Just living my life, and making it work!

Archive for February, 2016

I’m a Tax Collector

A few Sundays ago I was in church discussing the fact that Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were thought to be particularly  terrible people as they got rich from taking more taxes than they were due, and by collecting taxes for the Roman Empire they were assisting in the oppression of their own people.  Matthew, Levi, and Zaccheaus were all used as examples of  tax collectors who Jesus spent time with. In Mark 2:16 the Pharisees called Jesus our for eating with “sinners and tax collectors”. The implication of this study being that as Christians we should climb down off our high crosses, and  reach out to the lowly sinners and tax collectors to show them the error of their ways. Are you kidding me?!?!  I find this sentiment especially  repulsive, because guess what ? We are all tax collectors.

In case you missed it I’m gonna say it again.

WE ARE ALL TAX COLLECTORS!

I can clearly remember being 15, sitting on my bed with my BFF discussing everyone else’ sins. We were patting ourselves on the back because we didn’t smoke, or drink, or sleep around, and we were absolutely judging those we knew who did. I had a list of do’s and do not’s, and I felt my list of do not’s was pretty clean (at least on the outside). It wasn’t, but I felt it was especially when I compared myself with the other kids I knew. In reality, on the inside, I was judgmental, manipulative, gossipy, prideful and self-righteous. I was every bit as big of a “tax collector” in need of redemption as the kids we were trash talking. The only difference was my sins are not as easily detected by others from the outside. And by the way over the years I have participated in more than my fair share of those easily detectable sins as well.

The point is all of us have stuff that puts us at odds with God’s standards. Even those who we would consider to be really “good people” are not. Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Furthermore, Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We are ALL sinners and tax collectors in need of reconciliation with God. Even our very best attempts at living a Holy life falls so incredibly short of God’s standards that it is compared to “filthy rags“. Our hope of redemption does not depend on how clean our list of do’s and do not’s is, but from accepting the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the resulting infusion of the Holy Spirit within us.

I see people all the time standing on street corners throwing people’s sins up in their faces. They are ranting about sins like alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, homosexuality, and promiscuity. They call these sins abominations, and tell people that if they stop doing them they can come to know Jesus. I’m sorry, but Jesus is not a 10 step program. John 3:16-17 does not say “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and  only Son, and whoever  shall not drink, smoke, engage in homosexuality, fornicate, engage in adultery……. will not perish, but have ever lasting life….” Instead it says ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It is impossible for people to overcome sin and then come to Jesus, as it is only through Jesus that sin can be overcome.

So instead of thinking of ourselves as Christians reaching out to the “lowly” sinners and tax collectors how much more amazing would it be if we said “I am a sinner and tax collector too. This is my stuff, and this is how Jesus has brought me through it, and continues to bring me through it every  moment of every day of my life. AND this is how you can lay your stuff at his feet too.” Instead of putting on a face of perfection so people will see how Holy and self-righteous I am, I need to be showing people my brokenness so they can see how Holy and righteous my God is.  When confronted by the Pharisees for eating with sinners and tax collectors Jesus simply replied ” It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I don’t know about you, but I’m just another sick tax collector patient in the hospital of life in need of a cure named Jesus.

 

 

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Why Our Children Don’t Have College Funds

We have five children, and sometimes people assume that means we have a larger than average income. While we have been blessed financially, I think it is more accurate to say that we have different priorities than many Americans. One of those is we have let go of the financial burden of paying for our children’s college. This is a purposeful decision we made even when we only had one child, and could easily afford a college fund. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying people with college funds are bad parents. Every family and situation is different. The following is simply why our family said “no” to college funds.

We don’t have a dream for our children, because we know God already has a plan. Many parents not only assume, but insist, college is an outcome for their children. We are not in the business of running our kid’s adult lives. God has already equipped our children with the traits they need to become what He designed them to be. It is our job as parents to cultivate that relationship, and shepherd those traits, so our children can grow into the people they were created to become. Both of us have masters degrees so we aren’t anti education. We realize college may or may not be important to any one of our kid’s adult lives, but we just don’t assume that it is. We also know that if it is, the provision will be there without our saving up for it.

We measure success differently. Our children’s value is not tied to personal wealth or choosing a prestigious career. Instead, their value is tied to being children of God. Our hope is that they grow into adults who love God, and pour His love into the people around them. Of course we want them to be independent and productive members of society, but that will likely end up looking very different for each of our children. For example, one of our children wants to be a math teacher, and our first grader wants to be a garbage truck man. All work is valuable, and making lots of money or being well educated isn’t the only way for people to prosper. Our sole criteria on the path they choose is that it is moral, legal, and they can support themselves doing it.

There is value in the struggle. Parents often want to pay for their kid’s college, because they remember what it is like to try and pay for their own college. They remember having to pull all nighters studding because they were working during the day. They remember not running the air conditioning, and scraping together a few dollars to buy milk, and box of cereal, and some ramen noodles. They love their kids, and don’t want to see them struggle the way they did. However, when things like college are simply handed to a mostly grown child it takes something away from them. They loose experiences that grow important traits like self reliance, self efficacy, problem solving and financial management. This is not to say we are just going to throw them out when they graduate high school. Of course we will help them however we can, and we will help them plan for their future. That help will not come in the form of simply writing a check.

A friend recently told me of a story she read in a devotional. A man was watching a butterfly come out of its cocoon. The hole was very small, and the butterfly was struggling to get itself through. Out of compassion for the butterfly the man made the hole slightly larger so that it would be easier for it to come out. Sure enough the butterfly quickly appeared, but unfortunately its wings were never strong enough for it to fly, and it died. What the man didn’t know was the struggle to get through the opening is what makes the butterfly’s wings strong enough to fly. Just like the butterfly our children need a fair amount of struggle to grow strong enough to fly.

We have more important things to do with our money.  God put adoption on our hearts, and by aligning our values and goals  with Him instead of the basic American culture we have been able to say “yes”. Not only do our adopted children have a family, and hope for a better future, but the lessons in unconditional love, grace, redemption, and the importance of family have given our biological children (and us) more than a college education ever could. I realize not everyone has a heart for adoption. However, God has placed a need on every Christian’s heart, and it hurts me when people miss out on those blessings because they think they cannot afford to meet that need. If this is speaking to your heart right now prayerfully consider where your money is going.  Maybe its not a college fund, but instead it is a bigger house, or a newer car, or a big remodeling job. Maybe you need these things, and maybe you don’t. I’m not trying to judge anyone’s life. I’m simply asking that you pray about it, and ACT on the message you receive.

Running from God by Being Intentionally Busy

Last night at a Bible study I admitted to my girl friends that I felt convicted for ignoring my blog. I felt God asking me to share my story through several situations, and He has all but left a Post It note on my desk telling me to. Personal writing is uncomfortable. Letting people in is uncomfortable. What if no one reads it? What if they do, and they don’t’ like it? What if I really have nothing to say? All of these thoughts, and more, have made me feel ill equipped, and so I have ignored writing all together under the auspices of  “I just don’t have time to write.”

My girl friends pointed out that just like Jonah I was running from God’s instructions. Instead of running away physically, I was running by making myself intentionally busy. Instead of letting God fill my time with the things He wanted me to do, I have been filling my time with things like a hair bow designing business, and selling Jamberry nails. See, if I kept busy, I could justify my ignoring writing my blog. It is time to realign my priorities to His, and so here I am, writing the first blog entry in almost a year.

Before I go, I want to ask you to think about the following……..

How have you been running from God? Have you been like me, and filling your time with other stuff, and telling God you are too busy? Or have you overextended yourself financially, and think you don’t have the financial resources to do what He has asked you to do? Or maybe you’ve been putting it off until after a life event such as retirement or children growing up? A friend of mine joked last night that a big whale was going to swallow me whole, and in the bottom of the fish I’d find paper and a typewriter. Sometimes God goes to great lengths to get our attention when we ignore Him, and sometimes He may simply start asking someone else. But, either way, when we don’t do the things God asks us to, we are telling Him we don’t REALLY BELIEVE He is who He says He is, and will do what He says He’ll do.

So what ever it is that you have been ignoring, or putting off, start today. Let’s stand together on the cliff of faith. Ready…..Set…..JUMP!