The Self Control Button

I got a text from my daughter recently detailing a conversation she had with my four-year old grandson, Isaiah. Evidently he was having trouble being patient while she was completing a task.

Par for the course when you’re four.

Or thirty-four.

Or maybe forty-four.

Definitely at fifty-four.

Let’s be honest. There are those among us who have never mastered the art of patience.

But especially at the tender age of single digit four, waiting is excruciating. So to pass the time he was acting like a robot.

Ever trying to foster desirable qualities in a whimsical way, my daughter asked this robotic wonder if he had a self-control button that he could push.

Oh wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing! A self-control button.

If I could, I would pass one out to every student in my classroom the first day of school saving me hours and hours of behavior management and intervention time.

Of course, I would keep the largest and most obvious one for myself.

Don’t judge. At this time of year it’s every girl for herself.

But I digress.

After thoughtfully considering his mother’s self-control button question, he replied. Yes indeed, he did have such a button.

“But,” he added, ” The sin button is right by the self-control button.”

Truer words were never said.

Why is it that when temptation comes that sin button seems to glow in the dark? It’s always the easy thing to reach, while exercising my self-control feels like fumbling around in the bottom of my purse trying to find my car keys.

I guess the real answer is this.

I’m an imperfect woman in need of a Savior.

A Savior who was willing to go to the cross for my sins, be buried and after three days rise again.

Even when my daily goal is to try to do the right thing, I’m going to think things, say things, do things that in a weak moment translate into sin. As I’m stretching for the self-control button I slip and hit the one labeled sin.

Not every time.

But certainly every day.

Fortunately for me, all is not lost. Even when I hit the wrong button, Jesus forgives and forgets. I get another chance.

And there’s even more good news! Because Jesus paid the price, my sin debt is paid. It’s erased. It’s like I never hit the button at all.

But wanna know the best news ever?

The best news ever is that no matter how imperfect my aim may be, the reality is that Jesus knows me and loves me just the way I am.

I don’t have to be perfect.

I know, right?

That doesn’t mean I won’t keep striving for better self-control. Even a non-robot such as myself has a lot of room for improvement.

It’s just really nice to know that I don’t have to be perfect, because after all…

I already have a Savior who is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Warning Signs

I’ll spare you the gory details, but I suffered a toe injury. Then thanks to my ability to minimize my body’s natural alarm system (PAIN means Alert! Alert! Attention needed!) it got worse.

I knew a visit to the doctor was warranted, but I kept putting it off. In part, because I didn’t want to hear any sensible advice (like stay off your foot) that might interfere with a two-day trip I had planned with some girlfriends.

So I ignored the warning and went on my trip. After the first day my toe was sore, but hadn’t really gotten any worse. However, the second day we did some extensive walking. By the time I returned home my toe was visibly swollen and throbbing with pain.

I scheduled an appointment at the clinic for the next day.

By morning my toe hurt so badly that I was unable to find a single pair of shoes I could tolerate wearing. After settling on some open-toed sandals, I made my way to the car using the ever popular step-drag method. Add a hump on my back and I could hear the bell towers of Notre Dame calling me.

It was when I stepped out of my car in the clinic parking lot that I knew I was in real trouble. Up to this point I had managed to downplay the impact pain had on my mobility. Now parking as close to the entrance as possible, the door still seemed like a football field away.

Two other women got out of their cars at the same time I did. One was about eight months pregnant. The other had her foot in a surgical boot. In the race to the front door I came in a distant third.

By a long shot.

During my appointment as I experienced some painful procedures, the practitioner threw around scary words like MRSA and staph infection. I left with two double doses of antibiotics and an appointment with a podiatrist.

All from a tiny innocuous injury to my big toe. Crazy, right?

But here’s the thing. Sin is like that, too.

Little words or actions I know are wrong get diffused in my mind. I begin to reason that what I said or did wasn’t “that bad”. Rejecting accountability by letting those sins continue without correction assures that inevitably things will get messy.

In reality, sin is sin. And when left unattended it can grow and infect.

Here’s just one example. (And in the name of truth I will admit that I have suffered the consequences as both the recipient and the perpetrator.)

Words have the ability to build up or tear down and sometimes the line gets slightly blurred. Ignoring that a cutting comment clothed in humor can diminish another’s self-worth, unkind words are uttered in a joking way.

I’m not saying that humorous or silly remarks are bad. It’s the manner in which they are spoken. When innocent remarks begin to morph into hurtful sarcasm the warning bell in our heads should begin to sound.

Why do we think that as long as someone laughs along with us, the verbal slap didn’t sting? The person who said “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a liar.

Thoughtless words can land a permanent wound on the recipient. If I am not actively “encouraging one another and building each up” as Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, then I am in opposition to the Word and inviting sin to have a comfy spot in my heart.

By downplaying the damage, I can easily end up with a sin-sick soul in need of more than a double dose of antibiotics.

Fortunately, I know a really great Physician.

Heeding the warning signs of my sin, I can run to Him in sincere repentance and find that He is the antidote for any pain. Every cure, whether reprimand or restoration, is rooted in His abounding, unending love for me. Simply put, I can trust God to know what’s best for me.

Each visit yields another lesson learned and increases the likelihood that I will respond to repentance’s call the next time the alarm is sounded.

I am so thankful that the LORD’s clinic is always open for counsel and healing.

Free of charge.

It’s a good thing, too, for as much time as I spend there I could never afford the co-pay.

 

 

No Expertise Required

When I was in the fifth grade my teacher wrote a high school level algebra problem on the chalkboard and challenged us to solve it. There were three stipulations:

1. It was to be done strictly as homework.

2. We would have to be ready to explain our solution to our classmates.

3. Because it was such an advanced level problem, our parents were allowed to help us.

Never before had I seen such a complicated, convoluted conglomeration of letters and numbers. Feeling doubtful about my mathematical expertise, I still felt compelled to try.

For one thing, I was very competitive when it came to all things school-related. For another, there was a candy prize for anyone who solved it. To the delight of my dentist’s banking account, candy was one of the driving motivators of my ten-year-old life.

That night as I sat at the dining room table struggling to make sense of the numbers and letters before me I came to a decision. I could either go to school the next day admitting defeat or I could ask my college educated parents for help. I chose the latter.

For the next half an hour my parents worked to find a solution while I sat by and watched. From time to time my mother would pop up her head and ask, “Are you sure your teacher said we could help you?” I would nod.

That nod was my sole contribution the process. Because the problem was so far over my head it was more likely that I would spin around and turn into Wonder Woman than it was for me to come up with anything relevant.

The next day I walked into the classroom, my well-worked problem secure under my arm, wondering how in the world I would explain that problem to the class. Math time arrived and our teacher asked which of us had accomplished the task. Only one other person had done the problem.

She asked the two of us come to the front to write out our equations. I might as well have been writing in Sanskrit for all I knew about what my piece of chalk was scratching across the chalkboard.

To my great relief, my classmate asked if he could be the one to explain the solution. As he enthusiastically pointed to parentheses and equal signs, I stood by, blank look on my face, still completely in the dark as to what any of it meant. Afterwards, the class applauded and we were each given a candy cane. I sat down feeling completely unworthily. Later, I tossed the candy cane into the garbage.

I couldn’t receive something I felt did not deserve.

So what’s the point?

Here it is. Jesus offers us something we don’t deserve and every one of us has the choice to happily receive it or throw it away.

We can gratefully accept that fact that by his death and resurrection we are saved. Our sins have been nailed to the cross and we can live as forgiven people under grace.

Or we can go through life, drowning under the weight of our own sin and unworthiness, refusing to accept the gift that He gives.

Let’s face it. We all sin and none of us are worthy. There is absolutely nothing we can contribute to the situation to solve that problem.

But, Good News!  He loves us just the same! Romans 5:8 tells me that God provided for me even while I was still in my sin.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

My sins separate me from God and I can do nothing on my own to remedy that. But God still made a way for me to reconnect.

His name is Jesus Christ. When I yield to Him, His grace pours over me.

I don’t have to stand by, palms sweating, afraid that my unworthiness will be exposed. Instead, Jesus stands in that gap for me. He takes my sins upon Him and reconciles me to the Father.

He did all the work on the cross.

As for me – no expertise required.

Thank-you, LORD.

The Bothersome Blessings

I braved the snowy less-than-desirable driving conditions out to my rural school only to find out that classes had been cancelled for the day. At first I was annoyed that I had somehow been omitted from the staff list that receives automated school closing text alerts. However, after some consideration I realized that it was only a minor inconvenience and had I not spent the hour driving back and forth here are the things I would have missed:

1. Opportunity to help another. As I made my way home I spotted two fur-clad little girls on the corner waiting for the school bus. I rolled down my window to relay the news. “School’s cancelled for the day, girls, because of the snow!” They smiled and waved and called out a thank-you before turning to walk away. At least I’d saved them from a few more frozen moments on the curb.

2. Views of the extraordinary white-washed scenery in all of its snowy splendor. The brown earth and bare trees had become things of beauty when they were blanketed in snow. The images reminded me of how Jesus covers me with His love and grace. That even though I am stained and dead in my sin I become pure and white through the blood of the Lamb.

3. Time spent in prayer for the parent of one of my students. My drive time is always a great opportunity for conversation with the Father. This morning I had asked Him to give special attention to one of the moms in my room. Her child had recently come to church at my invitation. She wanted to know if she could send his sisters on the van that had come to pick him up on Sunday. I assured her they could and then went on to invite her to come, too. She had looked away quickly without an answer, but not before I had seen her expression. It was one that had said, “I’m not worthy. You don’t know what I have done.” My heart went out to her and I wanted to say, “He loves you anyway.” So this morning I lifted her up to the throne and asked God to whisper His gentle love to her heart.

Suddenly, the trip that had seemed to be a bother, had become a blessing. Simply by changing the lens in which I viewed the situation made all the difference. Thank-you, Lord, for loving me so much that You continue call to me in all the bothersome, blessed places of my life.