Successful Failures

What happens when you’ve done great things for God, followed what He’s told you to do but in the world’s eyes (including the church) you look like a failure?

Have you ever felt like this?  Have you ever given one hundred percent, and more to God, only to have things tank?

It’s not something we, in the Christian community, like to speak about because it raises some questions, doubts. Why would God do that? It makes no sense to our mortal, small minds. Do I even want to serve a God who would do that? These are not thoughts we are quick to ease into conversations in the church foyer or even over coffee with a good friend. These are doubts we harbour deep inside, sometimes even afraid to whisper them to God, himself.

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No, we like to talk about the blessings that come from obedience and the success stories of following God’s will against all odds. The growing churches, the faith-filled mission trips and the walks of faith that defy all odds. But what if it seemed the odds were not in your favour? Are these stories still considered ones of success?

For the most part, I think many are dismissed as failures, even by those who live them out. We think to ourselves that the results speak for themselves. That our doubts about God and His ways, speaks volumes about failure and little about success.

We see the look people give us, the small shake of the head. “What did they do wrong?” or “What’s wrong with them?”

We begin to fall for those lies. We ask ourselves, “Is it me?”

I think this is a good question to ask ourselves sometimes. We need to do a heart check every once in a while. If, after examining our hearts and motives, asking God to reveal truth, if, after all that, we still would have done the same things because we knew that was what God was asking us to do, than we have an answer. No It’s not me.

Guess what? We are not alone in our successful failures.

I think there are some prophets in the Old Testament, some missionaries and their families and many other Jesus followers who defy the definition of success in today’s world. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because people didn’t like what he had to say in Jeremiah 38. He was put into the cistern and “sank into the mud.” Stuck in a pit, sunk in mud. That’s success for you, right? It doesn’t say how long he was down there but if I were Jeremiah, I’d probably be questioning God about my purpose right about then, wouldn’t you?

Was Jeremiah a failure? Not even close.

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We have heard stories of missionaries who have been murdered and we think to ourselves, “What was the point of that?” Does it make them a failure? No.

They were following God’s instructions and direction. It probably didn’t turn out they way they hoped or even prayed for. It wasn’t that they were sinning or disobedient. God had and has other plans. Divine plans that don’t fit with what we think of as success here on planet earth.

In God’s eyes, His servants did exactly what He asked of them. As long as we are obeying God, the outcomes are not our worry. God gave us free choice and so the outcomes lay in God’s hands not ours. All we need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus and follow where He leads us. Even into successful failures because wouldn’t we rather be deemed a failure by the world and be right in God’s will, than have all the success of the world and have sold our souls?

Why I Send My Kids to Summer Camp

Let me just get this off my chest. I am not a camper. My family did not camp. The couple of camping experiences I had were rainy. Very. Rainy.

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The church and girl guide camps I went to didn’t endear me either. I am not particularly fond of the great outdoors. I hate playing games of any kind. I got homesick.

Perhaps I gave up too soon. So why then, did I encourage my kids to go to summer camp?

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1. Strangely, I still like the idea of camp. Stories taking place at camp and boarding schools were some of my favourites. Maybe the idea of no parents was intriguing. I also noticed that many kids who went away to camp and liked it, were campers for life. Somewhere there was a grain of truth to camp being a good thing and I wanted to find it for my kids.

2. Camp is very different from when I went to camp, many eons ago. Adventure awaits, not crafts. Well there are crafts for those who want them but when I went, it seemed to this non-crafty person, a main feature. As mentioned, I am not outdoorsy partly due to the fact I am allergic to trees, grass, dust, animals, etc. That pretty much makes up a lot of the outdoors. Also as previously stated, NOT a gamer.
But today’s camp? Adventures to test your mettle await. It might scare you silly but who cares? Rock climbing walls, high ropes, and all kinds of other challenging things for kids to try that they don’t necessarily get to do at home. Maybe that’s what I was looking for as a kid. I wanted to prove myself. Today’s campers get to do that if they so choose. (And maybe I just went to the wrong camps!)

3. Kids learn to get along. There is always someone in the cabin who rubs you the wrong way. It’s Murphy’s Law. The cabins are tight quarters so you learn very quickly, to put up with them or work it out. This is a skill that our kids will take with them into adulthood and use many times. More adults should go to camp and learn this skill.

4. Kids learn independence. My kids suddenly learned skills they didn’t (and I didn’t) know they could do like wash dishes! They had to learn to keep track of their stuff and pack it all up to go home. They learned that they could work through homesickness and have a feeling of pride that they made it to the end of the week. This in turn, lets them know they have what it takes to endure, and persevere.

5. Even though I don’t like the outdoors all that much, I want my kids to. Camp provides them with a beautiful setting and lets them see and appreciate nature and God’s creation. They learn to respect it and how to live in it. They see the beauty and the danger. It creates a sense of wonder and awe, even if it’s momentary.

6. In today’s tech age, camp provides a reprieve from it all; Instragram, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else kids are on these days. Camp pries the phone from their fingers and puts it in Time Out. They get the chance to look up, breathe and actually see their surroundings. They have to talk to someone face-to-face at camp. They get to laugh and clown around with other kids, without a phone in their hand to take a selfie.

7. Camp gives kids a chance to discover their own personality. Without parental eyes looking over their shoulders, they have a chance to loosen up and try new things and test out behaviours. (Sorry counsellors!)

8. Finally camp opens up a new world. They meet new people from different cities. They learn about their new friends’ worlds. They try new things and foods. They learn about leadership and take away a few lessons of their own. We’ve had many discussions about what they like in a leader and what they don’t. What they might emulate when they are in a leadership position. Camp shows them that there is a bigger world out there and endless possibilities.

So that’s why I send my kids to camp. I want them to be campers. Call me crazy. That being said, we chose the camp our kids go to very carefully. As parents we are trusting our children into the care of these people. You want to make sure they are going to be safe because stuff happens. It’s a good idea to talk to people who went to the camp as campers or their parents. I was familiar with the camp as it was near a cottage we rent.

It’s also a good idea to review with your kids about what is appropriate and what is not. Secrets are not okay. Hopefully, they vet the workers but why not be preventative? Some things to think about if you are considering sending your kids to camp.  We all want it to be a positive experience, right?

I prayed hard before and while they were at camp.  They may not be an arm’s length away from me but they are never out of their Father’s hands.

Finally, I do want to thank all the people who volunteer and work at camps. This is a calling and I, for one, am thankful for those who are called because I am not. The cabin leaders and other volunteers can make a difference in a life.  You have much influence.  So thank you.

Until next year…

 

Asking for Directions

My scenery has changed this week. As I look out the windows, I see trees and cedars and I hear the waves crashing on the beach just beyond the front door. You can see the lake from the big front window.

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It’s a week to unwind, rejuvenate, and create. It’s a week I have begun to look forward to every spring. Last year I put the finishing touches on Whole here. Who knew then, what a year would bring!

This year I am in a different place on so many levels. I feel like I have ended, started and am in-between. Can you be in all those spaces at once? Do you ever feel like that?

I feel like I need to stop and ask for directions.

I’ve walked along the beach the last couple of mornings in the sunshine and wind. Watching and listening to the waves roll in is hypnotic, soothing. My shoes dig into the wet sand. (No I’m not a barefoot sand person!)

I see footprints (someone is a barefoot sand person!) shoe prints and dog paw prints in the sand. I notice the colour of the water – grey up close and a thin line of turquoise and cobalt blue along the horizon.

I beach comb by taking pictures of interesting things as I walk. Driftwood, rocks, little streams feeding into the Great Lake.

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As I reach the point where I’m going to turn around, I see a sailboat beached. It’s yellow and pretty. Reminds me of summer stories of fun, sea and romance.

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After taking a couple of pictures, I turn around and head back the way I came. I’m thinking about the boat. I liked it. I wonder about what it would feel like to sail it?

As I’m walking back, I spot another boat. A blue rowboat. It looks like it’s made of wood.  I hadn’t seen it on my way up the beach. I stop and take a few pictures. The beauty is in it’s rustic appearance.

How could I have missed it before? I had walked right by it.

Blind. How many times are we blind to things that are right in front of us? Like the rowboat, we pass by, absorbed in our thoughts, our worries, our stuff.

How do you walk? Do you walk with your head down? Where are you looking? I often walk looking at the ground, intent on where my feet are taking me. Do you do this too? We miss a lot because we are not looking up, don’t we?

I had caught myself a couple of times staring at the sand rather than the beautiful water and trees and sky around me. I was missing the good stuff because I was looking down instead of up.

Look up.

Wake up.

Get up.

It’s starting to become my mantra. Perhaps it’s the directions I’ve wanted to ask for.

Looking up instantly engages us in our surroundings. We see who’s there, what’s happening. We are free to enjoy the scenery. We become aware of where we are and our place in it.

Waking up frees us from our blindness. Sometimes we are so involved in our heads, in what we are doing, in just trying to keep up with everything, that we fall asleep to everything else. We miss the boat so to speak. We don’t see the offer of something else, something new, something different. We bypass the beauty because we are engrossed in our small worlds.

Getting up is action. Don’t just sit there but go investigate that invitation, that beauty. Get up close to the boat. Touch it. Get in it. Take the next step.

If we don’t start to look up, wake up and get up, what are we missing? I think we miss not only things in this world but also in the spiritual world. As we look up, wake up and get up we become engaged not just physically but emotionally, and spiritually. We become more in tune with what is going on in both the physical and spiritual realms. We are ready to receive the next directive.

We become available. “Here I am Lord send me.”

I’m not sure about you but I want to be that person who doesn’t just see the boat, but gets in the boat and heads out to sea, following the One who does know the way.

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Seeking His Face

I’m not a big socialite. But when I do venture out into the masses, I usually don’t go just for something to do. I go with a purpose. I am seeking someone or something.

If I go to a party or a gathering, there is one person I will seek out. I scan the crowd looking for the face I am seeking. I listen for their laugh and the timbre of their voice. I may be searching for my husband, my sons or a friend.

When we seek, we look until we find, don’t we? We are purposefully looking for someone or something in particular.  Children seek out Easter eggs on Easter morning.  They eagerly look until they find the brightly coloured sweet treats.

Today’s verse of the day from biblegateway.com was from Hebrews 11:6, The Voice. Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking. (emphasis mine).

It was the last part of the verse that caught my attention. He rewards those who come seeking.

It struck me that all I have to do is come seeking Him. I don’t have to be anything else. We think we have to have cleaned up our mess first before we seek Him out.  We believe we need to at least try to have it together before we go to God. We tell ourselves we need to have solved our problems before we seek His face.

We have to be perfect.

But it doesn’t say anywhere in that verse or in the bible, that we have to have it altogether to come to God. To look for Him. To seek Him out.  The ill and infirm sought Jesus out.  Those who had blown it and those who were socially unacceptable came looking for Him. Those who had doubts came to Him.  He welcomed them all.  He didn’t turn them away.  He could handle it all.

We just have to come. Seek and you shall find him. (Mat 7:7)

If we had solved our problems or cleaned ourselves up, we wouldn’t need Jesus right? We’d be patting ourselves on the back.  We would be thinking we did it ourselves.  Our pride would tell us that we can handle it. No need to bother the Almighty. We got this.

It’s a big lie that we believe. Satan likes to keep us feeling like we are not good enough so we don’t seek God.  If we do manage to make some small progress bettering ourselves, then we believe we don’t need Him. It’s a vicious cycle.

However the verse from Hebrews is simple, Believe He exists and seek Him out. And he’ll reward you.

There may be other rewards but the main reward is Him. I AM, present in our lives.  His presence trumps everything else; the unsolvable problem, the explosive mess, the unredeemable relationship, the life that looks unsalvageable. His presence turns it all upside down and makes it workable. So the impossible is possible with God.  (Luke 1:37 The Voice)

All we have to do is seek His Face and He does the rest.

Why Good Manners Matter

This morning as I went to enter a coffee establishment, a young teen was just a couple of steps ahead of me. He surprised me by holding the door open for me and letting me pass through first. He wasn’t much more than fifteen. I thanked him and walked in. He left a positive impression on me. He had good manners. Some may not agree but in my books, he did. That simple act of kindness made me feel seen and that I mattered. It made me want to pass it on, that kindness, to someone else.

Good manners aren’t in vogue these days but they really never go out of style. Most people don’t complain about someone being polite or grateful. Why? Because good manners speak to so much more than being polite. Good manners generally signify that the person using them, respects others, thinks about someone other than themselves and has some character. “Please” and “thank you” show respect and acknowledges that the other person has value.

We are teaching our boys to have good manners. We aren’t perfect in this. It’s easy to let it slide because it’s such a forgotten art these days. However we keep trying and hopefully we will eventually have to remind less and enjoy the fruits of our labour more.

The other day, Mark reminded one of the boy to let me enter the house first rather than rush in ahead of me. And while some people will scream this is wrong, it’s interesting to me that when girls become of marrying age, these are the men who are considered the “good ones.” The ones who have been taught to respect a woman instead of looking at her like a piece of meat or a possession. The ones who have been taught to think of others first, who will put their wives and their kids ahead of themselves. Good family men. The ones who will care for people in their spheres of influence and take responsibility for their actions. The men, who have good manners and character, are the ones sought after. Isn’t it ironic?

As a mother of boys, I realize that teaching good manners is the first step in teaching them how to lead effectively, both in their families and in their lives. A true leader exhibits care, respect, and kindness to others. The first basic lessons in good manners. A leader who is all “Me, Me and Mine” isn’t a good leader.

A true leader is a servant to others. We don’t like to hear that. But it’s true. Take a look into history and have a good long look at those who were excellent, effective leaders. Take a look into your own lives, who do you respect the most? The ones who have your best interests at heart. Your children’s. The people who put a lot of thought into a decision that may or may not be one we want to follow, but is made with care, consideration and input from you and other parties involved. When one of our kids complain, “It’s not fair!” we tell them that fairness is not about equality. It’s about what’s best for them and what they need. It might not be the same for your brother. Leadership is a lot like that.

A strong leader will make the hard decisions and then help you through them. A strong leader empowers others to discover their strengths and skills instead of being threatened by another’s abilities.

A strong leader will not always agree with you but they will give you their respect and kindness.

Strong leadership is built on character, integrity and love. I want my boys to grow up to be that kind of person. That kind of leader.

Friends, I believe that one of the first steps to moulding them into that kind of man (or woman, if you have daughters) starts with teaching them good manners.

Turn Home

Home. What is your reaction to that word? I imagine there are as many different responses as people reading this blog.

What got me thinking about home was the study of the prodigal and a very poignant scene in a book I read a few months back.

The prodigal ran away from his home.  He demanded his inheritance and left home to go live the way he wanted.  Eventually the money ran out and he was feeding pigs.  Realizing he would be treated better at his father’s house as a servant, he returns home.  Hid dad welcomes him with open arms and won’t hear about him working as a servant.  He is restored to his place as his dad’s son.  The story is recorded in the gospel of Luke 15 if you are unfamiliar with it.

In the novel I read, the main character was forced from her home.  Many years later, she is weeping and someone asks her why is she crying? Here is the quote from the novel Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas:


‘“Because I am lost,” she whispered into the earth. “And I do not know the way.”
It was what she had never been able to tell Nehemia – that for ten years, she had been unsure how to find the way home, because there was no home left.” (Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas, p.281)

That scene has stayed with me for months because I understand exactly what this character is expressing. When we can’t find home, we are lost. Have you ever felt that way?

After many moves and as I age, I’m learning home is not really a place. I’ve lived in many houses, not all have been a home.

We put a lot of emphasis on the physical home here in North America. We are told in countless ways that the places we live need to be up to date and nicely decorated. There’s a certain standard to live up to. I agree that living in a place you find nice, goes a long way to making it a home. But it’s not the main thing. I think we have it all wrong.

I believe home is whatever we give our hearts to. That saying, Home is Where Your Heart Is, is true. That’s why it doesn’t necessarily have to be a place. It can be a person, a job, a dream. We lose sight of the fact that these homes are all temporary.

We can get lost in them. We lose our way from our true home. God created us with a longing in our very beings to be in a relationship with Him. He is our true home. I heard a speaker in the summer talk about how we should not inspire children to want to go to Heaven. Because heaven is not the prize, he said. God is.

Making our physical homes, our spouses, our jobs or our ministries our homes sets us up to get lost. We put our hope in things and people only to get disappointed. We become disillusioned and we wander away from the source of our true home and hope.

Sometimes like that character in the book, we can’t find our way back. We are lost. All we really want is to go home but we can’t find it anymore. How do we get back?

We make it harder than it is, I think. In the story of the prodigal, the son turned towards home and found his dad waiting for him at the end of the drive. God is the same. If we turn to Him, He is there. Waiting to welcome us home.

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The Hard Choices that Build a Home

This fall has been a series of hard decisions. Choices for good things and others, not so great. Some have been parenting decisions, others personal. They follow on the heels of one another, like a conveyor belt of choice.

I hate making decisions. I have a tendency to put them off. My brain feels muddled and I can’t think straight. I doubt myself. Anyone else do that?

Some decisions and situations can’t be put off. They involve other people and answers have to be given. What to do?

There wasn’t a clear cut path for any of our decisions. Unfortunately, for a couple, it involved saying no to something that was greatly desired. It physically hurt to utter the word no and then follow through.

It’s so tempting to do the easy thing. At the moment, saying yes is the easy way out for me even though the consequences of the yes are anything but easy. But in this moment, yes is enticing. No is a prickly thorn.

I feel like a juggler, trying to keep all the balls flying around me, up in the air. If one more thing is thrown at me, I’ll drop them all. I don’t want to follow the narrow path of doing what is right for us as a family. It takes too much effort and I just don’t have it in me to fight yet another fight. I think. I wrote in an email to a friend, something to the effect; Parenting is sometimes really brutal. So is following God.

The angst and the sleeplessness won’t go away and that tells me that I don’t have a choice. We have to step up and do the hard thing. The very lessons I’m trying to teach our boys are being brought home to my own heart. We are not supposed to be like everyone else. It might get uncomfortable. Doing the hard thing is exactly that; hard. It’s part of the landscape of being parents, and Christ followers.

I’m learning that it’s not my job to please others, even at times my own loved ones. Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:23, Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. The Message.

It’s my job to teach and model for my family what a healthy life looks like. What a Follower of Jesus looks like. That is my purpose as a mom and as a Christian to fight for those I love. I am grateful I don’t have to wage war alone. I am blessed to have warriors by my side and a God who has said He will never leave me.

I stumbled on this verse yesterday. It’s not one I’m familiar with but I really liked it.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; though knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4

That’s the kind of house and home, I want to build. Not everyone is going to like it or agree with me. That’s okay, I’m still going to build it. This house will have a foundation of hard decisions, explanations, love and grit. I’m trusting it’s going to stand the test of time.