A New School Year…A New Chance to Show Your Love…and Courage

Ok. I know it’s still July, technically. But it might as well be August. Every mom can sense the oncoming juggernaut of the new school year like the Native American could tell the White-Man’s train was coming when it was miles from view. What happened to school in September? What happened to Gumby and Pokey? Lost forever.

This school year I will be holding ground for the kingdom of God here in my neighborhood.  You will be too. Your little spot of earth, your home, your family, is where God has strategically placed you for the furthering of His kingdom. Every lesson faithfully done, every meal cooked, every load of laundry washed and folded is a valiant stroke against apathy, laziness, disorderliness, and essentially against selfishness. Selfishness makes an ugly home, a home that does not honor God nor serve His purposes–except maybe to show what home should NOT be like. When we do what we ought to as mothers and fathers we are winning for God’s kingdom and above all we are showing our love for God.  Christ Himself said the same thing in His own way, “ but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:31) Our work is our chance to show God our love! Paul says in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Right now I have boxes of next year’s curriculum stacked in the hallway and last year’s Spanish to grade. I still have all the housework to oversee and a drama program to help run. The yard needs constant care and every new movie needs to be vetted. Kids need to be corrected, encouraged, and held to task. It’s a big job I’m doing on a smallish lot in big city. But it’s my spot. The ground God expects me, with His grace, to hold for Him.

And I want to–to show my love for Him.

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:21

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Who’s Kid Are You?

 “Are those awful kids yours?” One time I had someone say to me that my kids were the worst ones they had seen in 70 years of their lives. Seriously. Really. No kidding. The infraction: running around at John’s Incredible Pizza. Granted, they were running in the dining area….more like trotting and I was just a little too tired to scold. Besides with Sponge Bob blaring on the T.V. screens (notice plural) I figured how much of a nuisance could four happy kids be? In my heart, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have tolerated them out of their seats on a regular visit to a restaurant–but today I was out with other moms and, well, their kids were “trotting around” too. Peer pressure. Apparently, an elderly mother-daughter combo had decided to luncheon at John’s Playground of Chaos. On my way to take the kids to play in the game room the eldest woman stopped me and gave me a piece of her mind.

I mumbled a word of apology…and felt thoroughly humiliated. My kids? I was more used to people stopping me and telling me how GOOD they were. I’ve even had complete strangers ask me for parenting advice! Well! As a walked away from them I mumbled less charitable retorts I wasn’t brave enough to say to their faces. Then the Holy Spirit started working on me.

In the end, I returned to the ladies and issued a more sincere apology with the very true confession that it had been against my better judgment to let run about. Their response was much more gracious than before. The elder lady did admit that she noticed how quickly my children obeyed me when I told them to sit down…so I must not be all that bad as a mom. Ouch. But, I thought to myself, at least if she shows up at the Bible study I am leading, I can look her in the eye. Small price to pay.

But what if someone asked whose kid I was? What would my behavior indicate? In 1 Samuel 17, David and Goliath have their epic battle with David showing himself brave, full of faith, and innovative. King Saul asked his men, “Whose son is that?” Saul was more interested in knowing who David’s dad was then in David’s own name initially. I hope that as I live my life, and yes, raise my kids, that I am brave enough, faithful enough, humble enough, and even crazy enough to make someone ask the same question. “Whose kid is that?”  and have their answer be, “Oh, she’s just God’s kid.”

Dare to Be Less Than You Can Be

It’s sounds un-American. It almost sounds sacrilegious. From Disney’s nothing-is-impossible-if you-can-dream-it to the U.S. Army’s classic “Be All That You Can Be”, America’s the place where you can reach your goal if you only work hard enough. It’s what makes us the greatest nation in the world. Right?

But what if being all that we can be isn’t the real goal after all? What if it’s about being what God asks us to be. Mother Teresa came from an educated family and excelled in teaching. Why should she give up using those talents and benefits and commit the rest of her life picking up nearly dead humans from the street and feeding them a few mouthfuls of gruel before they passed away? But God asked her to go, and she did. We all know the rest. Perhaps greatness in God’s kingdom is about fulfilling His desires for us where He has placed us. Not in cultivating our deepest desires and most obvious talents.

Don’t get me wrong, though. God gives us our talents for His glory. But sometimes, and I would propose most often, the development of these talents, for a true Christian, will look, to the unbelieving world, less than optimal. That’s because for the Christian, the use of our talents is about forwarding His work here on earth, not about triumphantly making it to the top of the hill. Isn’t that what Christ did, anyhow? He could have done a lot more than teach 12 men. He could have turned stones to bread as Satan had tempted Him to do. But He didn’t. He did less than He could. Instead He did what God asked Him to do. And make no mistake–someday we will see everything Jesus can do–when the time is right. That goes for us to. The new heaven and the new earth will be an amazing place where human potential can flourish as God truly intended.

That’s why we have dreams of doing more than we could ever accomplish, by the way. Dreams are the the soul remembering that it is immortal. And when that time comes we will be all that we can be!

Has God Offended You?

He did everything right. He was filled with the Spirit before his birth. He renounced physical comforts. He lived in the desert, focusing on God and His service. He traveled relentlessly up and down the Jordan preparing people to receive Christ when He came. He faithfully proclaimed a message of repentance and he ostracized himself from elite society by pointing out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. He recognized Jesus when He came and even baptized His own Lord in obedience. People started to follow Jesus and his own ministry declined. He accepted it in humility without jealousy. Let’s face it, John the Baptist was a pretty awesome individual.

So why is he left to waste in prison–Herod’s prison–a nasty fellow, a man of total depravity? Jesus is God’s Son, right? He’s devoted everything to Him. Jesus is performing miracles and John is still in prison? Would it be so hard to free him? The days go by and John’s faith is tested to the breaking point. Finally he calls two of his followers to him and sends them to Jesus. He just needs to know that he hasn’t gotten everything wrong. And here we have one of the most poignant interchanges between a suffering servant and his Lord:

‘And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

And he [Jesus] answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”’ Luke 7

Jesus’ answer said it all. Yes, He was the Messiah, doing all the miracles the Coming One would do. And then Jesus said something that still resonates in the heart of every believer. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

I never considered that I could be offended by God. I love Him for all He has done for me. But following Him is not a bed of roses. Actually, maybe it is, come to think of it. His presence graces our days with beauty and the fragrance of truth, but thorns are there for anyone who follows long enough. Obedience pricks the fingers of those who live in God’s garden. He asks us to do hard things, to love difficult people, to deny ourselves for the good of others. Doing all this for a short time is one thing–but when the trial is protracted? When hard situations hold no promise for change? How do we feel then? Angry? Cheated? Offended? Hopeless?

Jesus said, “Blessed in the one who is not offended by me.” When we are tempted to be offended at our lot, and yet choose to believe God’s promise that He loves us, has good plans for us, disciplines us for our good, and is preparing a place for us, we do something we could never have done without walking through trials–we honor Him, we glorify Him, and, best of all, we express true love to Him. “We become a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto God.”

So my  rose garden has now taken on new meaning for me. I will remember that the thorns of obedience will always be with me in this life…after all, who am I to complain? Jesus was crowned with them.


The Day That Finally Came

I knew this day would come. I thought about it ten years ago when we decided to homeschool our oldest. It took ten years to happen but happen it did. The New Year’s paper declared it to the world: gay-lesbian-transsexual-bisexual education is officially in California school systems at last. To some it is a cherished victory, to others it means finally admitting that privately educating their children is now a must. It is also the mother of all discipleship opportunities.

Historically, the church in America has been a champion of education. Schools and universities in early America rose almost as fast as the corn grew. The importance of having a hand in the education of its citizens was not lost on the Church. Somehow I have to wonder where that enthusiasm went. By the time it came for us to look at education opportunities for our own children only three options existed. Fearsomely expensive private education was one–high enough to force most mothers trying to stay home with their children back into the workforce. The public education system was another–a place of undoubted opportunity but also littered with land mines many parents wonder if their kids can navigate around–drug use, sexual experimentation of all sorts, a God-less worldview, etc. And behind door #3? Homeschooling. Homeschooling? A private education for a fraction of the cost–in money. In time, in love, in patience, the cost is high. We believed that a mother at home was ultimately more important than anything so we chose homeschooling. I thank the Lord that we could.

But what about those who can’t? What about parents who are sick or alone? What about the unemployed or the underemployed? What about those in a dysfunctional marriage or with a substance-addicted spouse. Or the homeless? Should a Christian education be only for the wealthy and the healthy? How many kids will stay in the government school system simply because a parent can’t get them out? Why should these children not by discipled? Because that’s what Christian education really is–teaching someone over time to see the world like Christ does and to act within it as He desires. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But anytime someone helps someone who needs help it is always two things: a ministry and a sacrifice.

So here’s my challenge to Christian leaders–guys with vision who champion causes that further the proclamation of Christ and the reconciliation of souls to Him. What can we do as a church about these parents who need help?  What five loaves and two fishes can we offer to the Lord for Him to bless for the feeding of many? Many parents will be looking for options. Can the Church be one?

“X” Marks the Spot

“X” marks the spot. The spot where you are. The perfect spot for you. The spot He has planned for you to be in. I learned that the way I so often learn new things…after descending to the dumps where God never fails to shine a light to help me.

After the holidays there is always a let down of some sort for me. After the family leaves and the pretty packages are exchanged for a few new piles of stuff to organize, the new year looks daunting and gray like the fog that envelops our neighborhoods in the early morning. The challenges of the new year come to the forefront of my mind and I survey my surroundings and resources with a critical eye. That dastardly spot on the carpet that will not come out laughs at me knowing that the family budget allows him at least one more year in my house. Lesson plan books lay waiting for me to fill in their blank squares and I feel more than a little overwhelmed knowing that four growing children depend on me to chart a course for their spring. Couple that with the ever encroaching realization that my daughter will be graduating in two short years, the pressure to make the most of these precious moments gets to me. I usher in the new year shedding tears of frustration with the inadequacies of myself and discontent with my resources. It’s this stinkin’ thinkin’ that got me in the dumps. Acts 17 got me out!

Here’s a great thought for the new year. God has preplanned your environment especially for you. Yes. Your little house crammed with kids, your quiet house without them, your too-small budget, your city, even the time in which you walk across this stage called Life. He didn’t plan it that way so you would have a chance to do something awesome…He did it with one goal in mind. To have you meet Him. Pretty amazing! In Acts 17 Paul shares that God ” made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” And isn’t that what should happen? When we face our weaknesses and the shortcomings in our environment–it’s really a chance to meet God and get to know Him better. How blessed we are that God desires us and wants us to find Him! So this year, let’s not yield to frustration with where we are and what we have, but seek God and invite Him into our lives. By the end of the year, we’ll know Him better and be stronger in 0ur faith because of it!

Temptation and Trials

Much of life is a trial and in it, Satan tempts me. This truth settled itself into my heart two weeks ago, as I listened to some amazing preaching at Mount Hermon. How true this is and how great it is to be aware of it. Forewarned is forearmed. Satan waits until the pasta boils over and the kids are fighting to tell me lies. His lies usually sound something like, “You deserve it”, “What’s the use?”, “If only you had a bigger house, a bigger paycheck, a different body, it would all be better.” The harder the trials I am experiencing, the quicker I capitulate. But now I know what’s going on and I know that Jesus can give me the grace to see Satan’s lies before I buy them–hook, line, and sinker. And if the help comes from Jesus that means victory comes down to prayer, to calling on the name of the Lord.

“Calling on the name of the Lord” resonates with me. It evokes and different image in my mind than the image of simply “praying”. It seems to imply a degree of desperation. We call for help. I’ve begun calling on Him when I’m picking up spilled rice five minutes before I have to leave the house, when a child’s surly attitude starts to affect my own, when I feel too tired to make another meal. I know Jesus will help me because He promises to answer all requests made according to the will of God. I know it is His will for me to be patient, hopeful and faithful. So, Jesus, I call upon you for help this week, not only for myself but for my brothers and sisters in Christ who travel this weary road towards rest in Your arms.