Blame Or Blessing

“I’m right and you know it!” rings out across the living room. The whole situation started off simple enough but now lines have been drawn and pride is at stake. This battle won’t end soon.
We like to think there isn’t conflict in our homes and closest relationships. We imagine living life in perpetual bliss. Then without warning, conflict pokes its ugly nose into an otherwise wonderful day.
These situations shouldn’t surprise us or leave us feeling “less than Christian.” Far too often we quickly sweep them under the rug or avoid it altogether. Sadly, in many cases the source of the conflict is never addressed and the wound only festers.
In Dave Harvey’s excellent book When Sinners Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage he lists four ways to put our beliefs into practice in conflict.
1. In humility, SUSPECT yourself first
Harvey argues that we should be regularly suspicious of ourselves for two simple reasons. First, our hearts play a clear role in our behavior. Second, our hearts tend to oppose God and his ways (see Jeremiah 17:9).
Unfortunately this is the road less traveled in most marriages. Rather than humbly admitting our struggles we deceive ourselves and attempt to make our stand on our own righteousness.
2. In integrity, INSPECT yourself
So often we automatically assume we need to fix the other person. Consider the words of Jesus:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
Most conflict involves wrongdoing on both parts. How would your struggles be different if both parties took Jesus’ words seriously?
3. Admit that circumstances only REVEAL existing sin
I understand the desire to be honest. However, that can’t be an excuse to unload on the other person. That’s just blame shifting and mean. God often uses tense circumstances to reveal the nastiness in our hearts. Consider the ways Jesus responded in conflict. There was no door-slamming or name-calling. Remember Jesus’ words:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45).
That’s true in conflict as well. I feel less self-righteous when I think about the ways I have responded to conflict recently.
4. FOCUS on undeserved grace, not unmet needs
My needs aren’t being met! If you’ve thought that – you’re not alone. Marriage counselors hear those words on a daily basis. Scripture however offers a different source of our relational problems.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God (James 4:1-2).
According to James, it’s not our needs, but renegade desires that cause the issues and lead to irreconcilable differences. What if we chose to focus on the grace God has given us rather than our desires? If we look close enough, we might see that He’s been gracious enough to show us the reality of our problem and provide the solution.


Big Prayers

If God has placed one of his children in your home or sphere of influence, he has done so for a purpose. They are an investment worth making.
As we’ve looked at the role of grace in our homes and relationships, I’ve pondered the ways I do OR don’t show grace to my family and others around me. More than anything, I’ve seen my personal need for God’s grace is ongoing.
Without a steady diet of God’s Word and prayer, we don’t stand a chance of loving and leading our families in grace-filled ways that point back to him. I can’t imagine that I’m the only one that struggles in prayer. Reality is that overstuffed schedules and life in general mean we usually pray very little.

The truth about prayer

We’re quick to pray in an emergency when sickness or hurts add up, but slow to simply spend time talking to God and enjoying his presence. Prayer is more than a list of needs or even a conversation. Prayer is an encounter. Through prayer we are invited to sit and enjoy the presence and glory of God. He meets us with his grace. Through Jesus, he welcomes us as his children.
I remember reading a quote by Tim Keller on prayer that really struck me. He wrote, “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that kind of access.” That must be why Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6.

Big prayers for our kids

When we pray for our kids we aren’t talking about our kids to someone who is impartial or incapable. No! We pray to the God who is infinitely wiser, more powerful, more committed, and more loving than we are.
Not only do we pray infrequently for our kids, but we pray too small for our kids. Too infrequent. Too small. We should pray BIG prayers, on a regular basis, for our kids.
As I grow, I’m seeing the importance of Scripture in my prayer life. Praying Scripture has a way of bringing my kid’s greatest needs into focus, but it also changes my own responses and priorities as I seek to guide them. They need grace as much as I do.

5 Bible verses to pray for your kids

1. That they would respond in faith to Jesus
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, (John 3:16-17).
2. That they would always grow in their devotion to Jesus
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen, (2 Peter 3:18).
3. That their minds would be filled with good things
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thing (Philippians 4:8).
4. That they would never live in fear but always recognize God’s presence
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
5. That God would someday provide a godly spouse for them
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14).
God has placed these young ones in our homes or in our spheres of influence. He is their greatest need. Let’s pray big prayers, every day, for our kids.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20).


Redefining Mother’s Day

Mom and I had recently had one of those conversations that a single daughter dreads having with her mother: “I’d really like to be a grandmother while I can still enjoy it,” she said. Since dating wasn’t a usual thing in my life, kids were even further out of the picture.
So, that Mother’s Day, I decided to deliver a Hallmark card to my mom in a different way.
At that time, my job was best described as acting “Mom and Manager” to about 36 college students every year. I bought them clothes, got after them about their grades and gave them travel allowances, just to name a few of the motherly roles I played in their lives. Since my “kids” were going to be giving a concert close to my hometown right before Mother’s Day, I had them hand deliver her card. That night, she got 12 instant grandkids all hugging her and asking her if she could help them pay for college! I hoped it would squelch the grandchildren discussions for at least a little while.
When I was the age of my “kids,” I projected that at 30, I would be married with a family and possibly teaching math. But God had slowly redefined family for me. My “kids” were all 18- to 22-year-old college students. And I got a new crop of them each year. They could make my day or break my heart (and still do – Facebook keeps us connected). Simultaneously, my mom was also redefining family. Over the course of many years she babysat a total of 13 kids while their moms taught school. Even in to her 80s, she never missed their birthdays and graduations. She was also a sounding board, encourager and prayer warrior to many of their parents. She prayed for years that one dad would accept Christ and become the spiritual leader his family needed. He eventually made that decision.
Both Mom and I were made richer for the relationships God put in our paths even if he had to redefine family to do so.
In years since, He continues to redefine family. College students became partners in ministry and the new “kids” are often team volunteers and more high school musicians.
This Mother’s Day, I am thankful for the mom he gave me. I’m also thankful for several other “moms” in my life. So to JoAnn, Erma Lee, and Naomi, thanks for being there when I wanted to quit or just needed someone to lean on.
Who looks to you as their “other” parent? Whose life is richer because you are in their life? Don’t underestimate the impact you might make upon this and the next generation!
Happy Mother’s Day!
Lisa Lewis