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As a parent I believe in disciplining your child. And I do discipline my son.

I believe that discipline takes different forms depending on what it was that my son did to warrant the discipline.

I also believe in having grace and giving chances being that he’s only three and is still learning to understand the different between right and wrong, or to just simply listen to what I may ask him to do at any given moment. But all in all I don’t enjoy disciplining my son. I don’t enjoy giving him a little spanking on the bottom or even raising my voice at him.

But it must be done.

Now before you go and think it, let me clarify that this is not a post about the parallels of me as a father and God the Father and how He disciplines us, etc, etc. This is not that. But I saw something the other day that caught my attention within that realm.

At this stage my son likes to say no to everything. I tell him to do something, he says no. I ask him again, he says no. He says no to a lot of things as of late, and my wife and I are trying our best to break this new little habit.

So I had to discipline my son the other day because of this very thing. I warned him first, but to no avail. He still disobeyed. So I gave him a little whack on his bottom. Not hard, not a full swing, just enough to get his attention and to let him know he did something wrong. And like most times my son cries.

But he doesn’t just cry.

After being disciplined, my son opens his arms and wants to be held by me, or in his own words, among the tears and snot, “let me hug you”.

Now this has happened numerous times (no I don’t beat my kid, so don’t call child protective services on me), but this never stood out to me as it did this particular night.

So do you see what he did? Did you get that?

I disciplined him, I hurt him with my little whack on the bottom, and his reaction is what… he wants me to hold and comfort him.

Not that he gets mad and walks away. Not that he wants to lash out and retaliate. Not that he screams and questions why did I do that and he doesn’t agree with it. Not that he feels like I should have disciplined him another way. No, he took the punishment and then wants me, the ‘punisher’, to comfort him.

Hebrews 12 says this. (emphasis mine)

“4-11: In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”

God disciplines us because He loves us, because He’s forming us more into His own image, because He can’t leave us the way we are. Sometimes it’s just because we’re acting a fool and He needs to put us back in our place. But His correction is always out of love for us. It’s never to hurt us, though at times it hurts.

Now here’s the question and parallel.

What if we as His children, reacted to His loving discipline, the way my son reacts to me when I discipline him?

Silence….

I know that I’ve had numerous ‘arguments’ (if you even want to call them that), with God about and during certain times in my life where I felt like how He handled a certain situation wasn’t the best way. And instead of taking comfort in the Father’s arms and His love and intentions for me, I instead ranted and raved, shook my fist, cried, and ran away. I didn’t ask for a ‘hug’ like my son does.

I didn’t run to the only one who could then help me understand, who could comfort me, who could bring perspective, who could love on me and heal me. I ran away, and fell into pits of anger, hurt, distrust, and offense.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not of the opinion that we can’t feel these things like we’re not human, but there’s a stark difference when we do it while still communicating with God as opposed to doing this and turning away from God. God is big enough to handle our humanity, He made us remember? It doesn’t freak God out when we say we’re angry or hurt and we don’t understand. If anything I can hear Him say, “Then come, let’s reason together”.

And again I admit, I’m not the best at this myself. I’ve spent a lot of time mad at God the last couple of years. And instead of dealing with it with His help, I suffered unnecessarily because I was too stubborn and immature to push through the ‘crowd’ of my emotions to touch His garment and be healed in the comfort of His embrace.

Wasted time I will never get back.

I’m getting better though.

God’s discipline can be a tough pill to swallow at times, but He’s not like earthly Father’s that discipline and then bounce. He’s there to pick us up, hug us, and reaffirm His love and approval of us. He doesn’t find joy in disciplining us, but it’s necessary, so He’ll do it because He loves us so much.

So this may just be for me, but if you’re like me at all, the next time God puts you in your place, don’t run away. Run to the Father, take comfort in His embrace, where He can speak loving kindness over you.

It’s better that way.

– Marc

“But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.”

Well, it’s been a while since my last post, several months actually. Lots has happened since then. I think the biggest thing is that we relocated back to NYC after five years of living in Charlotte NC.
It’s crazy, you never really know how accustomed you’ve become to something until you don’t have it anymore.
Charlotte really changed us. In some ways good, in some ways not so good. But all were lessons learned and permanently branded into who we are as people.
It almost feels like we’re re-learning how to be New Yorkers. Whether its readjusting to the volume and speed that people speak at or making sure that I don’t take my sweet time moving after the traffic light has turned green. I mean I swear, you would think that someone’s life depended on how quickly you got going after the light changes.
Anyway. I think we’re doing a pretty good job considering. It’s taking some time, but we’re getting there.
It’s really hard sometimes though. I sometimes feel like God does something big and monumental like this, then kinda drops off the scene afterward. Now I know that’s not true, but it does feel like that.
I sometimes wish God would just speak to and guide me continually. Like every step of the way. At least that how I think a times. I used to think that God wanted to micro-manage every little detail of my life, but I’m not so sure about that anymore.
One morning while in prayer I was talking to God about this very thing and I felt like He spoke something to my heart. He said that its not so much that He wants control of every detail as much as He wants to have my whole heart. If He has my whole heart, then the decisions I make will always be in light of wanting to please Him. And if that’s true, then He can lead and guide me as I try to navigate and figure out what His will is. Also there’s the taking steps of faith in that process. If we always just waited for God to bark directions at us, them where is waking by faith and not by sight?
I understand this is my mind, I get it if I meditate on it enough, but I’m so quick to forget when it’s crunch time.
There are a number of areas that I know God has given me new understanding in, but I still have yet to see these revelation if you will, burned into my heart.
I so desperately want that.

Well, another cool thing is my son Levi turned two years this past February. He’s such a little miracle, such a character, such a joy and challenge all at the same time. How is that even possible!? How is it that you can love this little person so much but wanna headlock him also at times? Crazy.

Anyway, I’ll end this now, but I’m definitely gonna get back to blogging, hopefully much more often, even if its just quick entries. I gotta get more consistent with this.

Blessings!

Recently I did a four-day fast with a friend of mine.
It went from Tuesday morning to Friday at sunset.
And let me say that I use the term fasting loosely because although at one time I was very disciplined in fasting, I’ve let myself go quite a bit in this area.

But anyway, we were praying and agreeing for a couple of things, mainly breakthrough and direction. My main prayer during those four days was, “Lord wake me and my wife up from spiritual sleep, wake us up!”

I can honestly say that on the first day I felt like my prayers were reaching heaven, and then the rest of the week life happened, and there went my fervent prayers. They were more like a drive through, on the way to whatever I was doing at the moment, oh let me utter a quick prayer because I just remembered I’m supposed to be fasting and praying, so I better do it.

Well, despite my feeble efforts, Jesus heard my prayer and is answering…. but not the way I anticipated. Isn’t that how it usually goes?

Let’s digress for a second.

I work in the Collections industry, which at the end of the day, boils down to numbers. I was pulled into my manager’s office and told that my pay was being reduced because I haven’t met my monthly quota, and if I don’t meet my quota this month my pay will be reduced even further. And honestly the reduction is drastic. I’ve been trying to do my best, but it hasn’t been working. And there are a number of factors that contribute to that, not to mention that the way we collect debt is shady.

The funny thing is that I know that I know that God gave me this job when I needed it, but that’s another blog post. The other thing is I haven’t been doing good for a while, despite my best efforts, but by the grace of God, my pay remained intact.

So to say the least I was pissed, frustrated, and I wanted to give up, curl up into a ball, and just sulk. I get paid just enough to cover everything, that way Diane can stay home with Levi, raise him at home until it’s time to go to school, and she can continue to build her photography business, so hopefully we can actually live off of it one day. And again I’m trying my best but it’s not working. On the other side of the coin, I want out of my job badly because it is so shady, and I’m tired of it. I don’t want to work in this industry or environment any longer, not because I’m lazy, spoiled and ungrateful that I have a job in the midst of rising unemployment rates. It’s really become a moral issue. Nuff said.

So I’m freaking out, I tell Diane, she’s stressed because this is yet another issue added on top of some other things we’re facing. She’s tired and frustrated because we can’t ever seem to get a break. I tell her it’ll be ok, but inside I really don’t have any faith or grounding to base that on. The truth is I’ve been having some really hard times in my relationship with God, and I was becoming more distant and prayerless.

A day went by and I’d been thinking about it all, and I realized, “You prayed for God to wake you up”. HELLO! That’s like praying , “Use me Lord however you want, take me where ever you want”. I might as well have placed a large X on my chest. I also realize that the Lord had been waiting for me to pray this kind of prayer, and was all too happy to take me up on the request. And so instead of just answering my prayer and zapping me which is what I was hoping for, He’s put us in a circumstance to cause us to seek Him, which will cause us to pray, and wake up.

And it’s working.

Two weeks ago, Pastor Steven preached his last installment of the sermon series “Room 101: Facing your greatest fears”. One of his points really hit home after the Lord brought it back to my memory while praying. He spoke about how Elijah prayed for Elisha’s eyes to be opened so that he could see that they that were with them were more than they that were against them. Elisha’s eyes were opened and he saw the hills were full of horses and chariots of fire.

His point was that provision was already made ahead of time for the problem despite Elisha’s inability to see it. And it wasn’t a matter of God providing, it was a matter of Elisha’s eyes being opened to what was there all along. This is one of the verses I’m holding onto during this time. I keep telling myself, “the hills are full already, the hills are full”.

I gotta be honest, I didn’t anticipate my prayers being answered this way, but I’m so glad they are. I feel awake, alive, despite the trial. My faith is rising up as I’m reminded of God’s past faithfulness and provision every time we’ve needed it. And it’s causing me to have faith that this will be no different. I also know that this is an act of love because He won’t leave us where we are.

Something else that the Lord reminded me of was of a scripture He spoke to me through at the beginning of the year. James 1:1-4 states:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

The disciples of that day were familiar with trials and suffering. It was a normal part of their Judeo-Christian experience. Also, their view of suffering was very, very different from ours in this modern church age. In this verse, Paul instructs believers to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds”.

Pure joy? Really? Yup, that’s what I said. But Paul explains why we can have joy, because trials are an opportunity for God to grow and mature you further, so that you lack nothing. And the reality is that God wants to continually make us more like Jesus. His ways just aren’t our ways.

Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…”

The truth is, if Jesus suffered, we’re gonna suffer.
The good news is that we don’t have to fear the world because Jesus overcame the world.

But the other thing that trials offer is an opportunity for God to do something awesome on our behalf. He gets to show off. And He gets the Glory. He gets to show us how much He loves us by not only allowing a trial to perfect us, but He also gets to show His love for us by bringing us through and displaying His power and provision.

So at the end of it, we really are better off when we face trials. And I know that’s counter-cultural, but it’s true. I know this trial we’re in is gonna pass, and God will bring us through, displaying His love, provision and power, and we’ll be more complete because of it.

My prayer right now? God give me the reverent submission that Jesus had, to endure and trust, as we wait on you and we see the chariots of fire that have been there the whole time.

~Marc