Monday, December 19, 2011

The Tale of a Family Christmas (from the perspective of the pragmatic, exaggerating, scroogy wife)


This story begins with two loving parents
Who by their own admission
Were unified in the meaning of Christmas
And were starting holiday traditions.

You’d think the man and wife
Could decide on a tree with no alarm
Dad said trees don’t come from stores;
This family would cut one from the farm.
“I’m allergic to real trees,” Mom cried.
“The children are much too young.
Let the ornaments stay in the box
And the lights remain unstrung.”

The wife’s watery eyes were not of sentiment
But aversion to the Evergreen
That led to steroids for her skin
And inhalers so that she could breathe. 
Husband was bewildered by his wife’s new ailments
But soon the woman realized
That to have a happy, old-fashioned Christmas
Her man would hospitalize his bride.
With love and dreams and visions,
More plans he was contemplating.
The wife found his Christmas exuberance
Quite frankly irritating.
But they pressed on with decorations
To make memories for this memoir:
Like when the toddler ate the tree light
and spent Christmas Eve in the E.R.
The tree would not stop shedding,
Needles broke the vacuum but Daddy fixed it.
The dog drank water from the tree stand
And threw up on the carpet.

The angry mom looked to the manger scene
But barked in disarray:
“WHERE IS BABY JESUS???”
He was missing from the display.
Was He stolen?  Dropped?  Misplaced?
He was present earlier that week.
No, it’s just the four-year-old’s version
Of Baby-Jesus-hide-and-seek.
The mom, knowing she might lose it
circled the family ‘round in prayer
Hands held, except the youngest’s finger
was up her nose exploring something there.
Mom threw her hands up in surrender:
“This blasted Christmas Spirit!!  I’ve tried and tried.
No matter how much this family strives
We just can not get it right.”

If Jesus spoke, He’d sweetly chuckle:
“The family squabbles, broken glass, and messed-up tree
Are symbols and reminders.  They tell the story
Of WHY your family needed Me.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Truth About Santa

I learned one very important lesson in Kindergarten I will never forget: one sure-fire way to make little people hate you is to tell them what they should believe about Santa.  Yes, I was that kid.   I told my fellow classmates that Santa wasn’t real.  I thought I was being kind and compassionate by telling them the truth, only sparing them of future heartache, but they threw their crayons at me (the five-year-old version of “stoning”).  I learned the hard way that by smashing the dreams of others, one can not win popularity contests, gain a hearing, or earn the right to influence others—even if that person is right.

As an adult, I've watched my grown-up peers have more civilized fights about the man in the red suit vs. the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.  My big friends don’t throw crayons; they throw defenses, justifications, dirty looks, clenched jaws, and….Bible verses. 

Sing it with me:  In the air…there’s... a feeling….. of tension.


I sit back in amusement during these (fights?) (debates?) disagreements, unwilling to express my opinion because what I learned over 25 years ago applies today:  one sure-fire way to make big people hate you is to tell them how they should “do” Santa in their own household.  One can not win popularity contests, gain a hearing, or earn the right to influence others by smashing a parent’s fun—even if that person is “right”.

I am willing for people to hate me over certain issues, how a parent practices Santa in front of their children is not worth being de-friended or getting hate-mail.   I do, however, believe the “truth” about Santa must be taught:

Santa is a fun guy.  He’s jolly, kind, giving, hard-working, and a good CEO of the North Pole.  He is a diligent leader, able to create a plan in January and see it to completion in December.  Without Santa, many elves would go un-employed and red-nosed reindeers would be overlooked, unable to rise to their potential.  Mr. Claus is able to remain humble in his successes, because he hasn’t forgotten the “little people”.   Santa presses on when people don’t believe in him.  He dreams big, flies high, and accomplishes goals that seem impossible like getting his big belly down small chimneys.  He is willing to be his own person, dress like no other, be okay with himself and comfortable in his own red suit and floppy hat.  He is faithful to his wife, Mrs. Claus.  H doesn't let his age prevent him from investing in the younger generations.  Santa encourages nice behavior and gives good gifts to children who are freaked out by him.  But all children need to know that even Santa is not perfect:  1) He is a glutton.  2) He was seen kissing somebody's mommy.   3) He can’t change the hearts of naughty children.

Santa is good, but he isn’t good enough.  He can reach the heavens in his sleigh, but he will never arrive at Heaven by his impressive works.  Santa's name first appeared on the naughty list, just like all the other children in the world. He can only get off of that list and into the Lamb’s book of life if he is covered by a different shade of red—the blood of Jesus.  Even Santa can be naughty, but Jesus can change him, just like He can change you and me. The truth about Santa is that he too, needs a Savior.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Balancing Act 2: Cutting the Fat

"How do I balance everything?"

What we are really asking is, "How do I do all of this stuff, and do it well?"

Short Answer:  We can't.

We do not need more time in the day, we need more wisdom with how to manage the time we have.  We need to know what activity to cut and when to cut it.  We need to know when it's okay to focus on one responsibility over the other, or focus on one person at the expense of others.

It is possible that when we feel overwhelmed and unable to accomplish all we have been given, then we are requiring things of ourselves that God does not require.  Check the schedule: what can get cut?  Sometimes it's not that we need to quit the activity,  but the expectations associated with all the activity.  For example:

A few weeks ago, I had a chaotic week.  There was no way I could home-school, take care of the kids, the house, and feed us like I normally do because I had several "outside-of-the-house" activities that I was preparing for.  Some things had to go, so I chose to let it be the laundry and the toys.  The kids had free reign of the house for a little while and their clutter was everywhere.  I was at peace with the chaos because I knew I was doing all I could do.

That is....until someone unexpectedly showed up at my house.

The emotions in my heart were surprising to even me, who does not claim to run a tight ship: embarressment, guilt, anxiety.  I was suddenly overwhelmed and felt the need to defend myself.  I can admit that I can't do everything, but I really don't want to show everyone.

Sometimes we can't throw off the responsibilities that we have been entrusted with, but we can throw off the things in our heart that keep us from feeling incredibly "unbalanced".  If you have searched your motives/ heart and found no tangible activity to take out of the schedule, consider taking a slash at:

*people-pleasing
*other's expectations
*your own expectations
*keeping up with the Jones'
*getting worth out of your performance

Do you feel an incessant need to be more balanced?  What activity or heart-idol can you cut?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Balancing Act--how do we do it?

“How do I balance everything?” 

I've heard this question asked by college students, single adults, parents, co-workers and ministers.  Men and women who've been married a short time or for decades have wondered how they are to balance their responsibilities and their relationships.   This troubling dilemma seems to affect people regardless of age, gender, or stage of life.  Most of us think that once we solve the problematic balancing act, we'll feel successful, effective, and peaceful.

We all feel the problem, but few of us can give or live the solutions. I’ve rarely met a person who actually has the answers for how to master the balancing act.   There’s a reason we keep asking the "balance" question but seldom get adequate, long-lasting advice:

The Bible does NOT tell us to be balanced.

When I flip through the pages of Scripture, I find commands such as: Be holy.  Be wise.  Be fruitful.  Be strong.  Be humble.  Be patient.  I can always count on God's Word to help me think and give me specific directives.  His Word equips me  and every believer for good works, but never does it suggest we be "balanced".

This truth is freeing: Jesus assumes that when you follow Him, you'll be a little off your rocker.  That’s okay because rocking chairs (even the perfectly balanced ones) don’t go anywhere--they're stationary objects, moving back and forth, back and forth, until its occupant is lulled to sleep.

Christians have got to get off the boring rocking chair and stop asking how we balance all these things we may not even need to have in our life.  When our priorities are loving God and people, we're able to focus on what we need to do.  We need to wake up and move forward by striving to be biblical, not balanced.

"He has told you...what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" -- Micah 6:8

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From Messy Mommy to Missional Motherhood

I had two childhood dreams: to be a country music singer and a foreign missionary.  I admit one desire was of the flesh and one was of the Spirit, but the two dreams worked beautifully in my mind.  I planned to spend all day in the dirt with the people and write/sing their stories at night.

I do not prefer to sit in church and talk about missions, raise money for missions, or read books about other people on the mission field.  I am built by God to be the feet of the Body.  I like to go, see people face-to-face, and tell their story.  I am happiest in life when I can see that I am personally making a difference, so you can imagine my giddy spirit when this mission dream seemed to become reality at the age of 23.  After spending a year as a missionary on an American college campus, my husband and I started the process to serve over-seas.  We had lived off of my husband’s income and saved mine so that we could easily deploy.  3 days before the first plane ticket was to be bought for the first mission conference, I found out that I was pregnant.  The mission agency put us on hold and wanted us to wait a year after having a child, but by that time we were pregnant with the second child and had seen God re-define our plans and give us a clearer sense of my husband's calling.

Unfortunately, I was not happy to find out we were expecting.   For me, having children was the death of a dream.  Raising children didn't fit in my plan:  I wanted to fix people who were already broken, not bring new people into this broken world.  It pained me to watch the money we saved to evangelize the poor go to raising our own kids.  Nevertheless, I could not deny what God had planned and given us--we had decisions to make.

I know enough about child development to understand that the first five years of a child’s life are crucial.  But Titus 2 gave me a greater reason to stay home with my pre-schoolers: I did not want to dishonor the Word of God by chasing my own dreams and desires.  As a young woman, I needed to find the best way to love my husband and children.  I set out to primarily stay home even though I do not prefer “working at home”.  This didn’t just mean I cut a 40+ hour work week out of my life, but also much of my own personal interests.  I rarely sang at church or committed to many extra activities. Any job or ministry that I was involved in during those pre-school years were to contribute to the overall welfare of the family and didn't take me away (physically or mentally) from being the primary care-giver to our children. ( I've had many friends who have desired this lifestyle, but were not able to stay home for reasons beyond their control.  I believe “mom at home” is the best situation, but not always possible.)

As a young mom, my life no longer consisted of a jam-packed schedule that made me feel important. I now lived with a calendar consisting ONLY of doctor’s appointments.  I had left a job where I was around a hundred people a day, talking/counseling/teaching college students to sitting in the living room with one little baby girl.   I didn't know how to sit and nurse a baby for 8 hours a day.  I was conditioned to set goals and finish them, now simple tasks (like laundry) seemed impossible.  I did not know how to go all day long without seeing one adult face.  I didn’t know how to be happy singing to just one little baby when I once got that fulfillment on stage.

There was one word to describe me as a parent of my first new-born baby: Miserable.  Baby Kinley couldn’t talk to me—she screamed at me all day and all night.  Because of her reflux, she was in constant pain and could barely sleep for more than 20 minutes.  Not only that, she clung to me for four years.  She screamed whenever I left her.  One of my family members thought Kinley needed to be psychologically evaluated.  Her dependence on me was not normal.

By the time my baby was 6 months old, I had lost a lot of weight and looked unhealthy.  My body could not keep up with the demands of the baby--between breast-feeding and stress I had nothing left for me.  There was one memorable day when my husband came home and I was emotionally in pieces.  I looked and smelled awful.  I was covered in spit-up and my floor was covered with clutter.  I pined away, “I don’t know what I’m doing.  I can’t accomplish a thing.  Where is my life going?”   Kinley was taking her five minute nap at the time, so my husband took a picture of her off the wall and made me look at it.  “THIS!!!!” he firmly told me.  “You are accomplishing THIS!!!  Look at her!!!  See her fat rolls???  You did that!!!”

And 11 years later….look at that.
 

 
I couldn’t see the worth of all those seemingly meaningless mothering tasks at the time.  I can see it now—the places in my heart that were once filled with struggle and doubt are now full of joy and peace.  Anyone who knows Kinley would have a hard time believing all the trouble she caused me as a newborn and toddler.  Let me be the first to tell you—she's not normal, but she doesn't need psychologically evaluated.  She now depends on the Lord as she once did on me.  I could have traveled the world over to be a part of God’s work, but I’ve seen the Holy Spirit just as evident in my own home. I could write a long time about the good works displayed in her, but she's not the point.  It is the Seed that is good, but I got to plant it and construct the soil in which it would grow.  I got to nurture that Seed in her.  God is still using me to prune her and still using her to prune me.  I don’t know if the future holds a period of rebellion on her part or not, but I am confident that the Lord has sealed her heart and claimed her as His.  My husband and I more than halfway done raising Kinley, and it's thrilling to see her heart beat harder for missions than mine ever did. 

As I struggled through my purpose in life, I realized quickly that motherhood could not be my highest calling, or mothering would quickly become my idol.  We are first and foremost children of God, and when we carry out that calling we help our children become like Him.  I've made the decision to spend my ideas and talents on the reality God has given me now, not an idea of something I may have in the future. 

I want to encourage every mother that your work is not going to waste if done in the name of Jesus.  Think of the woman with the alabaster jar (Mark 14:3-9).  She broke the bottle that held her most expensive possession and poured the perfume on the feet of Jesus.  The disciples around her criticized her in their hearts because what could have fed the poor immediately around her was spent on the future of one man.  Jesus didn’t think it was a waste.  He said “she has done what she could”.  I urge you, young mom, to break the jar that holds your dreams and desires and pour it all out on Jesus by serving your family. When you break your jar, let it spill into the homes of others so they can be anointed and refreshed also.  Let what you do in your home proclaim the Gospel to the world.  Don’t try to hold on to a few drops or long for the fragrance back like I did—it will rob the joy out of you.  Break your jar with confidence so the Lord may produce bigger dreams in your children than you could have dreamt for yourself.

 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spray Paint and Spiritual Things

I'm sure that my uncle had a lot of faults; funny thing is, I was never aware of any of them.  He's a laid-back, patient man who gets amused by the tiniest things.  I loved playing at his house when I was a child.  I remember chasing cats in his barn, feeding his cows, playing hide-and-seek, and spray painting his wall.  Yep.  Somehow in my free time as a 6 or 7 year old, I found a can of spray paint and took it to the brick wall of my uncle and aunt's enclosed back porch.  I don't remember why I did it, but I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I knew I had to show my relatives what I had done. I don't remember what my uncle said to me, but I do remember that he didn't get angry.  I remember that I did not get disciplined and I knew I should have.

Last night as my kids tricked and treated, they all got to meet my uncle for the first time.  Over 25 years after the incident, my children got to see the evidence of my childhood mishaps.  My aging uncle turned on the dim light to the back porch and pulled back his jackets that hung on the wall.  There it was....clear as.....black spray paint on a red wall.    As my kids squealed with delight over their mother's mischief, the conversation went something like this:

Kids: "Mom, I can not believe you did that."
Me:  "Me either."
Kids: "If we would have done that, we would have gotten a spanking."
Me: "Yes. Yes you would."
Kids:  "WHAT were you thinking?"
Me: "I don't know.  What could I have been thinking?"
Kids: "I guess you were thinking that wall could use some re-decorating."

My uncle's reaction was strange.  He chuckled years ago, and today he is still genuinely laughing about the whole ordeal.  He told me that he passed by the "artwork" the other day and thought of me.  My uncle and aunt sat at their table in amusement and said "if that's the worst thing that's ever been done to us, we'd be doin' alright."

My uncle never had to muster up the right feeling when it came to that stuff; he automatically responded well when children messed things up.  There's a reason he doesn't react in explosive anger.  When he built the walls of his house, he wasn't thinking of resale value.  He was thinking of the value of the people in his home.  And though he had every right to lash out at me over the permanent markings, he chalked it up to the fact that kids do stupid things and it doesn't necessarily mean they'll turn out to be stupid people. 

Last night made me think a lot about the things I want to pass down to my kids.  Do I want to pass down shiny heirlooms that sit on a shelf, untouched by grimy hands?  Do I want something tangible that can be admired by observers?  Because the truth is: the prettier something is, the less it's been used.  The fine china doesn't give my kids their daily nourishment--they are fed by the bowls with the dents and knicks.  Each scrape and scratch and scuff on my dining room table tell the story about a happy kid who was coloring or eating or running their toy car across it. 

I want to pass down useful qualities, unseen by the eye.  I want to be a parent who is strict on love, and lax on stuff.  When people look at my kids and grandkids, I want them to see the handy artwork of Jesus (who in the flesh, happened to be a man strangely unattached to things.  He left the world homeless, His only possession being the people He left behind.). 
I wrote un-useful things on my uncle's wall.  His reaction to my uselessness wrote useful things on my heart.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Father, Hallow Your Name This Halloween......

"Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done."

Years ago, I started praying the first line of the Lord's prayer for various occasions. I by no means remember to do it all the time, but it has become a regular practice. The kids will hear me pray before bed, "Father, glorify your name through our family." On the way to various events, I'll pray specifically that God will use my kid to honor Him. I have found it to be the most powerful sentence I've ever uttered, and one in which God always responds with "will do".

This year, my husband can't be with me and the kids for Halloween, so I filled the week with complaints (complaining and cynicism come so naturally for me). But then I asked the Lord to help me be creative (creativity only comes supernaturally for me). "Father, glorify your name in Halloween. Use us to bring honor to you." The Lord brought to mind that there are other people who are lonely every Halloween. There are widows in nursing homes and shut-ins in isolated houses who remember their childhood days but have no children to currently celebrate with. So tomorrow, the kids (in their cute little costumes) and I will be taking little gifts to some lonely elderly people. We'll go to a nursing home, and also visit some of the wonderful, aging people who watched me grow-up--people who are part of my spiritual heritage and have never met my kids.

I think when it comes to holidays and special events, God is all about redeeming them. No matter how the customs originated or why certain people celebrate certain things, as a Christian I have the freedom to celebrate Christ on any day that He has given me. My family's practices for Halloween (or any holiday) are aligned with Colossians 3:16-17, "Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."

The way I see it, on any given Halloween, you've got 5 options. You can be:
1) scary
2) slutty
3) seclusive
4) sanctifying
5) serving
You can pick for yourself the ones not fitting for Christians.

Tomorrow, my family will be doing # 5. Tonight I watched a very special friend do # 4. If you've known me for any length of time, you've heard me talk about Sabrina. Her husband died a year ago, and she is left alone to raise a 3 year old boy and 1 year old girl. At her Halloween party tonight, friends gathered around her living room. Sabrina stood in the circle and expressed her greatest desire--that God would use her and her little family to produce spiritual fruit in which they could be useful to others. She passed oil around and asked us all to annoint her house and set it apart for the Lord's will. She prayed (oh I love to hear that woman pray) and then several adults scattered around the house praying individually.

It was a very emotional experience for me. I prayed that God would bring laughter and discipleship at Sabrina's couch. I prayed that God would use her fridge to nourish her body and that her kitchen would provide spiritual nourishment to all who entered it. I prayed at her bedpost that God would give her rest. I prayed at her desk (a place with pen and paper and computer), that God would send His Spirit upon her as she wrote. She's an incredible writer who has been bringing glory to God for years through that talent. Of course, these petitions are things God has already done and is doing and will continue to do.

On October 30, 2011 I had the privilege of watching a woman dressed like this.......

View photo.jpg in slide show
make a worship event out of a party. With the curls of her big blonde wig bouncing as she spoke, Sabrina stood in the middle of her peers and testified about God's faithfulness. She used a celebration to put Christ right in the center.

And so after tonight, though many may disagree, I'm convinced that God has always been, is, and will continue to hallow his name at Halloween.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Store Clerks, Stereotypes, and the Savior: going from mundane to missional

My kids and I were happily strolling down-town stores in the town that I recently lived in.  When we walked into the doors of one particular shop, the clerk was clearly upset, screaming, and liberally using f-bombs and other four letter words amidst her one-sided conversation.  I was appalled that the woman lacked professionalism, didn’t seem to “see” my young children, and was in no way in a hurry to get off the phone and “serve” the customer that stood before her.  My natural instincts kicked in …I grabbed the kids, turned around, and fully intended to walk out.

There I stood facing the doorway.  And there I stood facing the gentle question of the Holy Spirit: “What are you more afraid of?  Your kids hearing a few dirty words or the state of this woman’s soul?” 

I immediately realized I was being a hypocrite.  You see, I’ve taught bible studies on engaging the world.  I would say that I’m passionate about missional living.  Last week, I spent a significant amount of time talking with my children about loving people even when it’s hard. I specifically taught them that “love perseveres…we don’t turn and run away from people just to make it easy on ourselves.”  It’s so easy to say those things in the safety of the “classroom”.  It looks great on paper.  It’s messy in reality.  It’s down-right uncomfortable and unpredictable when it violates the shelter I rightfully want to put around my kids. 

With three kids in hand and a huffy attitude I wondered, “what am I REALLY teaching my kids?”  So I turned back around.  The employee made her way out of the store to finish her conversation and then awkwardly came back in the store to assist me.  It was time to cut the tension and get it out of the air with a simple “Are you okay?”

I wish I could recount the next few minutes. The unkept woman gushed.  Her story involved a 7 year relationship with a passive man who was a momma’s baby, cruel and twisted parents, a car accident, lots of stitches, being raped by someone who claimed he was clergy and having a daughter as a result.  I wondered why this woman didn’t have the sense to lower her voice when she said the words “rape” and “sex” around my kids (who were staring intently at us), and then it occurred to me that those matters were normal and familiar to her.  That life was all she knew.  She hadn’t been around church long enough to know that you when people ask how you’re doing, you say “fine”.

The woman cried.  I hugged her.  She thanked me for caring.  She wasn’t at all the raging lunatic she appeared to be when we first walked into the store.  We talked about Jesus.  I referred her to the church I once went to when I lived there.  I didn’t fully share the Gospel with her because two firemen came in and were intent about getting upstairs and on the roof of the building.  It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had.  I don’t know what the firemen were so adamant about, but the kids and I had to walk out of the store, down the sidewalk, and past several men who were staring at the building.

As soon as we were out of earshot, my oldest kid said to me, “I really don’t understand what just went on.” 
“What did you hear?”
“That lady was really upset about something.  You told her about Jesus.”

Amazing.  My kids weren’t the least bit tainted.  Their vocabulary wasn’t expanded.  I  did not have to answer any hard questions or explain new words.


In no way do I think children ought to be exposed to every evil under the sun.  I fully intend to protect my children from harm, certain influences, agendas, experiences, people, etc.  However, I’m tired of the parental mindset that spends too much time keeping children away from the “bad people”.  

Would you believe that I have listened to a multitude of young adults who needed counseling and not a one of them wanted spiritual guidance because they felt neglected, abused, or misunderstood by a stranger?  I can only think of one in about a hundred college students who still deal with the hurt from a bully at school.  I don’t believe I’ve ever heard  “the poor, dirty people are really making my life miserable.”  The Christians I know who entered their adult years with unresolved issues had frustrations with someone in the family or in the church.  More often than not, their struggle is with their own parents.

It’s a sobering reality. Who will protect my children from me?  No one sins against them more than I do—I’m the one who’s around them all the time.   The store clerk, my children, and I are not all that different: we are in desperate need of Jesus.  Jesus has already taken care of my salvation; I need Him to keep chipping away my self-righteousness.  Understanding this is the only way I’m going to see past the stereotypes, take the time to love people, and help my children know the heart of the real Jesus.

Friday, September 30, 2011

So how's it REALLY going?

Let me catch you up on our family life. We recently moved to a new town and live in a house that isn't ours. We are the recipients of someone else's grace for this school year. The house is huge and I love it. I once struggled to fit 5 people's stuff into small living quarters; now I struggle to keep 4 bathrooms loaded with toilet paper. Kinley said when she walks to her bedroom, she feels like she's walking to our Fort Smith neighbor's house.
Cade has a lot of fun exploring this place during the daytime--I never know where I'll find him next. I might have to jump over him as he rolls out of a doorway wrapped in a sheet, or watch my head for swinging feet....
(You must be jealous of the multi-colored tile and the stain glassed windows. This house screams 70's.)
Come nightfall, Cade's favorite word for his new dwelling place is "creepy". He doesn't sleep in his room anymore. In fact, he hops from bed to couch to couch several times a week. I'm taking notes to warn his future wife...Cade doesn't sleep in the same place two nights in a row. I hope future Mrs. Cade likes variety and surprises.
Kaci doesn't say much about living here unless she's repeating older brother or sister. She is happy to have more space to spread out more toys. If you look around, it's obvious she has been in every.single.room.

Because we don't know where we'll live next year, we are homeschooling. We plan to send the kids back to school in 2012 as a kindergartener (Kaci), 2nd grader (Cade) , and 4th grader (Kinley). Several have asked how homeschooling is going. Kinley's first poem of the year should give you some perspective:

Ahhh...the power of free expression. Cade loathes being taught by me and has made sure to tell me many times. But we have made great strides and no one has cried in a week. You see, the question is not can I homeschool? I have a B.S.E. in education--surely I will not mess up my kids. The question is: can we enjoy homeschool? We are still working on the fun part and it is a goal I plan for us all to obtain. The kids are every bit as social as their mom and dad, so yes, there is a bit of a struggle. Kinley needs a friend. Please pray for that. The girls really miss their Fort Smith friends. Cade does too, but doesn't express it like the girls.

Last week, I got to start setting up an old office in the house to make an official "school room". It's really an attempt to make myself feel like I have it together.

I've still got to find some teaching material that is packed in the garage, and when I can put everything in its place, we are going to have a lot more fun. It's hard to get a good routine down when you travel as much as we do. But who am I kidding? I've never liked routine anyway. (For instance, I did not know it was normal to have an invisible seating chart at the dinner table. I think musical plates is fun--my husband finds it frustrating. This is what my children have to deal with when they have me 24/7.) But soon, I will find my groove of a somewhat-organized, learn-as-we-go, shell-of-a-routine, spontaneous, teacher that I can be. But an isolated homeschool mom I can not be. I'm changing the system to "roadschooling."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

From Single to Married: the Do's and Don'ts

Sometimes, well-meaning Christian ministers, parents, and friends are too quick to tell un-married people "just pray and wait. The right one will come along some day." I've been guilty of it myself, and am here to publicly apologize. There are practical things (some straight out of the pages of the Bible) that can help singles be more intentional and prepared to meet their future spouse. I would like to address some of them here. This is not a "recipe" for getting married. You can not follow Steps 1, 2, 3 and expect "Mr. or Mrs. Right" to suddenly appear. It is possible for someone to desperately long for a spouse, be and do all the right things, and never get that desire met this side of Heaven. Since I think being unable to find a spouse is the exception and not the rule, I will speak to the majority.

* Yes, Christian. Wait on God. But don't use that as an excuse not to work for God.

* If you really want to be married one day, make sure the only thing keeping you from it is God's timing. It may be wise to finish some education, explore a mission experience, or get started in a new career. Don't let laziness, lack of biblical knowledge, or failure to control yourself be the reasons you don't find a spouse.

* Women: do not fall in the trap of chasing good men. It's not attractive. Instead, commit to good works borne out of godly character. If you find a way to practice good works in the presence of godly men, you'll be set apart from the average woman. While God ordained the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, Ruth knew how to "get in the way."

* Some people are too picky. Some people aren't picky enough. Your list of "negotiables" should be longer than your "non-negotiables."

* You've heard it said not to change who you are. But you can capitilize on certain aspects. My husband Chris is a huge baseball fan. I can't keep up with him on stats, players, teams, etc. But when I was interested in him, I made sure he knew I could throw a baseball.  When I "aimed at his heart" and put the ball in the center of his glove.....he was hooked ;)

* Women: beauty should not be your idol. But again, 100% natural isn't a good thing, so be intentional. Let's face it: Eve was the only woman who didn't have the effects of original sin on her body. For the rest of us, we've got imperfections. I don't care who you are, you can not be attractive to all men...Stop trying. However, you CAN be attractive to SOME man...Start working.

* For men, one of the best practical ways to prepare for marriage is to learn how to make good decisions. Decision-making will be a major part of how you lead your family. For women, do not be prone to arguments. Nags are annoying. Learn how to disagree in a peacable way. Ask godly men and women how they've grown in these areas. Learn from their mistakes so you don't have to make them!

* In the age of social media, be careful about reading everyone else's "awesome" life. It can set you up for bitterness and jealousy--highly unattractive qualities. Get out and live a life worth writing about. (The biblical women commended for their faith served others in simple, obtainable ways.) If you never get married because of it, you'll at least be useful.

* There are some really good books about dating/marriage, but some books are dangerous. If you want a recommendation, I will be glad to send you some, but I think the best way to understand marriage is to have a comprehensive understanding of the Bible and relationship between Christ and the Church. I agree with Solomon that "there is no end to the making of books [or blogs], and much study is weary to the body." (Ecc 12:12)

* Don't use the Church, but DO utilize the Church. Find you a bible teaching, Jesus-centered, Gospel-drenched church. If you can find a single's group somewhere, don't be afraid to join it.  If there are no singles in the building of the church you attend, utilize the global Church (Christians who care about you) to help you meet other un-married people.

* If you are someone who has no trouble finding dates, but trouble finding the "right one", you need to ask yourself some hard questions. Why do you have a hard time committing? Are you afraid of something? Is your view of marriage Gospel-centered? Is there a pattern to what those of the opposite sex say to you? Ask God to search your heart.

*My final plea is to single men who are walking with Jesus and would like the gift of marriage. Not to perfect men, but those who obey the commands of Scripture and repent when they don't. Not to rich men, but men who are financially wise and working hard at their jobs. Not to men who never struggle with lust, but who know how to escape temptation. To men who are not hot-tempered and understand that marriage is a mission and ministry in and of itself: It is possible that you should begin a more intentional search for a godly wife. Think about where the godly women are. Think about who knows godly women. Be willing to get outside of your natural surroundings. Get a righteous man to pray for you and pray over you--out loud.


You can consider me right. You can consider me wrong. You can consider me crazy. But on behalf of frustrated singles everywhere, I prefer you consider me "Abraham's servant". :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From Single to Married: the story of Isaac and Rebekah

It pains me to hear the reasons why people think they'll have a hard time getting married, or fear they will never have a flourishing, godly marriage. Every time I listen to the pain, the hurt, the fears, hesitations, misunderstandings and perceptions people have about getting married, it reminds me that I once thought the same way. Glance through the Bible and you will find a long list of messy lives. Isaac could have had the same story.

What we know about Isaac's early years is found in Genesis 21 and 22. Imagine what Isaac could have said in a modern day counseling office. "I've got nothing to offer. I've never experienced the city; I can't even say I come from the country. My dad had a lot of money but he chose to live like hippies and raise me in tents in the wilderness. If I wasn't fighting thorns and snakes, my half-brother was making fun of me. Do you know how hard it is to get a girl when your mom looks like your great-grandma? Having a really good-lookin old mom who throws pity parties and petty fits is bad enough, but the maid my dad slept with lived there too. Talk about tension--Mom and Hagar hated each other. Then there was this one time when I had to walk a big hill carrying the firewood that my dad was planning on burning me with. I was so freaked out when Dad tied me to the fireplace and put a knife over me. Thank God this sheep showed up and started whining in the bushes. Don't know what that was about, but the ram was so loud and annoying my dad decided to kill it instead of me."

A person's worth is not determined by the circumstances one comes out of, but by the One who created the person. God is not limited to one's physical conditions. He does not need perfect family trees--He'll grow His own branches from a new Vine (Jesus). It is nonsense to believe that God won't defy the odds with the man or woman who trusts in Him. The determining factors that make someone "marriage material" are not rape, abuse, neglect, personality defects, lack of experience, genetic disorders, family secrets, age, having kids, being the innocent party of divorce, having an abortion, or in Isaac's case: a weird lifestyle brought on by the radical faith of his parents. Just because one's options are limited doesn't mean the omnipotent One is. Whether married or unmarried, the only things holding people back from a flourishing life are unrepentant sin (sin they do not turn away from and keep repeating) and unbelief in the power and promises of God.
During Abraham's time, marriages were mostly arranged by parents. It didn't necessarily mean that brides and grooms-to-be had no say in the matter, but marriages usually didn't happen without parental initiation and consent. This made it very easy in their culture to view marriage as a gift. In our western culture, marriage falls under the category of "decision-making" by the bride and groom, but we should never loose sight that marriage was created by God, is a gift of God and should bring glory to God.

When Sarah, Abraham's wife died, Abraham thought it was a fitting time to find Isaac a wife. There was only one problem: they lived in the land of the Canaanites who believed in many gods. God had previously promised all of this land to Abraham and his descendants, and that He would establish a covenant through Abraham's offspring. Father Abraham wasn't willing to move his son anywhere else. A wife had to come to Isaac--the son of promise in the land of promise. So Abraham sent his most trusted servant to travel back to his old country, to his own relatives and find Isaac a wife from his own kinsmen. (Isaac ended up marrying his cousin, which was permittable during that time. Since the world started off with two genetically perfect people, there was no risk of genetic disorders. Inter-family marriage relationships weren't prohibited until later.)

Dating didn't exist in the biblical times and the cultures were so different from ours, we should not try to copy specifics from the Old Testament. Instead we can draw out the principles. Note the wisdom of Abraham. He was not going to step out of the boundaries God had set for him. It was either find Isaac a wife who would fulfill the covenant and move to Canaan, or let Isaac be single for now. Abraham had learned from his past mistakes and was not going to take matters into his own hands. Note the wisdom of Abraham's servant. He went to the city, to a bigger population of people. He went to the well at the very time of day women were drawing water. He earnestly prayed for success. He asked for something specific: that Isaac's future wife be the woman who gave him a drink. He asked that the woman take not only take care of his thirst, but his camels. I don't think this is a "putting out the fleece" type of prayer. It's not random when you think about the context. Those women were busy. The one who would look outside of her own agenda and take the time to help someone in need, would be a person who possesses deeper character qualities: flexibility, thoughtfulness, compassion, servant-hood. God not only answered his prayer, the woman whom Abraham's servant saw was very attractive. Rebekah was holy and hot--it's a win-win. Many men would stop and make the decision on the spot; what else is there to consider? But this wise servant of Abraham "gazed at [Rebekah] in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not." (Gen 24:21) When the servant talks to Rebekah's family, he still asks questions to ensure that this was the woman God had appointed. Don't miss God's sovereignty in this story. God is in control. He works. He orchestrates things we can not see. At the same time, He uses people to carry those things out. The servant, Rebekah, Rebekah's brother and parents all saw this as a union ordained by the Lord.

Did Rebekah just "happen" to be in the right place at the right time? Yes and No. Good fortune does happen to the just and the unjust. At some point or another, every person experiences the common grace of God whether they believe in Him or not--whether they obey Him or not. This is not a "try harder" message to make one feel guilty about not managing every second of her day perfectly. However, the fact remains that Rebekah was not sitting on the couch flipping channels and hanging out with Ben and Jerry. She was doing routine, mundane, daily work: serving her home, her family, and her community. When the servant asked for her to meet his need, Gen 24:18 says "she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink." Quickly is a key word in that sentence. Rebekah didn't hesitate to serve another.

And so the match was made. Isaac was happy. God was honored. But don't think it was a fairy-tale marriage. Rebekah possessed some GREAT qualities, but she also badly sinned against her husband and deceived him decades later (Gen 27:5-13). It is true that even the best of women are prone to trouble. All women are daughters of Eve and all men are sons of Adam, so there's no doubt as to why even great marriages get hard at times. Thank God He sent Jesus, the second Adam, who got things right. When Jesus pursues His Bride, He makes no mistakes. And when believers see their Groom face-to-face, they'll finally stop making mistakes too. Our ultimate Savior does not come in tuxedos and wedding dresses. But blessed are the people who find a mate and mirror the relationship of Christ and the Church for the world to see.

Monday, August 29, 2011

From Single to Married: Does it happen naturally, intentionally, or both?

There seems to be a lot of confusion among Christians on the gift of singleness as Paul described in the Bible (1 Cor 7:6-9). Let me describe two indicators that one does not have this gift: he or she REALLY wants to be married or really craves the deep companionship of the other gender. Those who have the gift of singleness view marriage as an afterthought or nice idea but not something they particularly desire. They do not flirt with or lead on those of the opposite sex and lust is often a minimal issue for them. These factors lead me to believe that the lifetime gift of singleness is reserved for a small number of people. The majority of people only have the gift of singleness until they receive the gift of marriage.

The fact that most people don't possess Paul's type of singleness makes it difficult for the majority of un-married people in our country to understand, particularly men. The two excuses I hear most often by men who want to be married but are not married are: they want a relationship to happen "naturally" or they are waiting for the moment that they will "just know" who the right woman is.

Ever cooked a meal? Ever slept on a bed or set an alarm? Ever used the toilet or mowed the grass? Eating is natural yet we prepare meals; sleeping is natural yet we have clocks, set alarms, and utilize beds; going "potty" is natural yet we have toilets and plumbing. Grass grows yet we mow it and keep our yards clean. 100% "natural" is not always a good thing. Weeds happen naturally. Flourishing rose bushes happen intentionally. Hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, earthquakes are all "natural disasters", and that's exactly where many marriages end up without intentional knowledge and application of God's Word long before the ceremony. "Natural" is not always the best way. In fact, it seems that the most important issues in life usually take significant intentionality--education, job success, financial stability, and yes… successful relationships.

There are a few people who "just knew" who their spouse was going to be the moment they saw them. These stories are the exception, not the rule. For most people, it took prayer, experiences, investigations, intentionality, discernment, knowledge, planning, strategy, etc. Here's what I believe "it’ll happen naturally and I’ll just know" mean: "I want God to give me a sign, so that I don't have to do the work. I want to risk nothing and go through the dating process without any rejection."

My opinion is worth little if the Bible doesn't support it. In my next post I'll recount my favorite "match-making" story found in Genesis 24. Abraham and Sarah's son Isaac was 40 years old before he married Rebekah. This should encourage EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of my single friends. Isaac was the promised son. God wasn't picking on him; In fact, one could argue he was a little bit favored. God talked about Isaac decades before he was even born. God promised to bless the nations of the world through Abraham, and therefore through Isaac. Yet to have a son he needed a wife! Isaac wasn't single because of something wrong with him. It seems there was one reason why Isaac had difficulty getting married at the common age: there were no God-fearing women in his land. And so, please read Genesis 24 before my next post and see how this godly family became intentional about finding Isaac a suitable wife.


#2: Isaac and Rebekah

#3: The Do's and Don'ts

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Starting to Expect the Unexpected

We set out Saturday morning for National Collegiate Week in Glorieta, New Mexico.  Chris drove the BCM van with college students and I drove our KIA with the kids.  Since we had to stop for a few more bathroom breaks, Chris and the big van were about 30 minutes ahead of me by dinner-time.  The KIA decided to stop on its own before I arrived to meet the rest of the crew.  I tried to get to the nearest exit ramp, but fell a little short and landed slightly off the interstate between two metal poles.  It just so happened that it was the first time in a year this part of Oklahoma had rain, and there I was in an inoperable vehicle in the middle of a lightning storm.  We rolled down the windows to get some fresh air (temperature over 100 degrees) but were overwhelmed by the smell of smoke.  I checked 911 to see if I was in a safe location—fortunately I was 15 miles away from the open field that was struck by lightning and caught on fire.  The kids and I sat in the car, praying for our safety as cars whizzed by.  Fortunately the 15 fire trucks and police cars on their way to the grass fire provided minutes of entertainment for my children, as did sitting in the back-seat of a tow truck while we watched the driver put our KIA on.

We got to a gas station/auto repair place that fixed the KIA’s battery on the spot.  That station was only a half-a-mile from where Chris and the students were eating, and was open at 8 pm on a Saturday night.  What can I say?  It just seems that I am constantly provided for.  I have more than once been helpless, unable to fix my situation, and been taken care of by strangers.  The tow-truck man even hung around and gave the kids some t-shirts.  We’ll always remember Hank.

The big white van and the KIA went on their merry way, scheduled to arrive in Amarillo, TX by 11:30 p.m.   Soon though, the air went out in the van.  10 minutes before our hotel destination, the van broke down.  So the 5-passenger- KIA shuttled the kids and students to the hotel in shifts.  By the time Chris, Kaci (age 4) and I got to bed, it was 2 a.m.  You’d think a kid would be snoozing away at this time of night, but Kaci was too busy playing with college students in parking lot at 1 a.m.  From what I hear, she had teenagers acting like baboons and elephants in her “play”.  Too bad I missed it.  Kaci’s world was just fine until she fell from her bed at 7 am while I was in the shower.  She’s okay, but cut her ear and half of it is blue and bruised. 

Chris discovered the next morning that the air compressor in the van went out and blew a fuse in the starter.  A local shop replaced the fuse at 10 am on Sunday morning, and again, we traveled across I-40 to Glorieta.  We arrived at camp (sweaty and nasty of course, since the van passengers had no A/C) only an hour later than we planned on.  I consider that amazing.

We had other unexpected setbacks: the rooms weren’t ready upon arrival, we didn’t get to make a Sam’s run for food when we planned, etc.  Chris made some phone calls and the van is currently in the shop so we can travel home with some good A/C.  I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with the students as I had hoped.  That’s hard to do when you see so many mechanics, and try to figure out how to feed 34 people from a kitchen that was built to serve 4 and you are a scatter-brained cook who doesn’t remember to turn burners off or get things out of the oven on time.
However, we have experienced God’s grace and abundance of good food much like the participants in the feeding of the 5,000.  I found a break while the lasagna baked & managed some rec time.

I’m happy to report that I can still keep up with students & catch a football.  Of course, raising my son has almost ensured that I catch things coming at me in high speeds to prevent injury.

To be fair, I should also report that I fell on my hiney and went to bed early because my back thought I should not be playing football.

……………………………

The family is doing well and the kids are uncommonly chipper as we navigate sleeping arrangements for 5 people in a 4-person room.  I’ve discovered that an 8-year old’s toes fit nicely in my arm-pit at 3 a.m., everyone in our family talks in his/her sleep, the top bunk makes awful noises when my son rolls around (think fingernails and chalkboards), we all like to hog the covers, and the temperature here drastically changes making us sweat as we fall asleep, and chilled as we wake up multiple times in the a.m. hours.

I never thought of myself as a drama queen, but it seems lately that I only speak of dramatic things.  It would worry me, if I didn’t know about a passionate apostle who experienced more drama than any of us could boast of.  As I read about Paul’s suffering in 1 Corinthians 11:23-33, I can’t relate to the beatings, lashes or stoning.  I once thought being shipwrecked (vs. 25) was unfathomable, but it is the year 2011. Most of us don’t drive ships, we drive cars.  I have understood far too well the dangerous reality of driving.  I have been in some frightening situations, and yet the hand of God protected me.  I can also relate to his sleepless nights spent for the sake of the kingdom, as well as feeling cold and exposed (vs. 27).  I can relate to the anxiety Paul feels for the churches (28).  The more young people I meet the more I see the need for real discipleship. The anxiety about the task at hand can be overwhelming. 

But Paul, who has suffered and had more mishaps than anyone I know, teaches us how to think through these things. He recounts the past but doesn’t stay stuck in it.  He doesn’t sugar-coat his situations; he boasts about the things that show his weakness.  He boasts about how God protects and provides in situations where he could have been killed.  He doesn’t put his faith in material things, but in the grace God gives to sustain him.  He talks around in circles like a mad-man because he knows he has experienced God-sized things, but doesn’t want people to think more highly of him than they ought.  Paul has first-hand knowledge that God shows up when strength fades away.

Paul talks about his weaknesses, like the night he met a really nice New Mexico state policeman who could have ticketed him for going 56 in a 45, but said “Slow down.  We’re done. Have a nice day.”

Okay….maybe that was tonight when the idiot mom got mad at the slow Indian life and tried to hurry back to 3 kids after grocery shopping.

It’s better to end with 1 Cor 12:9-10. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Experiences on Edinburgh

With movers here to pack our belongings, I had plenty of time to sit and reflect on the last 3 ½ years of living on our street.  When Chris and I arrived, we planned to be intentional—to get to know our neighbors and build relationships with them.  So we made ourselves available, and have some crazy and wonderful stories as a result.

·                     I heard Neighbor 1 scream bloody murder.   I found out later that Neighbor 2 saw neighbor 3 move a dead squirrel from the street right in front of Neighbor 1’s mailbox.  I moved the squirrel because Neighbor 1 was too traumatized to do it.
·                     On my way home with the college student who was living with us, I got distracted by our crazy conversation and the cat that crept his way into our garage.  I left the garage door open and my purse was stolen out of the van.  The credit card was used several times at various gas stations.  Chris and I got to know the shady side of town as we tracked the criminal’s steps and was given the picture/video by a store-owner.  Now there is one less druggie off the streets and in jail.  He has to pay me $72 when he gets out in 20 years.
·                     60-year-old neighbor jokingly asked me to join him in the shower and his bed, prodding at the “good ole Baptist” girl.  I told him that I love Jesus and my husband, so I would have to fight that temptation J .  Since I didn’t tuck my tail and run, we challenged his stereotype of “ministry” people.
·                     After going without cable or internet for three days, we realized that the new backyard neighbor had broken into the public cable box.  He meant to splice it so we could share, but accidentally took it all.  
·                     Chris was pushed and threatened in our driveway.  Chris later went to the man’s house, forgave him, and told him he hoped he would get control of his anger and let Christ change his heart.
·                     Across the street, a lovely young wife kicked her drug-addict husband out of the house.  He later broke into his wife and son’s house and stole their stuff.
·                     We finally trained one neighbor to realize the garage door was not “hers.”  It took months for her to knock before entering. Chris was glad to finally not have to look both ways before walking in the laundry room for pants.
·                     That same neighbor once walked in while we were taking a nap and had a twenty-minute conversation with Kinley.  We found out after we woke up.
·                     Chris not only shared the true Gospel with a Jehovah’s Witness who repeatedly came to our door, but struck up a friendship that resulted in a year-and-a-half long conversation about the person of Christ.
·                     Imagine an early morning conversation that starts out:  “If you ever have a case of the farts, come see me.  I’ve got plenty of beano.”  TMI Neighbor.
·                     One neighbor knocked on my door at 9 p.m. and asked me to go on a walk with her. She gushed her life story (20 years as a lesbian) and wanted to know if I could still be her friend once I knew her past.
·                     A common scene: 10-year-old neighbor running through our back yard in full camo/war attire, and a pellet gun or paint-ball gun.  Imagine finding your house and driveway decorated with neon-colored circles.
·                     6-year-old Neighbor girl would come over and constantly ask for food or toys.
·                     Junior high neighbor loved to share his victory stories with me.  His classmates deemed him “Sir Farts A Lot”.  I once gave him a sack of dog poop and used it as a gateway to the Gospel.  He actually listened. That was the first time I saw his mom smile and the last time he annoyed me with his stories of bodily noises.
·                     An anonymous stalker called 16 times in a 36 hour period.  He also called every day for about 2 weeks.  I finally started reading him some judgment passage out of Isaiah—either that or the legal letter made him stop.
·                     We discovered that a young girl from the kids’ school lived down the street with grandparents.  She was often home alone but came to our house for food and fun. 
·                     A middle-aged woman stands in our living room and takes off her shirt to show me her tattoo.  That was the day our kids found out what a bra was.
·                     Our 13 year old neighbor trashed our yard with his fireworks and even shot them off our back porch.  I confiscated his un-used bottle rockets and took him a trash bag so he could clean my yard up.
·                     I restrained my neighbor who was having a seizure.  She spit, hit, and threw up on me.
·                     Chris was called several times in the middle of the night to help our bed-ridden neighbor get off the floor.
·                     Our youngest child overheard a man tell another kid to “shut-up.”  She put her hands on her hips, looked straight at him and said, “You are very mean and I don’t think you love Jesus.

I’ve often wondered why no one wanted to buy my house. 

Those are the quirky stories, but in reality my neighbors have done a million nice things for my family:  keeping the kids, bailing me out of missing kitchen items, giving me rides when I was car-less, bringing the kids toys and candy on EVERY major holiday and birthday, telling me when they saw my son swinging across the window on the string of his blinds.  They’ve laughed with me, cried with me, laughed at me, and have given us the freedom to be who we are.  I love the fact that they know how imperfect we are, and don’t feel the need to make their language “religous”.  But one thing I have learned: If we want to live intentionally, we will experience the unintended.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You never know when a comment will spark an entire debate in your own head.  Okay, maybe it's just me.
I was ordering some lunch at Blazen Burrito in the mall.  I mentioned to the check-out man that he charged me only for my burrito and not my cheese dip, so I owed him four more dollars.  He looked stunned,  "wow...look at the karma you're putting off.  All that good you're giving will come back to you." 
"um...no sir.  That's not karma.  I love Jesus so I just did what was right."

According to karma, the four dollars I rightfully paid will come back to me somehow.  Someone else may buy a meal, more money will be added to my bank account, more positive things, attitudes, or actions will come my way because I sowed a positive seed.

That's interesting: because in reality, I'm four bucks short.  I basically ate the money and my stomach hurts because I'm allergic to cheese but I eat it anyway.

I know there is some proverbial wisdom in you reap what you sow.  But honestly, this entire year of Chris' and my life has been marked by trials--most of which I can't mention. Doing the right thing has cost us our house, our vehicle, our money, our time, our emotional energy, relationships, reputation, sleep, and the list could go on.  We have added stress and physical ailments to our life.  So do I just hold out a little while longer until the rewards come?

 Jesus said people would hate you if you follow Him.  He said if someone slaps you on one cheek, give him the other one.  He said if you do good, you'll suffer.  He was sinless, and He was sinned against more than anyone.  It caused tension between him and His family.  He was homeless when He could have been hanging out in Heaven.  He had a lot of arguments.  He was abandoned, abused, hated, mocked, spit upon....He sweat blood, He spilled blood.  It doesn't sound like a lot of positive energy came His way.

So my quiet time today came as I sat in the crowded mall and sent my children off to play.  I know the Bible says you reap what you sow--and more than once.  So what does that mean?  Does it mean that since I rightfully paid four dollars for my cheese dip, that I will receive more money to be a glutton with little self-control?
2 Corinthians 9:6,8 "The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.....And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."

If you sow grace, you do not necessarily receive grace from other people.  The point is: if you sow grace, your are given more grace by God, so that you can give more grace--even to people who are ungracious.

If you sow kindness, you are given more kindness by God so that you can give more kindness to people who are not kind.

If you sow generousity, God is generous to you so that you can be more generous to people who may not be generous.

If you sow love, God gives you His love so that you can love others.  Even to love those who hate you.

The destruction that we sow only leads to a destructive life.  That's all it gives us, and we become useless.  But when we sow to God, our lives become more useful.  We don't get it back by other people, we get the reward of sharing in the life and death of Christ.  Jesus is the reward, and He is the only positive energy we should expect.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Birds and the Bees, Bugs, and the Big Bang Theory

It's been a big day in our house. Meet the "love-bugs" that have invaded our yard.
View photo.jpg in slide show
I don't know their scientific name, and haven't done the research, but thousands have come to visit us lately. Cade (age 7) is fascinated by them. He watched them for an hour. He asked a lot of questions, as he does with most other things. Between this evening, the experience of owning a male dog, Psalm 139, and the Christmas Story, Cade has pretty accurately figured out where babies come from. I guess we won't need formalized "talks".

Bible + Nature + his questions = we're talking

It looks like we won't be taking future weekend retreats to cover these matters with the kids, but we will be retreating from my friend's children for a couple of days. Hopefully, that will give our son plenty of time to be less fascinated by his new-found discovery and he won't see the need to share this information with peers.


In other news: Kinley returned home today from a slumber-party at 8-yr old "Amy's" house. Amy and Kinley have been in public school together for 3 years. On Valentine's Day, Amy wrote Kinley a note: "you are the nicest, kindest person I know." (that does a momma's heart good)
Let me tell you about Amy. She's a genius. She is well-versed in science, history, greek mythology, and anything else she's ever read. She's a leader. At 8 years old, she has quite a mind and mouth and a huge personality. She's wildly crazy, and a wee bit rough around the edges. My husband and I love her.
Amy believes in the Big Bang Theory and something about an acorn at the beginning of the world, and something about stars colliding. (If you are familiar with the "acorn theory" please educate me.) Amy mentioned it to Kinley and her closest friends last night. Kinley said "no, no. You need to read Genesis 1:1. Can you go get a Bible?" Kinley showed her friends where Genesis was, how to read the Bible, and explained Creation in a way that thoroughly impressed me. Her friend did not know where the acorn came from, or who formed the stars in the first place. The other friends stood silent, shaking their heads in affirmation of Kinley's 8 year old defense of God.
After a long discussion, Kinley let it go when Amy said "you know, you're really starting to annoy me with all this Christ stuff." High-five Kinley. They're still friends, and they still love each other. So much so, Kinley is planning on calling Amy tomorrow. She wants to share Jeremiah 13, the "linen underwear" story because "I can really see Christ in that story and Amy likes potty-talk and underwear and talks about f-a-r-t-i-n-g." I am thrilled to know that my sweet, gracious child who spells out questionable words, is about to take an Old Testament Story about dirty underwear and share the Gospel with her friend. Pray for her. We've got three weeks left in this town, and her flame is not flaming out.
I sleep satisfied tonight. I rest my hope not in any parental knowledge or ability. My hope is not in my children. Our entire family has too many failure stories for that. But how wonderful, that God's Word is authoritative and sound. His Seed is good and is bearing fruit. His Spirit is alive and active in the hearts of children. His creation is a great teaching-tool for the awkward topics I never thought I'd be having this soon. My hope is in a Jesus who can even be found in a "crude" Old Testament illustration.

Though I love most of God's created beings, I take all suggestions on how to get rid of these love-bugs. We have had our lesson...it's time for them to go.