Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Refined by Fire, literally.

Moments ago we had an exciting adventure. I threw left over pizza in our oven to heat for lunch (reheating pizza in a microwave does not produce good results, in my opinion). Four minutes into the heating my youngest screamed, "FIRE!!!" I ran into the kitchen to find our oven full of flames.

I turned to my daughter and said, "Get Micah (our youngest) outside."
I looked straight at Elijah, our middle child, and said, "Go outside now."

No one moved. Instead they all started screaming. Great. Thinking I've totally dropped the ball on my kid's fire safety education I grabbed a bag of flour, slowly opened the oven, threw some flour at the burning element, closed the door, yanked the oven away from the wall and unplugged. Children screaming, fire still burning, smoke filling the kitchen, I grab more flour to throw on the flames more concerned about the drama ensuing around me and frustrated that I forgot to clean the oven in the first place.

Elijah screams, "Why you throwin' that, Mom? THROW WATER!!!!"
Lily, our oldest, "WHERE'S THE PHONE!!!"
Our youngest vanished completely, but I hear him crying.

I turn again to ask Lily to get Micah and get everyone outside rather impressed with myself for staying calm considering three screaming children and a flaming pizza staring me down.

For the last month my children have attempted to destroy one another physically and emotionally. The last few weeks have been tough for me not to completely fly off the handle and send every one of them to military school in Russia. They do not like each other. They rarely show love to one another. We force them to hug and say bedtime "I love yous". They are mean and nasty and intentionally cruel to each other. Since we don't allow any kind of hitting in our house even at play, my children utilize verbal artillery rather often and those word wounds hurt much worse than a black eye, and the pain from them certainly lasts longer than a bruise. At any rate, my prayer life over the last month has included the fractured relationships between my kids. Today I witnessed an answer to my prayer in our charcoaled lunch.

Finally after my third pleading, Elijah ran outside the house into the backyard. I could hear him crying out there alone. The flour finally and thankfully snuffed out the last of the flames. I turned to find my youngest standing in the middle of the living room sniffing and snuffing and my oldest sobbing about not being able to call the fire department to save our lives (no drama here, not a bit!).

I grabbed both of them and went out into the backyard. Immediately we formed a family hug. Everyone was clinging onto each other and sobbing into one another. They revealed their true love for each other as I witnessed each of them look into their sibling's eyes crying and squeezing each other tighter into the hug. I knew what was going on. They were thankful we were all OK. So am I! We stood there for a good fifteen minutes without one fuss or whine about personal space or someone's bad breath. I finally started a prayer and thanked God for saving us from the fire and always providing so much for us. Micah finished the prayer thanking God for all the firemen in the "werld". No one wanted to let go of our little family hug.

In truth, it wasn't a big deal. I've had friends who lost everything in a house fire or natural disasters, but to my children a big fire in our home was terrifying. God used this moment to first and foremost prove his provision of safety for our family. Secondly to reveal to me that my children DO love each other. They LOVE each other!!! And finally, God worked in our lives to reveal and remind us how quickly life can change. I'm so glad HE is our constant, our Rock, our Safe Place.

We walked back inside the house to find our pug finishing off our salad and, of course, the pizza was no more than a black powdery mess.  Everyone had to run to their rooms and check on special stuffed animals, and I got to work on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I guess I'll clean out the oven today and probably buy a new element. Life goes on.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Would you know Jesus if He walked right by you?

I hope and pray I would.

My fear is often we think Jesus looks just like us, like our kind of people. My fear is we are so caught up in our taste in friends, our preferences in religious practices, our wealth, our standards, our politics, our pain and suffering that we don't even notice anything but the reflection in the mirror. In essence, Jesus could walk right by and we would look the other way.

Cliques kill churches. 

Any youth minister will tell you how discouraging it is when teens call or text to find out who is coming to an event before they make the decision to attend. It is more discouraging when those calls or texts are encouraged by their parents. Relationships save churches. Cliques are meant for exclusivity and they, my friend, are the death of churches. Ministers hate cliques, and because of that we are usually and thankfully left out of them.

Jesus might not look like us at all. 

In Mark 2, Jesus is hanging out and eating with a scandalous crowd. This crowd made up of the outcast of society, the ancient IRS, and the "sinners" were all there because they followed Jesus. The religious people, the pious, looked down on the dinner friends. (Note: The religious people didn't have the nerve to ask Jesus about his dinner companions. No, they asked the disciples in true snobbish form thinking it best not to get too close to those outcasts lest they look a part of the group.) My guess, the Pharisees knew exactly the response that was coming from Christ because they, God's chosen, should know better than to doubt God's love. 

Jesus responds, "It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." What fascinates me here is, Jesus knew everyone in that room was a sinner. He came for everyone there but was sitting with those who would accept Him and with those who were open to the call.

I am an introvert. I believe that is why I like to write. It is easy. I write my feelings, and I never have to face people. To be truthful, people scare me. People disappoint. It is a daily struggle for me to put faith in people. I have few close friends. I choose my close friends very carefully. I struggle with being a "good" minister's wife because I must, I absolutely MUST, reach out to others and minister to them. I MUST get out of my comfort zone and show love to the hurting. I MUST show love to people who will definitely exclude me, or absolutely refuse to let me into their clique. I MUST reach out and keep trying and honestly it has little to do with my husband's job. I must reach out because I am called to love. I am called to eat with the sinner. I am called to have more than one close friend. I am called to be family to a world crying out for a real, undying, unconditional love. I am called to be Jesus to the world, and I am not the only one called.

Our job as the church is to wave goodbye to exclusivity.

What I want to see is a church that knows its place in the world. Our job is not to serve ourselves. Our job is not to make sure our groups are comfortable and glorified. Our job is not to make sure we don't offend anyone. Our job is not to be comfortable at all. Our job is to reveal Jesus to the world and make certain that the picture we paint of HIM actually resembles HIM.

I think John Cusack said it best in a recent article for Vanity Fair when asked about his hero. He said, "Let's go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the Right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful."I don't know anything about John Cusack's politics or religion, nor do I really care. He may have said a thousand stupid things in the past, but this time he said something brilliant. 

This is Jesus the Christ, God in man, The Savior we no longer recognize because He might not look anything like us. If we want to recognize Jesus when he walks by, then it is high time we start looking just like HIM. 

It is time to get out of our comfortable pews with our comfortable friends and reach out to those who are truly in need. It is time to stop being territorial about our relationships and let love and relationships grow beyond our comfort zone. It is time to stop hiding behind a mask of earthly status and self-proclaimed importance. It is time to stop looking down on those that might actually need your friendship. It is time to make friends with someone you never thought you could. It is time to reach out and show love to the despised, the outcast of society, the lonely. It is time to show love because you ARE called to show love.  It is time to be Jesus instead of you.

I'm on board for the transformation. Are you?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I don't want to be satisfied with apathy.
I don't want to be satisfied with dull heartless monotonous "praise".
I don't want to be satisfied with giving just enough.
I don't want to be satisfied with the least commitment possible.
I don't want to be satisfied with the mistreatment of the outcast.
I don't want to be satisfied with exclusivity and so-called fellowship.
I don't want to be satisfied with this human condition of failure, and yet I'm stuck within it's bondage.

I want to be touched with compassion whether its behind me in a pew or when I drive past on the road.
I want to stand up and sing my heart out to God when others look on and laugh.
I want to give until I'm exhausted and chase after my creator until I can run no more.
I want to commit and show up even if that means I do so alone.
I want to love the unloveable, the undernourished, the forgotten, the despised.
I want to forget my earthly need for acceptance and run into the open arms of the Father.
I want to forgive myself and others for our human condition, and experience freedom from its chains.

I will not settle for less and neither should you.

Embrace what is real. Forget all that you see, the unreal, the temporary.
Cling to what is unseen for it alone has the power to satisfy.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:18

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Giving up: A parent's daydream.

Allow me a moment to be excruciatingly honest regarding parenting.
Sometimes, albeit rarely, sometimes I want to give up. I just want to run to my room, lock my door, climb into bed, cover my head up with a pillow, and pretend that no one else exists in the world... especially people shorter that four foot nine. I want to cry myself a river about how exhausting it is to parent. I want to make mac n' cheese everyday for three weeks and then begin a regime of ramen noodles for two months. I want to refuse to clean the bathroom. I would like to never under any circumstances set one toe inside my laundry room again. I'd rather burn my refrigerator in the neighbor's front yard while wildly dancing circles around the flames than clean it out one more time. Most of all I'd just like to stop hearing myself saying 'no'.

You wanna' pick your nose and wipe it somewhere that was once clean? Go right ahead.
You wanna' refuse to wash after going to the bathroom? Here's a snack.
You wanna' kick your brother for no reason? Be my guest.
You wanna' wear bright red lipstick and eyeliner at age ten? Here, take my mascara.
Oh, you're gonna throw a tantrum because he ate the last cracker? Ok. Pardon me, my bubble bath is getting cold.

We started daily summer bible studies last year, and it proved to be a big blessing. For the most part, this summer has also been great studying the bible with my kids. They are learning God's word, which is paramount to me. This morning started out like all the others except no one was focused. It came to a head when right in the middle of a song (Get Away Devil, don't bother me!) my youngest began screaming because his older brother stomped on his foot. Then, of course, we heard the always present justification of (I bet you can guess) "he stepped on me first!" 

On any other day this would be a normal occurrence, and I just would address the stomping of feet, redirect everyone's attention and move on. Except today, of all days, the lesson was on the temptation of Christ. We had JUST talked about temptation and making good decisions even when everyone else around us is being naughty. I just sat there stunned with the realization setting in that perhaps none of this time, none of this effort will ever pay off in the end. 

Maybe my children will never accept Christ as Savior. Maybe my children will walk away from their parent's faith. Maybe the world will triumph over them and will win in this tug of war for their hearts. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it, but maybe all my prayers and love will be in vain. In the end, my children make the decision to follow or not follow Christ. I can't make that decision for them.

In that moment, I wanted to run my room and hide behind my locked door and give up. I wanted to just not try, rather than try and watch them take a different road. I wanted to drown out all whining and squealing with my pillow and somehow justify never mentioning God to them again and never making them sit and listen to another story of Christ. I mean, after all, bible knowledge won't get them into heaven, right!?! Just because you can recite verse after verse of scripture it doesn't make you holy or righteous. What a waste of time! They could be out playing and soaking up that summer sun! I need to log some hours of work anyway. They'll learn all this stuff in Sunday school. They don't need me.

Then the words of the silly song we were singing began to sink in...

'Get away devil, don't bother me. 
Jesus has set me free. 
Get away devil, don't bother me. 
For I belong to God's family.
I will, I will, I will do what God says!
I will, I will, I will do what God says!'

and I realized my temptation was to give up and walk away from my responsibility as a parent.

It is easier to not parent. 
It is easier to let children raise themselves. 
It is easier to never discipline your child. 
It is easier to never make them eat peas. 
It is easier to take all the responsibility and hand it to them and hope they end up OK.
It is easier to never expect them to memorize scripture.
It is easier to never expect anything from them.
It is easy to give up. 

As of now, I don't want to take the easier road. They are worth me trying. Even though, they will indeed make their own decisions about life and Christ, I never want to look back and regret not taking the time to teach them and prepare them just a little for what the world will dish out. Either I will fill their hearts with the knowledge of God, or the world will fill their hearts with something very different. I want to be first to fill their little minds.

I'm not giving up. True love always perseveres. I want to love them, truly. 

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7