Saturday, July 29, 2017

"They will also persecute you"

Some people compare themselves to others and decide they are better than others. Since they think they're better, they assume they're good enough. They don't see a need for Jesus. But their world view is based on a lie. Everyone makes mistakes and falls short of reaching their virtue potential.

Other people who know they've made mistakes, maybe big ones or maybe not, also believe the lie of the first group. They compare themselves to them and think they might as well keep doing what they're doing, assuming they cannot be redeemed.  They don't expect forgiveness, so they don't look to Jesus either. Even if they've stopped making these mistakes, they assume the damage is done and they're a lost cause.

Then there are people who are aware of their mistakes and don't deny them, but they don't continue in their life of sin once they've been exposed to the good news of Christ. They don't compare themselves to others because they know the only measure of virtue is God himself.  "Be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16, quoting Leviticus 11:44).  

Some people from the first group may look at this third group - the only group who isn't fooling themselves or believing a lie - and look down on them.  They judge the mistakes of this group as being too numerous or too grave, and dismiss their faith claims.  They hold onto the idea that they - the first group - are the ones who are "right by God".

Others from the first group may feel threatened by those from the third group.  They consider their own mistakes as bigger than those of this group, and find it troublesome to hear that they're admitting as sin even lesser mistakes.  They ridicule them as "holier than thou" because they don't want to have to admit their own wrongdoing.

And yet it's only the third group - the people who do not compare themselves to others but only to God - who have any shot at perfecting their character, reaching their potential of a virtuous life, and pleasing God.  So long as we compare ourselves to others, regardless if we conclude that our sins are bigger or lesser than those of others, we are keeping the focus on ourselves and not on God.  We are pleasing ourselves and not God.  

There is no grading curve in Heaven.  God doesn't pit His children against each other and only take the top 1% of the good.  In the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus tell His disciples, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2).

Elsewhere Jesus says, "Those who are well do no need a physician, but the sick do.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mark 2:17).  Yet those who think they're better than others fail to understand this.  They don't think they need Jesus, and they don't think others deserve Jesus.  Well, I'm sorry, but who made them God?  

Many Christian testimonies seem to address the second group; they try to appeal to a sense of sinfulness in the person, extending to them the hope that is found in Christ.  But what I think has been ignored is this first group, addressed here: "If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

My confession today is this.  I have been hesitant about embracing fully the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because I have bought into the lie of the first group.  First, I thought I was one of them - "good enough".  I learned to compare myself to worse sinners than myself and figured I was doing pretty well of my own efforts.  Then, I realized I had sinned and felt doomed to remain in my sin because I hadn't yet discovered the saving grace that should've been abundantly clear to me as a regular church-goer.  Now, I'm learning to find my place in the third group, not denying my sin, but not letting it stop me from nonetheless pursuing holiness.  And yet old habits die hard.  I still know people who would see my efforts and accuse me of being prudish, "holier than thou", or "trying too hard".  

The problem isn't that some people may think this about me.  The problem is that I even give their possible opinions a second thought.  My focus needs to be directed to God alone.  I can be "good enough" and stay mediocre while on Earth.  Or, I can claim the grace that has been offered to me through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, and say, "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me" (Philippians 4:13).  Even holiness.  Yes, I can become a saint!  Not of my own power, not through anything I have done or can do.  But only through the power of Christ, so long as I welcome Him to live in me and through me.

Jesus said, "'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). I have to learn to expect it.  I cannot wait for people to stop judging me before I start living the life I am meant to live.  I cannot wait to build up enough courage to stand up to people who judge me, for Jesus said that His grace is sufficient for me, "for power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Ah, the power of one's convictions, to one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) be able to say with Saint Paul, "I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Homeschooling Research On Hold

I have been gung-ho about researching all things homeschooling for years now.  In fact, one of the reasons I was hoping to have children was so that I could homeschool!  I've enjoyed "doing preschool" at home with my daughter, but I've been noticing that I feel stretched and unable to balance everything I want/need to do.  The hard truth is that with my daughter only three and a half, homeschooling is not a current need.  It's been a hobby really, the research and the planning and the attempts at implementation.

Instead, what I think I'm going to focus on is laying the foundation of our future success.  A smoothly running household will require me to have a firm grasp on decluttering, truly finding a place for everything so that everything could actually go in its place, and then getting into a reliable schedule of household cleaning and chores.  I am slowly warming up to cooking again, so that is where my research and planning needs to be directed right now.  Gardening is another area that requires my attention.  All of these silmultaneously present educational opportunities anyway, just not standard academics.

So what I propose for the next year or so is this.  Still attend the Catholic Homeschoolers'  planning meeting at our church in August. Still participate in the annual Not Back to School online summit in September.  Still attend the homeschooling curriculum fairs/conventions next May.  And in the meantime, I know what I'm working on with Maya is letter and numeral recognition, letter-sound correlation, counting, as well as the things I have prepared on our Morning Board that just needs a few finishing touches for us to start using it daily.  And of course we'll continue with library books, lots of reading time in all three languages, and prayer and faith talks.

I don't need to incessantly view YouTube videos on homeschool room tours or curriculum reviews or how-tos of any kind.  I know what I need to be doing over this next year of preschool, and I am deciding to be intentional about how I spend my free time.  I'm done researching homeschooling until next summer, at which point I will access where we are and determine if we'll be starting Kindergarten "level" work, or rather how we're going to be implementing what is suggested in The Well-Trained Mind (I've returned to this resource and realizing I have the freedom to tinker with what doesn't resonate with me, I think this will be our primary go-to as far as choosing subjects and resources.  Basing our educational approach on the trivuum makes the most sense.  Everything else we'll take as it comes.)

Hopefully this decision will pave the way for more intentional prayer time, as well as using my desire to research and plan for more useful endeavors (gardening, cooking, homemaking in general). Sometimes just writing it down makes it feel more official, and so here it is.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What is the Good News?

"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence"  (1 Peter 3:15)

For years I asked the question - what is the good news?  It seems so vague, reading about it in Scripture.  I hear it weekly, proclaimed from the pulpit.  It appeared as though every other Christian knew what this was all about, except for me.  I kid you not, I truly didn't know what exactly was the good news!  

Basically, it's like this.  God loves me unconditionally, and He sacrificed even Himself on the Cross to ensure that I could spend eternity with Him in heaven.  He loves me so much that He couldn't stand the idea of being separated from me, even though I turn from Him when I sin.  He loves me like no one else loves me.  He loves me like I love no one else.  He models true love for me.  I am loved to the ends of the Earth.  What can possibly be better news than that???

Ok, so here comes the natural extension of this realization.  If I feel so utterly loved by God that I live my life in a way that is often contrary to the secular standards of the world, then shouldn't I be grateful beyond measure for this gift of unconditional love and the resulting inner peace that comes with it?  And if I am indeed grateful, then shouldn't I desire to share this gift with others? 

(Of course, if I don't live my life any differently than Secular Sam, then I have to wonder if I really believe in God's eternal love for me.)

I struggle with self-consciousness.  But in Christ (the incarnation of God's love for me!), I am learning to accept who I am, praising the Lord for my positive attributes, and humbling accepting correction surrounding my negative tendencies.  

I worry. But in Christ, I trust God and needn't worry any longer!

I judge. But in Christ, I am aware of my own smallness and feel a sense of comraderie with my fellow sisters and brothers, all children of God, all struggling to some degree in various areas of their lives.  

I have been waiting to replace these faults with virtues (mainly humility and faith) before feeling ready to be able "to give an account for the hope that is in" me (1 Peter 3:15).  But perhaps the best way to attain these virtues is through practice!  Humble in the realization that I am not where I'd like to be, where God calls me to be, as far as virtue is concerned, I have faith that He can nonetheless use even my imperfect attempts to give a testimony of His great love.

So, if right now you do not have a sense of peace about your life, if you are anxious about the future or have regrets about the past, if you struggle with tendencies that you aren't very proud of, if you feel alone and unloved.... I have great news for you!  

Your Creator loves you beyond measure!  He made you on purpose, with a plan for your life. He forgives you for whatever is nagging at your conscience, so long as you admit your wrongdoing and repent!  He wants to spend not just this earthly life with you, but all of eternity!  Whatever is holding you back from living up to your potential, He can help!  He is, after all, the mastermind behind the blueprint for your life!  He can fix it!  He can make it better!  All He wants in return is your love.  Can you believe it?  Can you accept His love? Because that is all it takes - accepting His free offer of unconditional love and eternal life.