Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 21: Lean on Me ... A Gentle Spirit

Welcome  to Day 21 of Parenting Pointers and Mommy Refreshers. 
My heart longs to bless you this month as I write 31 days filled with nuggets of parenting wisdom.  Each one is followed by a refresher to help you fix your eyes on Jesus and let your burdens go to Him.  Sit with God in this moment.  Find a place where you can breathe and hear from Him.  

Today’s Parenting Pointer

Lean On Me

Our family loves to go to the Central Coast of California.  My husband grew up along the Los Angeles beaches and he is somewhat like a St. Bernard when they go back into the snow.  This otherwise lethargic dog bounds and frolics – literally comes to life once it is head deep in drifts of winter downfall.  My husband isn’t lethargic, but you get him near the ocean and something dormant awakens and he is vibrant and energized while simultaneously given a deeper sense of peace. 

On our regular trips to the coast we often go out on the piers.  Piers amaze me.  Have you ever stopped to consider the way that hundreds of people can tromp up and down on these wooden planks, held up by wooden columns which are submerged in water?  I mean, why don’t they just float away?  Why don’t they sink or shift?  These piers are taken for granted and trusted as we jut out into the water, absorb beauty and feel the saltwater mist on our skin.  They stand because they are well supported. 

I think I am a bit like that pier.  I’m not made of much, though I may look strong to most onlookers.  Yet, I can stand through storm and wear and even support many others because I, myself, am well supported.  The deepest support, the anchor and footing of my life is Jesus.  Because I find myself secretly secure in the deepest unseen places in Him, I can stand.  Beyond Him, though, I need other supports – those posts on the pier which lift it up and allow it to do all it has to do.  God provides certain relationships in life that are just like those pillars – upon which we can lay our burdens and trust that because we are loved and encouraged, we will stand. 

When I was little my mother used to tell me, “If you can count your true friends on one hand you will be blessed.”  She may have been at least partly correct.  What I do know is we can’t spread ourselves too thin and still maintain quality connections with those who matter deeply to us.  We are finite people with limitations in time, energy and capacity to invest.  We must choose our friendships wisely and cultivate them well. 

I used to be prone to try to carry burdens on my own.  I might tell you about a struggle I had faced once it was in my rear view mirror and I was through the worst of it.  To let you in on the pain and messiness of my current struggles was just too vulnerable.  Over the years, though, God has brought some very faithful friends into my life who are burden bearers and encouragers.  I’d write a whole blog post about each one of them if I could (and I did write about how to discern and cultivate friendship here). 

No matter how efficient your life is, you still will find yourself in need of others.  Blessings and burdens come into every life and they don’t come on demand or schedule.  You can be sailing along seamlessly when a crisis unexpectedly blindsides you.  Maybe you aren’t facing a personal calamity, but the day to day demands of your life are just pressing down hard.  You are trying to keep your head above water, treading all alone, hoping no one notices you might drown any minute.  Look around.  Can you see the potential outstretched hands, willing to throw you a life saver and help relieve you of your burden?  They are there.  But you must risk being vulnerable, known and not having it all together.  You have to reach out. 

This is a process – this growing into interdependence.  God ordained His body to work like, well, a body.  Each part plays its own role and we depend upon one another.  We impact one another.  We are interconnected.  Do you live an interconnected, interdependent life?  Or, do you, like so many modern moms, have an isolated life with spurts into social settings where you show off the goodness (cleaning up your home to have others over, making sure your kids are acting the way you want, hoping your guests don’t peek in your closets and see the mess you shoved away before they got there)?  I’m not saying your life needs to be an open book to all who are near – not everyone is a safe person.  But, you do need those few friends who know you as you are and love you in the midst of your real day-to-day life.  Make time for them.  Share your down moments, your fears and your hopes with them.  Let them make you supper or take your kids to give you a break.  Build and invest in these friendships.  Live a life supported – like those piers we love to visit – and you will be equipped to support others in turn.     

Be Refreshed

A Gentle Spirit

I’m part Irish, part German and a bunch of other European nationalities mixed in.  That Irish temper has been a famed thing in my family.  Maybe it is just one more legend from the land of leprechauns and the blarney stone, but one thing I know is I come by my feisty spirit honestly. 

In Philippians, God tells us,

Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.  The Lord is near. 

I hear that, and I look around, behind me, over my shoulder and then back.  “Me, Lord?  Let MY gentle spirit be known?  You’ve got the wrong gal.  I’m the feisty Irish girl who knows her own mind.  Gentleness isn’t really my forte.”   

As in all things, the Lord calls us to what He is doing in us.  He called John, his disciple and in the beginning John was known as a “son of thunder” (now we’re talking) as he asked the Lord to annihilate a whole village for not welcoming them.  But, in due season he was called “the disciple of love.” His self-perception even changed so that he could say of himself, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  He became permeated by love and was transformed into a vessel of love.  So it is with us.  When we hang out in the presence of Jesus, we experience the conversion of our souls.  We claim Him as Lord and we say we are “Christians” (little Christs) but it actually takes a lifetime to become a Christian as we walk with Him and allow Him to morph us into His image. 

Gentleness.  God talks about our gentle spirit in the midst of this passage which is to tell us about how to release anxiety.  We have just been told to rejoice in the Lord always – to always find our joy in Him at all times and in all occasions.  Now we are told to let our gentle spirit be evident to all. 

The particular word used for “gentleness” in this passage is only used five times in the New Testament.  It is contrasted to brawling and compared to being patient in the face of things that would draw out addiction or anger in us.  It is likened to being meek, peaceable, reverent and full of mercy.  God will draw this quality out in each of us.  Why?  Because He is near.  He doesn’t send us out – “Go be gentle.”  He says, “Come near.  You can be gentle because I am near.” 

When I was little and afraid of something, I wanted my daddy near me.  I wanted to go to him and stand near to him so that I knew that whatever was bigger than me had to contend with him before it could ever touch me.  In the safety of our Father we can be gentle.  Gentleness involves being vulnerable.  If we feel we are standing under our own care and protection, gentleness will not be possible.  We have to be on guard when we rely on ourselves.  When we know God is near we can let our gentleness be evident.  We are safe in His presence.  He is gentle.  He says so and He proves His gentleness to us.  He will cultivate a gentle heart in you as you draw near to Him, knowing He is near to you today.  Allow Him to touch your heart in this moment and call out gentleness that says, “I am safe.  I trust.  God is with me.” 

I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery.  If you have missed any of this series, all the posts can be found here.  Come back any or every day this month to get another Parenting Pointer and Mommy Refresher.  And, as always, I do love hearing from you.  Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you. 

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