Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Process of Renewal

A mother was working with her son on his spelling words.  She asked him if he knew the difference between the words conscious and conscience.

He replied, “Yes, conscious is when I am aware of something and conscience is when I wish I wasn’t.”

The year is coming to an end.  There may be some things that went badly or that we wish we had handled differently.  Our conscience reminds us of things that we need to change or people we have hurt.

Repentance is a process of tidying up our lives so that we don’t have a lot of loose ends at the end.  It is doing away with some things so that the final result is glorious.

“For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” 2 Cor 3:11  I like the idea that repentance leaves us with the more glorious parts of our selves. 

We have two selves.  The outward self is mortal, sensual and prone to mischief.  The inward self is immortal, spiritual and sensitive to truth.  Which of your two selves is in control?  Sometimes the battle is internal. 

In repentance, “the outward man perish[es].”  And though this process hurts a little, it is “but for a moment [and] worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  2 Cor 4:16-17

Let go of darkness and let the glory in.

Christ makes our purification possible.  “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”  2 Cor 5:17  He has the power to renew and resurrect the mortal body.  He also has the power to renew and perfect the spirit.  We can engage that power here and now.  Renewal is a powerful process made possible by the Prince of Peace.

I myself have had to do a lot of repenting this year.  After years of handling things in my family relationships badly, it is time to tidy up my life.  I have made some major changes in my marriage, and renewed my dedication to the success of my children.  I could just sit around and wish for things to get better, or resign myself to the status quo but I have the privilege of agency.    It is no surprise that things have fallen into disrepair.  Entropy is a natural law.  It is my choice to build, repair and repent.  I have set goals and kept track of my progress and I have seen some small signs of growth.  Renewal is possible with Christ’s help.  I might feel “perplexed” at times but “not in despair.”  2 Cor 4:8

I’m making room in my life for an eternal weight of glory.

If you liked this post you might also like Shame vs. Guilt

Image of peeling paint courtesy Steven Depolo
Image Into Darkness courtesy  Sario Reale

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Adoration of the Magi

Image courtesy Watingfortheword

The Magi were three wise men who came to visit the baby Jesus as recorded in Matthew, 

"Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.'...and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh."  (Matt 2:1-2, 9-11)

Jesus was a young child at the time and the star led the wise men to his home.  The gifts were valuable and easily converted to cash.  They may have furnished the means for Joseph and Mary to escape into Egypt when the king sent out the order that all the babies age two and under be killed.

This story teaches us that the wealthy, educated Magi did not need to see first to believe in Christ.  They believed enough to make a journey, ask questions, use their wit and eventually they found the Christ child.  Believe first and your faith will be rewarded abundantly.

Byzantine Depiction of the "Magi (1)" by Nina-no - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Philippine depiction of the Magi - Image Courtesy Leo Cloma

Image by Leopold Kupelwieser Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nativity Scenes From Around the World

I am amazed at the beautiful nativity scenes designed by Christians in other countries.  In the United States, we have a simple nativity with maybe 10 pieces that we display on the mantle or a table. This is the one in my home. 

From what I have seen online, the scenes designed by others are much more elaborate with hundreds of pieces.  
I can't help but marvel at the unity of faith displayed by Christian people from all countries.  We may imagine the details differently but we share the beliefs.  I love seeing the commonalities in belief among people from all over the world.

Japanese Nativity courtesy Mary Harrsch

Philippine Nativity courtesy Mary Harrsch

Guatemala Nativity courtesy Roberto Urrea

A Nativity scene is called a Belen in Spanish.  Click on this link to see a page which has lots of links to the associations that showcase large nativities in Spain.  Each association has photos of their nativities.  

Another website, Belenario, has a world map that takes you to photos of nativities from many countries just by clicking.

Adoration of the Magi Courtesy Joel Parham
One Mexican artist that makes these amazing dioramas has a digital gallery of his work.  It is called Nacimiento de Navidad.

Internationally, artists have depicted the birth of Jesus Christ visually.  I really like this website TheJesusQuestion which has Nativity artwork from around the world.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Preparing for Christmas

Christmas is a time to give not receive.  It is about the greatest gift ever given to the world, the birth, life and death of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Because we give gifts at Christmas to each other, my children quickly forget about giving and thing only of what they will receive.  To combat this selfish mentality, I help my children prepare for Christmas by making gifts and thinking of others.

How We Combat Excessive Selfishness:

  1. Make Gifts - The children who get deeply involved in a project that requires their time and efforts invest of themselves at Christmas.  They get excited about giving.  This year we have some who are beading, others who are making things out of paper mache or popsicle sticks.  One of my kids is making a rocket ship for his brother.  Another made a tunnel for the trains to drive through.  See pictures below.
  2. Spread the Spirit of Christ - The children were encouraged to attend rehearsals and perform in a community choir singing Handel’s Messiah.  One of my kids accompanied the singers with her flute.  A few weeks later, the youth went out caroling and sang hymns of the season to all the town.
  3. Dramatize the Nativity - We love to gather our children together to read the story of Jesus’ birth and dramatize the major events.  This year we participated in a live nativity with others from our church and our baby was chosen to be the Baby Jesus.  It was an amazing experience.
  4. Service Projects - My daughter and I joined a bunch of women in sewing baby blankets for the local hospital maternity ward.  These soft blankets will be given to the mothers of new babies to keep them warm.  There are always ways to help those in the community who are struggling financially.  We try to help where we can.
  5. Gratitude - We make an effort to thank teachers, neighbors and friends who make our lives rich as they go about their tasks.  It is easy to take others for granted until you have a bad experience and then you realize how good it is to be surrounded by loving people.
  6. Giving the Gift of Time - I have so many things I need to do as a mother of a large family at this time of year.  I sometimes get crabby when all of my kids need my attention at once.  By giving of my time to help them, I remember that my focus is others, not myself.
  7. Read Together - The Christmas children’s literature abounds with beautiful messages that can add honey to our hearts.  I like to take time to read to the children my favorite stories, like Why the Chimes Rang by Raymond MacDonald Alden.
  8. Offer Christ our Hearts - There is only one thing we can give Him that he doesn’t already have, our broken and contrite hearts.
Do you feel the Christmas spirit? What strategies to you use to create intentional Christmas traditions?
Unfinished Paper Mache Cave for Concealing Toy Dragons

DIY Insert to Convert a Diaper Bag into a Camera Bag

Pretend Play Rocket

Thomas Train Tunnel

Popsicle Stick Ornament

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Divinity of Jesus Christ

In this post:  teaching teens about Jesus, my testimony, my teens' testimonies
Window at St John's Ashfield, image from Wikimedia
I teach a Sunday School class of young teens ages 12-14.  This week’s lesson was based on the question, “What scriptures would you use to testify of the divinity of Jesus Christ?”  At the beginning of class I made sure my students had a copy of the scriptures, a paper and a pencil.  We spent our time together looking for scriptures about Jesus Christ.  We started with Jesus’ birth.  My young students have heard the Nativity story and knew that it was somewhere in Luke.  They thought there was a Nativity story in all four gospels but after looking found that the birth of Jesus Christ is only recorded in Matthew and Luke.  During the last five minutes of class I asked my students to write a testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ on paper and hand it in before they left.  They all made an attempt and a few of them gave me permission to post their words on this blog.  I will start with my own testimony and then let you read their testimonies.

Painting by J Kirk Richards, used with permission
I know that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.  He was born miraculously to a virgin mother just as it says in the Bible that when God the Father overshadowed Mary, she conceived.  I believe He is the Only Begotten Son of the Father and an entirely separate deity from God the Father, separate but equal.  I believe Jesus Christ and the Father are one in power, might, dominion, glory and holiness.  In reading about His life, I have figuratively sat in the crowds and been fed by a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I have seen the lame walk and the blind receive sight.  I have watched as He confronts authority and condemns sin.  And after reading about His life, I have seen Him put on trial and crucified.  His brilliance is snuffed out by those who oppose Him, the very beings He created.  I am crushed.  I look at this as the greatest tragedy and yet there is a happy ending in His resurrection and ascension to heaven.  My journey through scripture has not been just dramatic because in the end I find that I have a bit of His light in my heart.  In believing his story, I have encapsulated a love for Him and a testimony of His divinity in my heart.  I join many others who also believe.  He is the light and life of the world.  He is the source of all truth.  He is not only a great deity but my intimate friend.  Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Him.  I have experienced both happiness and great sorrow.  I have relied on His mercy when everything around me made no sense.  I have come to Him with my broken heart and He has been my strength.  He has gently led me as a mother with small children when I could do nothing more than follow.  His words have fed my soul, his teachings have guided my decisions.  These things have protected me.  He has never been far away even when I felt utterly alone.  Jesus Christ is a living part of my daily life.  I believe that He looks down from realms of holiness to shepherd me in loving kindness.  I believe in Him as the Redeemer of my soul.

Jesus cleansing the temple by overturning tables set up for commercial purposes, image used with permission
From my students:

“I have a testimony about Christ and His power.  He was born in humble conditions and died in one of the most painful ways.  I believe that he will come again.”  - Logan, age 13

“I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that he was our Heavenly Father’s Only Begotten Son.  I know that He performed the Atonement which allows us the opportunity to return to our Father in Heaven.  He performed miracles that proved He was the Son of God.  Miracles like healing blind people and allowing the deaf to hear.”  - Peter, age 14

Crucifixion, image used with permission
“I know that the Lord lives and loves me, that Christ is the Son of God, that He came to Earth and performed miracles, and that through the Atonement I can be healed.  Christ paid for my sins.  He is the only one who can.  He knows every pain or sorrow I have ever felt, and knows how to help.  Through Christ I can be healed.”  - Sydney, age 14

“Jesus shows his love by healing the sick and teaches many lessons of the bread and water.  Jesus is our Savior and the Son of God.  Jesus heals a man blind.”  - Brenden, age 12

“I have a testimony of Jesus divinity that he has the power to do many miracles and he did when he lived here on the Earth.  He performed miracles.  He healed the sick and cured the blind, but yea lso has the power of love and He uses that power by blessing us.”  - Megan age 13

Jesus surrounded by children, image used with permission

These words are reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faith is More than Belief

I have lots of wishes.  I wish it were warm and sunny.  I wish I were rich.  I wish I had a fast car to drive instead of a big fifteen passenger van…sigh.  Faith is more than wishing.  

The first way to harness the power of faith is to imagine the possibilities.  The possibilities are endless.  Without imagination, it is hard, but not impossible to have faith.  But don’t stay in imaginary-land.

Next set actionable goals.  Faith is a principle of forward movement.  One-week-goals can be just as powerful as ten-year-goals.  In fact you need both.  In order to be rich, I can’t sit on my butt and wait for money to grow on trees.  There are a lot of intermediate steps to take.  One time I was tasked to set some goals and I came up with a long and beautiful list.  However, when I looked it over after it was submitted, I realized that they were all things that I had right now or could achieve tomorrow.  That is an example of what not to do.  Don’t be afraid to want good things.  I reworked my goals to include things I had never tried to do before.  Write out your goals in the present tense as if you are doing them right now.

Third, I have to keep track of myself.  If my goal is to develop spirituality, I might set a goal to read the scriptures daily.  In order to know if I am reaching my goal, and not being too lenient with myself, I need to make a chart for checking off my progress or I need to journal what I’m learning.  Journals help us to record and remember positive steps we are taking on the journey.

Last, I must return to the original vision and report on my progress.  How close to my original intent has my journey taken me?  Have I arrived, or do I still have a ways to go?  What obstacles did I encounter and what can I do to avoid them the next time?  Faith will get me where I need to go if I don’t try to run faster than I have strength.

If you liked this post you might also like:  Faith is the Conviction that Moves Us

Friday, November 28, 2014

Is Longsuffering a Virtue?

In this post:  Spiritual help to control emotions, using logic to overcome anxiety

I don’t think that it’s a virtue to suffer.  I think there are a few virtues that are developed in longsuffering.  This post is about one of the virtues that I found.

Long-suffering is mentioned in the Bible usually in a string of virtues like this one…
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith”
Galatians 5:22

Everything sounds happy — except that long-suffering stuff.

From my life...
So my kids can sometimes drive me crazy when they try to do a task and need so much help that it would have been faster if I’d done it myself.  Like the time one of my kids was assigned to put away the food processor.  He took it apart, put the base away and asked where I wanted the bowl.  Well of course they are stored together.  However he couldn’t get the bowl to attach to the base because there is a safety mechanism in the lid.  And then he couldn’t get the whole thing into the cupboard without jamming it in sideways and when it looked like he was going to break it the way he was messing with it, I about lost my temper.  You know, expensive tool — dumb kid.

So after getting a bit miffed, I took myself aside for some emotional self-regulation.  In this case, I did some fine motor detailing of my toenails with a paintbrush.  Another time, I took myself for a walk.  These are strategies for dealing with emotional flooding.  Everyone gets angry.  Not everyone knows how to recognize the signs of flooding and what to do next.  When you stop at the first sign of flooding and give your amygdala a chance to calm down, you are exercising a virtue of emotional self-control.  It is this virtue that, I think, is behind longsuffering.  When I retain control of my emotions, I can suffer long without suffering.  It’s an amazing power, if you think about it.

In the Bible verse I quoted, it says that the Spirit helps us to be longsuffering.  I stay close to God and the love that flows from Him and when life gets bad, He’ll help me to remember to stay in control of my emotions.  

The reason fine motor skills help when trying to self-regulate is that concentration at a detailed level uses the left hemisphere of the brain and shuts down the emotionally flooded right hemisphere.  A long walk helps to release endorphins but it also gives me the chance to breathe slowly and realize that I’m no longer in a high stress situation.  The amygdala is no longer needed and my reason returns.  Even just turning on a fan and listening intently to the white noise of it’s motor whirring can calm the emotional side.

I’m a novice at this virtue.  I can see that my anger is unhelpful.  I can sometimes see when I’m “flooded.”  I have started to practice the self-regulation techniques above.  I can see that they help.  I wish I could self-regulate to the level that I didn’t let my voice even show the least bit of annoyance.  That would be awesome!  

Read more by searching “emotional flooding” or read this article...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Spiritual Self Reliance

In this post: spirituality is learned, the Bible as a conversation between prophets, new possibilities

My baby is learning to walk.  He relies on me to hold his hands and he takes teeny tiny steps forward.  He wants to go forward but he doesn’t quite know how unless he’s crawling.  But none of us crawl.  We all walk.  “There has to be a way,” he thinks.  So up he goes and along the couch he inches.

Walking spiritually can be much the same.  Prayer is learned by imitating someone else and imagining God listening.  Reading the Bible can be a slow process much like inching along a couch.  Exercising faith in unseen things can feel a lot like stumbling blindly in the dark.

I remember the first time I read the Old Testament in the Bible.  I got bogged down in the seemingly endless chronologies (family lineages along tribal lines).  I wondered why there were so many proverbs.  I was unimpressed to find that First and Second Kings were “repeated” in First and Second Chronicles.  I finished the OT like I finish long-distance runs — exhausted.

A lot has changed since that first read.  Now when I read the Old Testament, the words ooze sweet honey into my heart.  I read the words and the poetic images don’t just fly over my head, I catch them.  I can remember now where I’ve seen that imagery before and how it was used.  I connect the dots between one prophet and others that came after him.  It’s like one prophet said it and another one caught it and threw it to a third.  Then I come along and see them playing with words and I join them.  It’s thrilling to be in a conversation with the prophets in the Old Testament.

The Vineyard in Isaiah 5 - from my sketchbook

For example:  In Jacob’s blessing to his sons, Judah is compared to a lion.  Then when the King of the Moabites sees the children of Israel defending upon him, he asks the prophet Balaam to bless him but the prophet says that Israel will rise up like a great lion (Num 23:24).  Then Isaiah picks up the image when he says that lions will roar at the Lord’s vineyard.  When I read these verses and others like them, I am transported into a world where lions were a ferocious predator to be feared.  The word pictures convey the intensity of the prophet’s warnings better than any string of expletives.  

So how do I go from crawling to walking to running in my spirituality?

Crawling is hearing, believing and relying on the faith and testimony of others.  It is not about knowing answers to the many questions.  There has to be a way and somehow I will find it.

Walking is like putting the steps together to gain individual truths.  Each person “has the responsibility to know for himself or herself with a certainty beyond doubt that Jesus is the resurrected, living Son of the living God.” (G.B. Hinckley) This comes inch by inch.  It starts with desire.  It includes a serious study of the scriptures.  It takes deep thinking, sincere asking in prayer and maybe more.

Running is transforming spiritual understanding into perspective, motivation and a foundation for growth.  It is confidence that the principles work every time.  It is a reason for hope.  It is a protective shield against darkness and confusion.  

I have seen the excitement in my baby’s eye when the freedom to walk opens up a whole world of possibilities.  I know it takes time, but it is worth it.  It is exhilarating!

If you liked this post, you might also like My Personal Connection to the Children of Israel

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Last Days Parables

Image of the Parables from my Sketchbook
My art is amateur at best but it was interesting to compile images from all these parables into one composite.  For additional study, the links take you to the chapters where each one is referred to in scripture.

Parables of the Last Days
The Ten Virgins - Matt 25:1-13, D&C 45: 56-57D&C 63:54
The Fig Tree - Matt 24:32-33Mark 13:28-29Luke 21:29-31D&C 35:16JS-M 1:38-40
The Hen - Matt 23:37-38Luke 13:34-353 Ne 10:4-6D&C 43:24-25
The Wheat & the Tares - Matt 13:24-30 & 36-43D&C 86:1-7D&C 101:64-68D&C 38:12
The Supper - Matt 22:1-14Luke 14:16-24Rev 19:7-9D&C 58:8-12D&C 65:3
The Thief - Matt 24:42-441 Thes 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10D&C 106:4-5
The Net - Matt 13:47-50
The Stone - Dan 2:34-45Dan 8:25D&C 65:2
The Horns - Dan 7:1-28
The Seven Angels/Seals - Rev 8

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fighting Valiantly

In this post:  motherhood, marriage, the dichotomy of envy and pride

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” an imperative that goes deeper than chatting over the fence once in a while. (Matt 22:39)  Loving my neighbor is right in the center of a spectrum that describes my outlook.  If I feel worse than my neighbor, I envy his strength or her beauty.  I might even be happy if he stumbles or she embarrasses herself.  If I feel better than my neighbor, I have pride in my heart.  I’m critical of the things he does or smug in my own standing.  Theodore Roosevelt’s “man in the arena” has no illusions about his achievements because he knows how little they are. "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood..." (see image for full text)

Image courtesy Chris Tan
One arena I fight in is called motherhood.  I hope for the day when my face won’t be dirty but with a crawling baby, a potty-training toddler, a reluctant reader, a couple of tarantula-hugging youngsters, a pre-teen and two real teens to wrangle — I feel like I ride a bucking bronco most days.  In Texas we say, “the only way to drive cattle fast is slowly.”  And that’s about how progress goes in mothering youngsters.  On a good day, the sink is clear of dishes.  And those kinds of days are rare.  Victory may be coming but it’s too soon to call.  Defeat is nipping at my heels.  The secret is to hold on tight and not get thrown.  

Image courtesy Brandy

Paul said to the Galatians, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” (Gal 6:3-4)  When my face is marred by dust, sweat and blood, I’m too busy to be better than my neighbor.  It’s when I’m idle that I get to deceiving myself with comparisons.  

In another arena I’m a wife and companion.  Marriage is not a lazy river.  The battle is about staying connected, staying engaged and being true.  Lately I’ve recovered some lost ground, but its been a losing streak.  The weight of pregnancy, business travel, church assignments, community service, everything good we do puts pressure on that knot we tied at the altar.  Defending marriage is not for mercenaries.  I fight this battle because I care about my children, my unborn grandchildren and all the people who are connected to me through the ties called family.  Marriage is what connects us all together.  Family is the fabric of society and it is a worthy cause that the brave fight for on a daily basis.

“The Lord needs valiant servants,
To do his work in the latter day,
Who follow the teachings of Jesus
And serve his people in a loving way.
I will be his servant
And keep my cov'nants valiantly.
I'll stand for truth. I'll stand for right.
The Lord can depend on me.”

(Lyrics by Vanja Watkins to the song “I Will be Valiant”)

I believe that I’ve been given a lot to fight for…home, family, truth.  I’ve had a few wins and a lot of losses.  I haven’t given up yet and neither should you.  We’re prepping for the knock-down drag out fight prophesied in the Last days.  A fight about truth, family, power and dominion.  I believe that the valiant will win the fight for Christ.  Isaiah prophesies, “I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.”  (Isa 60:15) I’d like to see that joy when the fight is finally won.

To read Roosevelt's speech click here

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Eternal Reality

Jesus said in John 12:31-33 , “Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.  This he said signifying what death he should die.”

Jesus was born, of royal birth, heir to the throne of David.  He came with a message of salvation and his followers hoped that he would save them from the Romans.  He knew that the people wanted a king and he knew that he was the Savior prophesied to come, but he also knew that he had to give his life first.  Knowing all that, it must have been tempting to ride through the city on a donkey and see the masses waving palm fronds in adoration.  A little fame can be intoxicating.  However, true to his godly nature, he never deviated from the will of the Father and sacrificed everything on the cross.

Now think about his followers.  They had a somewhat foggy idea of who he was.  When Jesus asked, they answered, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” (Matt 16:14)  The more they saw of his miracles, the more they imagined miraculous ways that he could make their lives better.  When he died at the hands of the “Romans,” they went back to their normal lives, fishing, etc. (John 21:3)  The whole mission of Jesus, with his followers demoralized, could have petered out -- but it didn’t.

The followers imagined Jesus’ mission as a king and created a false hope in their minds that he was come to reign.  Jesus always knew the truth and he tried to prepare his followers for his death and their roles to play after he was gone. 

We, too, view life and God’s purposes in it from our own point of view.  We see what is happening to us and imagine falsely what it all must mean.  Then when our hopes are dashed by reality, we grieve.  Lost in a mist of past hopes, present hopelessness, and future uncertainty, we flounder.  

The truth is that Jesus is a king and that he will come to reign.  But he will not just reign in Jerusalem, he will reign over the whole Earth.  What he could have been then is eclipsed by what he will be in the eternal scheme of things.  Only he understood the eternal reality.  His followers couldn’t see it.  We can’t see it. 

The future plans God has for us are more grand and glorious that anything we can imagine.  They include mansions and thrones and power beyond belief.  So when a child dies and our heart breaks for all the things unsaid and memories never made, we are crying because we can’t see.  When everything seems lost, we must remember that Christ calmly gave up everything.  His mission is to prepare us for the role we will play in his Heavenly Kingdom.  Our job is to follow his direction and prepare even if life throws curve balls and we find ourselves being taught through suffering.  There is a purpose to it all.  We can’t see it, but He can.  Every promise He has ever made will be fulfilled.  We can count on that.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Grace Needed in the Kitchen

In this post:  kids cleaning the kitchen, Parable of the Talents, saved by grace 

Imagine yourself as a parent…
You have assigned your child to clean the kitchen.  Either your child cleans the kitchen diligently; washing dishes, wiping counters, taking out the trash and mopping the floor or not.
Me making a pie in a clean-enough kitchen
Say you’ve got two children and one is diligent and one is not.  The one who is a bit lazier, washes most of the dishes but leaves the pots.  Say he wipes the counters but doesn’t fully clear them so the wiped part is irregular.  Say he takes out the trash but neglects to clean the floor.  When you ask him or her why, the excuse is that he is "not perfect."  

As a parent, you know that even your diligent child will not clean the kitchen perfectly.  You know they will miss wiping behind the faucet.  You know they won’t get the crumb under the toaster.  You know that they won’t clean the spill in the oven but you are pleased with their efforts and willing to do those things for them while they are learning.

However, your other child has excused himself or herself from doing an excellent job.  He assumes you will finish what was left undone.  Depending on age and ability, you may do so.  However, there comes a point when your child grows up and their ability clearly is equal to doing an excellent job.  Do you accept the excuse and allow them to remain weak or do you demonstrate the difficult skills and expect them to act responsibly?

When we talk about grace, we sometimes say, in essence, that there is no point to diligent works because God will make up the difference.  I wonder if God makes up the difference willingly for diligent children. However, when he sees a child choosing to remain weak, He must, by nature, expect them to grow into the difficult skills when their ability is clearly there.

Clearly neither child will be perfect.  Clearly grace will be given to both children.  It seems irrelevant to me if the child who is diligent expects to be rewarded for his efforts.  Only the parent can determine whether a reward is merited.  It seems irrelevant to me what reward the child thinks he or she will get.  It only matters what the child’s intention is toward the tasks assigned as to whether they are meeting expectations.  The parent decides what expectations are reasonable based on the ability of the child.  Maybe its unfair that there are expectations.  I can’t say what God expects of me only that I think he knows my ability.

So when we talk about being saved in God’s heavenly kingdom, it doesn’t matter what we expect to receive for our efforts here on Earth.  God will justly reward those who meet expectations.  I like the parable about the 10 talents when it comes to expectations.  The servant who was given 5 talents was rewarded for doubling his talents.  The same with the servant who was given 2 talents. The one with 1 talent who buried it did not meet expectations.  The diligent child may be striving for perfection but only God knows whether he doubled his talents.  The diligent child can fall short of expectations just as easily as his sibling.  It’s relative to expectations.  So why do we care so much about whether someone thinks they’ll be saved by grace or saved by works?  It doesn’t matter what we think.  It only matters what God thinks.

If you liked this post you might like: Grace or Welfare  If you did not like this post, that's ok with me.  I don't expect you to agree with all my beliefs but I encourage you to think about what specifically you didn't like and figure out why you didn't like it.