Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy 14th Valentine Birthday to Me

Like many teenagers, I felt awkward about myself.  I had the coke bottle glasses, badly permed hair, did poorly in school, and was kind of shy.  I slowly grew out of this phase.  Mom finally got me contacts, I still had bad perms, but I started to do well in school and slowly became more outgoing.  But I think those early years took root in my heart.  I didn't feel like I belonged. I strived to be liked and to feel special.  That's when the world of boys came in. 

For many years boys did not pay attention to me.  I envied the popular girls and how boys seem to hoover over them.  So when I got the slightest attention from a boy, I was thrilled.  But teenage romances don't last long.  And my heart was broken.  And so the cycle continued time and time again.  It happened through high school. I happened again through college.  If I wasn't dating, I felt empty.  When I was in a relationship, it was never enough.  When it was over, there was a void. And every time, I lost a little bit of my heart. 

Then 14 years ago, my friends from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship invited me to a True Love retreat on Valentine's weekend.  I gave every excuse not to go.  In the very end I just stated financial reasons for not going.  Wouldn't you know it, they gave me a scholarship to attend the retreat.  Oh fine.  I struggled with my personal relationships, my self esteem was low, there was a family crisis going on.  I guess a weekend away would be a good distraction.  It turned out to be the best distraction for me.  I attended sessions where I learned of a love that would satisfy my every thirst.  I learned of a love that was unconditional and never failing.  This was love that would never disappoint.  This was love that would not break my heart, but heal it.  It was God's love that I had been waiting for all this time.  And I didn't have to do a thing to earn it.  And although it was still freely given, it came at a high cost to Jesus.  And so it began that weekend, when I invited God into my life.  And so began my spiritual journey, made extra sweet because of the knowledge of God's love for me on that special Valentine's Day.

Luke 15:20 - But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him

I John 3:16 - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where is your Spiritual Traffic Light?

Our son's kindergarten teacher has implemented a new traffic light system.  I guess it's been harder to keep the 20+ kids to pay attention in class lately.  You get a bunch of kids together, they are bound to fool around.

Every student starts the day on a green light.  As kids start fooling around they get warnings.  Repeated warnings move you to the yellow light.  The child is asked to think about how to make good decisions and how to behave better.  Continued misbehavior moves you to the red light where she sends a note or calls home so that the parents can speak with the child at home regarding his/her behavior.  At the beginning of each day each student starts with a clean slate, back on the green light again.

What I like about this concept is that it's not all about policing the kids.  The goal is to get the kids to think about their actions while they are on yellow so that they can learn to make better choices in the future.  Hopefully as time goes on, they won't need warnings and stay on the green light on their own.  And I think it's working.  My son often comes home and gives me a thumbs up saying, "It's a green day!"

I have started adapting this at home too.  Because I'm tired of yelling.  I want him to think about his actions and choose what is better.  I don't want to be the tyrant.  I want to guide him and teach him.  So now we try to stay on the green light at home too.

How about you and me?  It dawned on me that I can use this concept in my spiritual life.  What am I doing daily to stay on the green light?  Are there things in my life, attitudes in my heart, inching me toward the yellow light?  Am I driving with a heavy foot, trying to sneak through the yellow, only to get caught with a ticket running through a red light?  Am I living my life too fast to notice the traffic signal and ending up breaking hard at the crosswalk?

Remember, friends, God gives us the Holy Spirit and scripture to guide us through this life.  He wants what is best for you.  He wants you to grow and make good decisions on your own.  How are we going to hear what God has to say to us?  Spend time reading the scriptures and pray.  Is the Holy Spirit warning you about anything?  Teaching you about anything?

When I was a teenager, I showed my mom my report card.  She was disappointed that one of my grades went from a 96 to a 95.  My goodness.  What can I do to earn her approval?  So I asked my teacher if I could bump my grade up by doing some extra credit work.  And it worked.  I got my 95 bumped up to a 96.  I happily showed my mom who said, "It doesn't matter to me whether you get a 95 or a 96.  I want you to want high grades without me telling you to."

God would love to see us like minded with him.  It's not about earning approval.  Dear friends, God is not suppose to be a tyrant.  He loves us like a parent.  He wants to train us for the better.  He desires us to love what he loves and to live that way too.  And you know what, even if we miss occasionally, it's okay.  Because that ticket you got for going through that spiritual red light, it's been paid for by Jesus.  That sin of pride or greed has been spotted by God, but he forgives those who repents and confess it (I John 1:9).  And lucky us, we get to start on the green light every day.  Because His compassions never fail.  For his mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness (Lam 3:23).