Teach Me To Listen

listen

*Reposted from 2015

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”— Winston Churchill

For the fifth year in a row, on January 1, I’ve chosen a word on which to focus for the upcoming year. A word to study and ask God to work into my life. I usually spend a few days at the end of December reflecting on the past year, examining where God has been at work, and processing where He seems to be leading. But this time was a little different. Just seconds after the prayer came out of my mouth, “Lord, what word would you have me choose this year?” There it was…

“LISTEN”

Of course it is. No need for consideration or follow-up questions or second guesses. Because, I’ll be honest, being a good listener has never come naturally to me. I am a communicator, a verbal processor, and I come from a long line of “talkers”. When my extrovert husband, then boyfriend, first started hanging out with my family, they commented on how quiet he was. When I mentioned it, he replied emphatically, “That’s because I can’t get a word in! Y’all don’t even take a breath between sentences.” It’s true. And once when my group of girlfriends decided to walk/run (90% walk) a half-marathon which takes well over 3 hours, someone asked, “Are you bringing Ipods?” One of my friends replied, “Nah, we’re bringing Leslie. We just throw out topics and she talks about them.”

I’d like to think I’ve become a little better at listening more and talking less over the years. My husband says I have; thank goodness for sanctification! But evidently, and obviously, there’s still room for growth. I’ve come to realize that there is much more to listening than simply hearing all the words. I am convinced that an inability or unwillingness to really listen in relationships is a primary cause of conflict, misunderstanding, and pain. It can be a major obstacle to mature, deep relationships. In marriage, friendships, families, the workplace and the body of Christ. I believe we miss even more in our relationship with God when we do all the talking, thinking, figuring and decision-making without stopping to listen for His voice.

So for 2015, in all my relationships, it is my hopeful prayer that God teach me how to LISTEN.

Listen for UNDERSTANDING
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”–Stephen R. Covey

God, I long to develop healthy, meaningful relationships that honor You. Help me listen for understanding as I seek reconciliation with others. Teach me to pause and seek to hear, not just to be heard. To remember that “to answer before listening is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Help me recognize when words or phrases trigger old wounds. Instead of making assumptions in the heat of the moment, remind me to ask questions and listen carefully so that I can respond and not react, speaking the truth in love. By the power of Your Spirit, help me be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

Listen for CONNECTION
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”–Peter Drucker

Father, we all carry deep hurt and woundedness from living in a sinful world. Yet so many of us are unable to wrap words around our pain. Give me ears to hear the hurt lying underneath the words. I ask for a heart that chooses to enter into the hard stuff with those in desperate need of connection. Help me set aside my own agenda to be present with those in pain. Give me “sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (Peter 3:8).

Listen for WISDOM
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”–Doug Larson

God, forgive me for thinking I know what is best. For doing most of the talking and very little listening. You alone are the author and keeper of wisdom. Your wisdom is not of this world and Your ways are higher than mine. Teach me to ask for wisdom every day in every situation, claiming the promise that You will give generously to all who ask. Lead me as a wife, a parent, a friend and a neighbor. Help me make wise decisions, for “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).

Listen for DIRECTION
“Don’t bother to give God instructions. Just report for duty.” –Corrie Ten Boom

Jesus, I confess my tendency to make my own plans, to go my own way, to follow my own dreams. You alone know the way I should take, the path of my life that will bring You the most glory. You are my good Shepherd. Give me discernment to hear Your voice above all others, especially my own. Help me not to automatically assume that what I want is in Your will, but to hold my dreams and desires with open hands. Not my will, not my way. You lead and I will follow. “For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” (Psalms 31:3).

Listen for TRUTH
“Truth is not a principle. Truth is a person: Jesus Christ.” –Rick Warren

Finally, I ask you Father to help me discern Your voice of truth from the father of lies. Drown out the voice that condemns and destroys and leads astray. Teach me to listen to Your voice that heals and loves and leads to eternal life. You have promised that “whoever is of God hears the words of God” (John 8:47). I want to devour your true and perfect Word. To hear it with my ears, meditate on it in my mind, treasure it in my heart and apply it to my life. Thank you for the gift of your Spirit, that guides me “into all the truth” (John 16:13).

In the name of Jesus, who is faithful to complete the work He began, teaching even me to LISTEN. Amen.

Held by Him,

Leslie

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Gardening 101

 Gardening final with logo

 

I am a doer.  I like to make things happen, see tangible results, and check them off my list.   Did I mention that I have 5 children, spanning preschool to middle school?  Good justification for never sitting down and being still, I know.  But it’s still no excuse.

The typical type A parent, I am also a problem solver. I want to figure things out and make things “right”.   Get to the bottom of things. FIX IT. Whatever it is, I want it fixed!

I also assume it’s my job to fix it

One of my most recent and prominent realizations is the fact that my children fight A LOT.  They try to FIND ways to make each other mad.  The older ones will just say the most hurtful things, on purpose, and wait for the sting.  They put each other down and make snide comments intended to lower their sibling’s self esteem. They steal from each other, mock each other, lie to each other, hit each other, and destroy items most valuable to the other.

 

As their mother, it is so painful to watch

It just breaks my heart to see my children tear each other down. It makes our home a difficult place to be.  It goes against everything I imagined when I dreamed of having a baby and a family.

I wanted love, joy, and kindness to flow from my children.  Patience and self-control.  I desired for my older, saved daughters, to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in their daily lives.

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As a mother, I can not allow my kids to purposely mistreat each other (without consequences). 

And as that type A mother, I will try anything.  Do anything.  To encourage my children to get along and lift each other up.

First, I tried verbal encouragement. “That’s not nice,” I would sweetly sing.  “Apologize to your brother,” Dad would bellow.  Little reminders would be posted around the house to “ love one another” and  “Do unto others…”.  Nothing changed.

I tried behavior charts. Rewards for desirable behavior.  Consequences for unwanted behavior.  I explained to them how I felt and asked them how their actions affected others.  I explained to them why it was wrong. I read scripture to them. I cried. I raised my voice. I prayed for them to be kind and loving to each other. The fighting continued.

I took them to church, to conferences, to Bible Schools, to Youth Group, and to Christian camps.  I exposed them to Christian families and encouraged healthy friendships. I even tried to remove negative aspects of their life that might cause them to be bitter and nasty toward their siblings.

 

I spent an enormous amount of time and energy trying to change their behavior

 And then God reminded me:

John 15

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener (v1)……Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (v4)

It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt so stupid.

Not a one of us, my children included, can bear the authentic fruits of the Spirit if our heart is not tethered to Jesus Christ and the Word of God.

 

Those fruits I desire to abound in my home are fruits that only the Holy Spirit can produce in us.  Sanctification is life in the Spirit.  The sanctified person bears the fruit of the Spirit and crucifies his or her sinful nature.  None of us is without sin, but the saved person fights against sin and clings to the Spirit.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.

My saved children do not read the Bible on their own.  They do not take the time to reflect on His Word and pray.  They are NOT attached to the vine.

So why would I expect them to bear good fruit? 

And is it truly the fruit that I’m concerned about?  Yes, that’s the annoying part that got my attention. The squeaky wheel.   

 

But the real issue is: What is at the root of that behavior?

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Their behavior reflects what is in their hearts.

 

What I really desire is NOT a change in their behavior, but a change in their hearts.

 

 

And that begins with time in prayer and in God’s Word.

(remaining in the vine)

  

I must take ownership of the fact that I do not emphasize that enough.  Somehow, I had gotten so wrapped up in fixing their behavior, that I had forgotten who our gardener is. I had lost sight of the MOST IMPORTANT thing I should be instilling in my children.  A desire to read God’s Word and be tethered to him.  The change of the heart occurs at the hand of God. 

I can not change the hearts of my children.

It is not my job to fix them.

 

It is certainly my job to instruct them, train them in righteousness, and set a standard for obedience.  My role as a mother also includes praying with them, praying for them, nurturing them, reading scripture to them, talking to them about God, telling them about Jesus, listening to them, encouraging them, taking them to church, teaching them God’s word, being in the Word with them, and modeling my relationship with Christ for them to see. Each one of these things is very important.

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Do not provoke your children unto wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.  When you walk, they will guide you.  When you sleep they will watch over you. When you awake they will speak to you.  For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.  Proverbs 6:20-23

 

God has placed a great responsibility on me as a parent. I must be diligent in tilling the soil of my child’s heart and sowing the seed of His Word.

But I can’t do it for them.  They can not live vicariously through me or anyone else.  It is vital that they have their own personal relationship with Christ.  It is critical that they “remain in the vine” and seek to know God personally.  I can not expect the condition of their heart to improve if God is not their master gardener.

Since God so lovingly reminded me of my folly, I have made some changes in my home.  Bible reading is becoming a daily occurrence.  I am helping my older children to learn how to read the Bible and have quiet time for themselves.  We are buying journals and I am teaching them some ways they can use their journals in their time with God.  I ask them to read from dedicated scripture passages every day so we can talk about them with each other (I am reading the same passages in my quiet time).  I am going to teach them how to use the Index to find topics they may need or want to spend more time with.   I am purposely focusing on God’s Word as our daily bread.  And I can’t believe it took me this long to get here.

The degree of our spiritual strength will be in direct proportion to the time we spend in God’s Word.  (Elizabeth George.  A Mom After God’s Own Heart)

 

It is nice to snuggle up under the electric blanket and in complete silence, take in God’s Word together. How cool it is to sit by the fire with my girls, Bibles in hand.

My oldest has a hard time in the morning. She is just like her mother. Not a morning person.  I am encouraging her to have a passage open beside her bed so that she can read it BEFORE she comes downstairs.  Just like God has recommended for me to do.  I keep forgetting that my child is not a baby. She is old enough to begin a routine of Bible reading and prayer time (she has probably BEEN old enough… she’s 11). It’s me that didn’t take the time to teach or encourage her in that practice.  

And when we are having respect issues or other heart issues, I ask my saved children (who are also my only ones old enough to read) to read from the Bible. I take them back to God’s Word.  I tell her (both of my older children are girls) to spend some time in her  room meditating on whichever passage(s) I chose.  I sometimes find it appropriate to also do that when she is experiencing some overwhelming emotions, such as sadness or anger.

There is power in God’s Word. It is important that my children experience that for themselves.

 

I will continue to “feed and water” my precious children

and

surrender the results to God

By His Grace,

Lisa

another great post is linked below:

http://www.gospelfamily.org/#!Temper-Tantrums-Sin-Grace-/c16ee/A6ACC901-79E0-4191-A2C7-D69704FF4557

 

*I have 4 girls and one boy.  My older girls are 13 and 11 and my only son (age 7) is sandwiched between them and my younger daughters.

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Lies

 

IMG_0959“I’m not good enough.”

“I’m not thin enough.”

“I’ll never succeed in this.”

“I have to make sure everyone is happy with me.”

“I am a terrible mother.”

Lies. Everyone who walks this earth is plagued by them. Whether we realize it or not, the lies are there, constantly knocking at the door of our minds and waiting to see if we will let them in. Often, we listen and open the door unconsciously.  God has set me off on a journey of becoming aware of lies I have believed in my life, and how those lies have snowballed into belief systems that have helped shape who I am and how I behave.

This, I believe, is one of Satan’s primary tactics for disabling God’s children. If he can get us to believe things that aren’t true about God, ourselves, and other people, he can begin to control the rudder of our lives through those lies. Here is the verse I’ve been chewing on concerning him:

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

Satan’s native language is lies! Just as I don’t have to think about speaking English, he doesn’t have to think about speaking lies. There is no truth in him.

Truth is a person.

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14:6

Jesus. And He has given us help as we seek Him, the truth.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. John 16:13

So when those lies begin knocking, we must train ourselves to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see truth – to help us see Jesus. Then we can learn to capture those thoughts, dilute and destroy them with truth, and then tear down the strongholds that our enemy has built in our lives.  

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:32, 36

When we are free and living in truth, our perspectives will begin to change along with our actions and responses.  

What about you?  Can you see areas in your life where you have believed lies?  Join me in asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the areas we need to bring to the light of the truth.  The light of Jesus!  

Live free. Live loved.

~Kerri

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Cinderella- Ephesians 6:1-9

Ephesians Bible Study Lent calledforsuchatime.com

Cinderella

Ephesians 6: 1-9

Submission to Authority

Children and Parents

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  2 “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise— 3that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.  4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves and Masters

5Slaves, serve your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.  6Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.  7Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.  9And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

A little bit of history:

            At the time of this writing, around 62 a.d., there were approximately 60 million slaves in ancient Rome. There were more slaves than free persons. From at least 3000 b.c. captives in war were the primary source of slaves. These were usually Christian slaves working for pagan masters. 

Slavery at this time was different from the 17th to 19th century slave trade we typically think of. Slave status was usually temporary.  Slaves were usually emancipated by the age of 30.  Slaves could perform many duties, including teaching and medical care.  After becoming free citizens, many slaves continued to work for their employers by choice.  Slaves often achieved Roman citizenship and eventually enjoyed a decent standard of living. Therefore, this passage does not only apply to “slaves” as we think of them, but to anyone with a “boss” or someone from who they take instruction. 

Within the Roman Empire, there was no such thing as equal treatment.  Everyone had a status. Children were not even considered equals, until Christianity was introduced. The rise of Christianity changed the status quo of relationships across all barriers, as Jesus Christ set an example of submission to his Father. Jesus was the ultimate servant. He did all things for His Father in Heaven. Therefore we also should:

 “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men”. Ephesians 6:7

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It was just last week that my 4 year old daughter reflected my resemblance to Cinderella. It was not because I am beautiful or youthful. It was not because my tattered clothes suddenly turned into a beautiful, pale blue ball gown.

 She thinks I’m Cinderella because I told her I had to finish my “chores” before I could play.

Although I laughed at her metaphor and thought it quite witty, I was also troubled.  It has been gnawing at me that she may think I have no choice in the matter. That my actions are simply carrying out drudging work in order to play later.  

The truth is, I choose to serve my family because I love them. There are times when I grumble and become resentful, yes. Perhaps that is more obvious to her than my desire to serve them.  Perhaps I grumble and complain more than I think I do. Maybe I am not modeling a servant’s heart.

My prayer in my last blog included the sentence:

I want to have a servant’s heart like Paul.

 Seems like this is another area (in me) where the Holy Spirit is moving.  Sincerity of heart.

“Serve…. with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”  Ephesians 6:5

Anything I do should be for the Lord. I should have a cheerful disposition both outwardly and inwardly.  God has chosen me to care for and nurture parts of his creation. Whether I am teaching my children, tending to my garden, or preparing a meal for my family, I am serving the Lord himself.

And I can only do that work (from the heart) through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will not only enable me to live out what Paul describes, but give me the desire to do so.

Jesus Christ “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  This was the example that led servants to treat slaves with unprecedented respect. This is the example I need to reflect upon when I am tempted to complain and harbor resentment.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God himself, came down from his throne in heaven to lay down his life for me. To serve me and to serve this world.

It is because of His great love for us that He serves us. It should be His love that motivates me to serve others joyfully.  this job

 

I am not Cinderella because I am not a servant against my will. I am choosing to serve God by serving my family.  I will choose to depend on the Holy Spirit as the endless source of love.

Lord,

I thank you for constantly reminding me how I need you.  Apart from you, I have nothing good to offer. I pray that I would work diligently and sincerely for you. Regardless of the type of work I have the opportunity to partake in, I pray the Holy Spirit to intercede and give me a servant’s heart. I pray for humility and love. In Jesus’ precious and holy name.  Amen.

Living in Grace,

Lisa

 

Check out John Piper’s encouragement on working for the Lord:
http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lord-focused-living-at-work

 

 

 

 

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