Monday, Monday, So Good to Me

As much as I love weekends, Monday morning brings with it the hope of getting back on course and the chore of doing so! Monday means returning to the routines of the coming week. If we work outside the home, we organize our time around the work schedule, family, children, home or aspirations. If we choose to stay in the home, our pace is set according to what we hope to accomplish there. No matter our particular life, Monday lays before us choices for the week ahead. What choices have you made today? Have you thought ahead or are you just waiting for your life to happen? In Titus 2, Paul lays out the results of choices that women of God can make, and the specific reasons for doing so.  Ever since the words were penned to Titus, women have a guide for living each day in God’s way.

Let’s take a look. Paul says to teach older woman to be reverent and respectful in their choice of words and behavior.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Titus 2:3

The outcome of reverence, a word which implies love and respect for God, is a willing desire to teach younger woman. The list of choices here is to be loving to husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, kind, and respectful of the role God has assigned husbands as the head of the household.

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands  Titus 2:4-5

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When I was in my twenties, the Lord called my husband to start a school in California. We were 1500 miles from home, far away from family and friends. During that time my wise heavenly Father began my preparation for what I was to become. He arranged several mentors to walk with me on this journey, various men and women who loved the Lord. Each encouraged me to live out my unique life for God’s purpose.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, one of those mentors was a seventy-five year-old man named Mr. Haynes. He had a first name, Irv, but I could not bring myself to call him that because I respected him so much. During our twelve years of friendship, Mr. Haynes taught me how to garden, how to build furniture, how to appreciate classical music, how to enjoy poetry, how to respect my husband and understand him. He also taught me the names of every native and imported plant in California, among many more valuable skills.

Mr. Haynes had been a Christian minister, and then life moved him on to being a human resource director at a very large company in Los Angeles. I met him after his retirement, at our back fence, as a neighbor. He knew the name and uses of an exotic fruit bush growing on our adjoining properties. He also possessed a keen understanding of what humans need to improve and develop. I guess I needed help, because I became his project.

Mr. Haynes understood my faith, and yet he saw the immaturity and lack of skill in putting my faith into action. I had head knowledge and no practicality in putting what I said into action. Through the years he patiently helped me learn. Looking back, I now see that he was instilling this attitude in me: You are what you are becoming.

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell. If you want to become a gardener, be one now. If you want to become knowledgeable, study your topic thoroughly. If you want to become loved and respected by others, be loving and respectful to others. Not rocket science, but I was a wannabe and a lost little soul without direction. He helped me see myself and my future more clearly by teaching me how to focus on it now.

How about you? Can you imagine yourself in thirty to forty years? What will you be doing? Who will you have become? What will family, friends and peers be able to say about you? Will you be living out your life’s purpose?

These are tough questions to answer because they lie in the future. The truth is, only God knows the answers to what your life will be and how you will live out your purpose. However, God’s Word gives a glimpse of where to focus. Through faith, we can pursue a life worthy of the gospel, confident of the results. A great place to start is found in Proverbs. Here we see the outcome of a believing woman’s life, a life lived God’s way.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:25-26

Would you like to be this woman? Take a whirl in Titus 2 and Proverbs 31. God has work for us to do and attitudes to instill as we are becoming more like Christ. A skeptic might read and ask, why are we encouraged to be reverent, loving, pure and kind? Look for the answer in Titus. To give glory to God; so that others around us will not malign the Word of God, but see our lives as an open book. Our character is a witness to the truth of God’s love for us in Christ. It’s our high calling as God’s girls.

Whether you are a younger or older woman, can your choices this Monday and every day be more focused on becoming a Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 woman? With God’s help, and with his encouragement to live out our lives for him, the answer is yes. Yes, we can confidently set our hearts on “being what we are becoming”, women of faith and women of purpose, reverent, loving and respectful.

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Train up a child

Train up a child in the way he should go,Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

There are certainly passages in the Bible about discipline and how important it is in a child's life. However, when one talks about discipline, it refers to a consequence for a negative behavior. It is a reaction to something that has already happened. Today I don't want to talk about discipline or have a discussion over different forms of discipline. I want to talk about training.

When I became a mother, my own mom was adamant about reminding me that there is a difference between disciplining a child, and training them. While discipline is very important in a child's life, one must not forget the important step of training. She explained to me that training happens before negative behavior. It is a time specifically set-up to teach the child something whether manners, self-control, obedience or a new skill.

It's way too easy to spend my life is response mode: reacting to my children's negative behaviors with consequences. It takes a lot more effort and intentionality to set aside time to teach and train up my children. However, I've found that my mom is a very wise woman (I guess raising 5 children will do that to you) and the ways that my husband and I have worked proactively at training our children (as she encouraged) have had the most lasting success.

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For example, before heading to the zoo on Monday I told my kids we were going to practice obeying when I told them to stop. I then told them to run to different spots in the house. However, before they got to where I had them going, I would say "stop; wait; I need you to come back by mom for a minute." Sure enough, since they knew what was expected of them, they came back each time. Then I started to make it harder. For example, sending them to find favorite toys or cookies. I discussed with them that even when we are having a good time, or running to something we really want to see or do, it is very important  that they still listen to me when I tell them to stop or come back.

Well after our 10 minutes of practice, I tried it out at the zoo. Sure enough, despite their excitement and energy, they listened better than I expected! Now mind you, they are only 4, 2.5 and 2 so it was far from a day of perfect obedience, but considering they are learning (as we all are), I was pretty proud of them.

We've found this "training" method to be very beneficial in many different circumstances: teaching them how to greet adults by practicing at home, telling them at the beginning of the meal what table manners we are going to be specifically working on, and purposely setting up things at home that are off limits to teach boundaries.

However, the most important thing any of us can train our children to do is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself." - Luke 10:27.

Your children are watching you.Your devotional and prayer habits speak volumes to your children. Are you training them to put God first in their life, to love their neighbors, to give to those in need? Sometimes it's as simple as living it out yourself. My husband has always brought in our retired neighbors garbage can every time he has the chance. Sure enough, without prodding, our son has started doing that as well.

Now before you get the idea that I think I'm some super mom with perfect parenting skills, I want to make sure you know that is not what I'm saying. In fact, more often than not, I catch myself in a cycle of reacting rather than teaching and training. But no matter how long you've sat in a bad habit or frustrating parenting season, it is never too late to turn around and by change what you are doing. Children are worth the effort whether they are 18 months and jumping into the naughty stage or 14 years old and rebelling their way into high school.

Finally, as with all things, as a Christian parent, make sure to wrap both your training and discipline in love and prayer. Our ultimate goal isn't to crush our little ones into perfect submission and obedience (I have to remind myself that sometimes), but rather to train them up into the young men and women God has planned for them to be.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3:12-14