Sunday, May 31, 2009

Loving Our Kids on Purpose - Book Review

I don't know if I have mentioned before that I have seven children. Four girls ages 20, 22, 24 and 26 and then we had the boys 6 years later and they are now 9, 12 and 14.

Through the years we have wandered our way through our parenting trying to do our best to love our children and bring them up to become successful adults who hopefully would choose to be lovers of God and man.

When one of them would do something funny or embarassing or crazy we would just look at each other and say, "Their parents were probably idiots," or "It comes from bad parenting!" We all (I think) always realized that we were simply trying to do our best with our kids to love them while providing guidelines and the necessary discipline to teach and train them.

Then the God Journey did a recommendation on Danny Silks, Loving Our Kids on Purpose. I was intrigued with what Wayne had to say about this book. I have loved Wayne's teaching on Grace and it has simply changed my life with how I relate to my Father. So when he said that here was a book on parenting that reflected this grace filled message and allowed us to parent our kids in a way that they could also understand the heart of God I sent away for the book.

After reading the book I also sent away for the 6 disk set on Danny teaching the series. Britt and I listened to it yesterday while driving to the North Carolina coast to stay for a few days with friends. (Best Friend is my bestest, bestest ever friend ever!!)

The series has absolutely blown me away. I wanted to be a parent who showed grace to my children but I had no idea exactly how to do that. To me it was either grace showed (which meant letting them get away with anything they wanted to do) or an old testament punishment system (if you sin, you will get punished). Exactly how could you be full of grace to your kids and yet hold a house together and train them up like we know they need? What do you do if they disobey? What if they are disrespectful? How do you get them to do their chores without punishment? And how do I show them the heart of the Father in all of that.

This series/book answers those questions while giving you VERY practical ideas of what to do and how to become creative in parenting our kids.

I can't wait till Marshall can listen to this with me. Over and over Britt and I would pause the tapes and exclaim..."Oh, I understand now...this makes so much sense!" We would look back on episodes in the family and realize how much we tried to control each other. We saw the times where we could have allowed consequences to be the deterent and still loved and provided a safe place within our hearts. We saw over and over how the Father loves and disciplines us and therefore how we can learn how to love and discipline our children.

I can't recommend a book/series any more highly than this. Please do yourself a favor and read or listen to it. Even if your kids are grown or you have no children yet, you will understand more of the Father's heart towards you. You will understand how he can love you in the midst of your sin, how he can avoid anger towards you and remain the safest place in the world to run to even in the midst of your worst days.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

God is Here....and There

My dreams are changing. I used to dream about fighting with former leaders. I would either be very angry or feel very helpless while they were angry. Lately it seems as if Mercy is stepping in and ordering the dialogue and scene sequences.

My dream the other night brought about a change in me. Marshall and I were going into what seemed to be a conference where our old church and leadership were in charge. The worship music was in full swing. I remember thinking how wonderful it felt.

My husband turned to me and said, "Honey, can you feel God present here? I can!"

I looked around to the crowd gathered and saw many on their knees in prayer or worship. Obviously they were not there for any hype or anything other than to meet with the Father, speak to him and commune with Him. Their intent and the purity of their love was evident on their faces. It was a good thing.

My eye caught another scene playing out though. Off to the side were risers - three rows. On the risers were women I recognized dressed in matching dresses - dresses that I KNEW these women would never wear or choose on their own. (Their dress was a cross between Little House on the Prairie meets Stepford Wives.) They were instructed to come down off the risers and take the offering for that night. They moved as robots - efficiently obedient, not smiling and as ordered.

My eyes went back and forth between the good I saw in worship and the crazy bad I saw in these poor friends of mine being made to play a role that was controlled and freakishly robotic.

In the dream I began to cry at what I was seeing. I screamed out, "NO!!! It CANNOT be both good and bad at the same time. It either has to be one or the other. How can God be here and yet Control is here at the same time. IT CAN'T BE!!! IT CAN'T BE!!" I was distraught and then woke up.

Later that day I described the dream to my husband and how it disturbed me and literally made me crazy that there was such good and such bad in the same dream and place. He gently laughed and me and said, "You never like it when there is gray do you? You are only happy when it is totally black and white."

I am so sure he nailed it. I had to repent from thinking that everything that this group is doing is bad. I had to admit that God is sure to be in their midst as He is in mine. I had to acknowledge that people are loving him, and finding him there. I hate that it is this way....but my very life depends on MY not earning his presence by the lack of wrong.

God is at my old church as they met this morning. Scream and cry as much as I want this fact holds true. He is willing to go anywhere to meet with and love on his people. And with that fact I humbly fall on my knees to worship the One who meets with me today in the midst of my brokenness and places of my own control.

I am my dream. God is still there.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Personal Note - Back to Health

I have not posted much about my children on this blog but if you could indulge me a bit this morning it may even help you or someone you know.

My second oldest daughter is now turning 24. At 16 she started to get sick. One of the first things we noticed is that even on 600-800 calories she would gain weight. She began loosing energy and having trouble concentrating. We started the round of doctors who basically said everything was all in her head. Others accused her of eating secretly. A children's endocrinologist in Pittsburgh told her to get therapy.

We finally found a doctor that began to treat her for thyroid and adrenal problems based on her symptoms. It seemed to help a bit but really, in the long run her health deteriorated even further. She had to drop out of college because of the mental fog that prevented her from reading. At this point we did not know what to do so we gave her the summer off of all responsibilities and she slept and tried to recover. That fall she began to teach herself computer web design and in the next spring passed one of their certifications. She felt good enough to move away and she got an internship at a company and was later hired. Her energy levels were still really low. She would go to work and then fall into bed. Weekends were spent trying to sleep and catch up. That next year after wearing herself thinner and thinner she got about 5 viruses in a row. Now we had a very sick kid.

She quit her job and moved home. We gave her what we thought would be 3 months to rest and get back on her feet. Three months turned into a year and then longer. Again we saw the rounds of doctors who seemed completely baffled as to what was going on. They finally diagnosed her with chronic fatigue and fybromaligia - which to those of you ,who know is a nice way of saying, "We don't know what the hell is wrong with you, why you are in bed all day and why you hurt all the time."

Depression was her companion. Here was a child in the prime of her life feeling like she was dying day by day. Many doctors would try to blame the depression but Britt constantly said, "I'm depressed because I don't feel well - I'm not sick because I'm depressed."

She applied for disability and that gave her access to free health care. This was such a gift to us. At that point we got a doctor assigned to us that #1. believed us and #2 was willing to do whatever we wanted to trace this down. We have seen a round of specialists, heart, stomach, sleep, etc. She was found to not be digesting fast enough, the beginnings of asthma, polyps on her colon (which simply baffled the doctors because of her young age) and then last of all we saw an endocrinologist. He ran a gamut of tests and everything came back in the normal ranges EXCEPT for a vitamin D deficiency. (her level was at a 19 - normal levels are supposed to be 35 at the LOWEST and 50-75 for normal ranges)

He gave her a script for 50,000 IU's of vitamin D once a month and sent her on her way. She popped the first pill and we sighed - thinking it would do nothing. The next day she started feeling amazing. All her pain was gone in a little over 48 hours. She had a burst of energy like she had not felt for years.

We started reading. I have read everything on the Internet for the last 4 weeks. We found that a vitamin D deficiency ( which actually works as a hormone) could account for all the problems she was having. We soon found that the vitamin D that the doctor prescribed was actually not the best one to take and so we started supplementing with a liquid form of the vitamin in D3 form. Except for some stomach upset she is feeling amazing. It has been like a magic pill. For 4 weeks we have been holding our breath in trepid anticipation but it has continued to make her stronger, more clear headed, the pain has stayed away and her mood has gone from a 2-3 to a 9 or more. She feels like she has been given a new lease on life and even the greenness of the grass delights her.

I had a doctor that had actually run this Vitamin D(25-hydroxyvitamin D test, also called a 25(OH)D. (This is the test you want to order - there is another test of another kind of vitamin D that will not give you the measurements you need) I was at a higher level but at the time I just shrugged it off. Since Britt has been on this therapy I have also increased my vitamin D to 5,000IU a day. I immediately felt my mood lighten and hope return. It is crazy. I have read that those living in the north actually cannot make vitamin D by sunshine except from May till September because of the slant of the sun.

Anyway this is long enough. You can go to for the springboard to some good information.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Families and Toxic Churches

One of the things I have come to appreciate in my journey out of the institutional setting is my family. They are precious. They are funny. They are amazing. They are and have become so much more a part of my life. They are mine!

In our church we were subtlety taught to discount our extended flesh and blood families. That might horrify you but it was true. It came up in so many ways. We would call ourselves a family as we gathered together at church. The pastors would wax on about how THIS was true family. How our blood families just "did not get it" like our church family did. How true love could really be shared by those who "loved God" like we did. How, yes, we must honor our given families but we knew who our REAL family was.

There were those of us who would "bear through" family gatherings only to get together with our 'real' family later in the day. We judged them for their values, beliefs, customs and lives. We would roll our eyes and sigh about having to spend time with them. If we could - without guilt - divorce our old families we probably might have.

Then IF EVER there was a disagreement with our families about our leaders, our church, our beliefs or anything regarding our group/church we were sure that our leaders knew what they were talking about all along. I have seen children barely speak to their parents. Holidays spent with the church "family"/or leaders in lieu of spending time with one's own family. It is/was heartbreaking.

The erosion of these bonds was subtle. If asked, no one would have actually said to leave your family (except if the family was making it hard to stay in the group). No one would have gone on record to do that. But as you just hung around the group you caught the flavor. Little things were said.
"We wish you did not have to go to home, we will miss you at our gathering."
"I know you HAVE to go home this Christmas but maybe you can come back in time for our gathering."
"It must be hard to go back there and sit through their church....I'm so sorry."
"You know, you don't have to go to everything they plan."
"They should not expect you to just drop all the important stuff you are doing here to run to their little affairs."
"I know you would rather be here with us."
"Why do your parents seem to want you at everything?"
"You know...we need you here too."
"It is just not healthy for you to be there."
" know who really loves you."

Husband and I are trying to be a part of our families lives. We didn't realize just how much time we were taking away from our families and giving it to programs and other people. We simply did not realize the condescending attitudes we were giving off to our extended families. We did not realize just how precious and fun our family was.

I never again want to come in between a child and their parents. I want to do everything I can to encourage the involvement of a husband and wife with their own children or a young family with their parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and such.

Our families are given to us by the Father. Make sure your church is promoting this. If you sense the other...RUN....Run back to your family. They need you and will still be there after all the others have left.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

On New York and Discipleship

A couple of weeks ago I bravely boarded Amtrak and rolled into Penn Station, New York to visit a sweet friend. I guess New York has an event called 'Spa Week' where various spas put some of their services on sale for $50.00 apiece. Well I was lured by the idea of a $50.00 spa treatment, the idea of visiting with a few friends who used to belong to our former church here and the idea of seeing the city for the first time.

I loved it. I "twittered" that if I had 9 lives to live, one of them would be lived in New York. It felt like home to me which is just crazy as I have never lived in a big city.

Here's the part though that I wanted to write about here.

No one knew that it was my first trip to the City. Because they did not know this, they did not plan the usual touristy activities. They also did not point things out as we walked around Manhattan. Therefore I was left to wander around in amazement of all that I had heard about or read. I had no idea this would be so much fun for me.

We were walking to Boarders when I turned around and suddenly, there was Madison Square Gardens! Later that night we were wandering toward Times Square and I looked down one of the streets. Again, suddenly, seemingly from out of nowhere was the Empire State Building! Over and over I "discovered" buildings and parks that I had only heard about or read in magazines. Grand Central Station, The New York Times building, Central Park and others were simply 'stumbled upon' while we walked, talked and laughed with each other.

Now, there is another way to see the sites in New York. I saw these big open buses filled with people with tennis shoes, shorts and cameras around their necks. The driver's voice would boom out over the loud speaker, "If you look to your left, we are now approaching the Empire State Building" or other sites that he wanted the people to see.

I was so glad to not be on one of those buses and instead to be seeing New York the way I was.


It was not scripted. It was not sterile. It left everything to chance and serendipity. It was not the same experience that everyone else had. It was precious to me because I felt that I was discovering New York. It was not a pre-packaged, heard mentality, tourist experience.

As I pondered this on my way home on the train I realized that I had had the very same experience in being outside the institutional church walls these past two years. Nothing had been scripted. It was my own experience. What I have found out about God was mine. I went through it on my own timeline. There was no group mentality about it. When I ran into God it was not because he had "fallen" on the whole lot of us. No one told me to expect it, anticipate it or watch for it. Therefore, I have constantly been surprised, delighted and amazed when it happened. Frankly, I have loved it.

So many people would say that the way I saw New York was crazy. They would point out all the things I missed. They would be fearful that I would have gone to New York and not found the Empire State Building.

The church says the same things to those following Jesus outside of the normal way of doing things. They assure us that we will miss something. That God will be here or there and we will not see him. They are sure we should be on the bus with the rest of everyone so as to assure us the perfect experiences that we should all have.

But let me tell you what happened to me. When I turned that evening and looked down one of the beautifully crowded streets filled with the most amazing architecture and actually saw and then recognized the Empire State Building, something in my heart was stirred. I actually got tears in my eyes. It was wonderful and surprising and beautiful and serendipitous. It took my breath away.

Somehow I don't think the experience would have been the same on the bus with the announcers voice alerting me to the fact that it was up ahead and on my left.

And that is how I have experienced God these past few years. It has been wonderful,, surprising, beautiful and serendipitous. I have chaffed at how random and un-planned it has been. I thought I really liked order and buses, and tourist guides and pastors and bulletins and plans. But I guess that in the end, maybe I really did not know what I liked.

Maybe, just maybe, this will have something to do with what I believe about discipleship.