The good fruit of correction


Not many of us like correction. When you were little were you timid and easily molded by your parents instruction or did you have a rebellious internal spirit, difficult to tame and lead, what Dr. Dobson would refer to as the “Strong Willed Child”? Maybe you were a mash up- delightful one minute but bullheaded.

Even if we were easily corrected as a child, no child really likes correction. Who loved a spanking or even a good talking to? Whether we cowered at our parents’ mention of time out or busted full throttle through a threat and on to serious discipline, the correction itself is not the part we liked so much as the satisfaction of independence.

As adults, we’re not much different. No one naturally likes a demerit at work, no one loves to be the one who receives a redo on a project, or a “honey, could you do such-and-such differently” at home. We might like the fruit of correction eventually – a promotion, better understanding, richer marriage communication – but criticism, even when it’s absolutely and wholly constructive, is not found on any of our lists of “Favorite Things”.

James has something to say about correction in James 4:5-10. First focus only on the center of this section and then we’ll zoom out. James 4:7-9:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

This is correction. A requirement to submit to the authority in charge, namely our mom or dad, our husbands, our teachers, our bosses, or our government leaders. Our internal spirit vacillates between relief that someone else is in charge and frustration that it’s not us. We like control, so submission, even in the most submissive of individuals, is a task of growth, best done intentionally.

Listen to James’s words – submit, humble, cleanse, purify. I’m reminded of just how hard it is to get my kids to remember to intentionally wash their hands after using the bathroom, much less the intentional work of submitting to my husband, even though he is kind of gentle, and to my government leaders when I rarely 100% agree with their ideas and laws.

But we submit to a Higher Authority first. Our big beef with correction when we get down to it, is that God is in charge and we are not. We like to choose our own path, direct our own ways and we simply were not made for that. James uses the best language imaginable for the type of submission that goes with correction in our relationship with God. Look back at James 4:8 –

Draw near to God…

Write it somewhere to remember it. If I were crazy (and I am) I would write it on my hand, or my foot, or the top of my knee, to remind me that relationship with God means bending said knee and bowing my pretty little head. It is submission and that’s important- He’s Holy and Mighty and Far Above. But God operates differently in relationship with Him than He does outside of relationship with Him. Submitting in relationship with God is drawing near, being held, and yes, being corrected.

Zoom out to the wider view of James 4:5-10. Read the whole passage below. If you have your Bible out, underline verses 5-6 to see the relationship that we are given with our Father through the Savior.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He gives more grace…

That’s Who He is. He gives more grace. Correction is hard…

That pinprick of the conscience when we know we’ve done wrong

Opening our mouth for words of apology when we have spoken too harshly

Walking the hard road because we took our own way the first time around

Correction is hard.

But take heart! Correction by the Father is always delivered with grace. We can see the fruits of it through this lens.

Forgiveness can come in –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Goodness comes in, completeness comes in  –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16

Rootedness comes in –

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.          Proverbs 12:1,3

These are good fruits! God fruits.

James calls our laughter to be mourning and our joy to be gloom, but only because he knows that in that correction for a moment, we can see the light of Eternity forever.

We see our God clearer and closer. He’s right there, eyes in the back of His head, just like a Father, watching in tenderness.

He gives more grace…Draw near…

He’s ready to pick us up when we fall down, dust us off, and help us along as we journey the steep and the narrow, the wide and the open, always one day closer and nearer to Him.

 

Discussion:

What were you like as a child? How did you deal with correction?

Is there any particular instance of correction you remember growing up?

How has God corrected you in adulthood and when is a time you came through the correction, thankful for His guidance?

No chameleons welcome

When I was young I dated a guy that I would classify as a chameleon. You never knew what you were going to get. I have spent many a night lamenting the choices of my youth, but we each learn and we grow. One thing that God showed me during repeated sessions of repentance and forgiveness, was this…

it takes a chameleon to know a chameleon.

By that I mean, part of the reason I attracted or was attracted to guys who changed colors and shape like they changed outfits, was that when I looked deep down, I did as well.

It’s easy to shift when you’re young, trying on personalities, ideas, and opinions. Part of growing is growing out of our chameleon skin. The chameleon in us is part of what Paul calls, spiritual infancy. See what he has to say about it in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 –

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

We are ready. We have been growing. And we desire to grow more. We are big and brave enough with Christ in and around us to let God flesh out the chameleon pieces still stuck inside. Let’s see what James has to say about being one whole person, rather than a chameleon with shifting and changing fruit.

Look through the following passages in James to get an overview. James addresses this chameleon issue in almost every chapter. Although the passages each address different topics, you’ll see the chameleon effect running through all of them.

James 1:5-8, James discusses how easy it is for us to be doubtful in prayer and what we ask from God. We believe He is capable, but live wondering if He’s capable:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 3:9-10, James addresses the tendency for our tongue to run one way and then another on any given day:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

James 4:8-10, James addresses our failure to admit our sinfulness, while identifying the irony that facing our guilt and shame allows God to exalt us in forgiveness. We haphazardly try to present a version of ourselves to others that doesn’t “need” forgiveness:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 5:12, James calls out the chameleon in each of us point blank. We like to say no when we mean yes, and yes when we mean no. Oh goodness, I don’t know about you, but I am over those games:

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Growing up means looking at the world honestly, but it also means looking at ourselves honestly. Where in our lives do we present ourselves differently than others? Where do we shine God’s light and where do we put Him in a box and forget about Him?

I’m just as guilty as anyone. The good news is that fruit comes from our Savior and His Spirit and not our own whims. We are given the gift of His fruit when we fail. We confess and are forgiven, our hands are cleaned, and then we grow up. We shed that chameleon coat and when it pops back on, we turn to God and ask Him to do the hard work of molting it off some more.

Thank you, Lord for growing us up in You. Guide our hearts and our lives to live in Your salvation. Give us clarity where we need it and hope when we need it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Discussion –

When you were young, did you do anything silly that you wish you would have never done?

Look through James Chapter 2, what in this chapter can you apply to the chameleon effect and God’s good work in us of growth?

What area of your life would you like God to help you grow up more in?

The orange hat project

Will you or someone you know be at the LCMS National Youth Gathering this month?

Do you know a church work kid? A child of a pastor, deaconess, DCE, lutheran educator, lay minister, Director of Christian Outreach, or another church worker?

Don’t forget to look for Deaconess Heidi at the National Youth Gathering. She will be wearing a giant orange sunhat and has a gift for each of the church work kids that find her!

We love our PKs, DCEKs, and all the kids that bless us by being part of ministry life in church work families and bearing with all the good stuff and the struggles of the church. Help us get the word out so that we can love on these kids.

What’s the present? Well…my kitchen is filling up with half of them. 🙂

 

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Yum! The other half will have to remain a mystery.

Find the orange hat!

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Loving on our Church Work Kids – NYG Edition

It’s almost National Youth Gathering time! Approximately 25,000 Lutheran youth and their adult chaperones, a seas of yellow shirted volunteers passionate for building up youth in our churches, another sea of orange shirted young adults passionately serving Him in New Orleans, it sounds absolutely wonderful to me. I can not wait!

This year, I get to bring my oldest daughter. If you can not tell, this mom is super pumped. I’m sure that some of you remember sharing a “first” faith milestone with a child – the first time they went up for the children’s message, the first time they could speak the Lord’s Prayer, the first time they belted out a song or hymn with the whole congregation of God. It’s exciting when God gives us these glimpses of His work in them. This milestone, my daughter’s first national youth gathering feels like a big one. I’m not sure who is more excited- her or me. 😉

One reason I am looking forward to NYG for her is that she has the opportunity to be swept up in the largeness of the Body of Christ. She gets to see the wider expanse of the people of God coming together. On any given Sunday, Macee only sees the Church from the perspective of our congregation in Northwest Ohio. It is a wonderful congregation, but I want her to understand the full diversity of the church – different sights, different sounds, different people in fellowship, in the Word, and in worship.

For all of us, but for teens in particular, this is a unique opportunity to understand the scale of the church and say,

I’m not in this alone! This walk…we’re in it together.

I have decided that this is particularly important for a PK or other church work kid. There is an ugly factor in the church that these kids see, no matter what protection factors we put into place. There are also occasionally weird expectations for these kids within their home congregations, that they can shake free of at a mass event or program at NYG, in a way they may not be able to at home. For this time, they get to be one of the crowd.

And the crowd…it may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. At our small church, sometimes Macee is the only one at youth night or her Sunday School class. The crowd is a gift that I can’t give her within our normal life. Even this, this is a blessing for us.

And so, I’m setting out to love on some PKs, DCEKs, DeaconessKs, LutheranTeacherKs, any church work k’s at the National Youth Gathering. It’s part of my mission in life to love on our PKs and encourage them. This builds up our church work families and also builds up our churches. I do not know the statistics, but I personally know countless stories of church work kids walking away from the church or at least the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and if I can do one tiny thing to help them to stay, to share with them the beauty of this Body together, as broken as we all are, to share with them that they are loved and valued members of the body of Christ, I’ll do it, however I can.

Church work kids – find me at NYG! This should be a challenge, given the other 25,000 people traveling the streets together, but I think you are up for it! I will have a giant orange sunhat to identify me. Inside my backpack I have a thank you gift for you from myself and Grace Place Wellness Ministries. This is what we do – support and build up church work families, helping to keep vitality and joy in ministry.

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What’s the present??? Hmmmm….should I tell? I can’t decide. My daughter assures me it’s cool. It is consumable and substantial, but easy to carry. Any guesses? 😉

I can’t wait to see you at NYG. I can’t wait to say thank you and take a minute to acknowledge that we’re in this together – all for His glory. Visit me! Pass the word around, otherwise, no one will know I have treats. 😉 If you’d like to be involved in loving on some church work kids this summer, give me a holler.

See you in July!

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Confirmation: Giving our middle schoolers the gift of celebrating


Our house is a bit of a hub-bub in this season of our lives. We have four beautiful children, with lots going on. My husband and I are both professional church workers with our own schedules. But much of the hub-bub has a little less to do with the everyday and a little more to do with what is to come.

We are preparing for confirmation at our house. Confirmation verses are being picked. Party ideas are being pinned. Food, and invitations, and attendees are being selected.

At first glance it may seem like a bit much, but we have been preparing for this moment our whole lives, as a family. We aren’t making it a big deal because we want every thing, every party to be bigger and better, which, let’s be honest, is kind of our culture in America. Holidays can’t be celebrated casually between a few friends. There must be crafts and over-the-top food and drinks. The decorations must be top notch.

This planning, though, is for a different reason. It’s not about the cultural expectations, or what people will think. It’s not for the “Ooooo-s” and Aaaah-s.”

This party is for our child’s moment to proclaim what she has learned, what her foundation is, what Jesus has done and will continue to do and be in her life. This moment is HUGE, in and of itself.

And it deserves to be celebrated as such!

My thirteen year old is beautiful – inside and out. She is a precious child of God. I know that every mother of a daughter reading this feels exactly the same way.

So, I would like to take this moment of her confirmation to celebrate that fact. More than that, to celebrate the beauty of Christ in her.

Preteen life can be really difficult. Our world is beset with challenges for every preteen child. Purity is real spiritual and emotional struggle. Students in these years face questions of identity and independence. Who am I? What matters to me? Are my values the same as my parents? Years 11-14 may seem like an emotional roller coaster for everyone in the house, if you have a preteen there. Even from 9 years of age, girls and boys can struggle with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual changes. This is normal and natural, even if it’s not always pleasant.

How can we help them hang on to what matters in these rough and slightly chaotic years?

First, we can be Christ to them. Whether they are our own child, or someone else’s. Preteens often feel dismissed, by their peers and sometimes by the adults around them. They aren’t old enough to be seen, culturally, as people with valuable opinions. In the church, we can show them differently though. We can say and act as if they matter. We can strike up conversations and find out about their interests. We can believe that they have fun things to share in worship and at LWML and around our tables.

Second, we can make big milestones important. We can hold them up in honor and say “Look at God working in you!” “How exciting is growing in the faith? I can see that happening in you!” We can celebrate and hold banquets and feasts and party.

So, now you can understand why we are getting ready for confirmation at our house. I want my child to know without a doubt that confirmation matters. I want her to know that her faith growth is more precious than jewels, Jesus in her is a priceless gift to be celebrated and acknowledged and treasured.

My sweet Macee chose Jeremiah 17:7-8 as her confirmation verse because she loved how it reflected a firm trust in God, with roots planted deep and God growing her each day of her life. There will be trees and water and fresh lavender in her decorations and sweet friends to share the day with. There will be laughter and celebrating and a lot of eating.

This moment is priceless and we will lift it to the Lord, praising Him, thanking Him, and celebrating His amazing work in our precious treasure

Confirmation. A milestone worth celebrating!