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Ministry Things I've Learned

When Senior Pastors Abuse Church Staff

I ran across this article when checking out the Barnabas Group a few years ago, a nonprofit organization that has researched church conflict and works with church staff to promote  healthy church environments. The author, John Setser, lives here in Appleton, WI.  He’s one of the few who “get it” and don’t buy into the belief that church staff are underlings or that they’re there to be used to promote personal agendas. Of course, I don’t believe all pastors fit into that category, for I’ve met some amazing men who walk in the Spirit and love others as Christ does, regardless of who they are.

If I were overly cynical, I would have no desire to continue my commitment to work in ministry.  I do still desire to serve in a church, to glorify God, to see the world evangelized and Christians taught and edified. John Setser’s ministry to church staff helped me keep my perspective. When I said I’m not “overly cynical,” I am admitting there is a bit of cynicism, but just enough to keep my eyes open –  enough to hopefully prevent future mistakes in judgement when it comes to choosing what ministry I’ll tie myself to. I included the entire article because it’s worth the read. Hopefully it will comfort some, answering questions that have lurked at the back of their minds over the years, and give a better perspective to others who might be  personally caught up in the abuse.

When Senior Pastors Abuse Church Staff

By John Setser

Trust Injuries and Mistreatment by Senior Pastors

My friend served a large church for many years as a lay leader. He decided to embrace ministry as a vocation. With the pastor’s encouragement, he took Bible courses, quit his job, and joined the church staff as a full-time assistant pastor.

Soon after he joined the staff, the senior pastor asked him to deliver the closing remarks following a guest speaker’s sermon. My friend had never done this. He assumed the senior pastor would assist if needed. The pastor, however, did not assist and the closing was a disaster. The senior pastor rebuked him publically.

My friend slunk away to an empty room and sat alone in stunned silence. Soon another staff member found him. Apparently, the senior pastor had a history of setting up associates to fail so he could render forceful on-the-spot correction.

A leader my friend loved and respected traumatized him. This incident caused him to be watchful; he sustained what I call a trust injury.

A trust injury occurs when a person of authority or relational significance harms a person under his care. The trust injury experienced by my friend was his mistreatment by his senior pastor. A trust injury is an encroachment, offense, or violation that causes an associate to experience a psycho-emotional wound. A wounded associate feels damaged by the one he trusted to represent and extend God’s love.

A growing number of staff associates endure mistreatment at the hands of senior pastors. Senior pastor mistreatment does not occur when he corrects mistakes, enforces policy, or fires a staff employee due to cutbacks or incompetence. Senior pastor mistreatment occurs when senior pastors knowingly or unknowingly abuse power, break boundaries, and shatter trust.

Abused associates leave their places of ministry confused, despondent, and discouraged. They wonder how such abuse can happen in a place that is expected to be a model Christ’s love and healing power. They need answers, and they need healing. Providing answers will help them recover.

Wounding Agents

A senior pastor may not plan to be a wounding agent. A called, competent, and qualified senior pastor, however, can become a wounding agent — sometimes without realizing it. Senior pastors who wound others are not born; they are made.

Toxic Churches

A toxic church often mistreats staff associates. A toxic church exists when doing becomes more important than being. People in a toxic church believe their service to God is keeping church systems functioning. They believe God’s blessing results in bigger budgets for bigger buildings to accommodate more people. Looking successful replaces love as the key ingredient.

A healing church speaks of Christ residing in people, not in buildings or programs. This kind of church encourages participants to be genuine, not appearance-oriented or performance-driven. When churches emphasize loving, caring, and being, staff associates can enjoy being part of a healing organization.

Bill was in a church leadership program that promised mentoring by the senior pastor, Bible studies, and a closer walk with Jesus. Once on the job, however, the senior pastor expected him to facilitate the church’s promotional agenda. He was working for a corporate-minded leader intent on developing a growth-oriented organization. He ended his internship and stopped attending church. He loved God, but no longer viewed church as a safe place.

Staff members looking to make things better can make problems worse. Senior pastors can brand associates who offer too many suggestions or seek to change the program as rebellious and disloyal. Senior pastors routinely discipline or terminate them. If they report their mistreatment, district officials often do not act on these reports because they tend to support incumbent pastors.

Survival Skills

So, what do you do if the dynamics of a toxic church are wounding you or your senior pastor is mistreating you? The answer: Exit as soon as possible. In reality, leaving is not easy because most staff associates serve out of loyalty to God and the ministry. They will not easily walk away from an appointment. Also, victimized individuals tend to deny, minimize, and rationalize their mistreatment. They cannot believe that something bad is happening to them, or they convince themselves that the situation will not get worse. But it will get worse.

One associate contacted me saying, “I do not know how this could have happened. My husband and I were involved for over 6 years. Between the pastor, the committee, and their actions, I do not see how we can ever return. There is a gaping hole in my heart, and I feel devastated.”

If you feel you must remain in an abusive environment, here are five survival skills that can help you cope.

  1. Do not give place to abusive treatment. Resist cruelty, coercion, threat, and inequity.
  2. Recognize wounding senior pastors for who they are. Senior pastors are often insecure and hurting and use acting-out strategies to get what they want.
  3. Be alert to being set up. Do not let senior pastors manipulate you into compliance.
  4. Seek out a lateral support system. If you are being mistreated, you are probably not alone. Share your experiences with others. Wounding senior pastors can sometimes be stopped if a unified group confronts them.
  5. Watch your heart. Do not give into self-pity, rage, or a judgmental attitude. Jesus calls us to pray and look to Him.

Trust Injuries and Their Effects

The words wounding and senior pastor were never meant to be used together. To deal with the situation, associates often absorb mistreatment and accept blame rather than believe their senior pastor is unjust. This response can generate spiritual and psychological confusion. It distorts an individual’s perception of God and lowers one’s self-esteem. Wounded associates are often unable to integrate or make sense of the pain-filled reality causing them to feel guilty and at fault. They often feel unable to move forward.

A wounded associate writes, “I am having a hard time finding a way to put everything into perspective. I just keep getting this flood of emotions, and I do not know what to do or whom to turn to for help. Maybe I somehow equate this experience to past abuse; maybe not. I just know that it really hurts when it is a pastor you trusted and thought loved you as Christ loved the Church.”

A woman confided, “We are both healing from an abusive ministry. Our senior pastor was very controlling and dictatorial. We are a year out of this ministry and still feeling the effects. My husband was the associate pastor, and the senior pastor treated him like a hireling. I am going through an identity crisis; it took me 6 months to identify that is what it was. The Lord also showed me that if I was struggling with issues, how much more would my husband be struggling with the same issues, but at deeper levels. I wept for him.”

Another person writes, “In September we ended a relationship with an abusive church. We are still experiencing pain and emotions. My wife and I were both on staff and have been with this ministry for years. We have seen the hurt and pain that come when a man of God seeks to build his own kingdom instead of building God’s.”

Healing the Hurts

If you are a wounded associate, consider the following principles you can draw on to promote your healing:

  1. Know you are not going crazy. With the emotional extremes you are feeling, it is important to know the pain is real and it is not your fault.
  2. Talk and pray. Find safe, trusted people with whom you can talk to and pray.
  3. Be honest. Do not be afraid to honestly vent your feelings.
  4. Use a support system. Never meet with a wounding agent alone. Always take someone with you.
  5. Look to Jesus as your Healer. Jesus will use what you have experienced for good. Trust Him to provide process and encounter experiences to expedite your recovery.

Process experiences

A process experience is a Holy Spirit-directed word, meeting, or circumstance that helps wounded associates gain perspective. You may think process experiences are chance happenings, but they are planned and directed by God who seeks to grant perspective to those in need. A Scripture, internal voice, or a casual conversation often provides perspective. Process experiences help associates sort out their pain and give them a clearer perspective of what happened.

Frank, a former associate, told how his senior pastor mistreated and wrongfully terminated him. His story is an example of a process experience. Weeks after his termination, Frank could not move beyond wondering why the pastor treated him so abusively. One evening Frank met a man who was a long-time friend of the senior pastor. The man told him that years earlier a trusted church member had hurt this pastor. As a result, from time to time, the pastor experienced periods of depression marked by fits of paranoia. This often motivated him to make regrettable decisions. Frank thanked God for being able to talk to this man because, in the process, he found perspective.

Encounter experiences

Encounter experiences are similar to process experiences, but their purpose is to bring healing. Bill and Phyllis experienced such an encounter. They served as a youth pastor team in a large church. The couple’s ministry was fruitful. They were expecting a child, and with the senior pastor’s support they bought their first house. Without warning, he fired them. He blamed them for doing things they did not do and accused them of saying things they did not say. People began to circulate rumors that the pastor wanted to fill the position with someone else, but believed he had to discredit the couple to make the change seem like their fault. They left town heartbroken and confused.

Bill and Phyllis’ encounter experience came when two church elders sought them out and offered an apology on behalf of the church. They told Bill and Phyllis that the senior pastor’s actions were wrongly motivated. They pledged to restore the couple’s good name and promised to give prospective employers a glowing recommendation. The four individuals wept, hugged, and prayed together. Afterward Bill and Phyllis expressed thanks to God for His healing touch.

The Issue of Forgiveness

When my senior leader wounded me, I was so hurt the last thing I wanted to do was forgive him. Well-meaning people told me I needed to forgive, but I was conflicted.

Theological issues aside, the problem for me was twofold. First, my anger made me feel guilty. Whether I had reason to feel this way was irrelevant. Second, I wanted to extend grace if for no other reason than to move beyond my pain. I asked God if there was anything good in my heart that I could in truth give away. At that moment, the only good I could extend was not slashing his tires or dumping trash on his lawn.

After I made this transaction before God, a surprising thing happened: I felt peace. The moment I extended the good I had in my heart, I began to breathe freely again.In not slashing his tires or throwing trash on his lawn, I was in fact extending a form of forgiveness.

A proper understanding of forgiveness has its root in Hebrews 12:14, a passage that encourages us to live in peace with all people. Living in peace in no way obligates wounded Christians to forget or have good feelings. But, it does involve truthfully extending whatever good is in one’s heart. A person can only give what is in his possession. Individuals who extend forgiveness are free to be at peace in a situation knowing they truly tried to follow God.

Perspective, a Needed Ingredient

Resolving and recovering from situations of abuse within the church is always difficult. Senior pastors are often at fault for the pain and suffering they perpetrate on staff ministers. God is on the side of wounded associates as they cry out for help. However, we cannot overstate the need for perspective.

We also need to understand that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. At some point we all have acted unjustly and must accept the responsibility to repent. When we gain perspective, we also acknowledge that senior pastors, often unknowingly, wound because they themselves have been wounded. Powerful congregants and church boards can wound senior pastors through manipulation and intimidation. The potential for such wounding increases exponentially if finances or attendance begin to decrease.

Senior pastors and the associates they wound both need to feel and experience God’s unconditional love. Love is the fertile ground from which faith and good works grow. It is in the arms of Jesus that wounding agents and wounded associates alike can find hope and healing.

Binding Up the Wounds

Jesus will soon return for the bride He loves. Until that time, embracing God’s directive to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength can heal the wounds of senior pastors and staff associates alike. Let us love and serve in such a way that He will be able to commend us for being good and faithful servants.

http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200902/200902_042_broken_spirits.cfm

John Setser, Ph.D., Appleton, Wisconsin, is a church consultant and founder of Barnabas Group, a nonprofit organization committed to resolving conflict and promoting a healthy church workplace. Setser can be contacted at johnsetser@hotmail.com. Visit his Web site, www.shatteredtrust.com, for a listing of Barnabas Group services and ministry offerings.

Published in the spring 2009 issue of Enrichment. Used with permission.

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Just for Fun Things I've Learned

Homemade Jewelry

Check out my new venture – jewelry making. I’ve made purse blings similar to the ones Miche sells. I figured I could make them to match my purses and market them on Craig’s List.  Let me know what you think!

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Notable Acts Things I've Learned

Irena Sendler

For many years Irena Sendler – white-haired, gentle and courageous – was living a modest existence in her Warsaw apartment. This unsung heroine passed away on Monday May 12th, 2008.

Her achievement went largely unnoticed for many years. Then the story was uncovered by four young students at Uniontown High School, in Kansas, who were the winners of the 2000 Kansas state National History Day competition by writing a play Life in a Jar about the heroic actions of Irena Sendler. The girls – Elizabeth Cambers, Megan Stewart, Sabrina Coons and Janice Underwood – have since gained international recognition, along with their teacher, Norman Conard. The presentation, seen in many venues in the United States and popularized by National Public Radio, C-SPAN and CBS, has brought Irena Sendlers story to a wider public. The students continue their prize-winning dramatic presentation Life in a Jar.


Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler was born in 1910 in Otwock, a town some 15 miles southeast of Warsaw. She was greatly influenced by her father who was one of the first Polish Socialists. As a doctor his patients were mostly poor Jews. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and the brutality of the Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror. At the time, Irena was a Senior Administrator in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department, which operated the canteens in every district of the city. Previously, the canteens provided meals, financial aid, and other services for orphans, the elderly, the poor and the destitute. Now, through Irena, the canteens also provided clothing, medicine and money for the Jews. They were registered under fictitious Christian names, and to prevent inspections, the Jewish families were reported as being afflicted with such highly infectious diseases as typhus and tuberculosis.Irena Sendler was so appalled by the conditions that she joined Zegota, the Council for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement, as one of its first recruits and directed the efforts to rescue Jewish children.

But in 1942, the Nazis herded hundreds of thousands of Jews into a 16-block area that came to be known as the Warsaw Ghetto. The Ghetto was sealed and the Jewish families ended up behind its walls, only to await certain death.

The Warsaw Ghetto

To be able to enter the Ghetto legally, Irena managed to be issued a pass from Warsaws Epidemic Control Department and she visited the Ghetto daily, reestablished contacts and brought food, medicines and clothing. But 5,000 people were dying a month from starvation and disease in the Ghetto, and she decided to help the Jewish children to get out. For Irena Sendler, a young mother herself, persuading parents to part with their children was in itself a horrendous task. Finding families willing to shelter the children, and thereby willing to risk their life if the Nazis ever found out, was also not easy.With their help, she issued hundreds of false documents with forged signatures. Irena Sendler successfully smuggled almost 2,500 Jewish children to safety and gave them temporary new identities.The children were given false identities and placed in homes, orphanages and convents. Irena Sendler carefully noted, in coded form, the childrens original names and their new identities. She kept the only record of their true identities in jars buried beneath an apple tree in a neighbor’s back yard, across the street from German barracks, hoping she could someday dig up the jars, locate the children and inform them of their past.

Irena Sendler, who wore a star armband as a sign of her solidarity to Jews, began smuggling children out in an ambulance. She recruited at least one person from each of the ten centers of the Social Welfare Department.

Some children were taken out in gunnysacks or body bags. Some were buried inside loads of goods. A mechanic took a baby out in his toolbox. Some kids were carried out in potato sacks, others were placed in coffins, some entered a church in the Ghetto which had two entrances. One entrance opened into the Ghetto, the other opened into the Aryan side of Warsaw. They entered the church as Jews and exited as Christians. “`Can you guarantee they will live?'” Irena later recalled the distraught parents asking. But she could only guarantee they would die if they stayed. “In my dreams,” she said, “I still hear the cries when they left their parents.”

Irena Sendler accomplished her incredible deeds with the active assistance of the church. “I sent most of the children to religious establishments,” she recalled. “I knew I could count on the Sisters.” Irena also had a remarkable record of cooperation when placing the youngsters: “No one ever refused to take a child from me,” she said.

In all, the jars contained the names of 2,500 children …

Nazi Genocide

But the Nazis became aware of Irena’s activities, and on October 20, 1943 she was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo, who broke her feet and legs. She ended up in the Pawiak Prison, but no one could break her spirit. Though she was the only one who knew the names and addresses of the families sheltering the Jewish children, she withstood the torture, that crippled her for life, refusing to betray either her associates or any of the Jewish children in hiding. Sentenced to death, Irena was saved at the last minute when Zegota members bribed one of the Gestapo agents to halt the execution. She escaped from prison but for the rest of the war she was pursued by the Nazis.The children had known her only by her code name Jolanta. But years later, after she was honored for her wartime work, her picture appeared in a newspaper. “A man, a painter, telephoned me,” said Sendler, “`I remember your face,’ he said. `It was you who took me out of the ghetto.’ I had many calls like that!”

After the war she dug up the jars and used the notes to track down the 2,500 children she placed with adoptive families and to reunite them with relatives scattered across Europe. But most lost their families during the Holocaust in Nazi death camps.

The Holocaust

Irena Sendler did not think of herself as a hero. She claimed no credit for her actions. “I could have done more,” she said. “This regret will follow me to my death.” She has been honored by international Jewish organizations – in 1965 she accorded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem organization in Jerusalem and in 1991 she was made an honorary citizen of Israel. Irena Sendler was awarded Poland’s highest distinction, the Order of White Eagle, in Warsaw Monday Nov. 10, 2003, and she was announced as the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage. She has officially been designated a national hero in Poland and schools are named in her honor. Annual Irena Sendler days are celebrated throughout Europe and the United States.

In 2007, she was nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. At a special session in Poland’s upper house of Parliament, President Lech Kaczynski announced the unanimous resolution to honor Irena Sendler for rescuing “the most defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology: the Jewish children.” He referred to her as a “great heroine who can be justly named for the Nobel Peace Prize. She deserves great respect from our whole nation.”

To read more go to: http://www.auschwitz.dk/sendler.htm

In 2007, Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize … she was not selected. However, Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming and recently Barack Obama won for a speech on peace. What has this world come to?

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recommendations Things I've Learned

New CPR Method

Please watch a video of the new CPR method by clicking here.

If you see someone collapse who isn’t responsive and has trouble breathing:
1.     Tell someone to call 911 or make the call yourself.
2.     Position the person with the back on the floor. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the chest (between the nipples) and the heel of the other hand on top of the first. Lock your elbows, position your shoulders over your hands and use your upper-body weight to “fall” downward. Lift your hands slightly each time to allow the chest wall to recoil. Try to compress at 100 beats per minute and about 2 inches deep until emergency help arrives.
Note: Mouth-to-mouth CPR still is recommended for drowning and very small children.
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Family Events Spiritual Truths Things I've Learned

A Story of God’s Protection

Years ago, when I was a child, our family took a trip out east to visit Washington D.C. We were campers, so when we found our camp ground for the week, the camp ground manager asked my dad where he wanted to camp – on the lower part of the campground near the office and all the amenities, or at one of the higher ground campsites, up the hill a ways away. For the past half hour, my dad had been whistling the tune to Higher Ground, his favorite hymn. Since the Lord had brought that tune into his head, he promptly answered, “Higher ground.”

We made the trek uphill to our campsite, and set up camp. Later that night a terrible storm came. It was so bad that I distinctly remember having to stand up part of the night holding up the sides of our camper for fear it would blow over during the storm.  I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 12 at the time, so this was a very scary night for me. The details of that night have stuck with me these past 40 years. I was not only amazed at how bad the storm was, but was also aware that we could be blown away with it.

Eventually the storm quieted and we were able to go to sleep for the night. The next morning we decided to check out, not ever having been able to see Washington D.C.  We discovered that we had to sit tight for a couple of days while they built a new road for us to travel down. The storm had washed away our road to the lower level of the camp ground. In the meantime we listened to the reports of how the storm had affected the area.

All news reports had confirmed that the storm wreaked havoc on the area and D.C. was pretty much under water. There would be no adventure for our family to our nation’s capital on this vacation. We were very disappointed, but as we gained clearance to take the trek back down into the lower part of the campground on the new road they built, we saw the devastation all around us. The high winds had swept several campers and vehicles into the river adjacent to the campground and many campers and tents had been blown away. In my mind’s eye I can see the floating campers and the rescue vehicles working at pulling them out.

It was obvious to us that our father had been given a song that would be instrumental in his decision to choose “higher ground.” Since that day I gained a new appreciation for my father’s connection to His Savior and realized in a tangible way that God is a God of protection – if we’ll just allow Him to keep us underneath His umbrella. I’ve kept that “umbrella” with me since then and have had many occasions that I’ve based my reaction upon the reflection of those days in D.C.

Here are the words God gave our family that day so long ago:
I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Chorus
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand, By faith, on heaven’s table-land, A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay, Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Tho’ some may dwell where these abound, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world Tho’ Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the upmost height, And catch a glimpse of glory-bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

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quotes Spiritual Truths Things I've Learned

Just a Reminder from a Friend…

“To get something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”

“When God takes something from your grasp, He’s not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better.”

“The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not keep you.”

Thanks Cathy!

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Book Reviews recommendations Spiritual Truths Things I've Learned

Parenting is Your Highest Calling & Eight Other Myths

Have you every had a passionate belief that you couldn’t put into words? You knew it had a Biblical foundation, but for the life of you, you couldn’t nail it down or explain it well enough without making you sound like you were making excuses or justifying yourself? This book, Parenting is Your Hightest Calling & Eight Other Myths by Leslie Leyland Fields does a great job at explaining the ins and outs of parental responsibility and dispels the myths that are so prevalant in Christian society – myths that I ran into in my parenting experience. 

 She outlines 9 myths that many parents buy into that can cause grief and disappointment when their parenting experience doesn’t the bring the results they’d expected. As a mother of 15 children, 13 of whom are special needs adopted, I saw how the blame game is easily entered into by those who have a tendency to judge others, especially Christian leaders who take credit for their own children’s successes. It is my desire to see that parents are encouraged and loved, not expected to be perfect or to take on the responsibility that was only God’s to begin with.

Here are the 9 myths Leslie outlines in her book:

1. Having Children Makes You Happy and Fulfilled.
2. Nurturing Your Children Is Natural
3. Parenting Is your Highest Calling
4. Good Parenting Leads to Happy Children
5. If You Find Parenting Difficult, You Must Not Be Following the Right Plan
6. You Represent Jesus to Your Children
7. You Will Always Feel Unconditional love for Your Children
8. Successful Parents Produce Godly Children
9. God Approves of Only One Family Design

Her basic premise is that we as parents are required by God to be faithful, to follow His basic guidelines for holy living and endeavor to teach the same precepts to our children. That’s it. We are to leave the results up to Him. He is the one who will woo their hearts, call them to repentance and a life of service to Him. We can’t do that. Only God is able to take our children and make them into something He can use.

I have seen and experienced the extreme pressure from others to measure up as the perfect Christian parent – too often reminded that “if we do our job, our kids will turn out right”  and “if they stumble and fall it is ultimately our fault.”  This advice is given without the slightest bit of acknowledgement that God is the One who shapes the believer and determines their path in life.  In her book, Leslie reminds us of parents in the Bible who lived a faithful, godly life only to experience disappointment in their parenting experience. The business of parenting is hard enough. We certainly don’t need to be bogged down by misplaced condemnation. This is a very encouraging book and I recommend it to every parent.

Thank you Leslie, for sending it to me. I wish I’d read it years ago.

You can get this book at Amazon.com for $11.19 and Christianbook.com  for $10.99.

Categories
Spiritual Truths Things I've Learned

The Myth of the Perfect Parent

Leslie in Christianity TodayAn article in the January Christianity Today is a good read for parents everywhere who struggle with the question, “I’ve done all I know to do, all that God asked of me, but my child just isn’t following what I have taught them. What more could I have done?”  It points out how we as Christian parents may have misunderstood our role of parenting – as being much more powerful than it really is, leaving out the sovereignty and grace of God in the process. There is definitely a trend in modern Christianity to ignore the fact that God is the One who will do the mighty work. We lean way to much on our own faulty abilities and understanding, thinking if we “do it right,” all be well. If we believe it is all up to us, then where does God figure in?  Yes, my parents’ role did influence and teach me toward God, but in the end, God called me and I answered. When that happened, all my parents could do was hope and pray. They were not part of that equation when it was just God and me, alone in that moment. They cannot get the glory in my life, only God can. They will be rewarded for their faithfulness, obviously, but not because I grew up to serve God, but because they fulfilled their role – to be faithful. They will enjoy the fruit of their labor, but God still gets the credit – all the glory for whatever He has done through me.

Who’s In Control?

Excerpt from “The Myth of the Perfect Parent” – Cover story from Christianity Today, January 2010
Why the best parenting techniques don’t produce Christian children
Leslie Leyland Fields | posted 1/08/2010 10:16AM
To read this story in its entirety, go here. Here is an excerpt from the story:

We must assume, then, that there is serious error in our beliefs about parenting. We have made far too much of ourselves and far too little of God, reflecting our sinful bent to see ourselves as more essential and in control than we actually are. It’s also our heritage as good Americans, psychologist Harriet Lerner observed in her 1998 book, The Mother Dance: We believe that we can fix every problem, that we are masters over our fate. The root of much of our pain in parenting, she writes, is “the belief that we should have control over our children when it is hard enough to have control over ourselves.”

The reflex to judge ourselves by our children, and to judge others by their children, has further implications: It reveals a faulty view of spiritual formation. We often expect that the children of believing parents, whether the children claim Christ yet or not, will show the same kind of spiritually mature attitudes and behavior we hope to see in each other: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and obedience, as a beginning list.

When we engage in spiritual determinism and a human view of spiritual formation, we can easily fall into judging others. Jeanine, a friend of mine for years, told me that her sixth-grade daughter, Julia, who was struggling with her identity and making friends, was labeled “demon-possessed” by another family in the church. “Some people—even in church—have already written her off. And she’s only 11 years old,” Jeanine told me. The judgment was not only on her daughter’s spiritual condition but also on her own.

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poetry Things I've Learned

I Love You Mother by Joy Allison

“I love you, mother,” said little John.
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,

And left her the water and wood to bring.
“I love you, mother,” said rosy Nell—
I love you more than tongue can tell.”
But she teased and pouted full half the day

Till her mother was glad when she went to play.
“I love you, mother,” said little Fan;
“Today I’ll help you all I can;
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep.”

So she rocked the baby till it fell asleep.
Then slipping softly she took the broom
And swept the floor and dusted the room.
Busy and happy all the day was she,

Helpful and cheerful as a child should be.
“I love you, mother,” again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?

by Joy Allison

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Spiritual Truths Things I've Learned

Thoughts on Contentment

I was working on my Sunday school lesson and thought it would be a good thing to communicate to more than my ladies’ Sunday school class. We’ve been talking about contentment, the type of contentment that God gives to those who completely trust Him. Below is part of my lesson for tomorrow.

1. To be gracious is to decide in our heart that we are satisfied with God’s dealings in our life both in judgment and understanding.

If one desires to have a peaceful life, there is no room for bitterness, envy or selfishness. Those who fight for their rights are not content. Those who accuse others, live for paybacks or have a desire to control others cannot be content. If we must live in the past and drag others there because we have unresolved bitterness or resentment, we have closed the door on ever having a gracious spirit, the gracious spirit that God can use to bring us the satisfaction of living in Him. Walking in the Spirit maintaining a gracious spirit toward others is the only way to have the peace we all crave.  (James 3:16)

 2. We need to recognize God’s hand and make a conscious decision to trust and let God rule our own emotions and thoughts—give Him rule.

If I had a nickel for every time I was told, “That’s just the way I am, ” or “I can’t help it,” I’d be out of the financial stress I’m in right now.  Being 50 years old in body and more than 40 in spirit, I’ve been around enough to know that we are as we choose to be. If we live defeated Christian lives, it’s not because God is not able – it is because we enjoy the sins that trip us up enough to revisit them over and over. Granted, some of us have better foundations that enable us to reach toward heaven more successfully than others, but it is our choice as to whether our arms are extended in that direction. Neither God nor man will fault a Christian who grows slowly because they fall easily and often – if they are falling in the direction of the Savior so when they do get up, it’s to walk toward Him. It is he or she who turns toward their sins with a yearning that we ought to identify as unfruitful. Our eyes must be on the Savior to gain His favor, whether it’s while we’re walking toward Him, down on our knees or on our face. (James 1:23-26)

 3. We need to look for contentment—it’s not necessarily a state of mind but a conscious pursuance of God’s grace.

Don’t fool yourself. Those who live a contented, spirit filled life don’t come by it naturally, as if they were born with a silver spoon of spirituality or were anointed from birth as having a supernatural ability to trust God. To trust God is a conscious decision brought on by many a trial and heartache where God has been seen as the Savior and King of all situations. Following God and entrusting your very being in His hands is something to strive for, to prove over and over through the difficult moments of life. Those who strive for peace and contentment brought to them by His hand only are handsomely rewarded with peace in their hearts that cannot be stolen by the craftiest thief. Those who do not strive for His Spirit to control them will always feel alone and defeated.  (Galatians 5:16, 17)

4. The spiritual condition of our hearts will rule our actions—we need to guard our hearts.       

We all have had hardships in our lives. Where one may have lost a loved one, another has lived in poverty or battled a serious illness. We all have our share of pain and heartache, it just comes with different names. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Those who think they deserve better are in for a big disappointment. It’s not about living a cush, easy life free of pain and suffering. It’s about living our lives with God alongside, bringing Him the glory as we travel the road of hardship. To say you love God and then turn around and demonstrate bitter envying in your behavior presents a conundrum that cannot be explained other than one of deceit. You may be able to fool some, but those who truly know what the love of God is can see through the facade. It’s not worth holding onto. In the end, those who fake the abiding life will be brought out into the light.  (James 1:2-8)

5. True contentment comes from within by God’s working—not a temporary fix by circumstances turning in our favor.

The condition of our hearts are revealed by our actions. Too many times I’ve been told that someone loves God or is trying to live a life for Him, and yet their actions speak a different language.  They claim innocence as they place a blade in the hearts of others. We all know people who are kind and gracious when things are going their way and then turn into bitter, spiteful monsters when the light isn’t shining on them just the right way. These are the ones who lie to themselves as they are lying to others.  A quiet reliance on God is the only way toward genuine contentment, in good or bad circumstances. The true believer who’s walking in the Spirit will have a gracious spirit even when their heart has been ripped in two by another. They have discovered that true peace and contentment comes in looking to Christ for their healing not by anything they do or say or how others treat them or perceive their value. We can judge our own level of God-given contentment by our first reaction, thoughts during, and actions throughout a situation that has caused us to be hurt or disappointed. (Proverbs 22:10)