Christ’s Rest

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 Amelia was an ideal student. Teachers at the Christian school she attended loved her enthusiastic approach to learning. Her peers respected her insights. Her parents were proud of her. She was a standard bearer – someone who certainly would not stray from her beliefs or standards. But, as a college student, Amelia did stray. At first it was out of curiosity. However, she enjoyed what she experienced on the “dark side.” She found the pursuits to be fun and she delighted in feeling free without restraint. Surprisingly she also felt relief. Gone was the need to prove her worth and value in her Christian community. Gone was the pressure to strive for God. Away from the church, she found acceptance without having to work for it and she found herself actually relaxing. She was not about to go back under the stress she had previously felt trying to live up to what she believed was expected of her. I hear many “Amelia” stories today. While her name is changed, her story is real and represents many young men and women who leave Christian homes for college and wind up walking away from their faith and values. However, the happiness she first experienced, as well as the feelings of freedom and relief, were short-lived. Instead she found herself in a nightmarish prison, one filled with fear, despair, insecurity, and shame. Her new friends had no solutions to the discouragement that invaded her heart. Deep feelings of unworthiness prevented her from seeking restoration...

Mini Blog #14: Neither Condemn Nor Condone.

The moment “You idiot!” spewed out of my mouth, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I watched my brother’s face tighten up as he defensively replied, “Don’t call me that, Ellen.” How many times had I heard my dad shout these same hurtful words at us. My anger had gotten the best of me. Stepping away from the situation, I silently purposed to calm down. I knew that calling my autistic brother an idiot was cruel. Still, I remained profoundly upset with him. Once again, he had found mom’s hidden pouch of cash, and gambled a large sum away at area slot machines. Afraid of the ensuing conflict, once again my mom, who at 88 struggles with alzheimer’s, came to his rescue. “It’s OK. He will pay me back. He will never do that again.” “See Ellen, mom doesn’t care,” Mike chimed in. My angry, insulting retort had turned the focus off Mike’s actions onto me. I was now on the hot seat. And it was mom and Mike against me. Alzheimer’s and autism joined forces and grew determined to put me in my place. “Don’t get so angry Ellen. You can’t control us. It’s our money. We are fine. Mike has never taken money from me before and he won’t do it again. He is a good boy.”  This “good boy” was now 51. Years of this same pattern, repeated over and over,  told me it would be only a matter of time before the cycle would repeat again. He would figure out where mom hid her money and go gambling when she was away. He would apologize...

Mini Blog #5: Putting an End to Fit Throwing and Arguing

I love my grandkids. They are full of spunk however and a very determined lot. The 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds (of which there are FIVE) often prefer to pout, argue and scream rather than comply. The school age ones are also prone to arguing and insisting on getting their way. In all this, I see the promise of leadership, of SISU (Finnish for grit or dogged determination), and of godly purpose in their lives. Raising up determined kids is challenging and exhausting at times. Nothing is more aggravating to a parent than incessant fit throwing or arguing by a child. How you choose to respond, however, will either reinforce or serve to extinguish this type of behavior. I admit that sometimes I am tempted to react back, to threaten, and to demand obedience. Yet deep inside, I know this does not work. Efforts to gain compliance by intense, forceful words, or actions may temporarily stop the behavior because the child fears the repercussions. It may even help the parent feel they are in control. But who is really winning in the midst of these power struggles? And what type of behavior are we actually fostering? Arguing back with a frustrated, angry child actually prevents authentic communication from occurring by keeping the issue at the surface reactionary level. Such a cycle breaks down connection between the parent and child and puts distance between their hearts. Plus, we wind up modeling the very behavior we want them to stop. So how can we help our children grow hearts that desire to respect and obey those in authority over them? What can we...

Don’t Let Communication With Your Kids Crash

What words are you tempted to shout at your toddler who throws herself on the floor at Target screaming over and over “ I want a snack,” or your squirmy, wiggly 6 year old who knocks a full glass of chocolate milk over your stack of important documents, or your argumentative 9 year old who defiantly barks “you are so mean” when you refuse to give in to her demands? When you ask your child to do a chore, or put away the iPad,  to you frequently find the two of you colliding into a screaming match? And do you give in to demands at times simply to avoid this type of head-on collision with your defiant child? In recent years the most common questions I am asked by parents, have to do with how to avoid getting angry and yelling at their children.These parents realize there must be a better way, yet they have no idea how to get there.  Learning how to communicate is vitally important, and even more so in our digitally connected world that offers them instant connection with anyone else, 24 hours a day. What causes so much eruption between parent and child today? I believe there are several reasons, such as the strong tendency in this generation to micromanage children or to place them at the center of who controls the family, or the assumption parents exist to make their kids happy. I recently have pondered an admittedly crazy reason as well. In recent years I see what feels like an increasing number of very, very strong willed kids, especially boys, who challenge...

How Not to Provoke Your Kids

  As stated in the previous blog, two of the few directives given to parents in the New Testament are about not provoking our children (Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21). I think this is important! To provoke means to exasperate or to rouse someone to anger. Regularly provoking our kids will likely kindle anger and resentment as habitual responses within them. We provoke our kids when we: discipline in harsh, punitive ways discipline while angry regularly find fault scold and lecture chastise them in front of others mock or ridicule them hold to standards that we don’t apply to ourselves fail to admit our mistakes or apologize fail to make time to listen and talk with them deny them freedom to grow and learn for themselves fail to keep promises Here’s a few suggestions that are more in line with bringing kids up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) ONE: Deal with the anger in your own heart. Wait until your temper has cooled, before addressing misbehavior in your kids. Examine your own heart in prayer first so that you can address your child wisely and without an agitated tone of voice. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1: 19-20 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18 TWO: Intentionally replace harsh communication with gentleness. Some individuals can sound and even look angry when they are not. My husband is one of...