Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remembering the lives I never knew

Though I'm not reluctant to talk about having 2 miscarriages, it's not a subject I bring up often.  With Oct 15th being a day of remembrance for the little lives barely known by the world, I've been reflecting on the personal impact of carrying two tiny souls who never entered the light of day alive.

I didn't have names picked out.  I hadn't had the time to dream for them or know if each was boy or girl.  What I knew about one life was that he or she was deformed and lived for approximately 8 weeks before death in the womb.  I took comfort in the truth I had learned from Ecclesiastes (4:3) that these children were fortunate to never know evil or experience the difficulty or oppression that living often brings.

My miscarriage experiences were practically and physically troublesome, but after weeks and months those issues were resolved.  However, there were deep questions facing me that I just couldn't pass over.  Where does life begin?  Where do babies go when they die?  What does a deformed fetus unrecognizably human look like if in Heaven?  What is the point?  If life is so hard anyway, isn't it better to be in eternity earlier rather than later?

I took further comfort in that a Bible character like David, believed he would see his infant children in Heaven.  I marvel at the possibility of God interacting with people inside the womb (ex: John the Baptist).  I delight that the Pslams say God knows those before they are formed, and that all bodily formation is changed and renewed when God finally brings full restoration to His creation.  I just can not believe that even a short life is pointless, or only for the here and now.  If we only live to die,  there is nothing beautiful for the "formed but unborn".

My two beings made me wonder about what God does with the stillborn, unborn, and aborted.  Are they souls?  Does a part of them go somewhere for eternity?  If ALL of them will be in Heaven, how big will Heaven be?  And I can't get  Matthew 7:13 out of my mind: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many."

There's a strong biblical case that for this year alone, over 1 million aborted American babies, an estimated 13 million Chinese aborted babies, and at least 1/5 of all pregnancies that were terminated by miscarriage are now hanging with Jesus for the rest of forever. What does that mean for the those who are living right now?   Statistically speaking,  the odds are that those who actually have the ears to hear about God will never know Him.   Chances are those with eyes formed to see are blind to the realities of Heaven and Hell.  Just how wide is that destructive gate?

I believe that my body once held two current worshippers of Jesus and increased Heaven with a population of +2.  I hope that in remembering them this day, you will consider which gate you are headed for.  Matthew 7 is a sobering read that lets us know our own works don't get us to the place so many think they're going.  I hope you'll join my babies at the narrow gate, and enter the door by trusting the work of Jesus.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crime,Cops,and Church growth:a family's first day with a new pastor

In my last blog, I detailed my first   day as a pastor's wife.    It's been neat to see our relationship with the boy who stole my husband's phone flourish over the past weeks.  On our first day, the boy would not even speak to us.  He has since initiated hugs, conversations, and smiles as we interact.  Here is the story from the mom's point of view:


"Being a parent is not an easy job.  As an adoptive parent, I have many missing pieces of a jig saw puzzle with unknowns to navigate through that birth parents do not have to experience, because they have the pieces and are helping the children put their life puzzles together.

Our journey of parenthood has been a rollercoaster of getting on and off with many bumps and turns along the way.  A couple of Sundays ago, we began a gentle climb that gave us the feeling nothing could go wrong, and the joy and excitement of a very special day--our new pastor's first Sunday!  We'd been anxiously awaiting his arrival for over a month.  My kids were ready to meet the new family--especially the  children.  We may have had unrealistic expectations, but with this new pastor was a new hope for our floundering church.  The possibililities of an awakening, of reaching and uniting the elderly and young as one, and growing with God's love, was well overdue in our church. On Sunday, my family and I each went our regular route, hoping Sunday School would fly be so we could hear our new pastor preach his first sermon.  We then stood in the longest line ever for our church, just to meet the new pastor and his family.  They were not a disappointment-- a lovely couple with beautifully well-behaved children, I noticed with a touch of envy as my two younger children loudly and rambunctiously made their way out to the car to wait for their older brother.  Their brother, my son, had finally reached the age where he was too old to attend VBS, but was old enough to be a helper and attend a VBS worker meeting down at the front of the church.  I waited with my noisy but happy girls in the van, not knowing we were in for an interesting and unexpected afternoon.  The rollercoaster ride is now increasing speed as it makes its way to the steep uphill climb.

My son comes bounding out of the church with a smile almost wider than his face as he jumps in the car to tell us the group he will be helping with for VBS.  We run a few errands into Little Rock, stop to eat at Chili's, shop at Walgreens, then on the way home where we can finally change into our everyday clothes and take a rest.  That rest was never to come as our rollercoaster ride begins to make its trip up the long steep hill to the top where it will drop at a very rapid speed that makes your heart jump clean out of your mouth and your stomach is now in your throat.

We had begun to settle into a relaxing routine at home when we hear a knock at the door.  The dogs go to barking and carrying on, and I instruct my kids to herd them into the den.  All the while my husband is precariously picking his way through running dogs and scampering children, running into the couch as he tries to avoid stepping on a child on his way to the door.   He is met by a very polite police officer.
"Do you go to First Baptist Church?" asks the policeman.
"Yes, we do" my husband answers in questioning confusion.
"Do you like your church?"
"Yes."
"Do you like your new pastor?"
"Yes. He seems like a really good guy and preached a good message this morning."
"Well, this is embarrassing, but the preacher's cell phone was stolen and it's tracking to the back corner of your house."
My husband's heart sank to his feet and the roller coaster car lurches forward.

Our 3 lovely children are called into the living room and asked if they found a phone.  They all three wide-eyed and innocently shake their heads no.  As the policemen searched the house, I wanted to believe my children, but had this sick, sickening feeling that one of them is not telling the truth.  This roller coaster is about to drop.

During the search, I could hear something buzzing, and though I am running through the house like a chicken with my head cut off, I could not pinpoint where the noise was coming from.  My youngest daughter informed me that her brother was buzzing.  Puzzled, I walk straight toward my son and ask if he has the phone.  He shakes his head and fear begins to creep in his eyes.  My hand instantly goes to his pocket where I pat and feel "THE PHONE"!

The roller coaster is now plunging at breakneck speeds.  The room spins and I yell in disbelief, "What is this?  Why did you lie to me?"  God placed his hands on my shoulders with reassurance that all will be well but it seemed my child stealing and lying was almost beyond the comfort of God.  However, He sent me two godly police officers and a loving pastor and his wife to our home to help with the healing I was trying to throw off.  Because God showed His love and mercy
through these people, my son was not taken to jail and our pastor and wife offered forgiveness and friendship to my son.  God again had his hand on my family--my son was spared a lifetime of lasting struggles by His love.  Relief washes over us as it all begins to sink in.

Boom, yank, screech!  The ride has ended and we have made an unforgettable and lasting impression on our new pastor and his family on their very first day.  God must have a sense of humor, and I'm sure He had quite a laugh during the episode.  I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this wonderful family is a blessing sent from God.  I also believe we have found lifelong friends and will have something to laugh about as the years go by.

My son stole the cell phone, but my children's hearts may have been kidnapped as well.  It is truly amazing how God brings people into our lives at just the right time, when we need them, even when we don't know why, and through the most embarrassing moments.  I cannot help but think this is just the beginning of a very interesting and adventurous story for our two families."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Crime, Cops, and Church-growth: my first day as the pastor's wife

My family moved to a bedroom community about 2 years ago without the slightest notion that the church located in the heart of the city was without a pastor.  We have fallen in love with this town, its eclectic personality and overall giving spirit of the citizens. It didn't take long for us to sense God's hand in moving us to this location at this point in time, and that my husband's sense of calling to shepherd the church was about to be fulfilled in a city we have come to adore.

My family has been anticipating last Sunday for several months. Although my husband and I have been involved in ministry of some kind throughout our marriage, Sunday marked his first day as "the pastor" and my first day as "pastor's wife".  I felt as equipped and ready as I could have--reading blogs about ministry wives and asking questions of  every pastor and spouse I came into contact with.  Upon hearing some of the common struggles this role brings upon women, I had two main resolutions:

Resolution #1.  I will have higher expectations for the church than any church member has of me.

I think it's perfectly okay for my local body of believers to have expectations of the pastor's wife.  They can expect that I will continue to love God, love His people, serve the church and community, and join with them in the pursuit of a relationship with Jesus and knowledge of His Word.  They can expect that I will use my gifts, make mistakes, and look to God to help me not make them again.  It's okay if they ask me questions like "Do you sing?  play piano?  teach children?  like to decorate?" and I will answer yes or no according to what is true.  Members can know that I will also be asking questions, in order to understand them, relate to them, and join with them in hobbies and service projects. My new local fellowship can know that I expect great things to come in the next few years.  I expect that God has appointed my husband to lead this church for the purpose of impacting more lives, and at a deeper and broader level, than has been done before.  I expect that our church will have a vision to put people above programs and the rich Gospel above rigid rules.  I expect that our church will grow - reaching and changing the community, county, state, country and beyond. 

Resolution #2.  I will NOT become the lonely preacher's wife.

I have read that the #1 struggle among church staff wives is loneliness.  So I have decided to rarely sit on the front pew managing and maintaining my children by myself.  I will be mingling with the rest of the congregation...if they congregate at the back row, you can bet I'll be conversing with them (not during the sermon of course:)  I will find friends.  If I can't find friends, I will make them.  I will be friendly whether others are or not.  I will keep my friendships with the incredible people I know outside and inside the church.  I will not be afraid to share my struggles--I will just make sure I share them with the appropriate people, at the appropriate times, in appropriate ways.


This brings me back to my first day.  As prepared as I was, I didn't exactly know what to expect.  Quite to my surprise, I put more thought into what I wore that day.  I spent more time fixing my girls' hair.  I got a tad bit nervous even though I was excited.  I shook a lot of hands.  I smiled a little more than usual.  I was very conscious of remembering names and overwhelmed by how many names I would soon forget.  I was welcomed with numerous hugs and encouraging words.

And then, my first surprise.  Once the service ended and we finished meeting people, my husband and I had a lunch date with another couple.  Before we left for lunch, my husband went back to the front pew to grab his belongings and could not find his iPhone.  After searching for 20 minutes, he tried to convince me that someone had stolen his phone.  I rejected that paranoid notion saying "No one stole your phone from the front pew of our church!"  We decided to eat as originally planned and come back to look for it.  However, two hours later, with the help of about 20 VBS workers preparing for the week, the search for the pastor's missing phone was unsuccessful.  My husband and I came home, ran the find-my-phone app, and realized it appeared to be in the median of the busy boulevard of our town!

Knowing that my husband had to prepare for the night ahead, and feeling confident I could safely find it on the side of the road, I volunteered to go searching for the phone.  Halfway to the location, I realized the phone was actually moving, and was now be at our local drugstore.  My adrenaline was pumping and I prayed that the Lord would be with me and work in this situation. I was ready to give a customer the surprise of his life when I confronted him on why he would break the 8th of only 10 commandments on our first day.  When I pulled up at the store, I realized, that again, the culprit was driving down the road.

Feeling defeated, I went to the police for help.
"And where did this phone get stolen?"
"Um.......First......Baptist.....Church.  Wait, will that go on record?"
"And why did you wait several hours before reporting it?"
(sheepishly) "I naively thought no one would steal from the front row of a church."

Moments later, officer "B" helped me track the phone to its exact location.  It appeared the thief was no longer driving and had arrived home.  The policeman would not let me go to the location, and instead sent two patrolmen.....to... wait, what!? ...MY quiet and quaint neighborhood.  When the cops located the most likely house, officer B told me to follow him out.  I was about to encounter not only a fellow church-goer, but a neighbor.

I got behind the grey car with the blue lights and realized that we were not taking a typical Sunday drive.  I followed him at 70 miles an hour on 30mph streets, passing through street lights and stop signs.  It was invigorating!  For once in my life, I felt above the law while actually following the law.

I pulled into my own drive-way, called my husband to meet me, and we casually walked over to the next street lined with 3 police cars, open garages, and several curious neighbors observing our contact with the men in uniform.  We walked into the house, made awkward eye contact with loving adults who were mortified upon our entrance, and the police soon found the phone--in the pocket of a young person who would not say a word about the wrong-doing.

It may sound strange, but we were thrilled to look eye-to-eye with the person who had caused us a chaotic afternoon.  My husband approached him, hugged him, expressed that he had forgiven him, and assured him that if Jesus would change his heart, his choices would change, too. We told him that there would be consequences from his parents, but had no desire to press charges- instead, God has brought us to his church to help lead him to Jesus.  (We soon learned that even though we had not pursued any legal action, the officials could have pressed charges, and because the stolen merchandise is valued over $500, this could be considered a felony that would impact him for years or possibly life.)

After tears, hugs, and conversation, we exited the house with two policemen.  Amidst the newly gathered neighborhood watch party, the policemen asked us questions about ourselves, our church, and gave us the background on their spiritual lives.  One officer asked if it was okay if he attended the worship service in his uniform--he was concerned about distracting others if he got called out while on duty.  Of course, we encouraged him to be comfortable in our church and feel free to bring his buddies.  I look to the Lord to ultimately protect me, but hey, He might make it happen with a row of the men in blue on the back pew.

At the end of the day, I realized that my resolutions as a pastor's wife were surely put into practice, although not in the way I expected.  In no way did I have a lonely first day.  I met more people than I intended that afternoon.  Seared forever in my memory are the names of at least one family.  That part of my neighborhood had never been visited in such a way before.   I expected God to use us to grow this church, but I wouldn't have anticipated the next visitor to be a cop.  God can use any creative method He chooses, even doing His work in spite of crime... but this is one case we where hope to stick to more "traditional" methods of reaching our community!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

For the people-watching parents of pre-schoolers


I may be the least credible blog “writer” ever.  Most people who write things are avid readers.  Not me. 

That is…I don’t read a lot of printed material.  For me to put a lot of stock in what authors say, I want to know if their lived-out lives are as neatly packaged as their well thought-out paragraphs.  Before I purchase a book, I have to “buy” the person selling it.

I do, however, consider myself a reader.  I like to read people.  I watch them.  I listen to them.  I take note of what they say.  I try to figure out why they believe and behave as they do.  I analyze for myself if I want to incorporate their advice into my life.  No matter who they are, I learn from them and I usually appreciate them for the enrichment they add to my life.


I am particularly grateful for the parents who “let me in” to their families.  The older women in my life who have shared their experiences/philosophies/methods/reasonings for their parenting endeavors have handed me individual bricks upon which I have built the structure of my parenting style, whether I agreed with them or not.  Therefore, this blog is for those younger than me who are starting their families or have young children.  I’m writing for those who know my family, who have asked me how I raise our kids, who are question-askers, and who are deciding for themselves which bricks they want for their own wall.  And so without further ado, here were some main methods and philosophies I employed while our children were pre-schoolers.  I am particularly high-lighting the way my husband and I “ran” our family during the toddler years.

1.        We guided our children with Scripture.

There was always a reason why we did the things we did.  The verses in the Bible were our guideline for living a pro-active life and our “go-to” when problems arose.  If a child was afraid of the dark, she was taught Ps 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.”  If a child was selfishly screaming “MINE” while hogging a toy, he was to repeat Ps 24:1 “The Earth is the LORD’s and everything in it.” 


2.       We trained them to obey us.

The kids learned a little chant: “It’s time to obey, right away, with no delay cause that’s God’s way.”  Often times, if the child did not immediately do what was required, I would ask “are you obeying right away?”   If direct disobedience of a clear instruction followed, the child was disciplined.  The method of discipline (spanking, time out, removal of an item, creative measures that occurred to me spontaneously) varied from stage to stage or child to child.

Because obedience is crucial, excuses were not acceptable.   A child could not get away with “I didn’t hear you”.  They were exhorted to tune their ears when I speak because of John 10:27 “my sheep know my voice”.  A child could also not excuse himself with “I forgot”.  We found ways to remember what was expected of us because God commands, not suggests, that His people “Remember” numerous things in the Bible.

 
3.       I sought to never utter, “Just wait til your dad comes home.”

My husband has a busy schedule, so there was no way I was going to wait on him to carry out discipline.  My children had to learn to respect and obey me, since I was their primary caregiver.  I also believe that young children need immediate feedback when they do something wrong. When my husband was home, he readily administered teaching or discipline that needed to happen under his watch, but I made sure that whatever happened while I was with my kids was dealt with by me and later communicated to my husband.
 

4.       We limited our rules.

I can not keep up with a hundred “do’s” and “do not’s”.  Unless the toddler was disobeying me directly (which is a violation of loving God), I could ensure that he or she was breaking the second most important rule “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31
With this in mind, every time we had a family or friend conflict, I questioned the kids with one main idea, “Who or what are you loving right now?” I would probe into the issue that always caused the conflict—the toddler cared more about the toy, himself, his space, his food, etc. than another person.  Therefore, when my child broke “the rule”, I would tell him what he did wrong, HOW to act the right way, and make him repeat why as stated in 1 John 4:7—“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.” 

5.       Rewards were limited for the use of training habits, not behavior.

I would certainly use treats or candy if the child was potty training, or enduring the horrible practice of eating vegetables.  However, the kids were never given rewards SO THAT they would obey or treat people well.  I want my kids to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do and because they love other people.  There were times when a child so impressed me, or so moved my heart that I would reward them with external things or activities after the fact, but I sought not to let the “goodies” be the motivation or the bribe for good behavior.


6.       I took a lot of naps.

This is really about knowing my limitations and maximizing my effectiveness.  I have a very hard time thinking well or behaving well when I am sleep-deprived.  There were times I had no choice in my lack of sleep, but when I could, I let my children take care of themselves in order to charge up.


7.       I finally admitted and fought against my own anger problem.

Never was I aware of the depth of my anger until I had children.  There are times that my attitudes and actions scared me greatly.  I got honest with the fact that there were moments I didn’t like my children, didn’t enjoy my season of life, and didn’t even like being a parent.  There were times I could wrestle and repent of my anger quickly and resume normal life.  There were times I had to change my situation so that I could “be angry and not sin”—I’d spend the whole day in public because I knew if I was at a park around people there was no way I would hurt my children!!! 
 
8.       I delegated my weaknesses.

I didn’t do this on purpose at first.  I often felt guilty for the skills I lacked as a parent.  But I soon found out that my husband is the very structured one of our family.  When he sets things in place, I can quickly follow suit.   A grandma taught one of my children how to make her bed.  I still can’t make a good-looking bed, or fold fitted sheets for that matter.  Also to my delight, one of my three-year-olds could organize things as well as I could, so I let her.  Imagine a toddler who gets on to her mother for not putting her shoes back in the right place!


9.       I did not micro-manage their time.

Our children have had thousands of hours of unstructured time to create, solve problems on their own, explore, find solutions to their boredom, etc.  Remember that I’m not that structured anyway.  I think this is an instance where my weakness became the catalyst for my children’s creative strengths.


10.   We let them be exposed to a variety of people and problems of the world.

Because I think the biggest threat to my child is his sin, and the second biggest threat to my child is my sin, I am less afraid of other people’s sins.  Our young children have sat on the couch with former drug dealers, abusers, and addicts and heard their stories.  They have dined at our table with people of different backgrounds, religions, and denominations.  They have ease-dropped while my husband engaged others about who Jesus is and why His death and resurrection are so important.

Because of my husband’s job in college ministry, our children have had an amazing amount of time with college students and young adults. Because of the church, they have had relationships with people of different ages, learning styles, skill sets and capabilities.  Because of our community, our kids have conversed with the elderly in nursing homes and held a baby who was meant to be aborted.  They have been friends with the mentally and physically handicapped.  They’ve had front-row seats to our friends who have grieved death and gone through divorce.  My husband and I didn’t necessarily plan for all these people to cross their path, but we’ve taken advantage of the conversations that followed—that this world is brutal and Jesus is best.

 
 
In conclusion, you may have found nuggets of valuable wisdom that you will keep in your heart.  You may decide these nuggets are crispy-fried balls of cholesterol-laden, artery-clogging vessels that you would never purchase for yourself.  I trust that you are able to make valid judgments about what you treasure and what you trash for your own family as you build your little nest. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why Christians should be cautious in criticizing Common Core

I hesitate to write this blog because I am not a Common Core advocate.  I care nothing about promoting these standards or fighting against them.  What bothers me as an educator, parent, and Christian, is all of the misinformation and misrepresentation of well-meaning people.

I am not in the least an expert in all things education.  I graduated 14 years ago with a B.S.E. in Elementary Education.  At the time of my studies, I was encouraged to teach much of what Common Core is driving down the pike.  However, a decade ago, there was no concrete way to implement the ideals.   I did not immediately enter education as a vocation--instead I primarily stayed at home with my three children during their pre-school years.  I became a full-time teacher for the first time last year, during the first year of Common Core's implementation.  

Though I can understand the concerns about CC in literacy, I am not educated enough myself to speak in that arena.  I CAN inform others of the practical implications for math, since this is the subject I most adore, what I'm teaching every day, and it is in THIS area that I perceive others being completely misinformed.

In my classroom, there are at least 4 different dynamics going on.  First, I am accountable to teach the Standards.   This is non-negotiable.  Second,  I have a curriculum that was adopted and purchased by the school.  Third, I am trained in different programs during professional development on how to deliver these standards.    And fourth, I have 53 students who think in a variety of ways, use a variety of methods, and bring their own reasoning and thinking into the classroom.

The Common Core Standards are my classroom "Bible" so to speak.  WHAT I teach is driven and focused by these standards found at www.corestandards.org.  It is in these standards that I find I am suppose to make sure my students understand 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication, for example.  The standards "command" I teach the following:


* Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
* Multiply, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used.

Let's use an example of 42 X 37.  Most adults in the U.S. were taught a standard algorithm, which as a teacher I CAN and DO teach, but NEVER at first.  This familiar algorithm is what you will find on the right of this picture.


On the left-hand side of this picture is a standard algorithm that is taught in some other parts of the world.   It's called the lattice method if you want to explore further. If what is on the left confuses you, don't worry--adults from Asia for example, will look at what is on the right with the same freak-out mentality that American adults have when they see the method on the left.

When teachers teach multiplication based on concrete models of place value, it may look like this depending on curriculum that a teacher has:

 
With this array, the student understands that 4 in 42 MEANS  40.  The student is to understand that in multiplying we can break apart the place values, multiply those and then add the products together to get the answer. 
The above form is in a concrete drawing, but can also be represented like this:
 
The examples above may be some that curriculum gives me to teach, but how this shows up in the classroom may be different depending on the teacher and the program he/she has been influenced by.  In my classroom, and many others in my building, students show their work to the entire class and EXPLAIN it verbally or in written form.  Other students are encouraged to figure out how their peer got an answer.  As students are taught place value, the relationship between multiplication and addition, they may come up with their own way of calculating a problem such as 42 X 37:
 
 
In the above example, the student started with 37 X 10, something known and familiar to him, and then added that answer 4 times.  Then he added on 37 X 2 to get his final answer.
 
On any given day, my students may have 8 different ways of working the same problem.  The part that is DRIVEN by Common Core is the REASONING.  Almost every standard I bring to the classroom tells me to reason and compare and contrast relationships between various mathematical expressions and computations.  This is the part that takes so long.  I would argue that it does not dumb down any student, but forces them see the same problem in a variety of ways.  At the end of the day, concept, or year, the goal is that every student has at least 2 ways of approaching a problem correctly, and can explain or reason why he/she solves it that way.
 
 
 
So why, as a Christian, am I cautious to criticize as I have seen others do so?  In keeping with the "common core" way of comparing and contrasting relationships between unlike things and reasoning, here is why:
 
The christian's written standards are found in the Bible.  Those commands are often broad and general.  You will find a multitude of books written to give specific help on an area commanded by the Bible.  These books are not the same as the Bible, and there is room for mis-interpreting a "standard" or representing the Bible in a way that was not originally intended.  Depending on a christian's church, he or she will receive different training and programs on HOW to carry out and practically apply their faith that they are informed of by the Bible.  And lastly, there is individualism in the Christian faith.  No two Christians attack or understand life's problems the exact same way.
 
How many times have I seen people reject Jesus or the Bible because they didn't like the way others practiced their faith?  Or how many times have denominations and trainings promoted legalism, rigidity, or confusion? How many times have the authors of Christian books deviated from the meaning of Scripture?  If a person is going to intellectually reject Jesus, I at least respect him or her if s/he does so from reading the Bible itself.  I do not respect, nor accept, criticism of Jesus based on churches, authors, or individuals who claim to know Him.
 
My point is that Christians who throw darts need to be prepared to defend themselves when darts get thrown back at them.  We believe in a triune God who is 3 persons in one.  This does not add up mathematically.  We believe in God in the flesh, born from a virgin; this defies science as we know it.  The world looks at our standards of belief as insane AT FIRST, and it is our responsibility to bring clarity to the craziness.
 
Particularly if you claim the name of Jesus, be careful how and what you criticize.  Do not look at something you don't understand and automatically call it stupid.  Make sure that you understand what you are condemning.  If you hate Common Core, by all means speak your mind, join groups, share you tube videos, fight in the political realm, but MAKE sure you distinguish between the standards, curriculum, professional trainings, and the application made by a student.
 
We can not make productive change in ANY area if we make judgments before we get understanding.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Real Put-together Life


I walked into my dad's camper and was intrigued by the aging quilt that laid across his bed.  I recognized the handy-work--my kids have been cuddled up with Mamaw's makings for years.  My children have never met their great-grandma but they've heard many stories about her.  She left a profound impact on my life and my perspective on life in general.  She was a woman who wasn't impressed by spotless kitchens--who were they serving if clean and empty?  She was a woman who didn't obsess about a little dirt on her floor--clean floors don't tell the story of who's coming and going, or the work the family was able to do outside.  But you would be hard pressed to find dust on her Bible during her latter years--that book was moved, used, read, and internalized.

The quilt instantly reminded me of my heritage--I come from a long line of hard-working women.   However, this blanket looked different than others she had made.  My dad told me that Mamaw sewed it from her husband's overalls after his clothes had seen their better days.


Typical.  The woman wasted nothing. She also wrote a poem  about the clothes that were used to feed my father and gave it to my dad along with the quilt.  The covering smelled like the woods--my dad would spend days hunting and roughing it and then lay down to rest at night under grandma's gift.  Something in me didn't like seeing the quilt laying there dirty, stained and torn.  I wanted to preserve it--clean it and hang it somewhere so I could remember her.  For a moment, I wanted to display it, so that it could be seen, to keep memories alive of the woman I miss so much.

My grandma would roll over in her grave if she knew that thought.  The quilt-- stained, torn, imperfect as it may be, is doing exactly what it was designed to do.  Its destruction is what makes it beneficial.  And she would help me understand  that her quilts were made as illustrations of the way God intends for us to live: "Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." --Luke 17:33 


God says that if you want your life to last (particularly beyond the years you have left on earth), you have to "lose" it.  The Scripture literally means "let it be destroyed".  We have to suffer (whether big or small ways) in order to store up treasures in heaven.  We have to turn away from disregarding the things of God in order to enjoy the things God made.  We have to resist our own ways of understanding in order to have the rest God intended.  We give of ourselves in order to gain the relationships God designed for us.  We resign our control in order to retain self-control.  We have to be USED in order to be USEFUL.

Our lives shouldn't necessarily be pretty, preserved, or framed so the world can see how wonderful we are.  When a life is well-lived, it looks like my grandma's quilt that covers the chills of those she loved.  It's messy, perpetual, and layed down for others so that they can know how awesome God is.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A different kind of parent: yes or no?

Years back, I read a parenting book where the author suggested becoming a "yes" parent instead of a "no" parent.  He said that he made the conscious decision to say yes to his kids more than he said no.

My first thought was "how ridiculous."  It was clear to me that this author was a man who spent hours away from his family while his wife fielded the hundreds of questions that came at her in a day.  I'm sure other mothers can relate:

"Mom, can I...?"
"Mom, would you...?"
"Mom, can we...?"

I can not calculate how many times my children ask to do something that is either not good for them, not good for their siblings, or worse....a significant cost to my own time, energy, or money.  I mean, the kids would be constantly interrupting my daily plans.  My original thought when I read this author's suggestion was that if I answered yes more than I answered no to my children, I would be sleepless and moneyless.  And I've seen the parents who never say no to their children--in my opinion they are usually pushovers who raise spoiled children.

But then I took a running record of myself.  I realized how "no" is actually my first and natural response.  And as I listened to parents in the stores, and around town, and I thought, "wow...we all sound the same."   We parents have become broken records.  "No. No. No."  This is what we sound like to our children.  And I know something about the human heart (because I know my own): if we know that the answers are always going to be "no", then we'll stop asking questions.  Eventually, we won't ask--we'll do what we want, when we want, and won't bother to check with the proper authorities.  The end result to a constant "no" style of parenting is a calloused  child who may obey when someone is looking, but is just waiting for the chance to do his "own" thing first chance he gets.

When I think of God the Father, I realize that He deals with His children very differently than a mom like me who barked "no.no.no".  When God created the Garden of Eden, it had numerous freedoms and only ONE restriction.   Scriptures say that He wants to give us the desires of our hearts--WHEN they are rooted in love and enjoyment of Him.  I didn't want to become a "yes" parent or a "no" parent, but I want to be a parent who models God's Fatherly love.  So I started becoming consciously aware of my answers to my children.

"Mom can I have apple juice?" she asks 2 minutes before bedtime.  Instead of no, I answer:
"You can have some in the morning."

"Mom, can so and so come play?" she asks while I have something planned. Instead of no, I answer:
"Let's look at the schedule and find a good time for her to play."

"Mom, can I have the latest video game equipment that cost hundreds of dollars and will consume my life so that I am a complete addict and want nothing to do with the real world God made?"
Okay, this is a hard one for me.  But what did Jesus do when people asked Him questions?  He answered with questions.  So now I have conversations like this:
"What makes you want one?  How do you think it will benefit you?  Do you think this is a good use of money?  How long will it take you to work for the money to pay for this?  If you got one, how will you control your time spent on it?"

Parents, we know that "no" is often the easier answer.  That answer cost nothing of ourselves.  It doesn't require us or them to think about deeper issues.  So I'm making a strong attempt to engage my children's questions so that they will never stop talking to me.  When the kids get older and the issues more costly, I want them to always feel like they can come and ask me, because I can help them, like God does, to see when the proper time and place would be and under the right guidelines for their wishes to be fulfilled.  God's style of parenting is so different than most of what we see--He isn't bowing to our every whim, but He entered our world, took care of our needs, and modeled a sacrificial love not based on pat, simple answers, but a growing relationship that wasn't easy on Himself.

My son has picked up on this conversation game the other day and asked me a series of ridiculous questions trying to get me to say no.  It has become fun for me to answer him with a positive series of words rather than negative ones. 
"Mom, are you an alien from outer space?"
"Son, it's about time you realize that your mother really is an alien."

Dear [parents], I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.  Keep your behavior excellent so that....(the Gentiles) may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.  paraphrase of 1 Peter 2:11,12