The Discipline of Change

I’m going through a difficult season right now where I feel broken and tired at every turn–health difficulties and struggles, emotional and mental instability, and also just the tiring parts of adulting. In this season, one where I feel so helpless, I’ve been forced to trust God like never before. I’ve been forced to give over control (mostly perceived!) in so many areas.

Sarah Clews ChangeI can’t believe I thought I knew what trusting God looked like as a young adult. Have you ever looked back on something you did or said when younger and just cringed with embarrassment? Too many times I look back with horror at my judgmental nature, hasty conclusions, overly direct and harsh words, and thoughtlessness. Sometimes I’m surprised I still have any friends after how I behaved!

I’m encouraged though by how God has been working on changing and transforming my soul over the years. The kind of trust I’m learning now…it’s so much more painful and brutal and soul stripping. It’s the kind of pruning that hurts bad but brings forth the best fruit. I’ve recently discovered just how many props I’ve been leaning on. What does one do when these props are stripped away? What’s left? My bare naked soul is finding that I control so much less than I ever thought.  

change sarah clewsGod has used my three little girls to break me down and root out my selfishness. The constant needs of three tiny humans, the mountains of laundry, the endless wiping, cleaning, cooking, and so on, refines me. I really identify with the hashtag #motherhoodissanctifying, and have found encouragement as my children need discipline, because it reminds me true discipline comes from love. All of life, I see it serving as part of the process of change. Paul reminds us it will all be used to make us into more Christ like people. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

We take hope in being disciplined and changed by God, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:6 The change, the hardship, the mundane routine, it’s a sign that we are His beloved children. The best part? God never says, “You know what! I’ve told you this a million times and you just don’t listen.” He’s the Pursuer, the Rescuer and He never gives up. I am not a lost cause, and neither are you.


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

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The Opportunity of Discipline

Author: Kimberley Mulder

I hate having to discipline my children. I hold awkwardly and begrudgingly the parental authority that has been given to me. There is nothing that causes my heart to sink faster than my children’s disobedience and disputes. I can be in a fantabulous mood all day but when that door bursts open and in tumbles a wailing child followed quickly by a yelling one it feels like a massive vacuum suddenly sucked away my mood and energy. Honestly, if I am not careful this scenario can wrench my attitude into despair and discord for the rest of the day. It is in these times that I am seeing the situation as a burden rather than the opportunity it is offering.

What is the goal of discipline? Certainly good citizenship is a goal, as is building good habits. However, these are lesser goals. The great goal of discipline is to teach us to trust God. This is true whether discipline is enforced from outside (think parenting), or internally adhered to (think self-discipline). To keep our relationship with God healthy and strong he instituted an intertwined dance of trust and discipline. Every sin is, in some way, a distrust of God; discipline was meant to guide us away from the lies we believe and back to the heart of the One who loves us.

Kimberley Mulder DisciplineDivine discipline strikes me as art. God gets His message across to us, His disobedient children, in so many ways. Reading the Bible as a standard is a two-dimensional reading of a three-dimensional text. The dimensions of God’s discipline are so deep and high and loving, so personal that the receptive child will feel the gentle pressing of His words in the scriptures, and have it bring out conviction like a hologram that has turned to reveal the picture. At other times, in love that we cannot understand, He abruptly blocks a path like a shutter capturing a black and white image.

Imagine the Father painting His discipline throughout history. The base layer is the creation of the Israelites and the ten commandments, then throughout the Old Testament He adds the foundational characteristics through particular sudden strokes (like Saul’s downfall in 1 Samuel or Jeroboam’s legacy of war because of his idol worship in 1 Kings.) The prophets add depth to the horizon as they envision God’s desires and cry out to the Israelites to return to God. But when Jesus walks onto the canvas the picture becomes alive and complete. The details are added as the broad strokes of the old covenant are built on and covered by the fine, personal, lines of forgiveness.

Jesus touches and teaches individuals that it’s the heart the Father is trying to reach through discipline. He doesn’t want outward conformists and inward sinners. In John 8 the Pharisees ask him how to discipline the woman caught in adultery. But Jesus tells these conformists: “Let any one of you who is without sin throw a stone at her.” This masterful stroke drives right into their hearts. Then he deftly highlights the beauty He is painting with the finishing stroke of forgiving the woman.

So, as a parent, I want to emulate God’s purposes in my discipline. The trajectory of all my efforts is not to make good kids who will obey all the rules. Rather, it is to develop their trust in God above all.

Discipline Kimberley MulderI want them to trust me too, which means I must be trustworthy. Are they seeing and feeling that I have their best interests in mind? If I am reacting, then I don’t have their interests at the forefront. Do I listen to them carefully, giving them space to be heard? Do they see me making every effort to be fair? I hope they will reflect on their growing up and see that the consequences I placed on them were part of what shows my trustworthiness and God’s. This is a lot to embed into the hot scenarios that we encounter daily with our kiddos! That is why it is so important to spend time intentionally thinking and praying about our discipline strategies.

For some of us we need to see the discipline in our childhood as our Old Testament and let Jesus lead us into living his new covenant as we discipline our kids. Do you react harshly wanting to simply squelch a behavior? I confess, I do at times because of my upbringing and lack of intentionality. However, Jesus doesn’t squelch, ever. He probes into the pain and sin, illuminates, addresses and then extracts it with his truth and forgiveness. He does it in a way that draws us near, not pushes us away.

If you struggle, as I do, to allow Christ to renovate your discipline, I encourage you to intentionally address it. Certainly pray and read the gospels to gain insight into Jesus’s way. Seek out classes on discipline that are grounded in His way. Talk to parents who you have witnessed disciplining with grace and wisdom. Employ forgiveness. Learn to evaluate your response before you execute it. My oldest sometimes gets frustrated with me because I take too long (in her view) to answer or discipline. I remind her that I need to take the time to carefully process the situation with Jesus so that I don’t react in a sinful way. And when I do riff off a reactionary consequence to her (always to damaging effect!), I have gone back to her and apologized. Then we evaluate what an appropriate consequence would be for the situation.

Let’s internalize God’s loving discipline and intentionally learn the art of building trust through the opportunities that the disobedience of children and others bring to us.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Disciplined Contentment

Home ownership is  a dream of mine. For the last three years, after spending nine renting, I’m really looking forward to increased privacy, the ability to make changes and do maintenance without consulting a landlord, and better parking, just to name a few.

Sarah Clews Discipline (1)This desire has frequently led to me feeling discontent with my current living situation. However, I realized that if I don’t practice gratitude and contentment now, I won’t  be thankful or content when my dream is realized. I need to  it part of my routine. Choosing contentment must become a discipline.

I want to be like Paul and have Phillipians 4:11-13 pouring out of my life,“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Taking commitment seriously means  practicing stewardship. Instead of dwelling on bunching carpet, peeling paint, and disintegrating caulk, I’ve been routinely keeping these things in the best condition I can, and thanking God that our apartment is warm, and can be kept clean with a little routine elbow grease (and bleach!). When I feel frustrated that the yard maintenance guys blow bark dust into the window tracks and under the doors every Monday, I’ve been replacing my whining with cleaning the window tracks, and remembering to be grateful that I have windows.

I keep this quote from C.S. Lewis close at hand, “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature.” How much I would rather be heavenly than hellish, but my decisions don’t always proclaim that.

So, I’m making a choice. A choice that my routine is going to include being grateful. I have to practice being filled with gratitude every day. On Sunday, the sermon (taught by Brian Condello) referenced the story of the healed lepers in Luke 17:11-19. They cry out to Jesus for mercy and healing, and He does just that. But only one returns to thank Him.

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Discipline Sarah ClewsBrian Condello concluded the sermon with, “Gratitude allows us to see what Jesus is preparing for us.”

I need a routine of giving thanks, of finding something to grateful for. It’s only when I’m coming from a place of gratitude, of knowing I’m abundantly loved and cared for by my Creator, that I have anything to share with others.

 


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

5 Reasons Why I Read Scripture Daily

The most transformative discipline affecting my spiritual health has been, without a doubt, spending time in God’s word. I say discipline, because spending daily time in the Bible is not always easy. Roadblocks try to separate me from reaching for God’s truth: time, commitments, even reading other text written from fellow believers. Why do I practice this spiritual discipline?

image1 (3)Here are 5 reasons why I spend time in the Bible daily:

  1. We are in a battle folks, a battle against good and evil. A battle that is waging a war for our souls. Ephesians 6:14-18 shares, Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” We wouldn’t go into battle without first gathering all of our equipment, and going into battle against the devil should be no different. God’s word equips us with truth that will not lead us astray, even when lies and deceit are swirling around us.
  2. Our hearts and flesh fail. Take heart though, friend. God is our strength. Many verses point us to this truth. Psalm 73:26 says, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Filling up on verses that point us to God’s strength are needed in times of trial. We can’t do this on our own, but God can. 
  3. The Bible is chalk full of sage advice on topics such as wisdom. Proverbs 3:13 shares, Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.” Scripture will always point us back to God, no matter the topic. When we need the best advice, we can go to God’s word for the clearest answers. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
  4. Scripture equips us for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Spending time in God’s word prepares us to serve and love His people.
  5. God’s word is counter cultural, and teaches us to seek peace. We are living in world that constantly bombards and persuades us to reciprocate wrongdoing with more hatred or evil. An eye for an eye. Scripture, however, shows us that as Christ followers, we are to be different. We are to seek peace. 1 Peter 3:10 asserts, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” The peace of God inwardly transcends our hearts, and outwardly alters the way we live our lives.

image2 (1)I spend daily time in the Bible because life has a natural ebb and flow of mountains of rejoicing and valleys of mourning. Life has variables, but Scripture is constant. I want to submerge myself in truth, letting it marinate my heart. Soaking in God’s word eventually overflows into all aspects of my life. This spiritual act of discipline enables me to know and love God, and ultimately, love His people more.

 


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.