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.