What My Peers Want

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Hi there,

I was teaching my children a lesson on the difference between peer pressure and positive influence, and it got me thinking.

Do you remember the story of Rehoboam? He was the grandson of King David. He became King of Israel only to drive Israel away and lose 10 of the 12 tribes. Just in case it’s been awhile since you’ve studied 1 Kings chapters 11 & 12, I’ll give you a quick summary;

  1. King Solomon, started out good and wise, but was led astray by his later “wives” into worshiping false gods. As he did so, his ego grew bigger than his budget and he placed heavy taxes on the people.
  2. After Solomon’s death, his son, Rehoboam, became king. The people’s spokesman, Jeroboam, asked him to lighten his father’s tax burden.
  3. Rehoboam asked for advice on the matter from 2 different groups of advisors:
    1. The older wise men, or Elders, who told him that the people will serve him more faithfully if he listens to their request.
    2. His “college buddies” (younger peers), who told him to “show the people who’s the boss” with whips and heavier taxes.
  4. Rehoboam showed that he’s easily swayed by his peers, and ignored the sage advice of his Elders. He increased the taxes and added harsh penalties for non-payment. (Brilliant, right?)
  5. Not surprisingly, the Israelites thought this was a boneheaded move. They rebelled and created their own kingdom with Jeroboam as King.
  6. Rehoboam lost 5/6ths of his kingdom, and the blessing of God for his inability to follow the wisest counsel.

So, my question is, in what way or ways am I listening to my peers instead of my Elders? Unfortunately, my parents have strayed from the gospel path, so their advice doesn’t always qualify as wise counsel. So first, who are my Elders? Then, what are they trying to teach me.

In my case, I can safely say my Elders are the older and experienced leaders of my church. I can look at their life critically and see if they have set an example of Christ. Are they living modestly? Are they managing the church’s tithes responsibly? Are they caring for the poor and needy? Are they living like Christ? Since they are doing all these things, I can safely heed their advice.

So, what are they trying to teach me? Well, from the front page of the church’s website, I can find these articles:

  1. Weaving Christ Into Our Souls
  2. The 3 P’s that Changed My Perspective on Talking to God
  3. How to Be a Strong Link in Your Family Chain
  4. Saved After My Daughter’s Suicide
  5. People Can’t Live Without Hope

What I don’t see is anything on protests becoming riots, gossip, or famous peoples’ wardrobes. There’s nothing on who is more fascist, how to decorate my living room, or what one world leader thinks about another.

I am trying to focus my daily thoughts and worries on how to draw closer to my Savior by following the advice of my church leaders. I am also trying to ignore the opinions of my peers. Truly, no-one needs to be offended by everything, and faith in God IS more important than fear of the world.

Here’s hoping you are finding peace in the chaos!

Blessings,
Sarah

Photo by Bruce Dixon on Unsplash

Who Am I Without Him

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I remember as a young adult there was a lot of talk about “finding oneself,” and I was encouraged to go out into the world and discover who I was. The trouble was that the more I searched for myself, the less I found, and the less I understood about myself.

I didn’t know that my true identity was a Child of God, a Princess in His Kingdom. I didn’t know who I was until I started to learn who Christ was. Once I turned to Him and studied Him, my identity became clear. My purpose, talents, strengths and weaknesses, all that I had been seeking diligently for, suddenly became evident; once I stopped seeking for myself, and started seeking Him.

I searched through the world and found nothing. I searched through Heaven and found everything. The selfish focus of the world we live in gives us tunnel-vision. It blinds us to who we truly are. It prohibits us from finding peace, joy, and purpose.

It saddens me to see friends and family who are blinded to His Love, blinded to the object of their search. My repeated prayer is that Our Father in Heaven help us open our eyes to His Son, that we may become a better people, a better nation, and a better species.

Blessings,
Sarah

 

Depicting Christ in Fiction

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Hi there!

So I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not I should create a depiction of Christ for my children’s book series. The characters are not human, so I’m not sure if I should create a non-human version of Him or not. I originally wanted to place artwork of Him on their walls, but was told it would be irreverent to use a non-human version, and it wouldn’t make sense to use a human since there are none in their world.

As I have been pondering this the past few weeks, my 7 year-old has discovered The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which Christ is depicted as a Lion named Aslan.

I wonder if C. S. Lewis’s success in this depiction is that he used a different name, in addition to the different form. In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he writes,

But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason you were brought into Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you might know me better there.

So he is the same, but changed for a different world. Perhaps it is a good way to teach about Christ to children.

Apparently Lewis did not originally intend to have Aslan appear in the books, but the lion came to him in a dream. What really made it work, I believe, was the deal of reverence Lewis used when writing about Him. He never took it lightly, and thus he created a powerful figure. His readers knew in their hearts who Aslan was to them, when they were transported into Narnia. I suppose that’s what I should strive towards.

I know that my writing is nowhere near C.S. Lewis, but I can learn from him and aspire to be an author like him. I guess it’s a good thing my first book is years from being published, it gives me time to grow.

Have you any thoughts on how Christ should be depicted in fiction? Any other non-human examples that I can learn from?

Thanks for reading, as always, and Blessings to you!
Sarah

 

 

I Never Realized Gratitude Could Be So Hard!

I have been pondering the difference between rich and poor often this month. It stems from a realization of my own wealth. I grew up quite poor most of my years, and developed quite a disdain for “the wealthy.” So this epiphany from Sunday school that I am, in fact, Richly blessed is seriously disconcerting to me.

We’ve all heard it before, we are richly blessed by our loving Father in Heaven. But what does that truly mean to us. Well to me, until last week’s lesson, it meant blessed with intangibles; strength, determination, hope, etc. But today, I see it differently. I live in a weather-resistant home, with a car, a cellphone, and a computer with internet; my family eats 3 meals a day, or more! We have, what they jokingly call, #firstworldproblems.

Lightbulb! Hey kids, guess what?! I’m richer than 90% of the Earth’s current inhabitants! Not to mention those who have gone before. And, I’m willing to bet that since you have the tools and knowledge to read this, so are you!

Did you let that sink in? You are Rich, too.

So how am I coping with this astounding revelation of God’s Love? To be honest, not well. I’m usually wavering around awed humility, but this morning I realized I was angry about it.

I actually wanted to be poor again. This scripture didn’t help: James 1:9-10 “Let the brother of low degree (poor) rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich, in that he is made low…” So this has been going ’round in my head. “I don’t want to be rich, I don’t want to be made low. I am low, I’m struggling to pay the bills just like everyone else.”

But here’s the thing, we are struggling to pay the bills for our luxuries. We are not fighting for our very survival.

—Disclaimer: I’m about to get painfully graphic here.—

We are not watching our infants starve to death before us. We are not forced to sell our daughters into sex slavery to pay the bribe money to keep farming land we have held for generations. We are not buying moldy bread with the coins we receive by shoveling people’s fecal matter out of the street. We are not trying to shield our children from the destruction of our roof because a bomb just took half of it away. We are not being sent walking thousands of miles from camp to camp trying to find one that has an extra spot of mud to lie down in. We are not searching desperately for loved ones whom we lost while fleeing from war and tryanny. We are not living in the same puddle of mud for 5 years watching our children die of dysentery. We are not forced to smile for some old man while he tears apart the once innocent fabric of our insides.

You and I are Rich. And we need to come to terms with it, and decide what, in His name, we are going to do about it.

Wickedness Never Was Happiness

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At 8 years old, I was told I was going to Hell.

It was Christmastime, and I was going to church with my Grandma (I had this opportunity once or twice a year). I don’t remember anything else that the pastor said, only that we were all sinners and were going to Hell. Unfortunately I didn’t remember the point of the sermon, which undoubtedly was about accepting Christ’s Atonement. And unfortunately still, my grandmother’s comforting words were not quite enough to put my fears to rest. Perhaps her own frustration (unrelated or not) added to my not being convinced of her comfort. To further the misunderstanding, when I got home, my dear mother explained to me that that attitude was why we don’t go to church.

So I turned my back on Christ for decades.

When I finally was ready to listen to the words and teachings of God again, it was because the message was full of Mercy and Grace. The passage that struck me deeply was thus:

Adam fell,

that Men might be,

and Men are,

that they might have Joy.

‘Original Sin’ and Sin in general are part of our process, that we might have Joy!

Sins are the tools that propel us to grow. If you have seen Mulan, there is a scene where the soldiers in training are told to climb to the top of a pole to fetch an arrow. Before they can try, their trainer gives them 2 heavy weights, one on each arm. The soldiers groan, the weights are a “curse,” a burden. The weights are “unfair,” the soldiers grumble and complain. Imagine with me the conversations that night:

  • Some of them would ask why they are being punished.
  • Some would say it was too hard, and not even try to overcome the “curse.”
  • Most would blame Mulan for putting them in this situation.

After the first few soldiers tried, they all gave up. For days or weeks no one even tried to solve to situation or overcome the burdens.

This was where I was for decades. I looked at the challenge to overcome my natural sin and turned away. I said, “No way!” It was too hard, and I wouldn’t even try. As I grew into adulthood I gave in more and more to my carnal nature. I made choices that hurt myself and others. I pushed my family away. I followed charming personalities off of metaphorical cliffs. I experimented with almost anything and anyone that was offered, and I had a wake-up call with the police.

I was in Hell.

I was miserable and empty. Lost in the dark.

And I wanted to be left alone in the darkness. I wanted to rot away, guilty, miserable, and trapped. The adversary led me willingly into a prison, because it was away from the difficult challenge placed before me at 8 years old.

Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.

11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

In the example of Mulan (for those who haven’t seen it, or need a refresher), the challenge was eventually overcome. Mulan realized that the weights she was given were tools to help her reach the top of the pole and retrieve the arrow. She was humbled and finally looked up. Her curse became a blessing, and she grew closer to Our Loving Father in Heaven.

When we allow ourselves to be humbled by our sins, we can finally turn to Christ (Repent) and go forward doing good.

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

May you seek after Good and receive Blessings,
May you seek after God and receive His Blessings,
Sarah

Photo by Mar Newhall on Unsplash

The TRULY Most Offensive Word in America — Submissive!

 

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The first in my series on values, I’m tackling one of the most reviled, Submission!
This has been on my mind for a long while, and though I’ve tried writing about it many times, I’ve been too nervous to really start. That said, here I go!

First off, a little background; I was raised unchristian, by that I mean I learned to look to every source of wisdom and teaching EXCEPT to Christ. I was a heathen, a pagan, an atheist, an agnostic, a buddhist, a selfian, a humanist, and primarily of the school of “If It Feels Good, Do It!” Not surprisingly, I suffered from depression for more than a decade, with suicidal ideation at times. I felt lost and empty. I filled the hole in my heart (and soul) with cheap and meaningless relationships, and recreational chemicals. I hurt everyone around me, and was hurt by them. And I ended up married to a man who understood manipulation better than love. And through all of that, I abhorred the terms submission, obedience, repentance, prayer, etc. I grew to believe the words represented holding someone down, chaining them, forcing them – in general they meant slavery to me. The sad irony was that I was already a slave.

Yet through it all I was still seeking for Light and Truth. And one day I finally found it. Unlike many who turned to Christ after falling to their deepest low, I was starting to finally succeed. As a child, my family was transient and homeless at times. My parents divorced when I was 4, and their perfect American dreamed exploded in the fury. With it, their faith was shaken, especially my mom’s. Despite her lack of financial prowess, my mother placed a very high priority on education. She did everything in her power and more to send us to the best public schools in the city, sometimes causing us to drive 45 minutes every morning to get there. After receiving my High School diploma in what I believe to be the best public high school in Colorado (at the time, anyway), I was easily accepted into college. Five years and many part time jobs later (up to 4 at a time one summer), I had my Bachelor’s, and after a few years of struggling found a perfectly middle-class white collar job.

Finally, my life was starting to make sense. I had a husband, a baby, a new job, and was even renting a spacious 4-bedroom home in Highlands Ranch (suburb of Denver, the capital of Colorado). It was my success in my new suburban life that awoke me to the realization that something fundamental was missing…

I finally figured out that I really had looked everywhere else, and that I was avoiding turning to Him. As I learned more about the Gospel, the church, etc. I ran into these words that I had reviled against. I plan to devote a post or more to each one, but this one has been on my mind much in the past few days especially. Two of the triggers that stirred my thoughts on this topic are found at Kristi Clover and at Women Living Well. The former article I read 2 years ago, and the latter just yesterday. In both articles the authors succinctly spell out the Bible’s teachings on the subject. But I wanted to add my more personal perspective as well on how this virtue has enhanced my life and deepened my daily peace.

It’s important to note that I define submission very differently than in my youth. As a feminist, I equated submission with slavery, willing or not. But now that I have an eternal perspective, I can see submission as a natural part of every healthy relationship. [Please understand this does NOT mean submission should be part of an unhealthy relationship, especially a manipulative or abusive one (I have experienced this, so I get it).] A student submits to his teacher if he is to learn anything. A child submits to his parents when being taught, especially regarding safety. A church-goer submits to his bishop’s INSPIRED guidance to draw closer to Christ. A disciple submits to Christ as the ultimate teacher, counselor, and King. And, the most controversial of all, a wife submits to her husband to strengthen their marriage.

I know that learning to control my nagging, controlling, over-worrying, and competition with my husband has strengthened our relationship deeply (I should mention that I am on my second marriage now; I and the husband I mentioned earlier failed to learn how to build a strong marriage). I have learned how to love my husband better by allowing the Lord to teach him, rather than trying to “fix” him myself. I take a deep breath and bite my tongue. I let him make mistakes and I try really hard not to say “I told you so.” In doing so, I show him more respect, and that respect is returned back to me. Submission to me means letting him be the man the Lord created. It means allowing him to strengthen his innate strengths as a husband, father, and provider by making the final decisions for our family. It means curbing my natural desire to pressure him, and instead providing my counsel and letting him make the final call. It means trusting his “gut,” and helping him by allowing him to do the same. I’ll admit, sometimes it doesn’t work out for the best, sometimes we’re driving around in circles adding 10 minutes to our delay. But that 10 minutes is WELL worth the moment that comes later, when he humbly says, “Thank you for not pushing me.” My husband and I draw closer through allowing each other to grow our own way. I humble myself and follow his guidance, and he humbles himself and tries to listen to me more.

We grow closer and create an eternal marriage. We trust each other and are at peace in our daily relationship. We lean on each other, strengthen each other, and support each other. I am content, at peace, and often joyful, even in the midst of extreme stress. That is worth all the individualism in the world.

Thank you for sitting through all of this post. I appreciate your time. Feel free to add your comments below, though understand that I will not approve any that are attacks on anyone. I would love to hear how you have grown through coming to peace with this Christlike virtue.

Blessings,
Sarah

I Have Difficult Children

 

So I’m the mother of a blended family. Yup, I failed my first marriage, utterly, pretty ugly. Anyway, I had one son from my first husband, a very bright, energetic boy (some of you already know where this is going), who used every tool in his arsenal to test my newly-developed mothering skills. As payback for us getting divorced at 2, he learned to hold his stools, creating a years long dance with toilet training and constipation. Yay! …

Once we got through that (just have patience with yourself, it WILL end eventually… right? 😉 ), my amazing boy, who we’re going to nickname AAGH!, had to enter kindergarten. — Actually, we weren’t all the way through the potty training when kindergarten started, imagine calls from the principal that he needed to go home early because he smelled… Such fun! — Anyway, my dear Aagh retained his bright, energetic nature and landed himself in so many suspensions that I honestly thought he was going to be expelled… from KINDERGARTEN!

We’re going to let that one sit for a minute. Wow.

This, by the way, is when I seriously started considering homeschooling.

Yeah… so anyway, and anyway, and anyway (as my dear Aagh used to say at the long-gone adorable age of 3), we have somehow all managed to survive elementary school with the lovely new diagnoses of ODD, ADHD, and Major Depressive Disorder, all my son’s. And surprisingly, other than more wrinkles than I should have at my age, I can honestly say I’m a better mom and person in general than when we started this journey.

Granted I still lose my cool more often than I’d like. But in general I’m a better person. I have to say I couldn’t have survived without my Savior. I leaned on Him when exhausted, cried to Him when in deepest despair, and prayed constantly when lost for ideas. Nothing He has asked me to do has been easy , but it has all brought me more peace, joy, love, and a greater understanding and liking of myself.

Up next… Middle School!! AAAHHHH!