Birth Pains

Do you feel like the threads of humanity are unraveling?

The truth of humanity’s spiritual reality is more and more reflected in our physical and social existence.  How did humanity get to this place of conflict and confusion and unverified opposition?  We’ve put ourselves before God; we have left Him quite behind.
Humanity’s SELF-knowledge has led to declining wisdom and emotional health despite rising educational efforts and medical expertise.
Humanity’s SELF-love has led to prejudicial hate and senseless shootings.
Humanity’s SELF-satisfaction has led to gender and sexual confusion and belittlement.
Humanity’s SELF-righteousness has led to extreme legalism, terrorist destruction, and ignorance of the real enemy.
Humanity’s SELF-providence has led to confusion, disease, and malnourishment from GMOs, the decline of nutrient-dense foods, and allergies to once life-giving foods.
Humanity’s SELF-authority has led to pop culture role models destroying the ideals of family, marriage, and even our patriotism.
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be alarmed; these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 

Are you unraveling?

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

(John 3:16-18)

If you’re unraveling and have not believed in the name of the One and only Son of God, ask Him to give you that belief.  Accept the “second beginning” God has in store for you!

There is hope beyond the birth pains.

Our future is with Jesus Christ.
CHRIST-knowledge will enlighten every mind to their true potential and heal every wounded heart!
CHRIST-love will succeed in radical acceptance and true cultural renaissance!
CHRIST-satisfaction will enable all to experience amazing pleasure and beautiful glory!
CHRIST-righteousness will normalize extreme compassion, over-the-top rewards, and life-giving victories!
CHRIST-providence will secure ecological balance, abundance, and fruitful nourishment!
CHRIST-authority will lead us to experience humble, powerful, fulfilled relationships!

We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.  Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 (II Corinthians 4:14-18, HCSB)

Lord, give your people the strength to endure.

Our anticipation of His coming increases directly with the pain we are enduring right now.  Just as when labor pains increase in intensity and decrease in rest, we make the necessary changes in our pace, environment, and focus, we must lean into these times. We must focus more and more on the imminent birth and less on the distractions that can wait until after the birth.

Come, Lord Jesus.

A Home in the Classroom

I have always been fascinated with culture – always felt its importance, if not always grasping the significance.

In elementary years, I noticed how family dynamics affected the culture I experienced.

In high school, I marveled at individual differences in purpose and aptitude, catapulting people’s journeys which then collide and combust and create a culture.

In college, I obsessed over the power of language which both reflects and creates culture.

In my early married years, I considered the nuances of spiritual culture — concentric spheres of individual, family, city, and world influence, with ripples of color crossing our history.

And now, in recent years, I am finding joy in acknowledging the depth of educational culture and mindfully shaping my home and classroom accordingly.

Until my first son was born, I had most generally and happily been on the receiving end of education.  God moved me beyond the competency of feeding my own soul into the realms of cultivating other eternal souls, however.  For a little over a decade, I bravely held the torch of education through the uncharted territory of homeschooling my children, and in these past few years, my breadth of influence has expanded to other children, alongside their parents.   There is no comparison to how much I love and cherish my own children, but I am honored to love and cherish my small classroom of Classical Conversations Challenge students for 30 weeks of the year!  In the weekly seminar days, we collect and collaborate from what we’ve studied at home all week in order to push each other toward greater understanding, skill, and wisdom.  In this process, we create a life-shaping, life-empowering culture that nurtures the very leaders of our next generation!

Creating an environment in which such a culture can develop has brought me immense joy, and I would like to explain what I mean.

I finally finished the book, The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education, by Kevin Clark, DLS, and Ravi Scott Jain.  At the end of a book very much to do with curriculum, which I believe every educator will agree is important, the authors highlight two other equally vital components of education: calling and culture. Following the general agreeance of the importance of curriculum, every committed educator I’ve met has acknowledged their career as a calling more than a savvy choice, much less a political power play.  This awareness explains why I, a Christian who believes homeschooling is my best way to answer the Biblical call to raise my children, can randomly run into a reading specialist in the public school system while on a dinner-and-putt-putt date and have a mutually affirming encounter despite our philosophical differences.  As educators, we live beyond our own glory and for the calling which is so much bigger than us – educating the next generation.  While most educators agree on the importance of a solid curriculum and the undeniable calling it requires, the importance of the culture may be less universally recognized.  So I would like to illuminate this component for us using the ideas from The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education, morphed with my own ideas and experience, of course. 🙂

I like to say that there is one overarching rule in my classroom: hospitality.  “Hospitality…means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines. It is not to lead our neighbor into a corner where there are no alternatives left, but to open a wide spectrum of options for choice and commitment. It is not an educated intimidation with good books, good stories and good works, but the liberation of fearful hearts so that words can find roots and bear ample fruit… The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and find themselves free…” (source text here) I know – this seems lofty and idealistic, and yes, I’ve been accused of this!  Yet, while not perfect, this is the very life-shaping, life-empowering culture that I have experienced and strive toward as an educator.  How?!?

Hospitality

Let’s use the image of a house to help us build a culture in our education.  The roof is Hospitality; it adorns the house; it protects the house from the natural elements, and it is what the Heavens look down upon; it is the ideal culture of our classroom.  But the roof is only part of the house; there is so much more!

Piety

Attend first to the foundation: Piety.  Piety is an antiquated word – and even idea – in some circles, but we must bring it back if we are to receive the true freedom and comfort of Hospitality.  Piety is an attitude of true devotion — reverence for God, respect for the teacher/tutor (God’s appointed servant), and humble regard for people (God’s image-bearers).

Virtue

Upon the foundation of Piety, we build walls of Virtue.  Virtue is excellence in all things, and this comes only through practice.  My favorite verse for my homeschool is II Timothy 1:7, which says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”  We reject fear.  We choose to use our abilities according to the truth of God.  We train our hearts to love what is beautiful to our souls.  We perfect self-discipline to strengthen ourselves for the good of mankind.  In these practices, we hold up the house of education such that true Hospitality may protect the eternal cultivation of souls.

Grace

There is only one way to enter this type of classroom culture, and that is through the door of Grace.  There is no door of Perfection here; there is messiness.  Yet, there is forgiveness; there is reconciliation; there is restoration; there is Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the Way,” and he said, “I am the Gate,” and there is no other way to the green pastures of full living and learning than through receiving the Gospel of Grace that Jesus embodies.

Wisdom

Once we’ve entered the house through Grace, standing firmly on Piety, resting secure among the walls of Virtue, we can begin to enjoy the view through the windows of Wisdom.  We can really see the way we were meant to see.  We will stop debating against one another so that we can win others to our side, but we will debate with and for one another.

But why debate?  Why struggle?  Why work so hard for this lofty ideal of classroom culture?

JOY!  Have you experienced joy in the classroom?  We want to create a culture that lifts our faces out of the Miry Muck to the awe-inspiring glory of the Celestial City!  We want to turn from the futility of mankind as it’s own end to the eternal face of Jesus Christ, who fulfills and completes any truth we can attain on our own!

This joy of educational culture is what motivates me to grow in the pedagogy of the classical liberal arts and persevere in the calling of making disciples of Jesus.  Have you considered the depth of your educational culture and how that is impacting you?

Culture

As I look forward to the next school year with a new set of students, I am entranced by the same cultural variances and possibilities I have noticed throughout my whole life.  I marvel at how their families, their individual aptitudes and unique life purposes, their language abilities and experiences, their spiritual maturation, and their relational spheres will all impact the unique, life-shaping, life-empowering culture we will create together this coming year!  It’s so exciting!  Even more importantly, though, I wonder how God will reveal Truth, Beauty, and Goodness through the foundation of Piety, the walls of Virtue, the door of Grace, and the windows of Wisdom.  I get a warm, fuzzy feeling of joy when I hope for the freedom and covering of the roof of Hospitality!

Home

When we can take our shoes off, sit comfortably and unashamed among one another, and enjoy a hearty meal of worthy thinking and communication, we will all feel right at home.  Our Home.  Our classroom culture.

I hope to see you there!  You are the leaders of our next generation!  I’ll be the one with the coffee in hand, eagerly awaiting your company. 🙂

Note to Self, Empathy

How did it get so dark a – gain in here
The washing washing washing of my soul
I stood so strong so sensible so sure
True, much too sensitive I’m told

How can I bravely face the waves of pain
My tears for yours; my strength for all your care
Your sorrow, grief, and burden I will take
Empathy, a curse too much to bear

I wasn’t made to drink the water
Of this life. it is the death of you and me
I was made to drink the Living Water
Made to filter poison so you’re free
I wasn’t made to drink the water
Of this life. it is the death of you and me
I wasn’t made to drink the water
I was made to filter, pour it out for you and me

Endure the rapid repetition
The drowning drowning drowning of my soul
Weakness holds me in this position
Wait! He reaches down in the cold

Note to self, wait, wait on Him
Salt water imbibed kills my soul
Empathy, filter through the cross
The Gift of Living Water has to flow

I wasn’t made to drink the water
Of this life. it is the death of you and me
I was made to drink the Living Water
Made to filter poison so you’re free
I wasn’t made to drink the water
Of this life. it is the death of you and me
I wasn’t made to drink the water
I was made to filter, pour it out for you and me

weakness and POW!!!

Power simply means the ability to do something.  This definition sounds bland, but I think most of us feel a sense of the comic book speech bubble “POW!!!” when we think of power.  Why is this?  Perhaps we take for granted the tasks we find seemingly effortless, and perhaps we only recognize the concept of power when that experience exceeds our normal expectation.  

I am grateful for these extraordinary experiences, because they offer a glimpse into God’s nature of omnipotence.  The tasks I marvel at having been accomplished are effortless to God.  As a person who is trusting in Jesus Christ for every good thing I have or am, I am even more in awe that this power of God is something that is in inextricably a part of me through my Lord and Savior!

My human experience very often falls short of this omnipotent God, but my spiritual journey threads the story of my weakness and His strength.  As such, I can begin to understand what Paul meant when he related God’s word to him, as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV):

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Recognizing this theme, I will chronicle my trip to Nicaragua this February under these contrasting realities of my weakness and His power.  My hope is to illuminate His omnipotence, as He can do it, and His kindness, as He gives what is needed to accomplish the task, because of His great love for us.

I had the privilege of participating in a women’s conference in Nicaragua for the purpose of equipping disciples from many rural churches who will be able to equip others.  Beyond teaching and worshipping, we also served a local church through a service project.   For those who know me well, this trip encapsulated most everything I love: world travel, attempting to understand a new culture, writing my own teaching material, teaching my own material, working with a unified team, and placed in a position to influence others in a spiritual way while receiving the same from them!  

Weakness

And as some of you know, I expected to go on this trip almost exactly one year ago, but just a few days beforehand, I became sick with the flu.  I will never forget the words of the doctor: “You have the flu.  So…….you could get on that plane, but really it’s a moral issue at this point.”  I barely comprehended the truth of the situation, both from my hazed mind due to the high temperature and from my shocked spirit due to the fact that God had clearly blessed my preparation for the trip.

So the week before this year’s trip, to say that I felt spiritually weak would be accurate.  At various points throughout the year, my heart was tested with questions like these: Do you really trust God?  How will you react if you invest so much into this trip, again, and do not get to go?  The week before, I fluctuated from elation to fear several times during a day, and I constantly felt the frailty of my flesh.

Power Perfected

This weakness only made me more aware of God’s power.  And so, when the hand surgeon told me that I needed to go to an oncologist for the surgery I needed to remove a mass in my left hand, I felt calm.  There was nothing I could do, but God can.  

When my husband’s debit card was stolen and a significant amount of money used from our bank account, I felt humor. Oh enemy, how obvious you are!  There was nothing I could do, but God can.  

But when my throat began to hurt and remind me of the flu last year, I felt panic.  God provided a friend to lead me back.  After prayer, I submitted that there was nothing I could do, but God can.

And God’s word sustained me.  This particular passage, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, was sent to me via team member SH, then my bible app, and then a text from my dad.  I needed God’s power to make this trip possible.

Weakness

Sitting in the church service, feeling the loneliness of a language and cultural barrier, and trying my best to absorb and learn and participate, I felt so powerless to experience what I knew was mine—unity of the body of Christ!

Power Perfected

Hearing TS’s beautiful, lulling voice on stage in Spanish, God comforted my heart with assurance.  Hearing TS’s words begin to come out in English, tears of relief emerged!  How much of our faith and our existence is contingent upon words!  And yet, The Word, is not dependent upon words.

Weakness

Visiting a home without running water, without plumbing, and without many luxuries I have always known, I felt so powerless that my normal, physical comforts were so much in contrast to these people.  Team member KL said that she understood that it is by no merit of her own that her children had the privileges that these children do not.  To experience the joy of painting a church across the street from a school, the children being so entertained by our work, the reflection of themselves in our “fancy” 15 passenger van, and the “crazy American lady” who ran so fast out of the house when some mice were uncovered during the painting job….was followed by the weakness of knowing that this whole village did not have drinking water.

Power Perfected

Yet without all the commodities we take for granted, the people we met in Nicaragua were so kind, loving, and happy.  They do not have a depression problem in their nation.  I’m going to take a leap and say they don’t have an entitlement problem.  They don’t have an attendance problem in their churches.  They stand up to read the bible and pray.  They don’t have a margin problem in their schedules.  

When I told them on the first day of the conference that there had been a miscommunication with the ending time and that I still had whole session to go through, they acted as if I had just told them that the sky was blue.  No action required?  My brain was already rearranging my plan to accommodate scheduling, but I saw none of the American nervous glances at their watches or iphones, shifting in the seats, or getting up to leave in order to stay with their schedule.  They just sat.  So I kept talking.  Simply beautiful.

Weakness

The second day of teaching was really great.  The translator and I had a nice groove, and although I never realized how many idioms and adjectives I used until my language was translated into Spanish, I felt like the message of their identity in Christ was coming through and I was so thankful for the time to speak these truths.  

As I lifted up my bookbag from the edge of the pavilion, tons of big black ants swarmed on the cover flap.  I quickly batted them off with my hand and kept lifting it up to my shoulder.  As I did, I noticed hundreds coming out a pocket (no doubt enticed by the granola bars inside), and I dropped the bag to the floor.  I am allergic to fire ants, which while prevalent in my home state of Texas, I have become adept at avoiding.  These were not fire ants, but my hand started to feel tingly.  Perhaps one bit me.  The cold, numb, itchy sensation travelled up my arm to my armpit.  By this time, I had told the team, and we were beelining it back to the guest house, where I had some liquid Benadryl.  God had reminded me to bring some at the last minute.  I was really hot and tired from standing up outside all day in the heat.  I was hoping that maybe I was not really feeling the sensation crawling up my neck and inside my ears.  My hand felt swollen but I couldn’t see a bite.  Now my ears felt like they were imploding and my back itched and I was breathing slowly to dissipate the panic bells my body was sending me.  Everything waist up itched and burned and my head was imploding, but my throat and breathing were perfect.  

Back at the guest house, a cold shower did nothing to relieve the pain.  Hives were everywhere, and I was beet red.  LH helped convince me to take more Benadryl than I normally would and helped me put topical Benadryl and some cortisone on the hives.  

Did you bring me here for this God?  Did my class not need to hear the last day’s teaching?  What is the game plan here, God?

Power Perfected

My husband sent out a prayer request to our support team.  One friend said God told her to pray during this time before she had a chance to read her email.  Prayers were answered, and God said, “Yes!”  I woke up in a drugged stupor, but hives were gone!  Still a bit swollen and skin felt sunburned, but God’s power was perfected in the prayers of the saints!!!

Weakness

Next morning, and last day of the conference, I felt weak.  My lips still felt like lead was holding them down.  I hadn’t had the chance to review my teaching notes, and they were the ones I had “perfected” the least!  

Have I even made a difference, God?  Did you speak to them through me?  I can’t really tell. 

I was really tired and just felt like crawling into a hole and crying.

Power Perfected

A student came up to me with a gift.  It was a beautiful fabric purse, with a hand-decorated note stating how much she had learned and appreciated me!  In that powerless morning, I knew that God was working as He pleased and that He was pleased with my work!  The tears that began in weakness inside, welled up in the joy of His power perfected.

We sang my favorite song, Espejos, or “Mirrors,” and God told me it’s all Him today.  I didn’t need to worry.  In my weakness, He would perfect his power.  Just obey.  Open my mouth and obey.

I have never experienced the power of God quite like when I was being translated.  We were one.  When I moved my hand to the side, she moved her hand to the side. When my voice grew louder, her voice grew louder, and as I lowered my voice, she lowered her voice.  She mimicked my tone, my body, and I knew that the language was being translated in it’s totality.  The pauses were so few, and the momentum so great, that I forget at times that I was being translated.  I forgot that they did not understand English, or that I spoke English.  Hearing my “echo” after every idea only amplified the power of my words!  TS, who is bilingual, said later that she forgot the last day if she was hearing English or Spanish!  Truly, truly, the Holy Spirit was the Teacher that day, and although we trust by faith this is the case every time we teach, I felt that I got to see the teachings’ power manifest among us!  

And when I was saying things like this, “ Jesus tells us today: My Father, who is your Father, will give you anything you need for the task,” the Holy Spirit checked my spirit and confirmed that yes, the truth you saying in this very moment is the very truth that is being lived out in you in this very moment!  

God’s grace was sufficient that day.  No, ample.

Weakness

I hope to be weak more often.  I hope you will be weak too.

Power Perfected

I am eternally grateful for your prayers and support throughout this small bit of my spiritual journey.  May we see more and more of His “POW!!!”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

Jar Theology… on Forgiveness and Grace, part 2

Forgiveness and Grace Jar pic 1Deepening our Faith through Jar Theology

Today, we read this confusing passage from Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV):

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

When I asked my children what they thought this passage meant, one of my daughters said that she thought it meant that if we forgive people, we go to heaven, and if we don’t, then we go to hell.  This does make sense at first glance, but this interpretation does not align with the vast other scripture references that describe salvation as being achieved only through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:13).

One of my sons said that he thought it might mean that if we forgive others, it proves that we are already saved, and that if we do not forgive, then it proves that we are not really saved after all.  This seems reasonable.  However, for any of us who have lived long enough to struggle through the muddy waters of choosing and feeling and understanding the layered, tangled web of forgiving someone for something very big or extensive, this theology may feel very threatening.  It may cause us to doubt the promise that Jesus said that once we are His, no one can snatch us away from Him!  

While I think this interpretation is closer to the truth than my daughter’s, I believe that the Jar Theology can help us gain a clearer understanding. (See Jar Theology…  on Forgiveness and Grace, part 1 for an explanation.)

In John 3, a religious leader named Nicodemus tells Jesus that it’s obvious that He is a godly man, but Jesus challenges his understanding of knowing *about* God and *knowing* or *seeing* God (or His kingdom).  

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

This confused Nicodemus, but Jesus illuminated for us that there is a difference between our earthly, natural bodies and souls, and our heavenly, spiritual bodies and souls.  We are born into this world through natural means (our mothers), alive in our earthly, natural bodies and souls.  We are born dead heavenly or spiritually, however.  The innate capacity for spiritual life causes an aching in our souls, for God has set eternity in the hearts of people.  For those of us who are born again, we immediately receive new life in Jesus in our souls, and one day He will transform our lowly, natural bodies into our eternal, spiritual bodies as well!!!

Jesus explained his part in making that a possibility later in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Forgiveness & Grace Jar is for those of us who have already placed their faith in Jesus Christ.  We have been given new life.  Our spirits are alive in Christ, and the rest of our hearts/souls still tied to this earth are being renewed daily as we strengthen our faith through obedience.  This is represented by the inside of the jar.  We are completely clean, that is, saved from hell and seen as 100% righteous by God.  On top of that, we receive jewels of grace upon grace, as represented by the chocolate chips or other sweets we may put into our jars.  This represents the freedom we have to sin no more, the power we have to make a difference in God’s kingdom, and the many blessings we receive through our experiences in the Body of Christ and more!!!  Great are the riches made possible through our new life in Christ!!!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)    

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Even as a new creation, our earthly, natural bodies and souls are still tied to this old creation of earth and everything in it.  We “born again” believers still sin, don’t we?  We are in the process of being renewed, but we have not seen it come to fruition –yet.  When we mark the outside of the Forgiveness & Grace Jar with the blobs of sin, we are representing the reality that is unique for believers. While the eternal part of ourselves (that which is inside the jar) is completely clean and righteous before God, the outside can get quite muddied up with sin collecting upon our earthly, natural selves.  Sin causes much havoc in our daily lives!  Worse yet, if we don’t continually wash it off, it can block so much of the jar that we cannot see all the sweet grace that we have on the inside of our jars!  We believers may begin to forget who we really are—children of God, and coheirs with Christ!!!  That is why we need to remember this verse:

1 John 1:9 (ESV)  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The sad reality is that we are not just affected by our own sin.  Just as our sin negatively affects those around us, other people’s sins affects us.  They may put blobs of sin on the outside of jars, keeping us from seeing God’s grace in us.  Creation itself is groaning under all the depravity and corruption slowly destroying every created molecule.  Disease, war, natural disasters and poverty are all part of the complex creation, infected with sin.  All of these things can mark our jars and blind us from the eternal reality of Jesus Christ and all He has in store for us!!!  And so just like dealing with our own sin on our Forgiveness & Grace Jar, we may need to wipe away the distraction and discouragement of a fallen world through our proactive faith in God’s plan of redeeming His creation.

So I believe that a truer understanding of Matthew 6:14-15 is helped by our Jar Theology. 🙂

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Sometimes other people’s sins do mark up our jar, and in those cases, our decision to proactively wipe that blob away is imperative.  If we do not wipe away that blob through forgiveness, then we let that blob block all that God has for us in Jesus.  We carry the weight of their sin around with, and our eternal vision is impaired because of their sin.  We cannot access His grace and forgiveness for us anymore, not because it is not there for us, but because we have blocked the Light.

Have You Adopted the Jar Theology?

So what about you?  Have you adopted the Jar Theology into your homes?  I’d love to hear about it!  And, if you’re my special friend, I may have a jar waiting for your family to adopt.  🙂

Jar Theology… on Forgiveness and Grace, part 1

Forgiveness and Grace Jar pic 2The Birth of Jar Theology

Back in 2007, life was moving fast!   

This was a year of many huge blessings to our family.  God had lavished His love by blessing us with four amazing, beautiful young children, ages 6, 4, 2, and 0 years old!  God had gone before us in relocating.  He saved us from buying a home which was beautiful on the outside but a money pit on the inside.  Then He demonstrated His sovereignty and favor through a quick series of events: a quick sale of our house, a beautiful lot available, a contractor willing to make the desired changes to the house construction, a rent house just 7 houses down the street from our old one, and the perfect amount of down payment needed!  God showed Himself strong and mighty in those days!!!

The year 2007 was also a year of some deeper personal struggle for me.  Selling our first house broke open my huge capacity for perfectionism, and it was not pretty!  The first official year of homeschooling my oldest child felt really hard: most of my books and things were boxed away in storage; I kept worrying about my kids not destroying the half of the rent house which still housed the owner’s belongings; I was navigating the normal (but still stressful) academic adjustments to new curriculum and expectations between teacher and student.  This was also the year that we all got a stomach flu and, between watching my early walker, barely over 2 feet tall, pacing and moaning around the coffee table and looking in the mirror at the gaunt mother of four who weighed less than her high school weight, our existence had dropped to a dreary demise.

At least it felt like death.  And the constant bickering and yelling that brewed like a rampant yeast filled up our household and slowly suffocated any life we had left.  Between regular work hours and being the subcontractor for parts of the home construction, my husband was hardly ever home.  I felt alone and drowning, and I knew that I was responsible for rescuing my children from the destruction so powerfully flooding through our home.  

Somewhere deep inside, I knew that I knew better.  How did I get here? How could I know all the right theology and not be living it out with my children?  I knew that all the good in me came from the very life of Jesus Christ, living in me.  I knew that Jesus had died on the cross to pay for my sins and to conquer sin for good.  I knew that I should keep short accounts and ask for forgiveness as soon as possible.  I knew that I should extend that same kindness to others, and to forgive them.  

I knew these things, but what came out was anger, frustration, and somehow empty words.  I finally realized that however it happened, my own theology, that is, my own beliefs about God and people and how I internalize that truth, must have gone astray.  I needed the Holy Spirit to reteach me the Truth so that I could truly teach my children.  When we ask for wisdom, God eagerly gives it!  I asked.

The Holy Spirit gave me the idea of the Forgiveness and Grace Jar, which has been proven to be a great teaching tool.  It helps to retrain our family back into receiving God’s forgiveness with the appropriate joy that we so easily disregard, as well as stimulates deeper understanding of the forgiveness and grace receive because of Jesus.

 

How to Use the Forgiveness and Grace Jar

❤❤❤ Forgiveness & Grace Jar  ❤❤❤

Draw a blob on the outside of the jar, representing your sin.

Remember this truth: 1 John 1:9 (ESV)  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Say to God, “Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving my sin,” as you wipe away the blob from the jar.

Remember this truth: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)    

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Say to yourself, “I am a new creation,” as you drop a chocolate chip (or other sweet) into the jar.

At anytime, enjoy the sweetness of God’s forgiveness and grace by eating the sweets inside the jar!!!

It’s a simple process and a beautiful one.  Some of my children have laughed with relief as they wipe away their blob.  Some of my children have run with anticipation to the jar, eager to receive closure for the unhappy event which preceded it.  

We use one jar for the whole family, as I want to show my children that we all affect one another in how we choose to bless or curse others.  

We usually wait to eat the sweets until the jar gets about a third or so full so that we start to see how much of God’s grace we have received.

We usually start to forget to use the jar over time, as we become more ready and natural to give and receive God’s grace.  And it seems that we don’t sin as much.

As we become overcome with sin, or with me feeling like I need to “play judge” all the time, I know that it’s time to get the jar out again.

 

Have You Adopted the Jar Theology?

So what about you?  Have you adopted the Jar Theology into your homes?  I’d love to hear about it!  And, if you’re my special friend, I may have a jar waiting for your family to adopt.  🙂

The Tension Propelling Us Forward

An uncomfortable tension confronts every believer.

It begins at the beginning with salvation.  On the one hand, God has done everything for us; through his son Jesus, our sins have been paid for—it is a free gift of salvation. On the other hand, we still need to accept the gift.  We have done nothing to earn the gift, but it is not ours, in a practical sense, until we receive it.  Yet we could not receive it, if God had not provided it.  In the same way, as we journey toward more holiness, God provides all the power and motivation for that journey, but we are the ones who practice and grow stronger through obedience.

As we practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, tithing, reading the Word, etc, the tension remains.

Some firmly believe in Spirit-led prayer, etc, relying on feeling compelled to obey, and while they “feel” good about themselves, they do not realize the lapses of time that have gone by while they are care free.  They will feel sorry when trials come, as they have remained naive to the flesh and not properly trained for the battle.

Some people firmly stick to a schedule, because they know they won’t if they don’t.  Yet when they can’t spend the predetermined amount of time, or time of day, or any other parameter they have deemed more pious, guilt sets in, or a fever of shuffling time, etc. in order to “get it right this time” ensues.  The result is exhaustion, guilt and no growth in listening to the Spirit.  They learn the hard way that rote scheduling is not the eternal, joyful relationship that Jesus has given us.

Eventually we find a mix of structured and spontaneous prayer, Word, etc., sensitive to both relational needs, either one taking dominance in a certain time or season.  This mix includes varying times, varying places, and varying depths.  The young mother staying up all night with her baby who has half a brain left and musters out writing one verse down a day from her bedside as her devotion, compared with the minister who spends five hours in the morning praying and fasting, is only indicative of different life circumstances and not their devotion to God.  The mature believer trusts God to lead him to the next tweak in focus, and He is always tweaking. 🙂

The tension we feel extends to our place in this world.

Each believer is part of the body of Christ.  As such, we tend and care for our church family.  The love and care that we show for one another is truly miraculous and healing, and Jesus has said it is how people know that we are his disciples.  However, Jesus also has commanded us to go and make disciples.  We send out our own in order to seek and save the lost, so that our spiritual family can grow and multiply as God has always desired.  Yet most of us know the tension of not wanting to let go of closely loved ones for the sake of the Kingdom.  And some of us grieve the tension of a hollow form of discipleship within the church, counting numbers more than loving people, and teaching to display rather than teaching to obey.

The tension of growing disciples up to make more disciples is exhibited in the danger of focusing too much attention on the comfort and care of those within the spiritual family and too much attention on spiritual agendas that we can control.  Somewhere in the middle is a more messy, healthy movement of disciples of Jesus, loving others boldly and compassionately, finding a way to include and invite ALL in this master plan of redemption our Lord has included and invited US into!!!

This tension is the totality of God’s work and our work; it is the mystery of grace and truth, of faith and works, and of dying to grow.  Neither side of the coin can be avoided.  If we only rely on God’s work, we become hypocrites at best. If we only rely on our work, we become worn out at best.  However, when we embrace the tension and allow the Holy Spirit to sway us back-and-forth, back-and-forth, never touching either extreme, we find our lives propelling forward.

I hope your heart is swinging in the tension that is God at work in Man, not stuck on either end of who God is or who you are, but embracing the ride–propelling forward!