What’s That Look For?

16 02 2012

When people look at you, looking at them, what do they see?

I have always loved Mark 6:34 in the Bible where it says that Jesus looked out over the crowd of people and had compassion on them. This speaks to me on two levels:

Personally, to know Jesus would look at me this way is a pretty beautiful thing. I often think about Jesus looking at me but usually I picture a look that

urges me along

warns me

is surprised at me

I can easily picture a flicker of disappointment registering in his eyes as He looks at me…

But recorded in Mark, here is the look of compassion. Mark, who is always in a hurry (immediately this, and immediately that) saw something in Jesus and it impacted him enough to write it down. That must have been some look.

I love the look of compassion; to be looked at that way is so comforting. It is a look that says I matter; I will be helped; I am not unnoticed. It is one of the most loving ways a person can be looked at.

Knowing that Jesus looks at me this way, it makes me think about how I look at others. As Jesus looked with compassion — do I?

I can look without seeing anything.

I can look away.

I can stare.

This is really all about what is in my heart and soul, because if the eyes are the window to it, is there enough compassion in there to notice? Is anyone running for a pencil (or Facebook in 2012, I suppose) to write about how I looked at them with remarkable compassion?

I look all the time without getting personally involved with what I am seeing. And to think, there are eyes looking back at me that might not see any compassion at all. This is all at once convicting and motivating because it is only a slight change of heart that will move me.

— Teresa Klassen


My Brain, The Trampoline

14 02 2012

The message these days is that we are all too hard on ourselves and it is true on some level. Since the invention of the mirror we have gotten far too close a look at our image and it has left some of us oozing with pessimism about our prospects, constantly critical of ourselves, resigned to fail; it’s a problem. All that self-examination and self-absorption has hijacked our ability to see what God sees and has produced far too many Eeyores (described in Wikipedia as a “pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, anhedonic, old grey stuffed donkey”).


Why am I thinking about this? I’m just so interested in how Jesus talked to His disciples in Mark 4, probably because I am one of those people sensitive to tone of voice and choice of words and timing (wow, that sounds high maintenance); I think I would have bristled at how Jesus challenged His friends at points. Mark isn’t a wordy guy, so maybe his style of writing makes it even more pointed, but in verse 13 he records Jesus saying,  “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” And a little later in verse 24, “Pay attention to what you hear.” Bam!

I have a sneaking suspicion, were Jesus to come hang out with us Christ-followers in Canada He would have a comment or two about our inability to hear and receive straight talk, particularly around the reading, understanding, and applying of the Bible.

  • I wonder what He would say, when we say that we just can’t read our Bibles because we don’t “get it.”  (As noted above, verse 13 and 24 would likely be His response)
  • I wonder how He would handle our repetitive questions (“Didn’t I already tell you that? Pretty sure that is in Galatians. You’ve read it before.”)
  • I wonder what He would do with our blatant disobedience to some of His favorite passages having to do with loving God, loving people and living lives on mission (a variation of “smarten up” perhaps).

See, we don’t want to be “hard” on ourselves, but can we at least be honest with ourselves? We talk about how we only use 10% of our brains; maybe we have chosen that. Maybe that’s just lame. Maybe Jesus was challenging His friends to break the brain barrier and tap into the other 90%. It seems He believed this was possible. It was possible to understand His words, if only we would pay attention.

When I look at my week, I see how lazy my brain can be. I can stare at God’s Word or hear a message or even know what I should do and my brain is like a trampoline for words and ideas and instructions that are actually supposed to land and stick (boing…boing…).

I think I know what Jesus would say to me: engage. One of the “love Me with all your…” verses, is “Love me with all your MIND.”  There are lots of days when Jesus would call me to engage my MIND in loving Him.

Come on Teresa, lean in this morning; be sharp. Think. Process. Figure it out. Don’t just close the book because you don’t immediately get it. Dig in. Read it. Understand it. Apply it.

Not everyone is a scholar, but everyone is a student. We might be a slow student, an easily distracted student; we might even be a student who was held back a while during a rough patch, but all of us can, with the hands on help of the Holy Spirit, have ears that hear, minds that understand, and a will that resolves to follow His.

There is a difference between being hard on yourself, and doing something that is, at times, hard. Jesus called His friends to pay attention and to understand; really think, don’t let yourself off the hook, and grapple with it. He wouldn’t ask any less of us.

— Teresa Klassen

5 Practical Parenting Ideas: A Few Things That Worked Well (Wait…6)

27 01 2012

After I posted, “Before Discipline,” the other day, I was thinking about some things we did from the start with our kids that I feel really good about; these are things that proved to be effective over the years and are probably things that could be used and customized by other families. So here are 5…

1. Family Values

Early on we established a list of family values for a few reasons. First of all, it is really good to know who you are as a couple and as a family and to agree on those things. What are things that are really important to you? What are things, if violated, would feel wrong in your family?

The great benefit in defining these is that when you correct your child, you can appeal to something deeper than simply an “off behavior.” Instead of saying, “Don’t say that!” You can say, for example, “You know that as a family one of our values is that everyone will be respected. How you just spoke, showed a lack of respect for one of us, and that isn’t who we are. This is supposed to be a safe place for everyone and so speaking that way is just not acceptable here.”

It gives you a platform to speak from that is from the heart, and shows that you are protecting something that is core to your community. It is to their benefit to correct their behavior because they are part of the community you are guarding.

We have condensed our family values to 3 things:

1. Jesus Centered Home – Josh 24:15
As for me and my house we will serve the Lord

This doesn’t mean we are telling our kids what they have to believe. It is telling them what we believe. As long as they are with us, under our roof, Mike and I submit to a higher authority who greatly affects how we raise our kids. Kids will always compare your home to someone else’s and having this value has given us the chance to say, “That’s great. But this is how we run our home…”.

Our kids are teens now and they are trying to figure out their own faith. We leave a lot of room for our kids to do that, but we are sure going to show them the way rather than hope they stumble across it. We are presenting it, being authentic in our own lives, and trusting that God loves them even more then us and will make Himself known to them as we raise them in a house that serves the Lord.

One of our values is that one day a week we gather with others as “the church.”  This is not about religion, but about relationship. Even if our kids choose to not embrace this as a part of their life, we want to set a good foundation for them, to show them the value of this. We have said, “Even if you don’t know what all of this means for you right now, this is a positive, healthy place for you to be, among people who love you and care about your story. ” And don’t we all need that in our life?  It is one day a week to reconnect and recalibrate – to learn about the love of Jesus, to serve others in loving relationships, and to find out who they are in the bigger mission of life.

2. Love and Respect for everyone – Eph 4:32
Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another

This is a huge part of day to day life.

  • If someone does something to make another person in our home feel less valued
  • If they physically or verbally hurt them
  • If they are holding grudges
  • If they are dishonest

That’s a huge violation of what we are about. The home should be a refuge. The safest place for everyone who is a part of it.

3. Generous in all we do – Acts 2:46
Sharing with each other with glad and sincere hearts

If I ask my kids to empty out the dishwasher, should I really be met with a huge sigh and complaints?  The fact is,  generosity and helpfulness is a value in our home. It is easy to speak to when the value is made known.

If a child needs help and another refuses to help them, that is absurd. They are breaking one of our three values and it stands out! This is a hard value to hold them to, because they (like us) are naturally self-serving. But we keep waving the flag; it’s that important.

And this value extends outside of our home too. We don’t just do things for what we gain from them, we do things because we are called to be generous; that’s our value. So if someone is all whiny because they actually have to spend some time doing something practical for someone else? Come on — our value is generosity, live up to it.

p.s. if your kids are pre-teens, get the book “Do Hard Things” — it will really change your mind about what kids are capable of. Sometimes our expectations are so low, all we end up getting are lazy, uncompassionate, selfish teens. They are capable of so much more, and we need to give them opportunity to be more!

2. Family Meetings

We always held “a meeting” at the front end of the school year, for a time to remind everyone about how things would work in the Fall, and to be able to encourage each child in “this next leg of the journey.” And we would call meetings throughout the year to address random things as well when we found

  • Sometimes we were saying the same things to our 4 different kids in 4 different ways…repeatedly. When we saw this pattern happening, we knew we all had to get together and get on the same page.
  • Sometimes we found our values slipping and we knew it was time for a review
  • Sometimes we saw an issue happening in our outside our home that we knew we had to speak to and it would be good to do it all together
  • Sometimes our kids were having issues with one another, and it deserved a public forum.

We addressed things like friendship circles, internet use, the way we were relating to one another, things that were going on in our world as parents that might be raising questions with the kids, frustrations I was experiencing as a mom in our daily life, etc.

Mike and I came prepared to the table with a list of things to discuss, and sometimes we planned things out word-for-word when we knew we were hitting a contentious issue (maybe I will find one of those talks and print it out in the future). It gave Mike and I the chance to have a united front, and it also left room to have a great discussion with our kids (we would tell them ahead of time that a meeting was coming and they could also bring things to the table if they had something to raise).

Family meetings stopped everything for an hour; slowing things down made what we were saying important and gave us a forum to bring a course correction to the “whole organization.”

2. “The Book”

This, by far, was my favorite form of “discipline” with the kids and my only regret is that I didn’t start doing it sooner with all of them. It grew primarily as a response to the boys misbehavior’s. You know when your kids say “sorry” and it doesn’t mean anything? They rattle it off and walk away and you know they have found the legal loophole to just move on.

One day, in a moment of inspiration (or frustration, I can’t recall) I took out a notebook and wrote out 4 things:

1. What I did that was wrong

2. Why it was wrong

3. Apology

4. What I will do differently next time

A little note about discipline: if a child doesn’t feel something, it probably isn’t going to work. Low grade pain, if we are wise and pay attention, will save us from devastating pain down the road. Discomfort, from the hand of a parent passionate about their child, is a gift.

Writing, for many, is not a form of punishment. For my boys, however, it was. If I told them they had to write out a paragraph, you’d think I had sent them to the Tower of London.

The requirement was this. In an exercise book (you know the kind that is about 8 inches tall), they had to answer my four questions, writing one full page, single spaced, neatly. Titled, dated, with their name. I didn’t care how long it took, it had to meet those requirements. And if they turned in something that was not thought through, I would make them do it over. Mean, hey? 🙂

My goal: to get them to THINK. I wanted their “sorry” to go from their head to their heart. I wanted some understanding to come.

When they were done, we sat down and we talked it all through. It was the talking that brought the win. It is always the talking that brings the win. Ah, but this takes time. Do you have the time?

If I had a do-over, I would start with the book as soon as they were old enough to have a “reasoning” conversation. I would write for them, I would ask them questions to get them to think, but I would get them to think! I would get a nice, hardcover book because I am telling you…what kids confess is actually hilarious and their little “book of sins” becomes a pretty great keepsake. At the time, it is serious, but down the road, when they are older, you are like, “Haha, remember that time you pushed your brother into a ditch?”

Also, because this was a new idea to me, my boys found pretty funny loopholes to my requirements. For example, what if in the apology part you wrote out “Sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” with about 50 “r’s” to take up space? I never specified that they couldn’t do that…and, in the end, I had to admire their creativity.

3. Mental Health Days 

We will never win the prize for “Perfect Attendance” at school. We have been pretty generous with pulling our kids from school and there is nothing better than a day you drive past the school instead of to the school to take your kids out for breakfast. There is nothing like telling your child who is having an emotional day, “I think you need a mental health day” (as we call it).

Breaking the rules gives you huge points with your kids. Take the time on that day to really connect, to listen to them, to speak into their lives; to love them.

p.s. And I should add, have a great relationship with your kid’s teacher. Do your part to catch up on work missed and don’t create extra work for them. And honestly, if our kid got a lower grade on something, but we had a phenomenal day to put in our memory bank and they learned a ton about life and relationships that day…so be it. We would take a little time to study what they missed and… alls well.

4. Change In Your Pocket and other word pictures

There is this thing called “change in your pocket.” If you are just correcting, correcting, correcting your child, you need to stop everything and put some deposits into them. Every time you feed your child with encouragement of some kind, when you help them, when you work out a problem with them, when you listen well, you are putting change in your pocket.You need change in your pocket, parents, because at some point, you will with certainty, spend it.

Parents can easily think because “I am the parent,” investment doesn’t matter that much. But that kind of controlling attitude only works so much. Yes, there is a time to put your authoritative foot down, but that is the exception, not the norm. You need change in your pocket with your child, like you do with your spouse, like you do with your friends.

When the tough conversation has to come, a few coins from that pocket are spent, but you have invested well in your relationships, you still have lots more left, so it isn’t like your relational bank has been drained.

We use that analogy a lot because kids have a pocket too. If they are just taking from you and not giving back, help them to understand this: they are responsible, if this is one of your values, to give back too. If they have been pushing it hard, they need to know that they have taken all the spare change, so if you are drawing some hard lines at that point, they can see what their behavior has led to.

Change in the pocket: it goes both ways. It is a word picture that has helped our see the taking and giving side of relationships. It is also a great picture to use when you talk about building trust with one another.

Another picture we used with our more sensitive kids was a big ball and a little ball. Sensitive kids need to know that they are AWESOME but that there is still room for them to mess up.  Sensitive kids need to know you love them like crazy, but part of love is also bringing correction.  So…get the biggest ball you can and tell them that this represents all the things they do right. Then grab a ping-pong ball and say, “but this is something that you haven’t done right and I need to speak to you about it.”  Giving them a visual, helps them put it into perspective.

I found, when bringing correction, if I took the time to try to paint a word picture for them, or to actually have a “visual” to use…it helped them connect with what I was saying.

5. The Projects

One thing I feel really great about, looking back, is how Mike and I partnered in tackling “issues” with our kids. We would get alone in our room and one of us would raise an issue and we would talk about it until we were in agreement with how to handle it. Sometimes it was just about the right course of discipline, or discussing what we thought was going on in someone’s head (comparing notes, so to speak) and other times we would decide that for a certain period of time, we were going to hit an issue as if it were a project; it was he and I as a united front, and we were all in for a period of time that we set.

Let me explain, sometimes we ran up against a pattern with one of our kids — maybe it was “being rough” when they were little, or maybe it was pouting, or maybe it was an attitude later on…whatever the pattern was, it wasn’t going away. That’s when we made it a project.

The best time to hit a project is when you can have a few days off, so maybe a long weekend, for example. What you do is zero in on a bad behavioral habit, and you both are eyes and ears to that issue for several days in a row. I find that, as the mom, I am often the one who is dealing with these things as I have more time with the kids. But there is something GREAT that  happens when a dad is all-in too. When dad picks up the project, and you are unified, the child gets the point.

I know this takes energy and commitment (what else is parenting other than energy and commitment?) I know you might want to just come home and not deal with it…but you will deal with it, by choice or through the consequences of not having made the choice to.

When I look back at our “projects” I always saw such good results and it made our home a much better place to be when the project was over.

If you are single parent, this is a tough one for you; it can still work but I can imagine that it is hard to find that “reserve energy” to really lock onto one issue or to find partnership in doing so. For you it would take a more creative approach, maybe pulling in a grandparent or uncle.

Those are 5 things we did that I feel great about; it is good to be able to reflect and pick out five because I’ve done a lot of things I DON’T feel great about, in the heat of the moment. For that, the greatest tool a parent has is two words: I’m sorry.

Ah…maybe this is the 6th thing I feel good about

6. You Can Take Another Run At Things

It’s ok to admit you blew it. You are just human, and you don’t have all the answers immediately. Whoever says you don’t get to redo things was wrong…you do. Kids are very precedent setting, I find. They say, “But you said…” or “But you let them…” and you feel like you have been pushed into a corner.

Be humble and admit that it wasn’t the best decision you made and that you, like them, make mistakes. Tell them, “It’s hard being a parent, it is hard always figuring out who was right, who was wrong and what the best thing is to do. When you are a parent, you might choose to do things very differently than I have. That’s your choice. As for me, I have to do my best and so, I am taking another run at this…now…” paint the picture for the new reality and don’t let them blackmail you 🙂

Be creative. Be courageous!

— Teresa Klassen

Call It And Carry On

23 01 2012

I was wrestling over Jesus’ and Peter’s interaction in Matthew 16 today. One minute Jesus is telling Peter he is “blessed” and is handing him the keys to the kingdom. A moment later He says, with some energy, that Peter is Satan.


Speaking as one who is sensitive to words and the tone in which they are spoken I would have been devastated; and confused. It must have been pretty hard to go from feeling like a favorite to being a complete screw up.


I wish the Bible gave us a little more with that story. I wish it described the look on Peter’s face, how he felt; the follow-up conversation.


The more I thought about this, the more I thought about the kinds of things one says when time’s-a-wasting; when there’s a major issue and you don’t have two weeks to sort it out. What do you say in emergencies? In times like those you take out extra words and you say things to the point without a whole lot of thought given to how the listener might feel: Get down! Move aside! Call 911!  Drop that! Stop!


Jesus had been walking with Peter for some time now and He had no more time. Time was coming to a close and Peter HAD to get it. Jesus couldn’t have a bunch of debate sessions with Peter. Jesus needed him to understand the seriousness of the situation NOW! It was like shock-therapy.


It was Satanic to think that Jesus would avoid saving the world. This was His whole mission. Only Satan would say, “Don’t do it.” It was to Satan’s advantage to dissuade Jesus from walking into danger and ultimately to the cross.


Jesus turned to Peter and immediately identified the problem and with crushing crystal clarity, called it. I am sure Peter was totally winded from that, but there was no mistaking what just happened. There was no mistaking Peter’s grave error: “Let’s not mince words; that’s Satanic.”


I will admit, if it were me rather than Peter, I would prefer a sit-down and a talk where Jesus takes out an exercise ball and says, “Now Teresa, these are the things you are doing well at…” and then a ping-pong ball, “and these are the things I am concerned about. Now keep this exercise ball in mind when I tell you something. I am really proud of you and for the most part you are doing great…but about this ping-pong ball…you know that time when you said that perhaps I should reconsider going to Jerusalem…that was a little off for the following reasons that I want to explain to you over coffee…”


I could take that, as long as there was Kleenex at the table.


But these were not sit-down conditions and Jesus needed Peter to see things differently, immediately.


Are there times like that for me as well?


Satan says a lot of things like that to us in order to derail our energy to live His way, on mission; sometimes those things come from others, sometimes they come out of our own lips. I have a feeling, if we listened better, we would hear Jesus nail some of those statements to the wall with a single word: Satan.


When someone tries to soften sin, when someone says something contrary to the heart of God, when someone tears down something Jesus actually loves and died for, sometimes those things can leave me weary, frustrated, discouraged and disillusioned. Those things waste a lot of time in the Kingdom and I think, if I were listening better, I would hear some outrage from Jesus and a single emphatic word: “Satan.”


And I would turn and see an indignant Christ and He would motion forward so that I would get on with it and leave that ridiculous notion behind.


Some things aren’t really worth discussing around round tables.

Some things we shouldn’t be rolling around in our heads at night.

Some things do not require our energy to defend or explain.


Some things just come from the enemy. Call it and carry on.


— Teresa Klassen

A Day In The Pool (of self-pity)

3 05 2011

The Bible doesn’t let you get away with anything; anything hypocritical that is; this is what I am learning. The minute I say, “I’m good,” God’s Word has an uncanny way of showing me where I am not. This is one of the things that bugs people. They want to hear they are good. I am here to say, it is actually quite freeing when you come to embrace the fact that you aren’t because it leaves a lot of room for improvement. When you realize you aren’t good, but you want to be, you don’t resent help. Not that I am there yet, because quite often I still think I am good, and think God should move on down the road to point out someone else’s issues.

Take pride. It is easy to look at the word “pride” and say: “I am not prideful. Look at me,” one could say, “Look at my world, what do I have to be prideful about? Everything I could have bragged about is no longer in my possession; I have been humbled. In the area of pride, I’m good.”

Not so fast, says John Piper. I am reading John Piper’s book “What God Demands From The World.” I am reading a little chapter a day because it is enough to chew on. The chapter on pride/humility is a killer.

Piper states the obvious: “The root of hypocrisy is pride” (125), which you probably already know. But try this one on:

Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.”

Piper goes on to say that we don’t think of self-pity as pride because it “appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego…” (126). Self-pity calls attention to itself: “It is the response of unapplauded pride” (126). This kind of pride that sets itself up as self-deserving, “the sense that one deserves something good from God” (127).

This chapter really stopped me in my tracks because I have never thought of self-pity in terms of pride. Hm, self-pity is an act of pride is it? And it made me think of the tipping point (and would I recognize it?) where feeling legitimate hurt now crosses over to nursing pride in my life through self-pity.

Here is more of what Piper says that pride is multi-layered:

At the bottom of it is a complex disposition of self-rule, merit, and pleasure in feeling superior to others…

Pride is actually defiance against God, it is the feeling that we deserve better treatment, and it delights feeling above others. Yet none of these are blatantly obvious when pride comes in the form of self-pity:

A person can seem to feel unworthy by constantly deprecating himself in public, but all the while feel angry that others do not recognize this as a virtue. (126)

Piper says, “There are a hundred ways pride positions itself” (128) and the issue always comes down to what you love. Pride always seeks attention either because it displays itself as being “great” or through displaying “self-pity” as a means of being honored or sympathized with.

So we are taught not to brag, not to show-off, not to self-promote…all these things, but what about the flip side. What about the sob story, what about our tales of woe, what about our quiet and supposed “self-sacrifice” that we are hoping others will notice? Wow, is it hard to be pure. Piper says pride demonstrated through self-pity doesn’t “lift a finger to show the repentant sinner how Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light…because they do not experience it as easy and light…if it were easy and light, where would be the boasting?” (128)

Humility and servanthood are tied together for this reason. Humility leads to “joyful readiness to do lowly service” with a childlike trust in God’s grace. Childlike trust keeps us from complaining, from drawing attention to ourselves through our complaints. It removes trust from ourselves and happily assumes the position of unworthy servants. Piper points out that it changes our mind about what we are in the middle of, that everything we receive from God is a mercy: “The joy of the humble does not reside in being deserving, but in receiving mercy” (129).

I think when we begin to ask ourselves questions about what in our life smacks of the pride of self-pity we will put on the table our hurts and say, “what about that?” and instead of wallowing in it and enjoying what it gets us, we will instead seek actual healing. I think we will not want to rehearse our pain. I think we will not want to carry resentments. I think we will not want to find sympathy for what we feel was so undeserved. I think we will seek in earnest to deal with our bruises and then ask for further instructions which might sound an awful lot like, “Now get on with it.”

Sometimes I haven’t known what to do with wounds, and like physical wounds some have just gotten infected, I think. Emotionally, I see, that infection can look like bitterness — that one I have been aware of — but self-pity is something I need to think more about. I know its not just a matter of saying, “buck up” and “forget about it.” No, it has to be more thorough then that, and I have to approach those realities more as a child before my Father, then as a grown-up muscling through.

Changing our thinking means we need to, once again, change our position. We need to change our position from thinking about what we “deserve” to what we owe.

Jesus says in Luke 17:10, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”

— Teresa Klassen

Watch Out!

3 03 2011

If someone says,”Watch out!” chances are you are about to have something fall on you or hit you, or you are about to run into something or stand up and conk your head; something is in your way or you are in the way of something and someone else noticed it before you did. Anyway, it is a pretty good warning.

When I read those words this morning (Acts 20:31) I thought about that warning and how Paul was so vigilant to warn those he served. Now I have his words written down, calling across the centuries to me: watch out! His warning in this case had to do with misguided thinking misleading others and that is a relevant warning, all the more today.

Am I watching out? How tuned in am I, how open are my ears and eyes and heart to heed the warnings of people around me, of the Scripture before me, of the Holy Spirit within me? Really, most of the time I just do what I do, say what I say, think what I think move as I choose to move. Most of  the time I think I am quite correct but…watch out.

I wish I could have a printout of all the decisions (big and small) that I have made in the last six months so that I could review: was I watching out? What about the words that I wrote or thought or said: was I watching out? What about the things I was sour/disgruntled about: was I watching out?

I think Paul is saying that there ought to be a “catch” in us, a final, final check for Jesus to be able to say, “watch out!” There ought to be a system we choose to honor, a system of checks and balances.

The phrase “checks and balances” is interesting. A couple of definitions:

  • The term “checks and balances” refers to a system of quality control that ensures things (or people) stay within the prescribed limits and guidelines (wikianswers)


  • Each branch of government has some control over the other two branches, so that no single branch of government becomes too powerful (wikianswers)
While these are examples of checks and balances in the business or political world, it quite closely describes one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in my life. While I have the free will to do exactly as I please, when I invite Jesus to lead me I am inviting Him to tell me to “watch out” and hopefully I am smart enough to listen most of the time.

I am not, actually, smart enough. Quite often He has to tell me three times to watch out. Many times I only listen on the back end of something: “I was telling you to watch out.”

The fact is, even if Jesus stood before me, for some reason human beings have a tendency to be so sinful and careless. In Acts, Paul’s friends leaned in and listened and he said some strong words following the “watch out.” He said that even some of you will distort the truth. Jesus said something similar around the table at His last supper: someone sitting at this table will betray me.

So it isn’t simple. It isn’t a matter of saying I am submitted to Christ. It isn’t a matter of having friends who agree with me. It isn’t a matter of feeling peace about something. There is more to it or there wouldn’t be so many people not watching out. This in itself should be enough to warn me: don’t be overconfident. As Proverbs 3:6 says, “In ALL your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”

I pray that I will more often than not, hear the voice of Jesus. Lord, you know my blinders, I invite you to be in my face and sound that warning because as much as I may play tug-of-war with what I want…ultimately I really do want what you want.

So help me to watch it.

— Teresa Klassen

Some Things Are Simple

23 09 2010

Making a decision can be exhausting; especially when there are a lot of variables or when I am comparing two equally good things. At the end of a decision-making process, sometimes the final decision means less to me than the relief I feel to have made it.  All the pros and cons lists, all the prayer, all the advice-seeking, all the research; I just want to land somewhere!

But some decisions are simple. In Acts 2:38-39 Peter says, “Repent and be baptized.”

There isn’t a whole lot to think about here. Am I ready to acknowledge that there is something in me that is off? Do I agree that I have done idiotic and reckless things? Honestly, in my heart-of-hearts could I convince myself that I am not a sinner? Not a hope. I may not admit it to too many people, but in my quiet moments, I know exactly who I am. Exactly.

All right then. Acknowledge this before God in a way that is sincere, and open up your hands to receive the thing only He can give: the forgiveness of sins.

One decision down, one decision to go: baptism.

Now this one puzzles me.  Why is this one so hard to make? Whenever I read about baptism in the Bible it does not involve a pros and cons list or any kind of extended self-analysis. Repent and be baptized.

I do not see this practiced in the 21st century.  What I see, for the most part, is people well along the way, who have followed Christ already for years, finally and with much consideration, being baptized. For some it is an agonizing decision. Others make circles around the topic and never get around to it.

What is going on here?  Do we think baptism is some sort of trip-wire that will set off a chain of events that is going to get in the way of the life we know and love? Is baptism the equivalent of “settling down”? Or is it about what others will think, is that our concern?

If so, where are we in the meantime? Living in the loophole of a not-quite-surrendered life?  Exploring the contract, just not signing our name? If so, is choosing to not be baptized the same as saying, “I am not actually sorry”?

It’s strange, all this hand-wringing over baptism when it was meant to be simply obvious.  Baptism is not the end or the pinnacle of anything. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is taking one’s inside world to the outside and saying, “Look how screwed up I am and how great God is!” As if people don’t know already anyway; now you are just being honest.

Baptism, as some say, is “initiation, not graduation;” Jesus might as well be standing at the water’s edge with a towel saying, “Welcome to grade 1.”  What does it mean then when we wait and wait and wait and wait?  What if we have already followed Jesus forever before we get to baptism? That would be like writing a novel starting at chapter two; like building a puzzle but keeping a piece in your pocket; like getting married without the pronouncement following the vow: are they or aren’t they husband and wife?

There is another thing that complicates baptism: the public nature of it; the audience; the whole “in front of people” phobia. The Thief loves to throw gas on this one; he loves it when fear immobilizes us, privatizing our lives and creating a culture of hiding. The idea isn’t to pretend one is fearless; the point is to admit fear. The point is to admit everything that is unfortunate about our condition so that we can celebrate what God is making new in us. Being fearful is not who God made us; God actually made us unafraid; sin makes us feel inadequate. Baptism is about pointing to that sin and saying, “That is not who I am. I am being made new in Christ.” So get out there with your knees knocking and think to yourself, “This is one more reason I am a Follower.”

As I look at it, everything one does before we repent is the struggle. Wrestling with our brokenness, our shame, our hopelessness; those are things that keep us up at night. But repent has the same number of letters as relief and baptism is the high five.

Some decisions are simple.

— Teresa Klassen