A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Month: November 2017

Sweet Self-pity: On Burying Martyrdom

It was on my birthday that I was finally convicted: Something needed to change.

So my birthday falls on a holiday. As much fun as that sounds to people under the age of twelve–it can mean celebration is an afterthought in a blizzard of school activities and family hoopla. Somehow, as an adult, that translates into a level of embarrassment: wishing for a slice of that pie on a day already blurred with excitement.

So that morning, we added to our run-of-the-mill morning chaos all the other to-do’s we were cramming into our schedule. That’s on top of what you probably face in your own morning: the compulsory sibling squabble, at least one bad attitude (with six of us, including one hormonal cycle and one teenager, odds are always good), one miscommunique, one child leaving early for choir practice. Despite the tender well-wishes of my kids and husband, when the door closed on a silent house and sinkful of dirty dishes, I confess to thinking, I hate my birthday. I hated a somewhat unreasonable desire expectation for more.

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Quick-tips Holiday Survival Guide to Awkward Family Situations

Holiday gatherings with family can be fraught with frustration, hurt, and old habits–right alongside the pumpkin pie. Here, a few ideas to help you cook up a happier, freer Thanksgiving and beyond.

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A Guest Post: FREE Printable Thanksgiving Scripture Art!

Editor’s note: This is a guest post of Personal Creations, who wanted to extend their printable Scripture art to you! Just one more thing to be grateful for this year. Happy Thanksgiving! – Janel

When it comes to Thanksgiving, we gather around the table to enjoy a the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the all-American green-bean casserole–and to celebrate each other’s company. Before carving the turkey and piling the plates with food, take the time to say a special thanks to the Ultimate Giver: God.

While prayers of gratitude have been around far before Thanksgiving in 1620, all early celebrations of thanks began with God at the center. Across many unique celebrations, people praise Him as a way to say thanks for the all the good that He’s given…and given…and given.

Illuminating the many acts of thanks and praise to God in the Bible, Personal Creations wanted to create Thanksgiving Psalms to use at your Thanksgiving feast, and for many celebrations to come. Print them here!

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Self-deprecation–and other “stupid” thoughts

self-deprecation and other "stupid" thoughtsMy friend gazed at me through FaceTime, a kind smile on her face. “I just want to let you know that I just counted you saying the word ‘stupid’ six times when talking about yourself.”

Yikes.

She grinned. “I’m telling you this for your sanctification.” A little church-girl humor there. I thanked her.

I was surprised not that I did it, but maybe how frequently. I know that self-deprecation is part of the stressed version of myself; it’s one of my “tells”. And as I’ve written, my behavior has been more in that vulnerable state lately. Unmoored. Tippy.

I’ve gotten better about not making jokes about my body, at least. (Body issues of mine have a thick and convoluted history; read here and here.) To my sister a few years ago, I shook my head–made a comment about my hulking German shoulders making me look like a linebacker from the back. She countered me, all seriousness: “Would you ever talk that way around your daughter?” Honestly, I wouldn’t. (If you vocalize your body image issues around your kids, don’t miss this brief video–which yes, my sister passed on.) But I had to wonder: Was it a problem to say it openly to a friend?

All of this makes me wonder why I’m more comfortable with self-deprecation than talking about my strengths. Which, healthy as it is, still feels about as natural as swallowing a tennis shoe.

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 10 Ideas to Help you Build Submission and Respect

Like this series? Get more of these here.

I’ve been putting this post off.

It’s pretty much because creating a sense of respect in my kids still makes me want to tear my hair out.  Admittedly, my oldest is now 13, so we’re breaking new ground in this area.

Um, honestly? American culture demands very little of kids in this area. Our country was actually founded on some degree of…rebellion. Ugandans, for one, are mildly horrified by the manners of many American children toward their parents. But then again, African cultures are largely shame-based. I think you can solidly establish respect without shaming children–but it is harder without wielding shame. Yet they are not mutually exclusive in my book.

Our kids are going to be under authority their entire lives. With the exception of a few horrid dictators of suffering countries, everyone on this planet is under authority of some kind. (Jesus is, too.) Offering our kids the gift of submission is one of those keys that opens doors for the rest of their lives.

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Guest Post: Diversity Training for Our Kids

diversity training for our kidsWe were headed to church, exhaling clouds of steam in the still-cold car. Up in the front seat, I happily remarked to my husband about the expanding diversity in our small town–as judged authoritatively, of course, by my trips to Wal-Mart. After five and a half years in Africa, I can feel a little stifled amongst all the vanilla around me.

My daughter, from the backseat: “Why does ‘diversity’ make you happy?”

She didn’t, it turns out, know what diversity was. So we talked about it: That God expresses Himself through every culture. That differences make us more vibrant and loving and whole. That we want people of all types to be welcome here.

In light of this year’s extensive, heartrending violence, maybe you’re wondering along with Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, “How did we get here?”

Here’s what we know. The Church must–must–lead the way in accepting each other as Jesus accepted us (Romans 15:11)–when we were still His enemies. As pastor and radio host Bob Lepine recently pointed out,

The source of all racism and white supremacy is the person the Bible describes as the father of lies (John 8:44). Racism is demonic. It’s diabolical. To believe that one group of people has more value or worth than another is the spirit of antichrist…

Racism is a sin against God Himself. It is God who created us in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:27).

….Christians must publicly, humbly, and boldly stand against racism. Followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of the chorus speaking out against what has taken place. Especially when white supremacist groups claim that what they’re espousing is somehow a Christian way of thinking.

There should be no equivocation on this. No nuance. We must speak clearly and forcefully in proclaiming that all men and women bear the imago dei–the image of God.

 

So how can we instill this in our kids? Today,  I’m guest-posting with some practical ideas on this critical topic at my friend Kristen Welch’s site, WeAreTHATFamily.com. I’d love for you to chime in. Hop on over and check it out!

 

 

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Off-Season: When You’re Not Where You Wanted to Be, When You Wanted to Be There, Part III

Her: So what do you do for a living?

Me: Oh. I’m a freelance writer.

Her, crease darkening her brow as she wonders, Is this a clever way of saying “virtually unemployed”? : Okay… So what does that look like?

Now. Compare this scenario to about six months ago.

Her: So what do you do for a living?

Me: Oh. I’m homeschooling my kids because we’re in Africa. On the side I teach some refugees.

Her, a glow widening her smile: Wow! That sounds amazing!

One of these, you see, is decidedly more sexy than the other. (Even with the “homeschooling” part thrown in.)

I get it. Most of us have a hierarchy of Job Coolness Factor. (I’ve got one, too. And Christians aren’t exempt.)

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Shadows, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Inside-out Life

inner life inside out smallerAllow me to briefly refer to a bad movie, if you would. After all, that’s what makes for a great Thursday.

Remember Shallow Hal (2001), with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow? Tacky as it was, the idea of the movie is actually sheer genius. Hal, a total womanizer (this is not the genius part), disregards any woman outside of the “knockout” category. That is, until a spell is cast upon him. Within the spell, women’s inner beauty–or lack thereof–manifests as outer beauty. Hal falls hard for a woman who, to him, looks like Gwyneth Paltrow. To the rest of the world, she’s woefully obese. Hal can’t figure out why she’s treated with such disdain; why no one can see how he’s won the jackpot. She’s unspeakably kind and physically dazzling.

What I like about an otherwise dumb movie: What if the portion others see of us misleads and distracts from our actual selves?

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