Monday, May 22, 2017

God is No Santa Claus

I have a friend who is in a tough spot financially, yet he is hesitant to go to God with his need. When I asked him about this he said because he had it beat into his head growing up that "God is not Santa Clause."

I know what he means. I've heard it, too. And really, nobody can stomach a greedy spoiled brat squealing "gimmee, gimmee, gimmee!"

But the message that God is not Santa Claus sent another message as well. It went something like this. You can't go to God with any issue where there is the possibility that you may be at fault because you would be expecting God to bail you out instead of suffering the consequences of your own sin.

So basically, the message my friend got is that God is this guy who you can go to if you have jumped through all the right hoops and lived the holiest and best of lives and then you can approach him with your needs and hope that he may hear you. But to me that sounds like Santa Claus. Only less so.

God is not Santa Claus. But he is not less than Santa Claus. He is much, much, much more. He is Creator. Protector. Provider. Healer. Shepherd. He sets the captives free. He does not pay us as our sins deserve. He rejoices over us with singing.

What does Santa Claus do? He makes a list and checks it twice and wants to find out if you're naughty or nice. With Santa Claus, we're all toast. There is no grace and mercy with Santa. He expects us to pull our own weight and to it right all the time. And then, and only then, will we get what we ask for.

God knows us inside and out. He knows our frame. He knows we are dust. Earthen vessels. Prone to wander. Yet his word tells us that he is a good, good father and he loves to give good gifts to his children. Gifts that we don't earn.

He also tells us to come and to cry out to him. To tell him our needs. To depend on him. To hide in the Shadow of his wing.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:11

Santa tells us we need to be on the nice list.

No! God is no Santa Claus! That is a very good thing.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The King Who Wouldn't Leave

King George VI never was meant to be king. He never wanted to be king. He was shy. He stuttered. Anyone who has seen the movie The King's Speech knows this story. But his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in order to pursue marriage to a twice-divorced American woman and in short order the monarchy fell into his unassuming and gentle hands. Not only did he inherit the reign of the entire British Empire but, along with it, the brewing of WWII.

Within 3 years, Great Britain was at war. On September 7, 1940, Germany bombed London, killing around 1000 people, most of then in the East End. Less than a week later, the courtyard Buckingham Palace itself took a hit while the Royal Family was there. Rather than complain, the Queen stated "I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel we can look the East End in the face."

Even though it was strongly advised that the Royal Family leave the country for their own safety, they did not. The Queen explained:

"The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the king will not leave the country in any circumstances, whatever."
No wonder the country loved him so. Here was a king who, not only had suffered the same trauma as they had, the same deprivations (they used the ration books like everybody else), here was a king who refused to leave his people during the hardest of times. He wouldn't leave. He. wouldn't. leave.

Who wouldn't love a king like that?

Who wouldn't want a king like that?

We have one.

Jesus. Emmanuel. "God with us." He doesn't leave. He is with us. Our king is with us.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Regret Rant

I am going to go out on a limb (yes, another one) and be totally honest (yet again) because it has been a helluva week and my emotions are on the bloody side of raw and sometimes I just have to shout out what is on the inside so I don't explode and then I hope that maybe my saying what is inside me that I have never ever heard anyone else say might help somebody else who feels alone because they feel the same way but have never ever heard anybody else say it.

When my kids were little, we didn't have the internet. We had books and that tidy Focus on the Family magazine that showed up in our mailbox with the smiling upper middle-class families on the cover. You know, the magazine that told you that it was impossible to successfully raise a family while both parents worked? Yeah, that one.

(For the record, I told them to get me off their mailing list when I got one too many political mailings telling me that the Democratic president was going to send social services to my door to take my children away or something like that. No mom with an anxiety disorder needs to be reading that crap.)

Anyway, my access to information on children was limited. And so when my children began to struggle I had so few resources. I. just. didn't. know. The churches were pushing the Ezzo plan. Others were pushing catechism memorization and family worship. If you opened your mouth about an issue with your baby or child you were flooded with a barrage of advice, all in the form of you just need to do this or that and it pretty much came down the fact that I wasn't strong enough. Tough enough. Firm enough. Consistent enough. I didn't require enough. Have enough rules. I wasn't enough. Period.

Even the teachers interpreted, at times, some of the struggles as willful sin. "She's trying to manipulate you," she said. (No, she had a chronic UTI, by the way along with severe anxiety.)

Nowhere. NOWHERE. Nobody. NOBODY. Ever mentioned that maybe there may be something more going on. And so for years I beat myself up and tried harder. And for years my children suffered. And I never knew how to ask for help. And I was ashamed to because it meant that I had failed as a mother. And I hate that for my children. I hate that, for those who struggled with such severe anxiety, I allowed their childhood to be taken away because I didn't know what to do.

I can only say that I am thankful for the bad grades that forced me to get a couple of my children evaluated for ADHD. That is an easy one. That is one that some people at least recognize as legitimate (though I did have one teacher tell me it is the result of bad parenting). That opened the door to better evaluation. Better understanding.

I am intentionally leaving off details because I have not asked my children for permission to give details of their lives to the masses. But I want to ask their forgiveness. And I want to encourage other parents out there to seek help if something doesn't seem right. Before you let the people out there tell you that that you child is just behaving that way out of willful sin or manipulation and you have to train it out of them, check and see if something else is going on. There just might be. Children struggle with a lot of things besides sin.

God is a kind, gentle, and gracious God who knows our frame and knows we are but dust. Shouldn't we handle our children with the same compassion and kindness?