Monday, May 16, 2011

A Call for Christian Risk

When I began Building Bravehearts, I decided that I wanted the bulk of blogs to be original.  But, I have bumped into other folks who have something strong to say about helping you raise your child with courage.

John Piper
Below is an almost ten year old article by John Piper that is so relevant, about the need for risk and courage.  It underscores the importance of intentionally raising bravehearts who become the people God wants and are free to love His way.

Pipers thoughts:

"For the followers of Jesus the final risk is gone. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). "Neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:38-39). "Some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish" (Luke 21:16, 18). "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

"When the threat of death becomes a door to paradise the final barrier to temporal risk is broken. When a Christian says from the heart, "To live is Christ and to die is gain," he is free to love no matter what. Some forms of radical Islam may entice martyr-murderers with similar dreams, but Christian hope is the power to love, not kill. Christian hope produces life-givers, not life-takers. The crucified Christ calls his people to live and die for their enemies, as he did. The only risks permitted by Christ are the perils of love. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28).

"With staggering promises of everlasting joy, Jesus unleashed a movement of radical, loving risk-takers. "You will be delivered up even by parents . . . and some of you they will put to death" (Luke 21:16). Only some. Which means it might be you and it might not. That's what risk means. It is not risky to shoot yourself in the head. The outcome is certain. It is risky to serve Christ in a war zone. You might get shot. You might not.

"Christ calls us to take risks for kingdom purposes. Almost every message of American consumerism says the opposite: Maximize comfort and security - now, not in heaven. Christ does not join that chorus. To every timid saint, wavering on the edge of some dangerous gospel venture, he says, "Fear not, you can only be killed" (Luke 12:4). Yes, by all means maximize your joy! How? For the sake of love, risk being reviled and persecuted and lied about, "for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12).

"There is a great biblical legacy of loving risk-takers. Joab, facing the Syrians on one side and the Ammonites on the other, said to his brother Abishai, "Let us be courageous for our people . . . and may the LORD do what seems good to him" (2 Samuel 10:12). Esther broke the royal law to save her people and said, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16). Shadrach and his comrades refused to bow down to the king's idol and said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods" (Daniel 3:16-18). And when the Holy Spirit told Paul that in every city imprisonment and afflictions await him, he said, "I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course" (Acts 20:24).

"Every Christian," said Stephen Neil about the early church, "knew that sooner or later he might have to testify to his faith at the cost of his life" (A History of Christian Missions, Penguin, 1964, p. 43). This was normal. To become a Christian was to risk your life. Tens of thousands did it. Why? Because to do it was to gain Christ, and not to was to lose your soul. "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:25).

"In America and around the world the price of being a real Christian is rising. Things are getting back to normal in "this present evil age." Increasingly 2 Timothy 3:12 will make sense: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Those who've made gospel-risk a voluntary life-style will be most ready when we have no choice. Therefore I urge you, in the words of the early church, "Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14).

"When God removed all risk above
He loosed a thousand risks of love."

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:
May 29, 2002

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Peeking at the Eye Chart

A few days ago I went for my annual eye doctor visit.  The nurse had me look through machines that took pictures of my retina, scanned the cornea, and flashed lights for me to watch.  Then we came to the electronic version of the traditional eye chart.  Without my contacts, I didn't recognize the big E at first.  I am thankful for eye doctors!

As the nurse had me read different letters with one eye at a time, she told me that children often peek with both eyes so they can tell her the right letter.  They are more interested in getting the answer right than following her directions.  Their attempts to "cheat" were often humorous and she was on top of it.

These children had learned that getting the "right" answer is most important.  And, they will break the rules to get there.

This happens with children in school.  Many just want to get the "right" answer, get the grade, and move on without the deeper values gained from applying themselves.  Real learning with deep benefit takes more time and work than just coming up with the right multiple choice letter for the current quiz.  The hard work of growing that leads to real success is shorted by the student who just tries to get the right answer down.

Somewhere along the way the growing process has given way to the shortcut.  Its true in education.  Its also true in things like relationships and business.  This tendency has been around along time.  The Pharisees did it.  Here is part of a parable Jesus told in Luke 18:

"The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: God, I thank you that I am not like other people:  swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get"

The Pharisee missed the point.  He created a little grade card and gave himself A's for fasting and tithes.  He thought he was righteous ("right"!).  Jesus said that the Pharisee would not be justified because "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled."  It isn't about getting the grade, its about what happens deeply inside.

There is pain and pleasure in the growing process.  A braveheart has the courage to go through the process of hard work, risk taking, and perseverance, strengthening himself and laying the foundation for life time success.  Shortcuts don't work for becoming strong.

I worked in my yard last weekend for about four hours.  I got carried away pulling weeds, trimming hedges, fertilizing, and watering.  I was tired and sore.  But, I also felt great from the exercise and looked with pleasure on the work of my hands.  Because I took the time, I gained not only physically but in my joy.  While I could have paid someone to do the yard, my investment in the process helped me become stronger and brought me both pain and pleasure.  If I had paid to have it done, I would have examined the work to make sure it was done right, but I would not have gained in myself like I did through my investment in the work.

Bravehearts need to know that shortcuts usually don't help them in the long run.  Perseverance, tenacity, hard work, and investment produce growth and success.  Not finding the fastest way to get it right and move on.  Growing and real impact requires dedication and commitment, something a braveheart understands.

How can we help our children avoid the tendency to just get it done any way possible?  And, to learn the pleasure of a hard job well done, growing through the process?

As in most things, we can begin by being a good example.  What shortcuts do I take to get the checklist done, but give me superficial results without lasting impact or value?  Do we have places where we are expedient instead of investing?  How can I be an example of perseverance in work and relationships to create lasting value?  Example is always our first step.

Then this.  Work with your child.  If you are going to rake the leaves, have her help.  Have her learn that the process can be joyful and rich even if it is long and hard.  Have her fell the pain, but have her rejoice in the job well done and create memories of spending time together on a project.

I used to do house projects a lot, often so that the kids would learn that they can do things themselves.  I wanted them to learn that everything doesn't have to be paid for and that they can tackle all kinds of needs.  I invited them into the process.  Was it slower and sloppier having them help paint the bedroom wall?  I am sure you know the answer.  But, they learned.

Invite your children in the real world of work, without shortcuts.  Have them help garden, paint, wash the car, help with taxes.  And, do them together so you can teach, build relationship, and they can learn the joy of the process and the pleasure and gain of work well done. 

A good example.  Work together.  Great memories.  Powerful lessons.  It takes time and work on our part, but as in any process, the invested time and work in our children pays rich dividends, accompanied by some pain along the way and the pleasure of a job well done as you see them become bravehearts.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Sisyphus and Motherhood and Coffee"

I am convinced that it is in the routines, in the power of endless moments, that lives are shaped and bravehearts formed.  While big events may break bound hearts and open eyes, daily life shapes the pieces and fits them together. 

"Mama: Monk," Micha Hohorst, shares her life with little ones and the struggle for these moments in her most recent blog on April 28, "Sisyphus and Motherhood and Coffee".

If you are looking for a blog to follow about a mom raising her young children that is refreshing and real and beautiful, you might like to follow Mama: Monk.  I pass it on because building bravehearts is so much about those little, real investments that she is living.

Here is another sample from her March 29 post:

"When I started this blog, one of my deepest fears was whether or not God could ever be pleased with who I am: the simplicity of my life. I had always wanted to be a woman who rescued orphans and dug wells for the thirsty and sacrificed comfort for the sake of the broken. And instead I found myself a SAHM in the middle of comfortable America, my only suffering being my lack of a washer and dryer. What was I doing for the world? Sure, I believed God loved me, but could he really be proud of me? After all, despite the sacrifices all moms make, it wasn’t hard for me to love my kid. And that’s what I did…All. Day. Long."

"Since then, I’ve been a slow transition of my heart and mind. It’s not that I never knew God loved me, it’s simply that I’ve begun to believe it. I believe that when I practice the most mundane exercises of motherhood, I am living in God’s sweetness. I no longer hold fast to a version of God that has a Wall of Fame with his best and brightest smiling in frames. Instead, I rest in the reality that God adores me because I’m his, not because of what I contribute to his cause. Lord knows, even if I’d chosen an entirely different path, none of my striving could have landed me a spot on that Wall."

"So, as I went about my Monday, wiping baby Brooksie’s butt while August stood on a chair beside the changing table and laughed about poop, while I sat on the floor nursing while pretending to be Mater (the tow truck from the Cars movie), while I read stories and told August for the 18th time that it’s so sweet to kiss your brother but you have to be gentle with his head, I felt something new. It was God’s pleasure. God was being kind to me, not because I’ve earned a great place in the Kingdom of Awesomeness, but because I haven’t."

"There’s a verse in Zechariah (chapter 4, verse 10) that asks the question: “Who dares despise the day of small things?” I first discovered that question six years ago, when I was straight out of my MFA program and working as an administrator at a construction company. It was not the job I’d dreamed of doing. (My dream was to somehow have my poems discovered and to become a great poet who could then afford to build a lot of wells around the world.) So, I’d tell myself that I could find joy in filing work orders, organizing plans, and making phone calls to subcontractors who called me 'girl.' "

"And though that passage dwelled with me in that season, I feel more and more like it’s settling into my core. Yesterday was a day of the smallest of things: the survival of two children, their nourishment, their snuggles, the building of a foundation of love in their lives. Who despises that?"