meeting the standard. This is also not a permanent fix.  We will fail when the "control" we choose is law.  We can't make it work. We can't be perfect enough. It will crush us.  We know that God's perfect law is the right standard but . . . 

all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23 

On our own terms, our way to "self control" is to either minimize the standard or set up extra standards to keep us safe.  But both fail and crush us. If we can't change the law - how will we meet the standard?  If we believe in the grace, mercy and the blood of Jesus - it's a totally different ball game.  If you have faith in Jesus instead of the law you can rest easy - he took care of it.  He fulfilled all of the law in your place.  His standard was perfection, he met it - every dot and tittle.  When you trust in Jesus you trade your mess for his glory.  He did it.  It is finished.  

and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:24

"Justified" - just as if you never fell short, your report card and the control or standard match!  

"Freely by his grace"  it wasn't free for Jesus (keep reading - "God presented Christ as a sacrifice, of atonement, through the shedding of his blood" Romans 3:25)  But you can't pay for it, it is "to be received by faith" Romans 3:25.

Redemption - another word for that is ransom - Jesus paid the ransom with his blood 

This sounds ridiculous.  How can we just "trade" like that?  Why would the system be set up this way?  One reason for the law was to show us our need for Jesus.  We need a standard and his perfect law shows us that we can't "control" ourselves to meet that standard.  Thank you Jesus!  This is the folly of grace and the difficulty of the Gospel.  He perfectly fulfilled the standard for "self control" according to the law.  Not only that, he did one better and leaves us a deposit called the Holy Spirit.  The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, if you believe in that, lives in you and still works in the world today. 

If there is a standard that we can't reach it on our own - only through Jesus - then why does Galatians say to have self control?  

Well the two parts of control are a standard and a way to meet that standard.  Are you beginning to see why self control is a fruit of the Spirit?  Our goal is NOT to meet the legal standard to show self control - Jesus did that for us because we never could.  Our new "control" is to match ourselves with the Holy Spirit.  

This is a totally different way of approaching self control.  It is not about trying harder, doing more, denying yourself.  It is about tapping into the resurrection power of Christ available to us through the Holy Spirit and walking in line with that.  There is no law against what the Spirit of God will tell you to do - he leads us into all truth.  Leading a "self controlled" life is about aligning yourself to the Spirit as your standard - not the law.  It is also about teaching your kids the same. 

Take a look at Acts to get a sense of what this might look like.  Towards the end of his journey Paul talks about how he has no problems with his conscience.  Why is this?  Was he perfect?  The Jews were irate about this because clearly he wasn't fulfilling the standard of the law.  Paul had a different control -  the Holy Spirit. He knew he had walked in step with the Spirit and allowed the spirit to check, restrain (don't go to Asia) and govern him.  When he doesn't walk in step, he repents.  

Over and over again in Romans Paul explains how this freedom from the law is not an invitation to license but an open door to life with God.  If you are still trying to show self control by living according to the law, morality or straight doctrine and you are a Christian you are trying to re-do what Christ did for you.  STOP!!!   Christian "self control" is about following the Spirit as our standard and allowing his life in us to be our guide. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Dyslexia Journey . . . Finding the Source

Well I have been caught up in affairs around my house.  We realized our 8 yo son is dyslexic.  In the fall we watched Barton's videos and both my husband and I thought - well, maybe.  As we started thinking about enrolling him in school and talking with teachers for that age group we realized he is behind.  I am a "better late than early" kind of person, but he wasn't moving forward - even with some of the reading programs they suggest for dyslexics.  Granted, I did not implement all of the multi-modal stuff in my house, but still he wasn't remembering basic phonograms. Some of the red flags for us were fairly unsteady handwriting, skipping vowels in his spelling, still confusing the b and d (even in cursive - really!), not remembering simple words from one page to the next, having to sound out EVERY single word (the, but, and).  It was time to take action.

I am certainly no expert, but I love to research.  I have been reading books about teaching reading - for fun - before I had children.  That's why we taught cursive first and used an orton-gillingham based program!   Nonetheless, my child needs more help.

Vision Therapy

One of the first things to determine is if this is an eye tracking/teaming, focusing type issue or if this is a cognitive auditory processing issue.  My son can track words on a page, doesn't tire easily from trying to read, doesn't rub his eyes, etc.  I have a friend whose daughter had the tools to read but her eyes were having trouble tracking.  Another friend said her son had letters waving at him on the page.  These are the thing we don't even think to ask our kids.  So ASK YOUR CHILD what is happening on the page when they read.  You might be surprised.  Both of the friends mentioned above have their children in visual therapy and it has made a HUGE difference for them.  Some say that visual therapy can help most dyslexics - I really don't know what to say.  If your child seems to get the "process of reading" but tires easily or explains to you that the words are blurry or dancing or whatever - check into visual therapy.

Irlen Syndrome - Color Therapy 

Others talk about Irlen syndrome.  This has to do with how the brain deals with light and contrasts.  To solve this issue you should try the colored overlays.  They help to reduce glare and eye strain so that kids can read more successfully.  We did try this - briefly - but my son thought I was crazy thinking these things would help him.  So, that wasn't the right solution for us.  However, it has been very helpful to many people.  It is certainly worth trying.

Auditory Processing Issues 

Some children have trouble distinguishing the sounds being made so that they can separate them into their smallest unit.  Most dyslexics have this to some extent.  I honestly think my older son has some issues but because he did intense speech therapy for a year it helped him to match the sound and visual representations of those sounds (he still can't spell).  If your child doesn't seem to be able to produce or understand the difference between similar sounding sounds (th/v) etc. this might be the level you are at.  You can look into speech therapy programs that help you understand how to place the mouth to say different sounds and then teach your child learn how to produce those sounds properly and tie them to the letters we use to represent those sounds.   Lindamood Bell LiPS program does exactly this.  Although he does struggle with a few sounds this doesn't seem to be the root of his issue either.

Right Brain Children

Then I started reading about right brain children.  This seemed to fit my son VERY well.  He did have great spatial ability, he loved to draw and thinks in pictures, and he talked about how he could "flip" things around in his head.  Who knew?  I don't think this way.  As I read it became obvious that most of these kids aren't really ready to start reading until they are about 8 and it takes them time - just like everyone - to figure it out.  This fit into what my reading specialist friend said that around 4th or 5th grade her students began to "click" more with reading - they were now developmentally ready to do it.  The book The Dyslexic Advantage spoke right to my child's strengths.  It also explains how it might be a bit more than just "right brain/ left brain" issue.   The main take away is that my child does actually see and think about the world differently and I need to understand that! 

Following this thread led me to Dianne Craft and her right brain reading information.  She comes out of school setting and is trying to help kids be as successful as they can be in a school setting.  She uses visual memory to help students learn words.  We tried this some with my son and it was helping some.  We also got her book on Brain Integration Therapy.  Some of my friends had tried Brain Balance and similar programs and I figured - this couldn't hurt.  It was worth a try.  We have only been doing it for about 2 weeks and it made a difference the FIRST DAY.  His handwriting was a teeny bit improved.  We are trying to do it faithfully - but Spring Break!  Yesterday, I thought we would just do his reading exercises and we didn't do the brain exercises first.  Normally, he makes only one mistake in his dictation (at a kindergarten level).  Yesterday, he tried six times until he got it right!?  There is something to this brain integration therapy.  I honestly think the exercises are fairly similar to some of those used in vision therapy.  It is a focus on crossing the mid line and getting your eyes and fingers to track properly. 

Building on this brain difference we moved into the book The Gift of Dyselxia by Ronald Davis.   The Davis method has some controversy about its effectiveness.  However, this is the book that encouraged me to start asking my son about how he sees the world and realizing that he does see life in pictures and is really a visual learner.  The Davis program teaches kids how to stop spinning the words in their head and find a fixed point so that they can read from that point.  They also model all the letters and words in clay and learn the definitions of the "little words" that cause dyslexics such trouble - because they can't "see" what the word means.  It sounds a little wacky but it also is how my son thinks!

We met with the Davis specialist in our community.  She has been teaching for over 30 years and founded a special needs school in our community.  She is dyslexic and taught using orton-gillingham methods for years.  It wasn't until she did the Davis program when her daughter was diagnosed that she saw a huge change in her own reading ability and comfort.  She had made it through grad school struggling to read but after doing the work of Davis she now enjoys reading.  Their program is a one week intensive with long term homework (1 to 2 years)!!  We have decided to try this path for now. 

This doesn't even touch on the "learning to read" part.  That is a whole different issue and I will address it.  So far I have learned that dyslexic kids truly do think differently and develop on a different time table.  They have to work really hard to be able to do the essential task of reading (most interventions are intensive and take at least 2 years!).  I am so blessed that we have had him at home so that his difficulty reading has not stopped his learning.  We haven't spent tons of time focusing on his weaknesses, we have been able to develop his strengths.  We are just beginning this journey but hopefully some of what we have learned so far can help you as well. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Misunderstanding Comfort

I have been thinking about comfort recently.  I have known many people who need comfort - sickness, death, bad news in general, tough times.  Today, I realized my struggle with comfort.  I have confused the verb with the noun. 

The verb comes from the Latin word for "strength".  From the 1828 dictionary it means "to strengthen, to invigorate, to cheer and enliven". 

The noun means "relief from pain; ease; rest or moderate pleasure after pain, cold or distress or uneasiness of body".  The second definition explains how this can also apply to mental anguish.  Often we really are aiming at being comfortable again, "being in a state of ease or moderate enjoyment". 

Do you see the problem? 

Often when I try to "comfort" people I think my goal is to help return them to that state of ease or rest.  Well, you can't go back.  It makes me think of Job's friends, whom he chastises:

"I have heard many things like these;
     you are miserable comforters, all of you!
Will your long winded speeches never end?
     What ails you that you keep on arguing?"    Job 16:1 -2

Remember, the best thing Job's friends did was show up and BE QUIET with him in his misery.  It was when they started talking that all of these unhelpful things spewed forth. 

When we truly speak comfort we need to be giving people the courage and strength they need to bear under their new circumstances.   Focusing on the why me? if only? should I have? don't bring comfort.  Neither does blame, shame or guilt.  There is room for Godly repentance (depending on the circumstances) but it is the Holy Spirit who brings conviction - that's not your job. 

What is our role then?  Comforting people means that they leave with a renewed strength and faith in God.  They are reminded that He never leaves us or forsakes us. That in their weakness, he will show up, be faithful, love them, lead them, care for them and be bigger than they are.  It isn't our timetable or our path - it is learning to walk in step with Him.

At the end of the passage Job reveals the best thing we can do.

My intercessor is my friend, as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.   Job. 16:21

The intercessor is the one who moves or passes between two people - who mediates.  A good friend takes us to Jesus when we can't get there ourselves.  A good friend cuts a hole in a roof so that you can get close to Jesus.  Praise God if you have friends who will stop at nothing to help you see Jesus (even if you end up in a sycamore tree).  He can forgive sin and heal every hurt.

We live on the other side of the cross so we have this comfort - Jesus is interceding for us.  Beyond that, we are promised that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."  Romans 8:26 

If you are at the wordless groaning stage - know that you are not alone.  Remember, one of the names for the Holy Spirit is the Comforter. 

If we truly want to comfort others, let us give them the strength to face whatever is up ahead.  Remembering their comfortable life or trying to return there too quickly (or ever) will do nothing to help them in their current place of pain. Let us lean into intercession, trusting that bringing our friends to Jesus will bring them the comfort they need to walk the road ahead.  Pray for them and mean it!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Burning the good

Today I read the calling of Elijah to Elisha.  I thought this would be some great event - pomp and circumstance.  What I read was shocking.  Read it for yourself:

And he (Elijah) said to him (Elisha), "Go back again, for what have I done to you?"  And he (Elisha) returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.  (2 Kings 19:21

Wait.  He did what?  He killed his source of income and burnt the yokes too.  Shouldn't he have sold them, left him for his parents or neighbors, shared them with his friends, DONE SOMETHING good with what he had been given.  Friends, he did the BEST thing- he sacrificed it all to God, celebrated with his family and followed God's calling for him.

In our practical minds this is crazy (shouldn't she have sold that perfume instead of putting it on Jesus' feet).  We think that we can bring all that we have "learned" or "earned" from our practical lives into our spiritual life.  We can't!  Friends, he didn't get rid of his sins - he burned his livelihood!  ALL OF YOUR OWN EFFORTS ARE LIKE FILTHY RAGS (even the ones that won you awards, got you promoted, were helpful to others, made you feel valuable).  Elisha wasn't burning up his "problem areas" he was sacrificing his livelihood.  All of those ways that used to support us - like Elisha's oxen - need to be burned up.  Given over. Lost to you in the old way FOREVER.  We get handing over our sins - but are we ready to hand over our strengths, achievements, blessings?

You know what you should do - throw a party.  You are giving up on your own way of doing it and throwing party over the ashes and carcass of your old self.  Jesus does it EVERY time.  There is lots of partying in the New Testament and most of the time it is when people turn, repent and are made whole in him.   When they give it up.  When the lost are found.  When they realize all they have is Christ.

See, if you aren't ready to kill your oxen and burn your yoke - you aren't really ready to walk in the full newness of life yoked to Jesus.  You have Christ plus something else.  That never works in the long run - you can't serve two masters.  I am not saying this is the "easy" way and it is HARD to give it all up. Can't we just walk a middle road, keep the "good stuff" - nope!  That's called being double minded (double souled) or maybe lukewarm.  Do you remember how he vomits you out in that situation?  What you see as okay enough, somewhat helpful, not so bad is NOT GOD'S BEST.  God's best is burning ALL of the old way (whether the world thought it was good or not) and following the man of God.  For Elisha it was Elijah - for you it is Jesus Christ. 

That's what he said to Peter (who left his nets with an incredible catch of fish) - I will make you fisher's of men.  I will use what you know - but you have to leave ALL the old way and learn how to walk with me - then, then it can all be restored unto you in ways you can't even fathom.  Those oxen and yokes were your best efforts.  However, as you walk with your creator and the lover of your soul you realize what is TRUE about you. He created you-  he knows you best - let him tell you what you as a new creation truly are to him and the world.  Then you will know your true identity - the one in Christ that can't be lost.  What this process looks like will vary - but the result will be losing your life for his sake and finding it in him for all eternity.  An amazing exchange.

As we enter into this season of Lent, may I encourage you to lay it all on the altar and walk clean and free into Resurrection Sunday - knowing that whatever you had before is NOTHING compared to what you have in the risen life of Christ. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Change and Challenge

Today was the last Sunday.  I have worshiped with the same congregation for the past 6 1/2 years and LOVED it.  Oh, we had our moments but they are beautiful people seeking the Lord.  They helped me remember that the Gospel is not about me - it is about what Christ has done.  I was able to teach their children, study with the women, commiserate in parenting, watch us all grow, sing and laugh, cry and pray.  Last year, about this time, they announced they were launching a church plant in our area - with a good friend of ours as head pastor.  We knew we had to go.  This is the longest I have been with one group (school, church, job, etc); excepting the church I grew up in.  It is hard to say goodbye - so many good things.

This is the last semester.  Likewise, we will be ending the homeschool journey, for now, for some of my kids.  Recently, Facebook reminded me that I posted about the school my boys will be going to attend in 2012.  Yes, I have been waiting for about 6 years - hoping and fearing - that the school would come our way.  Now, it has.  One of my favorite charter school models is opening a school 10 minutes from our house.  It's like having a community school with an educational model that I love.  I have had my kids at home with me - just about everyday - for almost 12 years.  It's been a blessing, a challenge, overwhelming, tiring and amazing.   (I went on a retreat a few weeks ago and it was the first time I had been away from my whole family for over 48 hours - in 11 years!) 

Both of these things are JUST RIGHT but not easy.  Leaving the church that I love (although there are about 40 people going with us) is not easy.  Leaving days of freedom, parks and play for someone else's structure is hard.  I still believe in homeschooling - but this season my kids will be in school.

Both of these new groups will require building and work.  A new church and a new school - ground up construction.  They both have formats in place - liturgies, curricula and schedules.  We get to be a part of breathing life into them - from bones to life.  What a challenge?  What a privilege?  So glad we have a big God! 

For someone who has lived in the same town for 20 years you would think I would have settled by now. So many of us felt like we would find our "normal" and it would stay that way.  I don't think that is what God has for us - at all.  How would we grow, change, be challenged, rejoice and mourn if everything went as we hoped and planned?  If our plan is working - why do we need God?  If we can answer all the questions that come our way - why do we need wisdom?  I realize that my current "challenges" are truly joy compared to my friends who are facing disease, death, distance from children and family, addiction, deployment, unemployment and more.  My heart is with you!

I have learned the blessing of keeping in touch with people from all seasons of my life and enjoying their fellowship.  It is wonderful to watch what God is doing in and through them, even when we don't see each other as frequently.  Just because I don't see you doesn't meant that I am not thinking about you and praying for you. 

Praying that if seasons are changing for you that you can enjoy the bittersweet.  Rejoice and remember the good and trust in God for the next step.  May he be the lamp unto your feet.

Update: My husband fixed our water softener TODAY.  Turns out a line was loose (imagine that happening with 3 boys playing in the garage) and that's why water and salt were spilling all over our garage.  It was hardly even a "fix".  Glad it is done.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What makes you sad??

This morning our Christian Education class read the Rich Young Ruler story.  Most of us are familiar with it - the young ruler justifies himself because he has been following the law.  Then Jesus says you are just missing one thing - sell all you have and follow me.  The Ruler didn't see that coming.  One class member mentioned that he wasn't coming to Jesus with a need - Jesus always met people who came knowing their need and ready to receive.  He came with an agenda and Jesus wasn't going to play that game.

What struck me was this line:

But when he (the rich young ruler) heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  Luke 18: 23 

Surely, we would all do better - right?  If you want to know what your idols are just figure out what would make you cry if you had to give it up.  See, the ruler wasn't a bad ruler.  Apparently, he was pretty decent - he seemed to keep most of the Commandments at least.  But he wasn't ready to put Jesus first and follow him only.  He went away sad.  Jesus didn't run after him.  You see if anything makes you more sad than you being out of relationship with Jesus than that thing might have to go.  YIKES! I think many of us have been asked a similar question at some point:

What do you love more __________ or me?  
Are you willing to leave _________ behind to go my way?  

Maybe you have stalled out in your relationship with Jesus because you chose riches, respectability, intelligence, friendship, family or other things over God.  You will see that Jesus commends Peter who has left behind his life for Jesus.  The rich young ruler begins by asking "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"   As another class member pointed out - you can't do anything to get your inheritance.  The question doesn't even make much sense!?   At the end of the passage Jesus confirms to Peter that he will "receive many times more in this time and in the age to come eternal life" - now that's an inheritance. 

Check yourself!  Are you harboring idols? Consider what would make you sad if you were asked to leave it behind.  I can't promise what will happen if you give it up.  Sometimes God gives it back like he did to Abraham where "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided". Are we ready to give up what is most near and dear to us?  Do we trust that what God has for us is better than what we are clinging to?  That his ways lead to eternal life.

Peter is getting the inheritance here and in the kingdom to come - a relationship with the living God.  It can't get much better than that - no matter what comes your way.   Doing it your own way won't bring your inheritance.  Your inheritance is already secure by the cross of Jesus and his resurrection life.  You have to be willing to believe and follow him where he leads - not your own way.  It is a better way, but you might be sad for a while as you mourn what you thought you had.

Hoping you are ready to receive the inheritance that you can't earn.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Lost Metaphors: Are you salty??

Today is a quick look at salt - not exhaustive.  Of course, something broke around here to help illustrate the point.  Normally, it breaks after my post, but this needed to break before so that I could understand just how important SALT is.  I am not going to cover all of the uses and value of salt - but here is one that you probably haven't thought about too much. 

A few weeks ago our water softener broke.  We have a bunch of salt on our garage floor (probably wearing it away) and hard water in our pipes now.  In south Texas we have HARD water.  The kind that clogs up lines, can break down machines, leaves remnants on everything so clean glasses look dirty.  It is obvious when the salt isn't there.  I honestly don't know what the salt does, but something magical apparently. 

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.   Matthew 5:13 

So the question is, if you are the salt of the world, does your part of the world get gunked up when you aren't around?  Are you speaking truth and life so that people can have clear lines of communication with each other and God?  Are you helping people who are breaking down?  Are you with people in the mess of life? 

A little bit of salt does a lot of good for our pipes.  Without salty people in our lives we can tell something is wrong, but we can't always identify what it is.  We need people who speak truth, life, challenge and love to us.  We need those who comfort and are present with us in the midst of the junk or our lives.  No, you probably can't fix it.  That's not the point of the salt.  The point of the salt is to help keep further problems from happening.  Those that stem from guilt, fear, unforgiveness, disdain, distance.  Salt can help make sure that there aren't further breakdowns and a long lasting residue as a result of the trials and difficulties of life.  The salt helps clear out the lines, lend an ear, speak a prayer, encourage forgiveness and more instead of letting the residue of sin build up and break down. 

Salt will NEVER be able to fix the problem but without it problems get a lot worse.

Stay salty!!