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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Obedience, Bullseye and iPods

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."  (John 14:15)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  (1 John 5:2-3)

I have often taught the children that the best way to say "I love you" to mom and dad is to trust the instructions and rules given to them from mom and dad... to trust that these are given to them for their good, not bad.  Giving mom a pretty picture that says "I love you, Mom" is great, but if you then go ahead and trample on mom's instructions or lie about hitting a sibling, did that gift testify to the truth?  

This reminds me of a time in ancient Israel when they were consumed by complacency and they would go through the motions of obedience but their hearts were far from God, trampling all over the very heart of His laws which in essence are to serve Him and love Him with joy (not obligation) and to love others with as much joy.  God would say "your heads are turned towards me but your bodies are turned away."  Essentially, any form of worship not proceeding from a heart that rejoices in the truth of His word becomes an abomination and He would declare "in vain do you worship me."

So too, acts of gifts and giving or words become empty when actions of the heart testify differently.

My children know that we seek the intentions of our hearts in our actions and the moments that these reveal a genuine love and trust, a spiritual rejoicing takes over... love becomes truly experienced.

I have to remind my children of this now and again, particularly with bedtime routines.  But once I ask them "how do you show Mom that you love her?" and they respond "through our obedience", a wonderful thing happens.  As I climb up to tuck them into bed and every aspect of their bedtime routine has been accomplished of their own choosing, their beaming smiles on their faces testifying to their excitement is enough to warm any mother's heart.  In those moments, it is my delight to thank them for gifting me with an "i love you" that reaches my very soul.  

True obedience is a gift of love, never given out of fear but out of freedom.  Otherwise one would have to call it something quite different.  Today, I find our culture is so afraid of the word "obedience" and ties it to a scary, authoritative brutal dictatorship where all freedom is smooshed and obedience is demanded and strangled out of someone rather than given.

Obedience is always a choice.  And true obedience is a gift, a freewill offering... or rather, an offering made of our freewill.  And when you know the gift delights the one whom you love, it becomes your delight and joy to give it.

Today, Avalyn was playing on an iPod first thing in the morning... something that is contrary to the rules in this house.  Melina (19 yrs old) and her boyfriend, Jared (19 yrs old) are in town and were in the living room when they saw Avalyn (2 yrs old) playing with it.

"Um, Avalyn?  Are you allowed to play on the iPod right now?"

Avalyn sheepishly looked up at her big sister and shook her head no.

"Then what do you need to do with that iPod?"

Avalyn reluctantly turned off the iPod and slowly walked towards the wall unit where these are kept.  She picked up a second one and stared at both of them in her hands, looking from one to the other.  The temptation was nearly palpable!  As she continued looking from one to the other, something seemed to resolve in her mind, and she said:

"I choose Yaweh."  With that, she put both iPods away where they belonged, turned around and went about playing happily.  Rather than feel deprived, she took delight in her obedience and even revealed a confidence of being freed conscience-wise.  Had I forced her to put it away or used fear to make her obey, I would have robbed her of fine-tuning her own self-discipline and mastery over temptation.  Each of these tiny victories in self-control is like working out a spiritual muscle.  
"My power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Corinthians 12:9)
And with this I encourage each of you to trust that the laws of God, His instructions, are given for our good, not bad.  That no amount of professing with our lips that we love Him will compare to our delight in doing what is pleasing to Him... love His law, which is spiritual (Romans 7:14).  He will never take away your freedom to choose for yourself if you will gift Him with your obedience, but He knows that by nature of its design, it will lead you to a freed-conscience and a joy beyond measure.  God gifted us with His spiritual law that leads to life because its purpose has always been to keep us aiming on the bullseye, which is Yeshua... the very embodiment of it. 

I envision Him as a Father coming to "tuck us in" and our eagerness and excitement in sheer anticipation of knowing our obedience to His "bedtime routine" is going to put that big smile on His face... I want to see a softening in His eyes as He says "thank you for saying 'I love you' in a way that reaches the very depths of my soul."  Our Redeemer, Yeshua, has proclaimed that if we love Him, we will joyously keep His commandments, for they are not burdensome but rather a delight to give!
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.  (John 12:49-50)
Jesus did not come to abolish the law (Matt 5:17), but to testify and confirm to the truth of the life found within it... that our obedience may be founded on our freedom to gift it... our freewill offering.  May you be blessed by the very embodiment of God's eternal and unchanging law, the perfecter of our faith, our King of Kings, Lord or Lords... our Everlasting Father.  I ask this in Yeshua's name... Amen.

Friday, 5 December 2014

What Time is it Miss Avalyn?

My children are such keeners that some days I get worried I won't be able to stay a step ahead of them with homeschooling! Another thing that amazes me is how the two little girls watch and learn without my realizing it.

Sivana (who is four) and Avalyn (who is two) found the toy clocks I use for teaching time. I believe that the best learning happens when a child shows intrigue and interest. The girls clearly had this as they were moving the hands around on the clock so I figured I would seize the opportunity and teach them the basics of "o'clock." The little girls already know their numbers so the only thing now was to explain what the hands mean on the clock and how they communicate to us. In our house, the rule is "littlest one first" so this concept was easy to transfer to the little girls... "which one is the littlest of the two hands?" The girls excitedly pointed correctly. "Right! Littlest first so we look to see which number the littlest hand is pointing at. Next is the big hand. Mommy's going to teach you the o'clock rule... when the big hand is pointing straight up... show me your hands pointing straight up... you got it! When that big hand is pointing straight up, he says 'O'CLOCK'! So littlest first then 'o'clock'!"

We went a few times around the clock and the girls got it pretty quick. At this point, by no means was I expecting this to stick but to my amazement, Avalyn has been notifying me what time it is throughout the day! My two year old is better at keeping time than I am! :) Tonight at the dinner table, she said "Mommy, it's seven o'clock." "Yep, Avalyn, you're absolutely right!" She has been struggling lately with staying in her seat until the completion of the meal so I've been teaching her about self-control and obedience. Today, she did a great job with staying seated so after her clever remark on time, I added "And Avalyn.. you have done a great job with being obedient today. Thank you!" A big triumphant grin came across her face "Ah.. yo welcome, Mom. God fixed my heart."

I nearly choked on my bite! I had been teaching Ethan and Anika that no matter what we do in our daily lives, good deeds or bad, if these do not proceed from a loving and serving heart, we've missed the mark. I've tried to call attention to the heart of their intentions to grow in self-awareness. When Ethan swung a rope around and inched his way closer to Sivana until she got hit and cried, I asked him "what was the desire of your heart in that moment?" To which he looked at me and sheepishly said "My desire was to hurt her and make her cry." "Thank you for being truthful, Ethan. Can you tell me why that was something you desired?" "No.. I don't know why." "Well, chances are if you can't figure out the 'why,' you'll likely be facing that desire again. Until you can figure out the why, try harder not to give into the temptation of that desire, ok?"

Or on another occasion, our family was sitting in the living room with my Mom, and Ethan thinking that Grandma Jacquie was cold, grabbed a blanket and put it on her lap. I watched to see if he would delight in doing what was right or if he would look for accolades. Sure enough he looked over at me and said "Did you see what I just did, Mom?" I burst out laughing and said "Oh my son, you were so close! Should we put a blanket on grandma to keep her warm and be helpful or so that other people point out what a good boy you are?"

It is truly a blessing to be in this family and to help encourage each other towards living truthfully and with integrity knowing full well we fail but we never stop trying. The kids are even "good" at pointing out my shortcomings! :) "Mom, remember that it is not kind to raise our voices."

Choke that one down in the heat of frustration!! I've since explained that if I've had to say something more than twice, it merits a yelling. ;) They agreed that was fair.

But here we are with little Avalyn who unbeknownst to me has been soaking in the teachings about keeping watch on the integrity of our hearts knowing it is God who instructs us through His Word, as long as we seek Him diligently through it. For He alone is the God who removes hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh... hearts that walk in the delight of His law. (Jeremiah 31:33 and Ezekiel 36:26) Avalyn was brilliant in acknowledging that Adonai guided her heart towards obedience... and she responded!

I love the blessing of the life Adonai has given me. I love these little lambs He has placed in my care and their eager hearts to do good. I pray He can guide me to stay one step ahead of them until the time comes for Him to take them beyond anything I am capable of. Then, just like the jet packs pull away from the rocket, Duane and I will, too. And beyond telling time and gaining mastery over the desires of their hearts, perhaps God will grant them a wisdom and understanding that truly is, out of this world.

Blessings to you all out there. May His peace be upon you this night and always.