Christ's Glory, Not Mine

Devotions, advice, and book reviews from science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

It’s Not Always Easy to be a Kid

photo credit: Daddy-David Crying at dinner – Day 331 via photopin (license)

I have gathered, when kids express they feel it can be hard to be a kid, some parents laugh, saying the kids’ feeling is wrong, that what is hard is being an adult and having to work and pay a mortgage, to earn money to care for and provide for kids who would turn and complain about their lot in lives.

Certainly, children know little of the problems of adulthood. There’s the exertions of work, the stress of finances, and the time consuming tasks of raising children. There’s the emotional stresses of wondering whether our life has really mattered, if we’ve made the right choices, and what type of world we’ll leave to our children.

We may find ourselves looking out on a summer day which we’re about to spend doing thankless office work or thankless housework and remember those summer days that were as free as rain water when we could do most anything we wanted. When we could sleep until 9 in the morning or later and then run until the sun went down, with almost boundless energy. What energy we often have is drained in drudgery spent at work and at home for kids who complain about their lot in life.

There’s something to be said for gratitude. Modern middle class American children need to learn it. If they were born another time or in another country, their lives would not be spent playing video games or demanding cell phones. They’d be spent working in the field or in some sweatshop. Their country and their parents have afforded them a great deal of opportunity.

Rather than blaming the children for feeling their lives are hard, let’s graciously remember two things. They typically lack the perspective on life needed to realize how easy they have it compared to past generations of kids and kids of lesser economic situations. They are also not capable of commiserating with the challenges of adult life. They’ve never been adults. But adults are capable of taking off their rose colored glasses and remembering what it was like to be children–what it was really like.

In addition, beyond the confines of the safe home you raise your well-adjusted family in, the sad reality is many children are suffering greatly in situations bad beyond our comprehension. Kids are easy to abuse in the most vile ways imaginable by adults. Kids from abusive and otherwise disadvantaged backgrounds can be easy prey for bullies. Kids suffer from hunger, starvation, discrimination, and poverty in every corner of the United States and even more so around the world.

Yet even kids in far better circumstances lack control. The biggest things that kids can’t control is who conceives them and who parents them. While there are now designer parents, children will never get to have designer parents. An infant doesn’t get to request an emotionally supportive father, a mother who will encourage her interest in sports, or a parent who will sacrifice part of her career to stay home with her and any siblings she has. They don’t get to choose if they’ll have a parent who will read to them.

Birth parents begin making decisions for a child before he’s even born by the birth mother’s habits during pregnancy and how she takes care of herself and then during the developmental years. Decisions are made about exposure to media and stimuli that will set the course for the rest of their lives.

Kids don’t get to choose their economic strata or what type of schools they’ll be able to attend. They don’t get to decide whether their parents will be dedicated to making their marriage and family work. They don’t get to decide how much exercise they’ll get in early life or whether their food will be healthy. They don’t get to decide whether the parents will make decisions that are far beyond their ability to understand: whether they’ll receive religious instruction or how it is given if it is.

Kids suffer all the time due to parental unwise decisions made as a result of a lack of knowledge of their unique kids’ unique needs and how to meet them while emotions like pride, fear, and shame keep the parents from seeking professional help. Parents can allow kids to do whatever they want, only for the children to suffer later because the parents didn’t consistently say no to something harmful.

Some types of short term pain produce long term benefits. Parental-induced boredom may be meant to prepare children for the fact life isn’t a non-stop party of fun. Limiting junk food and screen time may produce healthy bodies when they’re older. Yet, such reasoning is beyond a child’s comprehension.

From a child’s own, limited perspective, it is indeed hard to be a kid. After all, even as adults, Christians are still children in relation to God. We don’t get to decide his Word or His Commandments, His Ways are often beyond our comprehension. And, if we are truly submitted, then we are not in control, He is. And at times, we don’t understand, and get very frustrated at how hard this foreign way to live is.

If it is hard, at times, to be a child in the hands of a God who loves us, how much harder is it to be a child helplessly in the hands of well-intentioned but flawed human beings?



Are you Cold and Bubbly or Hot and Steamy?

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

Christianity is more than a mere list of dos and don’ts. God does have boundaries, and we do reap the consequences of our actions here on earth. But when we become wrathful, angry, bitter, and slanderous in how we respond to the mote in our brother’s eye, we need to get the beam out of our own, because those are the works of the flesh and as poisonous to us as what we are attempting to correct in others–in some cases, more so even.

Let our kindness and tenderness be truthful, directed towards encouraging one another to godliness. But kind and tender we must be if we want to be like Jesus–and we have to forgive like Jesus, too. God forgives when we repent and turn from our sin in sorrow, so we must not hold past sins God has forgiven against our brothers and sisters, either–and bitterness and anger against all offenses must be put off (into Christ’s hands in prayer.) So we must forgive everyone in the sense of the word where we are simply letting go of bitterness and anger and leaving vengeance/payback to God. But you can forgive someone in that sense but still protect yourself and not reconcile with someone who is still a threat to you. Only when the person has repented in the sense of turning from their sin and thus ceasing to be a threat does the Bible requires us to forgive in the sense of reconciling with the person and continuing on as if they had never sinned against us.

photo credit: JLS Photography – Alaska Sign of spring . . . via photopin (license)

Being on fire for God is a good thing, but lets remember what was so amazing about the burning bush. The Holy Spirit’s manifestation as fire in the bush was not burning the bush or anyone around it. When we’re full of the fire of the Lord, we should have more in common with a bubbly cold spring that consistently gushes forth sweet and refreshing than a hot, steamy geyser that scalds anyone who happens to be standing too close when it erupts.

Lord, search our hearts. If there be any hidden anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude in our way today, reveal it to us, and strengthen us and grant us the will to share that pain honestly with you and release the offense into your just hands. Show us the path in which you would have us walk and grant us the courage to take those steps with you. Pour into our hearts today grace, love, and kindness that overflows and gushes onto others so we might build up one another and not tear down your work. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Revised version of a devotion originally posted on May 11, 2011

Freedom Is Hard

Came across this gem while editing an unpublished novel I hadn’t worked on in two years. In context, it was said by a member of an oppressed fantasy race about literal oppression by visible enemies who kept them comfortable, providing them everything but freedom and weapons to defend themselves with, and “culling” folks who made a fuss or when they became worth more dead than alive. Their people did have the ability to run outside of their enemies’ borders and settle in the wilderness, but such freedom would be hard, so they rarely did so long as they were comfortable in their oppression.

Most of us don’t have such problems, yet how often do we have areas of spiritual oppression or other problems in our lives? Freedom is often a hard battle. So long as we can avoid the issue, make ourselves comfortable in the condition, whether we embrace it as a core “normal” part of ourselves or continue to dislike it, we won’t be motivated to fight to change it. Most of us don’t repent, face our helpless condition, and cry out for freedom and become willing to work hard for it until the pain of slavery becomes intolerable.

It also struck me this character was an adult, speaking to a child, who gave her a blank stare, not understanding at all. While this may be true for children, too, they tend to be more humble, more readily admit to weakness, and more readily cry out for help.

How much pain must God allow us to go through before we come to the end of ourselves and surrender fully? We shall overcome only by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony of this truth. (Revelation 12:11) Is it time for us to stop being strong, enduring pain with our Good Christian platitudes and forced Good Christian smiles and take the posture of a weak child, honestly bring the broken pieces of our hearts to God to mend?

Let’s get uncomfortable, face the slavery in our lives, and ask God for strength to endure the hardships on the road to freedom.

Children: Helping Them Stay Positive During Holiday Absences

Photo via Pixabay

Guest Post By: Kelli Brewer

Holidays are a time when families come together, spend time with one another, and thank the Lord for all of their blessings, but if a loved one is far away, it can put a damper on things. For children, it may be hard to understand their loved one’s absence, and they may have a hard time coping when their loved one has to miss out on special occasions. To keep your child (whether you are the parent or the legal guardian) positive and upbeat, communicate the situation to them, allow other relatives to fill in when necessary, find fun ways for them to stay connected with their loved one, and let them know that no matter what, God is with your child and the loved one they long to be with.

Give Them Details

When it comes to telling your child that a family member will be absent for a period a time, preparing your child depends on their age, personality, temperament, and family situation. Whether the absence is due to traveling, deployment, a move, or medical treatment, it is important that you are as open and honest with your child as they ask you to be, and realize that they may not understand. Some reasons for a loved one’s departure may be more sensitive than others, and your child may have questions that you don’t know how to answer, and that’s okay. It’s important that you try, and they’ll recognize and be comforted that you’re making an effort to keep them out of the dark. For example, if a loved one enters addiction treatment, your child may have a lot of questions about what they are struggling with. It may not feel appropriate to bombard an elementary-aged child with information on what it means to be addicted. However, it will be helpful to let them know that your family will play an important part in helping your loved one feel better, but right now, God is working to heal them.

Time out when you will let the child know of the absence. For children 3 years old and younger, they haven’t yet grasped the concept of time, so telling them you will be gone for one month could translate to tomorrow. Even elementary-aged children may have a hard time differentiating five days from one week.

Rather than focus on the time specifics, use the time before the absence to simply remind them that it is going to happen so that it doesn’t take them by surprise. For older children, give them advanced notice so they have adequate time to get as used to the idea as possible. To help children visualize the time frame, let them pick out a calendar and mark the leave and return dates in colorful marker or pen. Each day, let your child cross out the day or mark it off with a sticker. Alternatively, you could try putting things into a perspective that makes sense to them, such as, “After we attend three Sunday services, Dad will be back home.”

When you are talking to your child, take cues from them and follow their lead. Some may ask a lot of questions and want to know every single detail, such as where you will be located on a map, where you will sleep, or what you will be doing. Others may simply want to know when you will be home. Encourage your child to ask questions and express their emotions. Each situation is different, so determine what information is appropriate for your child to know.

Keep Them Involved

During holidays, your child may be sad or upset that their loved one isn’t there to participate in the activities. Document the event with a camera or recorder, or let your child video chat with the loved one during fun activities such as dyeing Easter eggs or opening gifts. If video chat isn’t an option, set up a time for your child to talk on the phone with them and tell them all about their day and activities they participated in. Many churches now offer their services through live, online streams, so if attending church on Sunday with their loved one is a tradition your child looks forward to, ask your loved one to “attend” the service online so they can talk about the sermon afterward like they always would. You may also want to consider letting your child draw a picture or write a letter. If your child isn’t old enough to write, transcribe it for them.

Regardless of what holiday you are celebrating, it is important to not only document it, but honor traditions. Even if a family member is absent, children often count on certain traditions. It is important to continue them to reassure them that although some things have changed, others have remained the same. Having aunts, uncles, and grandparents around can still make the holiday feel like a family event, and it softens the blow of missing out on an absent mom or dad.

If your child expresses sadness over a family member not being able to participate in a holiday tradition, suggest a new tradition that everyone can participate in, or try a spin on one you already have. For example, if your family says a special prayer at Easter dinner, work with your family member ahead of time and ask them to contribute to this year’s family prayer. Their words will bring comfort to your child, and even though it may feel a little different this year, the tradition will live on.

No matter what holiday your loved one is absent for, it can be tough on children who don’t understand or who have trouble dealing with this type of change. Try to keep the lines of communication open, and try to keep them involved to help them work through their emotions and stay connected with their loved one. Encourage them to pray for their loved one — and offer to join them in doing so — and reassure them that God will bring everyone together again when He knows the time is right.

Kelli writes for DeployCare, where she shares resources and solutions for issues commonly faced by military families.

There Was Light

photo credit: blavandmaster Light overflow via photopin (license)

There was light in the dawn
Spreading over separating waters,
Sweeping over drying land
As the dust sprouted people and grass.
Chasing dusk with dawn and dawn, dusk,
Life from the word, and the word was “Good,”
The word from the light in the dawn.

There was light on the tree,
Hammered down with nails nine inches long,
Poured out as an offering of love
On the masses and their children,
Wrapped in cloths and lain in a tomb
And left three days before anyone came,
Three days from the light on the cross.

There was light outside the grave
That could not keep him locked inside
But admitted defeat as the boulder
Was shoved aside and the angels
Proclaimed;. the women feared
And the women rejoiced: He has risen!
Rejoiced for the light defeated the grave.

There was light in the followers
Who would not recant the savior
They knew and loved and trusted,
But kneeled down and chose not
life that was death but death
With him that was life eternal
For the light in the followers was life.

There was light in the dusk
When the trumpet sounded
And Hope rode on a white horse
Whisking away in a twinkling eye
Those who believe he would come
And washed away their tears,
For the light in the dawn was the light in the dusk.