Inner Drive

Maintaining an Inner Drive

The other day, after a moment of contemplation, my teenage daughter marveled at how long it’s been since she’s been grounded. Now, before you assume she had been a rebellious or difficult child, I must admit, her father and I can be strict about certain things, and her dedication studiousto school, or lack of, is top on our parental radar. For numerous reasons, the primary being we are very concerned about the character traits developed on a daily basis.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe everything Steve and I do as parents develops habits in our daughter, either positive or negative. Let me explain. If I walk into her bedroom, notice clothes thrown across the floor and pick them up, I’m encouraging her to continue this behavior. In other words, I’m encouraging her to develop a habit of being careless with her belongings. I’m also encouraging a “serve-me” attitude. However, if I make a conscious choice to leave the clothes for her to pick up, I’m encouraging her to take responsibility for her actions.

Similarly, if we allow her to do the bare minimum with schoolwork, focusing more on the product (grades) then the behavior and attitude (studiousness and a desire for excellence), then we encourage her to develop a habit of taking the easy way out. When she reaches adulthood this attitude of laziness could get in the way of her career aspirations and marital growth.

Because of this, Steve and I have always enforced consequences for missed homework or sloppy work (regardless of the grades received).

So why hasn’t she experienced consequences this past year?

Because she’s developed an inner drive. Her motivations isn’t to avoid getting grounded but instead, to reach her goals and dreams of getting into the college of her choice. And because she is driven, we no longer have to drive her.

Obviously, inner drive can be taken too far. If it overshadows our relationships and spiritual growth, or if it’s rooted in pride and selfishness, it will become toxic. But, if it’s rooted in an attitude that pursues excellence, doing everything to the best of our ability in order to honor God by utilizing the gifts and talents He’s given us, then it’s an act of worship. This pursuit of excellence, in my opinion, should be evident in every area of our life: how we approach our marriage, parenting, our spirituality and walk with God, our “home-making”.

Pause to consider Colossians 3:22

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

How might your daily tasks and work ethics be an act of worship?

I suspect we all have areas and times where we’re tempted to “just get by,” doing the bare minimum or frittering away our time. Pause to consider today’s passage in light of your day and/or week, and your motivation. Do you have an inner drive that strives for excellence in every task you undertake, or are there areas you’re cutting corners? Remember one of our early devotions on discipline and determine now to face today with discipline and perseverance.

Do you work with the same fervor when alone as you do when others are watching or you know you’ll be “graded” for your efforts?

If you’re a parent, pause for a moment to consider the character traits you’d like to see your child/children develop. Are you encouraging those by your daily actions or are you, perhaps inadvertently, encouraging laziness? What are you modeling?

 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.

Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
When will you wake up?
10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. (Proverbs 6:6-11 NLT).

The ant doesn’t procrastinate or waste its time. It works during the summer in order to prepare for the winter. If procrastination is an issue for you, prayerfully ask God to show you the underlying cause. Is it laziness? A desire for pleasure, perhaps preferring to spend time watching television or engaging on Facebook? A lack of clarity or focus? Or do you get overwhelmed when you look at a task? If the latter is true, how might focusing on your attitude and a pursuit of excellence, rather than the end result and perfection, help?

Let’s talk about this! Join the discussion in the comments below, at Living by Grace, or join our Yahoo Bible Study group by clicking the link below.
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When is Helping Hurting?

A few years ago, my daughter would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and an adorable, slightly crooked smile on her face. I knew that look, and what was to follow. “Mom, because you’re such a kind, loving mom, will you…?” Then she’d bat her eyes and try to weasel an act of service out of me. As a parent, I must continually ask myself: What is best, long-term, for our daughter? When is helping an act of love and when does actually cause harm?

Our daughter’s behavior lasted but a blip because I’d always respond, “Honey, I love you too much for that. I want to train you to have a servant’s attitude, not a serve-me attitude. I want you to be responsible and confident, not dependent and insecure.”

In my opinion, helping hurts when it prevents growth or perpetuates faulty thinking.

About ten years ago I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the book, one of the authors share a story of visiting a friend. While there, this friend picks up her teenage son’s room. Watching this, the author says he feels sorry for the young man’s future wife. Basically, he pointed out that although the mother thought she was helping, her assuming responsibility for her son would actually hurt him in the long run by creating patterns of behavior that would affect future relationships.

I wrote a story about this very thing on Samie Sisters, a tween E-zine. You can read it here. Through the story, I explore the habits formed during chores, habits that will carry into your child’s adult years. Although I didn’t mention it in the article, I also believe chores go a long way towards strengthening your child’s confidence. Each time we assign a task, then allow our child to complete it without jumping in, we are in effect saying, “I have full confidence in your ability to do this.” Each time we rescue them, perhaps because they throw a fit, get overwhelmed, or don’t do it how we’d like, we say, “I don’t believe you can do this.”

Everything we do, intentionally or unintentionally, forms habits, positive or negative. Our actions always make a statement. Multiply these unspoken statements over the course of 18 years, and you can see this is a big deal.

I adore my daughter. If given the chance, I’d shelter her from every trial and shower her with blessings, but as a mom, my love for her must override my desire for her pleasure. I need to parent from a long-term perspective, always evaluating attitudes and behaviors (I tend to place more emphasis on attitudes, because I believe attitude precedes behavior), in terms of our long-term parenting goals. We all want our children to be compassionate, responsible, dedicated, etc. The trick is helping them develop those character traits. I believe character traits are learned through consistent action.

Okay, so we all want these things for our children, and we love them deeply, but often we’re not sure how to go from desire to game-plan. (Forming a game plan, with your spouse, is essential because otherwise you’ll have a tendency to parent on emotion and the present, not based on forethought, education, prayer, and long-term goals.)

For me, one verse sums it up and ties it all together: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)

Notice truth and love must always go hand-in-hand. And what is the goal? Maturity.

Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your parenting in light of your child’s adulthood and Ephesians 4:15. Make a list of character traits, habits, and attitudes you’d like your child to develop, then review your parenting in light of that. Are you and your spouse moving your child toward those goals or away from them? And what can you do, starting today, to help train the future adult in your child?

Begin again, and again, and again…

About three months ago, I shared a story about a woman who visited our church. Her son was in his senior year and she desperately wanted a do-over. (You can read the original post here.) Three, maybe four weeks ago, she came again, and sat in the pew behind us. After service, I asked her how she was doing, and more importantly, how were things with her son. She beamed, a smile spreading across her face and launched into a story of sit-down dinners, one-on-one time with her son, and clearly defined boundaries. She’d received her do-over.

Clearly she couldn’t go back and undo the previous seventeen years, but by determining to start fresh, now, she salvaged what was left of her son’s last year at home and paved the way for years to come.

Last night and this morning, I’ve been reading through Ezra. He and the Israelites returned to Jerusalem after seventy years of exile. This wasn’t an easy trip, and many stayed in Babylon. The journey to Jerusalem was costly, long, and dangerous, lasting for months. The people they encountered along the way were hostile, then when they got to Jerusalem, the city was in ruins and many of the people had intermarried with pagans. And yet, despite the arduous journey, the difficult task and the discouraging circumstances, God called them to persevere, and begin anew. They were to rebuild the temple.

“And God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the Lord. And all the neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.” Ezra 1:5-6 (NLT)

So the rest was easy, right? God called, God provided, and everything else just fell into place?

Hardly. They experienced opposition and became discouraged. In modern terms, we’d say they hit one closed door after another.

Ha! Couldn’t resist that one.

Does opposition mean a closed door? Will change always come easily?

Like the story of the mother I shared with you, the Israelites were given a chance to start anew, but it wouldn’t be easy. Not only did they face outer opposition, but I’m certain their hearts rebelled at every turn. Fear, anger, bitterness, discouragement churning into a faith-sapping mess. Opposition became so great, the building ceased for an entire year. Can you imagine what this must have felt like? They’d been freed from exile, likely resulting in a mountain top experience, only to be beat down on a long, treacherous journey. Then, when they were about at their end, exhausted and discouraged, they found their land filled with pagans. But wait, God showed up, and that tiny glimmer of hope kindled upon their release fanned into flame…only to be extinguished again. How many more trials could they face? At what point could they wash their hands in defeat?

Change never comes easy, and for me, it’s a constant battle, one that requires diligence, prayer, and a steady dose of accountability. But regardless the opposition, regardless how difficult the journey, God calls us to keep on keeping on. And the beauty of the gospel is that each day, we have been given the opportunity to begin again. You didn’t like how you treated your husband the day before? So start fresh today. Have years of arguing and eye-rolling caused a drift between you and your teen? So begin anew. It is never too late to make an about face.

If you’re like me, you’re rather tired of the whole New Year’s resolution business. Why set resolutions when I know I’m going to break them? Because if I don’t set them, if I don’t approach life with intentionality, purposefully moving forward in continual surrender to my Savior, I’ll slip in the other direction. It’s an entropy thing. Whatever isn’t growing has already begun to die.

Starting in January, I’m going to strengthen the positive habits and behaviors that draw my heart to God and others, trusting Him to reduce those negative behaviors and habits that pull me from Him and lead to isolation.

But first, I’m going to begin with a day or two of prayerful evaluation, asking God to show me those attitudes and behaviors–those negative thought processes–He wants to remove.

The first one–the idea that change will be easy. I’m going to throw that one out, followed by its partner, that I am incapable of change.

All things are possible with God, and as I draw near to Him and meditate on His holy Word, He will mold me into the woman He wants me to be, day by day, mistake by mistake. It won’t be a perfect journey. I’ll likely fall enough times to become permanently bruised, but I know I’ll never fall further than His hand. And each time He catches me, I’ll learn something new about His love and grace. And each time I persevere, I’ll learn something new about myself.

Would you like to join me?

Perhaps you’ve never experienced the ultimate about face that comes from surrendering to Christ as your Lord and Savior. God is our Creator. He created us and He created our world. As Creator, He has the right to set the rules, and the consequences. We have broken His rules, each one of us. The Bible calls that sin, and none of us are without sin. The Bible also tells us that the wages–the consequences–of sin are death. Our sin separates us from God and from others. But the beauty of the gospel is that God has made a way for us to have fellowship–unhindered intimacy–with Him. Jesus, God’s sinless Son, came to earth to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and reconcile us to the Father. Jesus came down to earth in the form of a man, took our sins upon Himself, and died the death you and I deserved. In Jesus, God’s justice was satisfied, and His mercy revealed. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, if you confess your sins and turn from them, and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, promising to honor and obey Him to the best of your ability, you will be given new life. You will be granted the ultimate do over!

If you have never experienced this new life and would like to learn more about it, or perhaps would like to pray with someone, feel free to email me and we can arrange a time to talk. (Don’t worry, I’ve got free long distance. grin.) My email address is jenniferaslattery@gmail.com

Loved this video, and their explanation of the gospel. Please don’t misunderstand my post. I am not advocating self-made righteousness. I am encouraging surrendered obedience. They explain it soooooo much better! (And love, love, love the song! You’ve been remade and today is a new day!)

Don’t Give Up

The other night we met a woman struggling to hold on to her teenage son. He’s in his senior year, plays varsity football, and has the typical hit-the-floor running, teenage schedule. As we talked, she shared her concerns and feelings of failure. Over the years, life had gotten in the way, and she desperately wanted a do-over.  She had one year left. One year to pour into this young man’s life. One year to share her faith. One year to connect with his heart. But after a decade of touch-and-go conversations, it wasn’t going to be easy. And as I watched her wipe the tears from her eyes, I was reminded afresh how little time Steve and I have before our princess leaves for college. In five years, I won’t be there to remind her to pray, or read her Bible. We won’t be able to sit on the couch sifting through the events of her day together. She’ll be on her own, with only her values to fall back on. The question will be: have those values penetrated her heart deep enough to hold her up when everything else falls apart? When I think of all the habits, attitudes, and ideas necessary for successful living, there is no time for casual parenting.

With that in mind, I’ll train, even when I get an eye-roll. I’ll connect, even when it feels like I’m chasing the wind. I’ll look past the occasional scowl or mumbled retort and keep my eye on the goal.

Some questions to ponder:

Actions are motivated by attitudes. What attitudes would you like your child or grandchild to adopt and how can you facilitate that process?

Everything we do creates habits. Accidental or casual living often creates negative habits. Purposeful living often creates positive habits. The best way to eliminate negative habits is to replace them with positive. What negative habits have you unintentionally formed in your child or grandchild. What positive habits would you like to see them develop and what steps can you take to see that happen?

What are your core values and how can you demonstrate those values to your child? Are you actively teaching your values to your child/grandchild or are you hoping they’ll adopt them via osmosis?