Don’t Weep for Me

I think one of the things that has hit me the deepest this Easter season, is the absolute humility of Jesus Christ.  The strength of his character is unimaginable. The compassion for others, to the core of his being, wasn’t something that could’ve been faked. It was his very nature to think of others above himself.

Before I lose some of you here who are thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I heard this story a hundred times already…I’ve seen the film. I get it.”

Just stop.

Picture Jesus. Close your eyes if you have to and picture him.

Not the Scandinavian man with long flowing hair from the Bible story picture books.

Not the man with the clean white robe and blue sash.

Not the white skinned, serious faced character from the paintings, surrounded by people.

But a man…A Jewish man.

Betrayed by his friends.

Beaten beyond recognition.

Innocent, but falsely accused.

Sentenced to a horrendous death.

Carrying a cross upon his torn up back, until all strength was gone.

And a crowd of women, crying and grief-stricken, trailing behind him.

And rightly so! Jesus was the victim here! Certainly, he deserved their sympathy. Certainly, he deserved their tears.

But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t you weep for me but weep for yourselves and your children…” Luke 23:28

When I read this yesterday, my eyes filled with tears. For Jesus was the most unjustly treated man that has ever lived on the face of the earth.  Yet he never once, NEVER ONCE, victimized himself. Even when he was falsely accused, even in his suffering, even in his betrayal and abandonment by close friends – he did not weep for himself.

He was continually more concerned with the spiritual state of others, then of his own darkest moments.

And as he was nailed to the cross? I have partially stepped on a nail (as in it went through my shoe and partly into my foot and it hurt for days!) I can not even imagine the pain of what he went through at the hands of human beings. Surely now he would curse them!

 “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

While hanging there, suffering beyond comprehension, he spots his mother.

“Mother help me! They’ve misjudged me! I only helped them and they’ve done this to me! Mom, I’m in so much pain!” That’s what my voice would’ve yelled.

 “Dear woman, here is your son…and John, here is your mother.” John 19:26-27

Not ONE selfish thought.

Not ONE bit of self pity.

Even on the cross he was honouring and caring for his mother. Even in his suffering he was forgiving his tormentors.

The amazing strength and integrity of Jesus is unfathomable. How I love this man! How absolutely perfect and noble. How incomparable to even our greatest hero’s today!

And when it was all said and done he cries out:

“Father into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46 

And he breathes his last.

Jesus simply trusted God‘s will. He trusted him even in his suffering, until his last painful breath. He trusted that God would keep his spirit, even while being under God’s judgement and condemnation himself.

It’s easy to read the story and not feel it.

Please, take time to read about this incredible man, Jesus, the image of God himself in human form. Read the story slowly. Think about it deeply. Really picture the details. Perhaps other things will stick out to you from the story, perhaps other details will bring tears to your eyes.

But whatever you do, DON’T harden yourself to the message of the cross, where Jesus didn’t weep for himself, he wept for YOU.

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Speak Out…or Pray?

It’s no secret – a huge struggle within the church is gossip and slander. And those who don’t gossip or slander, I find, are many times no better. Likely, they instead try to confront and fix the person, which causes hurt, broken trust, and disunity as well.

So often I want to give voice to the problems I see in others, either by gossiping about them or by confronting the issue. And I’m not taking about having a humble, caring conversation…rather a confrontation which sends the message: “I am right and you are wrong. You need to change or apologize.”

The reason for this is not because of courage or boldness, nor zeal for truth, nor love of the person.

 It is simply unbelief in prayer.

For if I truly believed in prayer I would only need speak up when God told me to speak, because God knows that most of the time OUR words can’t change people. More often, they hurt people. And even more often – we’re wrong.

God alone sees the human heart, and likewise, it is Him alone who holds the power to change it.

 

The Road to the Cross

Heart full of pain, pack heavy as lead,

Not really alive, neither fully dead.

Wandering on to meaningless trails,

Endless darkness, walking the rails.

What am I here for?

Stumbling pain unto pain,

Life is a joke! Nothing to gain.

Flashes of visions: A man on a cross.

Why was he there? Never quite knew,

With all of my struggles, didn’t care to.

Why must everything bad happen to me?

How to avoid it, when one couldn’t see.

Darkness so thick you could choke on the black,

The load just increases upon my sore back.

Strength slowly dying, along with my soul,

Dreams become curses, crushing my goals.

Oh God, what’s the point? Are you even there?

Or am I just cursing into thin air?

If really existing, you’d make yourself known!

Why live anymore if I’m walking alone?

Night cold and hard, yet easier to breathe,

Darkness still felt, but thinner it seems.

I was told to follow my heart all along,

So why did this happen? Where did I go wrong?

Walking along the path that was shown,

Never thought I’d be stuck here, cast out and alone.

“Help!” The cry feels stuck in the air,

“Help me! Please! Much more I can’t bear!”

No sooner the words escape from my lips,

When the heavy pack drops from my grip.

In terror I struggle, I can’t let it go,

Turn back to grab hold, but notice a glow.

A dim light, so faint, didn’t see it before,

Grabbing my pack, I turn to see more.

Dawn peaks her head up from under the night,

I draw ever closer, so mysterious the light.

A loud sound hits the Earth, I hear it so near!

A gruesome sound that turns my stomach in fear,

A man groaning in pain, I rush to the sound,

Crying out loudly, for this man must be found!

The day steadily grows clearer and so does the cry,

Hurry to make it or this man will but die!

Then…there he is, hanging – Oh Lord! It can’t be!

A man cut up and bruised on a dark, blood-stained tree!

“Who did this?!?” I scream!

“How dare they?!?” I shout!

The evil that put this man here, it’s no lie,

The person who did this deserves to die!

Then the eyes of the man turn and look straight at me,

I can barely describe what it looks like to see,

Such innocent eyes, filled with love and pain,

Powerful eyes, but gentle the same.

How could there be such humility there,

Joined with authority in the same stare?

I look all around, searching who is to blame,

Justice would treat them exactly the same.

The man starts to speak, the Earth shakes with his words,

And I know that this Man is the Lord of all Lords!

“My Child, Understand, I was put here for you.”

Falling down on my knees, “Oh God, what did I do?”

Surely, I had nothing to do with this Man,

I had nothing to do with the iron piercing His hands.

Then my pack that I’m holding splits right into two,

And as the nails spill out, I see that it’s true.

The pack that I held, held the proof I was wrong,

The nails that I carried told the truth all along.

It was my very nails that held up the Son,

I could now only scream, “Oh, God! Look what I’ve done!!!”

But it was no use, for the Man’s life was gone.

Weeping and wailing, I fall to the ground,

My sobs carry for miles, a hopeless, lost sound.

Lowly before the cross I now lie,

Not to get up, for down here I will die.

Time standing still, the world holds its breath,

Then who comes forth – but the Man! Defeating his death!

Jaw open, limbs shaking…how can this be?

And my heart trembles greatly as He strides towards me.

Out in the open, nowhere to hide,

Exposed in my filth, dead to my pride.

I brace myself greatly and wait for the blow,

But to my surprise, the Man stoops down low.

He lifts my tear covered face in His hand;

The same voice that formed the sea and the land,

Speaks over me these three precious words, “I love you.”

Then says, “All that I wanted was that you would see,

What I really did for you on that old cursed tree.

And now you have done all that you need,

For in repentance and rest you will find that you’re freed!

It is finished, throw that old pack away!”

The Man stood there shining, brighter than day.

In death I died with Him, in His life I live still,

Now my heart cry becomes, not mine – but His will!

No longer a slave to the sins of my past,

I am saved by His blood, safe at home, free at last!

(A poem I wrote last Easter, previously titled “The Cross”)

Spilled Milk

The picture above was taken early this week.

Gallon smashing – my eleven year old calls it, apparently, is a lot funnier on YouTube than in reality.

I had just come home from a shopping trip/errand run…my three younger boys, who had come along with me, complained the entire drive.  My 10-year-old daughter had stayed at home, tired, after a night of throwing up. I had a migraine which had come on after yet another sleepless night. I drove into our garage, turned off the vehicle and turned back to my wild, crazy crew.

“Boys,” I said in a gentle but firm voice, “I want you to help me carry in the groceries before running off to play.”

And the miracle was, they did it! Without complaining, the older two boys exited the van, opened up the trunk and each grabbed an armful to haul in. I proceeded to get my youngest out of the van and clean up some garbage when I heard it: A thump, some yelling from one boy to another, and a heartbroken wail coming from the younger of the two helpers.

Before I even opened the door to our house I knew what had happened. Something had accidentally been dropped, probably from carelessness, and a big mess would await me inside.

I took a deep breath and went in to assess the damage.

A few years ago, I would’ve seen the full gallon of liquid, splattered everywhere, leaking underneath my permanent island and FREAKED OUT, probably sending every child to their room, guilty or not. I would’ve screamed, I would’ve yelled, I would’ve LOST IT.

Simply put, I would’ve looked only at the spilled milk.

But as I walked into my house, I barely saw the milk. Instead, I saw two big blue eyes brimming with tears. I saw my six year old brace himself for the reaction he expected. I saw his fear. And mercy gripped my heart. I couldn’t bring myself to get angry at him.

He had tried to carry two gallons at once, they had been too heavy for him to lift on the counter and one had slipped. I found myself kneeling before my son, comforting him and thanking him for doing his best to help.

I’m aware that I write a lot about how I’ve changed in a good way these past few years.  And I can point to many different things that may have been a factor, but the truth is, I simply began seeing the fruit of my authoritative-based parenting…and it wasn’t pretty.

First of all, of course, I noticed it in my children. My children seemed to no longer be able to speak a kind word to each other. They would yell at one another for making simple, honest mistakes.  They would harshly accuse each other of terrible things, without waiting to hear the full story. And I, in return, would try to discipline these behaviours out of them. However hard I tried, my discipline didn’t seem to be helping, in fact it seemed to be making things much, much worse.

In reality they were simply copying me, my pride, my overreaction to their mistakes.

I wasn’t a terrible parent, I was giving it my all and doing as best I could with the resources I had at the time.

If I could just be more consistent, I thought. Maybe if I was just a little more firm, maybe if I would be involved even more, maybe then these things would change.

Yet, the more involved I tried to be, the more frustrated I became until I came to the end of my rope in parenting and had to take a big step back to find out where I had possibly gone wrong.

And finally, after many months of reflection, reading, parenting courses and support groups, I came to an eye opening conclusion: My core beliefs in parenting were wrong.

They were wrong! They were causing my harsh responses. They were causing the lack of connection I felt with my children. They were causing the extreme ups and downs of each emotional outburst.

I believed that the stricter I was, the better behaved my children would be. I now realize that control CANNOT shape a heart the right way…only peaceful love does. 

There is much more to say about this, but I think I will leave it at that. I have much more to ponder today.

To Those who Understand

To Those who Understand: Thank you.

Thank you for not only caring, but for listening and responding with compassion. Thank you for taking the time to really see what is needed, instead of just offering a quick fix solution. Thank you for your mercy, for your grace, for your kindness. You will indeed be blessed for all your care.

Because you know what’s really lacking in the world today? People who care and who know how to show it.

I remember a time when someone shared with me their deepest pain and I absolutely cared, but completely lacked the wisdom in showing compassion. Their heart wrenching tears were met with my know-it-all, matter of fact advice, instead of with a listening ear. It came from a well-meaning heart, but it also came from an unwillingness to understand and feel along with people. Because most of the time, those of us who feel like we have all the answers to life are merely just turning a blind eye to others around us and their pain.

Pain that don’t fit with our point of view or theories.

Pain that uncomfortably questions our way of thinking.

So instead of digging deep for truth- biblical, loving truth – we brush these people off and give them scripted responses to their situation. And somethings are really too deep to try to figure out. Somethings are just too heartbreaking to try to reason and explain with logic.

Can you imagine someone going to a funeral of child and then approaching the Mother and trying to offer an explanation for why it happened?

That would be imaginable. We have names for people who would dare do such a thing:

Heartless.

Cold.

Insensitive.

You don’t go to a funeral and give logic to why it happened. You show emotion and you care.

Yet again and again we try to we fix people and logically deal with them in the midst of their pain and difficulties. We often jump the gun and try to solve the issues we see, before taking the time to listen and care.

And this was me…until it was my heart that broke into pieces. Until my pain was brushed aside by well meaning people. Until I was met with solutions instead of sympathy.

My challenge to all those reading this: Step outside your world and instead of pretending to be humble, BE humble. Don’t act like you have the answers when your friend just needs a shoulder to cry on. Don’t tell a person who is hurting that they are doing it all wrong, even if they are making tons of mistakes. Because the chances are that your cold-hearted, self-righteous attitude will cause more harm than good.

So gently, lovingly listen.

Keep your solutions to yourself…even when your advice is asked for, give it sparingly. For God can do more through our prayers than through a thousand know-it-all words.

If you disagree with me, and feel like God has called you to be someone else’s Holy Spirit, then I would ask you this one question: Is your faith actually in the powerful working of a Holy God, or is it in yourself?

To those who understand this: You didn’t learn this the easy way. I now understand.

Motherhood isn’t a Sprint, it’s a Marathon

In life, many things are a sprint.

In school it was always a race: who could get the highest grades? Who could be the fastest athlete? Who could be the student of the year? The most popular? The most likely to succeed?

In school, one could run their course, like a sprint. If they worked hard enough, studied harder, pushed a little bit more…if they had the strength and the speed, the drive, they could be the winner. And there was always only one winner. No one remembers the girl with the second highest grades.

Getting a job can have the same drive. Who can be at the top of the pyramid? Who can be the supervisor? The manager? The Boss. The one who leads them all? Only one person can be CEO…do you have what it takes?

And then comes Motherhood. We read all the books – certainly we will be the best parent EVER. Certainly we will stick out from the rest. And we quite literally waddle up to the starting line, expecting that this race will be like all the others.

And for some of us it starts of very much the same. We have all our ducks our in a row. The house is prepared. The nursery is finished. The work schedule is cleared for a year. The baby falls into our social schedule nicely. Check.

When our baby sleeps through the night first. Our house stays cleaner than those around us, we lift our heads a little higher. Other Mom’s fall behind and we scoff, because they obviously don’t know the secret to this race. Then comes along the second baby, wait, and what?!? A third! And slowly we begin to say, “Hey this race is no longer fair!! Of course THAT lady is winning, she only has one tiny newborn, who contendedly lays strapped to her mothers chest. Of course she looks more put together. Of course her house is cleaner!”

But still, it bothers you and you try to pick up speed. To keep up to who you once were. Except the problem is that there are three little ones crying around your knees. They’re too tired. The baby is hungry and needs a diaper change. The toddler is getting blisters on their tiny feet. The four year old just want you to read them a story.

And you scream: “NOT NOW!! Can’t you see? I have a race to win!!”

Their sorrowful cries are met with impatience: “Hurry up! Get your shoes back on! We had to keep up!”

Running at this speed, that once felt normal for life, is now downright impossible. And you wonder: Where did I go wrong?

What is wrong with me?

Why can’t I keep up?

You think to yourself: “Obviously, I just need a better stroller. I’ll get the two seater. Maybe a better set of runners for the kid. Maybe an iPad for the bored one.” So you get some new gear. And start running again. And it works!! NOW we’re talking!

Looking ahead, your jaw drops. An obstacle course?!? Who put that there? Obviously your new stroller can’t go around THAT! You contemplate leaving the kids behind, after all, if someone else could run with them and take care of them for you, the kiddos could catch up to you later!

You’ll never win at this pace!

But then you see their tiny, tear streaked faces and you stop. Because something in your heart cries out: They just need YOU!

So you pick them up, now carrying two in your arms. Wow, this is hard. The four year old trips and begins to cry. And you slam to the ground, discouraged and downcast.

It’s no use. You can not win this race.

Weeping in despair you sit in the dust, but then, what happens next amazes you. The four year old crawls on to your lap and gently pats your face. Then he hands you the book he’s been begging you to read. You look at him for the first time, and his eyes shine back. And you truly look at the others. They stretch out their hands to you.

On the ground suddenly things look different and you see much further ahead. You see that the woman who was in first place has fainted and lies motionless from exhaustion. And that Mother you passed at the beginning of the race, she slowly walks up to you, now caught up, and gives you a knowing smile.

It was never a sprint, you whisper to yourself watching with pity the others who don’t yet realize this. For their children all have the same sad eyes. They have the same yearning look: Please Mom, just stop!

This wasn’t sprint. It was a marathon. And it wasn’t about being first, at all. It was about sticking together, through it all. It was about taking breaks and getting back up to go a few steps more. It was about stopping to admire the beauty around you. It was about reading that book, over and over again.

You begin to enjoy this race, this Motherhood thing, but then you look up and you see the finish line approaching. The kids are now older, and they begin to race towards it at an alarming speed. You cry out: “Wait!!! Slow down! It’s not a rush!” But all too soon they cross that finish line. Tears stream, because it took much longer than you had first pictured, but, oh, it all went by too soon.

The sweat, the pain, the frustration and exhaustion is forgotten. You smile and let them go to begin their own races. If only, you think with a sad smile, you had know this from the very beginning: Motherhood isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Don’t Forget the Good

I mentioned a few posts back that I’ve been sifting through old journal entries. A lot of the entries focus on my frustrations, my failures, my kids failures. But then there was one, a complete gem, that made me vow to start keeping track of the good as well. This entry was so touching that it had me crying and smiling all at once:

Date: Aug 16, 2012

Yesterday my children put me to shame. I heard of an orphanage being built in Ethiopia that would house abandoned babies. It is already being built in faith that the needed funds will come in. But until the house is completed they are by law unable to take in any of the babies that are left in the wilderness to die. The government has strict rules on this so they need the money desperately – lives are at stake. Innocent lives. I had already had it in my mind to give $500, which is already $200 more than we usually give every month. As I wrote out a check, my eldest son, Isaiah, asked me what it was for. I told him the story of these babies and he ran to his room to get his piggy bank. He pulls out EVERY bill, toonie and loonie, only keeping a few cents for himself. It came to $75 – his entire life savings. Then, my next child (Bella) saw this and pulled out her piggy bank and the next child (Jonas), giving over half of their own money. Together, out of their own will, they gave all the money they have been saving from their birthdays, Christmas’ and other earnings. It came to $105. And here I am sitting on a big savings account. God, bless the tender, giving hearts of my children! It will take them years to save this money again! Isaiah is only 6, Bella 4, and Jonas 3…and already they are being generous for you. I wrote out a new check to cover their balance and have it in my mind to secretly put their money into the bank for them. Thank you for kids, who continue to teach me lessons that completely amaze me.

Often I just see the things that need to be changed in my kids lives, and quite honestly, the lists of behaviours and irresponsibilities they have completely overwhelm me. But then, I read this and step back to actually see my children through the Father’s eyes. And the truth overwhelms me: In many ways they are FAR more sweet, pure, forgiving, compassionate and gentle than I am. And I am instructing them??

I shared this journal entry with them instead of devotions one morning last week, weeping and asking for forgiveness. For too often focusing on the bad. For too often overlooking the good. When they are GOOD kids. They are often sweet and unselfish, and I often feel the opposite about them because I get stuck on teaching what needs improvement, but I forget that the most important thing in a teacher is the ability to see the good in their students and call it out. In doing this, we don’t try to make our children become something they aren’t, rather they begin to see who they are and flourish into a mature version of that. When I am told I am good at something, it pushes me to try even harder, to learn even more. But when I am told I’m terrible, or a failure, it makes me want to give up and not try at all. Teaching my children, has taught me this in a very sobering way.

I think God has a sense of humour, because I see myself as their teacher, but quite often they are mine.