As I have focused on the Cross over the years, I have been continually struck with not just the physical torment Jesus endured but the emotional. He laid down His life of His own accord so that people do not need to endure hell and could have an intimate relationship with His Father, yet they mock, ridicule, slander, taunt, misjudge and reject Him to His face. My God, my God, how is it that You can be so full of self-control? To watch people treat Your gift, Your beloved Son, like that and not rise to anger and smite them all will forever be beyond me. And yet it is the thing that captivates me the most about who You are. So loving, kind, and patient, and all the while fully aware of what is going on. The story of the Cross is who God is today – full of tender mercy and self-control, yet fully aware of all that is going on.
DO YOU EVER THINK OF GOD LOOKING AT THE CROSS?
Many stores have cute Valentine’s Day mailboxes in their dollar section. Pick one up for each child, and instead of using them for V-day, use them to fill their tanks all year long. I would often encourage the kids to write notes of praise, thanks, or encouragement and have them secretly put them in their sibling’s mailboxes. It taught them how to be proactive in speaking love to someone and how good it feels to receive.
I would keep them and pull them back out again in the summer or fall when they need some help going after filling each other’s tanks. A great thing to bring on vacation or do during school breaks.
Going up to someone and saying, “Will you mentor me?” is a little like telling the guy on the first date you are going to marry him. Mentoring someone requires connection and the freedom to speak honestly into someone’s life. Often, this means hard conversations and truth shared in love. They are mentoring you to empower and help you grow, which means growing pains. Not everyone is in a place where they can receive this type of conversation without being offended, wounded, or defensive. The best mentors, I have found, are those that happen organically by the move of God vs. someone searching for one. If you long for this type of relationship, tell God and have faith in His ability to orchestrate it on your behalf. When God gives you this connection with someone, don’t view it as a relationship to take, but as one to serve and give out of the gratefulness in which you have received from their wisdom, time, and investment in you. One of my mentors is a single lady, so we would always be on the lookout for ways we could stand in the gap and help her with things like changing the oil in her car, bringing her meals, or sending her flowers on Mother’s Day. We both are blessed by the connection for different reasons. I positioned my heart to look for opportunities to bless and serve her. Oftentimes people don’t really want a ‘mentor’ but a person who will give them the gifts that a mother or father give, such as a sense of belonging, to be seen, community, wisdom, etc. Identifying what needs you are specifically seeking to meet helps to go after that person who carries that gift. Our greatest connections with those who are older (and wiser) than ourselves have simply evolved from intentionally getting to church at least 30 minutes earlier and extending a warm greeting to those around us, whether it be sitting in church, standing in line for childcare check-in, or greeting those we haven’t met before. This isn’t scary, but it requires a heart that is open to seeing and loving people. We have a strong connection to every regular attender who sits in the same section as us every Sunday morning simply because we have made it a point to see and welcome them. We have gotten together for Sunday brunch, dinners, playing games, going to each other’s homes, and texting often. It was organic simply by being open and friendly to those God has put in front of us. My kids have profited profoundly from having multiple adopted grandmas and grandpas. Who will you sit by today? Reach out, introduce yourself, be excited to see them again next week, and see what God does with it!
I often hear moms of little ones lamenting that all they do is change diapers, feed, clean, do laundry, and repeat. They feel insignificant as their world revolves around caring for their demanding and helpless child. To which I reply, “YOU ARE KIDDING YOURSELF. You are in the biggest season of your life. You get to be the gateway between the generations deciding what you do and do not want to pass on to the next generation who will carry the baton of your family line. You are deciding what parenting style is best for raising healthy whole children. You are deciding what holiday traditions are worthy of introducing your children to. You are discerning what triggers you and what needs to be brought into wholeness. You are building a foundation with their Father that will be the foundation in which they are raised. You are the one who gets to gaze in their eyes and communicate love to their souls. You are teaching them that they are safe and wanted. Oh, Mama, you are in the most incredible season of your life as you take the helm and sail the next generation into the Father’s arms.”
Picture a jail. Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18 both talk about captives and prisoners, but what is the difference between the two? Both of them are in jail. One is a captive, meaning he was brought there against his will but is free to walk back out. The other one is a prisoner who has committed a crime and must have keys to walk out. The keys are in Matthew 18:23-35. When I first read these verses, I couldn’t believe my eyes. We cannot overlook this Scripture. I want to highlight verse 35. WHO? So shall WHO? It says, “So shall my Father in heaven do to you.” Guys, we have to grasp this. When hurts, lies, and offenses come our way, we have to get out of the jail they create around our lives as soon as possible, or else the unforgiveness we hold onto will hinder God’s best for us. If you are sincerely trying to get out of bondage but can’t seem to find freedom, chances are that you are a prisoner, and the name of the key to open the door is FORGIVENESS!
Here is a rough model to follow but let the Spirit lead you: “Jesus, who do I need to forgive?” Choose to forgive and pray to release them. “Jesus, what lie have I believed because of this hurt/offense done to me?” Choose to break agreement with the lie. “Jesus, what is Your truth?” Choose to receive what He has to say. I want to add that sometimes people have sincerely forgiven yet still are not experiencing full freedom. Sometimes we have to forgive not only the offense but the FRUIT of the offense. Say someone was abused as a child, and they have walked through forgiving their abuser. But there is fruit to the abuse, such as being unable to trust people, being self-protected, feeling isolated, not feeling safe at night, etc. Sometimes we have to walk through forgiving them for how their hurt/offense affected your life.
HeartWork – I encourage you not to be introspective about this but to ASK JESUS to show you. “Jesus, would You please show me if there is anyone I need to forgive?”
Do children need to be believers to play in the Kingdom or do they play in the Kingdom to choose Him? I think it is both. When did God speak the loudest to Saul (Paul)? When He was Jesus’ enemy #1. When did Jesus invite Matthew? When he was full of greed. When did Jesus welcome the man on the cross? When he was destined to hell. God’s most profound act of love was a free gift to those who didn’t know Him. Oh, yes, He cares for those who do not yet know Him. God speaks and interacts with unbelievers. And in doing so, it provides an encounter with the One who is worthy of it all. Encounters become the gateway in which many realize He is the One and make the choice to follow Him. This is a glorious, beautiful event because it becomes their testimony which no man can argue or deny. Our goal as parents should be to seek to provide our children with encounters with Him and the joy of playing in His Kingdom so that they experience Him. Head knowledge is religion where encounters are relationship.
Some ways to usher our children into an encounter could include: showing them a Scripture of how much Jesus cares about them (not just to correct their behavior), asking Jesus questions that pertain to their world, heart and cares, inviting Jesus into their pain, taking them to church, allowing them to stay with you during worship, sharing with them what He showed you during your quiet time, telling your own God stories, letting them dance at home with worship music, soaking (simply sitting/lying quietly generally with music on to feel His peace), asking God to help them with something (and then helping them see how He responded).
When my children were little, I had a sign on the wall that said, “Dear Jesus, thank You for ______. Would You please help me with ______”. Each day they would pray filling in the blanks. I was modeling for them how to be thankful and come to Jesus with what was important to their heart. At the end of the day, we would play the High/Low game where they would share what was the high and low of their day. Their highs would almost always reflect the very thing they asked Jesus for. One day my daughter asked Jesus to help her get a sweet treat. It felt rather insignificant to me, but hours later we were at a store, and a clerk said she made one too many ice cream cones and offered it to my daughter. I immediately reminded her of her prayer that morning. I saw my role as a dot connector. Teaching them to pray, then helping them see the way God was responding and speaking to them. Their faith grew each time leaving them hungry for more. We were building their stories with Him long before any of them made a personal decision to follow Him.
A mom recently asked me what to do when her child has to face hard things that are outside of her control to change. We talked for a moment about how to keep our children safe, but then I introduced her to what I have called ‘touchpoints.’ Touchpoints are those places where two places touch each other. The one end is our child’s need, lack, or hard circumstances; the other end is heaven’s tools and strategy. When the two of them touch, it no longer becomes just the hard or challenging circumstances but where our child gets strengthened, equipped, armed, and empowered to overcome, grow, conquer and become victorious. While I may not be able to prevent every negative thing that comes their way, I surely can give them the tools of heaven to win the battle. Where is your child enduring hardship, lack of pain? How can you, as their parent, equip them in that area with the tools of heaven?
At church, Hudson asked if I would buy him a muffin and began to tell me how he didn’t have any time to eat. It rubbed me the wrong way, so I stopped and asked if that was true. He had 45 minutes, and ‘all’ he did was get dressed, which provided enough time to eat. I needed him to see something. He was coming at me as a victim, trying to motivate me to meet his need. I want him to approach me as a son. I want him to see me as a mother who cares. Yes, I want him to take responsibility for managing his responsibilities and time, but this isn’t his norm or weakness. I helped him to see that he wasn’t a victim but instead chose not to eat and was now paying the price for it. I asked him to approach me like a son and humble himself with his need. It is risky asking someone for help when you have messed up, but I don’t want my children to partner with being a victim to motivate me (or others) to help them. If I had bought him a muffin without helping him to own his choice, I would have indirectly taught him that there is power in being a victim. He enjoyed his muffin and grew in learning how his Father deals with His children.
The definition of empowerment is to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. This means you can’t empower yourself. It is something that is given or denied by someone else. This is why God puts us in families and churches with mothers and fathers who have authority over us, see the value in us, and champion what God has placed inside of us. I am not talking about when people are using their God-given authority in a healthy way. There is an appropriate time for a parent, leader, teacher, or pastor to protect those in their care by not allowing them to do something. This is healthy and a protective covering. Nor am I talking about entitlement and that people should just be able to do whatever they want when they want it and that no one can tell them “No.” I am talking about when people in authority use the tool of disempowerment to protect something in them that needs to come into alignment. I hope to bring perspective to the dynamics of what happens when parents/leaders use disempowerment as a tool to control those under them.
Orphan – Disempowerment removes parents/leaders from being true mothers and fathers the way God intended homes and churches to operate and therefore opens them up to the demonic simply by creating a culture that isn’t in alignment with His Kingdom. Being disempowered pulls them back into an orphan mentality.
Double-Mindedness – Disempowerment can throw a person into double-mindedness. They want to honor it, but it doesn’t feel right. They talk their mind out of their emotions and their emotions out of their mind. It creates a cycle that is so inner focus that it consumes them. “I love them,” “I can’t understand why they don’t believe in me,” “I see how powerful they are,” “What’s wrong with me?” They have a very hard time reconciling their mind and heart because they are both screaming two different things. The Bible says a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. It is hard for someone to be confident and full of courage when your mind and heart are not in alignment with each other.
Covering – Disempowering someone puts the wrong kingdom covering over that child/person. The nature of empowerment is authority. When someone (falsely) takes it from you, it leaves you vulnerable to the enemy because it is by Christ’s work on the Cross that we are all empowered with authority to walk who He has called us to be.
Stunts Growth – Being disempowerment removes the protective covering that allows for mistakes and messes while maturing. There is no learning curve and without it, children/people are crippled in making choices because they know they can’t do it perfectly so they shy away from trying.
Shame – Disempowerment isn’t God’s tool so it will never make sense to the human mind and heart, but they attempt to reconcile the question “what is wrong with me?” (when in fact, there is nothing wrong with them). Some can spend a lifetime attempting to answer this question.
Introspection – Disempowerment hands the person a mirror and forces them to be critical of themselves, not knowing where they went wrong or how to make it better. An awkward awareness of self follows you around unsure if you will make the same mistake again with others, yet you aren’t fully aware of what mistake you made in the first place.
Rejection – The greatest form of rejection is when someone dismisses the gifts inside of you because it is the very reason why you were created.
Idol – Disempowerment puts the focus on the one in authority in an idol state and is always unhealthy for all parties. It makes their stamp of approval the goal rather than what God is doing and saying in that person’s life. The more it is withheld, the more the person craves it, and the idol grows. It is a vicious cycle and trap of the enemy to get one’s eyes off Jesus. Idol worship is empty and lacks the ability to produce fruit.
Judgement – I found this part very interesting. When there is idol worship there will be a lack of peace. The enemy often hands a person the tool of judgment to fight it off with. I have seen this countless times as people have battled disempowerment and then become seduced with judgment. Their minds try hard to slap it back into honor and love, but eventually, they give away and push back the disempowerment with judgment. The very person they so deeply wanted to know who believed in them suddenly becomes the worst person on earth, and judgments are made about who they are, their intentions, and credibility. This is so sad because they move from being disempowered to judgmental, which continues to hinder them.
You can’t steward the position of disempowerment well enough because it is not your identity or God-given place. There is only ONE way out of disempowerment. Forgiveness. Forgive the parent/leader who told you they didn’t believe in you, who didn’t value your gifts, and who didn’t find you worth investing in. For many, there is great grief and sadness as the person in authority is generally someone you care a great deal about (parent/leader). Give your heart a voice in walking this out and allowing God to restore your authority!
I have strived hard through the Let the Children Fly message to get parents to see beyond the behavior. Yes, train children to manage themselves better, but if we only focus on managing behavior, we will enter legalism and move away from the Father’s heart. We must be willing to endure discomfort with their behavior to explore with Holy Spirit WHY. If we can partner with Him, we will discover what is going on inside their hearts, and we can parent them in that place. This is where real transformation and growth occur. When we experience someone acting immature, wounded, and reckless, we have two choices: #1 Increase our power by using intimidation and fear to control them so that we feel comfortable or #2 come alongside their pain and usher them to Jesus. If all we are doing is managing triggers and outward behavior, we are actually separating ourselves from their heart. If we want to draw closer, we must become students of what is going on in their world.
Testimony from a mom who took our online Kingdom parenting class years ago. What I love about this is that God was putting seeds deep inside of her when her children were so little and grew them in His timing for her time of need.
She shared: “In the middle of taking your class, I didn’t know how I could use the tools you taught at the time, as they were just two and three years old. But now that they are four and five, I am starting to see the breakthroughs happen, and it’s such a blessing to be able to touch the heart splinters and have Jesus take care of them now than years from now. Lisa, thank you for choosing Jesus when it felt like all hope was lost many years ago!!!! I am a work in progress, but I am so grateful for your ministry!!!”