Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unashamed.

I love my children. I also embarrass easily. These two statements mean one thing. I’m often embarrassed by my children even though I adore them. Last night my middle child ran screaming through the church building for what seemed like the hundredth time. When I stopped him to “talk” about the issue he became very frustrated and began growling responses at me loudly. Normal parents may have understood this to be the typical behavior of an irritated five year old boy. None the less, I wanted to hide behind the rack of winter coats and let him stomp off to growl elsewhere.

There were people around to witness this encounter with my growling son, and I don’t know whether it was my mood or if it was the little monster that I was currently trying to contain but I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because he was calling attention to himself and, in turn, me. I was embarrassed because once again he was racing through the sweet people who brave the weather and come to Wednesday night bible class. I realized then that I should face the fact that more indiscretions may come in my life and comparatively this is nothing.

I know another minister’s wife whose daughter became pregnant in high school. The whole congregation knew. The whole town knew. This minister’s wife was embarrassed. She placed a great deal of blame on herself and still does for her daughter’s actions. She was aware that the church was buzzing of the news. Regardless, she marched into worship time and again facing the stares, the unhelpful comments, the gossip, and even the accusations of guilt. She loved her daughter, but was wilting inside for the choices her daughter made.

Likewise, I know a mother whose son dealt with a drug addiction for years and years and was once hospitalized due to an overdose. She held her head high even though she was aching to save her son from the beast that had him by the ankle. She would have willingly taken on his addiction if it meant his freedom from it. She hurt everyday for him, worried every second, and yet she loved and smiled knowing God is in control.

There is something about being a parent that disallows us to completely differentiate from our children regardless of how hard we try. They are ours; our very flesh and blood. Our children have the ability to make up every joy and every sorrow that likewise make up our life. Being a parent truly allows one to begin to grasp the infinite and wondrous love of the creator, and even then we can’t reach the hem of his garment when it comes to comprehending it.

Our heavenly Father must have days where He looks at us and considers hiding in a coat closet. When I think of the choices I’ve made in the past, and the ones I make on a daily basis I wonder and wait for the day I get a notice in the mail that says…”No longer acceptable to enter heaven; name removed from list.”

Some days I can’t believe that He isn’t ashamed of us. Some days I sit in awe at the fact that He sacrificed and suffered humiliation for me even though I am a monster.

The bible says that while we acted ignorantly in unbelief, the grace of our Lord overflowed for us-- overflowed. And that Christ came into the world specifically to save sinners. He displays his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1:13-16). He came for us, the monsters, the growling beasts making one bad choice after another. He isn’t embarrassed of this. This was the plan from the beginning: to get us out of here, to save us from ourselves. He is willing to save us just like the mommy walking into church facing the gossip; just like the mommy holding her head high facing her son’s addiction. He won’t ever ever give up on us.

May we ever try to make him proud of his children. May we continually thank him for his sacrifice.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More.

For years we’ve believed that more is better; more money, more things, more work, more sex, more food, more time. What we wanted was a fa├žade that temporarily appeased our ache for more of something else. For years in return we accumulated more debt, more depression, more stress, more anxiety, more sexual disorders, more obesity, more divorce, and less time.

What we loaded on our shoulders was more; more of everything except what mattered; more of what enslaved us rather than freed.

Somehow during the days of accumulation we taught ourselves to gain more, but convinced ourselves that we’d had enough of faith, enough of God, enough of the church. All things in moderation after all.

What we needed all along was a different kind of more; more prayer, more simplicity, more fasting, more hospitality, more patience, more silence, more generosity, more sacrifice….more Jesus.

This question remains. What do you do to help a generation lost in more of the wrong things; a generation so confused regarding all that matters that they continue to seek more burdened backs?

Some believe that the focus must be on an education on the matters of finance.

I contend that what was missing was by some small measure a lack of financial knowledge. Perhaps even more so was a complete and absolute love, if not addiction, of pleasing self.

We allowed ourselves to forget that the one that we supposedly serve owned little, maybe nothing. The one that we pledged our very souls to slept with a stone for his pillow. Did He whine about this? During His final days did he pray that we would have more material goods than He did?

In a time, where we watch the heartache of a country far away, where destruction is piled around man, where sadness dwells on every corner, let’s take time to think of what more we could offer someone who really needs it.

For me, I’m going to stop assuming that every poor person I run into deserves poverty. I’m going to stop assuming that every homeless man on the street is getting his just deserts tonight as he sleeps in the snow, while I comfortably lounge on my couch in my heated home.

It is time to really follow Christ, the true humanitarian. I’m reminded of an old hymn we used to sing…

Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow that a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus, “All of self, and none of Thee”.
All of self and none of Thee, all of self and none of Thee!
When I proudly said to Jesus, “All of self, and none of Thee.”

Yet He found me; I beheld Him bleeding on the accursed tree,
And my wistful heart said faintly, “Some of self, and some of Thee”.
Some of self and some of thee, Some of self and some of thee.
And my wistful heart said faintly “Some of self and some of Thee”.

Day by day His tender mercy healing, helping, full and free,
Bro’t me lower while I whispered, “Less of self and more of Thee”.
Less of self and more of Thee, Less of self and more of thee.
Bro’t me lower while I whispered, “Less of self and more of Thee.”

Higher than the highest heavens, Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, “None of self, and all of Thee.”
None of self and all of thee, None of self and ALL of Thee!
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, "None of self and all of Thee".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming of Age.

My parents gave me the gift of a Christian upbringing. Growing up a PK (preacher's kid), my life was saturated with church life. Sometimes, to be honest, church life did not enmesh with faith, sadly. Church life, as I aged, became something that I resented. Attending worship seemed forced in my young life. I went, no questions asked. The alternative was a stern lecture from one or both parents. My familial role, by circumstance, was to be the good child, the 'obey at all costs or die' child. So, I went regardless of my personal connection to the so-called Christ.

I was baptized when I was twelve with a friend of mine. Over the years I questioned my understanding being so young at what should be a pivotal point in spiritual development. I believed, at least at that time, that baptism was so essential that I'd be damned to hell if I didn't get wet and soon. I knew what I was buying into, but it wasn't my personal faith. In a sense I ate what I was fed, not realizing baptism was only the beginning. Today, I know that my baptism met two ends. I was baptized into Christ, but lacked a true personal connection, much less, a commitment to Him. Secondly, I was also baptized into my parent's faith, and not my own. I try not to determine which end trumped the other.

As a teenager I struggled with semantics between my believing friends. I clung with bleeding fingernails to the pattern of scripture in which my parents taught me. I treasure the lessons from my parents still, but was unable to make the connections in my heart the same way in which they did. The questions came, and the answers I received at the time didn't suffice my need for more.

When I went to college my faith stagnated. I attended congregations that were comfortable and recognizable to me as holy. My one regret from my undergraduate experience was my lack of soul searching. I was in every way the picture of a Christian young lady on the outside. I went to a private Christian university. I went to worship every Sunday. I held to the traditions of my roots. I left questions unanswered and comfortably sat in a bubble of my parent's faith.

I married a minister. I married a minister with a faithless father who loved his son. The stretching and nagging began anew.

Life brought new relationships. Life brought experiences of varying belief systems and traditions. Life brought pain and loss. Life brought questions that demanded answers. Finally, a day came where all that was within me begged for me to decide what I believed. The search, the commitment of my own faith, was born.

I remember the day. I was crying out loud to God for an explanation of why He let a baby die. I bargained with HIM. I fought HIM. I was angry. I knew then that some answers are not meant to be had. Amidst this turmoil I determined that He was there, regardless of my questions. HE IS regardless of our feeble attempt to understand or make sense of life. When all around was chaos, I felt the Rock hold me up.

No longer would I ride on the coattails of someone else's faith.
No longer would I cling to the education of my past.
No longer would I deny my need and longing for a personal, emotional attachment to my maker.

He is God, and I am not. This is a fact all must come to terms with.

In the life of every believer, there comes a day when one must take ownership of their own faith. The nagging questions, the doubt, are part of that; in that, it is human to question. The journey, however, is not the same for everyone. I don't expect everyone experiences life as I have. It is good to note that if one has questions it doesn't mean that faith is not there, it means the option is there for growth. The denial of growth is death.

Some choose to stop questioning and walk away. Having one's own faith is difficult and oftentimes hurts. It means that you can't blame any more decisions on your parents. It also means you are an adult.

Some choose the journey, painful though it may be. Joy and love come, and faith grows. May God richly bless your journey today. May we each come of age in our own faith and make peace with unanswered questions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Someday.

Some days I wake up and realize that I’m ten years older than I feel like I am.
Some days I wake up and feel ten years older than I am.
Some days I believe the lie that I can have it all.
Some days I believe reaching that end will finally make me happy.
Some days I think that what I have could be better if there were more of it.
Some days I want to sell everything I have.
Some days I live in the past.
Some days I can’t get past the daunting future.
Most days I waste a lot of time thinking about other days.

Some day I hope to focus on today.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Just another manic Sunday?

There's nothing like the two hours before Sunday morning worship that make me question my sanity, my salvation, and my success as a parent. Today was one of those tumultuous Sunday mornings. My four year decided to act like a two year old and throw the world's biggest tantrum over wearing a coat to bible class. Had it not been 12 degrees outside I would have let him go shirtless after that fit, but because I love my son I forced the coat. He screamed all the way to church, which thankfully is only one block. At which point I noticed that my three year old had blue marker circling his eyes from the night previous. Don't ask. We made it in the building, and that was all I had to be thankful for at that point with exception to the two Ibuprofen awaiting me at home.

An hour earlier I had horrible feelings of doubt. I have never felt called to be a minister's wife. I do not feel particularly capable or gifted with those sweet compassionate tendencies that normal minister's wives hold. I know I am not a good Sunday school teacher which is what started the whole downward cycle into a pity party as I prepared to face the kindergarteners this morning. I'm still holding some really bitter feelings toward people who picked on my mom when she held the title of minister's wife. Most of the time I feel I'm sorting out my own faith rather that being a rock for someone to cling to in difficult times. I doubt a lot. I question daily. This morning as I forced myself over the threshold of the church building (ten minutes late), I did not want to be there.

I am blessed to have good friends at this congregation who listen to me, hold me accountable, and see through my pretenses. Today, those friends helped me through. You see, everyone has bad days, not just me, not just minister's wives. Everyone's child throws a fit sometime. Everyone doubts their capabilities or their giftedness. The difference and perhaps the saving grace for all of us are our friends. Scripture teaches us that the early church spent time together. They ate together and shared everything. They were a family. This is how I know I can make it, my family.

Thank you to Laura who listened to me today for just a few minutes.
Thank you to Colleen who reminded me that children grow up and sometimes even love their mothers afterward.
Thank you to Heather who saw through my frantic craziness and just made me laugh.
Thank you to April who hugged me and reminded me of why I'm here.

Today was a good day despite it's beginning. I am ever thankful for the grace of the Father who leads us to a place of fellowship and friendship. Tomorrow please bless someone's day by listening, by hugging, by smiling, and by reminding them of what it's all about. If you do not have friends to help you through difficult times, find some. We were not made to make it through the bad days alone.

I hope I can bless people tomorrow the way you girls blessed me today.