RELIGION VS. RELATIONSHIP

RELIGION VS. RELATIONSHIP

Some of us come from very religious backgrounds and fear that if we constantly say, “Let’s ask Jesus,” it will push the child away from God, not towards Him. This is where the difference between a religious spirit and a relationship comes into play. When kids are thumped over the head with religion and Scriptures are being used as weapons of control, they resist. When kids talk to their earthly father, they are blessed because the interaction is alive and real and deposits goodies in their hearts. The same is true with Jesus: when they ask and HEAR Him replying, it builds a relationship. That is a good thing and is long-lasting. 

Pray (out loud) – “Jesus, I thank You that (your child’s name) ’s spiritual ears are open and that he/she has the ability to hear their Father clearly today. Teach me, God, to be a good teacher of Your voice to the children You have entrusted me with. Give me creative ways to teach, model, practice, and usher my children into hearing Your voice. Thank You that You have good things to say to my children and that their lives change when they hear Your voice. Thank You that I am not an ill-equipped parent but that I get to partner with You in parenting. You knit them together and know more about them than I ever could. Thank You that I am not alone in this journey but can come to You anytime for answers and truth. Let my home be a home that stands on Your written and spoken Word, and let Your voice be the only voice that is acceptable. Help me lead my children to Your presence through living and tangible encounters with You. Thank You that You are in all things, and in all things, we can involve You.”

SPIRITUAL HEARING

There is no special spiritual gift of hearing God. It comes with the package of becoming a Son and Daughter. You may need to learn how to strengthen your spiritual muscle of hearing (like worship, reading the Word, and prayer), but your spiritual ears work just fine.

HEARING GOD AS A FAMILY

Family devotions were led by Hudson one morning, and I was curious to see what he would come up with. When he woke, I reminded him it was his day and asked if he was ready. His response was, “Nope,” but I could tell his wheels were spinning. He grabbed his sister’s devotions, which touched me deeply, knowing that he was ministering to four females. While seeking Jesus is unisex, I was so touched by this thoughtfulness. He talked about getting hurt by friends and how we sometimes have to stand alone but that we are never alone with Jesus. He did a great job of engaging us and asking us questions about the passage he had just read. One of the things I cherish most about my family is the way we all support each other by asking Jesus questions together. We each got to ask something as the rest of us listened to what Jesus had to say. It is so life-giving and encouraging to hear what everyone heard Him say, which is the very essence of the prophetic (hearing God for others).

HOW DOES GOD SPEAK?

Do you get overwhelmed when someone suggests hearing God? Or do you struggle to understand how exactly it works?

I used to think if someone couldn’t hear God they needed some deep inner healing work (what a hopeless mindset). Now, after ministering to scores of families around the globe, I have come to understand that God is always speaking and there is no such thing as spiritual deafness (for a believer). There could be things preventing you from hearing, but it isn’t that your ears don’t work or God’s mouth is silent.

I liken hearing God to riding a bike. If I were to write a post on how to ride a bike, there wouldn’t be much to share. Hop on, put your foot on the pedal, push off and alternate pushing down the pedals with each foot. Pretty easy, huh? Well, the key to being a strong bike rider is what? PRACTICE! It isn’t the method or steps that are overwhelming; it is in the willingness to practice that many quit and never learn how to fly.

Just like God gave us each a spleen, heart, and eyes, He has given each of us a ‘chalkboard’ in our minds where He speaks and shows us things.

The Body doesn’t dictate how the Creator can or can’t speak, as He is limitless and creative! But here is a rough outline of some of the ways He can speak.

Audible voice – As loud as if He was sitting there like Old Testament examples

Inner voice/whisper – Clear as a bell, but only you heard it

Spontaneous thought – Something pops into your head

Feelings/impressions – Just “feel” something like a strong sense

Gift of faith – Don’t know why, but you just know that you know!

Scripture – Jumps off the page and dives right into your heart

Other people – You know their words were for you

Signs/wonders/miracles – Doing what only He can do

Pictures – Visions, dreams, inside your imagination

Nature – Mountains, water, heart-shaped rock

Art – Song, dance, poetry, paintings

Peace – a sense of liquid peace comes over you like a warm blanket. Do you know that God is peace? Pure 100% peace that doesn’t match your physical on-earth circumstances. When we sit and get quiet and invite His presence we can often feel it in the form of peace washing over us.

When you are ready, ask the question slowly; then just watch and listen to see whatever comes to mind. Don’t argue with it, dismiss it, or doubt it. Whatever the topic is, focus on that for a moment. What does He want you to see about it? When He shows you something, and you aren’t sure what it means or what to do with it keep asking more questions. God is like finding the Easter eggs. He likes to say things that keep us looking for more. While He could throw the whole instructional book at us, instead He chooses a relationship with us. Don’t be so quick to get up and walk away. He wants to engage with you. You aren’t meeting with a busy royal emperor; you are talking with your Daddy!

Example:

Prayer – “Father, how do You feel about me?”

Answer – I see in my mind a girl dancing with a pink tutu (which means nothing to me).

Prayer – “Father, what do You want me to know about this dancing girl?”

Answer – I hear, “That is how I see you all the time, even when you feel like you have blown it.”

It is important to note that hearing God is not the same as audible hearing with our ears. Sometimes it means seeing pictures, and other times it means we feel His heart for something. My son rarely ‘hears’ anything, but sees images in his mind. I have another child who feels things intently for others or about a subject, and we know that is the Father speaking to her.

I had a mentor who made my spiritual ears come to life. I remember talking to her about things, and she would always say, “Can we ask Jesus about that?” It was an odd concept to me that we could ask Him about the ordinary, everyday life stuff. We don’t have to keep Him reserved for just the big spiritual stuff; He wants in on the little things that concern and matters to us, too. Get in the habit of simply asking often, “Jesus, what do YOU think about that?”

Pray – “Holy Spirit, I give You permission to speak to me today. Teach me what it means to hear/see/feel Your heart.”

We have established already that not only does God speak, but He wants to speak to YOU!

Spend time with Him today and ask a question or two.

“Jesus, what do You love most about me?”

“Holy Spirit, what are You doing in my life right now?”

“Father God, in what way did You knit me together in Your image?”

PLANTING SEEDS

I hosted a mom’s group and decided we would celebrate a different mom each week by showering her with gifts, words, and extra encouragement. It was a powerful time each week. One week I sensed I was to have my children write a prophetic word. Ellie, who is a fabulous artist, drew a detailed picture and wrote, “God is planting a seed deep within you that will bring life.” I asked Ellie to tell me about the picture, and she said, “Jesus showed me a picture in my mind of a tree that looked like that.” Yet it looked like a perfectly drawn male body part. I was contemplating whether I should trust it and give it to the mom or toss it. I was convicted that Ellie had a strong history of hearing with clarity, so I privately handed it to the mom and said, “Maybe you can look at this one later.” She looked at it anyway and burst into tears. She began to share the heartbreak and pain of not getting pregnant again after years of hoping and trying. We had no idea she was carrying this burden, which became a very tender ministry time for her. Fast forward a year later, and she is about to give birth to her second child.

PREPARING FOR BATTLE

I am confident of God’s leading me as my Husband, and He has been so faithful over the years. We entered the home stretch of the election war and really wanted to hear His heart and strategy for our family. We spent time just being quiet and enjoying His presence while listening to a worship song. Then I asked the question, “Jesus, is there anything specifically You want us to do to prepare for the season we are in?” The children each heard similar things regarding strategy, and it was very confirming, but Emma said, “I heard Him say that we are to stock up in our hearts, especially with JOY, because joy gives us the will to fight hard things.”

It would be impossible to be fully prepared for whatever could come our way. But stocking up on the ingredients that will help us weather any storm is essential right now. Joy releases a chemical in our brain that gives us the will to fight and endure hard things. Joy is your weapon – stock up on an arsenal of it.

ANGELS WATCHING OVER YOU

Years ago, I heard of this story, and it has shaped my faith in God’s ability to protect my children. A young Christian student was home for the summer. She had gone to visit some friends one evening, and the time passed quickly as each shared their various experiences of the past year. She ended up staying longer than she had planned and had to walk home alone. But she wasn’t afraid because it was a small town and she lived only a few blocks away. As she walked along under the tall elm trees, Diane asked God to keep her safe from harm and danger. When she reached the alley, which was a shortcut to her house, she decided to take it. However, halfway down the alley, she noticed a man standing at the end as though he were waiting for her. She became uneasy and began to pray, asking for God’s protection. Instantly a comforting feeling of quietness and security wrapped around her; she felt as though someone was walking with her. When she reached the end of the alley, she walked right past the man and arrived home safely. The following day, she read in the paper that a young girl had been raped in the same alley just twenty minutes after she had been there. Feeling overwhelmed by this tragedy and the fact that it could have been her, she began to weep, thanking the Lord for her safety, and to help this young woman, she decided to go to the police station. She felt she could recognize the man, so she told them her story. The police asked her if she would be willing to look at a lineup to see if she could identify him. She agreed and immediately pointed out the man she had seen in the alley the night before. When the man was told he had been identified, he immediately broke down and confessed. The officer thanked Diane for her bravery and asked if there was anything they could do for her; she asked if they would ask the man one question. Diane was curious as to why he had not attacked her. When the policeman asked him, he answered, “Because she wasn’t alone. She had two tall men walking on either side of her.”

TEEN BRAIN

Teen girls have been fairly smooth sailing for me. When emotions are big, I feel confident in how to respond and help them. Teen boys, on the other hand, have refined me to my core. I love my son dearly, and connection with him is important to me, but I have been challenged to remain connected to him while he is finding his way. As a mom, I have full awareness that I cannot fully bring him into manhood and learning how to do this dance has been interesting. Parts of this season with him have made me feel so inadequate, weak, and even worried. Yet it has made me all the more dependent upon the Lord in a new and fresh way. I was crying out to God for strategy and help when He told me to tap into the incredible men around us who have more wisdom and knowledge than I do in this area. I was blown away by their insight and surprised by how similar their responses were. Men really do hold keys to a young man’s heart. 

This is the text I sent to a handful of men: “Hello! I am asking a couple of men who I trust for some feedback. Hudson is 14 and clearly shifting seasons. I am sensitive to these changes and want to grow in supporting him and become all that God has for him, even if the male brain and wiring are not my norm. Would you be willing to give me insight on the following questions from your perspective as a dad but also from when you were his age? What is something he really NEEDS at this age/stage? What is one of the worst things a mother could do at this age? What could I do as his mom to affirm his need to pull away and become his own individual? Any additional thoughts? I sincerely value hearing and learning how best to parent him! Lisa.”

Here are their responses loaded with empowerment and rich wisdom:

  • Taking risks that come with a belief he’s no longer a boy who needs protection (even if it looks completely immature or unnecessary to others). This can manifest by personal style or something as simple as going places without supervision. You might see a potentially bad outcome, but he might have to experience the process to understand where his limits are apart from what you wisely believe (regardless of the outcome). These can be reasonably compromised at times, but if he perceives that what you are always saying is “No, because I as your mother know better for you,” that can actually fuel his desire and become his concrete “I’m surely going to do this now.”
  • I remember when I was his age. My mom was somewhat overprotective, but she (and my dad) had laid a good foundation for me. That foundation was a good inner compass for me. Hudson has a good inner compass. He won’t go off the rails. His desire is for good.
  • When I was 14, I needed more independence. There were structured activities I found that in, like youth group. There were unstructured activities I chose to do too, hanging out with friends, running & mountain biking etc.
  • Boys & men process differently to women. Sitting down and talking about feelings is not natural for us (mostly). It is a learned skill. We tend to process through action. Emotions at this age are at extremes. It’ll pass and normalize.
  • Constructive projects were good for me. I worked for my aunt and uncle who owned land. I managed the land, fixed fences, drove tractors, repaired country roads, etc. Directed outdoor physical activity was healthy for me. Sports do the same thing – something physical with concrete results at the end.
  • Sometimes I failed. I had a bad group of friends for a short season. My inner compass told me they weren’t good for me, so I eventually drifted away from them. Bad decisions and failure are part of growing up – it’s part of adult life too! But I needed the freedom to choose, to fall and to know that my family would always be there for me when I fell. But, like Proverbs says, I rose again. I rose wiser. Hudson has a good inner compass, he’s loyal; he’s motivated towards compassion. He won’t go far wrong.
  • Shaming a boy for things that are out of his control as he navigates the insecurity of becoming a young man who truly thinks he knows what he’s doing. He might not feel embarrassed at all about something until you make it so for him because you are projecting.
  • Express how deep your love is that you can choose to believe he will be alright because that is how amazing a person he is. He has the freedom to not be all right (and not worry that it would cause you greater worry if he’s not) because if that happens, you will be there unconditionally to love on him through that too.
  • I am where I am today because someone called out the gold in me at a moment I nearly threw my future away at his age (and it’s only in hindsight I realized I would’ve thrown my future away). Pray that no matter where he goes, God will encounter him in somebody if he finds himself in a dark moment where a poor choice seems like the right one.
  • Also, he views authority as an obstruction. Part of the discovery is learning how working apart from authority can get him to a far point, and then realizing how authority actually serves as a foundational tool through which he can go much further.
  • Lisa, I would say the biggest need that I had at his age is validation. I needed to hear, “You have what it takes to be a man.”
  • Celebrate who he is as a young man becoming a man. And how he is wired differently than the girls. 
  • I see you already know and are doing this “grace in the poor choices/failures.” One thing I do is ask what they learned from the poor choice/failure then I know as a dad they are learning, and it is then easier for me to extend grace.
  • Boys really need a voice they admire to affirm their identity. A strong male they look up to who they know is for them and can speak into who they are. Girls seem to need many voices and relationships to feel “validated.” Boys just need one good one that isn’t their dad. Hudson will pick this person without realizing it. What you can do is be praying for this guy and then ask him to accept the responsibility when you figure out who it is.
  • Boys Hudson’s age start wrestling with their dads because they need to know how they measure up. It’s partly to see where they fall in the pecking order and it’s partly to satisfy their need to conquer things. As you’re able, find things Hudson can conquer. Camping, building things, ax throwing, whatever. He just needs things he enjoys that he can find success in accomplishing. I think a lot of guys misuse this aspect of being a guy but it’s a God-given feature that guys have. We were designed to accomplish things and to derive satisfaction from overcoming obstacles. And equally important is learning our limitations. It may sound weird but getting your butt kicked teaches you that you can’t do everything. Boys that never learn that turn into tyrants and bullies.
  • When I was 14 going into high school, I was very insecure and didn’t know how to feel. I needed a man to impart manhood to me and teach me/show me the process of how to feel. I needed a healthy mentor whom I could share anything with without judgment and could give me honest feedback. I needed questions asked of me as to what I wanted to build my life to be and taught how to be responsible and accountable for my life and given the opportunity to do so. I think it would take multiple fathers to provide these things (teachers, pastors, coaches, etc.). Also, I wish I was pushed to continue sports for the physical outlet and the comradery.
  • I needed to be empowered to make decisions and own the outcome no matter what it was, and the worst thing a mother could do is to ignore/micromanage/enable me in that process.
  • I think a good thing for a mom to do is to connect emotionally (probably accompanied with an activity of some kind because one-on-one can be difficult at that age). Connect emotionally would look like asking questions with no agenda (seek to understand) and ask how you can help get him where he wants to go. Challenge him to create goals and partner with his goals.
  • I think a boy at this age needs to know what it takes to be a man. I think a big part of that is able to accomplish tasks and overcome challenges. Success probably feels like being able to “win,” but I think deeper it’s about being able to prove on the outside that there is actually a “winner” on the inside. If he is eventually meant to be a protector and provider, he needs to be confident in his ability to accomplish. Healthy challenges and help identify needs and navigate disappointments, keeping identity intact when he makes mistakes in stepping out.
  • The worst thing a mom could do at this age is to stop comforting and affirming him. He still needs it, but you may need to do it differently. He’ll never stop needing to be fully seen.
  • One way to keep connected as he is developing a sense of self-sustainability could be to invite him in to help solve or accomplish tasks that you have. Ask his advice for stuff, create a way for him to accomplish something for you. Let him know the things he has done to meet your emotional and practical needs.
  • Do what you can to also have him around healthy men that he can observe and do things with and be affirmed by. Only a man can tell a boy that he’s a real man.

LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR

Isn’t this a beautiful testimony from a father?

“Our family went on a family hike, and our eldest daughter was having fun running around. We got to the falls and took some pictures, but on the way back, she started whining about wanting to be carried and kept her whining and crying all the way back to the car. I told her if she kept it up, I would give her a spanking, and I could see the fear come into her eyes. She started trying to force herself to stop crying, and it was like something had switched inside me. I asked if she needed to be held, and she gave a huge nod with obvious relief, so I took her out of the car and held her on a nearby rock. I felt prompted by Holy Spirit to ask if she liked the waterfall, and she said no, that it was too loud. I asked if the noise and force of the waterfall scared her, and she said yes. I told her I was sorry for not realizing she was scared and asked if she would forgive me. She did, and I walked around holding her a little longer, and we ended up having a nice time again. This wouldn’t have happened before taking the mentoring class. When we were at the critical moment right when we got back to the car, I felt God cut in and remind me (gently, but in a way that couldn’t be ignored) that my connection to her heart was more important than her outward behavior, and it just froze me. I just wanted to share how the things you shared with us continue to bear fruit in our lives.”

YOU SHOULD BE TOO!

Be kind to the first child God gave you – yourself. You will be accountable for how you treat, accept, reject, love, scold, champion, deny, uphold, tear down, believe in, deny or embrace that child. God is fiercely protective and crazy in love with that child; you should be too!

LET’S ASK JESUS

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Ask, “Jesus, would You please show me a picture of the plans You have for my future?”