Posts by guest blogger CHRISTI FAAGAU

A List of Wants

I listened with interest as my 7-year-old son described the details of a toy he had recently discovered and now wanted to have. I agreed with him that yes, it was a great toy, but no, that did not mean we would be getting it right now. His face fell with disappointment at my words.

It is not a sin to be disappointed. In fact, a period of disappointment is both understandable and acceptable as long as it is accompanied with acceptance and a right attitude. But my son’s disappointment was followed with sulking and self-pity. The selfish condition of his heart had been exposed.

This wasn’t the first “thing” that my son had so enthusiastically desired. In fact, lately it had become common practice for our conversations to revolve around some new “thing” that he had begun to covet in his heart.

I had also been observing him in his interest in money – in both collecting and counting his coins. Coin collecting is a wonderful interest and hobby for many people, including my son, but I could see that even at his young age, his flesh tendency was to have an unhealthy appetite for both money and things. This was yet another opportunity to teach my son more about the self-centered ways of his own flesh and to point him towards Christlike character.

“Come and cuddle with me for a minute.” I smiled at him, and he accepted my invitation by snuggling up into my lap. “I’ve been worried about what’s been going on in your heart. I know that it’s not good because of what I’ve been seeing in your attitude recently, and I want to help you understand what I am seeing. You know, just now I was reminded of when I saw you looking through the toy catalogue that came in the mail and making a list. It reminded me of something that a lot of kids do at Christmastime. Do you want me to tell you about it?”

His curious eyes looked up into mine, and he nodded his head in response.

“Some kids make Christmas lists. They spend lots of time thinking about all of the toys and games and other presents that they want to get and then they write them all down on a list. They spend all this time thinking about what they want to get for themselves. Does that sound kind of like the list that you were making?”

He paused for a minute. “Well, sort of,” he explained, “but I wrote down prices too. That way I could figure out what all I had enough money to buy.”

Wanting to clarify, I asked, “Oh, so you mean that you were trying to figure out what gifts you could afford to get other people for Christmas?”

“Well,” he cleared his throat. “No, um, actually, they were things that were going to be for me.”

“There are lots of neat things in that catalogue, aren’t there?” I asked. He nodded his reply and I continued, “You know, even if you were able to buy everything on that list for yourself, you still wouldn’t be happy. Do you know why?”

There was silence, but I could tell that he was listening to my words. “When you only focus on the things you want for yourself, you are being greedy and you will never be content with what you already have. No matter how many neat things you have, you will always be able to find more things to want. Not only that, but when you are only thinking about yourself instead of thinking about others, you are being selfish and unloving.”

I continued, “The Lord knows that you will only be truly happy in your heart when you choose to be content and thankful for what you already have and when you become more concerned about what other people need and want than what you want for yourself. He did not create you to be greedy and selfish. That is not the real you. The Lord created you to be loving – to be a blessing by giving to others.”

We began to talk about making a new list, and I watched as my son began to experience the excitement and joy that came from this list – a list of gifts and services that he could give to others.

Just to be clear, there is nothing inherently sinful about writing a Christmas list. Even my own son’s list, in and of itself, was not wrong; it was his heart behind the list that was selfish. My correction and instruction was not directed towards the writing of his list or the collecting and counting of his coins. I knew that it was not these outward actions, but the inner motivation of his heart that needed my attention.

As I held my son in my arms, I was reminded once again of his heart-level needs to be deeply known and deeply loved. By identifying and addressing the greed and selfishness that was hidden in his heart, I was taking the time to meet those very real needs. This will not be the last time that I see the unloving attitudes, intentions and motivations of his heart. Each time I do, I am given another opportunity to draw him a step closer to being the individual that the Lord created him to be.

~ Christi Faagau

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My Experience with Spanking

After Barbie’s last post, some were asking, “Should you ever spank your kids?”  Well, I’m putting myself in the hot seat today to share how I have been guilty of doing it wrong and what the Lord has taught me as a result.

In the past, whenever my kids have done something wrong or disobeyed, and I thought they needed a spanking, I was usually angry. I figured that I had to respond somehow to their disobedience, misbehavior, etc. Of course, I knew that I shouldn’t be spanking in anger, but like it or not, I was still angry and I had to do something about their behavior.

Unfortunately, I was justifying my sin. As a result, my kids learned that I couldn’t be trusted to control my anger. It also became quite obvious that my anger never empowered them to change. In fact, it had the opposite effect. It always left my kids trapped in their self-centered ways, just as I felt trapped in my own unloving expression of anger towards them.

Yet I had always believed that my anger really was justified. After all, it was my children who made me angry. However, it wasn’t long before the Lord exposed my thinking as a lie, and I began to tell the truth about my sin: Nobody can make me angry. When I am angry, it is only because I choose to be angry. I always have the option of responding in love.

That sounds like such a simple answer, and yet I know what it feels like to be enslaved by my anger, feeling powerless to make a “simple” choice to love. Something just didn’t make sense. You see, I believed that the only power that my flesh (my anger) had over me was the power that I chose to give it. After all, Jesus already nailed my anger to the cross when He died for me, putting it to death once and for all. But if that was really true, then why wasn’t I experiencing the reality of His freedom?

I believed the Lord had the power to transform my heart if I would only cooperate with Him in that process. I could hear the Holy Spirit correcting me (“You are acting in anger towards your child.”) and instructing me (“Your correction needs to be motivated by love.”). I was listening, and I was trying my very best to obey, but my anger just wouldn’t go away. What was I missing?

Something was indeed missing. I was trying to obey without having first come to a point of repentance. I was trying to overcome my anger in my own strength, without tapping into the Lord for the only source of real power – the power of the cross. Attempting to obey in that stronghold of my life (my anger) without first repenting over it was an effort made in vain.

Up until that point, I hadn’t understood how much I was hurting my children through my anger. I didn’t see how I was a source of fear, how I was bringing death into our relationships, and how I was losing their hearts. Not simply because I was spanking them, but because I was spanking in anger.

In His kindness, the Lord opened my eyes to clearly see the pain that I was causing my kids. When He did, it broke my heart, and I finally experienced true repentance over what I had done. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a “better mom.” In fact, it wasn’t about me at all anymore. It was about my kids and how much I wanted them to experience my love. It was about how I didn’t want to keep on hurting them like that anymore.

I had been powerless to obey before my heart was broken before the Lord. Before I came to the place of repentance over my anger, I was indeed hearing His voice and trying to obey, but my motivation was not out of love for my kids. The Lord couldn’t do His work in my life – the transformation of my heart from one of anger to one of love – without me first repenting and crying out to Him in brokenness over the pain that I had caused my kids. It was then that the Lord could begin to do His miraculous work in my heart. It was then that the healing could begin as I began to rebuild the trust that I had broken with my kids for so many years.

I have come to believe that even repentance itself is a gift from the Lord. We must cry out to the Lord to reveal to us just how much we are hurting our kids. He wants to show us. He wants to break our hearts over it and to see us come to the point of repentance so that He can do what He has wanted to do in our hearts all along, but that we have been too stubborn to let Him do. It is time for us to cry out to Him: “Lord, show us the truth about our unloving ways! Break our hearts so that we can be changed from the inside out!”

So you may be wondering – do I still spank my kids? Yes, I do – the ones who need an immediate correction that they can understand because they are not yet able to govern themselves. You see, my kids always have the opportunity to govern themselves first – to choose to obey, to choose not to hit, to choose to… or not to. When they choose not listen to my words, they will get corrected in a way that makes an impression on them, and that may or may not be in the form of a spanking.

To be honest, I have been surprised that the more I have come to recognize and understand the voice of the Holy Spirit, the less I have spanked. That is not to say that my kids do not continue to need my correction and instruction. They are still very immature and have a long ways to go in developing Christlike character. But the Lord has been impressing me with His wisdom in addressing their self-centeredness in specific ways so that more often than not, their correction does not include a spanking at all.

I began by saying that I would share about my own experience with spanking, but as it turns out, the real issue that needed to be addressed was the one in my heart. The Lord is in the business of changing hearts. There is nothing that He finds more pleasure in than leading us into victory over our specific unloving ways of relating. Thank you, Jesus, for loving us so much that you want to come beside us and make a way for us to taste that victory that you gave us so long ago through your work on the cross.

~ Christi Faagau

You can find the third part of this series here.

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Cooperating with the Lord?

It is something I mention quite a bit, a statement often met with a blank expression suggesting I just might need to clarify. So what exactly do I mean when I talk about “cooperating with the Lord in what He wants to do in my life?”

Well, I am not a big proponent of formulas when it comes to spiritual things because I am well aware of my own temptation when following a step-by-step formula to leave out the Holy Spirit in the process. With that said, this is about as close to a prescribed formula as I get. This one doesn’t leave the Holy Spirit out, but rather keeps Him as the focal point.

Step 1: Listen

I must make it a priority to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me through my conscience. If I am uncertain of His voice, then I need to ask myself: “Am I being loving right now in the attitudes, intentions and motivations of my heart?” The Lord will always respond if I make the effort to listen. He will correct me in how I am being unloving and will also instruct me in the loving thing I need to do instead. The Holy Spirit will never force me to listen as He speaks correction and instruction to me through my conscience. It is my responsibility is to cooperate with the Lord by being intentional about listening.

How often does the Lord see me like this?

Step 2: Obey

I must obey, even though I may not feel like it. After all, obeying the Lord means I must reject my flesh, and my flesh will always resist. That is why obeying the Lord as He teaches me how to love much and love well is a matter of choice, not emotion. When the Holy Spirit corrects me, I must choose to stop my unloving ways of relating. When the Holy Spirit instructs me, I must choose to begin to love in the way He reveals to me. It is my responsibility to cooperate with the Lord by choosing to obey.

There is one other heart-level issue that needs to happen in the midst of the listening and obeying. I must repent. You see, it is possible for me to obey without repenting. Now don’t get me wrong here. The Lord wants me to withhold my unloving behavior even if I do not have the feelings to back it up. But He doesn’t want me to remain in that place. He desires my repentance and the brokenness that accompanies it.

True repentance occurs when I realize just how much I have hurt someone else by my unloving ways and decide I don’t ever want to hurt them like that again. So many times I have had to cry out, “Lord, show me just how much I am hurting my child…or my husband…or You, Lord…so that my heart will break over the pain I have caused.”  Unless I experience the brokenness of repentance, all of my best efforts to change will be in vain. I may be able to control my flesh, but I will never be free from it. The freedom only comes after I repent. It is my responsibility to cooperate with the Lord by crying out to Him to bring me to a place of repentance.

That’s it. The Lord wants me to cooperate with what He wants to do in my life. It is only as I do my part, as I listen and obey and as I repent, that He is able to do His part, the transformation my heart. So often in the past, I have asked Him to change me, expecting Him to do all the work. It doesn’t work that way. My spiritual growth has always been and will always be a cooperative effort that I must actively participate in with the Lord.

And haven’t we all heard the same thing said before in different words?

I am called to be Spirit-led and put my flesh to death:

For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:13-14)

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galations 5:24-25)

I am called to identify with Christ:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galations 6:14)

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

I am called to take up my cross and follow Jesus:

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

May the Lord find me ready and willing to cooperate with Him in what He wants to do in my life.

I grew up hearing these and similar passages. How is it that I could have been so hardened as to justify my sin instead of running to the Lord to find freedom from it? I have been guilty of watering down the Scriptures, of soft-selling my own sin – the very sin that sent Jesus to the cross. But today I have been given the opportunity once again to either cooperate with the Lord or to reject Him and His ways of love. Now, this very hour, is the time for me to listen and obey.

~Christi Faagau

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Talking About Circumcision

It was morning. The little boys were up, which meant that it was time for me to change some diapers. I got to work on my 3-year-old, Max, while my two older sons sprawled out nearby on the couch. My oldest son, at the age of 8, saw the opportunity to pass on a bit of knowledge to his 6-year-old brother.

“Max is circumstanced,” he began, “That’s when they cut off the very tip down where boys go potty.”

His younger brother was appalled by the information. “That is so mean!”

My oldest son continued in his matter-of-fact voice, “Yep, and it happened to you too when you were a baby. It started back in Bible times when God told all of His people that they had to be circumstanced.”

As entertained as I was by my son’s explanation of circumcision, I decided that it was time for me to butt into their conversation.

“Actually, honey,” I corrected my son with a smile, “it’s called being circumcised. But you’re right – back in Bible times, whenever the Jews had a baby boy, he was circumcised. That was an outward sign to everyone else that he was a child of God.” I was referring to God’s words when He said:

“This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.” ~ Genesis 17:10 NIV

My 6-year-old looked confused. “Does that mean that he’s not a Christian?” he asked, motioning to his 1-year-old brother whom we had chosen not to circumcise as an infant.

“No, that’s not what it means,” I assured my son. “Many things have changed since then. Before Jesus was born, there were lots of rules about what God’s people needed to do in order to be righteous. When Jesus came, He said that there was a new law. Do you remember what that was?” Both of my boys were very familiar with God’s moral law of love, which they verbalized to me.

“When we obey the law of love,” I explained, “then we will be obeying all the other laws from the Bible too.”

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  ~ Galations 5:14 NIV

I had more to share with my boys. Sometimes we can do things that look like we are obeying the Lord on the outside, but in our hearts we are not really being loving. Even though it might look like we are being good on the outside, those good things can never prove that we are Christians.”

“After Jesus died,” I continued, “a new sign was given so that people could know who the children of God were. It was still circumcision, but it didn’t happen on the outside. Do you know what part gets circumcised in God’s people today?”

“Is it their whole body?” My 6-year-old asked in alarm.

“No, I think it’s their heart that gets circumcised.” My 8-year-old stated.

I nodded. “Yes, the only way that people can know for sure that we are true believers is by the circumcision that has happened in our hearts.”

For he is not a [real] Jew who is only one outwardly and publicly, nor is [true] circumcision something external and physical. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and [true] circumcision is of the heart, a spiritual and not a literal [matter]. ~ Romans 2:28-29 TAB

My oldest son raised an eyebrow and asked, “So we have to cut off a chunk of our hearts?”

“That sounds like it hurts, doesn’t it?” Both boys nodded and I continued. “It does hurt. You see, we do need to cut off a chunk of our heart – all the unloving parts. When we put our flesh to death by listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit as He speaks to us through our conscience, we are cooperating with Him by allowing our hearts to be circumcised.”

In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, but in a [spiritual] circumcision [performed by] Christ by stripping off the body of the flesh (the whole corrupt, carnal nature with its passions and lusts). ~ Colossians 2:11 TAB

The diapers had been changed and my boys scampered off, leaving me to my thoughts about the religious people of Jesus’ day. They had attempted to identify themselves as children of God based on their outward acts such as physical circumcision, keeping the Sabbath, refraining from eating unclean foods, and so on. Religious people of today are still doing the same thing. Their righteous activities may include being a regular church attendee, reading and memorizing the Bible, volunteering in various ministries, giving financially, only watching certain movies or listening to certain music, and this list also goes on and on. These things are not bad, but they will never prove a person’s righteousness. And they may even reflect a person’s self-righteousness. At least, that was the case for me.

I used to be a religious lost person, failing to realize that I was living under the Old Testament law. I depended on my outward appearance to identify myself as a Christian. My external acts of righteousness may have confirmed that I was a religious person, but they provided no evidence that I had come into a right relationship with the Lord. In fact, my previous unloving ways toward my children and my husband was evidence that I hadn’t.

If I am an authentic believer, a true child of God, then I will identify with Jesus and the work that He did on the cross. Am I willing to tell the truth about the self-centered attitudes, intentions and motivations of my heart and bring these sinful, unloving ways of my flesh to the cross of Christ to be put to death? It is only then that I am left with love. Will I cooperate with the work that the Lord wants to accomplish in me – not an external work of my own hands, but an internal work performed by Christ – the circumcision of my heart? It is only through this inward work of heart circumcision and the resulting fruit of Christlike love in my relationships – beginning with my husband and children – that the world will come to recognize me as a true disciple of Christ.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:35 NIV

~Christi Faagau

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Becoming Educated About Walking in Faith

I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but before my move across the state, I always used to look forward to meeting up with my long-time friend at Starbucks. We both had a houseful of young kids at home and so our talks over coffee were rare. Between the two of us, we almost always had a nursing baby in tow, but being in the company of one peaceful infant was a stark contrast to the constant activity and greatly increased volume that we experienced when our entire families came together.

One evening over coffee our conversation turned, as it often did, to the topic of our children. More specifically, we began to rehash our common belief that God’s desire was for us to walk in faith by surrendering to Him the control of both when and how many children we were to have. I remember making the statement that I would never judge anyone who did not share in my conviction.

However, in my self-righteousness, I was blind to the fact that I was constantly judging others in my heart. I would express “compassion” over their misfortune that God had not revealed His truth to them in the way that He had to me. Deep down I believed God’s truths like this one were only made known to the select few who had, by some stroke of good luck, received God’s favor in having these things revealed. In my flesh (self-focus), I had replaced God with an image of who I wanted Him to be in order to build up my own outward appearance, but I did not know the real God.

In my pride, I also believed that my understanding of this particular truth – as I had interpreted it from the study of the Scriptures – was proof of my own spiritual maturity and intimate relationship with the Lord. I was in error about that too.

I claimed that my conviction had come as a result of seeking God in this area of my life. I believed that to be true, but I was again deceived. As much as I had diligently studied my Bible to understand the Lord’s will in this area, the unfortunate result was my own twisted interpretation of truth. In my attempt to educate myself, I had entered into a process of scholarship while rejecting the personal discipleship of the Holy Spirit to lead me into an accurate understanding of His truth. Jesus addressed this same issue with religious people in His day:

“You search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently, because you suppose and trust that you have eternal life through them. And these [very Scriptures] testify about Me! And still you are not willing [but refuse] to come to Me, so that you might have life.” ~ John 5:39-40 TAB

The Lord has never been impressed with my external appearance of righteousness, but He has always been deeply concerned with the inward condition of my heart. Jesus did give me a command, but it had nothing to do with family planning.

“This is my command: Love each other.” ~ John 15:17 NIV

If I had only allowed the Lord to educate me, I would have understood that His only standard for me was one that needed be accomplished within my heart – to love others. When I had judged others for not sharing in my beliefs, there was no love in my heart. When I had expressed self-righteous “compassion,” it had not been genuine. It had stemmed from my own attitude of superiority and not from love. When my hidden intention over coffee with my friend was to be affirmed of my own appearance of righteousness and spiritual maturity, I was not loving her. I was using her to meet my needs for approval and identification to a legalistic and self-imposed set of external requirements.

The Bible makes it extremely clear that if I do not love, then I do not know God (1 John 4:8). How arrogant I had been to believe that I could correctly interpret the Scripture, the Lord’s written word to me, when I did not intimately know the Lord, the author of the written word. An accurate understanding of spiritual truth can only be experienced through my cooperative effort with the Lord. He wants to make Himself known to me, but I must choose to enter into a process of discipleship with Him in order for this to happen. Discipleship is simply coming to know the Lord in relationship as I allow Him to educate me in His ways of love. He corrects and instructs me through my conscience. The more intimately I know the Lord by learning how to love like He does, the more accurately I will understand His moral truths as He reveals them to me, resulting in my own growth and change.

As I have been truly educated by the Lord, some of my thinking has remained unchanged. I still believe that children are a gift from God. In fact, I am currently pregnant and expecting my seventh child in just a few short months.

However as I have come to know Him more, the Lord has also corrected me in much of what I previously thought to be true. He has taught me that true righteousness occurs in my heart. It can never be achieved through an outward appearance of righteousness (like “leaving my family planning to God”) while the attitudes, intentions and motivations of my heart remain unloving.

You see, I used to believe that trusting God with my family size was His desire, not only for me but universally for all true believers. My sincere desire was to please God, to walk in faith by surrendering to Him control of this area of my life. And the Lord did want me to walk in faith, but it was only as I entered into a discipleship process with Him that He could accurately educate me in how to do that. I learned that a true walk of faith is a simple Spirit-led process in which the Lord instructs me in how to love and I choose to obey His instruction.

Every day I am given the opportunity to listen as He addresses the condition of my heart. When I choose to obey what He reveals to me in how to extend His pure kind of love to others, I am walking in faith. And this is what pleases the Lord.

~Christi Faagau

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So Much More Than Academics

If someone were to ask you to describe education, how would you respond? I know that my own understanding about education is much more comprehensive today than it has been in the past.

In her book, Transformational Education, Marilyn Howshall describes a complete education as one that includes both individual discipleship (which is when I obey the voice of the Lord speaking to me through my conscience) and individual scholarship (which is when I engage in a process of learning how to learn with the goal of becoming skilled in the tools of learning). Scholarship and discipleship are intimately connected and neither can perform its intended function in the absence of the other. Together they provide a complete education.

Now I have to admit that this description of education was a bit strange to me at first. I had always assumed that an education consisted entirely of academics. I failed to acknowledge that discipleship – the Lord’s personal instruction to me – was necessary or even related to my education. Not only did I equate education with scholarship (separating it from discipleship), but I also had my own idea of what both the process and the end result of scholarship should look like.

As a homeschooling mom, I used to believe that the most valuable learning would take place during my children’s academic lessons as they acquired knowledge of various subjects. I was very aware of and often overwhelmed by all the information that I needed to cover with them in such a brief amount of time. I followed a content-based approach to their education because by doing so I could take full advantage of the limited window of opportunity that was available to teach my children everything that they needed to know. What a huge weight that was for me to carry on my shoulders. If I had continued on that path, I know that it would have led to my own burnout.

My 8-year-old learning how to learn through experimentation

But God never intended for me to take on such a heavy burden. He never placed the unrealistic expectation on me to teach my children everything that they needed to learn. His desire was for me to simply come along beside them, not teaching them what to learn, but rather instructing them in how to learn, enabling them to take ownership of their own learning process. And yes, that was a very foreign idea to me. God sure did think outside of my box.

I can see why the concept was so unfamiliar to me. In all of my years of attending school, the focus had always been on the content that I needed to learn and not the process that I needed to go through in order to figure out how to acquire that content for myself. I had become quite skilled in regurgitating information in order to fulfill academic requirements, but I was not nearly so efficient in my ability to make use of the learning tools.

I had never self-initiated a process of acquiring and applying knowledge to my own life in such a way that I was transformed at the heart level. I had never come to the point of specializing in any field of interest to the extent that I could articulate what I had learned to another individual in such a way that I was able to influence them at the heart level.

My 5-year-old and 6-year-old learning how to learn through observation

My past experience had taught me that scholarship consisted of learning what to learn rather than becoming skilled in how to learn – a skill that was essential to my ongoing education. The Lord never intended for my education to ever come to an end. His desire is for me to be a lifelong learner, to enter into a Spirit-led education that has very practical applications to my life. It is for this reason that I have chosen to embrace a lifestyle of learning both for my children and for myself.

As my mind has been renewed, my definition of education has changed radically from what it once was. It has become more accurate. Looking back, I can see that my years of schooling failed to provide me with a real education. Not only had personal discipleship been removed from my educational process, but the form of scholarship that I experienced neglected to teach me what I needed to know in order to be self-educated—it failed to teach me how to learn.

Yes, I had earned a degree and entered into a respected career. I am not denying that those accomplishments were both challenging and significant. It is just that those exterior achievements were not the evidence of a real education. They did not prove that I had the ability or the motivation to take full responsibility for all aspects of my education. And those accomplishments were secondary in importance to the transformation that needed to take place within my heart.

The fruit of a real education can be seen in an individual who has acquired and become skilled in all of the tools that they need to engage in their own learning process. And a complete education – one that does not separate discipleship from scholarship – will always result in heart-level change as Christlike character (relational habits) is formed within an individual and as they apply (not just acquire) truth to their life.

In my next post, I will share an example from my own life of how I attempted to educate myself, but ended up failing miserably.

~Christi Faagau

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Destined to Fail?

In my last blog post, I shared about my daughter, who was born with Williams Syndrome and how we took her out of public school, believing that her needs would be better met at home. But there is more to that story that I wanted to share today. You see, there was one issue that I was always wrestling with, something that was too painful to even verbalize at the time. As much as I hated to admit it, I believed in my heart that when it came to her education, my daughter was destined to fail.

My daughter (age 5) and me in 2003

You see, I knew what a successful education entailed because I thought I had experienced one. With a nearly 4.0 GPA all through high school, I had the ability to memorize large quantities of information, to write a convincing paper, to give an effective presentation and to take a difficult test – all with flying colors. After high school, I went on to complete an academically challenging college program in the medical field, excelling in both my classes and in my internship program. Yes, I knew first-hand what it took for a person to be successful in their education. And I also knew that Taylor did not have those abilities.

At least that’s what I used to believe before I learned the liberating truth about education.

All my life, I had bought into a major deception that is commonplace in our culture today. Like most people, I believed that education was primarily informational in nature and that the evidence of a person’s education could be found in their intellect and their head knowledge.

My daughter at the age of 4

The attempt to educate individuals through an informational transfer of knowledge is seen everywhere today: in schools in the form of lectures, in church services in the form of sermons, in Sunday School classes in the form of information-based lessons and in homeschools in the form of content-focused teachings. But such an academic focus is extremely limiting because it only validates the transfer of knowledge that occurs within the intellect.

I used to believe that knowledge was supposed to be taught through my words, transferred from my mind to the mind of my children with the end goal of filling up their heads with knowledge. To a degree, this method had indeed been successful in achieving its goal. Minds had been filled – at least those minds that were not limited by their cognitive abilities. But this accomplishment, in and of itself, is superficial. There is a more whole-life approach to education which is far superior.

As Marilyn Howshall describes in her book, Transformational Education, true education is not informational, but relational in nature.  This means that the primary source of transferring knowledge is not through words. My words, though still used to transfer knowledge, will always be limited to the expression of facts and data. It is within the context of a real relationship and a heart to heart connection that I am given the precious opportunity to transfer who I am as a person – all of my character qualities and my values – to another person.

By its very nature, the evidence of a true education cannot be determined by a mind that has been filled with knowledge (though scholarship is indeed a byproduct of a real education, to the extent of an individual’s capabilities). The real evidence is found in a heart that has been transformed to reflect the character of Christ.

As I began to understand the truth about education, I experienced a full range of emotions. With both relief and elation, I discovered that a true education allows all individuals, including my daughter with her limited cognitive abilities, an equal opportunity to succeed. That relief was soon followed by the uncomfortable realization that I myself had a history of prematurely aborting the heart transformation that accompanies a real education.

I also experienced a tremendous sense of responsibility that remains with me today. I am fully aware that the degree to which any of my children will succeed in their education is related directly to me. My children will only be as loving of a person as whom I have become. They will adopt my character qualities and values, regardless of whether my motivation is loving or selfish. My children will always be a direct reflection of who I am.

This realization leaves me with a sense of urgency to aggressively pursue my own education. Heaven forbid that I choose to remain passive or indifferent to my own process of heart-level growth and change! By neglecting my own education, I would only continue to be the source of my children’s limitations.

My daughter and me today

Today in my home, the truth about education is being exposed and embraced, and the result is liberty. I am experiencing the liberty of becoming free from the arrogance of my perceived success by putting this part of my flesh to death, and I am engaging in a real education for the first time in my life. My daughter is experiencing liberty as well. Her potential for growth and change is no longer limited by a label. We have the assurance that the Lord created her with everything that she needs to succeed in her education.

I realize that it could appear that I am suggesting that a true education disregards the process of individual scholarship, but quite the opposite is true. And I will explain how it all fits together in my next post.

~ Christi Faagau

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The Expert on a Special Needs Education

I sat quietly in the chair beside my daughter. I was just there to observe and take notes. Taylor was in the first grade at the time and her reading specialist had welcomed me to sit in on a session. I had come seeking advice on how I could help my daughter learn to read.

Taylor, age 2

You see, my daughter was born with Williams syndrome. This basically means that she is missing a tiny piece of material in each of her chromosomes and as a result she has some physical and cognitive challenges. The specialists commonly refer these types of challenges as a learning delay…or a disability…or special needs. Call them what you will, I readily agreed that my daughter was special!

Her reading teacher began with a flashcard review of sight words, and I was taken by surprise when I realized that she was unaware of what motivated my daughter. She didn’t seem to know that all she needed was a supportive smile and some encouraging words to help her through this challenging exercise.

I was further surprised to see that she didn’t take advantage of my daughter’s natural ability to hear sounds as she presented her phonics curriculum. Was it possible that my daughter’s strength was overlooked because it really didn’t fit in with the curriculum that was being used?

As the session continued, my daughter grew weary and discouraged, but it wasn’t out of resistance to her reading teacher. I began to wonder if a twenty minute chunk of time for reading was too much for her. Or…dare I ask…was it possible that maybe she just wasn’t ready to read yet?

I was a bit disillusioned as I walked out of the classroom that day. I went on to more closely examine the different services that had been recommended by the specialists at her school, questioning whether the methods they used really took my daughter’s unique strengths and weaknesses into consideration. It was also about this time that I began to realize that the goals that had been set for her were not always consistent with or even working towards the accomplishment of my own long term goals for her.

my daughter today at age 13

It became more and more apparent that my daughter’s special needs were not being fully addressed at school. While she worked with some wonderful specialists who were indeed the experts in their specific field, I could see that they were not the experts on my particular child. And so the decision was made to go against their advice and to bring her home from school in the middle of her first grade year.

I originally believed that it was only my daughter who had special needs. However I came to realize that my boys had a lot in common with their older sister. Although they didn’t share her syndrome, they were each created with their own unique talents and abilities. They were each programmed from birth with their own peculiar character traits and natural bents, their own struggles and frustrations. They each had their own interests and ways of learning. They also each had their own individual timetable for learning. In fact, the more I got to know my kids, the more obvious it was to me that they all had special individual needs.

my daughter with her 5 younger brothers

As a mom of many children with special individual needs, I have come to believe that it is my God-given responsibility to take complete ownership of every aspect of their education. This includes the types and the amount of activities that they are involved in, the goals that are set for them, and the means by which these goals are achieved.

Thankfully, I am not on my own in this process. I have found the true Expert on my children, the One who created each of them in His own image with the specific purpose of being a unique expression of His personality. He was the one who personally built the special needs into each of them.

It is only in hearing His voice and following His lead that I can have the wisdom to discern each child’s unique needs and the understanding of how to meet each one. Because I have personally come to know the true Expert on my children and their special needs, I am no longer bound by the expectations and standards set by the experts of this world. It is the Lord who knows each of my children individually and loves each one intimately. I am following His agenda from now on.

~ Christi Faagau

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More Conversations at Bedtime

In my past couple posts, I have talked about our family reading time and about the discussions that often follow, like the conversation I had with one of my sons. We had ended that conversation by talking about listening to and obeying the Lord as He speaks to us through our conscience, and also about the yucky feeling in our heart (the conviction) that we experience when we have been unloving to someone. But that son had since left the room.

Now my oldest son was standing before me, hoping to talk to me alone. This particular son reminded me so much of myself, being very black and white in his twisted interpretation of truth. Like my son, I used to think that I could acquire truth through my mind. But I was very wrong. I didn’t understand that Truth was really a person and that His name was Jesus (John 14:6). In order to understand the Truth in my mind, I had to first come to know Him in my heart. For me, this process began with listening to the Holy Spirit speak to me through my conscience, directing me in how He wanted me to love to my husband and children. The more that I obeyed His voice, the easier it was for me to hear, and I was often surprised at how specific His correction and instruction was regarding my particular unloving ways of treating my family.

My oldest son had not yet come to recognize the Lord’s voice. He didn’t believe that he would ever hear the Holy Spirit speak to him. “After all,” my logical 7-year-old would argue, “how can I hear someone when they don’t speak to me through my ears?”

But as he stood before me that night, he had a look of vulnerability that was out of character for him. Could something be happening in his heart? I invited him to sit beside me, and he cuddled up in my arms. Through his sweet tears, he quietly began to confess a lie that he had told me almost two years before. This was the first time that I had experienced this son’s heart-felt repentance, and I was overwhelmed by my gratitude to the Lord for bringing him to this place.

“I forgive you and I am so glad that you decided to tell me the truth.” I reassured my son, “You know, even though I didn’t know that you had lied to me, the Lord knew. Do you realize that he was speaking to you through your conscience, telling you that you were being unloving to me by lying? When you hid your lie – your unloving sin against me – your conscience convicted you that you were guilty. Feeling guilty is yucky, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” my son agreed, “I felt hot every time I thought about it.”

“How do you feel now?” I asked him, “Do you still have that guilt in your heart?”

My son smiled up at me. “No, it’s gone.”

I explained to my son what he had just experienced. “Whenever we feel guilty, it is our conscience convicting us, telling us that we need to make things right with someone or with God. You made things right when you told me the truth, and now you are free from the guilt of your sin.”

I also wanted my son to realize something else. “I can see that your heart is changing,” I told him, “Do you know how I can tell?” He shook his head, no, and so I continued, “You just listened to and obeyed your conscience. You used to believe that you couldn’t hear the Holy Spirit speak to you through your conscience, but now you know that you can. In fact, you heard Him remind you of a very specific sin from a long time ago. The Lord sure loves you a lot to remind you of such a specific sin, and He wanted you to be free from the guilt of it. Thank you for choosing to cooperate with the Him by repenting and making things right with me.”

I held my son close, thankful that he had experienced reconciliation in his relationship with me that night. I was also grateful that for the first time, he had been able to recognize the voice of the Lord speaking to him – and in a very personal way. As I thought about these things, I was filled with gratitude for the work that the Lord was doing in my son’s heart, and I was reminded once again of what a rewarding way it is to end our day by allowing time for these conversations at bedtime.

~ Christi Faagau

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Conversations at Bedtime

In my last blog post, I described some of the reasons why we choose to have a regular reading time. One of those reasons is because of the opportunity that it provides to slow down and have heart-level discussions without feeling any urgency to keep up with the busyness of life that so often goes along with living in a house filled with so many young children.

The conversations that we have often stem from the reading that has just occurred, but not always. This particular night, my 6-year-old son had a question for me. “Mom, I wanted to ask you about something. Why do you think it is that when I am around our family I act one way, but when I am around other people then I act a lot nicer?”

“Why do you think?” I asked him in response.

“I think that I want other people to like me and to think that I am never mean.”

I nodded and then asked him another question, “Do you think that you are being the real you with your family or with your friends?”

“Well…I think with my family because then I don’t try to be something that I’m not.”

I sure could relate to his honest confession. I spoke from personal experience when I said, “You’re right. The real you is not always loving, even though you want other people to think you are. Did you know that when you pretend to be nice so that your friends will like you, you are not being loving to them either? You are lying to them about who you really are. You want them to like you and so you act in the way that you think they want you to act. That is very self-centered. You are only thinking about how they can make you feel special and so you lie to them so that they will like you.”

I have been guilty of doing this very thing myself – putting on a false personality and pretending to be someone other than who I am, someone who I think will be more likeable to others. In reality what I was doing was lying to people and using them to try and meet my own needs for unconditional love and acceptance.

But I had hope for my son, “That is not how God created you to be. He created you to be real with everyone, not just your family. And He also created you to love just like He loves. When you don’t love your family, you aren’t being the boy He created you to be. When you pretend that you are nice, even when you really are unloving to us at home, you aren’t being the boy that He created you to be then either. God doesn’t want you to pretend anymore. He wants to change your heart so that you become the real boy that He created you to be.”

“Well, I try to love, but I keep doing unloving things. I mess up every single time. I can’t ever love like that.”

“You’re right, not when you’re trying to be loving on your own. But why did Jesus die on the cross?”

“To take away my sins.”

“Yes, you aren’t strong enough to stop sinning on your own. I want you to think of one way that you sin, one way that you are unloving to your family.”

“Sometimes I get really angry with my brothers and I want to kick them.”

“Okay, that’s a good example. When Jesus died on the cross, He made it possible for you to no longer be controlled by your anger. If you really want Him to take away your sin of being angry at your brothers, then you have to cooperate with Him. Do you know what I mean by that?”

“No.”

“You already know that the Holy Spirit is living inside of you and that He speaks to you through your conscience. He reminds you when you are being unloving and He also reminds you of ways that you can show love. To cooperate with Him, you must listen to your conscience and obey. But you usually won’t feel like obeying, and that is when you need to cry out to the Lord for His strength to obey. When we don’t cry out to the Lord and choose to ignore what He is telling us to do, then we have a yucky feeling in our heart – we feel guilty.”

Now my son was confused, “But why does God make me feel guilty? I thought He loved me.”

“God lets you feel guilty,” I explained, “ because He loves you so much that He doesn’t want your relationships to stay broken. Whenever you feel that guilt, it is to remind you that you have been unloving and that you need to make things right with one of us or with God. Do you know how to make things right?”

“I know, Mom. It means I need to repent.” We had talked many times before about what true repentance looked like – that true repentance occurs when a person realizes how much he has hurt someone else by his unloving ways, and when he decides he doesn’t ever want to hurt that person like that again.

Just then we heard the sound of the front door opening, signaling Grandma’s late arrival from out of town. I knew that my conversation with that son was over when he ran from the room to greet his Grandma. But his older brother didn’t follow him out. Instead he approached me and said, “Mom, there is something that I need to tell you…”

To be continued.

~Christi Faagau

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